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December 10th

Politician, farmer, community supporter dies

December 10, 2010

A former Republican county commissioner and American patriot died Friday.
David Stewart, 74, of Sherrills Ford, died at Palliative CareCenter and Hospice after an illness.

"I am saddened to hear of David's passing," said Robert E. Hibbitts, of Hickory, former county commission chairman. "Our heartfelt sympathies are sent to his family and many friends."

Hibbitts served with Stewart on the Catawba County Board of Commissioners for Stewart's 16 years on the board. For 10 of those years, Stewart was vice chairman while Hibbitts was board chairman.

20 years, dolls galore

December 10, 2010

Betty Rector's home is every little girl's dream.

From pink-cheeked baby dolls and fashion-forward Barbies to delicate fairies and iconic pop-culture dolls, Rector's house is a veritable doll paradise.

Rector, 75, of Hickory, is the president of the Catawba Valley Doll Club, and she has been a doll collector for about five decades.

Rector and her friend, Joan Ashton, 78, started buying dolls for their daughters more than 50 years ago, and what started as gifts for their children turned into a treasured hobby for themselves.

Toys for Zahra

December 10, 2010

The holiday season is traditionally a time when children get excited about receiving toys.

But 500 area middle school students learned the gift of giving back when their school collected more than 1,000 toys in honor of Zahra Baker.

River Bend Middle School will donate 1,029 new and gently used stuffed animals to Hickory Police Department's Cops for Tots program and Conover Police Department's Santa Cops.

"Zahra is in a better place now," said Brooke Huffman, a River Bend seventh-grader. "We felt toys were a great way to comfort others who were hurting."

December 9th

Grant money eases Newton sewer woes

December 9, 2010

Since 2006, almost 160,000 gallons of untreated wastewater spilled from Newton sewer lines, and more than 140,000 gallons of raw sewage made its way to the area's freshwater streams.

Newton leaders hope a grant for almost $1.2 million from the N.C. Clean Water Management Trust Fund (CWMTF) will help solve the problem Newton leaders have been wrestling the past few year.

County enforces gaming ban

December 9, 2010

Don't bet on getting a free pass if law enforcement spots sweepstakes machines in the county.

County law enforcement agencies, including departments from county municipalities as well as the sheriff's office, joined together to clear the county of Internet sweepstakes machines, which were deemed illegal Dec. 1.

"There's people who lost their homes (because of the sweepstakes machines)," said Catawba County Sheriff Coy Reid. "When you make it that easy and put it right in front of them, they could lose everything."

Education could take a hit in state budget

December 9, 2010

Education comprises about half of the state's budget, making it likely North Carolina's education system will be affected in some way by the state's projected $3.5 billion shortfall.

As education services are cut and children continue to drop out of school, the results have a lingering effect, not just on the education system, but the state's economy as a whole, according to a recent presentation from the North Carolina United Way and the North Carolina Justice Center.

Car crashes into power pole

December 9, 2010

A stray animal was the apparent cause of a car crash Thursday that sent one man to the hospital.

Newton Police said a man was driving west on East 20th Street in Newton about 9:10 a.m. The man, whose name wasn't immediately available, told police a stray animal ran in front of his Chevy S-10 pickup truck.

The man said he swerved to avoid hitting the animal, causing him to run off the right side of the road and crash into a Newton power pole.

Thief steals Christmas gifts

December 9, 2010

An apparent grinch stole hundreds of dollars in Christmas presents from a Conover residence.

The unknown suspect broke open the basement window of a home in the 4700 block of Harvard Street in Conover and entered the residence through the opening, said Catawba County Sheriff Coy Reid.

The burglary and larceny were reported about 5 p.m. Tuesday, and the victim told police her house was last secure about three days before the incident occurred.

Reid said a friend of the homeowner found the damage when she arrived at the house to check on the home while the homeowner was away.

Students collect toys for children

December 9, 2010

CLAREMONT (AP) — The unexplained death of a 10-year-old disabled girl is weighing on the minds of students at a North Carolina middle school and leading them to collect toys for their underprivileged peers.

Students at River Bend Middle School have collected more than 800 stuffed animals in memory of Zahra Baker, who like them lived in Catawba County.

The stuffed animals will be given to police in Conover and Hickory on Monday for distribution to children who are needy or whose parents are in jail.

December 8th

County prepares for state shortfall

December 8, 2010

North Carolina policy makers could be forced to close a multibillion-dollar gap in the state budget, passing on their shortfalls to county governments.

The state faces a $3.5 billion shortfall for fiscal year 2011-12 because of the continually weak economy, the end of federal aid and the expiration of the temporary tax package, said Alexandra Forter Sirota, of the N.C. Tax and Budget Center.

The final state general fund budget for FY 2010-11 was about $18.9 billion.

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