Columbus County farmers face big losses amid severe drought

By Ben Rappaport benrappaport@borderbelt.org  It was supposed to be beautiful: Thick green husks of sweet corn growing eight feet tall for as far as the eye could see across Ethan Jordan’s farm in Columbus County.  At the beginning of May, the stars seemed to be aligning for a perfect growing season. The fields were lush, the soil was moist and the temperatures stayed steady.  Then …Read more Continue reading Columbus County farmers face big losses amid severe drought

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NC’s diverse Robeson County now has GOP voting streak. What’s behind support for Trump?

By Ben Rappaport and Rachel Baldauf benrappaport@borderbelt.org Jimmy and Timmy Bullard, 32-year-old twins who grew up in the Robeson County town of Pembroke, were raised to believe they should always vote for Democrats.  Then came Donald Trump.  “My granddaddy was a Democrat. He goes to church, he’s a Christian,” Timmy Bullard said. “But when he saw what Trump did, that’s when he turned from Democrat …Read more Continue reading NC’s diverse Robeson County now has GOP voting streak. What’s behind support for Trump?

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Robeson County elections board dismisses Pembroke mayor’s protest, again

By Ben Rappaport benrappaport@borderbelt.org Just off the main drag in Pembroke, behind a plaza with a convenience store, an auto repair shop and a gas station, about a dozen people live in tents.  The unhoused people in the small tent community are central to the ongoing legal dispute surrounding last year’s race for mayor in the Robeson County town.  Allen Dial, who owns the property …Read more Continue reading Robeson County elections board dismisses Pembroke mayor’s protest, again

At least 37 homicides recorded in NC’s Border Belt in first six months of 2024

By Rachel Baldauf rachelbaldauf@borderbelt.org  At least 37 people, including four children, have died in homicides in Bladen, Columbus, Robeson and Scotland counties so far this year, according to an analysis by the Border Belt Independent. Robeson County has seen at least 25 homicides since Jan. 1. Scotland County has reported at least 8 homicides this year, and Columbus and Bladen counties have both reported at …Read more Continue reading At least 37 homicides recorded in NC’s Border Belt in first six months of 2024

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North Carolina sheriff promises transparency. Is ‘On Patrol: Live’ the way to get it?

By Rachel Baldauf rachelbaldauf@borderbelt.org  Robeson County sheriff’s deputy Donel McCallum approaches the passenger side door of a car he’s pulled over. It’s nighttime, and the blue and white flashing lights from his patrol vehicle illuminate the scene. “Hey look boss. Just turn that way and it won’t be in your damn face, all right?” McCallum tells the man in the passenger seat before ordering him …Read more Continue reading North Carolina sheriff promises transparency. Is ‘On Patrol: Live’ the way to get it?

Robeson County elections board delays ruling on Pembroke mayoral election

By Ben Rappaport benrappaport@borderbelt.org   Greg Cummings and his family used to visit Gary Locklear’s house every Christmas Eve to share stories and break bread in joyous tradition.  But Cummings didn’t show up last December.  The two men were high school classmates who later bonded over decades spent in the Robeson County political arena. Cummings has served two terms as Pembroke mayor after spending several years …Read more Continue reading Robeson County elections board delays ruling on Pembroke mayoral election

Already-strained child care centers in NC’s Border Belt fear loss of state funding

By Rachel Baldauf rachelbaldauf@borderbelt.org Cynthia Mitchell, who has been the director of Beverly’s Day Care in Columbus County for 36 years, has always had a tough job. But it’s gotten even harder since 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic caused a drop in enrollment and a spike in supply costs.  Funding from North Carolina’s Child Care Stabilization Grants helped Mitchell stay afloat. Since 2021, the pandemic …Read more Continue reading Already-strained child care centers in NC’s Border Belt fear loss of state funding

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Robeson and Scotland counties are growing, slowly, for the first time in years

By Ben Rappaport benrappaport@borderbelt.org  Robeson and Scotland counties grew between 2020 and 2023, mirroring population increases across much of rural North Carolina during the COVID-19 pandemic.  Robeson County grew by 0.91% during the three-year span, accounting for an increase of 1,056 people, according to a new report from the North Carolina Rural Center. Neighboring Scotland County grew by 0.25%, an increase of 86 people. While …Read more Continue reading Robeson and Scotland counties are growing, slowly, for the first time in years

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Schools in NC’s Border Belt say they need more county money to replace COVID funding

By Ben Rappaport benrappaport@borderbelt.org  School boards in rural southeastern North Carolina are asking for increases in local funding to increase employees’ pay and fill gaps left by the loss of federal COVID-19 relief money. School leaders in Bladen, Columbus, Robeson and Scotland counties have asked county commissioners to bump up funding for the fiscal year that begins July 1.  In North Carolina, the General Assembly …Read more Continue reading Schools in NC’s Border Belt say they need more county money to replace COVID funding

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In this Robeson County town, high school seniors say they don’t plan to vote

By Ben Rappaport benrappaport@borderbelt.org  Samere Yates sees plenty of problems in his hometown of Fairmont, a town of 2,500 residents in the southern end of Robeson County.  “Everyone here winds up shot, dead or in jail,” said Yates, 18. “There’s just nothing here. It’s terrible.”  But Yates, who will graduate this month from Fairmont High School, doesn’t see any solutions to his community’s woes coming …Read more Continue reading In this Robeson County town, high school seniors say they don’t plan to vote