(This is part two of a two-part series highlighting the top Stokes County news stories of 2012.)
Stokes County celebrated the Fourth of July with many activities, including a concert at King Central Park on July 2 by the 440th Army Band, a concert by the 208th Army Band at Lions Park in Walnut Cove on July 3 followed by fireworks, and a concert by the 208th Army Band in King on July 4 followed by fireworks.
On July 2, a day after Gov. Bev Perdue vetoed Senate Bill 820, the General Assembly narrowly voted to override her veto and approve the bill that legalizes hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” for natural gas in North Carolina. Many Stokes County residents vocally opposed fracking.
A 19-year-old rock climber from Cary, N.C. — Eric Metcalf — died July 8 after falling more than 200 feet while trying to rappel off of a Moore’s Wall cliff in Hanging Rock State Park. Park personnel believed a rope-handling error by the climber may have led to the fall.
Multiple members of a local crime ring had been arrested and more than 70 charges issued as of July 9 through “Operation Fireworks.” The Stokes County Sheriff’s Office reported that investigators had arrested nine individuals and recovered property stolen from victims in Stokes, Surry and Rockingham counties.
On July 16, the Stokes County Schools Board of Education approved its final capital expense and current expense budgets for 2012-13, opting to use fund balance dollars to preserve staff positions. The board also voted to extend Superintendent Ronnie Mendenhall’s contract three years.
Walnut Cove Town Manager Byron Ellis informed the town commissioners on July 17 that he would not be moving to Connecticut as previously planned and requested to withdraw his resignation. The board did not immediately act on his request. Mayor Lynn Lewis broke a tie vote at a special meeting on July 31 to keep Ellis. Commissioners Charles Mitchell and Kim Lewis voted to retain Ellis at the current salary and hours, and Sharon Conaway and Elwood Mabe voted against.
The popular Town and Country restaurant in King opened in July after being closed more than a year for repairs after fire caused extensive damage to the building.
Stokes County Schools administrators learned that the school district’s graduation rate hit a high of 86.1 percent in 2012, placing it among the top 20 school district graduation rates in the state.
School officials held ribbon-cutting ceremonies and open houses at the new Poplar Springs Elementary School in King and the remodeled Southeastern Stokes Middle School in Walnut Cove on Aug. 5. Both events were well attended by the community. Poplar Springs, located on Hobe Kiser Road, was built to reduce crowding in King area schools. Southeastern’s campus boasted a new B building, walkway awnings, and redesigned entrance and parking.
On Aug. 12, King woman Jennifer Nieberle was struck by a truck while walking along a curvy road near her home early in the morning. The truck was driven by Jacob Nunn, also of King. Nieberle died and Nunn was charged with driving while impaired, provisional DWI, and felony hit and run.
A man robbed First Citizens Bank in King on Aug. 17. No weapon was visible, but the robber walked out with an undisclosed sum of cash. This was the first bank robbery in King in a couple of years.
The historic old Dodson Hotel in downtown Walnut Cove was condemned in August after being deemed unsafe. Yellow caution tape was placed around the hotel, which may have to be torn down.
The Stokes County Sheriff’s Office conducted “Operation Summer Buzz 2012,” a drug apprehension project, on Aug. 30. Fifteen people were arrested on more than 60 charges.
An armed robbery attempt was reported at the Bojangles on S. Main Street, King, on Aug. 30. A man with a knife attempted to rob the cashier at the drive-thru window. A brief struggle ensued, and the man fled.
The 38th annual Stokes Stomp Festival on the Dan drew hundreds of people to Danbury on Sept. 8-9.
On Sept. 10, the Stokes County Board of Commissioners approved a $2.4 million communications upgrade which will allow the county to purchase new radios to meet new federally-mandated radio requirements and move the county E911 Communications Center to a more secure location. They also approved a roughly $148,000 loan to CenterPoint Human Services.
On Sept. 14, officers were dispatched to a reported home invasion and shooting on Rill Road in Germanton and discovered Brian Keith McGee dead of gunshot wounds and Brandon Ray Hill injured. Arrested later were Garrette Wayne Bunch, Brandi Leigh Robinson and Garrette Wayne Bunch Jr. on murder charges.
Steve Hall was named the new principal at Stokes Early College High School after Principal Kim Marion accepted a position elsewhere.
Crews began dismantling the historic St. Philip’s Episcopal Church to be moved to the Chapel Hill / Carrboro area.
Stokes County Principal of the Year Rich Pekar, principal of South Stokes High School, announced that he was resigning from his position to move back to Pennsylvania with his family. Assistant Principal Rick Menear was tapped to take his position.
The 23rd annual KingFest, held at King Central Park by the King Chamber of Commerce every year, drew possibly the largest crowd ever in 2012. The event featured arts and crafts vendors, food, activities and games for children and adults, a car show, live music and more.
On Oct. 9, State Superintendent of Schools Dr. June Atkinson visited Meadowbrook Academy to see the strides the school has made to improve in the past year or so. Atkinson said alternative schools like Meadowbrook have really been the models for the future in education in recent years.
Stokes County’s representative to the North Carolina Senate — Don East — died on Oct. 22 due to complications from a routine back surgery. Later that week a memorial service was hosted for him, and many state and local dignitaries attended.
On Oct. 24, an armed robbery was reported at Walnut Cove Business Center on Main Street around 11 p.m. Two black males were armed when they entered the business and took cash and personal belongings.
The Stokes County Arts Council held its inaugural World Championship Chicken Stew on Nov. 3, and the event was a success. The event, held at King Central Park, featured a chicken stew cooking competition, live music, and art and craft vendors. Close to 1,000 people attended the free event.
Religious watchdog group Americans United for Separation of Church and State filed a lawsuit on behalf of local veteran Steven Hewett against the city of King, claiming the city “is violating the U.S. and North Carolina constitutions by displaying sectarian symbols at a veterans’ memorial.” They are asking the city to remove Christian symbols from the veterans memorial, including the Christian flag and a statute that depicts a soldier kneeling before a cross.
President Barack Obama was re-elected in November, but in Stokes County Republican candidates got the top votes in all big ticket races. Voter turnout in Stokes was around 70.5 percent. East, whose name was still on the ballot, won re-election. Winning the three open school board seats were incumbents Rebecca (Becky) Boles and Sonya Moorefield Cox. Pat Messick won the third seat.
Stokes residents watched the smoke in the distance as fire consumed 675 acres on nearby Pilot Mountain. The fire began as a prescribed burn but got out of hand and took days to put out.
On Nov. 16, an armed robbery occurred at the CVS store on South Main Street in King. Officers with the King Police Department later arrested Eric Anthony Duncan on armed robbery and other charges. Bobby Joe Lawson was charged with aiding and abetting.
Nov. 19-21, the Sheriff’s Office conduct nine arrests through “Operation Harvest Moon,” arresting people on multiple drug charges.
Local municipalities kicked off the Christmas season with several holiday events, including Christmas parades in Walnut Cove and King and Christmas tree lighting ceremonies in Walnut Cove, King and Danbury.
The county learned on Dec. 10 that its audit for the 2011-12 fiscal year was clean, with no findings or questioned costs and no significant deficiencies.
County EMS Director Monty Stevens announced that he would be retiring at the end of the year. Stevens has worked for Stokes Emergency Medical Services in some capacity since 1980, serving as director since 2004.
Joshua William Blevins was arrested by the King Police Department after allegedly attempting to rob King Drug while armed with a knife and two toy guns. He was apprehended shortly thereafter in King.