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Article Published: Aug. 11, 2011 | Modified: Sep. 7, 2011

WMC to reroute ER traffic Aug. 11-12

Watauga Medical Center will be rerouting all pedestrians entering the emergency room through the front lobby, beginning 7 a.m. Thursday, Aug. 11, through 5 p.m. Friday, Aug. 12, for repairs to the sidewalk and canopy.

All visitors and patients to the emergency room will be directed to enter the emergency room through the main lobby, which will remain open 24/7 during this repair.

The temporary entrance will be clearly marked, and staff will be available to assist patients and visitors into the facility. The ambulance/emergency services entrance will not be affected by this project.

Questions concerning access to the emergency room should be directed to Appalachian Regional Healthcare System Police at (828) 262-4168.

Forbes includes ASU in top colleges publication

Appalachian State University is listed as one of the best schools in the nation in Forbes magazine's annual ranking of top colleges.

Appalachian also is listed 25th in the magazine's ranking of the "100 Best College Buys." The magazine lists the university's tuition and fees for a full-time, in-state undergraduate student living on campus as $15,451.

The publication lists 650 schools considered in the top 20 percent of all undergraduate institutions. The rankings focus on factors that are important to college students: Quality of teaching, career prospects, graduation rates and low levels of debt, according to Forbes editor Michael Noor.

Noor said the magazine "ignores ephemeral measures, such as school 'reputation' and ill-conceived metrics that reward wasteful spending. We try and evaluate the college purchase as a consumer would: Is it worth spending as much as a quarter of a million dollars for this degree?"

The rankings are based on five general categories: Post graduate success (30 percent), which evaluates alumni pay and prominence, student satisfaction (27.5 percent), which includes professor evaluations and freshman-to-sophomore year retention rates, debt (17.5 percent), which penalizes schools for high student debt loads and default rates, four-year graduation rate (17.5 percent) and competitive awards (7.5 percent), Noor said.

The rankings are prepared for Forbes by the Center for College Affordability and Productivity, a Washington, D.C., think tank.

Produce Lady: Celebrate National Farmers Market Week

National Farmers Market Week runs Aug. 7 to 13 this year, and The Produce Lady, a program of N.C. State University at the N.C. Research Campus in Kannapolis, is encouraging North Carolinians to visit their local farmers' markets and support the state's leading industry.

At $70 billion annually, agriculture accounts for 18 percent of North Carolina's income and employs more than 17 percent of the state's work force.

North Carolina boasts more than 200 farmers markets, all offering fresh, seasonal produce items.
The Watauga County Farmers' Market is open Wednesdays, from 8 to 11 a.m., in the Kmart parking lot (1620 Blowing Rock Road) and on Saturdays, from 8 a.m. to noon, at Horn in the West (591 Horn in the West Drive).

Learn more at and

Aerial search yields 16 marijuana plants

The quiet skies over Watauga were fractured last Wednesday by the sound of helicopters searching the land for marijuana plants to uproot and destroy.

The eradication process, conducted locally about once a year, allows multiple agencies to work together to rid the area of outdoor marijuana growth, keeping those plants from being harvested and sold.

Wednesday's search yielded 16 plants - some in the 5-foot range -in an area off Sherwood Road in Vilas.

While this year's cache was light, officers never know whether their search will yield two plants or 200.

The N.C. Army National Guard counter drug task force provided three choppers, and the N.C. Highway Patrol joined in with another.

The group split into teams to hunt specific corridors of the county, including several sites on the eastern side and more on the western side close to the Tennessee line.

The pilots and crew in the helicopters undergo training to spot marijuana, and they guide officers on the ground through fields and woods whenever their eagle eyes catch anything out of the ordinary.

No arrests were made Wednesday, but the narcotics officers may pursue charges based on their finds. The plants are held as evidence for a period of time, and then destroyed if they aren't needed as evidence for prosecution.

While the amount of marijuana seized can be substantial, the costs of the search are also. Operating one Highway Patrol helicopter costs approximately $341 an hour, First Sgt. Jeff Gordon said.

Most of the eradication's expenses are covered through a federal Drug Enforcement Administration grant, and local law enforcement agencies do not pay anything but their officers' time, Watauga County Sheriff Len Hagaman said.

Last year, the nine N.C. Highway Patrol helicopters led to the discovery of about 58,000 marijuana plants and the arrest of 109 people, Gordon said.

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