Ex-Kinston councilman sentenced for
having child porn
RALEIGH (AP) — A former Kinston city councilman is headed to federal prison after prosecutors say he inadvertently left a thumb drive containing child pornography behind at a public meeting.
Ex-councilman William Walter Barker was sentenced Thursday by Senior U.S. District Judge James C. Fox to serve 61/2 years after earlier pleading guilty to a single count of receipt of child pornography. Barker will also pay a $10,000 fine and be supervised for life following his release.
Prosecutors say the 44-year-old Barker attended a meeting last year in the nearby town of Fremont, leaving behind a small digital storage device later determined to contain improper images. Authorities then got a search warrant for Barker’s home, finding a laptop computer containing about 12,000 sexually explicit images and videos of children.
Hospital closing after state declines Medicaid expansion
RALEIGH (AP) — A small community hospital in eastern North Carolina is closing after state officials declined Medicaid expansion under the federal Affordable Care Act.
The Daily Reflector of Greenville reports that Vidant Health System will close its hospital in the coastal town of Belhaven within six months. About 100 employees are expected to lose their jobs.
Vidant CEO David Herman said the 60-year-old hospital’s closing is triggered by the decision of North Carolina lawmakers to refuse federal funding to expand Medicaid. The company plans to open a small outpatient clinic in Belhaven, but patients needing emergency care would need to be transported to another Vidant hospital in Washington, 26 miles away.
Gov. Pat McCrory signed a Republican-backed law in March denying health insurance to about 500,000 low-income people under Medicaid.
Cooper: Overall 2012 crime rate down; violence up slightly
RALEIGH (AP) — North Carolina’s Attorney General Roy Cooper says the state’s overall crime rate fell last year, but the violent crime rate rose slightly.
Cooper says a report by the State Bureau of Investigation released Thursday is encouraging, but that he’s concerned budget cuts will mean fewer police on the street and investigators in the field. The attorney general also says the state’s crime lab is overburdened and needs more help to perform its duties.
Cooper says public safety is a high priority for citizens when they are asked how they want their tax dollars spent.
The report says the overall rate of crime per 100,000 people in North Carolina decreased by 4.4 percent compared to 2011.
However, the rate of violent crime per 100,000 North Carolinians rose 0.6 percent.
Two in custody as police investigate man’s death in Shelby
SHELBY (AP) — Police in Shelby are investigating the death of a man whose body was found at an apartment.
Police have taken two people into custody as they investigate they death.
Officers were called with a tip that someone wanted on an outstanding warrant was at the apartment early Thursday. When officers arrived around 2:15 a.m., they found a body on the ground in a garage.
A man and woman at the scene were taken into custody for questioning.
Police Chief Jeff Ledford said the dead man’s name is being withheld while relatives are notified.
More propane-powered police vehicles now on the road in Raleigh
RALEIGH (AP) — The Raleigh Police Department is increasing the number of police vehicles powered by propane gas.
The News & Observer of Raleigh reported that the move comes after a two-year test of the vehicles.
Raleigh City Council has agreed to spend nearly $200,000 to convert 30 police vehicles to propane. The city has 20 patrol cars already using propane.
Capt. Doug Brugger says the 20 cars using propane work just as well as gasoline powered vehicles.
Propane costs less than half as much as gasoline per gallon. The city has saved about $170,000 on fuel costs on the 20 cars using propane now, including federal incentives.
The U.S. Energy Department says propane releases less carbon monoxide and other pollutants. Most propane is made in the United States.
Raleigh gets $10 million to build train station, needs $20 million more
RALEIGH (AP) — The city of Raleigh has been awarded a $10 million federal grant to help build a new Amtrak train station downtown.
State and local officials say the city still needs another $20 million for the $73 million project to build a station with parking, a civic plaza and other improvements.
Deputy state Transportation Secretary Richard Walls says he’s confident the money will be found.
Officials say no decision has been made on when to start the project, including the work on the track, a passenger platform and a new passenger depot.
Mayor Nancy McFarlane says local officials are still working to find more funding for the station.
Education board approves 26 new charter schools
RALEIGH (AP) — The State Board of Education has set in motion plans for 26 additional charter schools to open in North Carolina, likely bringing the total operating in the state next fall to about 150.
The panel agreed Thursday to give preliminary charters to the schools’ organizers based on the recommendations of an advisory board that reviews applications. Six others were denied charters.
The school-choice advocacy group Parents for Educational Freedom in North Carolina says Thursday’s recipients include three that will open the first charters in Harnett, Halifax and Bertie counties.
The board also changed rules to help teachers qualify for higher pay for advanced degrees before a phase-out begins next year. It delayed by a month approving score levels for standardized tests that will mean fewer students are deemed proficient.
Clyde police chief’s suspension extended; no word on reason
CLYDE (AP) — Officials in the Haywood County town of Clyde have voted to extend a suspension of Police Chief Gerard Ball.
The board of aldermen voted Wednesday to suspend Ball for 30 days without pay for what the board called “personal misconduct.”
Ball had been suspended last week for five days with pay.
Town officials have not explained details of the misconduct.
Town Administrator Joy Garland says Ball also will be on probation for a year.
Capt. Mike Lindsay is running the police department. Ball was hired last year to replace former chief Derek Dendy.