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Caterpillar looks to fill 200 positions
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Caterpillar Inc.’s Sanford facility is looking to hire 200 people, company officials said Tuesday.

“We’re attempting to fill various positions within the manufacturing facility,” said Vic Baluis, the plant’s operations manager.

The new jobs will add to the Sanford workforce that now totals about 1,600, Baluis said.

Areas of availability include logistics, assembly fabrications including welding, and quality department, according to Baluis.

The hirings are the result of customers’ needs, he said.

“There are big jobs to be done worldwide,” Baluis said, noting the global need for infrastructure including roads and utilities.

The company’s Building Construction Products Division in Sanford came to Lee County more than 20 years ago and serves as a global source of skid steer, multi-terrain and compact track loaders.

The facility is in Central Carolina Enterprise Park.

Starting pay for most of the jobs is $15.50 per hour, Baluis said. Some positions may start at a higher wage, depending on the skill set and type of work needed.

The company operates three shifts and night-shift opportunities are available, he said.

Hiring begins as soon as people complete the application process, Baluis said.

“The need is now,” he said.

To apply or for more information, go to caterpillar.com and select the Search for Jobs tab and then search for Sanford.

“If you want to work somewhere where you can make something, this is the facility to be at,” Baluis said. “The parts start out not together, then we take all the loose parts and make them here in the fabrication groups and send down the line to get the equipment ready to go to customers who have a need for it.

“We help make the world a better place.”

Chief Yarborough honored for 50-year police career

Sanford police Chief Ronnie Yarborough was honored Monday by the Lee County commissioners for his longtime law enforcement service to the community.

The recognition came during a meeting of the county commissioners at the McSwain Extension building on Tramway Road.

Commission Chairman Kirk Smith read the resolution honoring Yarborough, noting that the chief has spent 50 years in law enforcement, all of it with the Sanford Police Department.

Yarborough was hired as a uniformed patrol officer in 1971 and in June 1972, promoted to detective and assigned to the Detective Division, the resolution said.

In 1974, Yarborough was promoted to sergeant and assigned to the newly formed Narcotics Divisions. In August 1975, he was promoted to lieutenant and assigned as an administrative assistant to Chief C.L. Cummings.

Yarborough was promoted to the rank of captain in 1978, continuing to serve as Cummings’ administrative assistant. He was assigned to oversee the Narcotics and Detective divisions.

Cummings opted to retire in June 1978. In November, City Manager O.B. Stokes announced that Yarborough would become the permanent Sanford police chief.

Yarborough, 28, was one of the youngest police chiefs in North Carolina at the time, according to a story that ran in The Sanford Herald.

Yarborough was named the acting chief in September 1978 upon his graduation from the FBI academy’s 10-week training program in Quantico, Virginia.

Commissioner Robert Reives, who was behind the honor, read a brief note from former Lee County Sheriff Billy Bryant.

“As sheriff, every time I needed support from Chief Yarborough, he never failed to provide support to the staff,” the note read.

Bryant further commended Yarborough upon being “a great law enforcement officer and my friend.”

Yarborough thanked the commissioners for the honor.

“This means a great deal to me,” he said. “The only thing about 50 years is it gives away my oldness.”

Yarborough said he’s often asked when he plans to retire and offered his answer: “As long as I feel as though I can lead law enforcement and give back.”

Traffic stop leads to arrest on domestic assault warrants

A Sanford man was jailed Monday night on warrants stemming from a February domestic assault.

Sanford police arrested Vernon Eugene Spinks, 50, on the outstanding warrants during a traffic stop.

The warrants were from a Feb. 2 incident that began as a call of an alleged domestic situation at a residence on Linden Avenue. SPD Detective Capt. Bradley D. Upchurch said when officers arrived, they located an assault victim suffering from fractured bones and bruises. Spinks fled the residence prior to police arriving.

Warrants were secured on Spinks for assault inflicting serious injury, breaking and entering, larceny, injury to personal property, domestic criminal trespassing, violation of a protective order, witness intimidation and false imprisonment.

Spinks was placed in the Lee County Jail with no bond.

Lee County opioid overdoses on the rise

Opioid overdoses in Lee County more than doubled last month, according to Greg Graves, an Emergency Medical Services supervisor and member of the Sanford opioid abuse epidemic commission.

The number of overdoses rose from 14 in February to 32 in March, with two deaths, he said. Graves added that overdoses will likely continue to rise, citing a recent 24-hour shift in which he saw four overdoses in a single day.

One reason for the uptick could be the recent release of $1,400 federal stimulus checks, Graves said. The surge in overdoses happened mostly in the days following the release of the money, he said, although there is no direct evidence of causation.

Some experts have attributed the rise in overdoses throughout 2020 and into early 2021 to the coronavirus pandemic, which has resulted in isolation, homelessness and job loss.

Across the United States, there were more than 81,000 drug overdose deaths from May 2019 to May 2020, the highest number ever recorded in a 12-month period, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In North Carolina, the number of emergency department visits due to opioid overdose rose from 6,705 in 2019 to 8,252 in 2020, a 23% increase.

“The disruption to daily life due to the COVID-19 pandemic has hit those with substance use disorder hard,” CDC Director Robert Redfield said in a news release.

“As we continue the fight to end this pandemic, it’s important to not lose sight of different groups being affected in other ways. We need to take care of people suffering from unintended consequences.”

Another major factor contributing to the increase is the increased availability of fentanyl, which “appear(s) to be the primary driver of the increases in overdose deaths,” the CDC news release stated.

Marshall McNeill, a narcotics agent with the Sanford Police Department, said the city has seen that influx in action, with fentanyl coming in from Atlanta. The synthetic, highly potent drug is often added to heroin or pressed into pills that look like Xanax, McNeill said.

Equipping first responders with Narcan, a drug that rapidly reverses opioid overdoses, has helped mitigate the increase in drug use, Graves said.

“First responders are getting out there quickly and administering Narcan before we even get there, which has been great,” he said. “The police department, sheriff’s department and the fire departments, they’ve been a great help. There’s three of our (EMS) trucks on the road, there’s a lot more of them everywhere else.”

The distribution of harm reduction kits to family members has also helped, according to commission members. These kits include Narcan and information about how to spot an overdose, as well as other resources that can help family members reach out to their loved ones who may be using opioids.

“It’s good to hear that families and bystanders are administering Narcan,” said commission Chairwoman Becky Whitaker. “I think that’s a great reason to keep pushing for harm reduction practices.”

In coming weeks, the commission plans to form four subcommittees to help address the opioid epidemic, Whitaker said.

There will be a committee for resource development, to find funding for programs that could fill gaps in services; education and awareness, to teach community members about the epidemic; community outreach and engagement, to ensure the commission is hearing from opioid users and other stakeholders about how they can help; and law enforcement and government relations, to help the commission connect to people who can enact policy changes.

One of the goals of the commission is to launch an educational campaign, Whitaker said. Commission members have discussed erecting a billboard, airing public service announcements and scheduling community events that could teach family members and others how to reach out to opioid users.

“I’m excited about the direction of these (committees) once they take shape,” Whitaker said.