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2021

PROGRESS ENC

INSIDE ■ Sentara plans to complete new hospital

in 2024, Page A2 ■ Pandemic raises public awareness of public health, ARHS’ role, Page A2 ■ Interest rising in health science careers amid pandemic, Page A3

■ Enrollment, diversity of ECSU aviation

program grows, Page A4 ■ Rigging success: COA truck driving program eyes expansion, Page A4 ■ Schools to use lessons from pandemic year to chart new path, Page A5


A2

THE DAILY ADVANCE SPECIAL SECTIONS, WEDNESDAY, MARCH 31, 2021

HEALTH & EDUCATION

Sentara plans to complete new hospital in 2024 110-bed facility will replace 60-year-old SAMC BY PAUL NIELSEN Staff Writer

A new state-of-the-art hospital in Elizabeth City not only means Pasquotank County will get a new medical facility it also means major new development opportunities for the city and county. S e n t a r a Healthcare and Pasquotank County officials announced last November that the Norfolk, Virginia-based JACKSON health system plans to open a new hospital in the county around 2024. Sentara Healthcare’s planned new 110-bed hospital in Elizabeth City will cost around $158 million to build. It will replace the 60-year-old Sentara Albemarle Medical Center — formerly known as Albemarle Hospital — on North Road Street. The current hospital is owned by the county and leased to Sentara. The new SAMC will be built on a 135-acre site Sentara bought in October 2017 near Halstead Boulevard Extended and Thunder Road. Two other medical office buildings housing a radiation oncology and cancer care center and other outpatient services will also be built on the site, officials have said. SAMC President Dr. Phil Jackson said the new hospital is still in the design phase and that no “accurate” timeline for construction has been set. City officials said at City Council’s annual retreat in February that construction crews will need electricity at the site in summer 2022. “This hospital is being designed to meet the projected needs of this community in 10 years and beyond and can be expanded in various ways as needed,” Jackson said during a recent interview. Hospital physicians and staff are having input in the design of the new hospital, which Jackson called “critical to getting the design right.” “Our teams have taken field trips to sister hospitals to see the

GRAPHIC COURTESY SENTARA HEALTHCARE

Shown is an artist’s rendering of the new $158 million hospital Sentara Healthcare plans to build to replace the 60-year-old Sentara Albemarle Medical Center. Sentara officials hope to have the new hospital completed sometime in 2024.

CHRIS DAY/THE DAILY ADVANCE

CHRIS DAY/THE DAILY ADVANCE

Sentara Healthcare plans to build its new, $158 million hospital on this 135-acre site near the intersection of Thunder Road and Halstead Boulevard Extended in Elizabeth City.

best designs in the Sentara system and receive feedback from staff at those hospitals on what they do and don’t love about their design,” Jackson said. “While we are utilizing various templates from our sister hospitals, our staff and physicians have been reviewing these and providing their own feedback.” Although plans have not yet been finalized, Jackson said the new hospital will be outfitted with new equipment. The only exceptions would be recently purchased equipment such as

Pasquotank County officials have not yet begun discussing in detail what the county will do with the current Sentara Albemarle Medical Center once the new SAMC opens in 2024. County Manager Sparty Hammett said the location “will present an excellent redevelopment opportunity for a “mixed-use” waterfront development.

new CT and MRI machines that have been recently purchased. Those machines will be moved to the new hospital. “The new hospital would have almost entirely new equipment,” Jackson said. “Inpatient rooms, the OR (operating room), the ED (emergency department) and other patient spaces will be outfitted with brand new equipment and materials. Equipment we would anticipate being relocated from the old facility would be newer equipment that is not near its end of life.”

Major features of the new hospital will include: • The labor and delivery processes will no longer take place in separate labor, delivery, recovery and post-partum rooms. Instead, families stay in one room for the duration of their stay at the hospital. SAMC is also exploring additional pain-relief methods for labor, which may include labor tubs and nitrous-oxide gas. • Radiation oncology will receive a new linear accelerator, which will now provide SRS

(stereotactic radiosurgery)/ SBRT (stereotactic bod radiotherapy), which is used to treat brain tumors or small tumors in the body that are hard to reach, located close to vital organs or subject to movement within the body. • The emergency department will include designated areas for patient cohorts depending on the level of care needed. SAMC will also build a dedicated behavioral health area in the department to provide a closed and secure space for patients waiting for inpatient behavioral health beds. • Inpatient and operating room areas are adapting best practices and designs from other Sentara facilities, which will provide SAMC the opportunity to fine-tune what works best in their other hospitals. • Staffing will continue to reflect the patient population trends and accepted staffing standards. The new hospital will have the same amenities as the current hospital including a cafeteria, gift shop, chapel and family lounges on each inpatient floor. “However, true to our mission to create a more efficient patient and staff flow, the waiting rooms for surgery, imaging and other services will be centralized to one larger location,” Jackson said. Jackson said SAMC will have a “dedicated transition coordinator” and a detailed transition plan for the move from the current hospital to the new hospital. “The plan will be developed to meet the specific needs for SAMC departments and patients,” Jackson said. “It generally involves a coordinated effort with staff, EMS (emergency medical services) and other stakeholders to temporarily operate two locations until patients are discharged from the old location.” The current Sentara Albemarle Medical Center has a major economic impact on the region. According to the Elizabeth City-Pasquotank Economic Development Commission, the hospital was responsible for 2,345 in direct and indirect jobs and had an economic impact of $218 million in 2019. The hospital also generated $5.6 million

See HOSPITAL, A8

Pandemic raises awareness of public health, ARHS’ role Agency hopeful good hygiene practices stick after crisis BY CHRIS DAY Multimedia Editor

It’s hard to imagine any positive outcomes of the COVID-19 pandemic, but the regional public health agency has a good story to tell. Albemarle Regional Health Services has led the way in the region’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which was declared in March 2020. Because of ARHS’ role, residents have become more aware of the many services it pro-

vides the public. “Throughout the last year the community has been given a different perspective of ARHS,” said Amy Underhill, a spokeswoman for the agency. ARHS is formed of local health departments in each of the following eight counties: Bertie, Camden, Chowan, Currituck, Hertford, Gates, Pasquotank and Perquimans. “ARHS has a unique structure with our regional model; therefore, it was hard for the community to see the connection between all eight health departments,” Underhill said. “Now, there is better understanding of our regional struc-

ture and the role of public health.” ARHS nurses and other employees have been dispatched to all eight counties to assist residents during the pandemic. This effort has helped to bolster the public’s understanding of the health agency’s role. “The role we have played during the pandemic has helped people understand who we are,” Underhill said. “Community awareness of our services has increased, as well as connections to agencies and other partners across the region. It will be important moving forward to maximize educational opportunities and build upon these new relationships to

Town Of Edenton

strengthen our services.” The pandemic also has shined a light on the need for preventive and behavioral health care services. “By raising awareness of AHRS’ services, we can help bridge that gap for many in our community,” Underhill said. “Citizens start to realize that the health department is not just for immunizations, but can provide comprehensive care through our services.” Underhill cited examples as evidence that community awareness of public health has grown. One is a through-the-roof increase in the number of people who follow ARHS’ Facebook page.

On March 15, 2020, the ARHS page’s number of Facebook followers was 973, compared to 5,941 followers in February of this year, Underhill said. “Individual comments have been very positive overall,” she said. “Community members have written letters to the editor in appreciation of our efforts. We have received an outpouring of gratitude from the community with donations of food, goody bags, tents with portable heaters and personal thank-you notes. They see how hard our staff is working and these kind gestures

See ARHS, A8

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THE DAILY ADVANCE SPECIAL SECTIONS, WEDNESDAY, MARCH 31, 2021

HEALTH & EDUCATION

A3

Interest rising in health science careers amid pandemic Harris: Students want to be ‘hero taking care of people’ BY REGGIE PONDER Staff Writer

Students are showing increased interest in health-related careers — and a desire to be part of the solution during a global pandemic is one of the reasons. Robin Harris, College of The Albemarle’s dean of Health Sciences and Wellness Programs, said students and prospective students see what has been happening with COVID-19 and it’s affecting how they think about health care careers. “People want to be one of those heroes that is taking care of people,” Harris said. Ashley Wentz, who is seeking her associate degree in nursing, said right now is a challenging time for nurses because of the pandemic. But the need for nurses also makes it a good time to be entering the profession, she said. Wentz said she initially wanted to be a labor and delivery nurse but since completing her preceptorship in the operating room at Vidant Chowan Hospital she has become interested in working as a surgical nurse. Jordyn Russell, who is also seeking an associate degree in nursing, has a deeply personal story about how she became interested in nursing. She has siblings who are triplets and now healthy 12-year-olds. But she re-

REGGIE PONDER/THE DAILY ADVANCE

Katie Miller, (far right) who chairs College of The Albemarle’s associate degree nursing program, leads students (l-r) Jordyn Russell, Taylor Edwards and Ashley Wentz through a debriefing following a simulation at the Owens Science Center on COA’s campus in Elizabeth City.

members when they were in the neonatal intensive care unit at Sentara Norfolk General Hospital right after they were born. Russell wants to work as a neonatal nurse. “I’ve wanted to be a nurse since I was 11,” she said. Taylor Edwards, another nursing student at COA, comes from a family of nurses and said she has understood from a young age the importance of what nurses do. Making a difference is also a motivation for many students in health-related programs at Elizabeth City

State University. For instance, ECSU students are studying the effects on mental health of frequent hurricane disasters in Bertie County, explained Kulwinder Kaur-Walker, professor of psychology at ECSU. “We are out in the community,” she said. Kaur-Walker said students also have been researching ways that COVID-19 has affected student learning and student engagement. Students are looking at how COVID has affected urban and rural

populations, she said. “If definitely has given us a different perspective,” Kaur-Walker said. At ECSU, all health programs include a focus on health challenges that are specific to northeastern North Carolina. The Department of Health and Human Studies encompasses four majors: psychology, kinesiology, social work and pharmaceutical science. Psychology delves into psychological health, kinesiology looks at wellness and nutrition, social work addresses the health needs of

under-served populations. Students learn how to help people navigate complicated health care systems and get the help that they need. Boung Jin Kang, professor of health and physical education at ECSU, said students study the importance of nutrition, and the kinesiology department also participates in community service through sponsorship of a food pantry program. “During disasters the food pantry really becomes a lifesaver,” said Kuldeep Rawat, dean of the School

of Science, Aviation, Health, and Technology. “And it has been a lifesaver during COVID.” Melody Brackett, director of the social work program at ECSU, noted that students contribute greatly to the community through their internships. “That is a great opportunity for our students,” Brackett said. Brackett noted that social workers are in great demand and the program prepares students for those jobs. If they choose to work in northeastern North Carolina they also get training tailored specifically to the challenges facing people in the rural counties in this part of the state. ECSU officials note that all of the campus’s health-related programs are growing. Rawat said exercise science had five students in the fall of 2017 and now has 129. Social work also has grown and now has 125 students. Pharmaceutical science also has tremendous potential for growth, he said. Anthony Emekelam, who chairs ECSU’s Department of Health and Human Studies, explained that ECSU has a 3+3 program with the University of Maryland-Eastern Shore in which students complete three years of pharmaceutical science at ECSU and then take three years at UMES and become eligible for the PharmD degree. Rawat said the university is exploring similar agreements with other pharmacy schools.

COA Agribusiness Tech students find varied career paths ly farms or were already COA’s program to update students have are on farms, working in the agriculture their skills. industry. They enrolled in While many of the jobs See AGRICULTURE, A8

Some go into workforce, many transfer to NCSU BY REGGIE PONDER Staff Writer

Students in College of The Albemarle’s Agribusiness Technology Program are learning skills they can put to use either in an agribusiness career or in the classroom at N.C. State University. Although some of those who earn the program’s associate degree in agribusiness technology move directly into the workforce, many transfer into programs at the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at N.C. State University. In fact of the 13 students currently enrolled in COA’s Agribusiness Technology Program, 70-80 percent plan to transfer to NCSU, according to Felix Buabeng, agribusiness technology instructor and the program’s coordinator. COA and NCSU have an articulation agreement that allows program graduates to transfer seamlessly into programs at NCSU’s College

ELIZABETH CITY BRICK CO., INC. PHOTO COURTESY COA

Felix Buabeng, College of The Albemarle Agribusiness Technology Program coordinator, says 70-80 percent of the 13 students currently enrolled in the associate degree program plan to transfer into degree programs at the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at N.C. State University. The rest plan to go into the agribusiness workforce after graduation.

of Agriculture and Life Sciences. Buabeng said COA and N.C. A&T State University, the other land grant agriculture school in the University of North Carolina System, have also been in discussion about an articulation agreement. “I think it’s near completion,” Buabeng said of the agreement. Buabeng said the agribusiness technology degree

is designed to equip students with academic expertise and the business, technical skills and interpersonal skills needed to succeed in agribusiness careers. “Those are some of the kinds of skills we want to help them to get before they go out into the workforce,” he said. Of those students who plan to move directly into the workforce, many are working on their fami-

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A4

THE DAILY ADVANCE SPECIAL SECTIONS, WEDNESDAY, MARCH 31, 2021

HEALTH & EDUCATION

Enrollment, diversity of ECSU aviation program grows 60% of 130 students are minorities, 18% female BY REGGIE PONDER Staff Writer

Although many universities make the claim that they prepare their students to soar to new heights, students are coming to Elizabeth City State University and literally learning to do just that. ECSU continues to witness remarkable growth in its aviation science program. The university offers the only four-year aviation science degree program in North Carolina. Enrollment in aviation science grew 43 percent from 2018 to 2019 and another 31 percent from 2019 to 2020, said Kuldeep Rawat, dean of ECSU’s School of Science, Aviation, Health and Technology, and director of the school’s aviation science program. “It has grown considerably,” Rawat said. And it’s not just the number of students in the program that’s up. So is the diversity of the students coming to ECSU to study aviation. Of the 130 students currently majoring in aviation science, 60 percent are minority students and 18 percent are female. Rawat noted that the percentage of female students is up from 11 percent last year. “We are working to encourage more female participation, more women to participate in aviation,” Rawat said. Concentrations within the aviation science major include flight education, avionics, professional aereonautics, aviation man-

PHOTO COURTESY ECSU

An Elizabeth City State University student and flight instructor begin a lesson in the cockpit of a training aircraft. Elizabeth City State University’s aviation science program grew by 43 percent from 2018 to 2019 and another 31 percent from 2019 to 2020.

agement and unmanned aircraft systems. In addition, students can also major in unmanned aircraft systems or UAS — commonly known as “drones.” “The possibility of growth is huge,” Rawat said. Once the program makes distance learning options available there could be even more growth, he said. ECSU is developing distance learning options for aviation science majors as well as working to establish affiliate partnerships for flight training. The latter will allow students to

complete the program’s flight education concentration from a number of locations. Currently, students in the program complete their flight training at Elizabeth City Regional Airport. “We have that in future plans,” Rawat said. In the meantime ECSU’s flight training program still has room to grow. There are currently 95 students enrolled in that concentration and ECSU can accommodate 150 students with its current fleet of aircraft, according to Rawat.

There is no limit on students for the other concentrations within the aviation science major, he said. Some aviation science graduates are working at airports, some are working for government contractors and at least one graduate has gone on to work at Telephonics, a major avionics firm with facilities in Elizabeth City. “But our majority student population is pursuing flight training,” Rawat said, adding, “Most of the students have gone to the airlines.”

ECSU offers flight education graduates opportunities to work as flight instructors at the university, which helps them bank flight hours in order to become eligible for work as an airline pilot. Airlines require anywhere for 1,000 to 1,500 flight hours for their pilots, Rawat said. “We hire them as flight instructors so they can build time (as pilots) while helping our current students,” Rawat said. Airport management is the second most popular concentration in the aviation science major, Rawat said.

Novian Xo, who recently earned his private pilot license as an aviation science student, was able to do some flying before he enrolled at ECSU. “I was a member of the Youth Aeronautics Education Foundation, a program for underprivileged children looking to get into career fields related to aviation,” Xo said. “I flew about 25 hours with the program, including my first solo flight.” He enrolled at ECSU in August 2018 after graduating from high school in his hometown of Williamsburg, Virginia. Xo said his biggest challenge at ECSU was adjusting to not flying during his first semester after having flown some previously. The gap was about seven months. “Right when I started picking up again, I had to go home for summer — another three months,” he said. “Then I got back and made progress and COVID-19 happened. This past August to now has been my most successful flight training stint, where I’ve finally had the proper mental consistency to push through.” Xo said he has enjoyed the quietness of Elizabeth City and the ECSU campus. “It is a nice coastal, country feeling,” he said. Xo also takes part in ECSU’s partnership with the Coast Guard known as College Student Pre-commissioning Initiative or CSPI. “My ultimate goal is to be a pilot in the Coast Guard,” he said. “I am hoping to be sent to boot camp this summer, and then go to officer candidate

See ECSU, A8

Rigging success: COA truck driving program eyes expansion Program looks to add more equipment, evening classes BY NICOLE BOWMAN-LAYTON Chowan Herald

EDENTON — College of The Albemarle’s new truck driving program is only in the middle of instructing its second group of students and already it’s looking to expand. The program, offered by COA’s Edenton-Chowan campus and taught at Northeastern Regional Airport in Edenton, began with six students in January. Four graduated from the program and received their commercial driver’s license. Within a week of graduation, every graduate had a job, said program coordinator and instructor

NICOLE BOWMAN-LAYTON/CHOWAN HERALD

Marlene Pippen, of Elizabeth City, checks her gauges before putting a sleeper truck in gear during a practice session at College of The Albemarle’s new truck driving program at the COA-Chowan campus. Pippen hopes to earn her commercial driver’s license and share the driving with her truck-driver husband.

Scott Breon. The program’s second group, made up of seven students, is currently attending classes Monday

through Friday from 8 .m. to 5 p.m. Robin Zinsmeister, COA-Chowan campus administrator, said students range in age from 21

to about 65. The class size is smaller than COA would like, but there are some factors — including the coronavirus pandemic — limiting the number of students. “We would love to be able to run larger cohort sizes,” Zinsmeister said, referring to groups of students in the program. “Some of that can be attributed to COVID.” Because of pandemic-related space limits, it’s hard to get into the N.C. Department of Motor Vehicles right now to get a commercial driver’s license permit — a requirement before students can attend the truck-driving program. Students have to wait for an appointment, Zinsmeister said. Another obstacle to larger class sizes is the program’s lack of equipment and class

options. The program currently has two trucks and two trailers. COA is actively pursuing more vehicles, Zinsmeister said. “What we would like to be able to do is to expand,” she said. “With COVID protocols, we have to be pretty careful about the number of people we put in the truck. We know that we need additional equipment to be able to continue to expand the program.” COA has applied for a grant from the Golden LEAF Foundation to purchase more equipment, as well as lighting for the unused airport runway that students use to practice driving trucks. Prospective employers have noted the need for drivers to know how to control a loaded truck, one in which the weight can shift while the

truck is climbing hills, rounding curves or making turns. COA is working to procure a flatbed trailer to help student drivers learn to control a loaded trailer. The standard trailer length is 53 feet. Breon said the truck driving program also needs to offer evening classes. “The current program is OK for those who are currently unemployed,” he said. “But for those who work, we need to give them the chance to work and then go to class in the evenings. We hope to get that going by the end of the year.” During the 10-week program, students usually complete their classroom work on Mondays and drive on the other four days a week. “When we’re in the

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See TRUCK, A8


THE DAILY ADVANCE SPECIAL SECTIONS, WEDNESDAY, MARCH 31, 2021

HEALTH & EDUCATION

A5

Schools to use lessons from pandemic year to chart new path Remote learning will remain a tool post-pandemic BY NICOLE BOWMAN-LAYTON Chowan Herald

The COVID-19 pandemic obviously caused a lot of disruptions over the past year, but none probably as wide-reaching as to K-12 education. After Gov. Roy Cooper announced the closing of schools in March 2020, schools were forced to quickly adapt from in-person classes to remote learning, then to a mix of in-person and remote learning, and now — following an agreement by Cooper and state legislators — to the potential for a full return to in-person classes in all grades. While those changes may seem dizzying, area education officials say they were also instructive, teaching lessons that will be helpful as they chart a new course for schools in the coming years. To ensure Edenton-Chowan Schools students continued to receive an education after schools were closed, district officials had middle and high school students switch to remote learning using district-issued Chromebooks. The district issued lessons in paper packets to elementary school students. To make sure students who depended on school lunches still received them, the district deployed its fleet of school buses to carry meals into neighborhoods. During the summer of 2020, the district adopted a hybrid learning system that included both in-person and remote classes, and gave parents the option of choosing which was best for their child. The district’s two elementary schools began offering both in-person learning five days a week and a remote option, while the district’s middle and

CHRIS DAY/THE DAILY ADVANCE

Tenth-graders in teacher Cynthia Ramsey’s mathematics 2 class at Camden County High School work on assignments, Friday, March 12.

high schools offered a hybrid of in-person and virtual instruction, as well as virtual learning. Superintendent Michael Sasscer said the pandemic forced the district to take a hard look at what it could control and what it couldn’t, and then choose the best response possible. “For teachers, it’s our instructional practices,” Sasscer said, referring to what the district decided it could control. “I think to gain confidence and really to seize control of this moment in time, it was recognizing the need to embrace the digital world. What may have been choice in years prior, now all of a sudden became necessity.” He commended Edenton-Chowan teachers for fully embracing the new digital tools for teaching online and combining them with what they were already doing in the classroom to give students the best chance to be successful under difficult circumstances. “I think our teachers approached this moment with a can-do spirit,” Sasscer said. “I think synchronous learning or

synchronous teaching is a wonderful example of that can-do spirit.” He said teachers provided a “great model of resiliency,” and it seems to have rubbed off on students. “Students are plugging in and engaging with classmates who are either faceto-face or in virtual relationships,” he said. “You can walk into a classroom and it feels like a voice is coming from the sky, because a remote learner will interject and share a thought or ask a question to the teacher. It’s really been this wonderful metamorphosis into this fluid and seamless environment where kids are learning both in brick and mortar and at home.” Like the Edenton-Chowan Schools, the Elizabeth City-Pasquotank Public Schools was able to move to remote learning quickly after schools were closed. According to spokeswoman Tammy Sawyer, students in grades 3-12 already had Chromebooks or iPads issued by the district while students pre-K through second grade could get a remote-learning device upon

request. All students were issued a device at the start of the current school year last August, she said. While the district encountered some challenges, it also realized some successes, Sawyer said. Several technology applications were implemented to improve online learning for students and staff. One thing that helped teachers do their jobs better were increased opportunities for professional development. “Very purposeful professional development on technology and technological resources has ... strengthen(ed) the ability of all teachers to teach in a hybrid environment,” said Tanya Turner, superintendent of Perquimans County Schools. “You will find teachers teaching students through in-person instruction while also those students who are remote simultaneously. It is pretty amazing to watch and to see students at home still included in the classroom community.” One educational practice that actually improved because of the pandemic was teacher collaboration.

While Perquimans teachers have long collaborated, the practice has become more focused and detailed at all grade levels, Turner said. Teachers worked together to build a “common learning management system” prior to the return to in-person classes in August, she said. The system became necessary because some students were choosing to remain remote learners and teachers wanted to ensure all students had the same access to lessons. “Students in all classrooms are receiving the same instruction regardless of the teacher because of the close collaboration, purposeful planning, and intentional sharing of resources,” Turner said. Because remote learning also required parents to play a larger role in their child’s education, ECPPS also held a number of technology-related information sessions for parents. “We added a new communication tool, ParentSquare, which is a district and schoolwide communication platform,” Sawyer said. “Additionally, our technology department implemented a technology help desk to provide additional support to parents throughout the day and after hours. The online help desk allowed parents to use a chat feature or to speak with technology team members for assistance.” ECPPS also constantly sought feedback from both parents and staff to learn what was working about remote learning and what wasn’t, and then make changes, Sawyer said. One of the key challenges to teaching students remotely is access to consistent internet. Chowan County, like much of rural North Carolina, contains areas where it’s hard or close to impossible to get reliable internet access. Because of the pandemic, the district had to find a way to bring

the classroom to students who were learning remotely. While the school district made WiFi available in school parking lots through its “park and learn” program, several community partnerships also helped by offering spaces where students could connect to the internet. “I think we have a community that’s incredibly caring, a community that’s resourceful, and a community that is willing to go all in to address a problem,” Sasscer said. “It was a combination of the community saying here’s what’s available, and here’s what we can make available to the school system, and the school system asking this is what we need. ... It’s just a great partnership.” Like Chowan County, Perquimans County also struggles with access to the internet. The Perquimans County Schools surveyed parents and discovered 30% of families struggle with internet connectivity issues. The district responded by purchasing internet hot spots and providing them to families who needed one. But with some students still living in Wi-Fi “deserts,” community partners also stepped in to help, Turner said. Inteli-Port, an internet provider in Hertford, established multiple internet connection points across the county, setting them up everywhere from churches to campgrounds. The full list of connection points for students was then published online. “Though some of the communication practices have been in place prior to COVID, the intentional efforts to make (internet) connections were more purposeful and deliberate given the urgency of the time,” Turner said. Like Sasscer, Turner credited community support for helping schools navigate the

See SCHOOLS, A8

E-Chowan, Camden move forward with new high schools Both districts plan to have new schools open in 2023 From staff reports

Camden County Schools and the Edenton-Chowan Schools are both proceeding with plans to build and occupy new high schools in 2023. The Edenton-Chowan Board of Education voted in early March to proceed with a hybrid design for phase I of a 148,389-squarefoot high school to replace the district’s aging John A. Holmes High School in Edenton. The design, created by the architecture firm LS3P Associates Ltd., will include features from the 1767 Chowan County Courthouse and the E.A. Swain Apartment complex in its front facade, and features from Edenton’s industrial past, including the former peanut factory and the Edenton Cotton Mill, in its back entrance. The front of the new school will be visible on Broad Street while the rear entrance will be visible from Oakum Street and the school’s athletic complex. The district plans to build the new school in two phases. Phase I, which will include administrative offices and a majority of the classroom space, is scheduled to cost $20 million and take place from January 2022 to April 2023. If completed on time, the district will move students into the new building between April and June 2023. Phase I is projected to cost $20 mil-

moved during Phase II of the project. The second phase, which will include additional classrooms, administrative spaces, the school’s auditorium, cafeteria and main and auxiliary gymnasiums, is scheduled to begin in September 2023 and continue to March 2025, with move in between March and May 2025. The phase also includes improvements to athletic and parking areas, such as moving tennis courts behind the school and re-configuring the parking lots by adding green space. A funding source for Phase II has yet to be determined. Chowan County voters defeated a referendum last November that would have increased the county’s sales tax rate by a quarter-cent. School officials had hoped to use revenue from the sales tax increase for the new school project. Voters in Camden County, however, did approve a referendum in November allowing the county to borrow $33 million for a new high school the Camden school district plans to build on a county-owned site off N.C. Highway 343. A $12.3 million state needs-based facility grant will help the county pay for the $45.3 million project. County officials expect commissioners will ARTIST’S RENDERINGS COURTESY LS3P ASSOCIATES LTD have to increase Camden’s tax rate by 10 cents to reThe Edenton-Chowan Board of Education has voted to use a hybrid of two designs tire the debt incurred by for the exterior of the new high school that will replace the current John A. Holmes High School in Edenton. The “Story 3” design (left) will be used for the school’s back the school project. The Camden Board of entrance and the “Story 1” design will be used for the new school’s front entrance. Education was poised in lion. Funding will come lion match from Chowan Holmes High School late March to approve a from $15 million in state County. would remain in place schematic design for the lottery funds and a $5 milThe current John A. during Phase I but be re- school project created by

Moseley Architects. Camden school officials’ timeline for the school project envisions breaking ground in May, completing site development from July to January, starting construction in November and completing the project in September 2023. Plans are to bid site grading for the project in late spring or as soon as the necessary permits are in place. County officials also said they’re working with the N.C. Department of Transportation to design the entrance to the school campus based on how busy traffic can be on N.C. Highway 343 North. School officials said the school will be built on one floor and feature “multiple learning centers” built around one core area. The design, which is geared toward project-based learning, is different from what was originally envisioned for the school because it incorporates input from teachers and school staff. Camden schools Superintendent Joe Ferrell said most of the project’s late design changes were to areas used for athletics and career and technical education. Rick Ott of M.B. Kahn Construction, the firm in charge of building the school, said recently Moseley Architects identified ways to save money in site development. Removing 92 parking spaces that aren’t really needed could save about $170,000, he said. And eliminating some of the internal roads or driveways could save around $119,000, he added.


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THE DAILY ADVANCE SPECIAL SECTIONS, WEDNESDAY, MARCH 31, 2021

HEALTH & EDUCATION

Green Saves Green eyes big year for environment Litter Sweep set for April, Love Your River Oct. 2 BY CHRIS DAY Multimedia Editor

A local environmental conservation group has several events planned this year to promote conservation and protect local waterways. “We’re gearing up to tackle our litter problem next month,” said Nita Coleman, secretary of Green Saves Green. Coleman, who lives in Elizabeth City, was referring to the organization’s Spring Litter Sweep, scheduled for April 10-24. The volunteer cleanup effort will coincide with the N.C. Department of Transportation’s litter campaign. “We will focus on some of the hot spots in the county with several group cleanups, and encourage everyone to pick up (litter) in their own neighborhoods,” Coleman said. Free kits will be available for residents to use to collect trash and other debris. In May, Green Saves Green will participate in a cleanup effort sponsored by U.S. Rep. Greg Murphy, R-N.C. Murphy, whose 3rd Congressional District includes Pasquotank County and northeastern North Carolina, announced in February that the Third District Spring Cleaning will take place Saturday, May 8. Coleman said on that day Green Saves Green will hold River Sweep, an effort that will focus on removing litter from the Pasquotank River and surrounding waters. Heavy rainfall in the month of February has created a sense of urgency to clean up

SUBMITTED GRAPHIC

Pictured is a planned site map of exhibitors, activities and events for the Love Your River festival, scheduled for this October.

area waterways. “The rain we’ve had this winter has washed a lot of litter into our wetlands, rivers and creeks,” Coleman said. “They really need a good spring cleaning.” Coleman is encouraging residents who own boats to participate in River Sweep. “If you have a boat or a kayak, please plan to take it out on May 8 and collect some litter,” she said. “If don’t have a boat, there are lots of places you can fish out litter from the shore. When you go fishing for trash, you never come home empty handed.” At the time Murphy announced the spring cleaning initiative, he said he got the idea while driving through the 3rd District. “While driving through the district my wife Wendy and I noted how our beau-

THE DAILY ADVANCE

Green Saves Green will again be seeking volunteers for its Spring Litter Sweep, scheduled for April 10-24. The volunteer cleanup effort will coincide with the N.C. Department of Transportation’s litter campaign.

tiful eastern North Carolina has a significant roadside trash problem, and we felt the need to address it,” the congressman said in a news

release in February. “I brag in (Washington) D.C. that we have the most beautiful district in the country and frankly, given the trash

problem we have, it is hard to keep saying that.” Murphy also said he had planned for a similar day to be held in 2020 but that day was canceled because of COVID-19 restrictions. Coleman said Green Saves Green is looking forward to both events and is hoping for a big turnout among residents. “Our volunteers tell us that picking up litter makes them feel good,” Coleman said. “It’s a great way to give back to your community.” Volunteers can begin signing up for Litter Sweep and River Sweep on Green Saves Green’s website on April 1. Another environmental issue that will remain a “major priority” for Green Saves Green this year is water quality, Coleman said. “Our RiverKeepers group will be sampling area rivers and creeks monthly again this year, from May through October,” she said. “During the warmer months, we ask everyone to keep their eyes on the water and report any fish kills or blue-green algal blooms immediately. It’s going to take all of us to protect our water quality and keep our region a beautiful place to live, work and play.” Blue-green algal blooms contain cyanobacteria that may also have toxins that can cause serious health issues for humans and animals. Green Saves Green also has adopted the Fenwick Hollowell Wetland Trail and Boardwalk at College of The Albemarle. The trail is located behind the Elizabeth City campus and runs along the Pasquotank River. “We will be partnering with the COA Foundation and the Rotary Club to help monitor,

maintain and improve the trail,” Coleman said. After being postponed twice because of the pandemic, Green Saves Green has rescheduled its Love Your River event for Saturday, Oct. 2. According to Coleman, almost 50 organizations, groups and agencies have signed up to host exhibits. Several examples of the registered participants include Albemarle Conservation and Wildlife Chapter, Citizen Climate Lobby, Coastal Kayak Touring Co., Elizabeth City Police Department, Edenton National Fish Hatchery, N.C. Coastal Land Trust, N.C. State Parks. The U.S. Coast Guard, Elizabeth City Fire Department, Pasquotank County Solid Waste, Elizabeth City State University and other businesses and groups will host outdoor displays. Children’s activities will be provided by Dear Alchemy, Albemarle-Pamlico National Estuary Partnership, Port Discover, and several more businesses and organizations. Student also will have the opportunity to participate in several Love Your River activities, including an art contest for children in grades 3-5. There will be a creative writing and poetry contest for students in grades 9-12, plus a science challenge for children in grades 6-8. Love Your River also will feature food trucks and waterfront activities, such as pontoon boat rides, fishing, a wetlands walk, sailing and more. Coleman welcomes residents to join Green Saves Green to get involved in local projects. To learn more about the organization, visit it online at greensavesgreen.org.


THE DAILY ADVANCE SPECIAL SECTIONS, WEDNESDAY, MARCH 31, 2021

*Based on the Fall 2019 average cost per credit hours for UNC Schools vs. COA’s average, in-service area cost.

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THE DAILY ADVANCE SPECIAL SECTIONS, WEDNESDAY, MARCH 31, 2021

HEALTH & EDUCATION

TRUCK

Continued from A4

classroom, there are 35 chapters in the textbook,” Breon said. “We go over every chapter, have 35 quizzes for each chapter and a final test at the end.” Breon set up stations on the runway at Northeastern Regional Airport that have specifications matching those on the CDL test offered by NCDMV. Students practice shifting gears, making difficult turns, four types of parking and other maneuvers for four to five weeks before they are allowed to start practicing on roads. COA’s trucking driving program is open to anyone 18 and older. However, graduates can’t use their commercial driver’s license in states besides North Carolina until they’re 21, Breon said. COA’s program costs $575, while most commercial driver’s license classes at a community college cost about $8,000, Breon said. Zinmeister said there are currently a number of scholarship programs for students, including the GEAR, or Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund, program which is part of the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act passed by Congress. The GEAR scholarship will pay the cost of tuition

ARHS

Continued from A2

go a long way in recognizing our efforts.” Technology also has a hand in helping ARHS to manage the many services it provides. “Telehealth services have helped increase access to ARHS services,” Underhill said. “Being able to integrate telehealth has been a lifeline for our programs, including behavioral health and has allowed for increased patient contacts.” Since March, residents have been urged to take

AGRICULTURE Continued from A3

others are with agricultural equipment companies or in other areas such as greenhouse management. “It’s diverse,” Buabeng said of students’ career paths. “Right now I know about three students who are already in there,” referring to the agriculture program at NCSU. Other students are likely to follow that route next year, he said. “We do hope to see the number increase,” he said. Dylan Woodley, a student the COA agribusiness program, hopes to work fulltime for Nutrien, a company

and books for the truck driving course, Zinmeister said. There are no income requirements for receiving the scholarship, she said. “We encourage everyone to apply because we’re wanting to move them through the program,” she said. “If someone is sitting at home and thinking ‘Oh, I’d love to try it, but I can’t pay for it.’ We have scholarships right now.’” Zinmeister said she believes only one COA student has had to pay out of pocket for the trucking driving course so far. Ray Godfrey, who retired from the Coast Guard in January, said he was looking for something to do during his retirement. So he enrolled in COA’s truck driving program. “I had not even been in a cab until this class,” said Godfrey, who lives in Elizabeth City. “I already know how to back up and do off-set parking. I think around the fourth or fifth week, we’ll be on the road. For going from zero experience to being to this point is very impressive. Breon said three female students have taken the class so far. Women make up about 11% of all truck drivers in the industry. Marlene Pippen, an Elizabeth City resident who is originally from Hertford, is among the program’s current group of students. Pippen’s husband has been driving a truck for 27 years. She used to ride certain measures to help reduce the spread of the novel coronavirus, the virus that causes the respiratory disease COVID-19. Those steps include frequent hand washing, maintaining a safe distance of at least six feet from other people and not venturing outside the home more than necessary. “Good hygiene and hand washing are fundamental public health practices proven to reduce the spread of viruses,” Underhill said. “Increased community education on the importance of hand washing he interned with last summer and will work part-time for this summer. “I chose this program because I grew up in a farming community and have always been interested in agriculture,” Woodley said. “I enjoy working outdoors and enjoy the ‘science’ part of the job, taking soil samples, etc. This program has taught me so much about all the aspects of farming, including animal science and the business management side of it.” Woodley said Buabeng is very knowledgeable and great at helping students learn what is needed to be successful. “I live in Creswell, and my hope is to have a job here and

along with him and hopes to continue doing so after she graduates — as an equal driving partner. “I got my permit 17 years ago, then I found out I was pregnant with our youngest son,” she said. “This time, I am determined to get my license.” Zinmeister said CDL testers at NCDMV have complimented COA-Chowan’s program, saying its graduates are very well prepared for the test. The DMV likes the COA-Chowan program so much, they were considering using it as a testing site, Breon said. However, it was too far from the local NCDMV office that offers commercial licensing. Breon recently attended a weeklong program offered by NCDMV to get the COA-Chowan campus certified as a third-party testing site. The COA site will be inspected by the N.C. Department of Transportation and must be in operation for six months before it can earn the certification. “The great thing about that is our students are able to test at our site and don’t have to wait in line again,” Zinmeister said. “If you need to test at a DMV site, you have to apply for an appointment. Depending on the time of year and how many people are applying, there can be a backlog. We want to clear that pathway for our students.” to prevent the spread of COVID-19 has changed people’s behavior and actions.” Underhill is hopeful that residents will continue to realize the benefits of these measures well after the pandemic has ended. “I think people have also seen the importance of staying home when they are sick and how important that measure is in preventing the spread of infections,” she said. “Increased awareness of staying healthy has hopefully changed the way we lead our lives and has created healthier habits.” stay close to home,” he said. Carissa Bobko, a student in the program from Elizabeth City, will graduate after completing a summer semester at COA this year. “After graduation, I plan on gaining more work experience and hands-on knowledge in a greenhouse work setting,” Bobko said. Bobko’s career goal is to own her own business — probably a greenhouse operation. “I knew I wanted to study agriculture in college but I selected College of The Albemarle’s agriculture program because it was affordable and close to home,” Bobko said. “I also wanted to help build a foundation

ECSU

Continued from A4

school and flight school after my graduation from ECSU.” Zakary Stewart, another aviation science student, said most of his peers in the program want to become airline pilots. Others want to be charter pilots and some from a strong religious background want to be mission pilots. Some students also are preparing for positions in airport management or administrative positions with airlines, he said. Sophie Runyon, another aviation science student, said her concentration is aviation management and she hopes to become an airport manager or airline executive. She said about half her courses are in aviation and half are in business administration. “What brought me to

SCHOOLS

Continued from A5

pandemic. “The community support has been so overwhelmingly positive, it can do nothing but lift you up,” she said in an interview with ednc.org. One lesson Edenton-Chowan Schools has learned from the pandemic is the power of choice and how an individualized approach to learning better serves students. “I think when the face coverings come off, choices are still going to be present and personalization is still going to be a desired outcome of what we can achieve with virtual instruction,” Sasscer said.

HOSPITAL

Continued from A2

in state tax revenues and $169,000 in local tax revenues. When the new hospital opens it will also open up an economic development for the new program in my hometown.” Bobko said Buabeng is “extremely helpful and makes the courses enjoyable.” She added that she appreciates local farmers and organizations that have made donations to the growing agribusiness program. A lifelong Pasquotank resident, Bobko is interested in possibly working elsewhere in the U.S. But she does hope to complete an internship locally. According to Buabeng, the COVID-19 pandemic might have hurt enrollment in the program somewhat this past year. But he believes new avenues, including a career pathway pro-

PHOTO COURTESY ECSU

The Viking II is one of the training aircraft in Elizabeth City State University’s aviation science program.

this program was the cost,” Runyon said, noting ECSU’s aviation program is incredibly affordable. Stewart noted ECSU has the only four-year aviation science program in the state. Runyon said she appreciates that ECSU is a close-knit school with opportunities for regular interaction with instructors. Alethia Hudson said the instruction is never rushed and is focused on

the needs of the individual student. Stewart is slated to graduate in May, Runyon expects to graduate in 2022 and Hudson in 2024. All the students said they appreciate the program’s focus on safety. Hudson, who wants to become an airline pilot, transferred in about 30 hours of credit that she earned in high school through dual enrollment at Central Piedmont Community College.

“I think it’s hard to envision a path forward that’s grounded by the past,” he continued. “So to say we may go back to something, I think we’d rather say, ‘What do we learn from in the path that can be taken into the future? And what does that future look like?’ I think choices going to be present.” Sasscer sees endless possibilities from a new education model that includes remote learning if staff have an open mind. “I do think we’ve got some creative individuals,” he said. “We have those who want to innovate and design a new way of public education. So I do think there’s an opportunity here to begin those conversations.”

Sawyer also sees remote instruction being a tool for school districts moving forward, particularly when schools are forced to close for inclement weather or other reasons. “The ability to teach and learn remotely will benefit schools and families moving forward,” she said. “ECPPS is currently exploring virtual learning opportunities for the 2021-22 school year.” Turner also is optimistic about the future. “We will continue to strive for improvement as we work through the pandemic,” she said. “We have learned many lessons that will allow us to be even more effective once school life returns to normal.”

opportunity for the county. Pasquotank officials have not yet begun discussing in detail what the county will do with the current hospital once the new SAMC opens. But County Manager Sparty Hammett said the location “will present an excellent redevel-

opment opportunity for a “mixed-use” waterfront development. “The property’s size and location along North Road Street provides a unique opportunity to revitalize the northern entryway into Elizabeth City,” Hammett said.

gram in cooperation with area high schools, will help attract more students. Students also are growing more accustomed to online instruction or a mix of in-person and online classes, he notes “Now students are getting used to the online classes and the blended classes,” Buabeng said. “So we are envisioning a higher enrollment rate for next year with online classes and blended classes.” Last year’s sudden transition to remote learning was not an easy one. “When we shifted most of our classes online it was a challenge,” Buabenf said. “But now they are figuring out how to take the class-

es online. They are getting comfortable with that.” But some students are very eager to take in-person classes, he said, and now there are again some in-person options. Buabeng said currently he is teaching three classes in person; he’s teaching others online. The program’s growth is likely to accelerate once more classes are available in person, he said. “It is growing gradually,” Buabeng said, adding the growth likely will speed up once the pandemic is under control. “There is so much that we want to do with this program,” Buabeng said.

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THE DAILY ADVANCE SPECIAL SECTIONS, WEDNESDAY, MARCH 31, 2021


2021

PROGRESS ENC

INSIDE ■ COVID slowed most, but not all

■ Avangrid, Apex move forward with wind development in 2020, Page B2 energy projects, Page B5 ■ Downtowns continued to grow, revitalize ■ Biggs to join Nissan by adding amid virus, Page B3 e-vehicles to inventory, Page B6 ■ Outdoor tourism flourishing in region ■ PAL’s new center to raise visibility, despite COVID-19, Page B4 Page B7


B2

THE DAILY ADVANCE SPECIAL SECTIONS, WEDNESDAY, MARCH 31, 2021

BUSINESS & INDUSTRY

COVID slowed most, but not all development in 2020 SAS moved into commerce park, RC Theatres opened BY PAUL NIELSEN Staff Writer

The COVID-19 pandemic put the brakes on economic development in Pasquotank County in 2020, the city and county’s interim economic developer says. National trade shows and conventions where local officials could pitch the county to new companies were canceled last year because of the pandemic. On average, there are three to four major trade shows every year. “It’s been fairly quiet for marketing opportunities,” said Scott Hinton, interim director of the Elizabeth City-Pasquotank County Economic Development Commission. “It has been fairly slow but we have responded to a couple of requests for information.” But not all economic development stalled in the county last year because of the pandemic. A New Yorkbased seal and gasket manufacturer purchased what was the last unoccupied building at the Pasquotank Commerce Park during the pandemic. SAS Industries paid $1.6 million for the building and completely renovated the 41,000-square-foot facility. The company now employs five people. The building, which sits on seven acres, was formerly occupied by security services training company Blackwater, which is now known as Academi and based in Moyock. Construction of the new Elizabeth City location of Hwy 55 Burgers, Shakes

CHRIS DAY/THE DAILY ADVANCE

Construction on the new Elizabeth City location of Hwy 55 Burgers, Shakes and Fries is seen Monday, March 15. The new location is being built at 3870 Patrick Way between Plaza Azteca and Tidal Wave Car Wash and will feature a 3,375 square-foot restaurant with drive-through and outdoor seating. Hwy 55’s current location is at 103 Tanglewood Parkway near the Wal-Mart Super Center.

CHRIS DAY/THE DAILY ADVANCE

The concession area of RC Theatres’ new Albemarle Movies 8 theaters in Elizabeth City is seen Thursday, Feb. 25, the day before the eight-theater movie complex’s official opening.

and Fries has begun. The popular burger restaurant is moving from its current location at 103 Tanglewood

Parkway to a larger, standalone restaurant at 3870 Patrick Way, between Plaza Azteca and Tidal Wave Car

Wash. The new location will feature a 3,375 squarefoot restaurant with drivethrough service and outdoor seating. The airport authority also recently announced that construction for a $3 million upgrade at the regional airport will start this summer. Hinton said that will further help to attract business to the county. “When somebody is thinking about building here, it’s their first impression when they come through the airport,” Hinton said. Another large economic development project that will be moving forward is Sentara Healthcare’s new 110-bed hospital at Halstead Boulevard Extended and Thunder Road,

scheduled for completion in 2024. Sentara plans to build the $158 million facility to replace the 60-yearold Sentara Albemarle Medical Center — formerly known as Albemarle Hospital — on North Road Street. Two other medical office buildings housing a radiation oncology and cancer care center and other outpatient services will also be built on the site, hospital officials have said. One economic development project that recently opened is one local moviegoers have been waiting for for some time: RC Theatres’ Albemarle Movies 8 complex off Halstead Boulevard Extended. The Albemarle Movies 8 complex, which features eight the-

aters, including one with a 50-foot-wide and 30-foottall screen opened in February. One other major construction project was completed in Elizabeth City last year. The 64,000-square-foot commercial complex on Conlon Way was completed in the fall and is occupied by three stores: Aspen Dental, T-Mobile and the city’s second Great Clips location. The complex was built by the Miami-based FRONTIER company and is owned by a FRONTIER subsidiary, Elizabeth City Tanglewood LLC. One project that didn’t move forward in 2020 is N.C. State Employees’ Credit Union’s proposed new facility off Halstead Boulevard Extended. The credit union announced plans in fall 2019 to build a larger facility to replace its aging and smaller facility off Halstead Boulevard but did not set a time table for its construction. A spokeswoman for the credit union recently said there is no updated time table for the new credit union’s construction. COVID travel restrictions for state and local governments as well as for some private businesses are still in place. Hinton, who is also manager of Elizabeth City Regional Airport, said that has put a pause on scheduling future trade shows. “In my job in the Division of Aviation, they are still not traveling,” Hinton said. “Until government bodies start allowing employees to travel a little bit more, who else is going to attend? Zoom only works so well. It’s better to make that initial contact when you can talk with people face-toface.

Currituck Station development begins with Tractor Supply Buffalo City Distillery starts distillery project in Harbinger BY PAUL NIELSEN Staff Writer

MOYOCK — Development at the long-anticipated Currituck Station in Moyock is underway. Tractor Supply Company recently broke ground for a store at 166 Caratoke Highway in Moyock that is expected to open later this year. Tennessee-based Tractor Supply touts itself as the nation’s largest retail farm and ranch store chain and the company operates 1,923 stores in 49 states. Currituck Station is a long-term economic development mixed-use project planned on around 3,500 acres along the west side of N.C. Highway 168 near the Virginia border. The project calls for a mix of residential, retail, commercial and en-

tertainment uses. Currituck Economic Development Director Larry Lombardi said residential development at the site is “a couple years away” but that more commercial development could happen sooner. “There are things in the works,” Lombardi said. “Hopefully, in a few months, we will have another announcement for Currituck Station on the commercial side.” The construction of the first tenant in Currituck Station is part of a trend of economic development that continued in the county despite the COVID-19 pandemic. Residential development, especially in the northern part of the county, remains strong and several other businesses are moving forward with plans to set up shop. Buffalo City Distillery has broken ground for a liquor distillery in the southern part of Currituck in Har-

PAUL NIELSEN/THE DAILY ADVANCE

Construction work gets underway at the new Tractor Supply store site at 166 Caratoke Highway at Currituck Station in Moyock. Currituck Station is a long-term economic development mixed-use project planned on 3,500 acres along the west side of N.C. Highway 168 near the Virginia border.

binger and an industrial laundry facility is set to break ground in the Maple Commerce Park near the airport in the next couple of months. “We have a few other projects down in the south-

ern end that will be industrial-based type stuff,” Lombardi said. Lombardi noted that a lack of existing commercial buildings in the county requires “new builds.” “Fortunately for us, we

have been doing OK,” Lombardi said of development during the pandemic. “Business has been good and continues to be good. The construction side of it, the trades, they have been going crazy. It really hasn’t slowed down and businesses are still looking to expand.’’ A few weeks before Currituck declared a state of emergency last March because of the pandemic, the county Board of Commissioners landed the Maple Commerce Park’s first tenant, agreeing to sell 4.4 acres to Brindley Beach Vacations for $163,000. There are 11 sites at the commerce park. Brindley Beach, one of the largest vacation property management companies on the Outer Banks, had planned to open an industrial-size laundry facility this summer on the site to wash sheets, towels and other linens for the more than 600 properties it manages.

But the pandemic pushed those plans back several months and Lombardi said Brindley Beach should break ground for its 8,000-squarefoot facility in the coming months. Once open, the facility is expected to employ around 15 people. “That project is back on,” Lombardi said. Lombardi also said that Currituck could benefit from development of wind farms off the coasts of North Carolina and Virginia that will be producing energy by 2024. One wind farm will be off the coast of Virginia Beach while a second will be off Kitty Hawk. There are more than 6,000 components in an offshore wind turbine, Lombardi said. “That is a target for sure,” Lombardi said. “It will be some manufacturing, some assembly, a combination of things. It would be secondary suppliers.”

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THE DAILY ADVANCE SPECIAL SECTIONS, WEDNESDAY, MARCH 31, 2021

BUSINESS & INDUSTRY

B3

Downtowns continued to grow, revitalize amid virus Ghost Harbor opens taproom, apartments eyed at ex-ECMS BY PAUL NIELSEN Staff Writer

Months before the COVID-19 pandemic hit in March 2020, Ghost Harbor Brewing owners Thomas and Tabitha Reese announced plans to turn a vacant building just across from its original location in Paulin’s Alley on Colonial Avenue into a new taproom. Some of the original taproom would be used to increase craft beer productions while the rest would be used as a second seating location. Little did the Reeses know that five months later their brewery would be all but shut down because of the pandemic. But COVID only slowed Ghost Harbor’s expansion plans and in early March the new taproom opened. The brewery is one of several

CHRIS DAY/THE DAILY ADVANCE

Heather Tjader (left) and Kevin Bartholomew celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with friends at Ghost Harbor Brewing in Elizabeth City, Wednesday, March 17.

Cozy Carolina Boutique, Harbour Hair and Hayley’s Skincare Goals. A bartender slices lemons at 2 Souls Wine Bar a few days after it opened for Party in the Box for Kids business on East Main Street in early March. 2 Souls Wine Bar offers an extensive outgrew its downtown locawine list, charcuterie and beer. tion and expanded outside downtown businesses that Other new businesses Wine Bar, Bijoux Vibes, Jen- downtown but the owners either expanded or opened that opened downtown in nings and Jones Bargain opened Posh Tots Boutique during the pandemic. the last year include 2 Souls Outlet, The SweetEasy, in that downtown space. PAUL NIELSEN/THE DAILY ADVANCE

Big Boss Burritos opened just before pandemic hit but recently expanded into a space next door that includes a bar and a sit-down dining area. Elizabeth City Pizza Com-

See DOWNTOWN, B8

Buyers from larger cities drive housing sales boom Many want quieter place to work from home, raise kids BY CHRIS DAY Multimedia Editor

Last year, at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, area real estate agents began seeing signs of a surprising upward trend in home sales. Since March 2020, it seems homes have been selling as fast as they can be listed. In March of most years, U.S. Coast Guard families rotating in and out of the

Elizabeth City area spark a streak in home sales. But it wasn’t Coast Coast families driving real estate activity in 2020. “These are not Coast Guard families and that’s what’s been different for us,” said Terry Wilson, an agent for Hall and Nixon Real Estate and president of the Albemarle Area Association of Realtors. Families from out of state, some as far away as Oregon, are leading the surge in area home buying. These new residents are coming from states where housing is

more expensive and homes sell for much more money than what they’d pay for a house in northeastern North Carolina, Wilson explained. “That housing dollar is going a lot further for them” in the Albemarle, she said. The surge in sales is being experienced by real estate companies throughout the region. “Across the board, everybody is seeing the same thing,” says Realtor Diana Gardner, also of Hall and Nixon and a past president

CHRIS DAY THE DAILY ADVANCE

Terry Wilson, a real estate agent with Hall and Nixon Real Estate, shows a home in the 400 block of Cedar Street to potential investors, Thursday, March 11. Wilson, president of the Albemarle Area Association of Realtors, says families from out of state, some as far away as Oregon, are leading the surge in area home buying.

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B4

THE DAILY ADVANCE SPECIAL SECTIONS, WEDNESDAY, MARCH 31, 2021

BUSINESS & INDUSTRY

Outdoor tourism flourishing in region despite COVID-19 Bertie Beach, Cashie tree houses draw visitors to Windsor BY THADD WHITE Bertie Ledger-Advance

WINDSOR — While tourism overall has struggled over the past year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, there is one part of the industry that’s continued to attract visitors: outdoor tourism. Social distancing rules imposed to stop the spread of the coronavirus closed many indoor attractions and either canceled or restricted the size of large, outdoor events. The rules didn’t affect as much, however, those outdoor activities that can be enjoyed either alone or with several people. “I think the wonderful thing about outdoor tourism — especially over the past year — is you can do it alone or in small groups and it’s easy to social distance,” Windsor/Bertie County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Lewis Hoggard said. “Bertie County, like other counties in eastern North Carolina, has been blessed by its natural resources and it has made outdoor tourism a calling card for us.” Currituck County and Pasquotank County-Elizabeth City have likewise seen outdoor tourism thrive in a time when much of the industry has struggled. Michelle Ellis of the Currituck Tourism Development Authority said last year’s cottage and hotel bookings exceeded the year before by 26 percent, and that the tourism season, which usually runs from the third week of June until the second week of October, actually began in April or May and extended

LESLIE BEACHBOARD/BERTIE LEDGER-ADVANCE

Bertie Beach, a huge county-owned 150-acre natural beach along the Albemarle Sound, has become a draw not only for local residents, but those in neighboring communities as well.

Elizabeth City, the tourism agency for Elizabeth City and Pasquotank County, is getting a higher volume of calls seeking information about the city’s harbor. In Bertie, there are three main draws for outdoor tourism — all of which seem to be gaining more interest as COVID-19 cases continue to decline. One is Bertie Beach, a huge county-owned 150-acre natural beach along the AlbemarTHADD WHITE/BERTIE LEDGER-ADVANCE le Sound. The beach-front property, which Bertie purVisitors take a look inside one of the tree houses at the Cashie Tree House Village along the Cashie River in chased in 2016, has become a draw not only for local resWindsor. The village was closed for three months last idents, but those in neighyear because of the COVID-19 pandemic but reopened after town officials developed a plan for sanitizing units boring communities as well. between visitors. “It started off as a place for those who don’t live on through November. summer season. the river to have a place to Ellis said early indicaBreanna Brower of Vis- go out and enjoy the rivtions are that more than it Elizabeth City said the er,” Bertie Board of Com80 percent of all possible city’s waterfront parks missioners Chairwoman bookings on the Currituck and marinas helped spur Outer Banks have already a “big uptick” in outdoor been rented for the coming activities. She said Visit

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Tammy Lee said. “It has grown exponentially from there and we hear nothing but great things from those who visit Bertie Beach.” Last year, even in the midst of the pandemic, Bertie Beach remained open and saw 600 visitors flock to the river each week. Bertie Commissioner Ron Wesson, whom Lee gives much of the credit for seeing the beach’s potential, sees it not just as an economic development tool, but also as a way to make the lives of Bertie citizens better. “Most people think of economic development as brick and mortar, but it can be more than that,” Wesson said. “When we saw this property, it was obvious that we could not only improve the lifestyle of our citizens by providing this place for them, but we could also drive tourism to Bertie County. “Fortunately, it is working in both ways,” he continued. “As we provide places to camp on the site, I think the economic benefits will become even greater than they already are at this point.” Another popular outdoor tourism attraction in Bertie is the Cashie Tree House Village, which is built along the Cashie River. Windsor Town Administrator Allen Castelloe said the Tree House Village was closed for about three months last year as the town developed a plan for sanitizing the four units between visitors. However, visitors flocked back to the tree houses as soon as they were reopened. “We have had no issues,” he said. “The tree houses are about as good a place

to go to social distance as you could ask for.” The tree houses are just part of the outdoor attractions in Windsor. Another, the Livermon Park and Mini Zoo, has been drawing crowds to Windsor for nearly three decades. The zoo features 12 types of birds and 11 different animals — including donkeys, mini-horses, three kinds of goats, llamas, alpacas, zebra, Jacob sheep, cows, buffalo and emus. The birds include turkeys, peacocks, four types of pheasants, guineas, pigeons and doves. “Our biggest draw in the zoo area are the buffalo and the zebra,” said Windsor Commissioner Cathy Wilson, who oversees the park. “In addition, the playground equipment, pavilion and grills bring people out to spend the day.” The Livermon Park also features a wetlands walk. The Cashie Wetlands Walk is a boardwalk trail through a portion of the Cashie wetlands. Many species of plants are labeled and visitors can learn the important role wetlands play in the environment. Mayor Jim Hoggard said outdoor tourism in Windsor didn’t just happen; it’s long been a priority for the town’s governing board. He said planning began with the Roanoke River Mayors Association and continued through a working relationship with East Carolina University in Greenville. “It is certainly an avenue of economic development and is easier than getting a big factory or something to locate here — although we need that too,” he said. “We have plans to continue

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THE DAILY ADVANCE SPECIAL SECTIONS, WEDNESDAY, MARCH 31, 2021

BUSINESS & INDUSTRY

B5

Avangrid, Apex move forward with wind energy projects Avangrid’s 104-turbine farm in Pasquotank turned 4 in Feb. BY CHRIS DAY AND MILES LAYTON Staff writers

A little more than four years ago, Amazon Wind Farm US East began operations in Pasquotank and Perquimans counties. The same renewable energy company that built the Amazon facility plans to build a similar site off the coast of northeastern North Carolina. Avangrid Renewables began operation of its $600 million Amazon site in 2016. The 208-megawatt wind farm occupies about 22,000 acres spread across western Pasquotank and eastern Perquimans counties, but the facility’s 104 turbines and supporting infrastructure actually take up about 250 acres. The turbines are nearly 500-feet tall and began transmitting power to Dominion Power’s transmission line in December 2016. In July 2015, former North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory’s office announced that online retailer Amazon would purchase the power produced at the local site. The retailer uses the roughly 670,000 megawatt hours of power annually generated by the wind farm to power its data center for its Amazon Web Services. Avangrid Renewables’ latest project involves construction of an offshore wind farm off the Outer Banks. That’s according to a PBS North Carolina report from February. The Kitty Hawk Offshore Wind Project will cover more

SUBMITTED PHOTO

The 104-turbine Amazon Wind Farm US East in Pasquotank and Perquimans counties started its fourth year of producing energy in February. Avangrid Renewables, which owns Amazon US East, is planning to build a wind facility off the coast of Kitty Hawk that will generate enough energy to power 700,000 homes. Apex Clean Energy Inc. is also moving forward with plans for its $300 million Timbermill Wind project in Chowan County. It’s expected to generate $30 million in tax revenue over its 30-year lifespan.

than 122,000 acres about 27 miles east of Corolla, according to PBS. Construction is planned to begin in 2024. The Kitty Hawk project will be done in phases and when completed in 2030, should produce enough power to serve 700,000 homes, according to PBS. Local economic development officials like Larry Lombardi in Currituck County believe development of both the Kitty

Hawk wind farm and a second planned off the coast of Virginia Beach, Virginia, could benefit the local area. Noting there are more than 6,000 components in an offshore wind turbine, Lombardi sees the potential for part suppliers to locate jobs in places like Currituck. “That is a target for sure,” Lombardi said. “It will be some manufacturing, some assembly, a com-

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bination of things. It would be secondary suppliers.” Meanwhile, another renewable energy firm hopes to build a wind farm in Chowan County. Apex Clean Energy Inc. is moving forward with plans for its $300 million Timbermill Wind project. Natasha Montague, spokeswoman for Apex Clean Energy, said Timbermill Wind was granted a conditional use permit by Chowan County in No-

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vember 2016. The project hit a roadblock in July 2017 when state legislators approved an 18-month wind moratorium as part of House Bill 589, titled Competitive Energy Solutions for NC. The moratorium has since expired and Apex Clean Energy has resumed plans for the Timbermill site. “Over the next couple of years, several attempts were made on the state level to extend the wind

moratorium,” Montague said. “The Timbermill team worked diligently on the state level to prevent extensions of the wind moratorium. The wind moratorium expired in December 2018; now that it is not likely to be extended, we resumed work on the project.” Apex Clean Energy must next submit applications to the N.C. Utilities Commission for the certificates necessary to gain final approval for the project. Apex Clean Energy anticipates the Timbermill wind farm starting commercial operation in 2023. Over its projected 30year lifespan, the Timbermill project is expected to produce more than $30 million in tax revenue for Chowan County. By comparison, revenue produced from the land’s current use — agriculture and timber production — would be about $15,672 over the same 30-year period. The Timbermill project is expected to create 152 temporary construction jobs, as well as increase local spending during construction. The wind farm is projected to generate $20 million in economic output and $5.5 million in associated labor income. Once operational, Timbermill Wind is expected to employ 10 full-time workers to maintain the wind facility’s turbines. Magnum Economics released an economic impact study of the Timbermill Wind project last winter. The study can be viewed online at www.timbermillwind.com. At the home page, click on the economic impact study link located in the upper right corner.

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B6

THE DAILY ADVANCE SPECIAL SECTIONS, WEDNESDAY, MARCH 31, 2021

BUSINESS & INDUSTRY

Biggs to join Nissan by adding e-vehicles to inventory Dealership to install 4-8 electric charging stations BY REGGIE PONDER Staff Writer

Biggs Cadillac Buick GMC plans to begin selling electric vehicles next year, joining Nissan of Elizabeth City which has offered the electric-powered Leaf for more than a decade. “We’re going to be the trendsetter,” Rick Durren, vice president of the dealership, said of adding electric vehicles to the selection at Biggs. Durren explained that the staff is currently getting the dealership ready to sell electric vehicles. He said he’s meeting next month with Elizabeth City officials to discuss what the dealership needs in order to offer the vehicles. A company also plans to install between four and eight electric chargers for vehicles at the dealership,

he said. Another dealership in town, Nissan of Elizabeth City, has carried the electric Nissan Leaf since 2010. Hal Chappell of Nissan of Elizabeth City said the Leaf is the biggest-selling mass-produced electric vehicle in the world but has been a slow mover locally. That could change in the near future. Interest in electric vehicles appears to be growing. The Associated Press recently reported that opinion polls show that most Americans would consider an electric vehicle if it cost less, there were more charging stations along freeways, and if automakers offered a bigger variety of models. Durren said that by the end of the decade General Motors will offer 30 different models of electric vehicles. Beginning next year Biggs will sell two of those models — the Cadillac Lyriq and GMC Hummer.

PHOTO COURTESY BIGGS CADILLAC BUICK GMC

The Cadillac Lyriq is one of two models of electric vehicle Biggs Cadillac Buick GMC of Elizabeth City plans to offer starting next year. The Lyriq is one of 30 different models of electric vehicles General Motors plans to offer by the end of the decade. Biggs, which is currently preparing to sell electric vehicles, plans to install between four and eight electric chargers for vehicles at the dealership.

The dealership already has about 20 orders for electric vehicles, he said. But it will be sometime next year before Biggs gets its first electric vehicles. Durren said it will take the rest of the year to get the dealership ready to sell

electric vehicles. “It’s a pretty big process,” he said. But the dealership is excited about adding electric vehicles to its inventory. “It’s going to be a hot item,” Durren said. General Motors, Ford and

Volkswagen plan to spend a combined $77 billion developing global electric vehicles over the next five years, with models from pickup trucks to small SUVs, according to The AP. GM has gone so far as to announce a goal of ending gasoline- and diesel-fueled passenger vehicles entirely by 2035 – and to become carbon-neutral by 2040. The commitment comes with a risk. If American consumers reject electric vehicles for many years to come, companies would have no choice but to discount them and hope profits from gas vehicles would cover their costs until more buyers begin opting for electric vehicles. Steve Bock of Raleigh told The AP he considered buying an electric vehicle when he replaced his 2013 Honda Pilot — but then he decided otherwise. “I would consider it if the prices would come down,” Bock said. He also said he

was concerned about the availability of charging stations on longer trips. To ensure local electric vehicle buyers and visitors with electric vehicles have somewhere to recharge their car battery, Albemarle Electric Membership Corp. recently announced it plans to install a charging station at the McDonald’s in Elizabeth City’s Tanglewood shopping center. The cost of the station is being covered by a $74,534 rebate through the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality’s Division of Air Quality. Division officials recently announced the first rebates for “Level 2 charging projects” that are being funded by the NC Volkswagen Mitigation Settlement Program. Level 2 charging stations work much faster than Level 1 (120-volt) chargers. The city of Elizabeth City also operates a charging station for electric vehicles at Mariners’ Wharf Park.

Farming affected more by weather, economy than COVID Low commodity prices still farmers’ biggest challenge BY MILES LAYTON The Perquimans Weekly

While COVID-19 was affecting nearly every other kind of business in 2020, the pandemic had little impact on agriculture or agribusiness, area Cooperative Extension Service officials say. In fact, wet weather and the economy had more effect on the agricultural marketplace than the coronavirus, they say. Matt Leary, an Extension

agent in Chowan County, said farmers elsewhere may have experienced financial troubles because of the pandemic, but not in Chowan County. “I can’t say anything about other places, but there hasn’t been any farms that have had any serious issues due to the pandemic,” he said. “We don’t have any data on 2020 family farms at this time, but there is no knowledge of anyone going out of business.” According to N.C. Department of Agriculture statistics, there are 97 farms in Chowan County and a

Parks & Recreation Office

number of agribusinesses like C.A. Perry, Virginia Fork Produce, Triangle Chemical, Coastal Agrobusiness and Quality Equipment. Farmers didn’t really face any challenges in 2020 that weren’t considered “normal,” Leary said. He said normal challenges include low commodity prices, poor weather and yield-lowering pests. “There was concern that COVID would drive crop prices lower due to a decrease in demand, but as the year wore on into the fall and into 2021, crop prices actually went up,” Leary

Emergency Services Building

said. Prices increased mainly because there were fewer acres planted in 2020 because of poor weather, and that, plus the weather, resulted in yields being “down a little as well,” he said. Leary said agriculture was exempt from most of the restrictions put in place to combat COVID-19. Most row crop farming, after all, is performed with few personnel. For example, harvesting usually requires one person to operate the combine, one person to operate a tractor with a grain cart (or equiv-

alent device depending on the crop being harvested), and one to two people driving trucks and trailers back and forth either to the farm or the crop buyer. Each person in the operation works at some distance from the others. Even so, Chowan Cooperative Extension offered disposable/reusable masks and hand sanitizer to farmers to help them stay within COVID guidelines and decrease their risk of contracting the virus. “Due to the nature of farming, most row-crop farmers were able to harvest

their crops while applying COVID precautions,” Leary said. Dylan Lilley, an agricultural agent with the Perquimans center of Cooperative Extension, said farmers remain remarkably resilient regardless of the challenges they face. “I would say that the farming community as a whole does an amazing job of persevering through challenges this year and in previous years,” he said. “Whether it be low commodity prices, high input costs, weather

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Parks & Recreation Director – Howard Williams - 426-5695 Location: 310 Granby Street

Senior Citizen Center Coordinator – Beverly Gregory 426-5404 Location: 1072 Harvey Point Road

Courthouse Annex Sheriff’s Department – Shelby White - 426-5615 Magistrates – George Long & Drew Woodard 426-2201 Probation & Parole – 426-4780 or 426-7224 Location: 110 North Church Street

Cooperative Extension Agricultural Service – Jewel Winslow 426-5428 Family & Consumer Science Education & 4-H – 426-7697 Elections Office – Holly Hunter 426-5598 Soil Conservation – Janet Stallings & Jacob Peele 426-5545 Location: 608 Edenton Road Street

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Librarian - Michele Lawrence (252) 426-5319 Location: 310 Grandy Street

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Albemarle Commission Building Albemarle Commission – Michael Ervin Executive Director 426-5753 Farm Services Agency – Denise Gregory 426-5802 Location: 512 South Church Street USDA Rural Development – Travis Lassister – (252) 358-7836 Location: 305 Tyron Street, Winton, NC 27986

Social Services Director – Susan Chaney - 426-7373 Location: 103 Charles Street

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THE DAILY ADVANCE SPECIAL SECTIONS, WEDNESDAY, MARCH 31, 2021

BUSINESS & INDUSTRY

B7

PAL aims to raise visibility, upgrade services at new center

“The space we have is too small,” said Sanford. “It is not storefront.” Sanford, now in his third year as PAL’s president, believes moving into the new space on North Church Street will raise the arts group’s visibility and make people more aware of the organization, which was founded in 1995. “We were still not com-

pletely known,” he said. The new space will also bring the Perquimans Arts League “in line with other arts organizations in the community,” Sanford said, referring to arts councils in both Elizabeth City and Edenton, both of which are based in their own building. “We want our own space,” said Sanford.

Sanford said PAL bought the building at 133 North Church Street in 2017. Sanford said the building, which is located directly across from the Perquimans County Courthouse in the central part of town, is currently undergoing renovations. It needs plumbing, electricity and a heating and air system. He said those renovations are underway. “Our challenge was getting the money,” he said. Sanford said PAL secured a bank loan to finance the renovations but hopes to pay it off through a major capital campaign that will be announced soon. Anyone interested in donating to PAL to assist with the renovations can do so by visiting http://www.perquimansarts.org, he said. PAL has added a donation button to make donations easier. When renovations are complete, the new space on Church Street will allow PAL to put in new systems for lighting and hanging art. “We are really excited about the new lighting system,” said Sanford, noting it will help “do justice for our artists” by displaying their work better. The new space will also include a display case for art as well as a

replace better market prices. In April 2020, then-Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced the $19 billion Coronavirus Food Assistance Program would include direct support payments to farmers. While the assistance helped, it also didn’t replace good market prices, Lilley said. The weather didn’t cooperate in 2020 either, with farmers encountering a lot of rain during the growing season. “Planting conditions this

past growing season were a struggle,” Lilley said. “Cotton acreage was the lowest it’s been in quite a long time due to wet and cold planting conditions that either prevented growers from planting or left them with less-than-adequate plant stands after planting.” Farmers responded by planting soybeans instead. However, the wet conditions continued through June, resulting in fewer acres being planted — a situation Lilley described as “rare.”

The rainy weather also affected crop yields. “It’s hard to estimate crop yields but corn was probably average to maybe slightly below average in 2020, the cotton yield was below average in comparison with the past few years, and the soybean crop ended up being average to maybe a little above average,” Lilley said. Chicken farm operators were able to keep their businesses going through the pandemic, although their operations were affected

Local arts group moving into renovated Hertford building BY ANNA GOODWIN MCCARTHY Correspondent

HERTFORD — Local art lovers and visitors to Hertford’s downtown will soon be able to take a step from the sidewalk into a world of local art. The Perquimans Arts League is renovating a building at 133 North Church Street to serve as its future home. Arts League President Ed Sanford said renovations began in January and it’s his hope they’ll be completed by May. Sanford said the new location will provide more space for PAL, as well as make it more accessible to both locals and visitors. PAL’s current location at 109 North Church Street is just down the street. However, it’s located inside the Hall of Fame Building, meaning its arts gallery isn’t visible from the street. Visitors currently have to enter the Hall of Fame Building and pass by other businesses before reaching the gallery.

FARMING

Continued from B6

challenges, and more, they are incredibly resilient and find a way to get through.” Lilley said farmers’ biggest challenge over the past few years has been low commodity prices caused by high tariffs and trade disruptions resulting from the U.S.’ trade war with China. He said market facilitation payments in 2019 helped farmers to stay afloat but didn’t

SUBMITTED PHOTO

Renovations continue in the Perquimans Arts League’s new space at 133 North Church St., Hertford.

counter where art customers can make purchases. There also will be restrooms and a kitchenette. Sanford hopes the new space will attract even more artists to display their work with the arts group. “We need more diversity,” he said. “We want to reach out to people who have not been part of the arts community. ... We see our gallery as being a main building block” to creating more diversity in the arts. Because workrooms and office space will be located upstairs, the new space will also help PAL better accomplish one of its other missions: providing arts education and classes for children. Currently, PAL has to use space at the Perquimans County Recreation Center to hold workshops or classes. Sanford said it will be more cost effective for the arts group to use its own space for those purposes. “We will be able to operate workshops at much lower costs,” he said. Having the new space will also make art classes more accessible to children living in Hertford, Sanford said. They won’t have to get transportation to participate.

Sanford said he also foresees the new space serving as a venue for receptions and meetings, similar to the way other area arts organizations use their facilities. Sanford said PAL recently updated to a computerized point-of-sale system. All items for sale in the gallery are barcoded. Sanford said the new system allows for faster sales because customers don’t have to wait for handwritten receipts. The new system has also improved how PAL tracks its inventory. The gallery is currently open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Friday. For updated hours visit the PAL website or Facebook page. Sanford said the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the number of people who are available to volunteer with the organization. Sanford said PAL needs volunteers interested in assisting in the gallery, people with design and educational backgrounds and people who want to serve on its board. PAL also need volunteers who are familiar with technology to help assist with setting up online virtual meetings and classes. “There is always work to be done,” he said.

some because fewer flocks were arriving. “As far as COVID affecting day-to-day operations on the farm, farmers were able to continue their work without issues,” Lilley said. “Most of their work is able to be done in a safe manner.” Al Wood, agricultural agent for Cooperative Extension in Pasquotank County, also said COVID-19 didn’t have a major impact on farmers or the 120 farms in Pasquotank. Farmers

were still able to get out in the field, do their work and harvest their crops. “Things are looking a bit brighter and as we get past COVID, everything should be smoother sailing,” he said. Wood said though 2020 was a challenging year, the current year looks promising because crop prices are up. He said prices for various commodities have been down over the past four to five years because of weather and production and demand issues.

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B8

THE DAILY ADVANCE SPECIAL SECTIONS, WEDNESDAY, MARCH 31, 2021

OUTDOOR

Continued from B4

to grow and expand and make Windsor the center of outdoor recreation in the future.” While Bertie has made the most of its natural resources on the Inner Banks, two communities closer to the ocean have been doing the same. Known as the “Harbor of Hospitality,” Elizabeth City has drawn crowds to its harbor to enjoy the Pasquotank River. Those

DOWNTOWN Continued from B3

pany has reopened under new ownership, Heather Sawyer United Country Realty is in the process of expanding to a different downtown location and will change her business’s name to Water Street Realty. Prodigy Realty and the Whitney Young Law Firm are also expanding. Body Kinect Wellness is moving to Camden County but Sanctuary Design Company will be expanding from its current space upstairs in the Arcade to the location. More apartments are also coming to the downtown area despite the pandemic. Back in November, the county sold the old Elizabeth City

HOUSING

Continued from B3

of AAAR. “Other agencies are experiencing the same thing. We’re not unique in that.” According to Gardner, the new home-buyers represent all demographics but share one commonality: they are all seeking to escape big cities for rural parts of the country where they can enjoy a bit more privacy. “People want to be secluded,” Gardner said.

wishing to get out on the river can rent a kayak or a pontoon boat at Pelican Marina or have one delivered by Native Girl Kayaking. In addition, Charles Creek Park, located on Riverside Avenue, provides a pavilion, opportunities for fishing, and a boardwalk over a natural wildlife area. Brower said interest in those attractions and others, including outdoor dining, has been picking up in recent weeks and she believes they will continue as

more people get vaccinated, COVID-19 cases continue falling, and the weather gets warmer. While the N.C. Potato Festival, usually held in May, has been canceled this year, another large outdoor event — Love Your River — is scheduled to be held at the city’s waterfront on Oct. 2. Love Your River will encourage people to enjoy Elizabeth City’s waterways, learn why waterways and water quality are important, and discover ways to protect them. In Currituck, even the

beaches may not be as famous as the Corolla Wild Horses, which draw thousands to see them annually. The horses are descended from the Spanish Mustangs, which were brought to the Outer Banks by early explorers. The horses roam freely around Corolla and are usually found in the four-wheel drive areas of the county’s beaches. In addition, the Mackey Island National Wildlife Refuge on Knotts Island is popular with birdwatchers and nature watchers alike.

The visitor’s center provides information about birds found not only on the island, but all over Currituck. Ellis said outdoor activities in Currituck are already seeing some of the post-COVID bump many hope will come, but isn’t sure if the season will last as long this year. “It’s hard to tell if it will continue,” she said. “Most of our guests come from up north, so it will depend on what is happening there. We are already seeing early bookings for this year, so

we hope that will continue.” Castelloe is optimistic visitors will continue to see value in smaller, outdoor activities. “I think people are going to initially be skeptical of large crowds even as the pandemic dies down,” he said. “I think we will continue to see the boost in outdoor tourism because they’ll be skeptical of large crowds, but not as worried about being outdoors. It certainly could make a mini-vacation in a tree house more enticing.”

Middle School to J.D. Lewis Construction Management for $420,000. JDL plans to spend millions to renovate the property for between 70 and 84 apartments. Elizabeth City isn’t the only locality that saw new businesses in 2020 despite the pandemic. The following new businesses opened in Edenton last year: 3rd. & Badham Picture Framers, Down Home Sheds, Edenton IT-A Division of Eagle Horizon Group, Inc., Nebraska Plastics East and North No. 4. Thomas Reese said the first few months of the pandemic were “scary times” for the business. For several months, Ghost Harbor was limited to to-go beer only and when they finally reopened in late May it was at

reduced capacity of 50 percent, which is still currently in effect. “When the pandemic hit, we put everything on pause,” Reese said of the expansion plans. “We didn’t know what was going to happen. We had already signed the lease. We had two, 10-barrel fermenters that sat in storage for a year. We stopped all construction down there because we didn’t know what the future would hold.” While limited to opening for to-go orders only, Ghost Harbor started canning more craft beer while keeping the staff intact. Reese estimates that the brewery has canned about 20,000 16-ounce cans, which is all done by hand two cans at a time.

A COVID Payment Protection Plan loan from the federal government also helped. “We shifted our focus on canning,” Reese said. “We kept everybody’s pay the same. That (PPP) and the community’s support for beer to-go was big and we were able to weather that storm. We never anticipated that canning would carry our business.” Even with the new taproom open at 50-percent capacity, Reese said sales of four-packs of cans continues to be strong and that he may purchase an automated canning machine. “One silver lining is that this got us into canning,” Reese said. “We want to move our business forward with that. Canning was some-

thing we used to do for fun but now it is part of our revenue stream.” Construction on the new taproom resumed in July and the Reese’s did some of the renovation work themselves. “We had the time, and we saved some money,” Reese said. But the biggest help the couple received came from several customers, including Erik Wilson. “Very good carpenter, and he helped out a lot,” Reese said of Wilson. “He is someone I met here at the brewery and we became friends. He and I pretty much built that place.” The state and local governments anticipated a hit to sales tax revenue when the pandemic hit but in-

creases in sales tax distributions point to some retailers faring better than first anticipated. Pasquotank sales tax distributions for December 2020 were 23 percent, or $220,000 more, than the year before. The statewide distribution was up 19.5 percent in December 2020 as comparted to the year before. With three COVID-19 vaccines now available, Reese is hopeful things will soon return to normal. “You see the movie theaters reopening, concert series are being booked again for the summer,” Reese said. “Little things that you see like that, and while it is still scary, those indicators that you see provide some hope.”

“There is no pattern, except they’re leaving crowded areas.” One family from Arizona purchased a home in Heritage Shores Plantation in Perquimans County without having visited the house in person. Instead, they watched walk-through videos and viewed photos of the home online to make their decision, Gardner said. She cited other examples as evidence of the boom. In 2019, just one home listed above $500,000 in

Pasquotank County sold. That’s compared to nine homes listed above $500,000 that sold in 2020, Gardner said. In Camden County, 49 homes listed between $300,000 and $400,000 sold in 2019, compared to 97 in the same price range that sold in 2020. The situation was no different in Perquimans County, where the average listing price was $169,000 in 2019. Compare that to 2020 when the average price jumped to $234,000. Those include

homes in Albemarle Plantation, Gardner said. According to Gardner, there are usually more than 100 homes available for sale in Pasquotank at any given time. As of Thursday, Feb. 18, there were only 45 houses available for sale, and that limited supply stirs buyer competition. “We’re in multiple offer situations on several houses today,” Gardner said. “It’s a strange thing.” Other states people are moving in from include Ohio, Maryland, Pennsyl-

vania, South Carolina, Connecticut and Indiana. Many of the home-buyers say they’re moving here because they need for a place to work from home and to homeschool their children, Gardner said. Another reason people are interested in the Albemarle area is because it’s centrally located along the East Coast between New England and Florida, Wilson said. One buyer asked if they could raise chickens on their property, Gardner said.

Other perks for newcomers are lower taxes and waterfront access. The spike in home sales in early 2020 led to an increase in listing prices, which in turn motivated local homeowners who have family outside the area to sell their houses. “They are leaving to be near their family,” said Gardner, of why so many homes are becoming available for sale. “They’ve realized this is a good time to sell. They can sell quickly. So they are thrilled.”

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Progress 2021 - The Daily Advance  

Progress 2021 - The Daily Advance