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Health Department: Omicron variant is in Duplin County

KENANSVILLE — “The Omicron variant is in Duplin County,” said Tracey Simmons-Kornegay, Health Department Director.

While the exact number of Omicron variant cases in Duplin is unknown. People are highly encouraged to practice the 3Ws: Wear a mask, Wash your hands and Watch your distance.

“If you have not received a COVID vaccine, then please consider. If it is time for you to receive your booster dose, then please consider,” said Simmons-Kornegay. “The county’s positivity rate is higher than we have seen through the COVID-19 pandemic.”

As of Sunday, Jan. 9, the CDC shows Duplin County’s 7-day metric with a 36.09% positivity rate, 542 cases, and 43% of the eligible population fully vaccinated. Additionally, Duplin shows 16 new hospital admissions as of the 7-day metric period ending on Jan. 6.

If you or someone in your family has COVID-19 symptoms, isolate and contact your doctor. Do not go to the emergency room unless it is an emergency. Most counties have been overwhelmed with the influx of patients, including those seeking testing.

“We provide COVID testing every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 8:30 a.m.-11:30 a.m., at the Health Department,” said Simmons-Kornegay.

The Health Department provides PCR testing only, and there is no appointment needed. She added that the event is primarily drive-thru but due to inclement weather, testing might be moved indoors.

“At this time DCHD does not have any home test kits,” said Simmons-Kornegay. “The general population can order them directly from the state. When we get some then we will share that information with the general public.”

As flu is on the rise this year, Simmons-Kornegay shared that the Health Department has also seen cases of “Flurona,” a mix of flu and COVID.

Duplin residents can receive a flu shot any day of the week at the Health Department or can schedule a flu shot at their local pharmacy.

The following is a list of upcoming vaccination clinics:

On Thursday, Jan. 13, 5-8 p.m., a Moderna vaccine clinic will take place at Faison United Methodist Church located at 404 SW Center St., in Faison. The clinic is for anyone 18 years and older.

Every Wednesday and Friday the Health Department provides Moderna vaccine clinics from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., for anyone 18 years and older. The vaccines include first and second doses and boosters.

On Jan. 20, 3-7 p.m., a Pfizer vaccine clinic will take place at the Health Department, for anyone 5 years and older. The vaccines include first and second doses and boosters.

On Jan. 25, 4-7 p.m., a Pfizer vaccine clinic will take place at the Health Department, for anyone 5 years and older. The vaccines include first and second doses and boosters.

It is important to take note that the newest guidance from the CDC recommends vaccine booster doses at 5 months after completing the first series of Pfizer or Moderna vaccinations.

Simmons-Kornegay reported that as of Dec. 31, 2021 the NC DHHS $100 cash incentives for first vaccine dose is no longer offered.

For the most up to date guidance from the CDC, visit

Kenansville adopts new Minimum Housing Ordinance

KENANSVILLE — Town Board members moved forward with the resolution to adopt the Minimum Housing Ordinance at the January Kenansville Town Board meeting.

The ordinance provides the authority to initiate an investigation and determine if there is a necessity to repair or remove a house or other structure that poses danger to the health, safety, and welfare of Kenansville residents.

According to the ordinance, dilapidated houses and certain abandoned structures are a health or safety hazard as a result of the attraction of rodents, conditions creating a fire hazard, dangerous conditions constituting a threat to children, or frequent use by vagrants as living quarters in the absence of sanitary facilities among other conditions rendering them unsafe, unsanitary and dangerous.

“These structures are a health and safety concern and we needed an ordinance that gives us the framework that will lead to these types of properties being rehabilitated or demolished,” said Mayor John Dail Garner. “My hope is that we notify the owners that we intend to enforce this new ordinance and they take it upon themselves as responsible property owners to address the issues at hand,” Garner added.

Kenansville Town Manager Chris Roberson was designated as the enforcement officer. This means he has the authority to get the process started.

“The goal in adopting this ordinance is to do all we can, from the town state point, to make this town a safe and healthy place to live,” said Roberson.

Kenansville residents can also do their part identifying these properties and get the process going when at least five residents file a petition with the town manager charging that a specific house is unfit for human habitation.

After a preliminary investigation, the property owner has the opportunity to dispute the complaint, explain their position at a hearing, and will be allowed a reasonable amount of time to fix the property.

“Each situation is going to be different based on the actual condition of the structure,” said Roberson.

If it’s major deficiencies, because the structure is dilapidated, they will have more time to repair the structure to bring it to compliance. In the long run, is better for the homeowner to be able to repair it.”

Roberson shared if the property is not repaired and brought to compliance within the time frame given then the town has to resort to more stringent proceedings to bring it to code.

The town can move to have the property condemned and demolished, which will also involve other legal procedures such as foreclosure.

“We want to be fair and reasonable to property owners, but we also want to achieve the goal to get these properties into compliance one way or another,” Roberson added.

“It is in the best interest of the property owner to attempt to repair the property. One, because it would add value to their property and would minimize the detrimental effects on the health and safety and general welfare of the citizens,” said Roberson.

By making the needed repairs to bring the structures to code, property owners are not only contributing to keeping Kenansville a safe place for its residents but they can also reap the benefits of the repairs adding value to the property if they choose to sell it later.

“It is our desire for the property owners to step up and do what needs to be done to these structures to get them back to compliance and remove the potential for negative impact to the health, safety, and general welfare of the public.”

Roberson stated a lot of the dilapidated properties are a result of the owner’s neglect to maintain the property.

“There are properties that are not compliant with the nuisance ordinance that deals with tall grass, obnoxious weeds, and things like that, I think you are gonna find out that the ordinances go hand-in-hand. If you have a property that is not compliant with code 91, often you find out that it’s not compliant with code 98, which is the Minimum Housing Code,” said Roberson.

“We’ve had some that have coordinated with the fire department to remove their structures,” said Roberson referring to code 91 compliance, where at the request of the property owner a controlled burn was performed. “The arson expenses that are tied to that are a lot less than the expenses that would be by condemnation and demolition and so forth.”

He explained the first go is “repair the structure if you can within a reasonable amount of time.”

“There is a provision that states what would be the reasonable cost associated with repairing the structure and is based on the value of the property at its current state; if it’s over 50% of the value of the property it’s highly unlikely they will be able to justify repairing the structure,” he said.

“If it’s under 50% of the value of the property that will give them the ability to address the issue themselves.”

According to Roberson, Kenansville has approximately 11 houses that fall into the dilapidated category.

At the meeting, the pros and cons of the ordinance were discussed by town officials, and while the process may take an upfront expense due to legal and other fees, addressing the situation was necessary.

“Getting that property back in a good useful fashion will be the best thing for the town in the long run. It seems like they are growing in numbers. So we have to get in front of this. If this is what it takes then we have to figure out how to do it,” said Garner as he addressed the board.

At the meeting, Commissioner Linda Tyson also highlighted the need to get in front of the problem, noting that the same situation was addressed five years ago, however back then it was determined that it was not feasible for the town to enforce the code due to the cost and they were in a tight bind. But since then, at least four more dilapidated houses have been identified.

Roberson said that after the board discussed the potential costs and the fact that they may not recoup all the money that may go into the enforcement of the ordinance, it was necessary.

“Does the betterment of the health, safety and general welfare of our citizens outweigh the cost that we have to spend to do so? Yes, yes it does,” said Roberson.

The ordinance became effective on Jan. 3.

Calypso appoints new commissioner after Jones resignation

CALYPSO — Larry Cashwell was appointed as commissioner for the Town of Calypso at the January board meeting. Cashwell is filling the seat left vacant by Debbie Jones’ resignation shortly after the 2021 municipal elections. Jones stated that her resignation was due to personal reasons. Cashwell had the next highest number of votes in the municipal election and has served as commissioner previously.

During the board meeting each commissioner was appointed department responsibilities as follows: Commissioner Joanne Wilson: Public Safety, Beautification and Fire; Commissioner Brandon Nunn: Parks and Recreation; Commissioner Marty Taylor: Streets and Ditches, Commissioner Rubylene Lambert: Financial Officer, Cemetery and CDBG; Commissioner Cashwell: Water and Sewer.

On other business at the board meeting:

  • A new personnel committee was established. Contacts for Duplin County Emergency Management mutual aid agreement were assigned. Mayor Tyndall will be primary contact, Commissioner Taylor will be alternant contact and Town Clerk Alice Dixon will be secondary alternant.
  • The Planning Board requested for the town Board to have a public hearing to rezone two acres of property between Kornegay Street and Warren Street to residential. The Planning Board also requested to the Board to have a Public Hearing for the revised zoning ordinance. Both Public Hearings will be on Feb. 7 starting at 6 p.m.
  • Sonia Guardado and Kristy Wagner from Duplin County Social Services presented the Federal Program of Low Income Housing Water Assistance Program. This program is made possible through the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, and it is designed to help low income families with their water and sewer utilities. In order for the Calypso to participate there would need to be a signed agreement. Town attorney, Joey Ezzell reviewed the contract and advised that everything looked to be in order and pointed out that either party could withdraw from the contract with a 30-day written notice. All were in agreement to participate in the program.
  • Personnel policy was reviewed and an amendment was made. From now on, employees will be paid on Tuesdays instead of Thursdays.
  • Discussion was then turned to Parks and Recreation. Commissioner Nunn was asked to work with the Park Committee and the Recreation Committee to review their bylaws, to brainstorm and come up with a plan to better serve the citizens of Calypso. It was encouraged that Parks and Recreation be reminded that they serve at the pleasure of the board and should provide monthly accounting of activities, funds, etc. Commissioner Nunn shared some ideas that he had and stated that he didn’t see why the goals discussed couldn’t be met and will have a report at the February meeting.
  • Mayor Tyndall presented invoices to be paid, one of which included expenditure to Cox & Edwards for a water outage on Albritton Street. The outage occurred Dec. 25 causing a temporary outage on North West Center Street, and other complaints of low water pressure. Town officials reported a request to flush the lines will be made to the public works department. The assistance of the Fire Department may be requested as well.
  • Several complaints were discussed one being the condition of First Street especially the north end. Commissioner Taylor will obtain three bids and present them to the board.
  • Other complaints consisted of trash and debris on the side of the road and ditch on Albritton Street. Also a hole in the area of an old septic tank at another residence. The hole has been filled in.
  • The last complaint was about drivers speeding, most notably along Fourth Street. A representative from the Sheriff’s Office will be asked to attend the February meeting.

The next Town Board meeting for the Town of Calypso is scheduled for Feb. 7, 6:30 p.m., at 508 East Main Street.

Mobley appointed Kenansville interim Chief of Police

KENANSVILLE – The Kenansville Police Department has a new chief. Marcus Mobley was sworn in as the Interim Chief of Police at the Kenansville Board of Commissioners meeting on Monday, Jan. 3. He is taking over Chief J.R. “Ryan” Strickland who retired last month.

Born and raised in Duplin County, Mobley brings 27 years of law enforcement experience and extensive training background.

“I have been involved in Law Enforcement since I started as a jailor with Duplin County Sheriff’s Office in 1995,” said Mobley, who has been a police officer with the Town of Kenansville for more than a decade.

“In 2010, I was sworn in as a police officer, part-time with the Town of Kenansville, where I continue to serve today.”

Mobley attended the Police Academy at Lenoir Community College where he trained in Basic Law Enforcement, graduating with a 4.0 grade average in July of 1997. He was sworn in as a police officer with the Town of Richlands in July of 1997 and worked as a patrol officer for the Richlands Police Department under Chief Jim Wilson.

“In May of 1998, I was the youngest officer to ever graduate DARE school in Hickory, N.C. Chief Wilson had to get a waiver of time served as a police officer because he knew I could perform the duty and placed a lot of faith in me,” Mobley added.

He worked as a DARE officer from 1998 until 2003. After leaving Richlands, he worked for Wayne Briley in Burgaw, N.C. from 1999 to 2001.

“(I) was working when hurricane Floyd came through,” said Mobley. “In 2001, I came to work for Duplin County Sheriff’s Office and was a school resource officer and DARE teacher. In 2003, I attended and graduated E-911 training.”

Mobley worked part-time for Duplin as a 911 dispatcher from 2002 to 2007 and worked part-time with the Beulaville Police Department from 1999 to 2010.

“I have (had) the wonderful opportunity to work in every area of law enforcement,” said Mobley.

“I have been able to learn a lot. I am also a certified field training officer, and attended Salemburg Justice Academy where I was trained in interview and interrogation.”

He shared that he has always tried to improve himself through training.

“I sincerely look forward to serving the citizens of Kenansville,” said Mobley.

“My main goal as chief is to serve the citizens and people I meet, with respect and dedication to duty, and provide a safe as possible, town for everyone who lives and works in Kenansville.”

Mobley added that he is looking forward to learning and growing more in his experience as a law enforcement officer, and providing positive and supportive leadership to help his officers achieve their goals.

As for challenges, he stated “My biggest challenge is learning the little things involved with being chief that no one can prepare you for. You have to embrace them and learn from them, and grow on your own.”

When asked for a message to the residents of Kenansville, Mobley said “I am proud to be serving you as your chief. I intend for our department to continue providing the best service possible for all of you.”

Town of Rose Hill to lease two water towers to new internet provider

ROSE HILL — The Town of Rose Hill recently held its monthly town board meeting and a public hearing, in which 19 citizens participated.

During the public hearing, Mayor Sue Bowden opened up a discussion about the leasing space of two water tanks to Eastern Carolina Broadband (ECB).

The internet provider is new to Duplin County and has expanded to areas such as Magnolia, Beulaville, and the Duplin County side of Mount Olive. In a unanimous 5-0 vote, ECB was approved to lease two locations on a 10-year lease. The town will receive $250 per tank each year along with the ability to receive free internet service.

“If the signal is strong enough, yes”, Bauer stated,” after Commissioner Ross Powell asked if the town would receive free internet service. He went on to explain that the town currently had sufficient service, but the Public Works Department and Wastewater Treatment Plant did not.

Town Administrator John Bauer stated that the leasing of space by ECB on the two water tanks, one at 522 Brices Store Road and at 331 Sixth Street right off Hwy 117, was for economic development/community development to help rural areas with internet service that is not currently available to them. More information to come.

Town Clerk, Angela Smith, administered the Oaths of Office to Mayor-Elect Sue Bowden, Commissioner Elect Marsha Whaley, and Commissioner Elect Ross Powell. Also at the meeting, John Bauer, Rose Hill town administrator, presented a plaque to retired Mayor Clayton Herring Jr., honoring him for 50 years of public service.

A Rose Hill resident, Reid Fussell, went before the board to voice a complaint about an area in town where he believes the stop sign is not clearly visible.

He believes it is unsafe for the residents of the town. It was confirmed that the public works director (PWD) is aware that there are areas of overgrowth that need to be trimmed to make some signs in town more visible. Bauer stated that he and the PWD had been through town making notes on those areas.

Additionally at the meeting, reports were given by the administrator, the police department, and the public works department. The 2022 budget calendar was also approved in a 5-0 vote.

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