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N.C. Folk Festival finds new ways to raise money

GREENSBORO — With the N.C. Folk Festival opening Friday, organizers have found more methods for attendees to donate money to keep admission free.

Three new fundraising methods rely on technology — mobile phone apps and a device called a DipJar.

Two others count on the appeal of VIP events: The NC Folk A’Fare and The Lounge at NAI Piedmont Triad.

“We want to provide more opportunities for individuals to support and engage with the festival,” Director Amy Grossmann said.

The new methods follow a year when cash donations to the festival’s volunteer Bucket Brigade dropped to about $60,000. That was down from $77,000 in 2017, the last year of the National Folk Festival’s three-year residency downtown.

The N.C. Folk Festival spun out of the three-year national event, which drew more than 400,000 people downtown. The inaugural N.C. Folk Festival in 2018 drew more than 150,000 people.

For three days starting Friday, the multicultural celebration of the country’s roots and heritage will bring 45 performers, 55 artisans and 26 food vendors to center city.

A diverse list of world-class performers and styles will be showcased across five outdoor stages as well as indoor spaces.

Thanks to spending by the festival and audiences, the 2017 festival generated more than $15 million in economic impact, Grossmann said. She hopes to release 2018 and 2019 data after this year’s festival.

To make it happen, ArtsGreensboro — which co-produces the festival with city government — needs $1 million in cash and about $500,000 in in-kind contributions of equipment, space, advertising and time.

A line in the state’s pending budget would provide $100,000 to the festival in the current fiscal year for marketing and operational expenses. But that is tied up in the budget impasse in Raleigh.

Most money comes from corporations, foundations and other sponsors. It has raised about 90 percent of the $950,000 it needs going into the festival, Grossmann said.

During the festival, it relies on beverage and merchandise sales and donations to raise the rest.

Organizers want more people to show some love.

Each day, a Bucket Brigade of volunteers will circulate, asking each attendee to drop $10 in their blue buckets.

Last year, they raised about $60,000, down from $77,000 the year before.

This year, they want exceed last year’s $60,000.

The Tannenbaum-Sternberger Foundation will help. As it has done for the past couple years, it will contribute $10,000 as a dollar-for-dollar match challenge.

“One thing we found over the years is that fewer and fewer people are carrying cash with them,” Grossmann said. “We need to adjust.”

Meet the DipJar.

Some Bucket Brigade volunteers will carry the device. Donors dip in a credit card. Voila, they have made a donation.

The festival bought five DipJars at about $400 each. It plans to use them at future festivals and events as well.

“We will be able to monitor in real time how many transactions are happening and where they are happening,” Grossmann said. “If we find one area where maybe it isn’t getting utilized much, we’ll just move that DipJar to another section of the festival.”

For the first time, donors also can contribute through the festival’s mobile app. Users can download it onto their cell phones for free from Google Play and Apple App Store.

“You can create your own schedule, you can read about the performers, you can get directions to different things,” Grossmann said. “But there’s also a donate button there.”

Grossmann learned that many younger people use Cash App. So the festival added that, too.

It’s a mobile payment service developed by Square, Inc. that allows users to transfer money to one another.

The festival created the cashtag of $NCFolkFest.

“You just punch in the cashtag and then how much money you want to send,” Grossmann said.

Of course, donors can still give at ncfolkfestival.com.

Donations to the festival are tax deductible.

Two new fundraising events rely more on food than technology.

On Wednesday, chefs from more than 15 restaurants will showcase the city’s diverse dining scene by presenting their signature dishes.

Called the NC Folk A’Fare, it will take place from 6 to 8:30 p.m. at the festival’s Lawn Stage, 240 Commerce Place.

Tickets are $100, available at eventbrite.com. Charles Aris Inc. and the Womble Bond Dickinson law firm will sponsor the event.

During festival hours, the public can get an air-conditioned view in a new, exclusive space: The Lounge at NAI Piedmont Triad.

The lounge will be inside the NAI Piedmont Triad building, the commercial real estate company at 348 N. Elm St. It has a large, all-windows conference room that offers a perfect view of the Lee Wrangler Stage.

Lounge guests can watch the festival while savoring hors d’oeuvres and an open bar serving beer, wine and spirits.

Weekend passes for The Lounge are $125 for one, $200 for two. They can be purchased at ncfolkfestival.com/thelounge/, and proceeds support the festival.

“Obviously, the more money we raise, the better it positions us going into 2020,” Grossmann said.


State
Eden City Council appoints interim city manager in wake of embezzlement plea deal

Corcoran

EDEN —Eden has a new interim city manager in the wake of an embezzlement plea deal for his predecessor.

Roughly 48 hours after disgraced longtime City Manager Brad Corcoran pleaded guilty via Alford plea to stealing thousands of dollars from the city, council members appointed part-time Public Utilities Director Terry A. Shelton as interim city manager Thursday night.

Shelton has held multiple positions within the public utilities department since 1979.

“We’re all excited Terry is willing to step up and help us during this tough time,’’ Mayor Neville Hall told the council after members voted unanimously in favor of Shelton.

City administrators hope to hire a new full-time replacement for Corcoran within the next couple of months, Hall said Friday morning.

On Tuesday morning, Rockingham County Superior Court Judge Stan Allen ordered Corcoran, 58, to serve a suspended five- to 15-month prison sentence for falsifying his daughter’s time sheets when she worked as a seasonal employee for the city in 2017. Corcoran also padded the time sheets of another daughter and son who worked for the city between 2007 and 2017, according to Rockingham County District Attorney Jason Ramey.

Corcoran, who had enjoyed popularity in his post since 2001, paid $20,000 in restitution to the City of Eden on Tuesday as ordered by Allen.

As part of the plea deal, Corcoran will serve 18 months of supervised probation in lieu of prison time and 75 hours of public service.

In an apparent effort to allay fear about the city’s accounting in the wake of Corcoran’s crime, Hall issued a letter on social media Friday morning, saying: “It is important for citizens to know that the City of Eden’s financial condition is sound, in fact it is better than any time in its history.’’

Hall stressed that saving taxpayer funds is the city’s “highest priority’’ and said the city spends conservatively. And the mayor highlighted Eden’s 38-year record of clean audits of its financial records.

***

The mayor voiced high confidence in Shelton.

“Terry has an impeccable record serving Eden’s citizens,’’ Hall said. “He’s well respected among his peers and coworkers.’’

Shelton, 64, a Virginia native raised in Collinsville and Ridgeway, moved to Eden to work for Hardee’s after high school graduation in 1973. By 1979, Shelton joined the staff of Eden’s Public Utilities Department and “served in most positions available’’ in the department tenure before retiring in 2014, Hall said.

The Virginia Tech grad who lives in the Eden area, has worked part-time as public utilities director since 2015. Shelton also holds his state Realtor’s license and owns Five Star Realty in Eden with his wife, Faye.

Faye Shelton said this week that she listed Corcoran’s 4,300-square-foot Eden home for sale for $381,000 on the night of Aug. 24, three days before Corcoran resigned as city manager and accepted a plea deal that saved him from serving prison time.

Typically, regional agents garner between 4.5%- 6% of the sale amount of any house they broker, according to area experts.

If the Sheltons handle the Corcoran property for a fee of 4.5% of the asking price, they could earn roughly $17,000.

The mayor said he doesn’t see a conflict of interest with the Sheltons’ connection to Corcoran’s home sale.

The Sheltons’ company lists the four-bedroom brick home in The Oaks development on its website. Property records show Corcoran purchased the 1999 two-story at 171 Oak Ridge Drive in 2004 for $355,000.

***

During his 39 years with the City of Eden, Shelton’s duties have included handling budgets and analysis of the city’s water filtration and wastewater treatment plants, as well as work with the Environmental Protection Agency on compliance issues.

Beyond the daily operations within the department, Shelton has also worked closely with city administrators to recruit industries and share his water-systems expertise in matters involving large water-user corporations.

When a new water filtration plant was built in 1979 to provide large water volume to then-incoming Miller Brewer, Shelton was named plant operator, according to the City of Eden’s website. He would later serve as superintendent of the plant.

By 2010, Shelton was promoted to head of the city’s Environmental Services Department.

Beyond those roles, Shelton, a retired 21-year member of the Eden Fire Department, serves on the Eden Board of Adjustment, the Keep Eden Beautiful Committee and the Rockingham County Local Government Emergency Planning Committee. He holds memberships in a number of professional organizations and holds multiple state certifications in water and wastewater management. He is also a former director and treasurer of the Rockingham County Board of Realtors.

Hall said Shelton’s salary will be made public once his contract is finalized.

***

The fact that Corcoran was able to manipulate his daughter’s time sheets when she worked as a part-time seasonal employee for the City of Eden brings into question the city’s nepotism policy.

Rockingham County District Attorney Jason Ramey said Corcoran also doctored time sheets of another daughter and a son while they worked for the city between 2007 and 2017 as seasonal employees at the municipal pool and public works department, respectively.

Ramey said Corcoran added hours to his childrens’ time sheets, falsely indicating they worked more hours than the part-time schedules they actually completed.

In some municipalities and businesses, and under certain circumstances, hiring relatives is not allowed.

There is no state law that mandates cities or towns to have a nepotism policy, but Mayor Hall said Friday that Eden does have one.

“We have a nepotism policy, and that’s not the one that was violated (by Corcoran),’’ Hall said.

A copy of the policy was not readily available at press time.

“The policies related to nepotism are entirely up to each unit of government,’’ said Bob Joyce, professor of public law and government at UNC Chapel Hill’s School of Government. Joyce. Many smaller cities and towns never get around to adopting such guidelines, he said.

But crimes such as Corcoran’s point up the need for examination of a city’s map of best practices, noted Monica Jackson, senior assistant general counsel for the N.C. League of Municipalities in Raleigh.

Considering some of the details of Corcoran’s crime, Jackson said: “I would say, yes, you need to have some kind of introspection about that, how you go about it is up to the city.’’

To that end, Hall in his Friday letter to citizens noted the city acted “swiftly and decisively’’ to address Corcoran’s embezzlement, and the mayor promised more checks and balances will be put in place.

“Personnel policies will be evaluated and changed to ensure the integrity of the city’s compensation program,’’ Hall wrote. “Safeguards will be incorporated so an unfortunate incident such as this will not be repeated.’’


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AP
North Carolina in 'probable path' of Hurricane Dorian's center

The projected path of Hurricane Dorian, a Category 4 storm, shifted “dramatically” to the east early Saturday, heightening concerns about torrential rain and flooding in the Carolinas.

All of central North Carolina is at risk to be impacted by the storm by the middle of next week, the National Weather Service in Raleigh reported at 6:45 p.m. Saturday.

At 5 p.m. Saturday, Dorian was less than 640 miles southeast of Charleston, chugging west at 8 mph and packing maximum sustained winds of 150 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center.

All of South Carolina and part of North Carolina were added Saturday to the “probable path” of the storm’s center.

South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster declared a state of emergency on Saturday as the forecast worsened.

Gov. Roy Cooper declared a state of emergency for North Carolina on Friday afternoon to allow certain restrictions to be waived in order to help farmers and support relief efforts in advance of the storm. With Saturday’s forecast, he expanded the order to ensure critically needed items like fuel, water and food can be distributed should the state be affected by the storm

“Now is the time to prepare and take Dorian seriously,” Cooper said in a release. “This storm could cause serious damage and bring dangerous conditions to our state. I urge everyone to follow the forecast and listen to their local first responders.”

Dorian is expected to veer northeast from well off the coast of Jacksonville, Fla., with the center of the storm possibly making landfall near Cape Fear in southeastern North Carolina, south of Wilmington, according to the National Hurricane Center tracking map at 2 p.m. Saturday.

Forecasters say the storm’s slow pace means the East Coast could be pummeled for days with heavy wind and torrential rain.

Dorian’s winds could reach South Carolina by 8 p.m. Monday and North Carolina by 8 a.m. Tuesday, according to the latest hurricane center forecast. The Charlotte area could see tropical storm force winds of 39 mph to 73 mph arrive by about 8 p.m. Tuesday, according to hurricane center maps of the storm.

“The risk of strong winds and life-threatening storm surge is increasing along the coasts of Georgia and South Carolina during the middle of next week,” National Hurricane Center officials said in a Dorian update at 5 a.m. Saturday.

Guilford County is west of the expected rain bands, according to the National Weather Service’s 6:45 p.m. Saturday update. “Rainfall accumulations will remain higher closer to the eventual track of the system,” the report said. “Forecast changes will be likely over the next several days.”

Pender County Emergency Management urged residents to use the weekend to prepare in case the storm impacts the area.

“This is the time to prepare,” said Tom Collins, Pender County Emergency Manager. “We could possibly experience high winds, rainfall, storm surge and flooding by Thursday.”

Packing winds of 130 mph to 156 mph, a Category 4 hurricane can cause “catastrophic damage,” according to the National Hurricane Center. “Well-built framed homes can sustain severe damage with loss of most of the roof structure and/or some exterior walls,” according to the center’s website. “Most trees will be snapped or uprooted and power poles downed.”

Dorian is expected to bring “life-threatening flash floods” to parts of the Bahamas and the southeastern United States this weekend and all of next week, the hurricane center warned.

“Hurricane-force winds extend outward up to 30 miles from the center and tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 115 miles,” according to the National Hurricane Centery.

Dorian will maintain 140 mph winds through Sunday before pivoting slowly north on Monday and gradually weakening as the storm meets dry air, Mark Malick of the South Carolina State Climate Office said Saturday morning.

Dorian could turn farther east Wednesday and “clip” Cape Hatteras on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, Malick said in a storm update.

Swimmers at the coast should stay alert to rip currents from the storm, according to the National Weather Service office in Newport/Morehead City.

South Carolina emergency shelters, closings and delays and other vital Dorian information will be listed on the South Carolina Emergency Management Division website, scemd.org.