Article Published: Jul. 8, 2010 | Modified: Sep. 7, 2011

Watauga gets 'aware'

Watauga is about to get "aware," at least as far as criminals are concerned.

NC Aware, a statewide automated warrant tracking system, hits Watauga County July 14 and aims to make it easier for uniforms to serve out-of-county warrants.

"If you run across somebody from another jurisdiction that has warrants on them, they can be accessed through NC Aware and they can be arrested or served on that process," Watauga County Sheriff's Captain Jeff Virginia said.

He, along with captains DeeDee Rominger and Kelly Redmond and Sheriff Len Hagaman, trained Thursday in Marion on the new system. Next week, the training hits home, as the captains and the sheriff share what they've learned with deputies.

Watauga County is utilizing five in-car computers, allowing officers on the road to easily pull up warrant information at traffic stops. It's similar to the status quo, but has a time saving kick.
"You're already checked in the state system when you run your driver's license," Virginia said.

"The difference is, when you were checked before, when it said there's a warrant in Ashe County, you had to get your hands on the warrant ... now you can arrest that person and it can be processed in the magistrate's office ... you don't have to wait for the process to get to you."
With just a few touches of a keypad, deputies will have warrants directly available.

"It's just basically a search system," Virginia said. "You enter the proper criteria and search the system and it will tell you yes or no if there's a criminal process."

While not having to make phone calls and faxes to get warrants will save time, it's not the only benefit of the program, Virginia said.

"There's no storage of paper processes," he said. "All processes will be electronic now."

More than half of the state's 100 counties utilize NC Aware, and other Watauga entities, Boone Police Department, Blowing Rock Police Department and Appalachian State University Police, also plan to get online this month.

- Lauren K. Ohnesorge

BRAHM issues challenge
The board of trustees at the Blowing Rock Art and History Museum (BRAHM) kicked off a $500,000 challenge grant last week, with an announcement that 10 donors to the museum's building project have put up money to be matched by additional contributions.

The "Season of Opportunity" challenge grant will allow the museum to close out its $6.5 million capital campaign.

Don Hubble, BRAHM trustee, is chairing this phase of the campaign, which began July 1 and will run through Oct. 31.

BRAHM has raised more than $5.5 million since the campaign begin in 2006. The additional funding from the challenge grant will go a long way toward completing the financing needed to finish the construction project.

The challenge grant works as follows: Every gift that is pledged between now and the end of October (the Season of Opportunity) will be matched equally by the funds donated. If a person has already made a contribution to the museum, an additional amount would be welcomed and matched. Gifts may be made by cash, securities, donor-advised funds or other means. Pledges should be completed in two years.

"BRAHM plans to open the Museum in the fall of 2011 debt-free and in a fully sustainable position," Hubble said. "Completing the Capital Campaign this year will help guarantee this sound business approach."

For more information, call the BRAHM offices at (828) 295-9099.

Helping Moses
Blowing Rock CARES, the food pantry and clothing closet located at Blowing Rock School, is planning a series of fundraising events for Moses, a rising pre-kindergarten student.

"He is an adorable, courageous 4-year-old with rhabdomyosarcoma, a very aggressive, and, in his case, inoperable cancer," a spokesperson for CARES said.

On July 10, CARES will be having a car wash and bake sale at Blowing Rock School, on the Sunset Road side, beginning at 8 a.m.

There will be coffee and baked goods available for a donation. Raffle tickets and awareness bracelets will also be available.

On July 17, at Blowing Rock's Art in the Park, CARES will be accepting a $5 donation for parking at Blowing Rock School and Rumple Memorial Presbyterian Church. Drinks, raffle tickets and awareness bracelets will be available.

"Come to Chetola Resort on July 23 for the Symphony of the Mountains, beginning at 7:30 p.m.," the spokesperson said. "It's an absolutely beautiful night. Gates open at
5:30 p.m. We will be there with raffle tickets and awareness bracelets."

Other fundraising events include the following:

? Silpada Jewelry - A portion of all orders received in July will be donated. View the catalog online at

? Raffle - CARES will be offering a special fall football weekend for the raffle winner. It includes two nights deluxe suite accommodations at the Broyhill Inn and Conference Center on Sept. 17 and 18, two tickets to see Appalachian State's Mountaineers take on North Carolina Central University's Eagles on Fan Appreciation Day (Sept. 18), reserved parking and dinner for two at Casa Rustica (excluding tax, gratuities and alcohol).

? Ensemble Stage will be providing a night of music and short plays, suitable for all ages, in a benefit performance at the Blowing Rock School auditorium in October.

? Donation jars are available throughout Blowing Rock.

In addition, donations are appreciated.
For more information, call Trish Kohlasch at (828) 295-3204 or (828) 265-8445.

BREMCO on scam alert

Scams. They're the subject of frequent calls to the Watauga County Sheriff's Office.

"There's all kinds of people doing things right now, saying that they're there to check a right of way or power pole," Watauga County Sheriff's Capt. DeeDee Rominger said.

But a quick call to Blue Ridge Electric Membership Corporation (BREMCO) revealed something peculiar. "They said they haven't sent anyone out," she said.

While this doesn't necessarily mean anything afoul is afoot, BREMCO took an extra precaution, sending out a press release warning what to look out for, even though, according to Rominger, no thefts or other crimes have happened in Watauga lately that fit this model.

According to the BREMCO press release, scam artists may pose as utility workers to gain access to homes. It cites an example of a female telling a homeowner that the resident "is needed to look at work being performed near a power pole or right of way, and afterwards items have been reported missing from the home."

The release goes on to say that "police believe a second accomplice allegedly enters the home and takes items while the homeowner is with the imposter."

While Rominger said she has seen no reports of such activity in Watauga, she agrees care should always be taken when answering the door to a stranger.

BREMCO goes on to remind residents that utility workers never need access inside a home to restore power and, while a BREMCO worker may ask a homeowner to view an area where right of way or other work is being performed, he or she will always carry proper Blue Ridge Electric identification.

Residents are also encouraged to call BREMCO (1-800-451-5474) to verify that work is actually being done at their property.

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