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Are you prepared for hurricane season?

KENANSVILLE — June marks the arrival of hurricane season which lasts through Nov. 30.

As we face, yet another boisterous hurricane season with 60% above normal activity, we are reminded that we need to be prepared.

A few simple steps such as knowing your risks, making a plan and collecting important documents to implement your plan, can help you be better prepared in the event of an impending natural disaster.

“Emergency kits, and evacuation plans should be reviewed. Non-perishable food and water stocks should be replenished,” said Matthew Barwick, Duplin County Emergency Management Director.

Nearly three years after the devastating effects of Hurricane Florence, some communities are still recovering.

“My staff and I pray every day to be spared another event that even resembles Hurricane Florence and the inland river flooding event that followed. This was a devastating time in not just Duplin County, but the entire state,” said Barwick. “We still feel the effects from this event that ripples through our economy, much like tossing a rock into a pond eventually touching everything.”

NOAA has predicted a likelihood of 13-20 storms this year, with six to 10 potentially strong enough to become hurricanes and three to five of them becoming major hurricanes.

County officials and staff work diligently to make shelters as comfortable and as prepared as possible, said Barwick. “However, potential residents of emergency shelters should know that in a time of need these shelters employ tactics to preserve life and worry less about comfort.”

Residents who evacuate to emergency shelters, should bring with them everything they need to sustain themselves for at least 72 hours, said Barwick.

“This includes any needed medications, personal protection equipment, like masks and gloves, and special dietary foods,” he said. “County officials constantly assess and adjust staff operations amidst the ever-changing environments to assure we are providing the safest and most efficient storm-ready community we are able.”

“We will always do what is necessary to protect our citizens in the face of visible and invisible adversaries.”

Disaster preparation is important for everyone, especially for people with special medical needs.

The impact on vulnerable populations, particularly those requiring life-sustaining medical equipment operated by electricity is something that requires a plan, whether it be to evacuate or to have the resources needed in place to ensure life can be sustained in the event of an extended power outage.

“When directed by officials, please choose to leave the area and shelter with friends or relatives inland, as this is the best answer,” said Barwick. “Our medically vulnerable population should take special heed to this warning due to the extremely limited space available to sustain special medical equipment. Staying should be only the extreme last-case resort.”

“Emergency Management works daily to try and plan for, and mitigate the effects, to attempt to lighten the blow in the wake of natural disasters.” said Barwick.

According to Barwick, the American Red Cross announced that they will return to using congregate sheltering approach. “Breathing a sigh of relief, we can now expect the American Red Cross to return to guaranteed assistance with our sheltering operations 96 hours post-storm landfall,” said Barwick. “This assistance is welcomed, easing our staff burdens so they too may get home safely to their families.”

FEMA has a number of tools available online at Ready.gov and Listo.gov to help you prepare for hurricane season. You may also download the FEMA app at fema.gov/about/news-multimedia/mobile-app-text-messages to sign-up for alerts and access preparedness information.

Exciting news brewing along the interstate Warsaw exit

Despite the political climate and the significant challenges most of America has seen with supply-chain over the past couple of months. Duplin County is still growing, and businesses are pressing the gas pedal in new development projects. Such is the case of the new Starbucks, which is being built in Warsaw.

“I was out by the interstate yesterday (June 3) and it looks like a building frame for the proposed Starbucks is currently going up,” said Elizabeth Stalls, Duplin County planning director.

The specialty coffee retailer, with more than 32,000 stores around the world, will the first one to be built in Duplin County. Coffee lovers and Starbucks junkies will be able to get their caffeine fix without having to leave Duplin. The new shop is expected to bring more visitors to the area and fuel development in the community.

“The direct impact for us is the tax base on the improved property tax,” said Scotty Summerlin, Warsaw town manager. “That’ll be a direct benefit to the town. Secondary to that is the economic impact that it brings through our local option sales tax, then also the traffic that it brings.”

The new coffee shop is expected to be a hit not only with locals but also with people commuting along the interstate. It can potentially lead to an influx in tourism and increased commercial activity not only for Warsaw but for adjacent towns.

“This will be the first one in Duplin County and the first one within probably at least a 30 to 40-mile area,” said Summerlin. “As it is in a lot of cases, it may be a destination location (if people) are heading this way, so they will stick around and head to Warsaw and do other things. We’re excited.”

According to a Starbucks spokesperson the store will open this fall and will employ approximately 25-35 employees. The 2,500-square feet store will feature a drive-thru window and a parking area with 29 spaces according to the official design documents and it will be located at 2704 W. N.C. Highway 24 in Warsaw.

“They’ve got different contractors that do different things,” said Summerlin. “You’ve got one doing side work, you’ve got one doing what they call the shell building. There are just too many moving parts to know when they may be finished.”

The building permit for the coffee retailer got approved approximately four months ago. According to Warsaw Mayor, A. J. Connors, there were some minor delays due to weather conditions.

“They’ve probably been under construction for at least two months now,” said Summerlin. They’ve got the building framed, and they started to put the plywood on.”

In addition to challenging weather, the construction industry has been affected by supply-chain challenges not only dealing with workforce shortages but also imposed tariffs on lumber and steel and the increase of building material. However, despite all challenges, Duplin County still keeps pressing on the gas pedal and we are seeing continuous and steady growth. Another store that is coming to the area is Jersey Mike’s.

“They are under construction right now. They’ve got their permits from the town and are slowly but steadily working away, it appears,” said Summerlin. “I think that they had a more ambitious timeline to be open, but because of the weather and supply-chains (there’s been delays).”

According to Summerlin, Warsaw has seen steady growth, with many small businesses thriving. Also, the town has been working on beautification of the town.

“The town’s been very fortunate over the last few years,” said Summerlin. “If you ride down Front Street we’ve got businesses thriving there — small shops. We’re trying to continue an effort to clean the town up, get rid of these dilapidated structures, and we hope that it’s starting to pay off a little bit.”

Connors said he is grateful and hopes to see steady progress.

“We’re just hoping for progress. We’re grateful for what we got, but we also are in hope for more to come in the future,” he said.

N.C. HOPE program application period opens

The N.C. Housing Opportunities and Prevention of Evictions (HOPE) Program opened its second application period on June 2.

The HOPE program assists very low-income renters who are experiencing financial hardship due to COVID-19, by providing rent and utility bill assistance to prevent evictions and utility disconnections.

“I strongly encourage landlords and utilities across our state to lend a hand to their communities and to participate in these programs so that we can keep people in their homes with their lights on,” said Gov. Roy Cooper. “I am proud that North Carolina is taking steps to support families who need it as we emerge from this pandemic.”

The current HOPE Program is serving very low-income renters in 88 North Carolina counties. Very low-income is defined as earning less than or equal to 50 percent of the area median income for the county where the renter lives. Twelve additional counties and five tribal governments received money directly from the federal government to operate their own programs.

In the last two weeks, more than 8,000 people have applied for financial assistance and as of today, $9.5 million has been awarded. Payments began on June 1 and 924 checks for a total of $1.1 million have been mailed to help North Carolinians in need. Payments are expected to continue to go out on a rolling basis every business day.

Previous applicants who received help can re-apply if they still need assistance.

North Carolina initially launched the HOPE Program last fall, using flexible federal CARES Act funds to keep low-income people struggling during the pandemic in their homes and their utilities turned on.

In total, the program awarded $133 million to more than 36,000 applicants. Congress subsequently recognized the outstanding need for rent and utility assistance and passed additional funds in the two stimulus bills, including the American Rescue Plan.

“In advance of this second application period, HOPE Program processes have been streamlined to ensure people get help as quickly as possible,” said NCORR Chief Operating Officer Laura Hogshead. “Our goal is to continue to provide housing stability while our state recovers from impacts of the pandemic.”

Complete details about the HOPE Program, including eligibility requirements, program benefits and an online application, are available at www.hope.nc.gov. Applicants who cannot access the website may also call (888) 9ASK-HOPE or (888) 927-5467.

North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Mandy K. Cohen, M.D. also joined Gov. Cooper on June 2 and provided an update on the state’s COVID-19 vaccination efforts. As part of its ongoing effort to get more North Carolinians vaccinated and safely bring summer back, the NC DHHS is offering $25 Summer Cash Cards at select vaccine sites to offset the time and transportation costs of getting vaccinated.

To date, over 8.3 million doses have been administered in North Carolina, with 54.3 5 of adults partially vaccinated and 49.2 % of adults fully vaccinated. 79.9 % of the 65 and older population have been partially vaccinated.

EMS team receives Lifesaver I Commendation

KENANSVILLE — Three members of the Duplin County Emergency Medical Services were recognized for their lifesaving efforts.

Paramedic Chris Jackson, EMT David Tollefson, and Shift Supervisor Gene Purdee were awarded the Lifesaver I Commendation on May 17 at the Duplin County Board of Commissioners meeting.

“l am very proud of all of our dedicated EMS providers that serve our communities,” said Mark Casey, Emergency Medical Services during the board meeting as he introduced the three Emergency Medical Services men. “Earlier this year they responded to a call for a patient not breathing. After working on the patient for nearly 20 minutes, the patient’s heart began to beat again on his own.”

Thanks to the quick intervention of the first responders a life was saved. The patient who was successfully resuscitated and transported to a medical center, was able to leave the hospital only days later walking on his own,” said Casey during the board meeting.

‘‘This patient is at home enjoying the company of his family. What this team has achieved here, is what EMS is all about — making a difference in people’s lives in our community.”

The Lifesaver I Commendation is presented for lifesaving actions directly involved in the “successful resuscitation of a patient in cardiac arrest, who is ultimately discharged home with a better quality of life.”

“I’d like to recognize these folks for their hard work and their dedication,” said Dexter Edwards, chairman of the Duplin County Board of Commissioners during the meeting. “I think we take what you guys do a lot for granted. I do appreciate your service. I can’t imagine how much sacrifice you have to give all hours of the night to give us the care that you do — this was a great task that you just accomplished..”

The sentiment was shared among members of the board, who each said a few words of appreciation to the hard work and all the sacrifices of these men not only responding to emergencies at all times of the day and night but also having to leave their families to help others in the community. First respondents work tirelessly every day delivering hope to people in crisis to ensure they receive the best care possible.

Wallace-Rose Hill High School graduate appointed by Congressman Rouzer

KENANSVILLE — Congressman David Rouzer (NC-07) announced the nomination of Duplin County high school graduate, Tyler Brinkley of Wallace, among 28 other students from North Carolina’s 7th District for appointments to United States service academies on June 2.

Brinkley, who attended Wallace-Rose Hill High School received a nomination to the United States Air Force Academy and was recently accepted into the Naval Academy Prep School. Frank Brinkley, Tyler’s dad, said he is very proud and hopes Tyler takes advantage of this great opportunity.

“There are no words to describe how we feel. It was a long process,” said Brinkley. “He worked hard last year and graduated third in his class.”

Brinkley said that Tyler’s dream is to become a U.S. Air Force pilot.

“He has been wanting to go since he was 13. This is Tyler’s dream, something he fell in love with since he was a little boy,” said Brinkley. “He also loves baseball and wants to follow his dream and serve his country.”

According to Brinkley, Tyler is getting ready to leave on July 22 and will go to the Naval Academy Prep School first. “The academy gives you a year to get ready,” said Brinkley.

“It’s an honor to nominate some of the best and brightest students of Southeastern North Carolina to attend a United States Service Academy where they will receive a first-rate undergraduate education and have the opportunity to give back to our nation by serving on active duty as a military officer,” said Congressman Rouzer. “I congratulate these students on their nominations and wish them the best of luck as they move forward with the application process.”