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Batter up: Things to know about NCAA baseball regionals

Vanderbilt pitcher Kumar Rocker throws against No. 1 Arkansas during the Southeastern Conference tournament on May 27.

COVID-19 vaccination campaign gears up as rates decline in Pitt County

Several partners are working with the Pitt County Health Department to hold COVID-19 vaccination clinics this week as part of a campaign to increase statewide numbers for the summertime.

The launch of the “Bringing Summer Back” effort comes as state tracking shows fewer people in Pitt County are lining up for the shot. Clinics are scheduled for today, Friday and Sunday at several locations.

“Being fully vaccinated means getting back to doing normal summer activities like backyard gatherings with friends and family, public fireworks and outdoor festivals with less worry,” an announcement from the health department said.

Public health staff will promote the importance of vaccinations at clinics and other events. Staff and volunteers will offer promotional swag and they will be campaigning on social media with the hashtag #BringingSummerBack.

As of Monday, 66,857 Pitt County residents, or about 37 percent of the adult population, had been vaccinated, according to the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services. That compares to 50 percent of residents statewide.

A total of 72,222 Pitt residents had received at least a partial dose by Monday, about 40 percent of the population. Only 936 people were vaccinated locally between June 1 and Monday, according to state figures.

Another 1,092 Pitt County residents were vaccinated between May 24-31, and 1,645 people were vaccinated between May 17-23, according to state figures tracked by The Daily Reflector.

The county’s rate of new cases continues to be higher than most others in the state. As of Tuesday, the 14-day rate was 152 new cases per 100,000 people. DHHS reported nine counties were higher, ranging from 391 in Graham to 161 in Wilkes. Pitt’s 14-day case rate was at 190 per 100,000 people on June 1.

About 6.6 percent of tests in Pitt County were positive on Monday, up from 6.3 percent May 31. That compares to 3 percent statewide. Only four counties had a higher positive testing rate than Pitt, ranging from 8.2 in Hoke to 6.7 in Pasquotank.

A total of 106 people tested positive in Pitt between June 2-8, about 15 cases a day. That compares to 169 positive tests May 26-June 1, an average of 24 new cases a day, and 25 cases a day between May 18-24.

Vidant Health reported 41 COVID patients were hospitalized as of Tuesday in its facilities, compared to 52 on May 31. Statewide hospitalizations fell to 568 on Tuesday, down from 602 on May 31.

A weekly DHHS report on outbreaks at congregant living facilities updated Tuesday showed reported cases among two staff members each at MacGregor Downs Health and Rehabilitation and Universal Health Care Greenville.

Humane Society seeks fosters for dogs during renovations

The Humane Society of Eastern North Carolina is urgently seeking individuals and families to foster dogs for one week while renovations to the shelter are completed.

“All it will cost is love,” Shelter Director Shelby Jolly said. “We supply everything. They just have to provide the snuggles.”

The facility located on Tupper Drive currently houses 20 dogs, ranging from 14-week-old puppies to older and bigger canines.

Homes are needed from Sunday, June 20, to Sunday, June 27. Fosters for cats are not as critical; no renovations are underway in the cat area.

Jolly said those interested in fostering, need to sign up through the website: www.hsecarolina.org/.

“Click on the volunteer tab, then ‘becoming a foster.’ It will tell you everything there is to know,” she said. “When you fill out a form, it comes to us. Volunteers will then receive an email showing what dogs are available to foster.” The process takes about 48 hours.

The organization provides fosters with everything the dogs need for the week, including food, bowls, treats, toys and a crate.

“The only cost is love — all the love you can give. That is what (the dogs) are looking for, along with playtime, ball-throwing and couch-cuddling,” Jolly said.

Foster families will need to be able to keep dogs inside.

“They can go outside and play,” Jolly said. “We don’t require a fenced-in yard to foster. But the primary living situation is the dog needs to be in the home with you.”

Facility improvements

Jolly said updates to the dog section were made possible by a generous donation.

”Carolina Arthritis Center donated $14,000 for our floors to be redone,” she said.

The donation helped pay for the shelter’s dog runs to be repaired. The new flooring was installed earlier this year.

“Next, they are coming to put a slip-resistant coat over the flooring and to repair any wear and tear they may have missed. We are also repainting the dog runs,” Jolly said.

According to the society’s website, it is a private, nonprofit organization.

“We rely on fundraising, grants and private donations to keep our doors open,” Jolly said.

Ongoing need

The humane society pulls animals from local shelters and cares for them while working to find them homes. It is one of the few no-kill shelters in the state.

The society’s mission statement is “to serve as a safe haven for homeless and neglected pets until they find their forever home and to serve as a resource to the community.”

Fostering is an ongoing need and is vital to the the humane society’s mission. It is available in a variety of forms.

“We have an option for fostering for just about everybody,” Jolly said. “If you just want to hang out with a dog for a day, we have those opportunities. Any time we can get the dogs out and spending time with people — getting some love and attention — is good. We spend a lot of time with them here, but it is no comparison to being in a home.”

She said there are hourly opportunities for volunteers to walk the dogs and play with cats, or take them on field trips.

“We have a lot of fun things, that are not a long-term commitment, things you can do if you are starting to think about wanting to adopt a dog,” she said. “If you are thinking about adopting, I highly recommend fostering with us first.

“Of course, we would not mind if you adopted your first foster with us — a wonderful home, is a wonderful home.”

COVID dogs

Jolly said she has seen an increase in the number of surrendered dogs that were bought or adopted during the COVID lockdown.

“We are seeing a lot of owner-surrendered dogs — maybe not to us, but surrendered to their local county shelters then we pulled them,” she said, to keep them from being euthanized.

“This is the hardest time for shelters in general. Everyone is moving or their lives have changed,” Jolly said. “It just happens to be that this year, a lot of people’s lives have changed completely because of what happened last year. There is definitely a huge influx.”

She also noted an increase in the number of dogs that are unsocialized.

“I call them COVID dogs because when we were quarantined, puppies weren’t getting socialized with people, so they became very fearful of (people outside their families),” she said.

“Owners have actually said they are surrendering their dogs because it doesn’t fit their life any longer,” Jolly said. “They want their friends to come over but the dog is absolutely terrified of new people.”

With training, that shyness can be overcome, she said.

“You have to work at it,” Jolly said. “Dogs are a lifetime commitment. Very young dogs that are shy can be turned around very quickly.”

Once all the renovations are complete, the humane society will resume its full range of fostering, adoption and rescue services.

“We will be able to pull again from our local county shelters,” she said. “There are animals out there that need us every day.”

County budget produces no comments, commissioners express their support

A majority of Pitt County commissioners said they support the county’s fiscal year 2021-22 budget after a public hearing drew no comments for or against the plan.

All but one commissioner during Tuesday’s meeting called the $281.45 million proposal a good budget, pointing out the budget reduces the county property tax rate by a half-cent per $100 valuation while fully funding the requests of Pitt County Schools and Pitt Community College.

The Board of Commissioners is scheduled to reconvene at 6 p.m. today to vote on the budget ordinance. The virtual session will be broadcast live on Suddenlink channel 13 and on https://www.youtube.com/pittcountync.

The budget includes more than $17 million in one-time capital projects, including $6 million to expand the Department of Social Services’ human service center on Government Circle so all offices can be located in one building.

Six million dollars is also appropriated to constructing an administration building for the sheriff’s office at the Pitt County Detention Center.

The budget put $650,000 into vehicle replacement, $612,000 to buy a new mobile dental clinic for the health department’s Smile Safari program and more than $220,000 to purchase radios and a drone for the sheriff’s office.

It also establishes funding for a Pitt County Office Building study to relocate facilities in downtown Greenville once the sheriff’s office moves out of the courthouse into its own facility; it sets aside money to design a gymnasium at Alice F. Keene Park and make renovations to the public health building’s medical records area.

“This is my 20th budget presentation before you and final presentation, with my pending retirement at the end of the year. It has been a pleasure to do it 20 times and it’s hard to believe we’ve been through this process 20 times,” County Manager Scott Elliott said. He announced last month he is retiring at year’s end.

A great management team, great department directors and great staff have made budget preparations a relatively smooth process, he said.

The half-cent property tax rate reduction would drop it from 68.91 cents per $100 valuation to 68.41 cents.

The proposed general fund budget, that part of the budget linked to the property tax rate, is $205.9 million. It includes a one-time transfer from the county’s fund balance to help fund the one-time capital projects.

Pitt County Schools will receive $44.3 million from the county and Pitt Community College will receive $6.5 million.

“In 20 years there’s not been many times we’ve been able to fund Pitt County Schools at 100 percent,” Elliott said.

Other budget highlights include:

  • $16 million for the sheriff’s office.
  • $17.6 million for the detention center.
  • The EMS District tax rate, paid by all property owners living outside Greenville, remains at 5.95 percent. The county will implement a supplemental tier funding system which is based on the number of calls answered by a squad, in the new fiscal year.
  • Two of the county’s 20 volunteer fire department tax districts requested tax increases. Belvoir is seeking a 1.25-cent increase which will raise its rate from 2.5 cents to 3.27 cents per $100 valuation. Sharp Point is seeking a 2-cent increase which will raise its rate from 6 cents to 8 cents per $100 valuation.
  • A 2.8 percent market adjustment pay increase for employees.
  • Thirty-two new employee positions spread across social services, public health and EMS.

“I think it is a good year for the budget. I will vote for it,” Commissioner Tom Coulson said.

Commissioners Lauren White, Beth Ward, Mary Perkins-Williams, Melvin McLawhorn, Michael Fitzpatrick and Ann Floyd Huggins said it’s a good budget and they support it.

“Scott ... it’s great to go out with a good budget, dropping the tax rate. You are going out with flying colors,” Floyd Huggins said.

“There are six months to go, I hope they keep flying,” Elliott said.

Commissioner Christopher Nunnelly said he had no comment about the budget.

Along with a vote on the budget, it was announced the commissioners would also hold a special meeting at 6:15 p.m. today.

The notice said the commissioners will go into closed session “to discuss matters relating to the location or expansion of industries or other businesses in the area served by the public body.”

Specifically the board will discuss either a contract or a proposed contract for the acquisition of real property “by purchase, option exchange or lease.”

County and Andrews honored with healthcare, economic awards

Pitt County’s paramedic program has been honored for strides in community health care, and the county economic development director has been recognized for her work.

Pitt was selected by the National Association of Counties as the recipient of the 2021 Achievement Award in the health category for its Community Paramedic Program. The award is given to programs that are innovative, effective and strengthen services for residents.

“As a leader in the east we are extremely proud of this multiple award-winning program,” said EMS Coordinator Jim McArthur. “Community Paramedicine is an innovative approach at providing individualized medical care for patients who are traditionally underserved and unable to access adequate healthcare resources.

“Through excellent collaborative efforts, Pitt County’s Community Paramedic Program has been able to achieve excellent results,” McArthur said.

County Manager Scott Elliott took time during Monday night’s Board of County Commissioners meeting to recognize Kelly Andrews, executive director of the Pitt County Economic Development Commission, who was named to the Business North Carolina 2021 Power List.

Elliott said that Andrews was one of 29 individuals selected in the economic development sector, and among the few recipients from eastern North Carolina.

“Inclusion on this list is a testament to the power of our region and I am fortunate to be a part of a great team and a community with a long history of visionary leadership,” Andrews said.

“She’s worked very hard for Pitt County and we are very proud of her,” Commissioner Lauren White said.

Conference attendees

Commissioners also voted to send four board members to the National Association of Counties annual conference in Prince George’s County, Md., from July 9-12. The meeting features sessions on policy steering as well as networking, technology and other disciplines.

Chris Nunnally, Melvin McLawhorn, Mary Perkins-Williams and Chairwoman Ann Floyd-Huggins will attend. Two typically attend, but the number was expanded this year because the conference was not held in 2020.

The group voted to allot spaces for five commissioners to travel to the conference on Monday. Others are permitted to attend virtually.

Since Pitt County is a member of NACo, each commissioner’s ticket is $515. It will be the first time in more than a year that commissioners have traveled, due to COVID-19.


Chad Smith, Steve Sutton and White were reappointed to the county’s Agricultural Board.

Christie Jahn, CEO of Carolina Hospitality Associates in Winterville, was appointed as a county representative on the Convention and Visitors Authority board. Jahn has a background in hotel management.

Commissioner Chris Nunnally moved that the board formalize the process to replace County Manager Scott Elliott upon his retirement at the end of the year. The board will work with county staff to narrow down a crop of candidates to the top three then choose among them. The motion passed unanimously.

Other action items

The following items were approved at Monday’s meeting:

An amendment to the budget to account for $6,300 received by the Juvenile Crime Prevention Center’s Antioch Youth Impact program to purchase equipment.

  • An amendment to the budget for Social Services to receive a one-time Low Income Energy Assistance Program supplement of $189,201.
  • An amendment to the budget for EMS district for insurance proceeds of $4,915.
  • A $47,260 Coronavirus Emergency Supplemental Funding Program award to the Pitt County Sheriff’s Office.
  • Adoption of records and a retention schedule with amendments by county management.
  • A $126,767 contract for flooring replacement at the Pitt County Courthouse.

Approval of COVID-19 vaccination site overtime pay.