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‘Breaking bread’ with Butterfield

AHOSKIE – It’s not often that someone has the chance to break bread with a United States Congressman.

Monday morning, Roanoke Chowan Community College hosted a breakfast event featuring 1st Congressional District Congressman G.K. Butterfield.

The event named &uot;Breakfast With Butterfield&uot; was designed to enlighten the Congressman and all in attendance with the necessity for schools to have contingency plans for such unfortunate occurrences as school shootings as well as the urgency for local law enforcement and emergency personnel to have the needed equipment and training to deal with potential terrorist threats.

In attendance with the Congressman were Hertford County Sheriff Juan Vaughan, members of the RCCC Board of Trustees, students from the Freedom School and CEO and President of Metal Tech, Ray Felton.

Since 1996 there have been 19 persons killed nationwide in school related violence.

The Center for the Prevention of School Violence reports that during the 2004-2005 school year there were 10,107 incidents of violence reported in North Carolina schools. By contrast, the 2000 – 2001 school year reported 7,565 occurrences of the same kind. That is a 25 percent increase in just the past four years.

Possession of a firearm or explosive device by a student increased by 12 percent; sexual offenses increased by 48 percent and incidents of taking indecent liberties with a minor increased by 500 percent in the calendar year 2004 – 2005.

Fred Curley, the Coordinator of Emergency services at RCCC, began the presentation with a video endorsed by the state Attorney General entitled &uot;Critical Incident Response: Rapid Deployment Training Program&uot;.

The video showed a dramatization of a school shooting and how a proper &uot;Incident Response Kit&uot; can be used to save lives as well as provide first responders a blueprint of the current situation when they arrive at emergency situation involving violence.

After the video presentation, Congressman Butterfield addressed the audience and expressed his concern over the availability of adequate funding to rural America due to the federal governments current debt as well as war expenses.

&uot;Currently our country is $500 billion short of our necessary budgetary needs,&uot; Butterfield said. &uot;We (Americans) are spending three times as much money paying our national debt as we spend on education. That doesn’t even count the $2 billion per week spent on the war in Iraq.&uot;

Butterfield noted that it is because of irresponsible spending by the current administration, politicians like himself struggle to find the funding to service rural America.

Butterfield stated that the Bush administration has proposed $80 billion in tax cuts for the wealthiest citizens in America.

&uot;Never before have we seen such a massive tax cut agenda during a war,&uot; Butterfield added. &uot;The challenge to get the proper funding for our area is enormous.&uot;

According to Butterfield his district is the fifteenth poorest in the nation.

Butterfield also acknowledged that rural America is vulnerable to a terrorist act and reiterated that he is in support of a strong Homeland Security program, adding that he would like to host a Homeland Security Summit in the region sometime in the near future.

At the conclusion of Butterfield’s speech, Felton offered supporting remarks about his company’s recent participation in a training module coordinated by Curley.

&uot;It is only after you familiarize yourself with the necessary training that you recognize its value,&uot; Felton said. &uot;We can either let things happen to us, or we can make things happen for us.&uot;

After the breakfast, Butterfield and select guests were invited to the college’s boardroom for a special presentation given by school president Dr. Ralph Soney.

The presentation was intended to lay out plans for new facility to be built on the RCCC campus that would focus on training officials from the entire region on issues such as school violence and how to deal with terrorism.

The Advanced Training Center would further cement RCCC as one of the premier training facilities in the state and would allow the college to offer new degree programs as well as provide equipment that could used for both training as well as field operations.

The new facility, if constructed, would include such amenities as a fire tower, a forensics lab and a firing range.

Soney noted that 85 percent of emergency federal funding in rural America goes toward communications. Because of that the college is requesting assistance from Representative Butterfield in passing a special appropriations bill to help pay for the construction of the new facility.

While Butterfield pointed out the difficulties the college might face trying to squeeze the money out of an already tight budget, he stated that he thought the college was moving in the direction that the community needed them to.

&uot;I will support this project,&uot; Butterfield went on to say. &uot;I think that it is needed. There is an 80 percent chance that we will have another incident like 9/11 in the next decade. Facilities like these are not a luxury but rather a necessity.&uot;