In the News
Sales Tax Holiday set for Aug. 5-7
Back-to-school shoppers in North Carolina will have an added bonus this coming weekend when they hit the stores for merchandise ranging from book bags to boots, computers to coats, and PDAs to printer paper.
"During these challenging economic times, retailers understand that consumers are extremely focused on value and are taking this weekend to offer substantial savings on merchandise that parents will need for back to school," said Fran Preston, president of the N.C. Retail Merchants Association (NCRMA). "Some retailers will also extend store operating hours so their customers have more time to take advantage of promotional offers and special prices."
This year's back-to-school sales (combined K-12 and college) are predicted to reach $68.8 billion nationally, serving as the second biggest consumer-spending event for retailers behind the winter holidays.
The three-day exemption from state and local sales taxes was created by the N.C. General Assembly specifically to help consumers with back-to-school shopping, since many schools and colleges begin classes in late August.
This sales tax holiday weekend is typically one of the top sales periods for retailers throughout North Carolina and the other 17 states that offer this special benefit to their shoppers.
During this holiday, certain items are free from sales tax. In North Carolina, these items include clothing, shoes and school supplies under $100 per item; certain school instructional materials under $300 per item; computer systems and educational software for personal use that are under $3,500; computer accessories that are $250 or less per item; and sports and recreational equipment under $50 per item.
For 2011, some new products added to the electronics market (tablets and eReaders) are exempt from tax, others are not: Tablet computers, such as the Apple iPad and Motorola Xoom, have been added to the list of exempt items, while eReaders, such as the Nook and Kindle, remain in the "taxed" category.
Using the past seven years' success as a guide, Preston believes that North Carolina can expect to see heavy traffic, elevated sales, and great deals for consumers during the August 5 to 7 weekend.
NCRMA devoted an issue of its semi-monthly newsletter this spring to the terms of this year's sales tax holiday and has more information on the sales tax holiday at http://www.ncrma.org.
Warm and dry July at Grandfather
The weather data from the month of July recorded at the official U.S. Weather Service reporting station, located next to Grandfather Mountain's Mile High Swinging Bridge, shows warm temperatures and below-normal precipitation.
The average high temperature of 74.4 degrees was 5 degrees warmer than normal for July, and the average low temperature of 60.2 degrees was 3.7 degrees above normal for this time of year.
The rainfall total of 4.21 inches for the past month was 1.44 inches, or 25 percent, below the 55-year average rainfall total for July of 5.65 inches. Rain for the year-to-date totals 34.83 inches, which is 2.8 inches (or 7 percent) below the 55-year norm for this time of year.
The weather station and anemometer located on top of the Mile High Swinging Bridge were struck by lightning on July 24. From July 1 to 24, the highest wind gust recorded was 47.4 mph on July 12.
Once the weather station equipment is restored, Grandfather Mountain will begin reporting this data as its official weather readings. In addition to temperature and wind, this upgraded technology will allow for reports on dew point, humidity, heat index and wind chill.
For more information on the 55 years of weather data from Grandfather Mountain, see the interactive weather database at http://www.grandfather.com.
World Breastfeeding Week
The week of Aug. 1 to 7 has been designated as World Breastfeeding Week.
The theme is "Talk to Me! Breastfeeding: A 3D Experience." Moms can stay connected with breastfeeding support by linking with other breastfeeding mothers, trained health-care providers, WIC peer counselors and parent support groups.
Many mothers are using the Internet through computers and smart phones and are staying connected through texting, websites, forums and blogs.
"The connection between a mother and her support system can be the key to her breastfeeding success," said Nancy Isaacs, WIC breastfeeding peer counselor. "Many women are flooded with information that is not always correct. By using digital resources to find a local trained lactation professional, women can sort through what is truth and what is fiction or misinformation."
The WIC Program provides support for breastfeeding mothers in many ways, including providing a comfortable atmosphere and breastfeeding room for moms to breastfeed, loaning hospital grade electric pumps and providing electric breast pumps for working and student mothers to keep for those who qualify, providing other breastfeeding supplies for those who qualify, providing a breastfeeding peer counselor who is available for support 24 hours a day, seven days a week, giving extra foods for breastfeeding women on WIC who are fully breastfeeding and not using formula, and educating women about the benefits of breastfeeding.
Employers and community agencies may support breastfeeding mothers by providing comfortable space for breastfeeding and pumping or supporting the employee in taking time to continue breastfeeding when returning to work.
For more information about how you can qualify for WIC and breastfeeding services, contact the Watauga County WIC office at (828) 264-6641. WIC is an equal opportunity employer and provider.
Scagnelli named director of Beech Parks and Rec
The town of Beech Mountain has promoted Daniel Scagnelli to oversee its parks and recreation department.
Scagnelli took over as director of parks and recreation on June 29. He was elevated from fitness and wellness coordinator after a long interview process that included several candidates.
Scagnelli distinguished himself in his previous role by creating the Beech Mountain Adventure Trail Park, a system of hiking and mountain biking trails that's put Beech Mountain at the forefront of outdoor adventure in the High Country of North Carolina.
Town manager Randy Feierabend said Scagnelli's educational background, management skills and his work history at the parks and recreation department prompted the promotion.
Scagnelli, 27, grew up in nearby Wilkesboro and earned a bachelor's degree in business administration from Elon University in 2006. He is currently in the final stages of earning a master's degree in exercise science from Appalachian State University.
In his new role, Scagnelli will oversee a staff of six full-time employees, two part-time employees and another half dozen seasonal positions. He will be in charge of operations and management of the 24,000-sqaure-foot Buckeye Recreation Center, which opened in 2006, as well as the town's six public parks, two public lakes and its popular youth sledding hill.
Scagnelli joined the Beech Mountain Parks & Recreation Department in 2008 after holding a sales job in Charlotte. He has worked long hours to improve the fitness offerings in the department and has also embraced the importance of reaching out to tourists who visit Beech.
"The main industry for our community is the tourism industry, and I feel our department can serve as a catalyst for tourism development," he said.
For more information on the department, call (828) 387-3003, or visit http://www.BeechRecreation.org.