In 2019, Lincoln Times-News published 156 issues containing more than 600 stories covering local events. Here are some of the more memorable ones based on either website hits or historical or cultural importance.
Throughout 2019, immigration, especially from South American countries, was a hotly debated issue. Individuals throughout Lincoln County saw through these issues and took the initiative to help newcomers to Lincoln County. An Immigrant Hospitality Center opened in downtown Lincolnton, with Bobby Farmer heading it up. The main offerings of the center, which is funded through grants and public donations, is legal services. The staff has access to DOJ accredited representatives and will network with attorneys who would have to handle any criminal litigation cases. The Lincoln County YMCA is partnering with the center with their New American Welcome Center and offering ESL classes. The YMCA of Lincoln County’s goal, according to executive director Joe Kovalcheck, is to pave the path to language and education, economic integration and employment, health and wellbeing, citizenship and civic engagement and community development.
The YMCA held their 20th annual Prayer Breakfast at the James W. Warren Citizens Center on Nov. 27. The first breakfast was held before the Y was built and has continued ever since.
Boy Scouts of America opened up their groups to girls and became Scouts BSA. In 2019, two local troops opened to girls, one in Crouse and one in Denver.
As of Jan. 10, the Madison-Derr Iron Furnace became officially listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Lincoln County served as a hub for iron production in the 1800s primarily due to its abundance of iron ore, limestone, hardwood forests needed for charcoal production and fast flowing streams and rivers with rapids and waterfalls. The Madison-Derr Iron Furnace, while not the oldest Lincoln County iron furnace, has maintained its integrity over the years for the most part, which is the reason it was selected as a candidate for the National Register of Historic places. Currently, the site contains the nearly 30-foot-tall stone furnace, earthen flumes, remains of stone foundations, stone walls, three submerged logs from a log dam and deposit areas of slag, which is the by-product left over after a metal has been smelted from its raw ore.
In April, storms tore through Lincoln County causing considerable damage. The National Weather Service confirmed that a weak tornado swept through Lincoln County on April 19.
On May 8, Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office deputies seized more than 100 pounds of cocaine during a traffic stop.
Near the end of June, former Lincolnton High School principal Tony Worley was suspended from his position and then voluntarily resigned, giving up all professional licenses in the process. Worley’s suspension came in the wake of an ongoing school system and law enforcement investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct involving a student. The former principal was arrested on July 8 by the Lincolnton Police Department and charged with two counts of felony indecent liberties with a student, five counts of felony sexual activity with a student, two counts of felony solicitation of sex with a student and two counts of misdemeanor solicitation for indecent liberties with a minor. The magistrate set his bond at $47,000 and Worley was released on a surety appearance bond. The case is still under investigation.
A former Lincolnton attorney, John O. Lafferty Jr., was charged with embezzlement. The Grand Jury of Lincoln County turned a True Bill of Indictment charging Lafferty with embezzling funds in excess of $100,000 belonging to Wayne Tillman Saine. At the time of the offense, which occurred May 8, Lafferty was a guardian, administrator, executor, trustee, receiver and fiduciary of Saine. Lafferty was arrested on Sept. 25 in Carteret County and was released on a $250,000 bond. The former attorney was to appear in court on Sept. 30. When he did not appear, a bench warrant was issued for his arrest. He was located by bail bondsmen and brought to court on Oct. 1. Lafferty is still being held at the being held at the Haven A. Crouse Detention Center on a $1 million cash bond. The matter is still being investigated.
Hesed House of Hope made great strides throughout 2019 in their work of giving the homeless community a step up. They are now in the process of expanding the front part of the shelter to allow for two family suites. In addition, volunteers have worked on the addition of a nature trail and playground at the shelter which is to be used by residents of Hesed House as well as the Oaklawn neighborhood.
Both the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office and the Communications Center were hit by ransomware the end of July and beginning of August. The Communications Center moved to a new facility at the end of October, which gave the department much needed additional space and an upgrade to technology. The Lincoln County Senior Center and the Board of Elections also moved to new locations. The new senior center is located at 612 Center Drive and the Board of Elections is now located at 451 Salem Church Road, both in Lincolnton. The county administration also moved, leaving the Citizens Center for its own home at the former school system office on North Generals Blvd.
The Lincoln County Board of Commissioners continued to wrestle with the development of Denver, working to manage the inevitable growth.
West Lake Preparatory Academy, a new Denver charter school currently operating on the campus of Holy Spirit Catholic Church, submitted a request to rezone land at the intersection of N.C. 73 and Club Drive -- near Cowan’s Ford Golf Club -- with intentions of building its own campus. Those living in the area spoke passionately against the proposal, citing a traffic impact analysis submitted by the developer of the school that assumed the widening of N.C. 73, which is a project that hasn’t even seen ground broken, and isn’t scheduled to be completed for six years. The commissioners ultimately moved to deny the request, leaving the school without a permanent home for the time being.
The commissioners also recently requested that Duke Energy delay its construction of a public beach at Beatty’s Ford Park in Denver. Duke is required to construct the amenity under a 2006 relicensing agreement that features more than 70 signatories, including Lincoln County. The relicensing agreement was required as a condition for Duke to maintain its hydroelectric operating license through the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
There was a murder in Lincolnton in 2019. The body of a missing Lincoln County woman was located on Sept. 25. Mary Walters Cook, 59, of Hamlet Street, Lincolnton had been killed and her body tossed off a bridge on Boy Scout Road. Steve Allen Avery, 60, of 2242 Drive Inn Road, Lincolnton confessed to shooting Cook with a .22 caliber rifle and transporting her body to the area where she was found. He then allegedly drove the truck back to Johnny's Mexican Restaurant on Highway 150 and parked it behind the business. Avery has been charged with first degree murder and is being held in the Harven A. Crouse Detention Center without bond. The case is still being investigated.
The Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office joined in on National Night Out, which is held on the first Tuesday of August every year. Up until 2019, the event was sponsored solely by the Lincolnton Police Department in Lincolnton. Two more locations were added, one on the western side of the county and the other on the eastern side expanding the community block party.
The City of Lincolnton is growing by leaps and bounds. The former Recreation Center in downtown Lincolnton was demolished the beginning of August and townhomes are to be built in its place. Lincolnton City Council voted to install a dog park at the end of Motz Avenue directly next to the rail trail. Council also voted to put in place an incentive to lure full service/full menu restaurants into the downtown area in the form of a forgivable loan rather than a grant as an incentive to a potential restaurateur. The funding is limited to $200,000 per qualifying restaurant and requires a 1:1 match by the property owner. The loan would be forgivable if the restaurant were to remain in business at the location for a minimum of five years.
Councilmembers also put in place a request for proposals for redevelopment of the city-owned building located at 110 to 116 East Water Street. This property was formerly to become a tavern and black box theater to be operated by Pete and April DeGregory. That never came to fruition, however. The city wanted a high quality, full service/full menu restaurant to be operated in this location. Three potential restaurateurs submitted proposals and the council decided on the one from Ethan and Rachel Herman and Wes and Deana Spainhour to open an up-scale restaurant to be called “Local Roots.” The anticipated opening date will be between October 2020 to January 2021.
United Way of Lincoln County held their annual day of action in August, continuing their work at Communities in Schools of Lincoln County in the former Oaklawn Rosenwald School in the Oaklawn neighborhood, as well as Hesed House of Hope. This year’s big project was the installation of raised garden beds to be used to bring the Oaklawn community together. Amanda Moore was appointed as executive director of Communities in Schools of Lincoln County, filling the space held by Billy Marsh since 2001.
The Lincoln County Courthouse was lit purple on Aug. 31 for International Overdose Awareness Day. Individuals and organizations throughout Lincoln County have continued their efforts to fight opioid abuse in the county.
There continues to be a need for foster families in Lincoln County. This number has increased by 30 percent over the past three years, which can be attributed to the drug crisis in the community, according to foster care and adoption program manager Sandy Kennedy.
Some children are being placed outside of Lincoln County, which is not ideal because they are removed from their schools, friends and community. There was some good news at the end of the year when the Lincoln County Department of Social Services held their annual Adoption Ceremony at the end of November celebrating the adoption of 28 foster children throughout the year.
Lincolnton High School had to retire the bell that’s been in use by the marching band since 1976. This bell had become part of the fabric of the high school and the Lincolnton community being pulled in parades, taken to competitions and home football games, and of course, rung. Last year, the school was notified by the Naval Historical Center that the bell had to be put on display in a static location and no longer be rung. The school and community rallied together, and funds were raised to purchase a new bell which made its debut at the Lincolnton High School homecoming parade.
The Lincoln Cultural Center expanded its offering of arts and culture by featuring a celebrity female impersonator review, “Drag Me to the Red Carpet.” This raised the ire of many community members, but the event itself was high energy, well attended and raised thousands of dollars for the Cultural Center. Word is that this will now become an annual event.
Aptar launched an innovative technical education center at its Lincolnton location. This training center, the Aptar “Corporate Vocational University” is a hybrid concept which uses both internal skilled workers, educational programs and external programs to train individuals to meet Aptar requirements. It’s based on 12-month and six-month full-time apprenticeship-like programs. Given Aptar’s requirements are standard throughout their plants, this type of education center can be set up at any plant owned by Aptar.
City Lunch has been a mainstay in downtown Lincolnton for more than 60 years now. The Downtown Development Association of Lincolnton had a special bench made in memory of former owner, Brian Greer, who passed away earlier in the year. It’s in the shape of a hot dog, which City Lunch is famous for.
The Christmas season was brought into the county with the Nutcracker ballet performed by Lincoln County dance students, parades, carriage rides and of course many appearances by Santa. The New Year was brought into the county, as it has been for hundreds of years, with echoing booms made by black powder muskets, by the Cherryville New Year Shooters.