TownTalk: Fire Safety Tips For Your Home

Batalion Chief Lee Edmonds with the Henderson Fire Department reminds residents of several safety measures to preserve property and protect lives as December ushers in colder weather.

Anyone who uses a portable space heater as a supplemental heat source should make sure that it is positioned at least 3 feet from things like furniture and curtains – anything that could catch fire, Edmonds said on Monday’s TownTalk.

And, he said, any electric heater should be plugged directly into a wall outlet – please don’t use a drop cord.

“Power strips are a whole lot better to use – if you have to,” Edmonds said, adding that drop cords are for temporary use and not for a permanent use for any appliance, lamp, television or other items in the home.

If your home has a working fireplace, it’s a good idea to clean the chimney a couple of times a year and inspect it to make sure it’s structurally sound.

Place a fire screen in front of the fireplace to reduce the likelihood that ashes will pop. Even if you’re using decorative or gas logs, it’s a good idea to place a screen in front to protect children and pets from getting too close to the heat source.

The fire department is just a phone call away if you need to have your smoke detector or carbon monoxide monitor checked. Edmonds said the department is installing smoke detectors that have a 10-year life span. There are no batteries to replace – when it chirps, simply dispose of it and replace the whole unit, he said.

Contact the fire department to make an appointment at 252.430.1877 and leave a voicemail if necessary.



TownTalk: Vance County Schools Gets Federal Money To Focus On Teacher Recruitment, Retention

Vance County Schools is among close to a dozen school districts across the state to receive part of $24 million in federal grants over the next three years to focus on teacher recruitment and retention.

VCS Superintendent Dr. Cindy Bennett said the district is among eight districts working with a Raleigh-based nonprofit called The Innovation Project for this particular grant award, which will be about $3.6 million for the next three years from the U.S. Department of Education.  TIP is kicking in money, too, Bennett said on Thursday’s TownTalk. The total VCS can expect to receive over the next three years is about $12.5 million.

The district plans to hire eight instructional coaches and also will name 16 lead teachers – one at each school – to help provide support, feedback and suggestions to colleagues.

“It’s a difficult time to find teachers,” Bennett said, and rural communities often struggle, even in the best of times, to hire educators.

The grant money will be used to enhance support for teachers – in the form of peer support – but also to enhance teacher salaries and allow for sign-on bonuses.

Smaller districts often can’t compete with larger, more urban districts that entice teachers with higher salaries, bonuses or supplements. But Bennett said VCS has “to focus on some of the  other benefits,” such as increased and meaningful support from coaches and colleagues. “that is a good retention tool,” she said.

Bennett said the instructional coaches will have the opportunity to work with students and teachers, whether through co-teaching situations, professional development sessions and more. Ideal candidates will be professionals with a proven track record of high achievement and student progress and who possess a strong skill set of working with adults.

Principals and assistant principals can receive monetary awards in schools that achieve certain levels of student achievement.

Bennett said district leaders continue to crunch the numbers and analyze student achievement data to plot their course. “Our test data continues to remind us that we have much ground to cover,” she said, adding that schools offer tutoring and intervention during the school day, as well as after-school opportunities and transportation for those students who need it.

She said school leaders are trying to remove any hurdles to participation and be able to state that the district is providing the best educational opportunities for its students.

“Nothing changes in a year,” she said.



TownTalk: December Events In Granville County

There are plenty of upcoming activities in Granville County to make even those Scrooges or Grinches get in the holiday spirit.

Granville Tourism Director Angela Allen joined WIZS’s own Bill Harris on Wednesday’s TownTalk to talk about upcoming Christmas parades, drive-thru events and more.

The Granville Christmas Farm stows all its scary decorations in favor of twinkling holiday lights and scenery on weekends in December, Allen said. After Dec. 18, however, the drive-thru display will be open during the week as well.

Check out a live performance of Granville County-based group The Barefoot Movement, which will be at The Orpheum on Saturday evening, Dec. 2. Noah Wall and Tommy Norris will kick off their holiday tour with a local concert. But tickets are going fast, so check out the Orpheum’s website soon to secure your seat.

The musical duo “Little Red Birds” performs Friday, Dec. 8 at The Orpheum after the city’s Lighting of the Greens and Christmas parade.  Sip hot cocoa cocktails as you enjoy the music. Main Street will be open for a variety of activities – think inflatables, food trucks, vendors, live music – beginning at 4 p.m. on the 8th, followed by the Lighting of the Greens at 6:45 p.m. and then the parade at 7 p.m.

The next day, Saturday, Dec. 9, come back to downtown Oxford for “Jingle and Mingle.” Downtown merchants will be open for shoppers and browsers alike during normal business hours.

The flurry of activities begin this weekend across Granville County, including a tree-lighting ceremony Friday at 7 p.m. in Creedmoor and then one town over – Butner – beginning at 5:30 p.m. hosts its annual “Christmas in the Park.”

The next day, you can check out Creedmoor’s Christmas parade at 11 a.m. and then head over to Central Avenue in Butner to catch that town’s Christmas parade that begins at 2 p.m.

The Orpheum transforms from concert venue on Saturday to holiday gala on Sunday evening. Purchase tickets ($100 each) online at The Orpheum or stop by The Hub on Main. It’s black tie-optional and includes a meal, beverages and live music.

Saturday and Sunday at HighRock Farms on 2317 Enon Rd. features a date with Santa – breakfast, in fact. Make reservations at

The Stem Ruritan Club is hosting the Stem Jingle Jangle at the club on Highway 75 from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Check out lots of local vendors and visit with Santa.

The Barn at Vino in Stem will host Cocoa with Santa on Sunday, Dec. 3 from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. There will be vendors, food trucks and more on site. Reserve a photo session with Santa for $20 per child ($5 for each additional child) on Eventbrite or on The Barn at Vino’s Facebook page.

Carlee Farm in Stem will host its holiday marketplace again this year on Saturday, Dec. 9 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Stop in for shopping and find plenty of local vendors on hand. Carlee Farm is located at 1003 Carlee Farm Rd.

If you need to take a break from the commercial side of the Christmas holiday, pack the kids in the car and go “Back to Bethlehem,” courtesy of Delrayno Baptist Church in Oxford. The drive-thru Nativity is a favorite event that recreates Bethlehem across a variety of scenes that are set up in the church parking lot and drive. The drive-thru Nativity will be held Dec. 9, 10 and 11 from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. There is no charge for admission, but donations are accepted.



TownTalk: Commissioners Debate Medical Co-Pay For Detainees

The Vance County Board of Commissioners is considering putting a health copay in place for individuals detained in the Vance County Detention Center.

Finance Director Katherine Bigelow shared information with commissioners during their Monday, Nov. 20 work session.

Board Chair Yolanda Feimster sent the matter to the Public Safety Committee for further discussion and to work through details about how such a policy would work.

Commissioner Dan Brummitt was the sole member of the Public Safety Committee present at the work session; commissioners Sean Alston and Carolyn Faines were not present for the meeting.

Bigelow said she had spoken with officials in more than 25 counties as part of her research; “we are the only ones that do not do this,” she told commissioners.

Bigelow and County Manager Renee Perry said it would help curb costs for detainees who may make unnecessary trips to the health care provider – racking up a hefty fee for the county each time.

This would encourage inmates to take responsibility of their own health care, they noted. The basic idea is that the inmate may decide to lie down and rest instead of going to the infirmary to get pills for a headache, Perry said.

If the health care provider determines that the visit was not a medical necessity, the individual would be charged a copay; $20 is the allowable limit that can be charged.

“We will not make money on this by any means,” Bigelow noted, adding that $395,000 of the $550,000 budgeted for health care at the jail has already been spent.

In a follow-up statement to WIZS News, Perry said the jail is on track to have an overage of as much as $1 million by the end of fiscal year 2024 if no measures are taken to curb the spending.



TownTalk: Follow-Up On Report Of Elevated Lead Levels In Two County Locations

At a work session last week, one of the items that Vance County commissioners discussed was a notice from the state’s division of water quality about two instances of excessive lead levels in county drinking water.

Although the source has not been determined to date, the county’s Special Projects Manager Frankie Nobles told the commissioners during that work session on Nov. 20 that proper notification about the lead levels is one point that the county must address by Wednesday, Nov. 29.

In addition to publishing and posting flyers, Nobles said additional information would be sent out in upcoming bills.

The county buys its water from the city, and Kerr Lake Regional Water System director Christy Lipscomb told WIZS News Monday by phone that she was unaware of the notice received by county staff.

Lipscomb said regulations state that water systems must perform 60 point of testing every three years to check lead and copper levels. And KLRWS is on what Lipscomb called a “diminished schedule” of only 30 tests every three years because there are so few problems with elevated levels.

The most recent testing took place in August, Lipscomb said. The result? Zero “hits,” or problems.

The two locations – one on Warrenton Road and one on Vicksboro Road – showed twice the allowable levels of lead at .030 MG/L. The threshold is .015 MG/L.

“The local health department regularly tests for child lead exposure in our child health clinics (it’s a simple blood test),” said Granville Vance Public Health Director Lisa Harrison. “If any levels are elevated, we have a team of one environmental health specialist together with one nurse who go together into the home to do further environmental testing,” Harrison told WIZS News in an email Monday.

Child health appointments can be made by calling the health department for those who wish to have their children tested. This can also be done easily at a local doctor’s office or pediatrician’s office. The GVPH team is notified regardless if there are concerns for any child tested for lead exposure, Harrison explained.

To learn more, visit

The source of the lead most likely is not from the water supply itself, but from pipes or other sources at the two individual locations. No details about the two addresses were shared at the work session.

Commissioner Dan Brummitt noted during the work session that the water system specs provided for construction without use of materials that contain lead, including the use of solder.

Water doesn’t naturally contain lead, but water can be contaminated with lead through lead pipes and other infrastructure used to bring water to individual households. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the most common sources of lead in drinking water are lead pipes, faucets and plumbing fixtures. Certain pipes that carry drinking water from the water source to the home may contain lead. Household plumbing fixtures, welding solder, and pipe fittings made before 1986 may also contain lead.

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TownTalk: Jimmy Sidberry Explains Insurance Options During Annual Enrollment Period

The adage “One size does not fit all” is especially true for insurance coverage, a point to which local insurance representative Jimmy Sidberry can attest.

“This is my season,” Sidberry said on Tuesday’s TownTalk with guest host Steve Lewis, referring to the annual enrollment period open now through Dec. 7.

The annual enrollment period is a time for Medicare beneficiaries to take a look at their existing plans and make sure they’re still getting the best deal for their situation.

As Sidberry, with The Health Insurance Store on Dabney Drive explained it, Medicare is a federal insurance that pays 80 percent of a plan for people over 65. Medicaid is a state plan that helps low-income people pay that 20 percent not covered by Medicare.

Medicare is for people over 65 and for people under 65 with certain disabilities.

There are Medicare Advantage plans that provide coverage for  extras like dental and vision, Sidberry said.

The main thing that Sidberry said people approaching Medicare age should remember is this: Apply during the all-important window before your 65th birthday and no later than two months after. “If you wait, you can run into penalties,” he said. Penalties that won’t go away.

Same with prescription drug plans. The federal government requires beneficiaries to select a drug plan.

Beneficiaries who follow all the guidelines and meet all the deadlines have options before committing to a yearlong plan, Sidberry said. The open enrollment period runs between Jan. 1 and March 31.

“If a plan isn’t working for you, talk with your agent during the open enrollment period,” Sidberry suggested.

Want to learn more? Contact Sidberry at 919.500.9648.


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TownTalk: Mental Health And Substance Use Forum Takes Place Next Week

The approaching holidays bring families together to celebrate and spend time together, but  those family gatherings also can place undue pressure and stress on those who also may struggle with mental health and substance abuse issues.

Melanie Griggs, a behavioral health clinical counselor at Granville Vance Public Health, said two upcoming listening sessions are designed to provide resources and information about services in the community.

“It’s a big, big problem,” Griggs said of individuals who find themselves in a mental health or substance abuse crisis.

Above and beyond those modern-day stressors that creep into people’s lives from time to time, other people experience anxiety, depression, loneliness and even suicidal thoughts.
“It affects the family, employers, our entire community,” Griggs said.  “All of us are touched by someone who struggles with either of these issues on a day-to-day basis,” she said.

GVPH is one of the partners hosting the discussions.

The Vance County forum will be held Tuesday, Nov. 28 at 6 p.m. at the Spring Street Missionary Baptist Church, 511 Orange St., Henderson.

The Granville County forum will be held Thursday, Nov. 30 at 6 p.m. at Cornerstone Christian Community Church, 3237 Knotts Grove Rd., Oxford.

“We’re going to talk a lot about access and where in our communities…you can go to get more information and support to address (people’s) particular concerns.”

Provider booths will include those that specialize in medications for Opioid Use Disorder (e.g., Buprenorphine, Methadone), individual and family counseling, medication management, crisis management, intensive outpatient services, and residential treatment.

“We want to make sure that people in our community know what’s out there…making sure they know where to go to get these services.”

Griggs said the community has access to a mobile crisis management unit, accessible by phone 24 hours a day, 365 days a year at 1.844.709.4097.




TownTalk: Around Old Granville’s Local Theater History

Way before McGregor Hall, the Cinema or even Raleigh Rd. Outdoor Theatre in Henderson, patrons of the arts could enjoy a live performance, a silent movie or even a vaudeville show in any number of theaters and performance halls that dotted the community.

Most folks in Henderson remember the Embassy, located just a block off Garnett Street, its interior dripping in burgundy velvet and the stairs leading to the balcony where the “cool” kids hung out.

Local historian Mark Pace said it was billed as “the grandest movie theater in the U.S.” when the Stevenson family opened it in 1940. He joined WIZS’s Bill Harris for the tri-weekly Around Old Granville segment of TownTalk.

The Embassy closed in 1987 and the building was torn down in 1996; its name lives on in The Embassy Square Project, an $8 million privately funded endeavor that gave way to McGregor Hall Performing Arts Center and Perry Memorial Library.

The Stevenson family owned dozens of movie theaters across the state and the former Moon-Glo Outdoor Theatre (renamed Raleigh Road Outdoor Theatre) is one of only a handful of drive-in theaters that are still in operation across the state.

Then there’s The Stevenson, located along Garnett Street near the spot where the former Rose’s store was. The Art Deco style building was designed by Henderson architect Eric Flanagan, who also designed the Henderson High School – now the Center for Innovation for Vance County Schools.

Just down the street from The Stevenson – near Frazco – was The State, another movie house.

Downtowns across the Old Granville area had at least one movie theater, Pace said.

The Orpheum in Oxford on Williamsboro Street was built in 1913. It burned in 1943 and was rebuilt in an Art Deco style that the newly restored location has retained in its new incarnation  as a wedding and event venue.

A group is Lousiburg is trying to do a similar thing and save a theater downtown, which opened in 1935 and was in operation until about 2009.

Oxford also had The Liberty Theater, located near the current location of Hall’s Flooring. The Mills family ran this theater, which was in operation from 1929-1942 for African Americans.

The Carolina Theater occupied a spot near Strong Arm Baking Co. on Main Street in Oxford from the mid 1930’s to the early ‘60’s, Pace said. The building burned down in 1997 when it was being used as a fitness center and now is the site of the Hugh Currin mini-park.

There was a drive-in in Oxford, across from the Food Lion at Hilltop, called the Starlite. Pace said he’s looking for a photograph of this theater, so if anybody has one, he’d love to see it.




TownTalk: The Salvation Army Is More Than Just Kettles And Bells

Whether you’re gearing up for the traditional Black Friday sales crush or someone who chooses to wait until December to think about shopping for holiday gifts, one thing’s for certain: When you hear that bell ringing and see that familiar red kettle, you know the Christmas season is near.

For more than a century, the Salvation Army has been a fixture in communities all over the country, and its volunteers ring bells and stand watch over those red kettles that are waiting to be filled with coins and folding money outside retail stores in the community.

The local Red Kettle Campaign kicked off last week, and Capt. Josh Keaton of the local Salvation Army said folks will see the iconic kettle outside the local Walmart beginning this Saturday.

Of course, there will be kettles in other locations across Henderson, including the Rose’s store and Food Lion stores.

And each kettle needs volunteers – 15 to 20 volunteers for each kettle during the week, he said on Wednesday’s TownTalk. This year’s local goal is $75,000, Keaton said. There are about 25 kettle locations, and all donations stay right here in the area served by the Salvation Army.

Visit to sign up to volunteer or call the Salvation Army at 252. 438.7107.

“Spots are filling up this year,” Keaton said, but “the more volunteers we have, the better off we are.”

Keaton said it’s important for young people to see others giving back to the community, and he said “the older generation is our driving force” when it comes to volunteers. Be it a civic group or church group, the older volunteers serve as a reminder to the youth to give back to the community, Keaton said.

“We can’t do what we do without our volunteers,” Keaton said – not just during the holidays when folks may feel more inclined to be generous, but throughout the year.

“I’m grateful to be a part of this community,” he said, adding that there is a great need, but also a great level of generosity which support the efforts of the Salvation Army.

Customers at area Walmarts can choose an Angel from the Salvation Army’s Angel Trees and shop right in the store for gifts for children and senior adults, Keaton said.

The Angel Tree campaign runs from Nov. 9 to Dec. 9. Keaton said he expected that more than 200 children will experience the joy of opening a gift on Christmas morning because of the Angel Tree project.

When you pass a kettle on your way into a store this holiday season and find yourself with no cash, don’t worry. The Salvation Army has got you covered. There’s a QR code that you can scan with your phone and make a quick payment through any of several online payment options.

“It seems to be working well,” Keaton said, adding that online payment options may add a convenience factor to holiday giving.

“We can’t continue to put our eggs in one basket,” he said.

Or, in this case, kettle.



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TownTalk: Commissioners Hear Presentation From Vaya Health About “Diversion Center” Plans

The Vance County Board of Commissioners got an update on plans by Vaya Health to turn a vacant retail space into a 16-bed “diversion center” designed for individuals who are in a mental health crisis.

There are still many hurdles to cross, Vaya officials said, but first steps include getting support – and ultimately money – from the county to operate the facility. Vaya representatives presented the plan and update during the commissioners’ Nov. 6 meeting.

The space is connected to Tractor Supply on Dabney Drive, and it’s where the former Big Lots store was located.

“There’s not a lot of current space available that can be modified,” said Elliot Clark, Vaya’s community relations regional director.

The site would have to be rezoned, and they’ve spoken with city officials about that, Clark said. “It’s the best option we could find at the best price point,” he said.

The $4.5 million estimate is now a few months old, so the final figure to complete the project may be higher. Vaya is contributing $1.5 million of the total, and they’re pretty confident they can secure significant state funding, but it helps to know that Vance County leaders support the project – financially and otherwise.

The diversion center would serve Granville and Franklin counties, too, and the Vaya reps will ask those two counties for support as well. No definite amounts have been determined, but it could work out to be something along the line of $500,000 per county.

The main idea for this facility it to help take some of the heat off hospital emergency rooms, which often aren’t equipped to handle the specific needs of individuals suffering from behavioral and mental health crises.

“There is significant need in the community,” said Vaya Vice President Donald Reuss, adding that while there are numerous providers across the system, there’s no comprehensive crisis center in place.

Of particular interest is the planned walk-in clinic. “It’s really the core piece,” Reuss said, to support those in crisis and to prevent crises. Individuals can walk in, have access to a therapist or psychiatrist and get meds filled at the in-house pharmacy.

The walk-in clinic will provide “timely access to care when people need it.” The walk-in clinic would follow normal business hours, but the urgent care side would be available 24/7.