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Archive for December, 2011

UPDATE: SBI requested to investigate fire in Holden Beach

Friday, December 16th, 2011

UPDATE (12/16) – The SBI was requested to investigate the cause of the house fire on Starfish Lane. Due to the complete destruction of the house, the cause of the fire remains undetermined. The investigation is ongoing.

##########

HOLDEN BEACH, NC (WWAY) — Traveling over the bridge onto Holden Beach this morning drivers could see a fire blazing down the road. The flames destroyed two homes and the damage didn’t stop there.

“We heard the sirens coming down the road. Thought maybe, you know, they were pulling a speeder or something,” vacationer Heidi Michael said. “Then my oldest child came running upstairs. He heard the sirens and saw the glow out of his window and said that there was a house fully engulfed, so we went out on the porch and watched from there and saw that it was huge; just huge.”

The fire damaged two other houses and two boats and destroyed two other boats. Firefighters say it’s the most significant fire Holden Beach has seen in a while.

The flames started at 115 Starfish Drive just before 5 a.m. damaging neighboring homes, including a total loss next door.

Tri-Beach Volunteer Fire Chief Doug Todd says thankfully no one was hurt.

“There was nobody home at either residence. That was a good aspect, that we didn’t have to worry about the threat of life in either home,” he said. “We do have two homes that were severely damaged by fire. We have several more that have some heat damage and like I said we had a couple boats that burned and a couple boats that have some heat damage to them.”

Some neighbors said they almost decided to come down and try and save their boats until they got close and saw just how big the fire was. That’s when they realized that if it weren’t for a big open lot this fire might have spread and damaged their homes.

“We were about two blocks down on the ocean side, and we could see it above the highest houses,” Michael said. “It was incredibly high.”

A power outage in the area included the fire station. That meant volunteer firefighters responding had to open the garage door manually to get the fire truck out. Officials say it was not a significant delay, though.

No word yet on how the fire started.

More: continued here

Berger launches e-mail battle with fellow commissioners

Friday, December 16th, 2011

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — A day after fellow commissioners removed him from most public boards on which he was a member, New Hanover County Commissioner Brian Berger launched an e-mail fight with fellow commissioners.

Berger began by sending a message around 5 a.m. to Commissioner Rick Catlin, saying: “I know who’s been ringleader pulling strings to try to get me to resign. No defamation, no invasion of privacy, nothing will ever make me resign. I’ll live in a cardboard box with a tarp roof and I won’t resign. I was elected to a do a job and unless ‘someone’ frames me for a felony or kills me I’m going to do what I committed to when I asked people for their vote.”

Berger goes on: “Without any committees or boards officially taking my time, I’ll be able to attend probably every campaign event to hand out information and ask questions and talk to people so they know the truth about the candidates asking for or buying citizens votes.” He also said he would be able to vote “his conscience without compromising.”

Berger said he now has the freedom to attend whatever meetings he wants, “and report back to the people…all meetings can’t be secret even if thats what some elected officials prefer, even some of my ‘fellow’ commissioners!”

Berger goes on to say that “No corrupt judge or politician is going to change that.”

Catlin replied to Berger and copied the other commissioners and County Manager Bruce Shell. In his reply Catlin wrote: “Your allegations of corrupt judges are not helpful to your future and are completely unsubstantiated. You may want to consider a public retraction before you go to court.

“Also, I’m surprised by your comments that seem to indicate that you have not been able to vote your conscience and that your campaign promises have been compromised.

“Writing threatening emails at 5:00 in the morning has never proven to be a good idea for you. I hope you didn’t mean all the things you said. I truly have no ill wishes for you.”

After Catlin’s message, Commissioner Jason Thompson responded to Berger.

“You sound like a wacko!,” Thompson wrote. “Your comments sounds like you’re 5 steps away from moving into a shack and reading the unabomber manifesto!!! Come on man. You can’t continue to spout your rhetoric and make unfounded accusations that only alienate you further from any and everybody. You have made yourself a non factor and have done a terrible disservice to the people that elected you. You now hold a position with no voice. That cannot be what they voted for.”

In a response, Berger says he would have reacted differently to yesterday’s move to remove him from boards if he’d heard from the leaders and members of those boards that he “contribute(s) nothing, am incompetent, disruptive, disrespectful, bullying, invisible, and requested my removal for any of those reasons or similarly valid justifications for removal.” He said that was different than lobbying by fellow commissioners or CFPUA’s Jim Quinn for his removal based on philosophical differences. At no point, though, has any commissioner made Berger’s political views an issue as to why they believe he cannot serve the county effectively. In fact, they said after yesterday’s meeting that their decision was based on his inability to work well with others and his public and personal actions that have embarrassed the county.

Berger, who continues to deny his own actions have had anything to do with the way he is perceived by his colleagues or constituents, went on to write, “I can’t say your actions are outside of your legal authority, but I call it like I see it, and I see a planned, choreographed, campaign to seize an opening to embarass (sic), insult and bring back into the news for a larger plan involving months of resorting to any and all means to force my resignation.”

READ THE SERIES OF E-MAILS IN REVERSE ORDER BEGINNING WITH JASON THOMPSON’S REPLY AT 2:03 P.M. FRIDAY

B that is a long email that doesn’t tell me anything!

Sent from Jason’s iPhone

On Dec 16, 2011, at 1:02 PM, “Berger, Brian” wrote:

> If Janet Nelson, Mr. Nesmith, John Hinnant, Christine McNamee, Mike Kozloski, John Craig, Dave Spetrino, etc…the chairs, fellow board members, those best positioned to offer constructive feedback stated that I contribute nothing, am incompetent, disruptive, disrespectful, bullying, invisible, and requested my removal for any of those reasons or similarly valid justifications for removal, I would have had a very different reaction, and would voluntarily step aside to support rather than hinder an appointment that would better serve the affected citizens of the county. The feedback from those individuals who are actually in a position to provide it would serve as a basis for improvement in those areas they identified as significant professional weaknesses.
>
> That’s much different than Jim Quinn or any fellow board member, including the BOC, to lobby for my removal from any board because of philisophical differences. Debate and dissent is something every committee and board should actively encourage, and I would never advocate removing a duly appointed member, esp. a Commissioner, from even one Committee no matter how much I disagreed with their viewpoints and voting record.
>
> I’ve seen no evidence suggesting I miss more meetings than any other Commissioner, the WSN investigated that inaccurate claim and found it to be false, as I surmised. I can’t stop the majority of the board from collaborating to seize any and all opportunities, appointments included, so as to embarass me to vent personal animosity, to misrepresent my contributions to the public who have no way of knowing whether positive or negative statements from the BOC are true or not, and I can’t stop the majority of the BOC from demeaning my constructive participation when that is an accurate assessment. Blanket removal from all boards, particularly those where my contributions have probably been most significant, as a retaliatory gesture or public insult with little justification: no ethical conduct or conflict of issues violations, not a single instance of disrespect toward other agency board members, total respect for different viewpoints and the board members who raise different perspectives, and on several boards a degree of sincere concern and attention for “clients,” exceeding that of most board members at most any agency, past or present (a little conjecture on my part ), and that is a disservice to the citizens of the County unless its based on significant criticisms or tangible negative impacts rendering me or any Commissioner incapable beyond repair of serving effectively on a board.
>
> I’d fully support and back performance reviews for all Commissioners annually as a precursor to appointments. It would involve some time of other board members, clients, staff, but it would be useful to all five current Commissioners and the few staff designees prior to yesterday’s almost unbeliavable disservice to citizens for no purpose in most if not all cases except to give yourselves another, fresh opportunity to rekindle a private matter involving no violations of the law, for less than a week under circumstances I dont expect people to understand or excuse my bizarre actions, but I’ll stake my integrity, honor, dedication and compassion/empathy for others against any Commissioner and win every time. If in fact my self-apprasal for every board I’ve served on the past year is completely out of sync with reality, as judged by an apprasal performed by a reasonable, impartial observer, I’d accept that, the actions taken by other Commissioners via secrecy, with no history of concerns raised by and member of the Boards I’ve served on the past 12 months. Surely, you didn’t think I’d be happy about being targeted by other Board members to the point that its your personal/political attack against me that has generated more concern than my service on any Board except for the CFPUA due to my history of criticizing the ill-advised creation and structure of the Authority. That said, I’ve attempted to be very conscientious about working to improve the organization within the confines of the current situation and practical changes, and steer clear of rhetoric, criticism for its own sake, criticism of the current board or the outcome of votes by the Board, and anything that would or might be construed as a criticism of one or many CFPUA staff members. If I ever did it was inadvertant, and I even volunteered to serve on the PR subcommittee charged with making the CFPUA look good, to put it simply, although I wasn’t able to attend enough subcommittee members to contribute as much as I had intended. I cant recall any conversation while serving in that capacity that got heated or any time I called out a fellow board member to settle differences in the parking lot.
>
> I can’t say your actions are outside of your legal authority, but I call it like I see it, and I see a planned, choreographed, campaign to seize an opening to embarass, insult and bring back into the news for a larger plan involving months of resorting to any and all means to force my resignation. Its a dangerous road and one that targets me but is also deceitful in many respects and an end-run around the democratic election process. My life will go on, but I wont smile and go along with something that is wrong and not in NHC’s best interests (as I see it).
>
> Thanks for reading!
>
> BB
>
>
> Brian M. Berger
> New Hanover County Commissioner
> 230 Government Center Drive, Suite 175
> Wilmington, NC 28403
> office: 910-798-7149
> cell: 910-431-3115
> bberger@nhcgov.com
> From: Thompson, Jason
> Sent: Friday, December 16, 2011 10:42 AM
> To: Catlin, Rick
> Cc: Berger, Brian; Davis, Ted; Barfield, Jonathan; Shell, Bruce
> Subject: Re: Your 5:00 AM Email
>
> Brian this is exactly what I talked to you about last night. You sound like a wacko! Your comments sounds like you’re 5 steps away from moving into a shack and reading the unabomber manifesto!!! Come on man. You can’t continue to spout your rhetoric and make unfounded accusations that only alienate you further from any and everybody. You have made yourself a non factor and have done a terrible disservice to the people that elected you. You now hold a position with no voice. That cannot be what they voted for. Your comments and questions display a total lack of preparation and a failure to comprehend the issues at hand. Dude you new to seek and implement professional help to get your life in order and then come back to politics after you have fixed yourself. That would be the best service you could do for the citizens of this county. You are the only one that doesn’t see it. Think about it! Call me if you need help moving in the right direction.
>
> Sent from Jason’s iPhone
>
> On Dec 16, 2011, at 10:11 AM, “Catlin, Rick” wrote:
>
>> Brian,
>>
>> I didn’t even know about your notes until the press called me. Ask them, they can confirm that I had nothing to do with it. The first I saw these notes was when a fellow commissioner gave me a copy after the press coverage. I still have an unsolicited voicemail from you from April 1st offering to publicly apologize to me at the next Board meeting. This was obviously an April Fool’s joke.
>>
>> I have tried to keep as much distance from your activities as possible. I am trying to stay focused on solving county and regional problems. I am always hopeful that your situations will calm down and quit distracting from more important issues.
>>
>> Your allegations of corrupt judges are not helpful to your future and are completely unsubstantiated. You may want to consider a public retraction before you go to court.
>>
>> Also, I’m surprised by your comments that seem to indicate that you have not been able to vote your conscience and that your campaign promises have been compromised.
>>
>> Writing threatening emails at 5:00 in the morning has never proven to be a good idea for you. I hope you didn’t mean all the things you said. I truly have no ill wishes for you.
>>
>> Please get some sleep,
>> Rick
>>
>> PS, I have forwarded this to our fellow commissioners and county manager for full disclosure.
>>
>> Sent from my iPad
>>
>> On Dec 16, 2011, at 5:05 AM, “Berger, Brian” wrote:
>>
>>> I know who stole my notes and tried to “leak” them to the press.
>>>
>>> I know who’s been ringleader pulling strings to try to get me to resign. No defamation, no invasion of privacy, nothing will ever make me resign. I’ll live in a cardboard box with a tarp roof and I won’t resign. I was elected to a do a job and unless “someone” frames me for a felony or kills me I’m going to do what I committed to when I asked people for their vote.
>>>
>>> Without any committees or boards officially taking my time, I’ll be able to attend probably every campaign event to hand out information and ask questions and talk to people so they know the truth about the candidates asking for or buying citizens votes. My credibility will be restored in time for the election season. The public probably won’t have to be reminded about watching 60-year old men (or 50, 45 40) 60-year old men act like 10-year old spoiled children. People think its pretty disgusting watching grandfathers play musical chairs like they’re back in high school. I’m ashamed to be in the room when “professionals” behave like that…even my reputation now is bigger and better than a certain board looked at a meeting this week and is sinking even lower into the gutter. My reputation will come back. Jim Quinn and my four peers kicking me off every board, now I can go to and and every official meeting of any board or committee I choose and report back to the people…all meetings can’t be secret even if thats what some elected officials prefer, even some of my “fellow” commissioners!
>>>
>>> No corrupt judge or politician is going to change that, and I hope every candidate for office and all media know I pledged to fight corruption, backroom deals and unethical behavior and I’m going to do just that no matter who’s friends with who…I do things by a different code than most people these days, my friend. Hatred isn’t healthy, you know…
>>>
>>> I’m actually looking forward to voting my conscience without compromising and attending any committee or board meeting I decide to prioritize when I have some time open or can make time open in my schedule. I see alot of benefits on both counts. Alot of good I can do in keeping with my campaign promises I couldn’t always do this year…and of course the election season is going to be good getting out to all those events and doing a little cause campaigning to inform and educate citizens where I can…
>>>
>>> Brian M. Berger
>>> New Hanover County Commissioner
>>> 230 Government Center Drive, Suite 175
>>> Wilmington, NC 28403
>>> office: 910-798-7149
>>> cell: 910-431-3115
>>> bberger@nhcgov.com

More: continued here

Trader Joe’s joining Whole Foods in Wilmington

Friday, December 16th, 2011

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — Trader Joe’s has submitted plans to build a new 13,000-square-foot store at the corner of South College Road and Oleander Drive, according to the Wilmington StarNews.

Wilmington Planning Director Ron Satterfield says the plans also call for 81 parking spaces.

Whole Foods is refurbishing the old Lowe’s store on Oleander near Independence Mall. It’s expected to open next year.

More: continued here

FIRST ON 3: Brunswick Co. Social Services Board cancels next two meetings

Friday, December 16th, 2011

BRUNSWICK COUNTY, NC (WWAY) — The Brunswick County Social Services Board has scheduled two meetings scheduled before the end of the year, according to an e-mail from director Patricia Connelly. The move comes just days after a board meeting erupted in controversy when Chairman Charles Warren kicked board member Pat Sykes and a Brunswick Beacon reporter out of the meeting.

The Social Services Board was to meeting Tuesday and December 27. The next Social Services Board meeting will be held January 24, 2012, at 1 p.m., according to Connelly’s message, which did not give a reason for the cancellations. So has not yet returned a call or e-mail for comment.

The Brunswick County Commission, of which Warren is also a member and which appointed Sykes to the Social Services Board, says it is looking into what happened at this week’s meeting.

More: continued here

UNCW trustees approve tuition hike

Friday, December 16th, 2011

WILMINGTON, NC (UNCW NEWS RELEASE) — Determined to maintain a high quality academic experience in the face of decreasing state financial support, the University of North Carolina Wilmington Board of Trustees today approved a 6.5 percent tuition increase for the 2012-13 academic year. Fee increases were held to $9.50 for all students.

In addition, UNC system universities were permitted in this year’s guidelines to recommend a “peer alignment” adjustment for student tuition. Applied over multiple years, this adjustment is designed to move each UNC institution to the top of the bottom quartile of its national peer institutions, as approved by the UNC Board of Governors. UNCW’s proposed 2012-13 peer-alignment increase amounts to $390.35 for N.C. undergraduate students and $300 for out-of-state undergraduate students.

If approved by the UNC Board of Governors, total annual tuition and fee increases for the 2012-13 year, including both the 6.5 percent annual increase and the first-year peer alignment, are in the amounts of:
• $609.50 for in-state undergraduate students
• $809.50 for out-of-state undergraduate students
• $246.29 for in-state graduate students
• $509.50 for out-of-state graduate students

UNCW will focus revenue created through the increase in the following areas:
• Set aside 25 percent of annual tuition revenue for financial aid, as prescribed by the UNC Board of Governors guidelines
• Lessen the negative impact of increasing class size and course section limitations
• Fully implement programs in University Studies and Applied Learning to prepare students for the 21st century global economy
• Support signature academic programs, including marine sciences, nursing, creative writing and international studies, among others, that are central to UNCW’s core mission
• Restore hours of operation and increase funding for Randall Library resources
• Increase academic advising capacity to assist students in meeting academic requirements, keeping UNCW’s retention and graduation rates among the highest in the UNC system.
• Provide additional support to initiatives that increase the population of diverse students and faculty on our campus and contribute to student success.
• Lend additional essential support to graduate programs, key to providing students with significant research opportunities.

During the past several years, efforts by UNCW administrators focused on protecting the academic experience, absorbing state reductions through cuts to non-instructional support operations. By the current year, this approach was no longer possible without threatening critical university operations. Therefore, UNCW’s 2011-12 legislative reduction of 15.8 percent, or approximately $16.5 million, resulted in additional administrative cuts as well as unavoidable direct reductions of more than $7 million in instructional funds, nearly $1.8 million in academic support and more than $1 million to the library budget. Losses included:
• 78.89 faculty positions
• 558 course sections
• 16,609 “seats” in the classroom for students

“Unfortunately, given the magnitude of the current year reductions, the core academic program has been seriously impacted,” said Chancellor Gary L. Miller. “We must focus on restoring funding for our highest priority academic needs. While the proposed tuition increase will replace less than half of the university’s loss in state funding, it will help us restore lost faculty positions, course sections, library services and student support services—all critical to student success.”

UNCW’s only fee increase of the 2012-13 academic year is a $9.50 fee for the Student Health Center, which will be used to purchase appointment software to reduce student wait time and to provide additional funding for a pharmacist position. While under the Board of Governors guidelines, UNCW could have requested up to $109.28 in new mandatory fees, university administrators chose to keep student fees to an absolute minimum.

More: continued here

 

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