01/01/07 — Goldsboro High, schools, Paramount top '06 news

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Goldsboro High, schools, Paramount top '06 news

By Dennis Hill
Published in News on January 1, 2007 1:49 PM

From staff reports

Wayne County residents will remember 2006 for what got saved and what almost got taken away as the threatened closure of Goldsboro High and the decision to rebuild the Paramount Theater topped the county's news stories for the year.

Here are the top 10 stories in the county in 2006:

1. GOLDSBORO HIGH SCHOOL THREATENED WITH CLOSURE: Superior Court Judge Howard Manning, charged with overseeing the improvements in the state's public schools, notified 19 high schools in March that unless they showed immediate improvement he would order them shut down when the fall semester began. Goldsboro High was among those named as under-performing. State School Board Chairman Howard Lee later said closing the school "was not an option." GHS opened on schedule after Manning decided not to close any of those targeted. The controversy was linked to the county school board's plans for a huge building program and the year-long tussle between the school board and the county commissioners over the issue.

2. PARAMOUNT THEATER WILL BE REBUILT: More than a year after the Paramount Theater burned, government and business leaders said it would be rebuilt. Businessman and civic leader David Weil revealed in August plans for reconstructing the downtown landmark, with support from both the public and private sectors. A month later, Mayor Al King announced that the project had been approved by the City Council and would soon be on the drawing board.

3. NEW CHERRY HOSPITAL TO BE BUILT: State Sen. John Kerr's pushing for a new facility to replace the aging Cherry Hospital was rewarded in July when Gov. Mike Easley signed a bill ordering the construction of a $145 million complex to house patients. In October, a design for the new hospital were revealed. It is expected to be completed by 2010.

4. LET THE GAMES BEGIN: On March 30, Wayne County, along with the rest of the state, embraced the lottery, with hundreds of people buying tickets at retail outlets from Fremont to Mount Olive. Statewide, more than $1 million in revenue was generated the first day. Since then, several people in the county have become big winners, the most noteworthy being eight employees of S&W Ready Mix, who split a $600,000 Powerball win in June.

5. LIGHTHOUSE'S FINANCIAL WOES LEAD TO CLOSURE: The Lighthouse of Wayne County, which had provided a respite for women and children who were the victims of abuse, was forced to shut its doors after discrepancies in its books turned up. Investigators are still trying to sort out the finances. Victims who had been living at the shelter have been shifted to shelters in neighboring counties.

6. BIG MARIJUANA FIELD DISCOVERED IN WESTERN WAYNE: Detectives flying in the Wayne County Sheriff's Department helicopter spotted a several fields of marijuana in June off Black Church and Ferry Bridge roads that contained more than 15,000 plants -- worth more than $36 million if allowed to reach maturity, Sheriff Carey Winders said. It was the biggest marijuana raid in the county's history. Another big field, containing more than 6,000 plants, was discovered by the helicopter crew in August near Norwayne Middle School, complete with campsite built for the growers. Winders and other lawmen said finding suspects in such raids is difficult and no arrests in either case have been made.

7. VOTING CONTROVERSY DISRUPTS DISTRICT 10 HOUSE RACE: State Rep. Stephen LaRoque filed a protest following his 11-vote loss to challenger Willie Ray Starling in the May Republican primary, saying some voters who had the right to cast a ballot for him were denied by poll workers in Lenoir County. The district includes parts of Wayne and Lenoir and all of Greene. The North Carolina Board of Elections eventually ordered a second vote to be held and Starling, who lives in Wayne County, came away with an even bigger win. But he was defeated in November by Democrat Van Braxton, also of Lenoir County.

8. KWAST TAKES HELM OF 4TH FIGHTER WING: Col. Steve Kwast assumed the duty of commander of the 4th Fighter Wing at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base in early September, taking over for Col. Mike Holmes. Kwast was a member of the 336th Fighter Squadron at Seymour Johnson from 1990 to 1996 and recorded 238 combat hours during operations Desert Shield, Desert Storm, Southern Watch and Enduring Freedom.

9. GOLDSBORO POLICE OFFICER SURVIVES SHOOTING: The life of Goldsboro Police Department Capt. Brady Thompson was saved by his bullet-proof vest after he was shot during a drug raid on Elm Street on March 15. Bobby Lee Rawlings, 58, was arrested, charged with attempted murder and placed under $1 million bond. Thompson, a 23-year veteran, was back at work the next day.

10. ERNESTO BLOWS THROUGH TOWN: Thousands of Wayne County residents lost power as Tropical Storm Ernesto blew through eastern North Carolina on the first day of September. But although winds reached 50 miles per hour and heavy rains flooded streets, there was minimal damage. The biggest headache was a washout of the eastbound lanes of U.S. 70 west of Goldsboro that took two months to repair. Further south, the damage was greater as about 50 residents of the east Duplin County community of Chinquapin were forced from their homes by high water. Some had to be rescued by boat. Parts of the county got more than 10 inches of rain.