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Tuesday, April 9, 2013

In Orange County, trash gets its day

Posted by on Tue, Apr 9, 2013 at 8:00 AM

The future of Orange County's celebrated recycling program is before county commissioners tonight.

County commissioners will consider a number of proposals—including the widely-reviled prospect of privatization—when they meet at 7 p.m. in Hillsborough.

Expect a full story on the recycling program and its funding challenges in Wednesday's print edition of INDY Week, but in the meantime, sit in on tonight's meeting if you want an admittedly complicated primer. The program touts an unprecedented 59 percent waste reduction rate in the last two decades, but a 2012 court decision has put the program's funding in jeopardy.

Obtain tonight's agenda here.

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    Orange County commissioners will consider recycling program funding tonight.

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Wednesday, March 20, 2013

North Carolina: No Medicaid dollars for undocumented mental health

Posted by on Wed, Mar 20, 2013 at 1:12 PM

Addendum: It seems that Cardinal Innovation's approach on mental health care for the undocumented community is not unique.

N.C. Department of Health and Human Services spokeswoman Julie Henry notified INDY Week after its print deadline Tuesday that undocumented immigrants are only eligible for emergency service coverage under Medicaid rule, echoing the comments of Cardinal leaders in today's story. That indicates managed care organizations such as Cardinal—which is charged with dispensing public dollars for mental health treatment—are following the rule statewide to deny Medicaid reimbursements to providers treating mental illness among undocumented residents.

Today's story investigates the impacts of the policy on the undocumented community and general public health—in particular, the impacts on nonprofits such as El Futuro that provide mental health services for the undocumented and Latino population. An El Futuro board member argues that the rule is stressing nonprofit finances and may clash with federal laws that order healthcare providers to offer services regardless of citizenship.

It is unclear whether federal law requires a denial for undocumented reimbursements. Medicaid is a joint spending venture primarily paid for by the federal government, but many North Carolina lawmakers have been targeting Medicaid for cuts since state spending peaked at higher than $3 billion in 2009.

Cardinal Innovations serves a 15-county region in the state that includes Orange and Chatham counties.

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    Undocumented immigrants are only eligible for emergency service coverage under Medicaid rule, according to DHHS spokesperson.

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Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Eve Carson killer to be sentenced again

Posted by on Tue, Feb 5, 2013 at 2:51 PM

Former Indy Week writer Matt Saldaña with Eve Carson in 2006
  • Former Indy Week writer Matt Saldaña with Eve Carson in 2006

Expect a swift—and angry—response on this one.

The N.C. Court of Appeals released its opinion today in the case of Laurence Alvin Lovette, one of two men convicted of killing UNC-Chapel Hill Student Body President Eve Carson in 2008. The high-profile murder case was one of the most notorious in UNC-Chapel Hill's history.

According to Tuesday's court opinion, Lovette is due a resentencing because of the U.S. Supreme Court's decision last summer in Miller v. Alabama. The nation's highest court ruled then that a mandatory life sentence without the possibility of parole violates the Eighth Amendment's prohibition against "cruel and unusual punishment" if the defendant was under the age of 18 at the time of the crime. Lovette was 17 when Carson was murdered.

The state court opinion vacated Lovette's sentence and ordered the trial court to "determine the appropriate sentence" for Lovette.

Read former INDY Week writer Matt Saldaña's 2008 Front Porch feature on Carson here.

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Friday, September 21, 2012

UNC-CH employees call on chancellor to stay

Posted by on Fri, Sep 21, 2012 at 11:20 AM

Chancellor Holden Thorp—beset by academic and athletic scandal in his short tenure at UNC-Chapel Hill—seems to at least have a chunk of the university's employees in his corner.

The school's Employee Forum, a group representing university staff, is holding a "peaceful" rally supporting the troubled chancellor this morning in front of South Building, the school's administrative HQ.

Thorp announced Monday that he would step down from his post at the close of the 2012-13 academic year after two years of an athletic scandal that began with the school's football program and expanded into the academic sphere.

In a statement Tuesday, the forum expressed "heartfelt dismay" at Thorp's decision, urging UNC President Tom Ross, the UNC board of trustees and the UNC System Board of Governors to back Thorp.

"We have found a true friend in Chancellor Thorp since he began working with us in 2008," the statement said. "Chancellor Thorp is a leader and visionary who has greatly improved working conditions for staff."

The forum credited Thorp with raising employee wages, addressing longstanding troubles in the university's housekeeping department, increasing efficiency in the university and allowing "unprecedented access to him and his office."

The forum is also circulating petitions urging the chancellor to reconsider his resignation. The petitions will be available to sign from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. today in the UNC-Chapel Hill Pit, Wilson Library and South Building.

Today's rally is scheduled from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at South Building.

Dueling petitions regarding the chancellor are already circulating on social media websites like Facebook. One, simply titled "Fire Holden Thorp," had 1,458 likes as of Friday morning, as well as a smattering of anti-Thorp messages.

Another petition directed at Ross urges the system president to reject Thorp's resignation. As of Friday morning, 54 people had signed the petition.

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Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Carrboro to mull Rogers Road sewer

Posted by on Tue, Sep 18, 2012 at 1:47 PM

After years of much-bemoaned inactivity on the touchy subject of Rogers Road, leaders in Orange County seem to be on the move these days.

Two weeks ago, Orange County commissioners passed a sweeping resolution to pledge $500,000 for a long-sought community center in the low-income neighborhood vexed by an aging landfill. That comes after Chapel Hill leaders closed neighbors' makeshift community center on Rogers Road last month over numerous fire safety concerns.

Tonight, the Carrboro Board of Aldermen will take up a proposal to provide public sewer to the community.

Extending sewer service to Rogers Road residents would cost approximately $5.8 million, according to the Orange Water and Sewer Authority (OWASA). It's unclear how leaders in Orange County, Chapel Hill and Carrboro will divvy up the cost.

The sewer proposal comes from a task force of local government leaders and members of the Rogers-Eubank Neighborhood Association (RENA). Cost-sharing plans include dividing up expenses based on population, landfill usage and tax revenues.

There has been no consensus yet on how to pay the sewer bill, but officials acknowledge the need. Rogers Road residents blame health ailments and polluted water on the landfill, which was built prior to more modern regulations requiring dump lining to prevent harmful contents from seeping into the groundwater.

Rogers Road has been the landfill site for local governments for 40 years, after initially agreeing to house the dump for a decade. Leaders have postponed closing the landfill for years. County commissioners now say they will shut down the site next year.

Tonight's Carrboro Board of Aldermen meeting is set for 7:30 p.m. at Carrboro Town Hall.

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Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Carrboro Family Dollar hits another snag

Posted by on Wed, Aug 1, 2012 at 3:46 PM

Carrboro planners may have rebuffed a Family Dollar developer's designs for settling in an Alabama Avenue historic neighborhood, but local opponents of the discount store aren't breaking out the party hats and streamers just yet.

"We've been having these small victories," said community resident Anissa McLendon. "But we can't celebrate 100 percent, maybe we can celebrate about 80 percent."

McLendon, along with a band of fired-up neighbors, has led protests and even a march to stymie Raleigh-based builder Will Stronach's plans to build a 8,100-square-foot Family Dollar in the largely residential community.

The discount store would be built on less than an acre near the intersection of Alabama Avenue and Jones Ferry Road. Residents in the tightly-knit Alabama Avenue community have been largely unified for more than a year in their quest to jettison Family Dollar plans.

McLendon's guarded optimism comes after Carrboro Development Review Administrator Marty Roupe wrote in a July 20 letter that a builder plan to pipe drainage water off of the Alabama Avenue site clashes with town ordinances that development "shall conform to the natural contours of the land and natural drainage ways shall remain undisturbed."

By piping the drainage off-site, the builder hoped to avoid town rules requiring Stronach receive a variance from town regulations on an ephemeral stream, a temporary waterway created by precipitation. Carrboro land maps denote one such stream on the Alabama Avenue plot.

The builder contends a pipe running beneath a nearby convenience store "artificially" increases the flow on the Alabama Avenue tract, and that piping the flow to the town's drainage system on Jones Ferry Road would render the variance unnecessary.

Carrboro staff would not give their blessing.

The decision is the latest snag for Family Dollar, a Matthews-based chain that residents worried would beget heavy traffic and crime for the neighborhood. In June, Stronach—who did not return an Indy phone call this week—withdrew his application after the Carrboro Board of Adjustment rejected the stream variance. Reps for the builder have been inquiring about his options with town staff in the weeks since.

Following Family Dollar's latest defeat, McLendon said Tuesday that locals hope the developer gets the message. "Maybe they will just go find another lot that would be suitable for their needs," she said.

Family Dollar foes hope to deal another blow to the proposal in September, which is when officials on the Carrboro Board of Aldermen are expected to consider rezoning the Alabama Avenue tract for residential uses. The move would require any future commercial development plans go before the town's elected leaders for rezoning.

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Monday, April 30, 2012

Lee charter school unlikely to open this year, applies for 2013

Posted by on Mon, Apr 30, 2012 at 3:59 PM

The Howard and Lillian Lee Scholars Charter School is a long shot to open in August. Its founders are struggling to find a suitable temporary location for the school as they navigating the zoning approval process for a permanent site.

Amid opposition from the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools board and the local NAACP, the North Carolina State Board of Education approved fast-track status for the Lee School in February, clearing the way for the group to open later this year.

But now, as a backup plan, they say, the school’s brass has submitted a request to the state to open in 2013.

Danita Mason-Hogans, a member of the Lee board of directors, said the group identified one site in Chapel Hill and one in Carrboro but neither area was zoned for a school. She said she did not know the exact locations.

“There are some problems with both of the spaces based on the number of students we’d like to have in the school,” she said. “We had full intentions of opening in August. Now it looks like that may be put on hold.”

Continue reading…

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Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Chapel Hill-Carrboro YMCA ends formal discussions with YMCA of the Triangle

Posted by on Tue, Apr 3, 2012 at 12:56 PM

Young man (and other concerned parties), there's no need to feel down. The Chapel Hill Carrboro YMCA announced Friday that it ended its pursuit of a formal relationship with the YMCA of the Triangle.

Talk of teaming up, including a possible merger, riled the community for 18 months. The Raleigh-based YMCA of the Triangle, which runs a dozen Piedmont-area YMCAs, does not list sexual orientation as a protected class in employment materials.

Jennifer Trapani, president of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro YMCA Board of Directors, said the decision to no longer seek a partnership was mutual. The controversy played a part in the discussions, but it was not the only factor in Friday's announcement.

"Our community is obviously very important to us. Our YMCA is an organization for our community, so we were trying to listen to everyone's comments and concerns openly," she said.

"We were very convinced that they are not an organization that discriminates at all, but still, the uneasiness from our community made them and us concerned."

Continue reading…

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Thursday, February 2, 2012

Hackney won't seek re-election; clears path for Insko

Posted by on Thu, Feb 2, 2012 at 10:45 AM

N.C. House Minority Leader Joe Hackney announced his retirement this morning, opting not to wage a re-election campaign against long-time colleague Rep. Verla Insko, D-Orange.

The two veteran legislators were drawn into the same district, the 56th, by the Republican-produced new maps last year.

Hackney will stay in office until his tenure ends in January.

Hackney has served 16 terms, 32 years, in the General Assembly representing the 54th district, which includes Orange, Chatham and Moore counties. He was elected Speaker of the House in 2007 following Jim Black’s removal. He severed as president of the National Conference of State Legislatures.

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Friday, January 27, 2012

Orange County talks trash, next steps when landfill closes in 2013

Posted by on Fri, Jan 27, 2012 at 12:43 PM

The Orange County Board of Commissioners are committed to closing the local landfill, a burden that the Rogers Road-Eubanks community has been saddled with for 40 years now, in June 2013.

But, at last night’s Assembly of Governments meeting, leaders from the three Orange municipalities who dump garbage there as part of an interlocal agreement said they want to work together but differ on how to move forward. They have just 17 months to decide.

Chapel Hill is hiring a consultant, hopefully next month, to study its options and wants to consider keeping trash local and converting it to energy.

Carrboro is balking at the cost, both in dollars and in pollution, of the county’s plan to transport waste to Durham’s transfer station and then onto a landfill in Virginia. The Board of Alderman unanimously supports studying the feasibility of building a waste transfer station in Chapel Hill near the northwest intersection of N.C. Hwy 86 and I-40.

Hillsborough is OK with whatever everyone else decides so long as it doesn’t cost significantly more than what is being done now.

All want to offer remediation for Rogers-Eubanks and agreed to form a task force to work on creating a lasting community center for the neighborhood and on providing the water and sewer connections for neighbors that were promised when the site was built in 1972.

Continue reading…

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