News Watch

A Quick Look at News Across the Region

Watauga Public Library Closed October 2, 4, 5 and 6
The Watauga Public Library will close on Saturday, October 2, and Monday through Wednesday, October 4 to 6, for parking lot paving as a matter of safety. The library will reopen on Thursday, October 7. The library is located at 140 Queen Street in downtown Boone. For more information, call 828-264-8784.

NCDOT Engineer Provides Local Project Update
At an intergovernmental meeting of leaders from the towns of Boone, Blowing Rock, Seven Devils and Beech Mountain; Watauga County; and ASU held September 28 at the Broyhill Inn, N.C. Department of Transportation Resident Engineer Frank Gioscio provided an update on local transportation projects.

The widening of U.S. Highway 321 from Kirby Mountain Road to Blackberry Road, the second section of a three-part widening that will end in Blowing Rock, is nearly complete. The project began in February 2005 and was originally due for completion in August 2008, but various challenges have carried the project more than two years past the original completion date, Gioscio said. The project bid for $63.42 million.

The third part of the U.S. 321 widening, a $50 to $60 million project that will widen the highway to four lanes from Blackberry Road to Shoppes on the Parkway, is slated to begin in March 2011. Gioscio said the final section would likely take another three years.

The first of five sections widening U.S. 221 from Deep Gap to Jefferson is scheduled for project letting in 2013.

Gioscio said the contractor is on schedule with the widening of U.S. 421 from Hardin Street to N.C. 194, a $15.25 million project due for completion on July 15, 2011.

NCDOT recently completed a large bridge replacement on U.S. 19 East in Avery County a week ago and is continuing work on a $1.6 million bridge crossing the New River on Castle Ford Road near Todd. Next week, NCDOT will begin shutting down sections of N.C. 194 in Watauga and Avery counties to replace three bridges. In Avery, Watauga and Ashe counties, between 20 and 30 bridges are slated to be replaced in each county, said Gioscio.

Resurfacing of roads, including U.S. 321/421 west of downtown Boone, has taken place over the past few weeks in Watauga County and will begin shortly in Avery County, Gioscio said.

Operation Medicine Cabinet Accepts Drugs, Medicines This Weekend
If you have outdated or unused prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, syringes or other medical supplies, you can drop them off at sponsored take-back centers on three different days this October as part of Operation Medicine Cabinet. Any prescription or over-the-counter drugs will be accepted, with no questions asked.

The project aims to keep drugs and their chemicals out of the hands of children and out of the water supply.

On Friday, October 1, drugs will be collected at the Plemmons Student Union on the ASU campus from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.

Across Watauga County, drugs will be collected on Saturday, October 2, from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. in conjunction with Hazardous Household Waste Collection Day. Take-back locations will be available at the Foscoe Fire Department and the three Food Lion stores in Watauga County: the Highway 321 store in Boone, the Highway 421 Deep Gap store and the Blowing Rock store.

In Ashe County, the collection will be held on Saturday, October 16. Medications can be dropped from off from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. at the Jefferson Food Lion, the West Jefferson LifeStore Bank located at the Wal-Mart and at the former Northwest Foods in Warrensville.

To find out more about the event, click to For more information, call 828-262-1500, 828-265-4852, 828-264-3761 or 828-264-3061.

Foxx, Kennedy To Debate October 12
Republican incumbent Virginia Foxx and Democratic challenger Billy Kennedy, candidates for the North Carolina 5th District seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, will take part in a 90-minute debate on Tuesday, October 12, at 6:30 p.m. at the Ashe County Civic Center, located on U.S. Highway 221 in West Jefferson.

The debate is sponsored by the New River Chapter of the Military Officers Association of America.

WHS Students Receive Laptops
The much-anticipated distribution of new laptop computers to all students at Watauga High School began last Monday, September 20, and will be completed by Wednesday, September 29.

The laptops are a key element of “Pioneer IT,” the high school component of the Watauga County Schools Global Learning Community design for learning.

In addition to providing a new laptop computer to each student and faculty member at the high school, “Pioneer IT” includes wireless access throughout the campus; training for teachers and administrators in best practices for integrating technology into classroom instruction; and enhanced instructional technology in classrooms, the media center and other locations on campus.

In North Carolina, less than a dozen high schools have provided laptop computers for all students. The laptop component of Pioneer IT included the purchase of 1,600 computers at a cost of approximately $1.5 million.

Students and parents received initial orientation about the use of the laptops in August, and students are receiving more detailed hands-on orientation as the computers are handed out. The high school also has information about the laptop program posted on the school website, and there is a help desk at the high school to address questions and resolve problems that may arise.

Distribution of the laptops was postponed by about three weeks due to a supplier delay in shipping the bags that students will use to carry their laptops. However, the plan had always been to wait until after school was up and running for a few weeks before the laptops were handed out, and the delay is not expected to have a significant impact on instruction.

ASU Receives Grant To Address Inactivity, Obesity Issues
The ASU Institute for Health and Human Services received a grant to prevent and better understand chronic diseases related to physical inactivity and obesity and to better understand health risks of adolescents. The project, known as Appalachian Ashe Prevention Partnership’s (AAPP) project “Rural Health Outreach Special Initiative,” is funded by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA). 

According to the 2007 Ashe Community Health Assessment, the counties of Ashe, Avery and Watauga have experienced steady increases in the incidence of childhood obesity each year for the last 12 years. Specifically, Ashe County has an adolescent obesity rate of 34.7 percent, compared to an overall state rate of 27 percent. In addition, less than 50 percent of the adults in the western region of North Carolina meet the recommended physical activity standards.

This project will create a partnership with community health practitioners, schools, agencies concerned with promoting physical activity, district health department representatives and ASU’s Institute for Health and Human Services.

The grant runs until August 31, 2011. All strategies to achieve the project’s three goals will be evaluated, and plans are in place to ensure that these programs are sustainable even after the funding has stopped.

Other partners for this project include Be Active-Appalachian Partnership, Appalachian District Health Department and the Ashe County Healthy Carolinians of Ashe Memorial Hospital.  

For more information about the project, contact Mary S. Horine, associate director of the Institute for Health and Human Services, at 828-262-7557.

ASU Seeks Volunteers for Memory Research
Individuals ages 60 to 85 are sought to participate in research at ASU related to emotion and autobiographical memory, the recall of events throughout one’s life.

The study is being conducted by ASU’s Department of Psychology.

Volunteers will look at a series of words and write recollections triggered by those words. Participants will receive $20 at the conclusion of the two-hour exercise.

Testing will be conducted at University Hall off Highway 321 in Boone behind Staples. Testing times typically will be available weekdays in the morning and early afternoon.

For more information or to sign up for the study, email or call 828-262-7017 and press 2 to leave a message.

NCDOT Reminds Motorists To Keep Alert for Deer During Fall Months
To help reduce the number of wildlife-related automobile crashes, the N.C. Department of Transportation reminds motorists to be aware of the increased presence of deer on state roads during fall months. 

More than 19,300 animal-related crashes were reported each of the last three years, and 90 percent of those involved deer. Since 2007, the incidents have resulted in 3,353 injuries to people, of which 17 were fatal, and nearly $127 million in property damage.

“People need to also understand that often a worse crash occurs when a driver swerves to avoid the deer in the roadway,” said NCDOT Director of Mobility and Safety Kevin Lacy. “This reaction can cause the driver to hit another car head-on or run off the road. It is better to hit the deer than to lose control of your vehicle and hit a tree or someone else head on.”

While a crash involving a deer can happen at any time, the majority of deer-vehicle collisions occur between the months of October and December, when deer activity increases due to mating and hunting seasons. Crashes are most common during the hours of 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m., when deer movement increases and limited lighting makes it more difficult for motorists to see them on or near roadways.

NCDOT offers the following suggestions for motorists to avoid being in collision with a deer:

• Slow down in posted deer crossing areas and heavily wooded areas, especially during the late afternoon and evening.

• Statistics indicate most car-deer crashes occur near bridges or overpasses. Deer also follow railroad tracks, streams and ditches.

• Drive with high beams on, when possible, and watch out for eyes reflecting in the headlights.

• Remember that deer often travel in groups, so do not assume that the road is clear if one deer has already passed.

• Do not swerve to avoid contact with deer. This could cause the vehicle to flip or veer into oncoming traffic, causing a more serious crash. Swerving also can confuse the deer as to where to run.

• If you see a deer near or on the road, give your car horn one long blast. This sound gives the deer an audible signal to avoid.

• Increase the distance between your vehicle and other cars, especially at night. If the car ahead of you hits a deer, you may also become involved in the accident.