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2023 was full of compelling stories of Fayetteville and Cumberland County

Paul Woolverton looks back at the news he brought you over the past year


In 2023, a rat jumped on me, I interviewed Broadway actors from Cumberland County who were up for Tony Awards, I watched a road-rage murder trial, the government tried to squish the constitutional rights of charter school students, and I listened to homeless people struggling to find a place to stay on cold December nights.

Those are a few of the things I saw and experienced as a news reporter for CityView and The Fayetteville Observer.

Read on for some of my news reporting highlights of the past 12 months:

Homeless people bused to Durham

Faced with a crisis of local shelters turning away homeless people on cold nights, the Homeless Coordinator for the Fayetteville Police Department arranged for people to stay at the Durham Rescue Mission in Durham. Fourteen made the 90-minute trip via an old school bus.

I met people in desperate circumstances who had little time to decide whether it would be better to go to an unfamiliar city for help — and possibly end up back on the street there — or stay here.

The story showed the limits of the safety net for homeless people in Fayetteville, and how some are still falling through.

Read the busing story here: Fayetteville is short on resources for the homeless. Facing a cold night, some take a bus to Durham.

Methodist University budget cut and layoffs

Methodist University for decades has been a community and cultural asset for Fayetteville, and an economic driver.

But now it seems to be in trouble. While Methodist is set to open a medical school in 2026, it also is cutting programs and 30 positions elsewhere in the university and trying to lower its overhead by $1.75 million in the first half of 2024.

This is a story CityView will be following.

Here is the layoff story: Methodist University eliminating 30 faculty and staff positions.

The ‘Marvin Plan’ of 1996 would have remade downtown Fayetteville — what happened to it?

Could you imagine in the heart of downtown Fayetteville a park full of lakes and a six-story man-made mound with a restaurant on top?

In 1996, city planning consultant Robert E. Marvin did. Hired for $450,000 to produce a redevelopment plan for Fayetteville’s moribund downtown area, Marvin’s firm produced a book, multiple maps and many drawings full of big dreams for what Fayetteville could become — if it wanted to.

“Marvin’s Mound” and most of his other ideas were never implemented as Marvin detailed, but echoes of his ideas have been built or are on their way. Fayetteville has grown and developed with new life with amenities like Festival Park, new apartments and the Minor League baseball stadium. Next on the horizon: A new performing arts center by the Cumberland County Courthouse.

In my final weeks at The Fayetteville Observer (after more than 30 years there), News Director Beth Hutson gave me time to look in-depth at the Marvin Plan and how far downtown Fayetteville has come in the 27 years since it was unveiled.

Read the story here: A 6-story mound with a restaurant on top in downtown Fayetteville? What might have been.

And view a slideshow of photos and concept drawings from The Marvin Plan, and what Fayetteville had done downtown, here: PHOTOS: 1996 vision for downtown Fayetteville had lakes, museums and a six-story mound

Two Broadway stars hail from Fayetteville

Two successful Broadway performers grew up in the Fayetteville area, both have been performing this past year in one of the top shows, “Some Like It Hot.” And both were up for Tony Awards — Broadway’s highest honors — this year.

I feel lucky to have been with the families of J. Harrison Ghee and NaTasha Yvette Williams here in Cumberland County as they watched the Tony Awards show in June.

Ghee won Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical. “Yes! Yes!” their brother shouted when they won.

Williams was a nominee for Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical. Although she did not win, her family was excited to see her perform some of “Some Like It Hot” during the awards show.

My story is here: ‘Yes! Yes!’ — Fayetteville families celebrate J. Harrison Ghee, NaTasha Williams at Tonys.

Rats overrun homes and horse farm

Back in July, a rat in the dark in a horse barn ran up my arm and jumped off my shoulder.

I had cornered the rat in the barn’s loft so Fayetteville Observer photographer Andrew Craft could get a picture of it. Residents in southeast Hoke County told us they were overrun by thousands and thousands of rats after a nearby chicken farm — which was raising 1.7 million birds at a time — cleaned the chicken droppings and other wastes from its 48 chicken houses.

Read the story, and see a picture of the rat leaping away from me, here: Rat infestation spreads across countryside near Fayetteville. Can anything be done?

Watchdogging the government

Someone needs to keep an eye on what the government is and isn’t doing, so the voters can keep the politicians in line and know what the criminal justice system is doing.

Here are some of my “watchdog” stories of this past year:

  • Charter schools are independent, tax-funded public schools that must abide by the U.S. Constitution as any other public school. Some lawmakers in the summer tried to pass a law to allow charter schools to roll over the constitutional rights of their students: NC lawmakers seek to put pants-wearing charter school girls back into skirts. Here’s how
  • The city-owned Hay Street parking deck by Segra Stadium doesn’t have an elevator. There are designated parking spaces for handicapped people on the ground level, but it still creates a hardship for people with mobility issues who park on the upper levels. I wrote an article about that, and I have since been told an elevator is on its way. Fayetteville’s five-story Hay Street parking deck has no elevators. Is that legal?
  • The “road-rage” murder trial. Some of my most-read articles of 2023 were my reports from the murder trial of Roger Dale Nobles Sr., who shot to death motorcyclist and Army veteran Stephen “Trey” Addison. He had become upset when Addison “lane split” or “filtered” — drove his motorcycle in between the travel lanes at a red light. Nobles testified he had not intended to pull the trigger when he pointed his Glock handgun at Addison. The jury didn’t believe him. Now Nobles is serving life in prison without parole. Defendant in Fayetteville road-rage trial guilty of first-degree murder.

Senior reporter Paul Woolverton can be reached at 910-261-4710 and pwoolverton@cityviewnc.com.

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