TownTalk: The City Of Henderson Budget

The proposed budget for the City of Henderson includes a bump in salary for some frontline city employees, continued funding for economic incentives and grants and, what may interest city residents most – no increase in taxes or fees for city services.

The $22.68 million also includes a $1.65 million appropriation from the fund balance, which City Manager Terrell Blackmon called a “considerable reduction” from the appropriation from the previous fiscal year. This reduction is due largely in fact to the availability of ARPA pandemic relief funds.

“The fund balance is still doing great at this time,” Blackmon told WIZS News Tuesday in a statement via email, adding that it remains well above minimum requirements of both the City Council and the Local Government Commission.

Blackmon provided details of the budget to WIZS News earlier Tuesday via email. The city council is set to vote on approval of the 2022-23 budget at its June meeting.

According to Blackmon, personnel costs are the biggest variable in the proposed budget.

“Although there is no cost-of-living increase in the FY23 budget, we are absorbing salary increases from police and fire the past two years in addition to cost-of-living and premium pay increases in the current budget,” Blackmon stated.

In an overview of the budget that was presented to the city council, Blackmon noted that revenues – although up – continue to be projected in a conservative manner and expenditures limited to capital needs.

The budget addresses one of the issues in the city’s recently adopted strategic plan – employee recruitment and retention – by giving frontline workers in operations, water and wastewater departments a $1 increase in their hourly rates. He said this moves those salaries closer to the current market rate and will hopefully help to retain employers in these areas.

The city may have to take a second look at water rates once construction begins on the regional water system expansion, but that is not expected to begin until early 2023. Blackmon said the city is seeking approval for the project from the

The budget designates $25,000 to the Downtown Development Commission for incentive and grant programs toward continued downtown revitalization and $100,000 in economic development grants for ongoing projects at M.R. Williams, North Central Medical Transport and MAKO Laboratory.

The police and fire departments will get funding for leasing and lease-purchase of needed equipment, including police cars under a 5-year lease plan and possible purchase of a new fire engine by the fire department.

Blackmon said the budget reflects “further positive steps to help the city grow and reach its full potential.”

Part of that potential lies in the West End Urban Redevelopment Plan, which focuses on improvements to areas near the downtown area as well as the Flint Hill Community Development Plan. These projects represent a $1.5 million investment in redevelopment activities in the city, which could include acquisition of properties, down payment help for first-time home buyers and urgent repairs to homes – all of which would help strengthen the downtown area and nearby neighborhoods.

“We must continue to work towards innovative ways to promote and energize redevelopment initiatives now to position the city to be ready for near future business prospects and citizenship,” Blackmon said.

See the full proposed budget at


Vance County Logo

TownTalk: A Look At The Vance Co. Budget

Vance County residents can expect no increase in property tax rates or other fees if the commissioners approve the $55 million budget presented to them earlier this month.

The commissioners are expected to decide at their June 6 meeting, according to information from County Manager Jordan McMillen.

The proposed budget represents a 6 percent increase – or roughly $3.3 million – in the 2021-22 budget, and McMillen said the county is in a position to further plans to create a shell building in the industrial park, which will be a boost for future jobs and local investment.

The budget will use more than $1.6 million from the general fund balance.

“We do anticipate our fund balance increasing over the next year or so,” McMillen said in an email to WIZS News. He attributes this expected increase mainly to increased tax collections and, unfortunately, vacancies in some of the larger county departments and added that he anticipates moving additional fund balance money to plan longer term for future capital needs.

The property tax base is increasing $95 million from the prior year which, along with an increased tax collection rate, will account for $1.1 million in additional property tax revenue, according to the budget information presented to the commissioners for review.

The sales tax is projected to be $2.8 million more to the 22-23 budget than in the current budget. This increase will help fulfill recommendations from the recent salary study for county employees.

The proposed budget also has increased support for the fire department, with the addition of three new fire engineer positions – one for each shift.

McMillen said having such revenue growth in both property tax and sales tax is not something that the county is used to. “ I have not seen a situation where both property tax and sales tax were up to the degree it is right now,” he said. “Both are explainable when you look into what is making up the tax base growth and when you account for the pandemic’s impact on sales tax spending.,” he said, adding that he doesn’t anticipate it to be a “continual pattern.”

View the proposed budget here:

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TownTalk: Kaleah Padgett Helps Daughters Who Have Lost Mothers

Kaleah Padgett has degrees in sociology and in Biblical and religious studies, both of which provide useful tools, but it’s the personal experience of dealing with the loss of her mother that she draws from as she helps other women struggling with their own mothers’ deaths.

Padgett formed Our Motherless Daughters about five years ago, and until the COVID-19 pandemic struck, the group met monthly at Perry Memorial Library. Now Padgett is leading more than 100 women via a Facebook page.

“Hopefully we can have start having meetings again soon,” Padgett told John C. Rose on Thursday’s Town Talk. It also is her wish to find a central location to gather, making it easy for women to walk to the meeting.

Padgett said her mother died 12 years ago, on Padgett’s own birthday.

“Having that happen on my birthday was very, very hard,” she said. Over the years, however, the sadness of grief has transformed into a “great celebration of life,” with each birthday that comes.

“My mom gave me life on that day…and she went Home on that day,” she said. The profound grief she still feels over the loss of her mother is an emotion that others in the group feel as well. But Padgett said the skills she learned through her education help her provide spiritual support and emotional support as she talks with the other women in the group. And she also has experienced the loss herself, which can also be a source of comfort to the group’s members.

Padgett said she was lucky because she had wonderful family support when her mother died. “A lot of people don’t have that support,” she noted. “I wanted to reach out…and let them know they are not alone in this process.”

Everyone grieves in a different way, she explained. It is something that she continues to process, but the feelings remain. “It lessens and it gets better, but it never goes away. Grief is also a part of the healing process as well,” she said.

In addition to starting up the in-person meetings again, Padgett said she has a second goal of identifying a location for a community garden, where women in the group can select a flower to plant as a way to remember their mothers. Each flower can represent a mother that is still missed by her daughter.

Call Padgett at 919.426.7396 to learn more about the support group, or find the group page on Facebook –

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Town Talk: First Fruits Farms Balloon Festival

Jason Brown’s faith has led him to do some interesting things since he retired from his NFL football career and he and his family have used their farm in Franklin County to do everything from growing and giving away produce to transforming an old dairy barn into a wedding venue.

And on Memorial Day weekend, visitors will have a chance to cast their eyes to the skies for the second annual Memorial Balloon Festival at First Fruits Farm.

The Vance County native said there could be as many as 35,000 to 40,000 people in attendance during the four-day event, which kicks off on Friday, May 27 and ends on May 30. He spoke with John C. Rose on Tuesday’s Town Talk about what’s in store at the farm, located at 2805 E. River Rd. in Louisburg.

The festival is a way to honor veterans and those who served in the military, and Brown said the event has special meaning for him. His brother, Lunsford, was killed while deployed to Iraq in 2003. And again this year, Brown said there will be a Gold Star reception for families like his who have lost a loved one. More than 100 Gold Star families attended last year’s event. “There is comfort and strength” for the families to be together, “to share love and their experience with one another,” Brown said.

Visit to purchase tickets and see a complete schedule of events for the weekend festival. There will be fireworks displays, balloon rides and tethered balloon rides and family fun for everyone.

“It’s an opportunity to bring the community together at a time when there’s so much divisiveness,” he said. The festival will provide a time for fellowship, as well as food and some good entertainment. Brown said some folks spend more than one day at the festival so they can take their time and soak in all the activities and performances.

Brown said God pointed him to farming and agriculture, something he said his time on the football field didn’t exactly prepare him for. “As long as there’s faith – that’s what’s most important.”

It’s a long way – literally and figuratively – from the football fields of the NFL to the sweet potato fields of Franklin County, but Brown said God continued to order his steps to make his dream a reality.

That reality has become a hybrid of sorts – growing produce that he gives away with the help of hundreds of volunteers each season. He said “some of the most awesome people give up a Saturday morning” to dig, collect and distribute the hundreds of thousands of pounds of sweet potatoes that provide a healthy food to those in need. “They truly are the salt of the earth,” he added.

Volunteers are vital during harvest time, and Brown said there’s room for additional volunteers to help at the balloon festival, too. Visit the webpage to learn how to register, but Brown said in exchange for four hours of service, volunteers will get free admission and parking to the festival. And a cool t-shirt.

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TownTalk: Crime Stoppers Breakfast Held In Appreciation To Law Enforcement

The Henderson Vance Crime Stoppers kicked off National Police Week by giving area law enforcement officers a pat on the back – and a complimentary breakfast.

Frankie Nobles is president of the local Crime Stoppers organization and he said Wednesday’s  breakfast included an awards ceremony to recognize a number of people who serve the community.

The event was held at J.R.’s Restaurant 39, and owners J.R. Stainback and wife Harley received Business of the Year award for their efforts to support local law enforcement. The Crime Stoppers group holds its monthly meetings at Restaurant 39, Nobles said, noting the “many things they do for Crime Stoppers and our community.”

Nobles told John C. Rose on Monday’s Town Talk that Clearview Baptist Church footed the bill for the breakfast, which fed more than 100 law enforcement officers and other local leaders who joined in to say thank you.

“These officers need this recognition,” Nobles said. “They need to know how important they are to our community.”

The breakfast is just a small show of support for the men and women who dedicate themselves to keeping the community safe. “Law enforcement agents…put their lives on the line every day, and the community just doesn’t recognize that enough,” Nobles said.

He said the breakfast gives officers from different agencies the opportunity to mingle and to support each other, too.

“If (that’s) just a little something we can do, that’s what we’ll do,” Nobles said, adding that if the officers can come in and be stress-free for the 30 minutes or so to eat breakfast, “it was all worth it.”

The Henderson Police Department’s Gregory Hunter received the Sam Pearson Memorial Award.

Detective Andrew Bishop of the Vance County Sheriff’s Office received the Tom Long Memorial Award award; Sgt. Akira Alston received the detention officer award and Trooper J.P. Taylor was honored for State Highway Patrol officer of the year.

Heather Lovings, a member of the support staff for Vance County Animal Services, was honored for her work as well. “It’s not always about the officer handling the cases, but also about the support person,” Nobles said.

Nobles said the recipient of the VGCC law enforcement award will receive his award on Friday, so the announcement will be made public at that time.

This is the first year that wildlife officers have joined the group, and Nobles said he hoped they would participate in future events.



TownTalk: Step Back In Time Event To Be Held At Hudson Manor

Looking for a fun family activity this weekend? The Hudson Manor in Franklin County is the site for a daylong event called Step Back in Time that has something for everyone – but especially for local history enthusiasts.

The stately home, with its sprawling grounds, has been a wedding venue for the past 18 years, and owner/operator Melissa Cogliati said she’s ready for Saturday’s activities, rain or shine. The hours are 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is free, and there will be food trucks, workshops and demonstrations throughout the day, live music, folklorists and much more.

Cogliati is working with the Franklin County Historic Preservation Commission to host the event, which was organized to raise money to publish a book on the county’s historic architecture.

“It seems now the weather will hold out at least until the afternoon,” Cogliati said. Vendors, musicians, and others will be located in the home’s large ballroom and protected from the elements, she noted.

She spoke with Bill Harris, who chairs the historic preservation commission, and local historian Mark Pace on Thursday’s tri-weekly history program on Town Talk.

“Rain or shine, it’s going on,” Harris said. “There are a lot of things going on.”

An architectural survey has been completed, and the commission hopes to raise the necessary funds to publish the book, which would contain information about the local architecture as well as more than 800 photos.

This ambitious project would be the first of its kind in more than 40 years, Harris said. The project lost a little momentum – and associated funding – during the pandemic and the Saturday event hopes to make up the gap in funding.

Cogliati said Hudson Manor, located at 908 Moulton Rd., Louisburg, is included in the architectural survey, and she said Step Back in Time will provide entertainment for the whole family while raising money for a good cause. She works with the county’s planning advisory board and the local tourism development authority and said she is happy to provide a spot where “we can meet our neighbors and have a little community spirit.”

Visit to learn more.



Salvation Army

TownTalk: Celebrating Salvation Army Week

The local Salvation Army is celebrating National Salvation Army Week this week with lots of fun activities for the children in the Red Shield Club as the organization continues to provide valuable services and programs to the larger community.

Red Shield Club Director Gina Eaves said club members are participating in activities ranging from creating murals and poetry to learning what it’s like to be an officer in the Salvation Army from Capt. Derrick Smith, who, along with his wife, Capt. Odessa Smith, leads the local organization in Henderson.

And the children have been learning about Salvation Army history, which includes a connection with donuts, Eaves said in an interview on Wednesday’s Town Talk with Bill Harris. Capt. Derrick Smith joined his colleague to talk about some of the Salvation Army’s activities as it celebrates its centennial in Henderson.

“Donuts have a place in Salvation Army history,” she said. Volunteers were dispatched to provide emotional and spiritual support to soldiers in France during World War I. In addition to the moral support, the Salvation Army volunteers also provided – you guessed it – donuts to the troops.

The Red Shield club no doubt was filled with the aroma of freshly baked Krispy Kremes on Monday as the children learned a little history about the organization.

Smith said it’s that spiritual component that separates the Red Shield Club from other after-school programs. The youth ministries programs are Christ-focused and the children, who range in age from 5 to 15, learn about salvation through the club programs and devotions.

“We are enthused and excited about that,” Smith said.

Eaves said she values feedback from the youth as well and their input plays an integral role in programming. “If they’re having fun, we’re all having fun,” she said. It is important to meet the children’s needs on a spiritual level as well as physically, emotionally and educationally. Weaving the spiritual aspect into the programming is intentional, Eaves added.

The club has more than 100 members. Eaves said the club meets the needs of the children and the needs of the community.

But the Salvation Army’s focus also lies in meeting the human needs in the community, Smith said. There are several upcoming opportunities for area residents that are happening at or near the Salvation Army, located at 2292 Ross Mill Rd.

The monthly community food box distribution will take place tomorrow (Thursday, May 12) from 1 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. in the Salvation Army parking lot. Smith said there would probably be about 250 families who stop in for a box.

Many of these families may be facing food insecurity, Smith said, adding that more senior adults seem to be taking advantage of the monthly distribution.

“Our boxes are definitely made with love,” Smith said, adding that the donations of food that local individuals make help. “We appreciate those donations because they go a long way,” he said.

The Salvation Army will host another Medassist giveaway on June 17, which distributes over-the-counter medications at no charge to folks who drive up or place an online order in advance.

The mission of the Salvation Army is to meet human needs, Smith said. Whether people need baby formula or pet food, Smith and his Salvation Army volunteers strive to help however they can.

He said the local Schewels recently conducted a diaper drive and collected hundreds of diapers that the Salvation Army could then offer to families who needed them.


“If we have it, we certainly want to give it to those who need it the most,” Smith said.

This weekend marks a two-day event that will occur next door to the Salvation Army at Vance Charter School. The RAM Medical Clinic will set up shop and conduct free health, dental and vision exams and procedures free of charge.

See for more information about the clinic.


TownTalk: The Role Of Red Cross In Ukraine

When disasters happen across the world, whether they are natural disasters like typhoons and tornados, or whether they are manmade like the war in Ukraine, the Red Cross steps into action.

The Red Cross organizations across the globe adhere to the same seven guiding principles, and a longtime volunteer and military veteran shared some insight on Town Talk’s recurring “former military, still boots on the ground” segment with co-host Phyllis Maynard.

Retired Air Force Lt. Col. Charlie Brown recited those seven guiding principles that serve the Red Cross and Red Crescents across the world: Humanity, impartiality, neutrality, independence, voluntary service, universality and unity.

Though largely self-explanatory, sometimes those principles are misunderstood, Brown told Maynard and John C. Rose.

The U.S. has pledged billions of dollars of relief to Ukraine as it defends itself from neighboring Russia’s advances, and Brown said the Red Cross has deployed volunteers to help, too. That’s the “humanity” principle kicking in, she said. The Red Cross is “responsible for alleviating and eliminating human suffering whenever possible.”

That being said, the “neutrality” principle is what some may have difficulty with. The Red Cross may not take sides or engage in controversies, Brown explained.

So while the Red Cross is sending people to help, they aren’t going into Ukraine, but to countries where displaced Ukrainians are re-locating.

Some of the volunteers have experience working with refugees; others are young people just out of college. The experienced volunteers can provide support for the younger volunteers.

“Most of us have been through all sorts of things, so we are here to be a sounding board for them. It can be a shock, she said, to see refugees fleeing their country with only the clothes on their backs and running from fighting.

“People who are deploying out for service to the armed forces have tended to be at both ends of the age and experience spectrum,” Brown said. She said other veterans, as well as military spouses are among those who volunteer for service.

The Red Cross volunteers keep in touch with families of deployed personnel – “we find out what’s needed and get things to them,” Brown said.

Visit to learn more about the organization and the services it provides here and across the globe.




TownTalk: Tennis Skills and Skills of Life and Mary Lloyd Hodges Barbera

Sports fans who watch tennis from Wimbledon or the U.S. Open each year may be surprised to learn that 70 percent of the nation’s tennis is played on public courts – in parks or other locations away from private clubs.

That’s according to a couple of tennis aficionados who were on Town Talk Monday to talk about an upcoming event that’s taking place at one such local public park.

Local youth have the chance to participate in a free “skills and drills” tennis clinic at Fox Pond Park in Vance County, one of those public spots where folks can use the courts to learn the game or to hone their skills.

The free clinic is Saturday, May 14 from 10 a.m. to noon for youth ages 5 to 18 – the only requirement is to wear appropriate sneakers or tennis shoes, according to Jerry Edmonds, III, vice president of Edmonds Tennis & Education Foundation.

That same morning, two of the courts will be dedicated in the memory of a Henderson junior tennis standout who played at the college level, racking up titles and championships along the way. She spent a lot of time on the Fox Pond courts, and the Henderson City Council last year approved naming courts 1 and 2 in memory of Mary Lloyd Hodges Barbera.

ETEF is putting on the clinic in partnership with the City of Henderson and the N.C. Tennis Foundation and U.S. Tennis Association of North Carolina.

The ETEF was established in 2018 as a way to using tennis to provide academic and athletic opportunities for underserved youth in rural North Carolina.  It is based in Henderson.

Edmonds and N.C. Tennis Association Executive Director Kelly Gaines told John C. Rose about the event and the role tennis continues to play in their lives.

Gaines said Barbera was a little younger than she was, but they grew up playing tennis with and against each other in various tournaments and later at Peace College. Barbera was good enough, Gaines noted, that she’d often “play up,” which meant she competed against older players.

“She always knew how to put (the ball) past me,” Gaines said of her longtime friend and colleague with the NCTA. “It is my honor to shine a light on Mary Lloyd,” she said, adding that she is “thrilled” that the Fox Pond Park courts will bear her name.

Barbera died in 2015 at the age of 49.

The ETEF incorporates education when introducing young people to the sport of tennis. The sport supports development of the whole child, Edmonds said, because it incorporates qualities like honesty, fair play and integrity. It helps that players don’t need a lot of equipment to play – just a racquet, some tennis balls and, of course, the right type of shoe.

Gaines said tennis for younger children is like other sports – it’s scaled down to accommodate the youngsters and to allow them to have success early. Starting out, the kids may use a slower ball, a smaller racquet and a shorter court as they build their skill set.

“Tennis is a sport for a lifetime,” Gaines said. Pairing the sport with that education component is a perfect way to increase the possibility of young people continuing to play into adulthood.

“If they start out (playing tennis) as a child, even if they put the racquet down, they’re more likely to pick it back up as an adult,” Edmonds said.

The ETEF pays tribute to Edmonds’s parents, who moved to the area more than 30 years ago and probably taught more than 3,000 the game of tennis in his time here.

Now, Edmonds said through partnerships with agencies like The Salvation Army, Turning Point CDC, 4-H and the local Boys & Girls Club, youngsters can learn about tennis.

“Now they have that tennis component as part of their summer camps as well,” Edmonds said, which means there will be “more tennis racquets in youths’ hands for a longer period of time.”

“We feel a huge obligation to prepare the next generation to keep this legacy going,” he added.

Gaines said that anyone who knew Barbera – whether as a willowy tennis player hitting balls at Fox Pond or as an adult ambassador for the NCTA for 15 years – can recall that infectious smile.

“She believed that tennis was for everybody,” Gaines said, adding that her friend wanted everyone to give the game a try, no matter their ability level. “It is for all of us,” she said.

“The fact that kids will come along and play on those courts – she’ll be smiling at us and we’ll feel her presence.”


TownTalk: Shriners To Hold 58th Annual Fish Fry

It’s not too soon to think about the upcoming Shriners Fish Fry, which will take place on Wednesday, May 18.

This is the 58th fish fry and local Shriner Donald C. Seifert spoke with John C. Rose on Thursday’s Town Talk about how the event has evolved over those almost six decades as it continues to raise money for local causes as well as for Shriner’s Children’s Hospitals.

The annual event has been held in numerous spots over the years, many of them at the old Henderson Armory. Patrons had a chance to eat in or take out, as well as visit with friends from across the community.

“It’s been reshaped a bit over the last several years,” Seifert said. The fish fry is held at what he called “the Slaughter building,” located between Mako Medical and Serv Pro on Industry Drive.

Local Shriner Sherby Slaughter provides the site for the fish fry, and Seifert said last year’s take-out option proved successful.

“We just don’t have the space inside to serve patrons,” he said, “and we miss that. We do have the drive-thru set up and it’s worked well.”

Lots of planning goes into the annual fundraiser, well in advance of the event date, which traditionally is the third Wednesday in May. The gates open at 11 a.m. and the goal is to sell about 2,000 plates by the time the fish fry is over about suppertime.

Thanks to some coordination with the nearby Salvation Army, Seifert said there should be no problems with having enough fish. “The Salvation Army has agreed to let us have some reserve product in their kitchen,” he said. “If we start to run low, we’ll have easy access and have plenty of fish.”

Like many organizations, the Shrine Club isn’t as large as it once was, and members rely on volunteers to help keep things rolling on fish fry day, whether it’s delivering plates of 10 or more to area businesses or cooking and packing the food into containers, volunteers play a key role, for which Seifert says his fellow Shriners are grateful.

“My hat’s off to our volunteers,” he said.

The fish fry is a highlight of the club’s year, and its proceeds help support local causes like First Responders and >> as well as the children’s hospitals that the Shriners are associated with.

“There are so many good causes around, especially local causes that we feel like we’d like to help,” Seifert said. “Of course, the hospitals get a nice donation…but we try to share as best we can.”

Tickets are $10, but you don’t have to have a ticket in advance – just follow the line of traffic out to Industry Drive, pull in, pick up a plate and get a great big “Thank You” from a Shriner.