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Gov. Easley signs drought measure

Gov. Mike Easley signed into law Thursday legislation that changes how North Carolina will respond to droughts.

Surrounded by state lawmakers and environmental officials, Easley said the legislation gives the state new tools to use before and during water shortages.

“We're not on the path to modernize every water system in the state,” he said.

The legislation makes it easier for the governor to declare a drought emergency, including local emergencies. It also lets the state require localities to enforce conservation measures, and it requires users of more than 10,000 gallons of water a day for agriculture to report usage to state agricultural officials.

“It was badly needed, as North Carolina enters a situation where we don't have as much water as we used to and the demands are much greater,” said House Speaker Joe Hackney, an Orange County Democrat.

Mark Johnson

Meck briefs

Charlotte

Key city leaders will discuss developing land around Interstate 277, between the Kenilworth interchange and Mint Street, Charlotte officials announced Thursday.

Members of the Charlotte City Council and city staffers will meet with area business and community leaders Aug. 11-14.

Linda Durrett, communications manager for the Charlotte Department of Transportation, said the meeting will focus on in-depth brainstorming about how best to use the land near the highway.

The meeting is not open to the public. Officials will hold a public presentation at the close of the session Aug. 14.

Clay Barbour

An Art Institute of Charlotte student has won a James Beard Foundation scholarship, among other honors.

Marla Thurman, a rising senior who is working on her bachelor's degree in culinary arts management, won the $2,500 Simone Beck Scholarship, named for the close friend of the late Julia Child who also was a co-author of Child's first book, “Mastering the Art of French Cooking.”

Thurman also has been named a student delegate to two events, Slow Food Nation in San Francisco and Terra Madre, a Slow Food International gathering in Italy in October that draws delegates worldwide.

Joseph Bonaparte, the culinary dean at the art institute, said today that Thurman has been especially active in community service projects in Charlotte, such as a garden at Shamrock Elementary School. She has assisted at many local-food events, helped start a garden at the art institute campus near Tyvola Road, and she started a Slow Food chapter for students at the school.

Kathleen Purvis

Regional briefs

Cabarrus County Concord

A 16-year-old Concord boy pleaded guilty Thursday to misdemeanor death by vehicle in the July 12 car wreck that killed his brother. Concord police charged Darius Lee Agnew of First Street Northwest on Thursday, before his appearance in Cabarrus County District Court.

Brandon McArthur Agnew, 17, died after the Chrysler PT Cruiser driven by his brother ran off the road, went airborne and rolled over, police said. The wreck occurred on Zion Church Road near Litaker Lane. Their mother was sleeping and was not aware that her sons had left home, police said.

Brandon, who was in the back seat, was ejected from the car. He was airlifted to Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte, where he died. Darius and another passenger, Nicolas Brian Mitchell, 16, of Concord, were treated and released at CMC–NorthEast in Concord.

Darius was sentenced to 18 months of supervised probation with other conditions, court officials said. He also received a suspended sentence, and the judge dismissed a charge of driving with a revoked license.

Gail Smith-Arrants

Union County Stallings

A new, proposed thoroughfare – the Chestnut Connector – is getting the tentative support of Stallings town officials.

The N.C. Department of Transportation would take $17 million slated for widening Stallings and Indian Trail roads and build the new road parallel to them.

DOT's Barry Moose now must get the OK from the Indian Trail town council, which did not receive the idea well when Moose presented it several weeks ago. Both towns have to sign off to move on with a feasibility study.

Moose told the Stallings council earlier this week that he is shopping the Chestnut Connector idea after hearing concerns from Stallings and Indian Trail officials that widening their main streets could destroy their downtowns. Both towns recently learned that the NC DOT likely would not support their plans for widening Indian Trail and Stallings roads, which would be an integral part of developing both towns' downtowns.

Marty Minchin

York County Rock Hill

A Rock Hill father and son have each been sentenced to more than 40 years in prison for their role in a scheme to set off pipe bombs near a Charlotte school as a diversion for a bank robbery.

Federal prosecutors say 36-year-old Timothy Eddington received a 50-year sentence while his 18-year-old son Steven Eddington received a 43-year, 5-month sentence Thursday.

The men were convicted in January of conspiracy and explosive charges.

York County deputies got a tip and broke up the plot the day of the planned robbery in August 2007, finding the men and two pipe bombs in an abandoned Fort Mill house.

Two other teens involved in the plot testified against the Eddingtons and are each serving more than six years in prison.

Associated Press

Cumberland County Fayetteville

The Army has finished its investigation into why a pregnant soldier found dead in a Fayetteville motel room wasn't reported absent after she missed roll call, but cannot release the results yet, a spokesman said Thursday.

Fort Bragg spokesman Tom McCollum said commanders are reviewing the report and no release date has been determined.

The decomposing body of 23-year-old Spc. Megan Touma was found in the motel room's bathtub June 21. She last was seen alive June 13, the day after she reported to North Carolina's Fort Bragg from a base in Germany.

Officials investigated why she was wasn't reported absent without leave after 24 hours, in accordance with Army regulations.

Sgt. Edgar Patino, the father of Touma's unborn baby, was charged Tuesday with first-degree murder by Fayetteville police. Local authorities were handling the case because Touma's body was found off-post, but the military cooperated.

Touma, who was from Cold Spring, Ky., arrived at Fort Bragg's 19th Replacement Company on Thursday, June 12, at 2 a.m. and attended two required formations that day.

She had days off, then missed a required formation on Monday, June 16, but wasn't reported absent, the Army said.

Associated Press

Police digest

York County

Gaston County police sent divers into Lake Wylie again Thursday to find clues related to the death earlier this month of a Gaston woman.

A team of divers searched for several hours Wednesday near the Allison Creek outlet of the lake, in York County.

Gaston County police are looking for clues in the case of Lucy Johnson, a 31-year-old mother of two who died July 16. Her body was found in her house, after it caught fire. Authorities have not said whether Johnson died in the fire or of other causes, but they are approaching the case as a homicide investigation.

Steve Lyttle
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