darts and laurels

Published 12:00 am Friday, January 18, 2008

Laurels to the Rowan County student team that will head to Las Vegas in March to compete in the International Construction Challenge ó and to Power Curbers for providing financial support. Given the state of the nation’s roads and bridges, we’re going to need young people who know how to design and build durable structures. The seven students (from South Rowan, Carson and East High) proved their construction prowess by winning a regional meet in Georgia. Appropriately enough, their subject area for that competition was improving roadways, and then they had to build a miniature bridge. Last year’s collapse of the Interstate 35W bridge in Minneapolis ó now blamed on a design flaw ó renewed calls for the nation to make massive repairs to its highways and bridges. With students like these, we should have the engineering expertise to do so. Paying for it is another issue. By one estimate, it will take $1.6 trillion to update the nation’s deteriorating infrastructure.
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Dart to the sad necessity of conducting background checks on volunteers who work with children and other vulnerable people. Salisbury City Council is in the process of reviewing a policy for volunteers in its park and recreation system, but it is far from alone. Churches and other organizations that work with children are doing the same. Many are also requiring volunteers to complete training on the do’s and don’ts of working with kids ó as much to protect volunteers from unfounded claims as to protect children. ChoicePoint, one of the many companies that offers screening services, says a recent audit of 1.6 million background screens performed between 2002 and 2005 revealed that more than 86,000 individuals with undisclosed criminal records tried to work or volunteer in the nonprofit sector. So background checks are needed, but do they really have to be so widespread? Companies like ChoicePoint may mean well, but they don’t mind fanning the flames of fear. They’re wringing their hands over child predators all the way to the bank.
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Laurels to the endless number of good causes in North Carolina and the General Assembly’s decision to offer drivers a way to honor 11 more of them. The subject is special license plates, of which the state has more than 150. The newest ones recognize AIDS awareness, hospice care, home care and hospice, the N.C. Tennis Foundation, ALS research, brain injury awareness, early detection of breast cancer, the National Kidney Foundation of North Carolina, the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, prostate cancer awareness and recipients of the Bronze Star combat honor. The Division of Motor Vehicles charges from $15 to $30 extra for specialized tags, keeping $10 for itself and giving the rest to the organization that requested the plate. None of these new plates is a sure thing yet, though. At least 300 copies of a specialized plate must be requested before the state will start making it. So if you’re interested in supporting one of these causes, place your order soon.