01/01/14 — Wayne County's top stories

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Wayne County's top stories

By News-Argus Staff
Published in News on January 1, 2014 1:46 PM

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Wayne Memorial Hospital and Blue Cross Blue Shield could not come to terms on a contract so the hospital is now considered an out-of-network facility for BCBS clients.

* Wayne Memorial Hospital, Blue Cross Blue Shield end relationship Wayne County residents with health coverage through Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina saw their insurance company drop Wayne Memorial Hospital from its list of in-network providers following an 18-month contract negotiation that ultimately failed to produce an agreement by Dec. 5. At issue were the allowable rates that Blue Cross would agree to pay the hospital for various outpatient procedures. Both sides, essentially, were seeking more control over how those rates would be determined, with the insurance carrier saying Wayne Memorial's costs are too high, and the hospital saying they could not afford to operate on what Blue Cross was willing to pay. To help mitigate some of the impacts for patients, however, the hospital is offering to bill Blue Cross customers at the in-patient rate for most procedures through the end of March, and through the end of December for obstetrics patients. For others, though, the hospital is now out-of-network except for patients with emergencies or temporary continuing care agreements.

* Seymour Johnson Air Force Base hit by shutdown Goldsboro's economic anchor was hit hard in 2013 by federal budget woes. The Wings Over Wayne air show -- an event that pumps millions of dollars in revenue into local coffers -- was canceled, the 336th Fighter Squadron was grounded for the first time in its history and much of the base's civilian workforce was furloughed.

* Republican-dominated Commission faces tough start The united front put on by the first Republican-controlled Board of County Commissioners since the Reconstruction era began showing some fracturing late in the year, and by the end of it, two of the five members formed a coalition with the board's two Democrats to change the face of the board's leadership -- a change that resulted in Republican Wayne Aycock being elected chairman and Democrat Ed Cromartie as vice chairman. The year was marked by numerous marathon day-long meetings as the board sought more involvement in other boards and agencies -- including an effort by then-Chairman Steve Keen to come up with a county plan for new school facilities even though the Board of Education voted to retain its existing plan. 2013 was also a year marked by Keen's refusal to respond to the news media and the implementation of a gag order to prevent county employees, including County Manager Lee Smith, from responding as well. Requests for interviews and comments were instead filtered through the county's public information office. Throughout the year, the board struggled with continuing problems with the county's new radio system and a payroll system that overpaid some employees and underpaid others. During the budget sessions, commissioners were able to cut the tax rate by 3.6 cents and cut items, often without explanation.

* Goldsboro settles lawsuit with Dwayne Dail The city of Goldsboro and its insurers agreed to pay $7.5 million to Dwayne Dail for misplacing evidence that would have exonerated him in a rape case that saw him serve nearly two decades in prison. The Goldsboro Police Department found evidence in 2008 exonerating Dail of the crime and implicating another suspect who was later convicted -- Dail requested the evidence in 1994 after spending eight years in prison through his attorney at the North Carolina Center on Actual Innocence for DNA testing but was told it had been destroyed. Dail was vindicated and pardoned in 2008 and filed a lawsuit against the city in 2010 for violating his civil rights.

* Seymour Johnson Air Force Base senior airman charged with murder of 15-month-old son When his 15-month-old son, Matthew, disappeared in March, Senior Airman Matthew Theurer was taken into custody. The next day, using information the airman provided, law enforcement officials found the body of the toddler in a wooded area off a Columbus County Road. Months later, Theurer was charged with premeditated murder. His military trial is expected to unfold sometime this year.

* Suspect in McLaurin murder enters plea On Dec. 4, three of the four men charged with the Sept. 2012 kidnapping and murder of Kennedy Fitzgerald McLaurin Jr., 16,  pleaded not guilty during an arraignment in Wayne County Superior Court -- Kevin Smith did not. Smith, 19, entered a plea of guilty to charges of second-degree murder and first-degree kidnapping. A statement Smith made to police was read aloud in court recounting the details of McLaurin's murder and the efforts of the four men to get rid of the boy's body. Smith was granted a prayer for judgment in exchange for future testimony against each of his three co-defendants.

* Wall That Heals makes stop in Goldsboro An effort funded by the public and Wayne Community College saw the traveling Vietnam Wall, the Wall That Heals, make a several-day stop at WCC. Thousands of local residents attended at least one of the many programs that were held at the site in conjunction with the Wall's stint in Goldsboro. * Mount Olive College granted university status As of today, the former Mount Olive College is now the University of Mount Olive -- a move warranted, college officials said, after the school instituted an online master's in business administration program slated to begin in January with 25 students. The name change was approved by the college's board of trustees in December on the heels of a survey sent out by the administration to measure students, faculty, staff and alumnus reaction to the potential change.

* WCPS struggles to meet new test standards Performance test scores in 2013 dropped dramatically, both locally and around the state -- a trend attributed to the sweeping changes made to the testing and accountability programs in public schools. The READY model, replacing the ABCs model in place since the mid-1990s, involved more rigorous tests and standards, changes the way performance is measured for the end of grade and end of course tests in all curriculum and subject areas.

* Southern Belle closes doors Mount Olive's iconic Southern Belle restaurant closed its doors for the final time on Sept. 1 after 51 years of operation -- the last 38 years under the ownership of Gaynell Brock and her family. The community had been dreading the closure since Mrs. Brock announced her pending retirement. A part of the community since 1962, the Southern Belle enjoyed a reputation for inexpensive home-cooked meals where the regulars swapped stories and traded the latest gossip. The restaurant's furnishings were sold during a September auction that benefited Mount Olive's David Aaron Historical Museum in Mrs. Brock's name. The restaurant building was demolished on Dec. 30.