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Judge: Randolph jail didn’t violate rights

RANDOLPH COUNTY — A federal magistrate judge has recommended the dismissal of a lawsuit claiming that the Randolph County Detention Center’s restrictions on reading material violates inmates’ civil rights.

The lawsuit filed in January 2022 by Austin Joshua Nance was the second challenging the restrictions. The first, filed in October 2021 by Franklin Kyle Willis, was dismissed last August after Willis failed to meet a deadline for filing evidence.

Magistrate Judge Joi Elizabeth Peake of U.S. District Court for North Carolina’s Middle District wrote in a memorandum filed earlier this month that Nance’s lawsuit fails to demonstrate that the restrictions instituted at the jail in May 2021 were unreasonable.

“It is clear that there was a valid, rational connection between the confiscating of Plaintiff’s books and restricting his access to reading materials and the penological interest in preventing contraband from entering the jail,” Peake wrote.

Also, about two months after the initial restrictions, the jail started receiving donated reading materials, and in November 2021 the jail started a library. Inmates also had access for part of the day to tablets with e-books on them.

Nance also alleged that his right to religious practice was improperly burdened by the jail not allowing him to have an NIV Study Bible provided by his family, but Peake wrote that Nance acknowledged that the jail provided two other Bibles, one of which was the same translation as the study Bible.

“By his own allegations, Plaintiff had opportunity to exercise his faith. Not having access to a specific study Bible does not constitute a substantial burden on Plaintiff’s religious practice,” she wrote.

Nance,who has been acting as his own attorney in the lawsuit, has until Monday to file an objection to Peake’s recommendation.

State investigating construction death

Aaron Hurtado

ARCHDALE — An investigation is underway into the death of a 41-year-old Archdale man at a commercial construction work site in Greensboro late last month.

Aaron Billy Hurtado died Feb. 25 while working on the fourth floor of a building under renovation along Green Valley Road near the Friendly Center shopping complex. A 911 emergency call from the day of the fatality indicates that Hurtado fell 10 feet.

His older brother, Amos Hurtado of Archdale, said that his brother was dead at the scene of the accident.

“All I know is that he was cutting concrete and they were trying to pry a piece away,” he told The High Point Enterprise.

Workers on site “heard a snap,” and his brother fell, Hurtado said.

A public information officer with the N.C. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Division said the agency has opened an inspection into the incident.

“As it is an open investigation, that is all the information we can provide at this time,” said agency spokeswoman Erin Wilson.

Hurtado worked for Ace Avant of Archdale. Company President Michael Somero said Tuesday that the company will work with investigative authorities.

“We want to ensure it does not happen again,” Somero said. “We were shocked and extremely saddened by the tragic loss of one of our employees, Aaron Hurtado, while he was working on renovating an office building in Greensboro. Aaron was a consistent and valuable part of the Ace Avant family for many years, and we will never forget the positive impact he had on us.”

Another Ace Avant employee was injured in the accident, and was released after being treated at an area hospital, Somero said.

A recording of the 911 call by a man at the work site starts with the man urgently telling the emergency dispatcher that an ambulance is needed at the construction site in the old SunTrust building.

When the dispatcher asked how far Hurtado fell, the man said, “I believe it’s 10 feet.”

The man said Hurtado was bleeding and had a head injury.

The emergency dispatcher told the man to use a clean, dry towel or cloth to keep pressure on the bleeding wound and stem as much of it as possible.

The call, which covered a little over seven minutes, ended as paramedics arrived.

Amos Hurtado said his family hopes that the investigation will provide clarity and details on what happened.

“I know my brother was always very big on safety,” Hurtado said.

Amos Hurtado described his brother as a “go-getter” who people knew “was in the room” because of his engaging presence. His relatives are devastated by the tragedy.

Aaron Hurtado, who worked in construction most of his life, moved from Florida to Archdale seven years ago to join relatives here. The Hurtado family members live side by side in an Archdale neighborhood.

On the afternoon his brother died, Hurtado said, he and his relatives were wondering what was taking Aaron so long to arrive home.

“At 6:30 p.m., three hours after it happened, company trucks pulled into the driveway,” Hurtado said. “I knew it was bad. As soon as they got out of their vehicles I was hoping my brother would get out, and he didn’t. All I could say was, ‘Where’s my brother?’ ”

Guilford school board impasse continues

GUILFORD COUNTY — The Guilford County Board of Education may soon lose the ability to reject a political party’s choice to fill a vacancy on the board, but it hasn’t yet.

Board members voted 6-2 along party lines Tuesday night, yet again, not to seat Michael Logan, the Guilford County Republican Party’s choice to fill the vacancy left after Republican Pat Tillman was elected to the Guilford County Board of Commissioners.

There was no discussion during the meeting, but in past interviews and in an opinion column Democratic board members have cited Logan’s history of social media posts using inflammatory wording that they found offensive or divisive.

The General Assembly is on the verge of passing a bill to fill the vacant seat without a vote by the remaining board members. With the bill’s passage in the Senate last week, it went back to the House, where it originated, because of a minor change in wording made by the Senate. It is on the calendar for a vote today.

Once it passes, Logan must be sworn in to represent District 3, which covers part of northwestern Guilford County. Because it’s a local bill, it is not subject to a veto by Gov. Roy Cooper.

The bill was filed by Rep. John Hardister, R-Guilford, last month to address an oversight made 10 years ago in Republican then-Sen. Trudy Wade’s crusade to turn the Guilford County Board of Education into a partisan board. That left in place instructions in state law for the board to vote on filling a vacancy even though a different part of state law requires partisan school boards to appoint the candidate selected by the party whose representative vacated the seat.

Hardister has said the vote requirement was a relic from when the board was nonpartisan and should have been removed when the board’s elections became partisan.

In other business, the board approved requesting that the county commissioners increase the project ordinance for the Brooks Global Studies school replacement in Greensboro by almost 10%, or $3.6 million, from the revised $39 million estimate the board received late last year.

Brooks is the first school bonds project with a final, guaranteed maximum bid that came in higher than those late 2022 revisions, which were sharply higher than the original estimates made in 2019. Several others have come in lower.

The board also heard an update on GCS’s efforts to help students make up learning lost during the first two years of the pandemic. The numbers from the district’s high-dose tutoring program particularly stood out.

Through Feb. 28, more than 9,000 students have received tutoring during the 2022-23 school year, a jump of 202% from the same point last year. The number of tutoring sessions performed shot up by 362%, from 37,081 by the end of February 2022 to 171,212 this year.

Roster picked to guide growth plan

HIGH POINT — The city has set the roster for the High Point 2045 comprehensive plan steering committee.

Staff, along with a consultant hired by the city to help develop the long-range plan, chose the 25-person group of real estate and development professionals, small business owners and nonprofit leaders from more than 80 applicants.

Its members will provide input, identify key issues and concerns and gather public feedback during the process, which is being led by outside planning firm czb under a $350,000 city contract.

The comprehensive plan will serve as a growth guide and foundation for city zoning and development regulations.

It will replace the city’s land use plan, which was adopted in 2000, and smaller area plans with one comprehensive policy document.

It will be separate from the city’s development ordinance, which sets the rules for what can be built where.

The comprehensive plan will be fashioned over the next year, with the goal of presenting a draft to the City Council in March 2024, said Matt Ingalls, principal with czb.

So far, some of the issues raised in stakeholder discussions about the planning process include walkability, equity and the need for a more consistent development review process, he said.

The steering committee includes former High Point Mayor and City Councilwoman Bernita Sims, executive director of the Welfare Reform Liaison Project.

Retired High Point Economic Development Corp. President Loren Hill, who’s now the Carolina Core regional economic development director, is also on the committee.

Other members include Judy Stalder of the Triad Real Estate and Building Industry Coalition and Tom Terrell, a land-use attorney who represents applicants seeking rezonings for development projects from many different jurisdictions, including High Point.

The other steering committee members are Alexandra Arpajian, executive director of the High Point Arts Council; Joe Blosser, chief impact officer of the Congdon Family Foundation; Phyllis Bridges, owner of Yalik’s African American Art & Cultural Movement; Steve Hall of the Piedmont Environmental Center; Fred Hoffmann, multi-classroom leader at Fairview Elementary School; Curtis Holloman, executive director of the Foundation for a Healthy High Point; Amanda Hufford, founder of Context Design Studio; Quineece Huntley of Business High Point-Chamber of Commerce; Jazlyn A Ibarra of Sedia Systems; Thomas Jarrell of Guilford Investment Properties/Speckman Commercial Properties; Addison Keane of Keane Marketing; Dave Nissen of Paddled South Brewing; Alicia O’Brien of the West End Neighborhood Association; Letti Pagan of VP Remodeling LLC; Michael Qubein of High Point University; Tu Sen, owner of 98 Asian Bistro; Christi Spangle of Barbour Spangle Design; the Rev. Frank Thomas of Mt. Zion Baptist Church; Patrick Watterson of Bethany Medical; Jessica Wynn of the High Point Market Authority and Erica Yochim of Allen Tate Realtors.


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