Afternoon Observer: Mar. 1

Kristen Kornbluth
·4 min read

Happy Monday, and happy first day of March! This is Kristen. Calling all high school sports fans: Voting is now open for this week’s Charlotte Observer high school athlete of the week. You can vote as often as you like until this Friday, March 5, which is when a winner will be named. Find this week’s candidates and more information here from the Observer’s Langston Wertz Jr. and Jay Edwards.

Now, let’s talk about today’s news:

1. Meck may raise fees to help troubled waterways

A woman sits by a Sugar Creek in Charlotte, NC, on Saturday, February 25, 2021.
A woman sits by a Sugar Creek in Charlotte, NC, on Saturday, February 25, 2021.

New development abounds around Charlotte, introducing miles of new asphalt to the city. Since water can’t get through the asphalt, excess rainwater gushes into the creeks, eroding the banks. And environmental pollutants, with nowhere else to go, seep into waterways, polluting them and threatening the habitats of aquatic organisms. This cycle worries water quality managers like Rusty Rozelle, the water quality program manager at Storm Water Services.

“There are a lot of challenges ahead,” Rozelle said in a recent interview with the Observer. “The (water) channels don’t fix themselves. You’ve got to go in and fix them, and it’s usually expensive.”

As the Observer’s Alison Kuznitz reports, county commissioners are weighing two options for increases to stormwater fees to help combat the damage brought on by urban growth.

  • Under the more aggressive plan, the average household would pay $59.40 per year — an increase of more than 312%.

  • In the other plan, the yearly fee would cap out at $29.40.

It’s still too early in the process to know exactly when, and for how long, a fee hike could take effect, county administrators say.

2. Johnson & Johnson COVID vaccine coming to Mecklenburg

Thousands of doses of the newest COVID-19 vaccine will arrive in Mecklenburg County later this week, county officials said Monday.

What you need to know, as reported by the Observer’s Hannah Smoot:

  • 80,000 doses are expected to land in NC beginning on Wednesday.

  • Mecklenburg expects to receive 10,000 doses of the newest vaccine. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine received an emergency use authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Saturday.

  • This vaccine requires only one injection.

  • Neither Atrium Health nor Novant Health have said how many doses they expect to get.

“Having a third safe and effective vaccine will help vaccinate as many people as quickly as possible,” Mecklenburg County officials said in a statement Monday.

3. Latest breakdown of COVID case rate in Meck by ZIP code

The most recent highest concentration of COVID-19 cases in Mecklenburg County is in Charlotte’s Cherry neighborhood.
The most recent highest concentration of COVID-19 cases in Mecklenburg County is in Charlotte’s Cherry neighborhood.

The spread of coronavirus in the Mecklenburg area is slowing overall. Some ZIP codes saw an increase in caseload, but things are trending downward.

By the numbers:

  • Four Mecklenburg ZIP codes saw an increase in case rates over the past week.

  • Despite that increase, every ZIP code in and around Charlotte had fewer than 800 new cases per 100,000 residents.

  • The countywide 14-day average case rate between Feb. 11-24 was 392.7 new cases per 100,000 residents. That’s the lowest rate in Mecklenburg since late November, when ZIP code-level information first became available.

Find more information from this update here with the Observer’s Devna Bose.

4. The meaning behind a Charlotte affordable housing provider’s new name

What’s in a name? A lot, as far as the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Housing Partnership is concerned. The organization develops affordable apartments and offers a range of programs related to home ownership and financial education — all with the aim of helping folks land on their feet and secure safe, stable housing. And after a fresh rebrand, it’s now called DreamKey Partners.

The change is effective Monday, as reported by the Observer’s Lauren Lindstrom. With the organization’s new identity comes a new website, logo and colors evoking themes of keys and homeownership. Rebranding was, in part, to distinguish itself from other similar-sounding groups doing similar work, according to president Julie Porter.

“We value helping people achieve their dreams,” Porter said. “Whether that be homeownership or some other goal in their lives that we can assist with, and we think that name represents our role.”

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