Local

Rachel Lewis Hilburn

A steady rain fell throughout the day in Brunswick County as a thin but constant stream of voters trickled through Belville Elementary School  -- picking leaders for Belville, Leland, and the Board of the local water authority, H2GO. 

Turnout is famously low when it’s only a municipal race on the ballot.  The Leland and Belville voters who braved the weather today generally didn’t have a lot to say about why they came out – but what they did say was pointed: 

Here’s Leland resident Bonnie Laserna:

Polls are open on Election Day from 6:30 AM until 7:30 PM.  Because it’s an odd year and only municipal races are on the ballot, elections officials expect turnout to be lower than in years that include state and federal elections. 

Early voter turnout for this year’s municipal elections in New Hanover County lands at about 1.6% of eligible voters.  That may sound miniscule, but New Hanover County Elections Director Derek Bowens says it’s right on target -- compared with numbers from 2013.  That year, about 1,000 people or 1.1% of eligible voters cast their ballots early. 

Isabelle Shepherd, WHQR

This coming Tuesday, Leland citizens will cast their votes for the municipal election.  Three candidates are vying for two open seats on Town Council, and Glen Thearling is challenging incumbent Brenda Bozeman for the mayoral seat. During this week’s CoastLine Forum, the candidates focused on addressing issues stemming from the town’s rapid growth.

Leland residents get their water through H2GO, an independent governmental entity separate from Brunswick County’s Public Utility – which sells water to H2GO.  And now H2GO is deciding whether to build its own reverse osmosis plant. 

While water authority officials study the question, a citizen-led group, Stop H2GO, has sprung up in opposition to that project -- creating a StopH2GO website and putting forth two candidates for H2GO's Board of Commissioners.  

Isabelle Shepherd / Rachel Lewis Hilburn

The Town of Leland is governed by a Council consisting of a Mayor, Mayor Pro-Tem and three other Council members.  Elections are held every two years.  The Mayor serves a two-year term; Council members serve staggered four-year terms. 

The two candidates for Mayor of Leland in alphabetical order: 

Great friend of the station Pat Marriott will MATCH EVERY PLEDGE made today before 10:00 am.

EVERY PLEDGE! Call all your friends and neighbors and tell them to call 910-343-1138, or pledge online at the top of this page!

EVERY PLEDGE!

Isabelle Shepherd

Two candidates are running for the Mayoral seat in the Town of Carolina Beach.  On Wednesday, October 21st, WHQR broadcast a live candidate forum with both men. 

The Town of Carolina Beach is governed by a Council consisting of a Mayor, Mayor Pro-Tem and three other Council members.  Elections are held every two years.  The Mayor serves a two-year term; Council members serve staggered four-year terms. 

The two candidates, in alphabetical order:

http://artscouncilofwilmington.org

October is National Arts & Humanities Month. Creative conversations are taking place around the country on the impact of arts in local communities. Here in the Cape Fear region, the Arts Council of Wilmington and New Hanover County is gathering public input during its Ears on the Arts listening tour. WHQR’s Isabelle Shepherd sat down with Rhonda Bellamy, Executive Director of the Arts Council, to learn more about these events. 

Isabelle Shepherd: What was the goal of this listening tour?  

http://www.visitcarolinabeachnc.com/

This week, Carolina Beach re-submitted a proposal to extend the north end of the town’s boardwalk to Pelican Lane.  At the most recent CoastLine Forum, the candidates for Carolina Beach Town Council weighed in on the proposal. 

The CoastLine Candidate Forum featuring Carolina Beach Town Council aired live on Wednesday, October 14th from 12-2 PM.  We allotted two hours because it's a sizable race – seven candidates competing for two open seats – and we wanted to cover a comprehensive range of issues. 

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

The Department of Veterans Affairs building in Wilmington – hailed as a boon for local veterans who don’t have to drive to Fayetteville for health care – has been bogged down by concerns over drinking water contamination for months.   In response to those concerns, New Hanover County and the Board of Health  delivered on Monday what officials are calling a "protocol" to building owner Summit Smith Healthcare, who leases the facility to the Federal Government. 

Isabelle Shepherd, WHQR

At UNCW’s annual OUTLOOK conference, economists forecasted the regional economy would grow slightly faster than the national average over the next year.  WHQR’s Isabelle Shepherd says UNCW’s Dr. Adam Jones compared the local economy to a car being driven with both feet – one on the gas, and one on the brake. 

CSX

Wilmington has pledged $100,000 to fund a feasibility study that would identify the total costs and challenges of moving the CSX rail line over the Cape Fear River, directly to the Port.  During the most recent CoastLine Forum, the City Council candidates weighed in on the issue.  

Wikimedia Commons

In Wilmington, eight candidates are vying for three open seats on City Council. During this week’s CoastLine Candidate Forum, WHQR’s Isabelle Shepherd reports the candidates were asked to explain their best original idea.   

Paul Lawler says his background as an accountant would bring more financial efficiency.

This CoastLine Candidate Forum of 2015, featuring candidates for the Wilmington City Council, aired live from WHQR's MC Erny Gallery on Wednesday, October 7, 2015.  This is a sizable race – eight people are competing for three open seats – so we allotted two hours in order to cover a comprehensive range of issues.

Wikimedia Commons

Local officials have warned about serious flooding for days, and some of the hardest-hit areas – parts of Brunswick County, for example, have had to evacuate.  But other parts of the region haven’t seen much more than minor ponding in the roadways.  When the severity of weather conditions isn't observable for everyone, getting people to take the warnings seriously becomes its own struggle.

City of Wilmington

The pounding rain that has blanketed the Cape Fear region for the last several days is easing up.  Some activities are a "go" tonight -- such as Cinematique and CFCC's Beauty and the Beast.  But local officials aren't ready to sound the all-clear yet.

The rain isn't quite over, but it's not expected to have as much of an impact as it's had over the last few days.  Steven Pfaff is a Warning Coordination Meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Wilmington.  Some areas, says Pfaff, will continue to grapple with flooding.

City of Wilmington

New Hanover, Brunswick, and Pender County Schools are all closed Monday.  Cape Fear Community College has also closed all of its campus locations.  City of Wilmington, New Hanover County, and Brunswick County Offices and Courts are closed. 

This is hardly an exhaustive list, but it illustrates the point:  driving conditions are hazardous due to flooding and the potential for downed trees.

By Tuesday, a drying trend will set in, which makes Monday the last day the area will see significant heavy rainfall from the current systems. 

National Hurricane Center / NOAA

Now that Hurricane Joaquin's projected path turns farther east, as the European meteorological models had predicted, state and local emergency management officials say they’re more confident the storm will stay well offshore.  But there are still statewide warnings about flooding and its ancillary effects.

U.S. Geological Survey

Storm surge, coastal flooding, and beach erosion.  Those are the likely impacts from the combination of a wet system moving up from the Gulf of Mexico and the arrival of Hurricane Joaquin – now a Category Four storm.  But New Hanover County Emergency officials say it won’t be until Friday afternoon that they’ll have any confidence in the forecast track for Joaquin.

Hurricane Joaquin, now a dangerous Category Four storm, is still highly unpredictable.  In preparation for potentially severe weather and heavy flooding, Governor Pat McCrory declared a state of emergency for all 100 counties in North Carolina.

National Hurricane Center

No one can say with certainty yet how much Hurricane Joaquin will impact the Cape Fear region.  But at the very least, serious flooding is high on the probability scale.

There a few reasons for that.  Steven Pfaff is a Warning Coordination Meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Wilmington.  He says the situation that’s unfolding now is complex.  If Joaquin stays on the current track, this area could see breezy conditions along the coast – but, says Pfaff, it’s the potential for flooding that’s a serious concern. 

This CoastLine Candidate Forum of 2015 features the candidates for Oak Island Town Council.  Due to the size of this race, we allotted two hours, with a short break at the top of the hour, so that you can hear the candidates discuss a broader range of issues.  

Isabelle Shepherd, WHQR

This November, voters will choose from eight candidates to fill three open seats on Wilmington City Council. At the candidate forum hosted by Residents of Old Wilmington and the Downtown Business Alliance, the candidates discussed local transportation issues.   

Alvin Rogers has served on the Wilmington Planning Commission. He remembers when Oleander Drive was just a two lane road, and he thinks transportation has become a problem throughout Wilmington. 

Bureau of Ocean Energy Management / T. J. Boyle and Associates

While still years away, offshore wind farms are significantly closer to becoming reality off the North Carolina coast.  The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management recently completed its environmental assessment and will hold a Task Force meeting October 7th in Wilmington to consider next steps.  Two of the areas slated for wind are near the southeastern North Carolina coast. 

Wikimedia Commons

This summer, shark bites brought national attention to North Carolina beaches. Two young people lost parts of their arms to sharks while swimming near Oak Island. During this week’s CoastLine Candidate Forum, all Oak Island Mayoral candidates agreed that more needs to be done to lower the risk of shark attacks. 

All four mayoral candidates say this summer’s shark bites were a wakeup call for Oak Island. Cin Brochure, the current Tourism Director for the City of Southport, says the issue has been on her mind since she lives near one of the sites: 

Okko Pyykkö

Four people are vying for the mayoral seat in the Town of Oak Island.  This Brunswick County coastal town sits largely on a barrier island and has a year-round population of nearly seven-thousand people.  That number more than quintuples during the busy summer season. 

During a recent CoastLine Candidate Forum, all four candidates said they think transparency in government is critical.  But they didn’t all agree on whether the current government is adequately open or on how to improve transparency. 

In the Town of Oak Island, four people are hoping to be the next Mayor.  The office comes with a two-year term; Town Council members serve staggered four-year terms and are elected every two years in non-partisan elections.

The Town of Oak Island, which is part of Brunswick County and sits mostly on a barrier island, is only sixteen years old.  It was 1999 that Yaupon Beach and Long Beach merged to form Oak Island.  The town boasts a year-round population of nearly 7,000 people – but that number can swell during the summer on a daily basis to around 45,000. 

New Law Aims to Deter Venus Flytrap Poaching: Is It Working?

Sep 22, 2015
Wikimedia Commons

The cottage industry of Venus flytrap poaching has long threatened this iconic carnivorous plant of southeastern North Carolina. The crime used to be a misdemeanor, but at the start of this year, it became a felony, with a maximum penalty of up to 25 months in jail. As the first felony cases wrap up in Pender County, WHQR investigates whether the change in the law is working to deter poaching.

Venus flytraps are considered a species of concern, meaning the population is in decline and in need of conservation . Flytrap poaching runs counter to such preservation efforts.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

New Hanover County collected more than ten million dollars in room occupancy tax during the last fiscal year.  But officials in Kure Beach aren’t convinced that all property owners who rent on a short-term basis are sending their share to the County. 

At a recent CoastLine Candidate Forum for Kure Beach, held September 16th in WHQR's MC Erny Gallery, everyone agreed the status quo isn’t working.    

New Hanover County ranked 8th last year for tourism out of all 100 counties in North Carolina.   

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