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THE Bl = S . JCfK ACON
Twenty-eighth Year, Number 9 ci*o-n?Bm??w?cK macon Shallotte, North Carolina, Thursday, January 11, 1990 25c Per Copy 32 Pases, 3 Sections
STAFF PHOTO BY KAHN ADAMS
SBI ARSON INVESTIGATOR Rick Gainey (right) talks to SB! Agent Kelly Moser last Wednesday, as firefighters sift through the rubble
inside Dale Varnam's residence on Stone Chimney Road.
Apparent Arson Guts 'Fort Apache';
Blaze Possibly Linked To Shooting
BY RAHN ADAMS
County and state authorities Friday continued
their investigation of a suspicious early morn
ing blaze that destroyed the Supply area dwel
ling uf a key figure in Brunswick County's
"White Tide" drug trafficking probes.
At least one official said Friday it was "pos
sible" that the fire was linked to other recent in
cidents involving the home owner, 38-year-old
Dale Vamam, including a November 1989 as
g sault in which an unidentified man attempted to
shoot the former drug detendant from outside
Vamam 's house.
Brunswick County Fire Marshal Cecil Logan
told the Beacon Frida> that bwmen "have a
idea" of what was used to start the blaze, which
appeared to have been set in the bedroom sec
tion of the single-story, brick house.
He also revealed Friday that agents were in
vestigating several suspects in connection with
the apparent arson, but he would not comment
further on the case, saying the release of addi
; tional details might jeopardize that investiga
Vamam, the dwelling's only occupant, was
not home when firemen were called there Jan. 2
around 3:15 2.rn. Brunswick County Sheriff's
Dct. Donncll Marlowe said Varnam was staying
at a friend's residence nearby when the fire oc
"That's all he would say was that he was at a
friend's house," Marlowe said. He added that
Vamam indicated he did not stay at the Stone
Chimney Road residence much after the at
tempt on his life in November. "He said he
stays at different placcs," said Marlowe.
The detective noted that authorities do not
suspect thai Vamarn himself set the fire. "He
had a lot of valuable things in there that he real
ly loved ? things that he said could never be re
placed," Marlowe added.
Varnam's house, called "Fort Apache" due to
a frontier fort-style fence surrounding the prop
erty, was fully involved in flames by the time
Th-Beach, Civietown and Supply volunteer fire
departments arrived, said Civietown VFD Chief
"Due to the fence, all of our engines had to
park out on the road and string hoses through
the gate," Nord said. While the fence initially
hampered firefighters, the house was beyond
saving anyway, ' because the fire had already
humcd through the roof, he added.
Nine trucks and more than 30 firefighters
from the three departments worked to contain
the blaze, Nord said. They were on the scene
until around noon last Wednesday. An ambu
lance from Coastline Volunteer Rescue Squad
also stood by. No one was hurt in connection
with the fire.
T oct an cniH an 'jnidcnliflSd CllllCT reported the
3:08 a.m. fire to Tri-Beach VFD. The fire mar
shal noted that a 9!! emergency telephone sys
tem ? which will be installed here within two
years ?would have pinpointed the source of the
telephone call for authorities.
Authorities cordoned off the property last
Wednesday, as Logan, three sheriff's depart
ment detectives and three SBI agents looked for
evidence in the charred ruins and talked to
Varnam. At least two narcotics officers were
among the investigators at the fire scene last
Varnam has been described as the key wit
ness in the county's i987 and i988 investiga
tive grand jury drug inquiries. In September
1988, he himself was sentenced to five years of
probation after he pleaded guilty in Brunswick
County Superior Court to 36 cocaine conspira
cy and trafficking charges.
Local, state and federal drug agents testified
at Varnam 's sentencing hearing that he had
worked undercover for them for about 1 1/2
years and that he had provided information on
numerous oUier defendants who also were in
dicted by Brunswick County investigative
o- ? ? J?*"*"
The still unsolved shooting at Fort Apache
occurred Nov. 12, when Varnam answered a
knock at the front door and saw a man standing
in the front yard; the man turned and shot at
least three times at the house, according to a
sheriff's department report. Varnam ran from
the dwelling out a back door.
After the shooting, Sheriff John C. Davis
spcculatcd that the incident stemmed from
"past drug actions and testimony that was giv
en." Marlowe said last Thursday that Varnam
conceded it was a "possibility" that the house
fire also was drug-related.
Former College President Files For School Board
Party primaries for ihe Bruns
wick County Board of Education
District 2 scat are ensured, as two
candidates have filed so far on both
the Democratic and Republican
According to the Brunswick
County Board of Elections office,
five new candidates filed for local
public office Jan. 3 through 9. The
May 8 primary elections will in
volve races for sheriff, clerk of
court, and the District 2 and 3 seats
on both the county commission and
school board. The filing period ends
at noon Feb. 5.
Former Brunswick Technical
College President Joseph Carter, 58.
of Route 2, Supply, filed as a Dem
ocrat in the District 2 school board
campaign, while Shallotte resident
Richard F. Bangs, 65, filed for the
seat on the Republican side.
Carter was the local college's
founding president and served in the
post for seven years until he was
fired by trustees in August 1987. He
was dismissed while an SBI investi
gation was under way involving
adult education classes at the col
Republican W. James Payne and
Democrat Polly G. Russ, both of
Shallotte, earlier filed for the Dis
trict 2 school board primaries. The
seal currenUy is held by Democrat
Dorothy Worth of Shallotte, who
said she is leaning toward seeking
re-election, but hasn't made a deci
Democratic incumbent James
Clemmons, 69, of Leland, filed last
week for re-election to his District 5
school board seat. As of Tuesday,
the retired school principal was un
A third Democrat ? Raybon Mo
ore, 45, of Route 1, Bolivia ? en
tered the District 2 county commis
sion race last week. Moore is em
ployed by Brunswick Community
College as mainteance supervisor.
Other District 2 candidates are
Democrats Allan Dameron of Hold
en Beach and Joseph Stevenson of
Route 3, Supply. Incumbent District
2 Commissioner Benny Ludlum, a
Democrat, announced in December
that he will not seek re-election.
In the Republican sheriff's race,
William "Bill" Sisk, 53, of Long
Beach, filed to face Shallotte resi
dent David L. Gause. Incumbent
Sheriff John C. Davis of Bolivia re
mained the only Democrat to file, as
Also, there were no new candi
dates in for clerk of court or the
District 5 county commission seat.
Incumbent Democrat Diana Morgan
earlier filed for clerk r>f court.
Incumbent Democrat Grace Beasley
and Republican challenger Donald
Shaw earlier entered the District 5
In district elections affecting
Brunswick County, Shallotte attor
ney Rex Gore and Assistant District
Attorney Tom Aldridgc Jr., of Route
2, Whileville, have filed for the
13th District Attorney's office, ac
cording to the N.C. Board of Elec
tions office. Both men are Demo
The DA post is held by Michael
Easley of Southport, who is running
for ihe Democratic U.S. Senate
nomination. The 13th Judicial Dis
trict covers Brunswick, Columbus
and Bladen counties.
Chief District Court Judge Wil
liam C. Gore Jr., of Whitcville, has
filed for a new Superior Court
judgeship created by the General
Assembly for the 13th District.
Gore is a Democrat.
Also, Judge David G. Wall, an
Elizabcthtown Democrat, has an
nounced that he will seek rc-clcc
tton to the District Court bench. A
spokesperson for the Bladen County
Board of Elections office said
Wall's candidate form was certified
Tuesday and sent to Raleigh.
The only other regional candidate
to officially file, as of Tuesday, was
incumbent state Sen. R.C. Soles Jr.,
of Tabor City. No filings have been
announced for the 14th State House
seat held by Democrat E. David
Rcdwine of Ocean Isle Beach.
On Site Fee
BY RAHN ADAMS
In response to objections by a lo
cal developer, the Brunswick
County Board of Health this week
indicated that it would "slick to pol
icy" and continue to support six
month-old changes in the handling
of Environmental Health site evalu
During Monday's 1 1/2-hour me
eting in Bolivia, the Health Board
discussed a Dec. 18 letter from barl
Benton, a Hickman's Crossroads
resident who recently formed a citi
zens group to protest a July 1989
change that made S35 site evalua
tion fees non-refundable.
Benton's organization ? which
will meet today (Thursday) at 7
p.m., at the Alcoholics Anonymous
building in Grisscttown ? also is
concerned about county tax ap
praisals on lots that are determined
by Environmental Health sanitari
ans to be unsuitable for septic tank
On a unanimous vote, the Health
Board instructed Health Director
Michael Rhodes to respond to Ben
ton and explain the board's policies
on issues in the developer's com
plaint that directly pertain to Envir
onmental Health. Rhodes' response
was to be reviewed by Health Board
Chairman Ricky Parker before be
ine mailed to Benton.
Benton was not present at Mon
day's meeting. Health Board mem
bcrs on hand were Parker, Maliston
"Moc" Stanley, Arthur Knox, Geor
ge Clcmmons and Bradley Wil
liams, who was sworn into office
Monday. Board members Bill Ra
bon, Carolyn Hankins, William
Phillips, Thomas Owens and ex of
ficio member Frankic Rabon were
In his letter to the health board,
Benton stated: "We feel that the S35
inspection fee would be a fair fee on
lots that pass (site evaluations), but
we would ask that the Health De
partment return all fees on lots that
did not pass and that the taxpayer
not have to make a request by mail
and wait a long time to have their
In March 1989, the health board
recommended to county commis
sioners that site evaluation fees be
raised from S20 to S35, and that the
tees on unsuitable lots no longer be
non-refundable, in order to cover a
SI 35, (XX) increase in the Health
Department's local budget. The
board's recommendations were ap
proved by the commissioners'
adoption of the 1989-90 county
budget in July.
Monday, Parker reiterated the
health board's reason for changing
the site evaluation fee policy last
year. "It was either taxes or user
fees, and we chose user fees," Park
er saiu, iiiici adding, "if we're going
to have services, we're going to
(See HEALTH, Page 2-A)
County Adopts 'Unmentionable'
Ordinance Banning Adult Clubs
BY RAIIN ADAMS
To borrow a phrase from Broad
way, life may be a cabaret, but
county commissioners have made
sure that Brunswick County night
life will not be ah "adult" cabaret as
a result of the anticipated availabili
ty of liquor by ihc drink here.
Commissioners Monday unani
mously adopted a new county ordi
nance banning the operation of
adult clubs and adult cabarets in
unincorporated sections of the
county. That action was one of three
alcohol-related matters considered
by the full board during the 1 1/2
hour meeting in Bolivia.
The commission also adopted an
ordinance to levy a county privilege
license tax beginning May 1 on
businesses that hold beer and wine
permits; and delayed action on
appointment of a Brunswick County
Alcoholic Beverage Control Board
? a panel that must be established
before mixed beverages can be
served in new locations in the coun
Delicately presented by Interim
County Manager David Clegg, the
adult club ordinance was quickly
approved by commissioners, to the
titters of board members and other
individuals in the commissioners'
chambers alike. Chairman Gene
Pinkerton allowed Clegg lo forego
publicly reading the document,
which lists "specified sexual activi
ties" and "specified anatomical
areas" presented in adult establish
Clegg and Pinkerton told
reporters that adoption of the ordi
nance was prompted by concerns
that were expressed by various local
groups following passage of a coun
tywidc ABC referendum in No
vember. Clegg said the first contact
was from the South Brunswick
Islands Chamber of Commerce
within weeks of the referendum.
Pinkeiton also CGiuinciiled thai
he feels Brunswick County resi
dents "don't want any slums sand
wiched between Horry County
(S.C.) and New Hanover County,"
where topless bars and other adult
clubs can be licensed.
The penalty for violating the
ordinance is either 30 days in jail or
a $50 fine, Clcgg said. However, he
noted that the state's obscenity
laws, which were strengthened sev
eral years ago, probably would be
sufficient to discourage adult clubs.
A main purpose of the ordinance is
to state that "those establishments
aren't wanted here," Clegg added.
Unlike the adult club ordinance,
the county ABC privilege license
tax regulation does affect businesses
within the county's municipalities.
Starting May 1, local businesses
with beer and/or wine permits must
obtain annual licenses costing $25
for on-prcmises beer sales and all
wine sales, and $5 for off-premises
Clcgg indicated that he fell both
ordinances needed to be in place
before commissioners proceed with
setting up a county ABC board. For
that reason, On Dvt. 18 liie lOllllIlis
sion delayed their ABC appoint
ments. Monday, the appointments
were tabled indefinitely, on a
motion by Commissioner Frankic
Rabon told the Beacon afterwards
that he simply wasn't ready yet to
appoint members to the "important"
panel. Commissioners Benny Lud
lum and Grace Beasley opposed
putting off the matter again. Ludlum
said the county should advertise for
(See COUNTY, Page 2-A)
Sc'noo! Board's Island Retreat Not Intended To Be Private
BY SUSAN USHER
Brunswick County Board of Education members
plan to "retreat" from their usual Southport offices
Saturday, Jan. 20, to discuss goals and priorities for the
school system and to get to know each other better.
But plans tc ho!d the daylong m<v*ting ?? 'he inn on
Bald Head Island could make access more ditticult than
usual for those who want to observe the board conduct
its business. Ferry fare to the island is $20 round- trip
per person, by reservation.
Board members approved plans for the informal
work session at their meeting Monday night. Member
Donna Baxter said she made the arrangements after
staff members failed to find a suitable location, choos
ing Bald Head bccausc of the rates available.
"I wasn't given any guidelines to go by," she said.
'The point of the retreat as far as I was concerned was
so we can relax and get to know each other, so we could
start working as a team, not in groups." Teamwork
would improve, she suggested, if members reach an un
derstanding that they can have differences of opinion,
but still work together.
Superintendent John Kaufhold told reporters,
"We're not going over there to prohibit people from at
tending. That's not the intent."
However, at least one board member anticipated
that the meeting might be private. Joking with fellow
members. Dot Worth suggested, "Maybe we can discuss
some things, without reporters?"
Board attorney Glen Peterson quickly pointed out
the meeting clearly had to be open to the public since
the board will be deliberating or discussing business of
a public nature.
The tentative agenda outlined by Superintendent
John Kaufhold includes status reports on various as
pects of the system, such as curriculum, maintenance
and transportation, food services and personnel, as well
as setting directions for the future. He said the board
planned to take no "formal votes" on any items.
Those first scheduled to attend included board
members, Kaufhold, the associate superintendent and
"I don't think it will change the complexion of the
meeting whatsoever to have reporters there," said the
supcrintendeni. "I know it won't change anything 1
have to say."
While the location may l>e inconvenient, Peterson
said the meeting doesn't necessarily violate the stale's
Open Meetings Law. He compared the ferry fee to Bald
Head Island to buying gasoline to drive to the board's
Southport meetings. "It's the same principle," he said.
Kaufho)<) said the school board would check into
the possibility of scheduling a special ferry or arranging
for others who attend the meeting to obtain the same
discount ferry fee the board will pay: S7.50 per person.
The board is to leave for Bald Head at 9 a.m. that
Saturday and return sometime that evening, after din