Article Published: Mar. 11, 2010 | Modified: Sep. 7, 2011

NCDOT to close a section of U.S. 321
The N.C. Department of Transportation will add two nighttime closures on a section of U.S. 321 for blasting to expedite completion of the widening project in Caldwell County. The closures will begin Monday, March 15, weather permitting, and last through July.

NCDOT will close the section of U.S. 321 from Kirby Mountain Road to Blackberry Road between Blowing Rock and Lenoir on Mondays at 7 p.m. until 5 a.m. on Tuesdays, and Thursdays from 7 p.m. until Friday at 5 a.m.

Contractor W.C. English Inc. is also allowed to close this section of the road on Tuesdays and Thursdays from noon until 2 p.m. for blasting and road cleanup.

During the closure, the following signed detour will be in place: "N.C. 18 to Wilkesboro to U.S. 421 North to Boone to U.S. 321 to Blowing Rock."

The contractor will set off any rock blasting as close to 7 p.m. as possible on Monday and Thursday nights. Once the blast has occurred, crews will remove any debris on the highway so it will be open the following morning. W.C. English estimates that these closures will last about three months, and will speed construction by 30 percent.

The noise level for residents will be the same as it was last summer when the road was closed on Monday nights for blasting. Residents may hear rocks being loaded onto trucks, but there will not be any blasting overnight.

The 6.6-mile project from Kirby Road (State Road 1370) to Blackberry Road (State Road 1500) is scheduled to be completed by this fall. Because of the mountainous terrain, the contractor must remove approximately 7.8 trillion pounds of rock by dump trucks. If lined up tip to tip, the dump trucks would stretch about 59 miles. The contractor also will have built 10 retaining walls and installed two box culverts on the mountain road between Blowing Rock and Lenoir.

NCDOT reminds motorists to watch signs for construction information, stay alert and obey the posted speed limit. Know before you go by calling 511, the department's free travel information line, or get real-time travel information on line. NCDOT also offers travel information for motorists and ferry passengers on Twitter. For more information on how to get travel information, visit

For more information on this project, contact the resident engineer at (828) 265-5088.

United Way launches '100 for 100'
It's crunch time for High Country United Way.

"We are at about 70 percent of our goal of $600,000," director Linda Slade said Wednesday.
While the task seems daunting, Slade is nothing if not determined. "We're getting there. It's slow, but we're working very hard," she said, and she's about to work even harder.

HCUW kicked off a new initiative, 100 for 100, this week Slade hopes will push it over the edge. The project asks 100 small businesses to donate $100 each to the 2010 campaign.

Slade hopes the new initiative will get more people involved in the effort without breaking the bank.

If 100 businesses contribute, that would be $10,000 to the campaign, and it would get more people involved in the High Country community.

The latest campaign closes at the end of March, and Slade maintains her optimism. "We've got a ways to go, but we're trying," she said.

Money raised from the campaign goes directly to the community through local organizations like the Hunger and Health Coalition.

An informational meeting regarding the 2010-11 allocation year for nonprofit agencies or governmental units serving clients in Watauga and Avery counties happens Thursday, March 18, at 8:30 a.m. at the Agriculture Conference Center, located at 252 Poplar Grove Road in Boone.
Nonprofits interested in applying for UW funding must send a representative to the meeting.
To reserve seating, call (828) 265-2111. A continental breakfast will be served.

- Lauren Ohnesorge

WMC, Watauga Medics receive grant
The Watauga Medical Center Emergency Department and Watauga Medics were the first recipients of the Gracen Brooke Oglesby Endowment Fund award from the Emergency Nurses' Association.

Gracen was born in 2007 with Down's syndrome and two serious congenital heart defects. She endured three extensive open-heart surgeries over a period of four months in 2008 at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta.

Upon having her heart fully repaired, she returned home and progressed well. On Feb. 14, 2009, while with her family in Watauga County, Gracen died unexpectedly at the Watauga Medical Center.

The Oglesby family wanted to support the people who had tried hard to save the child and also recognize others who work in pediatric medicine, creating an endowment fund in the child's memory.

Gracen's uncle, Ryan Oglesby, is president of the North Carolina chapter of the Emergency Nurse's Association and said the local health-care providers were a fitting first group to receive the inaugural grant derived from the endowment fund.

The Watauga Medical Center Emergency Department and Watauga Medics each received $300 to help improve pediatric care.

The endowment was established with the purpose of helping improve pediatric emergency care and promoting pediatric emergency care education in North Carolina. Awards will be made annually.

For more information about the Gracen Brooke Oglesby Endowment Fund, visit

- Scott Nicholson

PARC seeks proposals
The Watauga PARC (Preventing Alcohol Related Crashes) is seeking proposals from community groups for creative projects that will help reduce drunk driving and/or impact underage drinking.
Mini-grants will be awarded for the projects in the amounts of $500 to $1,500.

Projects should be completed by June 30 and be designed to make a lasting impact toward reducing drunk driving.

The deadline for submissions is March 19.

For a grant application or for more information, contact Katie Giordano in Appalachian State University's Institute for Health and Human Services at (828) 262-7951 or (

The grants will be awarded by April 1.

Criteria for selection include the project's description, focus of need, impact, budget and project sustainability, community engagement, and organizational capacity.

Creative ideas are welcomed and encouraged.

Projects could range from teacher trainings in prevention and alcohol-free community activities, to funding for prevention program supplies.

Previously funded projects have included a designated driver campaign, a Circle of Trust chapter to raise awareness about the dangers of excessive alcohol consumption, an end-of-the-year party for Watauga High School seniors, and a poster campaign about healthy behaviors among college students.

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