68 percent of Wataugans participate in Census
About two-thirds of Watauga County residents returned their 2010 Census forms through the mail, surpassing the 2000 rate but still trailing most counties in the state.
Overall, all 100 counties, have either met or surpassed their 2000 mail-return rates. North Carolina was among the first states in the country and is one of only a handful of states to surpass its 2000 rate, according to regional Census spokesman Anthony Jones.
Six counties had participation rates of 79 percent, the highest in the state. Avery County had the state's lowest rate at 63 percent. Watauga's participation rate on mail-ins was 68 percent.
Nationwide, the participation rate was 70 percent, an increase from the 67 percent during the 2000 Census.
The next census operation, Nonresponse Follow-Up, begins on Saturday. The operation will entail the door to door enumeration of those households which have yet to return a census questionnaire, Jones said.
The Census Bureau estimates 48 million households across the country will be visited by a census taker during the Nonresponse Follow-up period of May 1 through July 10.
- Scott Nicholson
County jobless rate jobs for March
The jobs picture is springing back to shape as Watauga County's unemployment rate dropped two-thirds of a point in March.
Unemployment rates fell in all of North Carolina's 100 counties during March, according to numbers released last week by the state Employment Security Commission.
Watauga County's February rate of 9.4 percent was down to 8.7 percent in March.
Unemployment remains high in counties like Halifax (13.2 percent) and Edgecombe (15.6 percent), especially when compared to Chatham (7.6 percent) and Orange (6.4 percent) counties.
Employment growth continues to concentrate in the state's larger metropolitan areas. The Charlotte metro area gained 5,300 jobs, while the Raleigh metro area gained 2,300 positions and Greensboro gained 1,800 jobs.
Workers in the construction and business services industry represented the highest number of unemployment insurance claims in March.
Watauga had 2,027 eligible workers without employment in March.
Watauga ranked ninth out of 100 counties in having the lowest unemployment rates.
- Scott Nicholson
WEF preps for golf tournament
Coming off a stellar week for the Watauga Education Foundation, executive director Melanie Bullard is enthusiastic about the month ahead.
Totals are still coming in, but preliminary numbers put last week's Celebrity Serve at about $23,000. Couple that with the $28,000 raised at Shooting Stars, and that's more than $50,000.
"The total will go higher because we will continue to sell raffle tickets," Bullard said.
Raffle tickets (for a $3,000 grand prize) will be sold through the next big event: The Shooting Stars Golf Tournament May 14 at Hound Ears.
It's the second year of the tournament, and organizers hope for another successful run. Tickets are available at Hound Ears or by contacting foundation board chairman John Hastings at (firstname.lastname@example.org)
"The best part about all of these wonderful partnerships is that we will be putting more money into education in Watauga County," Bullard said.
To purchase raffle tickets, or to learn more about WEF, visit http://www.wefnc.org.
- Lauren K. Ohnesorge
Stick Boy, ARHS recognized by Boone Chamber
It takes a lot to be considered for the Boone Area Chamber of Commerce's Business of the Year award, chamber president and CEO Dan Meyer said.
After all, distinguished past winners include The Mountain Times, WATA and Pepper's Restaurant.
Community nominated businesses are judged on a series of strict criteria, including growth, both in sales and in employment.
"We want to see business growth and development ... but the hallmark is how they involve themselves in the community as a good corporate citizen," Meyer said.
This year, both a small and a large business received the distinction.
Boone-based Stick Boy Bread Company took home the small business plaque.
"We're just really thankful for the community and to our loyal customers for supporting us," Stick Boy's Carson Coatney said. "We don't feel like we've done anything special. We just put baked goods out there, and people eat them."
Appalachian Regional Healthcare System (ARHS) took home the plaque for best big business.
"Thank you to the chamber for recognizing the work that we do and allowing us to do the work we do," ARHS's Gillian Baker said.
The awards were presented at last Thursday's chamber's Business After Hours meet and greet at Deerfield Ridge Assisted Living on Bamboo Road.
Guests sampled gourmet food from four countries as they networked for the last time before the Boone Business Expo.
The expo happens April 29 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Boone Mall, and both Appalachian Regional Healthcare and Stick Boy Bread Company will have places of honor at the event.
- Lauren K. Ohnesorge
Watauga opens ticket e-pay May 6
The North Carolina court system is implementing an e-pay system for traffic tickets. Watauga County is among the first wave of counties to go live, beginning on May 6.
More than 600,000 traffic tickets were paid last year in North Carolina, which currently must be done through the county clerk's office with a certified check, money order or cash in person or by mail. Debit or credit cards are not accepted.
The payNCticket online program is in currently in effect in Wilson and Cumberland Counties as part of the pilot program. Watauga clerk of court Wanda Howell requested Watauga to be among the first wave of counties to initiate the program as it goes statewide by the end of the year.
The e-pay is available only for waiverable offenses, such as a seat belt violation, stop sign and light violations and speeding less than nine miles over. Other offenses, such as speeding 10 miles or more over the limit, require a court appearance.
When an officer is writing a ticket, the driver of the vehicle will be provided information to determine if the offense qualifies for e-pay.
A person is presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. Paying a citation online translates to a waiver of the constitutional right to a trial or hearing in open court, to confrontation of the witnesses against the defendant and to representation by a lawyer. Paying online is a plea of guilty, or responsible, for the offense, and the person will be charged the fine and costs.
There will be an additional fee for the e-pay processing vendor. This additional fee will be calculated based on the amount owed for the citation. The defendant will have the opportunity to review the final amount to be charged prior to finalizing the payment.
To pay a ticket, and for more information, follow the links from http://www.nccourts.org.
- Melanie Marshall