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 In the News, July 29, 2010 


Two annexations begun in Asheville. County residents may soon be Asheville citizens: At its July 27 meeting, Asheville City Council approved beginning the process of two annexations — Coopers Hawk and Royal Pines. Council member Bill Russell voted against both annexations; Mayor Terry Bellamy joined him in voting against an annexation in the Royal Pines area, citing concerns about the size of the annexed area and about providing service.

Gastonia annexation issue still up in the air. An annexation debate that has divided the Gastonia City Council while hanging in limbo for more than two months will now extend into August. A vote to annex 685 acres of non-contiguous land that the city owns north of Bessemer City ended in another 3-3 tie Tuesday night. It was the second straight meeting during which council members have voted on the measure, only to see a deadlock. Both times, the ties have been made possible because of one of the seven council members being absent. Gastonia’s aim is to find some economically viable use for the largely undeveloped Payseur Mountain site, which was acquired years ago to build a municipal airport. But the debate is being followed closely by countless Gaston County residents who own property nearby. Many are wary of the city’s intentions because the Gastonia Police Department attempted to put a firing range and explosives testing site on 25 acres of the land in late 2008, only to be denied by a Gaston County land-use board.



Moore County ready for ABC reform. When it comes to ethics, the Moore County ABC Board and staff will face no changes when a new state law takes effect Oct. 1.  The ABC reform bill, signed into law last week by Gov. Bev Perdue, was written to establish operational standards for all Alcoholic Beverage Control agencies across the state. It was passed in the wake of a series of embarrassing financial and ethical blunders committed by ABC boards in three large counties in North Carolina. "I don't see how it affects us whatsoever," said John Garner, chairman of the Moore County ABC Board. "We've been doing these things all along."



Looming N.C. deficit among nation’s worst. North Carolina will face one of the largest state deficits in the country next year, according to a new report. The National Conference of State Legislatures surveyed 35 states to get a picture of their fiscal health heading into the 2011-12 budget year. Thirty of the states are projecting deficits that total $72 billion. North Carolina's deficit is already expected to be $3.2 billion next year, or more than 16 percent of its $19 billion operating budget. Lawmakers struggled to cut about $1.3 billion from the budget they passed last month. The majority of the 2011-12 shortfall comes from the end of federal economic stimulus spending and $1.4 billion in temporary taxes, including a penny increase to the state's sale tax rate, that are scheduled to expire next June.



With sweepstakes outlawed, vendors still plan to be players. Sweepstakes parlors will be banned in North Carolina in December, thanks to a law signed last week, but new fronts are opening in the battle to keep people playing electronic poker and slots. Even before the state House and Senate finished work on a bill to ban the games, the industry was threatening a wave of lawsuits and technical changes that they said would keep them legal. And the day after Gov. Bev Perdue signed the ban into law, she gave parlor owners and operators reason to think they could get back in the political fight. "I think if you have video sweepstakes, whether it is video poker or video machines in general, we really do need to have some kind of concerted, organized, unified system of regulation where they are under a standard set of rules and regulations where we can be sure that nobody is profiteering from it," Perdue told reporters last week.