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5 Things to Know: Union County Votes to Remove Fluoride from Water

...and four more stories from Feb. 4-10, 2024

A Union County water tower
The Union County Board of Commissioners voted to remove fluoride from its water supply Monday. (Creative Commons)

Union County Votes to Remove Fluoride from Water

The Union County Board of Commissioners (UCBoC) voted 3-2 on Monday to move forward with removing fluoride from a portion of the county’s drinking water. The fluoridation of public water, which helps keep residents’ teeth clean while preventing decay, is one of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s most heralded advances of the 20th century.

Pediatric dentists and a faculty member from East Carolina University School of Dental Medicine argued at the meeting that removing fluoride from the water would impact poorer families in the area, since they have a higher chance of not having dental insurance. 

“It will have astronomic financial results on taxpayers,” one dentist said, referring to the effects on families who rely on Medicaid. 

UCBoC vice chair Brian Helms, however, made the argument out to be about government control. 

“Fluoride has been in our water for well over 50 years. I don’t believe that makes it right,” Helms said at Monday’s meeting. “The decision before us isn’t whether fluoride is good or bad. The decision is if the Union County Board has the authority to forcibly medicate its resident without consent.” 

The removal of fluoride would take place at the newly constructed Yadkin River Water Treatment Plant in Monroe, which receives water from Lake Tillery in Norwood in Stanly County

A water treatment plant in Union County
The new water treatment plant in Union County while under construction in 2023. (Photo courtesy of Union County)

If implemented, the action would currently only impact about one-third of county residents, as the rest use water from the Catawba River Water Supply Project, which exists outside of Union County’s control. 

Since the vote wasn’t unanimous, there will be a second reading up for decision at the board’s Feb. 19 meeting. The ordinance amendment will go into effect if there is another majority “Yes” vote, meaning the county will not add fluoride into its water during treatment at the Yadkin facility. 

Commissioner Richard Helms and board chair J.R. Rowell opposed the motion at Monday’s meeting. 

Police Shoot Man on Beatties Ford Road

A police officer shot a man while trying to break up a drug deal in front of a convenience store on Beatties Ford Road on Thursday morning. 

According to CMPD, officers “observed what they perceived to be a drug transaction” between two people — one of whom clearly had a gun, they claimed — in the parking lot of Fast Mart #5 at the corner of Beatties Ford Road and Catherine Simmons Avenue. 

When officers approached the armed man, later identified as 33-year-old Tim Moore, he reportedly tried to flee, then removed the gun from his waistband and “swung the firearm away from his body.” One officer “perceived an imminent and deadly threat” and fired at Moore, striking him. 

The location of Thursday’s police shooting on Beatties Ford Road. (Google Street View)

Medic transported Moore to the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries. Later Thursday night, CMPD reported that Moore was in custody and had been charged with possession of a firearm by a felon; resist, delay, obstruct; and carrying a concealed weapon. 

Robert Dawkins with SAFE Coalition said Moore was known to get bullied by others in the area for his mental health struggles and speculated that those experiences may have played a role in his carrying a gun. He acknowledged that, due to the reported involvement of a gun, CMPD was right not to call its CARES Team, which consists of licensed social workers who go on what would normally be low-risk 911, often involving mental health crises.

Local activist Kass Ottley voiced her frustration that more was not done by police to deescalate the situation before the shooting started, especially as many community organizers in the area are familiar with Moore and his conditions. 

“Police always fear for their lives when a Black person is involved and resort to violence and deadly force first,” Ottley told Queen City Nerve. “We see it over and over again in Black and brown communities across the country. We also see white shooters shoot at the police, resist arrest and assault police and never get shot and have the luxury of living to see another day.

“So it’s not this action or the gun or the crime police have an issue with, it’s the skin/race/color that they really fear,” she continued. “How do we fix that?” 

The North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation will investigate Thursday’s incident.

Democrats Respond to WFAE School Voucher Reporting

NC Democrats are responding to Ann Doss Helms’ reporting for WFAE, published this week, that shows how North Carolina taxpayers have sent almost $483,000 to a private school that is impossible to locate and might not exist at all in the Charlotte area.

Six months after investigating the Teaching Students Achieving Academy that receives scholarship money under the voucher program and failing to locate the physical school, Helms attempted again to find the institution and learn more about the education being offered at the school. 

She visited two registered addresses with the school with no response and made several phone calls to school officials that were shut down or went unanswered.

“This report proves just how unaccountable the Republican private school voucher program is — North Carolina taxpayers have sent a phantom private school over $480,000 while our public schools struggle to stay afloat,” said Tommy Mattocks, spokesperson with the North Carolina Democratic Party (NCDP). “Republicans are siphoning away money from public schools to funnel billions into their dangerous private school voucher program as part of their scheme to dismantle public education in North Carolina.” 

The state House of Education Committee approved a bill in April 2023 that allows all NC families to get public money for private school tuition through a model called “backpack funding.” This plan offers bigger subsidies for families with lower incomes, but raised the question of why families with higher incomes, sometimes making millions a year, were still eligible for this funding. 

The NCGA’s most recent budget will expand the voucher program by $250 million over the next two years, totaling $4 billion over the next 10 years. Some school districts will lose up to 8% of their revenue to private schools while several rural schools may be forced to combine with other schools or to close due to lack of funding, the NCDP pointed out. 

Cherryville Police Shoot and Kill Man During Fight

Police in Cherryville shot and killed a man during a tussle on Sunday afternoon. According to the Cherryville Police Department, police responded to a disturbance on West 2nd Street shortly after 1 p.m. and found one of the involved parties, 35-year-old Thomas Rivera, walking down the street when they arrived. 

After two officers confronted Rivera, they began to fight, and after the man reportedly picked up a pipe, an officer fired one shot, striking Rivera. An ambulance transported Rivera to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead. 

There has been no allegation that Rivera was armed with anything other than the pipe that he allegedly picked up during the fight, nor has there been any mention from the department about whether the incident was caught on body or dash cameras. The State Bureau of Investigation is investigating the incident.

Local Business Owner Murdered

Shortly after 11:30 p.m. on Sunday, police responded to a shooting call on Odum Avenue in northwest Charlotte’s Oakview Terrace neighborhood, where they located 48-year-old Rudolph Acolatse dead from a gunshot wound. 

Community members directed responding officers to the suspect, who was taken into custody without incident. The suspect, a 45-year-old man, has been charged with murder. 

Acolatse was the founder and CEO of Tropix Bar & Grill on North Tryon Street. He was known in the community for his giving spirit and big heart. His family has launched a GoFundMe campaign to help with funeral expenses

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