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Friday, October 23, 2009

Failures in DPD secondary employment oversight rampant prior to OT scandal

Posted by on Fri, Oct 23, 2009 at 6:45 PM

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UPDATE: Download the PDF >>

Long before a city audit revealed excessive overtime being paid out to the Durham Police Department's coordinator for secondary employment, an internal review showed many problems with oversight. The issues ranged from a failure to adhere to policies to possible "hoarding" of work, according to a report from 2008 posted today by WRAL.

Photos in the inspection even show forms the coordinator was supposed to be using for records keeping tucked in a manila envelope under a desk.

Although the name of the officer who served as the secondary employment coordinator was not immediately apparent in the 63-page document, it was listed as a police corporal and not Alesha Robinson-Taylor, the officer at the center of the overtime pay scandal. At the time of the overtime investigation last month, police representatives noted Robinson-Taylor had been on the job just one year.

Among the findings of the report, produced in June 2008 by the Durham Police Department's staff inspector Duane Hampton, were that monthly reports weren't being filed, limits on how many secondary jobs police were allowed to work weren't being heeded and that many off-duty jobs were being scooped up by certain officers without being offered equitably to others.

The environment allowed for favoritism and even "hoarding" of extra hours by certain officers. There were also no clear rules or penalties on officers who showed up late to off-duty work, canceled or shifted work to other officers without using the proper channels.

Continue reading…

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Durham schools save $50K+ by turning off lights, monitors

Posted by on Fri, Oct 23, 2009 at 1:55 PM

Teachers, students and staff in Durham's school saved more than $50,000 last year on energy by simple conservation measures, such as turning off lights that weren't in use, and turning off computer monitors, said Hugh Osteen, assistant superintendent for operations. The conservation efforts, which cut electricity and natural gas use, were encouraged through the DPS Energy Incentive Program, which was established at the beginning of the 2007-08 school year.

Students get to reap the benefits of their actions. The school system will give 13 schools that reduced their energy consumption $18,000 back to spend on supplies or other needs. The rest of the cost savings was absorbed by the Durham schools, Osteen said, to help offset other budget cuts the system has faced in recent months.

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Thursday, October 22, 2009

Third Fork Creek watershed study begins Monday

Posted by on Thu, Oct 22, 2009 at 4:12 PM

Starting Monday, Durham city staff and contract engineers will be out in the Third Fork Creek watershed in southwest Durham to study the creek and help develop a clean-up and revitalization plan, the city announced today.

Third Fork Creek flows into New Hope Creek and Jordan Lake, the latter, of course, being the source of attention and lately because of a recent watershed rezoning that could allow for more intense development closer to the reservoir, which is a drinking water source for Chatham County and Cary. Jordan Lake already faces water-quality issues and estimates to improve the conditions and maintain water quality are in the millions of dollars. Read more about recent legislation involving mandates to clean up Jordan Lake >>

Crew members, who will be wearing orange vests for easy identification, plan to complete their field evaluation by the end of December. After the field work, the crew will prioritize potential improvement projects to include in the city's watershed plan, which it hopes to present in May 2011, the announcement said.

A map of the neighborhoods in the watershed assessment is available here.

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Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Durham Loop woes? View our map, add your comments.

Posted by on Wed, Oct 21, 2009 at 4:24 PM

Click here to view our interactive Google map.
  • Click here to view our interactive Google map.

Sexy, towering signs around downtown Durham beckon visitors. “Be downtown,” says one, suspended on the side of a building on Parrish Street. “Find your cool,” urges another sign in Five Points. But it’s hard to find your cool -- or anything else -- if you can’t get downtown.

Why? The Durham Loop, the one-way connector that surrounds downtown, seems to trouble even native Durhamites. City officials realize it's confusing, which is why they're now looking at changing the Loop to two-way traffic.

We've written a story with more details. For a more visual explanation, check out our interactive Google map that explains some of the points of contention. Have your own qualms? Add your points of concern to our map.

For the full blow-by-blow, the city also has posted the draft plan proposed by traffic engineers at Kimley-Horn.

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More details in IFC men's shelter relocation effort

Posted by on Wed, Oct 21, 2009 at 4:02 PM

Following the IFC's concept plan presentation Monday night, 15 residents, some for and some against, all passionate, the proposed site on the corner of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and Homestead Road. 

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Here's what was said that didn't fit into my story, including more specifics on the timeline and the building features and a best of list for the night's comments:

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Wolff hasn't made withdrawal official, campaign signs still abound

Posted by on Wed, Oct 21, 2009 at 10:12 AM

Despite announcing his intentions to drop out of the Chapel Hill mayor's race, Kevin Wolff campaign signs still encourage residents to vote for him, and he hasn't submitted any formal withdrawal to the Orange County Board of Elections.

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 As WCHL first reported, Wolff declared his intentions Thursday at the radio station's  elections forum, but he hasn't filed any official paperwork. Wolff is declining all media  requests, referring all questions to his 60-word, "Kevin believes the town will best be  served by stepping aside "press release" and to the following Horton-inspired sentence,  "I said what I meant and I meant what I said."

Due to his timing, his name will remain on the ballot, and in lieu of filing formal paperwork and taking down his signs, he could still earn the most votes and the mayor's seat. Campaign manager Steve Hill said he was unsure of Wolff's plans.

"I'm only stammering because I'm a little surprised by the questions. I don't know if there's a position about an official filing," he said. "He may just leave signs up until after because he's not required to take them down."

 One Dr. Seuss quote deserves another. Mr. Wolff, "Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple."

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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Latest vote: EMC Corp. gets city incentives with state, county money

Posted by on Tue, Oct 20, 2009 at 5:04 PM

UPDATE: EMC has bought a 450,000-square-foot distribution center in Durham. Read more >>

Last night, Durham's City Council voted to give EMC Corp. $1 million in economic-development incentives to build a new data center in Durham and bring 292 jobs to Durham, according to this morning's reports by The Herald-Sun and The News & Observer.

Earlier this month, Durham County Commissioners agreed to grant the Massachusetts-based company specializing in data storage, security and management, $1.2 million in incentives and money for training if the company locates new jobs and facilities here. And in September, Governor Bev Perdue announced that the state would help lure EMC here, with as much as $7.4 million during the next nine years through a Job Development Investment Grant from the state. Add it all together, and it seems probable that EMC would choose Durham over sites in New York, Virginia, Washington and Canada that the company had announced it was also considering.

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Wendell Falls Development fined $21,000 by EPA

Posted by on Tue, Oct 20, 2009 at 11:10 AM

Wendell Falls Development has been fined $21,000 by the Environmental Protection Agency for violating the Clean Water Act, according to an EPA press release issued today.

The financially embattled developer, which owns what was once projected to be the largest subdivision in Wake County—4,000 homes on 1,400 acres—was cited for alleged stormwater-related violations. The violations reportedly occurred at three construction sites, including Wendell Falls Parkway.

Earlier this year, ABC 11 TV reported that Wendell Falls owes the town of Wendell and Wake Ciounty $400,000 in delinquent taxes.

Seventeen companies or municipalities throughout the Southeast were penalized from July to September. Lake Glad Commercial, which operates the Highland Trails Commercial Center in Creedmoor, received a $5,000 penalty, also for violations related to stormwater runoff. According to an online property listing, the 249-acre mixed-use development on Highway 56 is for sale for a tidy $7 million.

The town of Rutherfordton was fined $900 for failing to comply with federal requirements in applying biosolids—byproducts from treated wastewater—that can be applied to land as fertilizer. However, if improperly applied or treated, the biosolids can expose people and animals to unsafe levels of bacteria and viruses.

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Saturday, October 17, 2009

Thorpe-Anderson Breakfast Club endorses familiar faces in Chapel Hill, Carrboro contests

Posted by on Sat, Oct 17, 2009 at 10:12 PM

The Thorpe-Anderson Breakfast Club, a group of progressive NAACP supporters and members, is backing incumbents in races for Chapel Hill Town Council, Carrboro mayor and Board of Aldermen and the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City School Board. The group's endorsements, always sought after by the candidates, were released today. They are as follows:

 Chapel Hill Mayor - Mark Kleinschmidt

 Chapel Hill Town Council - Lauren Easthom, Ed Harrison, Jim Merritt and Will Raymond

 Carrboro Mayor - Mark Chilton

 Carrboro Board of Aldermen - Randee Haven-O'Donnell, Jacquelyn Gist and Sammy Slade

 Chapel Hill-Carrboro City School Board - Greg McElveen, Michelle Brownstein and Joe Green

The breakfast club was formed in the 1970s by Hank Anderson, the South's first black parks and recreation director. The late Bill Thorpe, a former councilmen who passed away while in office in 2008, served as the group's leader after Anderson died. The group fights for racial justice and lobbied to town to rename Airport Road as Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.

This is the first endorsement this season for Raymond. All the other Chapel Hill and Carrboro municipal candidates earned support from the Sierra Club and the Indy. The three school board hopefuls also earned the Indy's support.

Early voting began Thursday. Election day is Nov. 3. Visit our elections page to read candidate questionnaires, get links to campaign pages and learn more about the candidates.

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Thursday, October 15, 2009

Wolff drops out of Chapel Hill mayoral race

Posted by on Thu, Oct 15, 2009 at 9:05 PM

The third time won't be the charm for Kevin Wolff, who announced at a WCHL forum Thursday night that he's ending his campaign.

Wolff, a patent attorney who failed in 2005 and 2007 bids as well, had taken out newspaper ads encouraging Councilman Matt Czajkowski to drop out of the race, saying that the two would split votes. Tonight he decided he was the one who needed to go.

Wolff said he wants to see a moderate mayor and that Czajkowski now provides the best chance to achieve that goal. He said he expects Councilman Mark Kleinschmidt, a liberal, to win the race. Wolff called on republican Augustus Cho to join him in leaving the two councilmen to fight for Chapel Hill's top job.

This marks the end of what has been, by all accounts, a troubled and controversial campaign for Wolff. He upset some residents with a push poll in which the words "moral" and "mayoral" were confused, leading some to say that Wolff claimed to be the only "moral" candidate. He denied those charges.

His "Keep Matt where he's at" advertisements also drew scrutiny. Wolff also was an outspoken critic of publicly financed elections before deciding to file for the funding. He then loaned himself $10,000 for his campaign, which disqualified him from the program.

Early voting started today, and Wolff's name will remain on the ballot.

You can hear Wolff's announcement here.

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