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Monday, July 26, 2010

Chapel Hill offers reward in on-loan sculpture heist

Posted by on Mon, Jul 26, 2010 at 1:43 PM

The Town of Chapel Hill is calling for the safe return of “our missing little girl” after someone pilfered a $16,000 sculpture from the lawn of the Chapel Hill Museum on Franklin Street.

Landing, a sculpture by Florida-based artist Cecilia Lueza, went missing from the Chapel Hill Museum earlier this month.
  • Courtesy of the Town of Chapel Hill
  • "Landing," a sculpture by Florida-based artist Cecilia Lueza, went missing from the Chapel Hill Museum earlier this month.
Jeff York, Chapel Hill’s public arts administrator, says the town is offering a $250 reward, no questions asked, for the piece, a bright orange and yellow epoxy girl leaping skyward.

“We aren’t interested in pressing charges or anything like that,” he says. “We just would like our little girl back.”

The sculpture, “Landing,” by Florida-based artist Cecilia Lueza, is on loan to Chapel Hill as part of the 2009-2010 Sculpture Visions exhibit, which features several pieces throughout the town.

York says this is the first art theft the town has experienced in six years.

“I’m very disappointed,” he said. “It’s obvious that somebody had to really want it, or at least want it off its stand, because it was attached to a five-inch steel pipe that it looks like somebody sawed through to get it.”

The 6-feet-tall-by-5-feet-wide sculpture was lifted earlier this month and reported to the police last week. It was installed in October and was set to be taken down in three months. Town property insurance will cover the cost if the sculpture does not resurface.

“We just really hope that someone will have a change of heart and bring it back,” York says.

Anyone with information should contact the Public Arts Office at 968-2750 or info@chapelhillarts.org.

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Saturday, July 24, 2010

Fish kill reported in Haw River

Posted by on Sat, Jul 24, 2010 at 10:39 AM

RTEmagicC_Haw_River_at_Glencoe_2_txdam5405_791a3d.JPG.jpg
  • Alamance County Parks and Recreation
A fish kill has been reported in the upper portion of the Haw River that runs through Alamance County before flowing into Chatham County. Haw River Assembly Riverkeeper Elaine Chiosso says the fish kill involving several hundred fish is likely related to the 1.45 million gallons of untreated wastewater the City of Greensboro spilled on July 14, after a strong storm knocked out power for six and half hours. However, that has not been confirmed by state officials.

The untreated sewage entered South Buffalo Creek in the Cape Fear River Basin before flowing into the Haw River.

The Haw River Assembly reported the fish kill to the state Division of Water Quality (DWQ), which is investigating the sewage spill. DWQ did find dead fish in Reedy Fork and the Haw River. Chiosso says paddlers on the river near Burlington have seen dead fish and reported the smell of fish decomposing.

This time of year, the Haw River is ideal for swimming, fishing, wading, kayaking and tubing. Chiosso cautions those looking to cool off stay out of the water to avoid contamination if they see dead fish or smell unusually bad odors.

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Thursday, July 22, 2010

Pedersen: 2010-11 school year will be my last with CHCCS

Posted by on Thu, Jul 22, 2010 at 10:21 PM

As expected, Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools Superintendent Neil Pedersen announced tonight that his 19th year at the helm will be his last. Pedersen, the longest serving head in the 101-year history of the district, will step down June 30, 2011.

CHCCS Neil Pedersen will close the book on his tenure in 2011.
  • Courtesy of CHCCS
  • CHCCS Neil Pedersen will close the book on his tenure in 2011.
Pedersen issued a statement two weeks ago, saying he would announce a decision at tonight’s CHCCS Board of Education meeting.

“Dr. Pedersen, are there any announcements?” Chairman Mike Kelley asked to start the meeting, inviting the elephant in the room to trumpet.

“Yes,” he said, smiling the cut the tension. “As you know, I’ve been giving serious consideration as to the best time for me to retire as superintendent of Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools. As I complete my 18th year in this position, I’ve concluded that this will be the last year that I will seek to serve in this capacity.”

Continue reading…

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Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Gov. Perdue signs sweepstakes bill

Posted by on Tue, Jul 20, 2010 at 5:10 PM

Gov. Beverly Perdue signed House Bill 80, which bans sweepstakes parlors in North Carolina.
You can read the final ratified version of the bill here: H80v5.pdf
The bill passed on July 7 by a 86-27 vote. Unless the video sweepstakes industry successfully sues the state, which it has threatened to do, the 932 parlors must close when the law goes into effect Dec. 1.
There was no public ceremony for the bill signing.

You can read the Indy's previous coverage, Feb. 24, June 17 and June 23.

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Monday, July 19, 2010

Hill's campaign finance violations chalked up to human error; corrected reports expected Tuesday

Posted by on Mon, Jul 19, 2010 at 11:16 AM

Durham County Sheriff Worth Hill
  • Durham County Sheriff Worth Hill

Sheriff Worth Hill's re-election campaign treasurer has been asked to submit amended campaign finance reports to Durham's Board of Elections after a Republican group pointed out Hill's past two reports omitted the identities of people who contributed thousands of dollars to his campaign.

Donald Baker, Hill's campaign treasurer for the past 16 years, said the errors were due to human oversight when contacted by the Indy early Monday.

"This is getting ridiculous," Baker said, when contacted. "I’m trying to correct this report right now, and I’m on the phone with a news reporter."

The errors were pointed out late Friday in a letter from the Triangle West Young Republicans to Durham elections Director Mike Ashe. (PDF)

According to the letter, Hill's first-quarter finance report (PDF) lists 34 contributions of $100, but doesn't include other required information: the name, address and occupation of the contributor. (There also is a contribution of $99 that is missing that information, according to the Indy's review.) The same information was omitted for 14 in Hill's second-quarter report (PDF), which was filed last week, the letter said. (The report actually shows 15 contributions without the proper information).

Finance law requires that any contribution of $50.01 or more must be listed in campaign finance reports with the name, address and occupation of the contributor, Ashe said. The law changed in January 2007. Previously, only amounts greater than $100 required that identifying information, Ashe said.

This is Hill's first fundraising period since the law changed. Baker said the error was not intentional, but because he didn't realize the law had changed. The forms that Baker filled out, however, state at the top that amounts over $50 need to be reported.

(This paragraph has been amended). Ashe said he believed the oversight on Baker's part was due to human error, and also stated his he or his staff at the Board of Elections should have caught the mistake. Ashe was out of the office for several weeks this year due to personal injury. When asked whether his absence could have contributed to the error, Ashe stated he was responsible for the Board of Elections even during his recovery, and takes full blame for the mistake.

Ashe said he has spoken to Baker, and expects the amended reports Tuesday.

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Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Second chances: Commissioners offer leniency to several nonprofits

Posted by on Wed, Jul 14, 2010 at 4:16 PM

Larry Thomas, a mentor with Durham Companions, talks with XZavier McFadden, age 9.
  • Photo by D.L. Anderson
  • Larry Thomas, a mentor with Durham Companions, talks with X'Zavier McFadden, age 9.

In this week’s issue, you’ll see a story about Durham Companions, a nonprofit mentoring program that, despite getting a tongue-lashing a couple weeks ago from county commissioners for poor performance last year, still got funding for the coming year.

In one of the toughest budget years in Durham County history, and one in which county employees are going without raises, workers have been laid off and residents will bear a five percent increase in the property tax rate, some have questioned whether it’s the right time to be giving poorly performing agencies more chances.

But Durham Companions wasn’t the only organization that hit snags in the past year and has gotten a second chance. This year, county commissioners also have agreed to give $151,000 to four other organizations that have had problems in the past year, turning in late financial and program reports and failing to show hard data that their activities were directly working toward their goals.

Each of these groups received low scores recently in a county analysis that ranked nonprofits on their reporting compliance and effectiveness. Because of the groups’ weak performance over the past year, commissioners slashed allotments for each group by about 15 percent.

Here’s how much each organization will receive if they file quarterly reports to the county on time this year:

Operation Breakthrough, which administers several programs for low-income families, including Head Start, will receive $79,390, a cut from last year’s allotment of $93,400.

John Avery Boys & Girls Club, which runs recreational after school and summer programs for children, could receive $35,011, a reduction from last year’s allotment of $41,189.

Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Triangle, a mentoring program for young adults and teenagers, will receive $27,787, down from $32,690 last year.

Triangle Champions Track Club, which is an athletic program for children with some academic components, could receive $8,873, down from $9,340 they were eligible to receive last year.

John Avery Boys & Girls Club and the Triangle Champions Track Club received funding even after turning their grant applications into the county after the deadline last spring.

Despite performing the worst, Durham Companions received the same amount they got last year, $4,670, and could be eligible for even more money in mid-February if they perform well, commissioners decreed at a meeting late last month.

Continue reading…

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Google humbled by response to fiber program, launches new Web site

Posted by on Wed, Jul 14, 2010 at 12:36 PM

Durham, Raleigh and Chapel Hill/Carrboro were among 36 municipalities in North Carolina and almost 1,100 nationally to apply for Google Fiber, the company announced today.

The tech giant rolled out plans in February to build a fiber-optic network for ultra-fast broadband in one or more communities sized between 50,000 and 500,000 people.

The response was much more than they expected.

Now Google has launched a site that centralizes their efforts and calls on communities to translate their push for Google Fiber into a move for national and local legislation to create fiber infrastructure.

The site also features a thank you video that features, among others, Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt and Carrboro Mayor Mark Chilton. Does that provide any clues? We’ll have to wait to the end of the year to find out who Google has selected.

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Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Is Pedersen ready to call it a career in Chapel Hill-Carrboro schools?

Posted by on Tue, Jul 13, 2010 at 2:52 PM

Chapel Hill-Carrboro City School Board Chairman Mike Kelley says he’s taking a deep breath. Blue Ribbon Mentor-Advocate coordinator Graig Meyer is avoiding speaking in the past tense. Chapel Hill-Carrboro Public Schools Foundation director Kim Hoke sees a contract that hasn’t been renewed. The schools’ spokesperson isn’t speaking and the superintendent is referring all questions to a prepared statement.

Superintendent Neil Pedersen hasnt asked for his contract to be renewed. He will announce his plans on July 22.
  • Courtesy of CHCCS
  • Superintendent Neil Pedersen hasn't asked for his contract to be renewed. He will announce his plans on July 22.
The signs all point to the school board’s next meeting, July 22, when Superintendent Neil Pedersen will make his future plans known, ending speculation about his retirement.

“Until that time, I will not comment further regarding my future plans,” Pedersen states.
“The 2010-11 school year will present a normal array of challenges to my administration with respect to student achievement and dismal financial forecasts. Regardless of my decision, I need to devote my full attention every day throughout this year to providing leadership to this district as it faces these challenges.”

With 18 years of service at the top, Pedersen is the longest tenured school leader in the state and in the history of his district. He’s helped maintain and expand a tradition of top tier public schools, making the community desirable for young families and leading to two new high schools and six new schools since 1994.

Pedersen, who is on vacation, says he has long planned to take this summer to consider his future. The school system celebrated 100 years in 2009. Now they could be looking for a new author for the next chapters.

Continue reading…

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751 South protest petition found valid under current and new rules

Posted by on Tue, Jul 13, 2010 at 1:08 PM

Jordan-Lake-update-2010-for-web.gif

County planning staff and the county attorney announced this morning that a petition (PDF) filed by residents near the proposed site for a controversial development is valid. The petition carries sufficient signatures from the required percentages of land around the site, which is south of Stagecoach Road and west of N.C. 751 (see map), said Patrick Young, Durham's assistant planning director.

Now the petition will require four of five county commissioners to approve the rezoning of 167 acres of land in south Durham on which a developer wants to build a large mixed-use development called 751 South. The valid petition is seen as a small victory for residents opposed to the project because of its proposed location in rural Durham County and within the watershed of Jordan Lake. The petition is yet another stumbling block for Southern Durham Development, a small company that has worked for more than two years for its plans to clear public approval. The process has been hamstrung left and right with lawsuits and other delays.

The petition is valid both under the county's current adopted ordinance, and a state law that passed on July 9, Young said. It includes signatures of individual homeowners and of the president of the Chancellor's Ridge Homeowners Association president, who signed on behalf of a common area in that subdivision. (See the jump for more about that common property.)

Although the deadline has passed for petitioners to add their names to the document, names may still be removed if a signer changes his mind.

Under the county's current ordinance (see section 3.5.13), the petition needed the signatures of the owners of 20 percent of the area within 100 feet of one side of the property. In this case, the signatures represent 45 percent, more than enough, Young said.

However, state legislators just passed a local bill to unify the county's ordinance on protest petitions with the city's ordinance. That new bill, which appears to be effective immediately, requires the signatures of property owners of 5 percent of the area in a 100-foot buffer around the entire boundary of the property being rezoned. Petitioners who signed represented 11.8 percent of that land, Young said.

The petition will come into play at a public hearing currently scheduled for tomorrow morning. Commissioners have planned to officially open the public hearing tomorrow, but postpone the official hearing until July 26. That's when Southern Durham Development is slated to ask Durham's Board of County Commissioners for the rezoning.

Continue reading…

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Friday, July 9, 2010

Chapel Hill-Carrboro superintendent considering retirement

Posted by on Fri, Jul 9, 2010 at 4:12 PM

Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools Superintendent Neil Pedersen released a statement today addressing recent speculation about his impending retirement, saying he will announce a decision at the school board's July 22 meeting.

Superintendent Neil Pedersen is mulling his future.
  • Courtesy of CHCCS
  • Superintendent Neil Pedersen is mulling his future.
Pedersen has served at the CHCCS helm for 18 years, which makes him the longest tenured superintendent in the state and in the history of the district. His four-year deal is up June 30, 2011 and he is yet to ask for a renewal.

He came to the district in 1987 as assistant superintendent for support services, and he has been credited with helping guide the system to among the top in the state. Pedersen will be eligible for full retirement benefits this year, he says.

You can find the full statement here. Read more in Wednesday's edition of the Indy.

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