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NC News This Week

Newly appointed Durham police chief resigns

The newly appointed Durham police chief resigned Wednesday afternoon, two weeks before he was to have taken office.

Amid impending revelations about his marital history, Gregory Watkins felt it would be in his and Durham's best interests to resign, City Council member Howard Clement said.

Clement said city officials recently were told Watkins, 56, a retired deputy chief in Kansas City, Mo., had been married six times and that one of his ex-wives had filed a restraining order against him. He was ordered to have no contact with her and to stay away from her home.

"It is unfortunate, but I believe his resignation is in the best interest of Mr. Watkins, the police department and the citizens of Durham," City Manager Marcia Conner said in a statement.

Oldani Group, an executive search firm, conducted the search on the city's behalf. City government officials are now reviewing the parameters of the background checks and the information conveyed to the city, Conner said.

Some police officers expressed regret that interim Chief Steven Chalmers had not been selected. Clement shared this sentiment, but did not fault Conner.

"I'm unhappy that [Chalmers] is out of the race," he said. "But I respect [Conner's] decision."

Clement said the selection of a new chief now lies in the hands of the city manager and that he has faith in her ability to do so.

West Nile virus threat grows in N.C.

For the first time, mosquitoes in North Carolina have tested positive for West Nile virus, while 18 more birds in nine counties also tested positive, state health officials said Thursday.

"Finding the virus in mosquitoes helps us target our control measures because we know what mosquito to go after," said Nolan Newton, chief of the public health pest management section.

Health officials credited public awareness for the findings in dead birds.

Officials added that the virus usually causes only mild disease in humans; the most serious problems in the United States have been among the elderly.

North Carolina has never had a human case of West Nile virus, which is not known to pass from birds to humans. Instead, it is transmitted to humans when a mosquito bites an infected bird and then bites a human.

The virus may cause flu-like symptoms in humans, such as headaches, swollen glands, muscle aches and rashes.

UNC researchers discover Fragile X gene

A study released Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and conducted by researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is the first look at the long diagnosis process for the presence of Fragile X and whether newborns should be screened for it. Fragile X Syndrome is the most common inherited cause of mental retardation. The syndrome affects 50,000 people nationwide and cannot be cured, but many parents said they wish they had been told about it before having more children.

In a survey of 140 families with a Fragile X child, 40 percent of parents had given birth to additional children before they learned they were carrying the mutation, which occurs on the X chromosome and disrupts production of a protein important for the brain's reasoning skills.

About one in 4,000 boys is born with Fragile X. Girls are many times more likely to carry the mutation, about one in 269, but not all display symptoms because women have two X chromosomes while men have one.

Durham may turn to local quarry for water

Durham officials eyeing the city's receding reservoirs were pleased to learn that they soon may be able to tap into a supplemental source of water.

A former rock quarry in northern Durham has for many years been mentioned as a possible new city reservoir. Engineering studies have concluded that the old Nello Teer quarry, owned since the 1980s by Hanson Aggregates, could be converted from a source of rock to one of water.

Besides the long-term development of the quarry as a reservoir, city officials are considering a quicker fix: piping the water that already has accumulated there, an estimated 200 million to 350 million gallons, officials said.

Along with water from Jordan Lake, the Hanson quarry could quench Durham's thirst well after it outstrips the two present city reservoirs at Lake Michie and Little River Reservoir--until 2020 or beyond, officials added.

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