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Reagan senior defensive lineman Nathaniel Carson (90) tackles East Forsyth senior running back Robin Smith (7) on Friday, Oct. 25, 2019 in Pfafftown, N.C. (Winston-Salem Journal/Andrew Dye) 20191026w_spt_reaganfoot


Local
Lane closure for beltway work starts Sunday

A lane of eastbound Business 40 in eastern Forsyth County will be closed for several weeks while contractors perform work in connection with the Winston-Salem Northern Beltway.

The N.C. Department of Transportation said that the closure will start at 8 p.m. Sunday with the closing of a short segment of the eastbound Business 40 lane near the Hastings Hill Road bridge. The closure is being done so that work crews can start installing a noise wall along the shoulder of the freeway.

That lane is scheduled to be reopened by 6 a.m. on Nov. 25.

Meanwhile, parts of another section of the lane, from Hastings Hill Road to South Main Street in Kernersville, will be closed from 8 p.m. Nov. 3 until 6 a.m. Nov. 20.

This closure is being done so that workers can pave sections of the eastbound lane in a series of shifting closures in that area.

State highway officials said drivers should use caution since crews will be working close to the travel lanes during the closures.

To avoid that section of Business 40 during the lane closures, highway officials said drivers should use U.S. 52, Interstate 40 and N.C. 66 in Kernersville.

The state awarded a $154 million contract to Dragados USA Inc., based in New York City, in 2014 for the construction of the first segment of the beltway in the area of the Business 40 lane closures.

That first segment will be ready for traffic in the spring of 2020, state highway officials said. The segment will run between Business 40 and U.S. 158 (Reidsville Road).

Work is taking place on all segments of the beltway between Business 40 and University Parkway on the northern side of Winston-Salem.

A company called E.S. Wagner Co. LLC of Piedmont, S.C., is working on a $33 million part of the beltway that will run from U.S. 158 to U.S. 311 near Walkertown.

That stretch of freeway will be about two miles long. That contract was awarded in late 2017, with completion of the segment scheduled for late 2021.

In the spring of 2018, Flatiron Constructors Inc., one of the companies working on the Business 40 rehab in downtown Winston-Salem, won the $120 million contract to build the beltway segments from U.S. 311 near Walkertown to University Parkway.

That section of freeway also should be finished in 2021.


Z-no-digital
Development plans between Whitaker Park and Smith Reynolds Airport draw questions from residents

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More than a hundred people turned out last week to talk about hopes and fears for the area stretching from Whitaker Park to Smith Reynolds Airport.

On the one hand, the area is a catalyst for new development: Plans have been announced for a high-end apartment complex with 314 apartments in the Whitaker Park development, along with a hotel and retail space.

On the east end of the area, Forsyth Technical Community College is building a $16 million building in which to train a skilled aviation workforce.

In between the two, residents told planners last week, there are too many dilapidated buildings and warehouses, no grocery store and a lack of basics like street lighting and sidewalks.

“It would be nice to have it fixed so that when (young people) finish high school they are qualified for a job,” area resident Geraldine Rorie said during a meeting at Carver High School.

The meeting was held to kick off a planning effort for an area that embraces both the airport and Whitaker Park along with the neighborhoods surrounding each.

The City-County Planning staff is leading the effort to develop a plan to guide development in the area. Plans call for the next meeting to take place on Dec. 5 at Hanes Hosiery Community Center on Reynolds Boulevard.

In January, planners will unveil design concepts for planning the area’s development, and in February the city will have a drop-in meeting for reviewing the draft plan.

More than a hundred people turned out for the event last Thursday, held in the high school auditorium but featuring smaller “breakout” sections on topics like airport and transportation upgrades.

Many of the residents live in or own properties on the fringes of the airport, and expressed concerns about how airport improvements that are planned could affect their quality of life.

Those concerns include things like buffer plantings and noise walls to shield residents from obtrusive operations at the airport, said Steve Smotherman, a project planner with the City-County Planning staff.

Transportation concerns revolve around a plan to extend Akron Drive to the west so that it connects with a new section of Akron Drive being built through the Whitaker Park development. If the plan goes forward, crossing the railroad track there could force the city to close the crossing where Indiana Avenue and Reynolds Boulevard intersect.

Rorie, speaking a desire that was expressed more than once, talked about getting more good nutrition into the neighborhood.

“It would be nice when you are bringing people in if you could have a fresh vegetable and fruit stand,” Rorie said. “We love Dollar General, but you need some nutrition.

Mark Flynt, the owner of J.S. Pulliam Barbecue, said that the airport should step up its services to include “a small commuter-type airline.”

“We used to have one that could jump you to Greensboro or to Charlotte to catch your flight,” he said.

JoAnne Allen, who is running for mayor of Winston-Salem, said after the meeting that a plan for the area should have been developed earlier, before the economic development efforts started at Whitaker Park.

“Why are you doing it after you have already made the plan?” Allen asked.

Smotherman said the meeting coming up on Dec. 5 would focus on economic development opportunities.

The idea is “to help the area take advantage of the development of Whitaker Park.”


Local
Invasive snakehead fish habits studied by Wake Forest researcher

These freshwater menaces can grow more than 2 feet long, have teeth sharp enough to bite off a finger, and if that’s not enough to get your attention, they can walk.

Dubbed the northern snakehead, this invasive fish species is native to east Asia, but has been found in states across the country. Now wildlife officials from multiple states are asking people to kill them on sight. But why?

Snakeheads wreak havoc on a body of water’s ecosystem, eating frogs, native species of fish and crawdads, which can destroy a body of water’s web of food, according to Wake Forest University researcher Noah Bressman.

“They’re voracious,” Bressman said.

The species can reproduce two times a year, meaning their populations can skyrocket in a short amount of time. As the snakehead population increases, the native species decrease. Snakeheads also have a high tolerance for varying environmental conditions, and because they can physically breathe air, can live almost anywhere there’s fresh water.

“They can withstand extreme environmental conditions because they can just gulp air,” Bressman said.

Because they can breathe air, snakeheads can live for 20 hours outside of water in fairly moist conditions, Bressman said. Add in the fact that they can walk and their invasive nature begins to explain itself.

“Most invasive fish species — they’re in this pond and they can’t really go anywhere else,” Bressman said. “Well with the snakehead, they have the potential to go somewhere else over land into a body of water.”

Bressman said the fish rotate their pectoral fins while wiggling their axial fin back and forth, allowing them to travel over uneven surfaces, such as grass.

Bressman, on Monday, published a study reporting he found water conditions that could drive snakeheads onto land, and into other bodies of water.

In Bressman’s research, he observed the fish would leave the water they were in if it becomes too acidic, salty or high in carbon dioxide.

“The goal of that study was to show under some conditions that snakeheads would voluntarily come onto land under some conditions,” Bressman said.

Should anyone come across a snakehead on land, Bressman said not to worry. They won’t attack you, and they don’t move particularly fast.

“They’re not going to win any races but they can cover some area,” he said. Bressman said to be careful handling them due to their sharp teeth — he knows of a Virginia fisherman who had his thumb bitten off because he tried to hold a snakehead by its lips like other freshwater fish.

Anecdotally, Bressman said he’s heard snakeheads’ wriggling ways are what led them to entering the Arkansas River.

Bressman said the fish put up a strong fight for anglers, making them enjoyable to catch. However, nobody has caught a snakehead in North Carolina since 2012, according to Todd Ewing, the aquatic wildlife diversity program manager with the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission.

Ewing said if anyone does catch a snakehead, they should put it on ice and get it to the Wildlife Commission as soon as possible for study. If confirmed as a snakehead, wildlife officials will go to the body of water it was found and try to catch more to kill them.

Bressman said to kill snakeheads, too, but he said they make for great eating.

“Don’t just toss them in the trash can,” Bressman said. “They’re among the best tasting fish I’ve ever had.”


Local
Greensboro organization said it followed law in hiring ex-IFB Solutions employee accused of sexually abusing teen with Down syndrome.

Industries of the Blind in Greensboro said Friday that agency officials followed the law when they hired a former employee of IFB Solutions who was fired over allegations that he sexually abused a 17-year-old boy with Down Syndrome.

John Dorsey Caldwell, 52, of the 1400 block of Bragg Avenue in High Point, has been charged with two counts of felony crimes against nature and two counts of misdemeanor sexual battery. His case is pending in Forsyth District Court.

IFB Solutions, formerly Winston-Salem Industries for the Blind, fired Caldwell on Nov. 7, 2017, several days after receiving a complaint about the alleged sexual abuse of the boy, according to court papers. Industries of the Blind in Greensboro hired Caldwell a year later on Nov. 5, 2018. Caldwell is now suspended without pay.

“As part of our pre-hire process of Mr. Caldwell, Industries of the Blind, Incorporated followed federal guidelines and found no information that disqualified him from hire for his position,” Richard Oliver, director of community outreach and government relations for the agency, said in a news release Friday. “Industries of the Blind, Incorporated is not aware of any inappropriate conduct by Mr. Caldwell while employed by Industries of the Blind, Incorporated.”

Oliver also said that Industries of the Blind in Greensboro is not named as a defendant in a lawsuit that was filed against IFB Solutions this past May in Forsyth Superior Court. He also said that Industries of the Blind in Greensboro and IFB Solutions are separate organizations and are not affiliated with each other.

“There is no basis for such a claim against Industries of the Blind, Incorporated,” Oliver said. Oliver said in an email that the agency would have no further comment about the issue.

Andrew Fitzgerald, a Winston-Salem lawyer representing the boy’s guardian ad litem, said Friday that he has no intention of adding Industries of the Blind to the lawsuit.

In court documents filed Oct. 15, Fitzgerald said that after WXII-Channel 12 aired a report about the allegations, he received a call from a former IFB employee telling him that Caldwell was working at the Greensboro agency.

Fitzgerald said it is possible that Industries of the Blind in Greensboro contacted IFB Solutions about Caldwell and that IFB failed to warn the Greensboro agency about Caldwell’s “potential danger.” And it is possible that IFB Solutions learned that Caldwell was working in Greensboro and chose not to tell Industries of the Blind about Caldwell. It’s not likely, Fitzgerald said, that Greensboro didn’t check Caldwell’s references or worse, that the agency did check his references, was warned by IFB and hired Caldwell anyway.

The lawsuit alleges that IFB Solutions was negligent in hiring Caldwell, covered up the alleged abuse and didn’t notify the boy’s parents or the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County school system. The boy was participating in an occupational course study through a partnership between IFB and the school system. The boy’s mother found out about the alleged abuse of her son through another IFB employee who approached her while she was shopping at a local Walmart. The employee thought the mother knew about the abuse.

Fitzgerald also alleges in a proposed amended complaint that the boy told human-resources officials at IFB about Caldwell’s conduct toward him in fall 2017 and IFB did nothing about it. The lawsuit also alleges that Caldwell had a history of sexual misconduct and inappropriate behavior before the alleged sexual abuse and was never fired for it. According to the lawsuit, Caldwell had been cited for wandering into areas he was not supposed to be in, wearing an inappropriate shirt and performing sexual acts on other adults at work.

Fitzgerald also alleges in court papers that IFB Solutions covered up the abuse to avoid negative publicity while the agency fought to keep a federal contract with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

IFB Solutions officials have denied the allegation. In a statement Thursday, Laura Burrows, a spokeswoman for IFB Solutions, said Caldwell was immediately suspended once officials found out about the alleged abuse and that Caldwell was sent home within 30 minutes after he was told he was suspended. He was later fired and never returned to work, she said.

Caldwell is scheduled to appear in Forsyth District Court on Oct. 31 on the criminal charges. A hearing on the lawsuit is scheduled for the week of Oct. 28.