by YES! Staff

Developments across the Triad and beyond, compiled by Jordan Green & Keith T. Barber

Coble admits earmarks

Rep. Howard Coble, the Republican who represents North Carolina’s 6 th Congressional District, announced more than $4.5 million in earmarks for his district on March 11. President Obama has come under fire because the $410 billion budget he signed contained the earmarks for local pet projects, a process he promised to reform during his campaign last year. Republicans such as Coble have also found themselves forced to defend their use of the controversial expenditures. “I would be in favor of continued earmark reform,” Coble said in a prepared statement, “but as long as earmarks remain a part of the legislative funding process, I would be doing a disservice to the citizens of the 6th District by not seeking funding for worthwhile projects. All of our requests were thoroughly vetted, examined and requested through the regular legislative process in the light of day for anyone to see. I also promised anyone who asked that our office would release any requests that were approved, and we are fulfilling that pledge today.” Coble’s earmarks include $2.3 million for the Southeast High Speed Rail Corridor Initiative to double track three rail sections from Greensboro to Charlotte; $855,000 to the Burlington-Alamance County Regional Airport to extend runway; $500,000 to upgrade the Alamance County emergency communications system (an earmark also claimed by Rep. Brad Miller); $427,500 to widen Mebane Street in Burlington; $350,000 to upgrade the communications system for NC Highway Patrol Troop D in Greensboro; and $95,000 to complete 1.1 miles of walking, biking and jogging trails in the High Point Greenway. — JG

Miller’s Congressional funding tilts to Raleigh

Rep. Brad Miller, the Democrat who represents Congressional District 13, released his earmarks at the request of YES! Weekly. Miller’s district stretches from Raleigh to Greensboro. The earmarks include $2.8 million to NC State University to fund research projects on alternative energy, food and water safety and agriculture; $950,000 to purchase replacement buses as part of the city of Raleigh’s transit expansion program; $650,000 for the Wake County Gang Prevention Partnership; $300,000 for the Cary Police Department to equip all department enforcement vehicles with digital video camera systems; $294,722 to the NC Biotechnology Center “to promote the development of successful biotechnology company manager by providing training to academic researchers and novice entrepreneurs in small business skills”; $285,000 to create a health institute on the site of the historic St. Agnes Hospital in Raleigh; $250,000 to UNCG to develop a math enrichment program for elementary school children in an after-school setting; $238,000 to help Wake Health Services implement an electronic records system; $199,000 to the Cary Watershed Protection and Stream Bank Restoration Program to “mitigate the effects of agricultural run-off and improve water quality; and $95,000 to help the NC Department of Public Instruction develop and implement biotech-related science curriculum materials. Earmarks claimed by Miller totaled $6.2 million.

Forsyth’s unemployment rate follows state trend

The Forsyth County Employment Security Commission releases its unemployment numbers for January on Thursday, roughly one week after the NC Employment Commission announced the state’s jobless rate hit a 26-year high of 9.7 percent in January. The Forsyth agency reported an unemployment rate of 7.4 percent in December, with 12,866 Forsyth residents applying for unemployment benefits. The commission reported 32 business closings and 14 layoffs in 2008. Archie Hicks, director of the Forsyth agency, said the number of business closings is most likely higher than the reported numbers due to the fact many businesses don’t report to the commission. Hicks also acknowledged the official unemployment numbers do not include workers who have been laid off and have taken part-time jobs and those who have given up looking for work. Due to a surge in demand for benefits, Hicks said the agency recently added several part-time employees. The county’s unemployment numbers have steadily increased since October, which means those waiting in line at the agency’s offices off Hanes Mill Road in Winston-Salem have grown longer and longer. “It’s just as bad as it was back (in October), and probably a little bit worse,” he said. — KTB

Curry appointed G-boro’s acting housing director

Dan Curry was promoted within to the position of acting director of housing and community development for the city of Greensboro by interim city manager Bob Morgan on March 13. A graduate of NC State University, Curry has been employed by the city for more than 30 years. Several department head positions remain open. “We have these vacancies,” District 2 Councilwoman Goldie Wells said during a closed session to discuss the impending termination of former manager Mitchell Johnson. “We don’t have anybody over the fire department. We don’t have anybody over the parks and rec. We need to have somebody in the economic development; we need to have an assistant manager there. We have an opening in the transportation. And look at the staff morale and the productivity.” — JG

Former detective threatens suicide

Donald R. Williams, the lead detective in the 1995 Silk Plant Forest-Jill Marker assault case, left a suicide note for his wife, Leigh Ann, just hours after he was served a summons to testify about his role in the Silk Plant Forest investigation, according to a Forsyth County Sheriff’s report. Court documents indicate that Williams was served the summons at his home in Belews Creek on March 7 at 1 p.m. Later that afternoon, Leigh Ann Williams contacted the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office and told officers she had discovered a suicide note and that her husband left their home carrying a firearm. On Dec. 17, the Winston-Salem City Council instructed City Attorney Angela Carmon to seek court action to compel Williams to testify about police procedure in the case after he failed to appear at a special council meeting. Williams has refused to cooperate with the Silk Plant Forest Citizen Review Committee. Assistant City Attorney Al Andrews said Williams has 10 days to respond to the summons, and has a number of options. Last month, the city council extended the deadline for the citizen review committee’s final report in part to give it time to gather Williams’ testimony.