Morning Headlines: Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Morning Headlines: Wednesday, December 16, 2015

5:56am Dec 16, 2015

Police: Department Is Cooperating With Investigation Into Winston-Salem Man's Death

Winston-Salem Police chief Barry Rountree says they are fully cooperating with state agencies and the District Attorney into the death of Travis Page. The 31-year old man died while in police custody last week. Four officers were involved and placed on administrative leave.  

Rountree says he knows people are concerned about the integrity of the investigation. He says he wants to assure the public that all physical and digital evidence is in the hands of the agencies who are looking into Page's death. 

Several Winston-Salem city leaders and advocates are asking for the release of police videos from that night. They say the tapes may help the public better understand what happened.

Winston-Salem May Offer Raises To Police And Firefighters

Winston-Salem City Council is considering a proposal to raise starting pay for police officers and firefighters.  A recent study shows some of them are making ten percent less than the average pay in the Triad.

The city looked at starting salaries for police officers and firefighters as well as trainees.

Now council members are considering options to close the pay gap. One is a 7.5 percent salary increase.

There would also be supplemental increases for those with more than a year of experience.  The goal is to recruit and keep more qualified people in the city’s police and fire departments.

Carmen Caruth, the city’s human resources director, told council this week that the pay raises could cost between $1.2 and $2.3 million dollars, depending on what was given for the supplemental pay.

If approved, the salary increases could start early next year.

Lawsuit: North Carolina Isn't Complying With Motor Voter Law

Voter advocacy groups have sued North Carolina government leaders who they argue have failed to fix previously disclosed problems with motorists and public assistance applicants getting properly registered to vote.

The lawsuit filed Tuesday in Greensboro federal court comes several months after the groups wrote elections and health officials and the Division of Motor Vehicles threatening litigation unless they rectified issues.

Bob Hall with Democracy North Carolina says the state has been dragging its feet. But the State Board of Elections says it's taken swift action and registration levels have rebounded.

The lawsuit focuses on mandates under the federal "motor voter" law. It alleges Medicaid and food stamp applicants aren't being asked if they're registered to vote and applicants at Division of Motor Vehicles offices aren't getting on voter rolls.

North Carolina House Begins Transportation Study Committee

North Carolina House members have started scrutinizing the state's transportation needs and how to locate more funds to pay for them.

A special committee held its first meeting Tuesday. Members talked about the goals and topics they would like to see discussed over the coming months.

The General Assembly located during this year's session about $700 million in additional transportation funds through mid-2017 that will help build more high-priority projects more quickly.

Those funds remain a small percentage of what's needed to meet demands of the state's growing population over the next 25 years. Committee chairman Rep. John Torbett of Stanley says the panel also must recognize the younger adult population has different transportation needs.

The panel ultimately will make recommendations to the full General Assembly.

North Carolina US Senate Candidate List Growing

The list of candidates officially in next year's race for U.S. Senate in North Carolina keeps growing.

Spring Lake Mayor Chris Rey announced his bid three months ago, but he filed his candidacy paperwork Tuesday at the State Board of Elections. The Democrat is among five people now seeking to unseat Republican incumbent Richard Burr next November.

Rey said he's got the strongest record in the field, including experience in the military, as a small town mayor and as the operator of a local nonprofit.

Other Democratic candidates who've already filed include Deborah Ross and Kevin Griffin. Paul Wright and Larry Holmquist are Republicans who are also challenging Burr in the March 15 primary election.

Other candidates filing Tuesday included Democrat Holly Jones for lieutenant governor and Republican Jim O'Neill for attorney general.

Warm Weather Cools Business For Ski Resorts

 The recent stretch of above average temperatures has shut down all six western North Carolina ski areas in what would normally be the height of ski season.

A November economic value report commissioned by the North Carolina Ski Areas Association showed ski areas contributed more than $197 million to the state's economy during the 2014-15 season. It also found the region's ski areas had over 650,000 visits, provided 87 year-round jobs and 1,787 seasonal jobs and generated nearly $40 million in gross revenue from ski area operations.

It's unclear whether the 2015-16 season will produce these figures.

Association President Kim Jochl says right now it's tough for the ski industry across North Carolina and the East Coast. For example, Sugar Mountain in Avery County opened for the season Nov. 15 and remained open for only 15 days.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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