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Law enforcement were at a wreck site on Staton Road about 2 p.m. on Monday.

Many 'heartbroken' after fire kills police sergeant

A fire that presumably killed a Greenville Police Department sergeant on Saturday left his daughter without a parent and a police force without a leader and friend.

Sgt. Tim “Mac” McInerney is believed to have perished in a 4 a.m. fire at his home on Fox Hollow Drive in Ayden. The fire destroyed the house, and authorities recovered a body they believe is McInerey’s.

An autopsy set for Monday afternoon was expected to confirm the identity but results were not immediately released. The cause of the fire remains under review by the State Bureau of Investigation. More details may be available on Tuesday.

Only one body was recovered, according to Angie Grube, public information for the SBI. McInerney has a young daughter, Sydney, as well as a fiancee. The girl’s mother died in 2018.

According to a GoFundMe for Sydney, she was staying with family friends at the time of the fire.

“To say Sydney is devastated and heartbroken is an understatement,” the description by Susie Glynn said. “Her mother, Nicole, passed in 2018 and now Sydney has lost her father. All the money in the world cannot take away the unimaginable heartbreak Sydney is living.

“Tim was an adoring father, an amazing man with a great sense of humor, and a dedicated member of the Greenville Police, spending many years on a task force that only the bravest are called to do,” the description continued. “He was loved and respected by so many and will be missed greatly by his family, friends, and colleagues. But Sydney more than anyone can imagine. Please keep Sydney and Tim’s family in your prayers.”

The fund had raised $31,850 as of 1 p.m. today.

Members of the Greenville Police Department were “heartbroken,” police officials posted on social media.

Retired Capt. Rob Williams described McInerney on Facebook as “a tremendously skilled police officer and a genuinely great guy.”

Retired Lt. Richard Allsbrook said on Facebook he met McInerney in 1995 when Allsbrook was a corporal in recruiting and McInerny joined the force from a smaller agency.

He was an “energetic and passionate officer,” Allsbrook said. “Members of the department came to know, love and respect him for his genuine character and wit. ... I was fortunate to have worked with him and call him friend.”

Fire departments from Ayden, Winterville Town, Winterville Community, Red Oak, Eastern Pines and Garnerville responded to the fire.

The Pitt County Sheriff’s Office, N.C. Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, the State Bureau of Investigation and Pitt County’s Emergency Management also were on the scene according to Jay Morris, fire marshal for Pitt County.

On Monday morning, the Pitt County Sheriff’s Office was providing security at the home. The area was roped off to the public.

The heat from the blaze appeared to have been extreme enough to melt metal parts of a vehicle in its driveway. Neighboring homes did not appear to be damaged by the fire.

What's New: City pool, Splashpoint back in business; construction to start on new pool this week

What’s New appears on Tuesdays to highlight people, places and events.

A sure way to beat the heat this summer in Greenville is the Community Pool and Splashpoint spray ground at Dream Park.

Splashpoint was closed last year due to COVID-19, and the pool operated at reduced capacities with limited time blocks.

“It was definitely different,” said Aquatics and Fitness Center recreation manager Dennis Vestal. “We were really thankful we were open, because a lot of public pools did not open at all last summer.”

With restrictions lifted, the pool at 2113 Myrtle Ave. will be open until Aug. 14. Splashpoint, 1700 Chestnut St., opened Saturday.

The Community Pool is back to pre-COVID operations.

“This year we are still offering swim lessons and other aquatic programs in the morning,” said Don Octigan, director of parks and recreation for the city. “All of our summer camps go to that pool at least twice a week.”

If all goes as planned, this will be the last year residents will be able to enjoy the Community Pool on Myrtle Avenue, according to Octigan.

The 49-year-old pool has lived beyond the expected lifespan of an outdoor pool and needs to be replaced, he said.

The city is building a new, expanded community pool at Thomas Forman Park, 400 Nash St.

“We are looking forward to this pool season as well as the pool season in 2022. We are pretty excited about the new pool. I think it will be a great asset for the community,” Octigan said. “The new pool will make Thomas Forman Park a true recreation complex.”

Construction begins this week and should take about a year, according to Parks Planner Mark Knottingham.

The new facility will feature a 3,300-square-foot bath house, a children’s play-structure with a zero-depth entry (a wade-in feature as opposed to a ladder), a 16-foot slide and a general recreational swim area.

The pool will have different zones that will range from ankle-depth to to 7 feet in some areas.

It also will feature six lap lanes for competitive or recreation swimming.

“It is going to be a really nice pool,” said Knottingham.

Eppes Recreation Center, located at Thomas Foreman, also is slated for some upgrades, which will include a teen lounge, he said.

Construction should be complete by the middle of May 2022, if construction goes as planned, he added.

For the final year at Myrtle Ave., the Community Pool’s hours of operation are from 1:30-5 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays; 1:30-7 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays; 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Saturdays; and 1-4:30 p.m. Sundays.

The cost is $2, and children under 4 are free with a paid adult. Season and family passes are available.

Groups and camps are admitted by reservation only: call 329-4043.

Visit greenvillenc.gov for updated information.

Coast Guardsman surprised by warm Flag Day welcome home

Sixteen months ago when Petty Officer Third Class Justin Jones set off on his Coast Guard career, he knew to expect the unexpected.

What he didn’t expect as he changed stations from Maine to A School in California and finally to Coos Bay, Oregon, was that he’d be unable to see his family along the way as a pandemic restricted travel and forced installations to hold personnel in readiness.

His mother Melissa and father Jerry did not expect that either. On Monday, Flag Day, as Justin Jones came back to Greenville for the first time in over a year, his parents had a warm welcome waiting.

Neighbors and friends of the family came together to adorn the sides of the road along Windsong Drive with banners, flags and signs welcoming Jones home. The 19-year-old culinary specialist said that he was pleasantly surprised.

“I was not expecting it at all,” Jones said. “It was awesome. They told me to sit in the front seat on the way in.”

“His dad told him to sit up front and (Justin) turned and said ‘What’s going on?’” Melissa Jones said.

The surprise was a success. It was also a long time coming. Many of the banners on display were initially to celebrate Jones’ graduation from A School, a 13-week course of specialized instruction at Training Center Petaluma, California.

“We thought he was going to come home after that,” Melissa Jones said. “I was going to put them out then but then was disappointed we couldn’t use them.”

“I told her, ‘You just spent $50 on these banners and they’re rolled up in a box,” Jerry Jones said with a laugh. “She said we were putting those banners to use and I said sounds good.”

Jones agreed that he has not had a traditional experience in the military. As part of his training, he and others were tasked with keeping fellow guardsmen fed at all hours. With the pandemic, restrictions on capacity in dining facilities and a further emphasis on cleaning made for long, grueling hours.

“We were working 18 hour days,” Jones said. “I remember waking up at 3 a.m. and knowing it was going to be a long time before we got to sleep again. Now, I’m waking up at 5 a.m. In a way, those 3 a.m. wake-ups made it so that getting out of bed at 5 a.m. isn’t so bad.”

“It’s good,” Jones said of his return to North Carolina. “It’s very flat. I was flying back and was like, ‘man, there’s no mountains.’ Coos Bay is a small town, being a port city, and the nearest big city is Roseburg which is like two hours away.”

His family was equally thrilled to have him back home.

“He’s our only son,” said Jerry Jones. “We home-schooled him up to high school. It was strange to go from having him around all the time to not at all.”

The young Coast Guardsman said, despite the long-delayed homecoming, he’s still thrilled to be in the military.

“I love the Coast Guard,” Jones said. “I graduated from Trinity (Christian School) and out of the five guys in my class, two joined the Marine Corps, one joined the Navy and I’m Coast Guard. I honestly think it’s the best branch. Our community is so tight-knit.”

Education advocates call on Legislature to prioritize students: NCAE says public schools should come before corporate tax cuts (copy)

A North Carolina Senate proposal to phase out corporate taxes has drawn criticism from educators who say the state needs a budget that prioritizes students.

Representatives of the N.C. Association of Educators, along with other education advocates, said Saturday that lawmakers should direct a state budget surplus toward the needs of public schools.

“Our state Supreme Court has ruled twice that our state lawmakers are not living up to their constitutional responsibility to fund a sound, basic education for our students,” NCAE President Tamika Walker Kelly said at a news conference at Greenfield Terrace Park. About two dozen educators, dressed in red and holding #prioritizestudents signs, gathered for the event, one of four held across the state.

Kelly called for a statewide school construction bond; more funding for school nurses, counselors, social workers and psychologists; and pay increases for teachers and other school employees. She said the state spends 25 percent less per student than the national average and has teacher salaries that are $10,000 less than the national average.

“They have dug a hole in North Carolina’s public education budget over the last 12 years, and they are not done with their shovel,” she said. “When we adjust for inflation and enrollment … we are spending 56 percent less on classroom supplies than we did in 2009. The state of North Carolina is funding 7,700 fewer teaching assistants than we were in 2009.”

“Math is still math, and we don’t get creative with our math like our lawmakers do.”

Emily Biggs, who serves on the Martin County Board of Commissioners, said support staff, including teacher assistants, bus drivers, cafeteria workers and custodians, should have the same minimum pay rate of $15 per hour that is guaranteed for other state employees.

“It is absolutely shameful that we have some teaching assistants and support staff on food stamps,” she said. “State lawmakers must fix this now.”

Biggs, a teacher at Riverside High School in Williamston, said teachers also struggle to live on their state salaries, and many work second jobs.

“We see teachers driving Uber, working in restaurants and in retail stores during the school year and in the summer,” said Biggs, who works part-time as a cashier. “I’m not there (working a second job) as a hobby. Teaching in North Carolina is not paying enough to keep teachers from leaving the state or from leaving the profession or to keep teachers from moonlighting a second job.”

Karen Jackson, whose two children attend Wintergreen schools, said she and her husband were hesitant to move to North Carolina because of the public schools.

“This is absolutely an economic growth issue because we are not going to be able to attract residents and businesses to grow our state’s economy without properly funding education and prioritizing our students,” she said.

Jackson, who serves with her husband, Rob, as senior co-pastor of Greenville’s First Presbyterian Church, is a member of Pastors for North Carolina Children, an ecumenical nonpartisan organization of faith leaders and congregations supporting the state’s public schools.

The Rev. Antonio Blow, a Greene County minister who is also a member of that organization, said children’s needs should come first.

“Jesus knew that caring for children and the less fortunate was an important part of caring for our neighbors all around us,” he said. “This is no less true today.

“Legislators continue to thumb their nose like schoolyard bullies at the needs of our vulnerable children, who are the ones that are being harmed by their neglect,” Blow said. “Legislators put corporations and businesses first, leaving our children to beg for the crumbs from the table.”

Several aspects of the legislative agenda presented on Saturday mirror those included in a “Resolution to Improve Student Learning Conditions,” which sought endorsement of the Pitt County Board of Education on June 7.

The resolution, which also supported the restoration of state health care benefits for retirees, increased funding for broadband, high-speed internet access, and freezing funding for the private school voucher program, received three votes from the nine-member board.

Pitt County Association of Educators President Lauren Piner, who attended Saturday’s press conference, said she was disappointed with the outcome of Monday’s vote and said the school board’s response is the reason PCAE did not take the resolution before the county’s Board of Commissioners.

“In several other counties, boards of education and commissioners have actually passed the resolution,” she said, adding that the resolution had support of more than 400 teachers and community members locally.

“I was hopeful that Monday night we would have been able to sort of join hands,” she said. “I know that, unfortunately, education has become partisan.”

But Piner said that NCAE’s legislative goals are not designed to be Democratic or Republican issues. She said that local boards are doing their best to deal with unfunded mandates from the Legislature, “but when it comes down to it, funding our schools is the responsibility of the Legislature, not county commissioners, not boards of education.

“We wanted people from all 115 school systems (in the state) to really sort of raise their voice and say these are things we need,” Piner said. “They’re not crazy. They’re not radical. It’s things that are simple that we want for our students.”