Former Mint Hill fire chief pleads guilty
Mint Hill’s former Fire/EMS operations director and chief of the Mint Hill Volunteer Fire Department plead guilty this week to embezzling more than $225,000 from the Town of Mint Hill and the Fire Department, said Lia Bantavani, a U.S. Department of Justice spokeswoman.
Jeremy Russell, 38, appeared before federal Magistrate Judge David Keesler Monday, Dec. 10, at the federal courthouse in Uptown Charlotte. A sentencing date hasn’t been set.
According to the plea agreement, Russell has agreed to pay restitution. He could face up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
The FBI’s Charlotte division has been investigating Russell since April, when the Mint Hill resident resigned after being placed on disciplinary suspension. Staff found “irregularities” while reviewing the contents of his town-issued email account, Town Manager Brian Welch said then, and called the FBI. The town, which lost an estimated $21,000, has not been under investigation.
Russell, a father of four, used the stolen money to fund a “gambling habit” and his “personal lifestyle,” according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s office in Charlotte. He was employed by Mint Hill for 17 years and his ending salary was $79,684. He became fire chief in 2007.
Russell stole the money in small increments from May 2010 to April 2012, primarily by setting up a sham corporation – Regional Medic & First Responder Supply Connection – and a corresponding bank account and P.O. box he controlled. According to court documents, Russell submitted bogus invoices from Regional Medic for equipment and services never provided to the fire department.
Matthews adopts land use plan
Residents and businesses can expect to see a revamped Matthews over the next decade as the town implements its 2012-2022 land use plan. Town commissioners unanimously approved the plan Monday, Dec. 10.
The plan focuses on how the town plans to utilize the land within Matthews. Some of the goals of the plan include completing the road network within the town limits and expanding opportunities and options for people traveling around town.
According to town spokeswoman Annette Privette-Keller, one of the biggest changes the land use plan will bring is more building style options.
“This would be a positive change because we are giving people more of a variety of options that are acceptable for our zoning standards,” Privette-Keller said in an email.
One of the land use plan’s policy statements reads, “Encourage compact building design and urban style development to achieve more efficient use of space where appropriate.” The plan also intends to “encourage reuse and rehabilitation of existing infrastructure and buildings.”
where appropriate.” The plan also intends to “encourage reuse and rehabilitation of existing infrastructure and buildings.”
Privette-Keller said significant changes also include the advocacy for more options in regard to transportation, such as mass transit and bicycle and greenway trails.
The land use plan is available at http://matthewsnc.gov/Departments/PlanningandDevelopment.aspx.
Matthews considers downtown master plan resident feedback
As the Town of Matthews seeks to update its 15-year-old downtown master plan, representatives are seriously considering residents’ recommendations.
Senior Planner Jay Camp gave a presentation to town commissioners Monday, Dec. 10, highlighting some of the changes to the plan based on feedback from citizens.
Over the past several months, the town has held public meetings where residents have had a chance to voice their opinions on what they’d like to see downtown as well as present any concerns they have.
Camp said they’ve made numerous changes from the feedback they’ve received. He said popular topics have included reworking the intersection of West Matthews and North Trade streets, adding more wayfinding signs and improving parking.
Camp said the latest draft of the plan will go to the planning board Tuesday, Dec. 18 and commissioners could vote on the plan in January.
To view the latest draft of the downtown master plan, visit http://matthewsnc.gov/Departments/PlanningandDevelopment.aspx.
Matthews Alive! raises more than $67,000
It’s official: With this year’s total of $67,517, the Matthews Alive! Festival has raised more than $1 million for local nonprofits over the past 20 years.
Matthews Alive representatives presented a check to this year’s nonprofits Monday, Dec. 10. The money, raised during the Aug. 31 to Sept. 3 festival, will be split between the 34 organizations who supplied volunteers to work the event.
Applications for arts and crafts are already being accepted for the 2013 Matthews Alive! Festival.
For more information on the festival, visit www.matthewsalive.org.
Win an Electrolux refrigerator
Raffle tickets are now available for a new stainless steel refrigerator valued at $3,667 donated to the nonprofit Levine Senior Center by Electrolux. Tickets are $10 and are available in the center library,1050 DeVore Lane, in Matthews. All proceeds will benefit the center. The winner will be drawn Monday, Dec. 24 at 9 a.m. Participants do not need to be present to win.
For more information, call 704-846-4654.
County upgrades juror system
Mecklenburg County Courts announced this week they’ve added an upgraded interactive voice response, or IVR, system in an effort to improve customer service for potential jurors.
These automated phone lines operate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and provide callers with information in either English or Spanish, according to the release.
For Mecklenburg County residents who have received a jury summons, the new system will provide information about their reporting date, status and instructions and information on how to request a deferral using this system, as well as general information about jury service in Mecklenburg County. A new also feature allows potential jurors to request a reminder call that will be placed three days prior to their date of service.
Prospective jurors are encouraged to call the IVR and enter their phone number when they receive their summons to request a reminder call. They can also request a reminder email via the juror website, www.jury.mecklenburgcountync.gov. Prospective jurors can still speak to a live Jury Coordinator by calling the Juror Information Line, 704-686-0195.
The IVR system also will contact defendants with an up-coming court date reminder, with automated messages left in both English and Spanish, according to the release.