Rain barrel sale in progress
The town of Boone, Watauga County Soil and Water Conservation District and Watauga Cooperative Extension Service are letting area residents make a splash in reducing water consumption.
The annual rain barrel sale is in full swing, and those interested can order a Moby 65-gallon rainwater harvesting system online ( http://www.rainbarrelprogram.org/watauga-county) before Friday, May 28, to receive a discount. Retail price on this model rain barrel is $149, and pre-ordering reduces that to $100.
There's also an opportunity to win a free rain barrel by registering at Boone Public Utilities, located at 321 E. King St. or by calling (828) 268-6250.
Orders will be available for pickup Friday, June 4, between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. at the Watauga County Agricultural Conference Center off Poplar Grove Road.
The June 4 pickup event will host the town of Boone's Every Drop Counts program, demonstrations on how to set up the barrel, and hourly door prizes. Kids are invited to take part and will receive activity books and other goodies.
The Moby 65-gallon system is made in North Carolina from 100 percent recycled plastic. Its shape is designed not to crack and split when frozen. It's mosquito-proof and features a best-in-class overflow setup to withstand heavy rains, so the barrel won't back up into gutters. It also has optional flow direction and the capability to attach multiple barrels.
"Rain barrels are a great way to conserve water and save money," extension agent Wendy Patoprsty said. "Use a rain barrel for watering lawns and flowers, as well as washing cars and driveways."
To order a rain barrel, visit http://www.rainbarrelprogram.org/watauga-county. For more information, call Patoprsty at (828) 264-3061 or Lane Weiss at (828) 268-6250.
- Frank Ruggiero
ASU could lose 30 jobs,180 classes
With Appalachian State University facing state budget cuts of between 3 to 7 percent, Chancellor Ken Peacock is warning of job cuts and course reductions.
Peacock sent out a message May 6 to faculty, staff, and university supporters in response to Gov. Beverly Perdue's proposed budget, saying "planned cuts for The University of North Carolina System will result in significant and lasting damage to the quality of instruction provided to our more than 220,000 students."
Though Perdue proposes tuition rates remain below the levels recommended by the General Assembly and boosts financial aid, it also contains 5.9 percent budget cut for universities.
"Since 75 percent of the state budget supports personnel expenses, it is impossible to make cuts of this magnitude without eliminating jobs and course offerings," Peacock said. "For Appalachian, we predict this would mean a loss of approximately $7 million, resulting in at least 180 fewer classes, 4,500 fewer seats in classes, and 30 fewer faculty positions."
Peacock said the cuts would damage the quality of education and lead to more state costs as students needed more time to get their degrees because some courses might not be available.
The current budget proposed by Governor Perdue will force Appalachian to make cuts in the academic area, including faculty positions and library resources, "thus jeopardizing our academic quality," he said.
Appalachian's total cuts in 2009-2010 approached $15 million. An additional $7 million in cuts for 2010-11 will adversely impact the classroom and our outreach efforts in the region."
Statewide, universities would lose about 1,200 positions under the proposed budget cuts, adding to the 935 lost last year. ASU has launched a website at http://www.chancellor.appstate.edu/nc-budget along with an impact statement on how the budget cuts could affect the university next year. Peacock also called on ASU supporters to contact local legislators and advocate for better funding.
Watauga County is among 69 rural counties that will soon be wired for broadband access under money from the tobacco settlement funds.
The Golden LEAF Foundation has awarded a $24 million grant in order to help secure $78 million in federal funds and leverage other private and public resources to bring broadband fiber to "underserved or partially underserved" counties across North Carolina.
The expansion will help bring federal matching funds and increase technology, which has been listed as a top need in economic development. More than 1,000 temporary jobs are associated with the installation and creation of the network, and the expansion should help spur business growth, according to Golden LEAF president Dan Gerlach.
The $24 million grant, part of the Golden LEAF Rural Broadband Initiative, was awarded to the nonprofit MCNC to provide matching funds for round two of the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP). If federal funds are approved, MCNC will be able to install 1,448 miles of new fiber through 69 counties in northeastern, northwestern, north central and south central North Carolina.
Jenny Tinklepaugh, Golden LEAF spokesperson, said the access will route through public school systems, community college campuses, libraries, universities and other public institutions through direct connections. Existing access points will serve as hubs for farther expansion.
The broadband improvements should be constructed beginning this year, though the partnerships in each region are still being assembled.
- Scott Nicholson
ASU to conduct emergency exercise May 19
A full-scale emergency exercise will be conducted May 19 at Appalachian State University.
The exercise will run from 7:30 a.m. until 2 p.m. on the west side of campus in and around the stadium parking lot. One or more buildings on the main campus also might be included in the exercise.
Traffic along Stadium Drive may be limited at times during the exercise.
More than 100 participants, including local and state law enforcement personnel from six agencies, will participate.
Other participants will include Watauga Emergency Medical Services and the Boone Fire Department.
The university's emergency website ( http://www.emergency.appstate.edu) will include information about the exercise and a link to a mock up of the site that will include information from the exercise to aid in future training scenarios.
The drill is designed to test emergency response and communication capabilities during an emergency. Officials with EnviroSafe are directing the drill in consultation with officials from Appalachian and the University of North Carolina General Administration.
Area residents and motorists should not be alarmed by increased traffic from law enforcement and emergency response vehicles along Rivers Street and Stadium Drive during the day of the drill, a spokesperson for ASU said.
Law enforcement officers participating in the drill will not carry armed weapons. Participants and observers will be identified by specially colored vests and identification badges. Simulated explosions might be heard during the exercise, the spokesperson said.
This is the second full-scale emergency exercise conducted at Appalachian. The first, in 2009, simulated an active shooter/hostage situation.