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Headline Roundup: Vehicle Emissions Tests Could Be Dropped In More Counties; More

North Carolina could do away with vehicle emissions tests in more than half the counties where they’re currently required and still meet federal ozone standards. That’s according to a study released this week by the department of environment and natural resources.

North Carolina requires annual emissions testing for cars and trucks in 48 of its 100 counties. DENR says air quality has improved enough that the state could do away with testing in between 27 and 31 counties next year, depending on changes to federal ozone standards. In the Charlotte region, only Catawba and Cleveland counties could drop the requirement.

Changes To Wake Co. Commission Elections Approved
The North Carolina legislature has made changes to the way Wake County Commissioners are elected. The House approved a Senate measure yesterday largely on party lines. The measure is a local bill so it will become law without Governor Pat McCrory’s signature. The bill increases the size of the Wake County commission from seven to nine members. It also creates geographic districts to elect all nine seats. Currently, all commissioners are elected countywide, although they do represent districts. Supporters of the measure say it improves voter representation. Governor McCrory has spoken out recently against fellow Republicans for interfering with local government affairs in Wake County and in the city of Greensboro.

Possible Sell Of Belk
Belk executives are considering selling the company. Reuters reports the Charlotte-based department store chain has hired investment bank Goldman Sachs to help it evaluate “strategic alternatives,” including a potential sale. The report says Goldman is expected to solicit interest from major department stores such as Macy’s, Nordstrom, and Bon-Ton as well as private equity firms. 

Foundation for the Carolinas Assets Reach $1.7 Billion
Foundation for the Carolinas says its assets have reached a record 1 point 7 billion dollars. The Charlotte-based charity says contributions and grants both reached record highs in 2014. Foundation for the Carolinas serves a 13 county region in the central Carolinas.

Endangered Bird Delaying Hilton Head Beach Rebuilding
An endangered bird species is holding up a beach renourishment effort on Hilton Head Island. The Island Packet reports the town of Hilton Head plans to rebuild 8 miles of beach. Local officials want to finish the $20 million project before the summer tourist season. But federal officials have asked the town not to pour sand on a one-mile section of beach during the piping plover’s winter nesting season. The town is also trying to avoid summer sea turtle nesting season. It’s Hilton Head’s first beach rebuilding effort in a decade.

Firefighters Working To Contain Wildfire East Of Asheville 
Firefighters are using bulldozers and other heavy equipment to contain a wildfire east of Asheville that’s burned 550 acres. The North Carolina Forest Service says the fire that started Tuesday near Black Mountain is only about 25 percent contained and is expected to burn for several more days. The fire has damaged several homes, but officials say no additional buildings are in immediate danger.