March 25, 2010
This will be our final post on OBX Alert. It has been a difficult decision to bring this site to an end because it's been fun, a challenge and I see so much more to be done in reporting here on the northern Outer Banks. We have had readers in all 50 states and more than 65 foreign countries and I have agonized over leaving you. But after years without any time off, I have decided to step aside, reintroduce myself to my family and enjoy life in other ways.

And so I say adieu, friends, with great appreciation for your support,

Tony Sylvester
Editor, OBX Alert


Growing like Topsy: Currituck County
The county has been among the nation's 100 fastest growing counties over the past 10 years. Its population increase of 33.2% ranks it 98th, according to estimates published Tuesday by the U.S. Census Bureau.

That may not sound very impressive but put another way, Currituck's growth was 98th greatest of all 3,141 counties in the nation. Besides, only five other North Carolina counties were ranked among the top 100. Dare County was not among them.

The five others were number 14 Union County (adjacent to Charlotte, the state's largest city and the country's 33rd fastest growing metropolitan area) with a population growth rate of 60.5% from 2000 to July of last year; Brunswick (home of southern Outer Banks beach resorts), 38th (46.4%); Wake, 45th (42.9%); Johnston, 66th (38.2%), and Hoke County (Fort Bragg) at 95th (34.2%).

The Raleigh-Cary metropolitan area, which includes Wake, Johnston and Franklin counties, had the biggest gain of any metropolitan area in the top 50 and jumped 10 spots from 59th to 49th in the nation with an increase of 41.2%.

Speaking of population increases:
Meet Miss Paloma of Ocracoke
The little lady is the newest member of the wild pony herd on the Island. Shown here with her mother, Spirit, a full-blooded Ocracoke pony descended from Spanish mustangs, Miss Paloma arrived on the scene Monday morning, March 22. Ocracoke school children selected her name, which in Spanish means "dove." By any name she's a cutie and sure to attract visitors.

Federal agency urges "highest degree of protection" for Hatteras shorebirds and sea turtles
The U.S. Geological Survey, the nation's earth sciences agency under the Department of the Interior, is recommending that Cape Hatteras National Seashore be "completely closed" in all areas of nesting shorebirds from April 15 until September 30 of each year "to all recreational activities."

In addition, the USGS proposes the closure of "all potential sea turtle nesting habitat" on Hatteras and Ocracoke Islands from April 1 to November 15, or until turtle hatchlings have "entered the sea."

The recommendations are contained in a 100-page study submitted during the current period for public comment on National Park Service proposals for governing off-road vehicles and pedestrians at the seashore to protect shorebirds and sea turtles under the Endangered Species Act. Federal Judge Terrence Boyle has directed that a permanent plan take effect April 1 of next year.

The USGS study is heavy reading, but those willing to tackle it may wish to start on page 60 with the recommendations and then go back to earlier pages for the reasoning.

Tough times all around on the Outer Banks:
Pricey condo in Nags Head to be auctioned off Saturday
The three-story building located at The landings at Sugar Creek opened in 2008 with 48 units priced from $285,000 for a two-bedroom to $490,000 for a four-bedroom unit. Owner’s association dues are $4,300 per unit per year.

Saturday's auction is described as an absolute auction, meaning the property will be sold to the highest bidder regardless of the price.

Dare County unemployment rate fourth highest in the state
At record high 17.6% in January
That was a 2.1% increase over the December rate. Only three other counties topped Dare's jobless rate in January, Graham at 19.3%, Swain (18.1) and Rutherford (18.0).

The picture was gloomy statewide, according to statistics released Friday by North Carolina Security Commission, which said unemployment increased in 99 of the state's 100 counties in January.

Statewide the January jobless rate was 11.8%; nationally it was 9.7%, down from 10% in December, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

Currituck County offers refunds to promote local labor
The county is offering building permit fee refunds to builders and homeowners who commit to using predominantly local labor and materials for any project of less than $250,000.

"We hope this program underscores our commitment to supporting the local construction and trades industry, which has been ravaged by the recession," said Economic Development Director Peter Bishop.

The program is to remain in effect for a year. To be eligible, contractors and homeowners must provide receipts to prove that at least 60% of labor and materials were sourced from Currituck County businesses and tradesmen. Only five refunds per applicant will be available.

GOP leaders want suit over health care
North Carolina Republican leaders want state Attorney General Roy Cooper, a Democrat, to join 14 other states in suing to block the massive health care overhaul signed into law by President Obama.

A spokesman for Cooper says state lawyers are reviewing information sent from other attorneys general, which is routine with all issues.

N.C. House members rejected Obamacare, 8-5
North Carolina as much as any other state, and perhaps more so, reflected the nation's sharply divided opinions about the historic national health care overhaul approved by the U.S. House of Representatives Sunday night by a margin of just seven Democratic votes, 219-212.

The vote was on the Senate version of the bill, which became law with President Obama's signature at a White House ceremony this morning.

Three of North Carolina's eight Democratic House members joined the five Republicans in voting against the legislation:

Y - G. K. Butterfield (D) - Dist. 1
Y -Bob Etheridge (D) - District 2
Y - David Price (D) - District 4
N - Mike McIntyre (D) - District 7
N - Larry Kissell (D) - District 8
N - Heath Shuler (D) - District 11
Y - Mel Watt (D) - District 12
Y - Brad Miller (D) - District 13

N - Walter Jones Jr. (R) - District 3
N - Virginia Foxx (R) - District 5
N - Howard Coble (R) - District 6
N - Sue Myrick (R) - District 9
N - Patrick McHenry (R) - District 10

Illegal immigrants OK'd to attend community colleges
From Raleigh's News & Observer
North Carolina’s State Board of Community Colleges voted Friday to admit illegal immigrants to the state’s 58 campuses such as that in Manteo (shown here) but with some restrictions and the possibility that the issue may have to be decided by the state legislature.

Illegal immigrants will have to pay out of state tuition, about $7,700 a year, and the board said they can be removed from a class if it is full and a legal resident wants in.

The ruling, however, may not be final. It now goes to the state Rules Review Commission. If the commission receives ten written objections asking for the legislature to review the decision, it then goes to the General Assembly.

Athletics should come first – Camden school superintendent
Because construction of a costly new high school in Camden is expected to occur in phases, the county school superintendent believes the best place to start the project is with athletic facilities.
The Daily Advance

Dare County Tea Party plans April gathering in Kill Devil Hills

Outer Banks living attracts Southern Shores job applicants
So does the salary
The town with a population of 2,500 (summertime about 10,000) has had some 50 applicants in the past few days with more expected for the job of Southern Shores town manager at a minimum starting salary of $90,000 plus.

The position was officially advertised on Monday; resum├ęs and references are being accepted until April 12.

The vacancy was created by the town council's forced resignation – firing – of Charlie Read in February. Police chief David Kole (right) was appointed interim manager and 'old trusty,' Web Fuller, was hired "to find the best manager possible to provide some stability," in the council's words.

Fuller (left), a former Southern Shores manager and before that a longtime Nags Head town manger, said Wednesday that in addition to North Carolina and Virginia, many of the applicants are from Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York.

Some Dare County residents have applied as well, though none, he said, appear to have had the required town government experience.

Quite a few of the applicants, according to Fuller, have spent time on the Outer Banks or own property here. Asked about the high cost of housing, which in the past has been a deterrent to recruiting, the town's recruiter said, "This is a good time to buy. It's much better than it was two years ago. I'm optimistic about that."

And after a lengthy period of internal politics and tumult, normally peaceful Southern Shores is optimistic that it will find a town manager capable of restoring stability.

Area men accused of bomb-making materials
The FBI is investigating two brothers renting a Shawboro house where Currituck County detectives found bomb-making materials, flight-training papers and poisonous plants that could be made into weapons of mass destruction.

Dare County sheriff candidate also faces charges in Currituck County

Phony distress calls cost three men $234,851
The ring-leader was 25-year-old Jeremy Fisher of Holly Ridge in the Jacksonville area of Onslow County who was fined $234,111 after admitting he made 22 fake distress calls to the Coast Guard over a two-year period.

Two friends were fined a total of $740.28 for aiding and abetting. The Coast Guard said in a new release Sunday the three are yet to be sentenced but could fail jail time and additional fines.

Threat of law suit prompts state action on gill nets
The Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center at Topsail Island, aided by the Duke Environmental Law and Policy Clinic, has filed notice it intends to sue the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries for allowing the use of gill nets, which the Rescue Center says kill thousands of federally protected sea turtles.

Marine Fisheries chairman Rob Bizzel has warned that if the suit is ignored, "a judge (namely federal Judge Terrence Boyle) could order an injunction stopping all commercial fishing that could last indefinitely."

State regulators have rejected the idea of a total ban on large mesh gill nets but adopted other restrictions. However, the director of the state Division of Marine Fisheries, Louis Daniel, said he doubts the National Marine Fisheries Service will accept the limited ban. More from the Outer Banks Sentinel...

Feds increase fines for fishermen taking stripers

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Again, thanks for all your visits during the past two years and two months of OBX Alert. Farewell and Godspeed,
The Editor