DOBSON — A local business owner says recent media coverage of his family and Gov. Pat McCrory has been unfair.
“We are trying to make this whole area better,” Ed Shelton said of himself and brother Charlie Shelton.
Shelton said when his brother ran into McCrory at a meeting in Mount Airy the governor asked Charlie what could be done to help the local tourism industry. Shelton’s answer was simple — have the N.C. Highway Patrol enforce a law prohibiting tractor-trailers from stopping on the side of the road and on the ramps at interchanges for extended periods of time.
Recently, media outlets around the state have pointed to the Sheltons’ $32,000 or more in campaign contributions to McCrory as the means of giving the Sheltons undo influence over the governor.
In short, the governor did ask the Highway Patrol to begin enforcing the law. Subsequently, the Highway Patrol launched a campaign to crack down on the illegal parking of vehicles on the shoulders of roads.
According to an article in the Raleigh News & Observer, a Highway Patrol memo indicates the law enforcement agency’s campaign against the illegal parking started as a result of complaints “funneled through the Governor’s Office.” Other documents indicate that the focus of the campaign was I-77 in Surry and surrounding counties.
Additionally, that media outlet reported that there was continual back and forth communication between the Sheltons, employees at the businesses owned by the two brothers and the office of the governor. Emails focused on whether or not the campaign was sparking results at exit 93 on I-77 in Dobson.
The Raleigh newspaper also reported that 139 of the 261 parking violation tickets issued in the state during the summer months were issued in Surry County. In 2014, Troopers wrote only 70 tickets for illegal parking along interstates statewide.
The newspaper also reported that Charlie and Ed Shelton made campaign contributions of $2,000 and $3,000, respectively, to McCrory after the Highway Patrol campaign was launched.
Though the Sheltons may have prompted the recent crackdown, the issue has been one with which they have grappled for about a decade, Ed Shelton said in an interview.
“This whole thing started about 10 years ago,” explained Shelton. “We were planning the hotel here at the Dobson exit, and truckers were parking on the ramp.”
Shelton said truckers were throwing trash on the side of the road. In some instances, Shelton said truckers were even throwing containers filled with human waste on the side of the road and relieving themselves in public.
“We hired off-duty sheriff’s deputies to handle the situation,” said Shelton. “Once we were annexed into Dobson, they patrolled it.”
According to Shelton, the problem wasn’t at the Dobson exit on I-77. Instead, it was at surrounding areas on I-77.
“In Virginia this is illegal. Down south — in areas like Huntersville — local law enforcement police the situation. Why should our area become the dumping grounds for truckers who don’t follow the law,” asked Shelton.
Shelton went on to say “90 percent of truckers follow the law.” However, he said the 10 percent who don’t are creating a “trashy and messy situation” in the backyards of Surry County residents.
According to Shelton, there are plenty of opportunities for truck drivers to catch some shut-eye legally. Shelton said I-77’s exit 100 (N.C. 89) offers two places where truckers can stop. Additionally, he said the Elkin exit has spaces available, and truck stops are located in areas further south and north across the Virginia state line.
Simply put, Shelton believes there’s no reason for truckers to break the law.
“It’s important to try to get the area cleaned up,” said Shelton. “Our intent is to try to make the area as nice as we can.”
Shelton said an issue more important than beautification is that stopped trucks can cause accidents.
In the end, Shelton said he’s not sure why campaign contributions are an issue. He also said he and brother Charlie had been requesting the law be enforced for years prior to Gov. McCrory’s election to office. He said earlier requests fell on deaf ears.
“It’s against the law,” Shelton re-affirmed. “We’ve gotten threatening phone calls about this, but I make no apologies.”
“I use the influence I have to make this a better place,” remarked Shelton. “This doesn’t put any money in our pockets. We don’t need favors, but we try to get favors for the community.”
“We just want to see this area be all that it can be,” concluded Shelton.
Andy is a staff writer for The News and can be reached at (336) 415-4698.