Friday, January 30, 2009

Early Relay for Life events

It's that time again. I just received notice of one of the first Relay for Life events for Hillsborough/Orange County. The Kick Off meeting will be held Thursday, Feb. 5 at 6:30 p.m. at Hillsborough United Methodist Church, 130 W. Tryon St. From the kind folks coordinating the events:

"Starting Feb. 4, Chestnut Ridge United Methodist Church is taking pre-orders for Brunswick Stew ($6 per quart). Delivery will be Saturday, Feb. 28. (Time to be announced.) To place an order, contact Peggy Cates at 919-732-8739 or"

Last year's event raised more than $172,000.

Down to two

The joint town/county rail station task force, which has been given the task of recommending a passenger train stop location in northern Orange County to elected officials next month, has made a decision.
Last night the task force whittled down seven original site choices to two, and one of them — the Collins property — will be recommended as the site to develop.
But, of course, there's a caveat. Both residents who attended an open house earlier this month and several task force members have said that they would prefer to find a way to build on the old depot site, where Nash and Eno streets meet. But that site is likely too costly to acceptably handle a modern station, they said.
However, not knowing the costs of fixing roads, grading land and other engineering specifics, task force members said they can't be sure that the depot site would be any more expensive than fixing the Collins site, which the Town of Hillsborough purchased last year but still has no direct road access.
Look for more in next week's News of Orange.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Long into the night; town budget notes

The festivities at the Central Orange Senior Center will be ongoing tonight until at least 7:30 or 8 p.m. This afternoon will include a reception with hors d'oeuvres, and this evening there will be an art installation at 6, a performance by Mebanesville at 6:30 and a performance by Footnotes Tap Ensemble at 7:15. Just in case anybody wanted some early evening plans.

Also, the Town of Hillsborough is considering cutting costs in several different areas in preparation for what is widely recognized as a lean upcoming budget year. Some of their ideas from last weekend's budget retreat, sent in a release from the town, are below:

The town is aiming for no tax rate increase in the FY2010 budget. However, the Town Board seemed to agree that if there had to be a tax increase, a realistic goal would be to keep it below the inflation rate.
Working toward the goal of no tax increase, town division heads and key staff presented operational redesign and cost-containment ideas to the Town Board on Saturday, Jan. 24. The town’s departments have been generating ideas on how to contain costs since August. Ideas that the Town Board found worth pursuing include:

• Reorganizing the Police Department structure — Under the proposal, positions would be transferred from the community policing division to the patrol division. The change from a two-squad to a four-squad patrol structure would help contain overtime costs while also increasing officer safety and police presence as more backup police officers would be available. The restructuring also would help expand the community policing philosophy throughout the department, increasing officer engagement with the community.

• Delaying the eligibility for longevity pay for town employees — The Town Board discussed delaying eligibility for the bonus pay to three to five years of service for the town. The bonus is given annually during the week of Thanksgiving and increases with the number of years an employee has worked for the town.

• Delaying the eligibility for retirement insurance benefits for town employees — The town currently provides medical coverage at age 55 for regular employees and at age 52 for sworn law enforcement employees who retire from the town with 20 years of continuous service. Under the proposal, the time required for new employees to become eligible for retiree health benefits would be increased to 30 years of service. The eligible age for benefits also would be increased to age 60 for regular employees and age 57 for sworn law enforcement.

• Having the Orange Rural Fire Department help with fire inspections.

• Starting a fire code self-inspection program for those facilities found non-compliant during an initial inspection by the fire marshal — The fire marshal currently re-inspects non-compliant buildings up to two additional times.

The Town Board also found the idea of adding a purchasing officer to the town as worth pursuing with additional investigation. Currently, each town department is responsible for purchasing needs with little, if any, coordination between departments.
The board also directed the town to explore options for selling water temporarily.

next week's edition

So, I've got a few things cooking for next week.

Yesterday, I went to this great presentation from Jan Tu, with the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences, at the Orange County Library about dinosaurs and prehistoric life. There were lots of cute kids there, and Jan even brought out some live animals. It definitely was a blast — and the kids seemed to like it too.

I got up with county Tax Assessor John Smith to talk about property revaluation. He said that despite perception, he's had about the same number of appeals as he did four years ago, when the last revaluation occurred.

From last week's Board of Ed meeting, Orange County Schools have a lot of great technology in them. I'm hoping to get up with Angie Veitch to talk about it all.

Finally, there's another Board of Ed meeting this Monday. Normally, they're every two weeks, but the Jan. 20 meeting (moved to Tuesday because of MLK Day), got canceled because of the snow.

If any of you have any ideas for county-related stories or profiles, shoot me an e-mail at v dot shortley at newsoforange dot com or post a comment here.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

This week

We're very early in the planning stages for next week's paper, but here are some things I am working on. We'd love to hear your ideas about possible alternative angles to our approaches.
On the docket:

— Another rail station search update. A funny thing happened in the last two weeks: Our poll question regarding the rail station drew far more than the average number of responses, which said to us that people are interested in how this plays out. On the flip side, the most popular response was, "We don't need a train station."
Anyways, the town/county task force is due to present their suggestions to officials next month, so we'll continue follow the planning stages as the search committee meets.

— Central Orange Senior Center grand opening. The Center opens tomorrow, and festivities include the standard ribbon-cutting and speakers, as well as performances and demonstrations throughout the day and into the evening. We'll get some pictures from the official kick-off of the spotless new center (complete with a Wii; place your bets now on what public officials use it tomorrow).

— Neighbor House looking for a home. I'm going to be speaking with representatives from Neighbor House of Hillsborough as well as local officials about how the organization can find a more permanent base for its operations.

— Farmers' market follow-up. One year ago this week, commissioners awarded use of Hillsborough's Public Market House to a third market group, initially supervised by a county-appointed employee. The building has been leased to the same group, which is now a private entity.

More to come as things inevitably change.

OHS talent show results

Because of a minor traffic accident, I was unfortunately unable to attend Orange High's PTSO-sponsored talent show yesterday. But I do have the results. Here they are:

The winners were Jordan Snead and Marta Baird performing to "Therapy" in first place; second place went to a band playing "Bar Song"; and third place was Sarah Tkach clogging to "Thunderstruck.”

If anyone went and took pictures, please e-mail them to me at v.shortley at newsoforange dot com.

Event that didn't make the paper — tree-pruning demonstration

This weekend event listing came to us when our noses were buried in production:

Fruit Tree Pruning Demonstration
A fruit tree pruning demonstration sponsored by the N.C. Cooperative Extension Service will be held on Saturday, Jan. 31, from 9 a.m. to noon.
Orchard Creek Farm, 4812 Timberwood Trail in Efland will host the
session. Dr. Carl Matyac and Dr. Mike Parker will lead the workshop
with pruning demonstrations on Apple trees. Attendees will also learn
techniques to control disease and insects. There will be plenty of time
for questions and answers.
To register or for additional information contact the North Carolina
Cooperative Extension - Orange County Center at 245-2050.

We fixed some things ...

We were wondering why nobody was commenting on anything on here so far, and had assumed that we were just uninteresting. Apparently, some readers let us know that the verification screen (where you type the strange letter combinations) had nowhere to type. That would definitely cause some problems. Anyways, comment away — we've removed any sort of internal verification, so I'll approve comments as I get them.

Also, I posted the PDF of the front page on my way out the door last night. This morning, I realized it was posted to a defunct folder on our FTP site as opposed to the active one; let's call that problem number one.

Problem number two: I got a call from the South Hill Enterprise (Va.), where we print our papers, about 1 1/2 hours after I had left, telling me that an ad page was "freaking out" going through their system. The night before, with the Northern Orange Xtra, we had the same problem, which was solved by saving the page as a separate file type and sending it back to them. This time, the new file type was causing the same problems, so I did all that I knew to do, which was update the same file type. And, presto! It worked. So, problem solved for this week.

Third, this will largely be unnoticeable, but it should be mentioned that I moved the banner and content down about 3/4 of an inch on the front to accommodate a "See our Design an Ad special section inside." However, as you'll notice, no text. So, let's try it here instead — check out the Design an Ad section — cute drawings by local kids about favorite local businesses.

Other than that, just a typical Tuesday. Here's hoping for a less complicated week this time around. We'll get to this week's stories this afternoon.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

upcoming attractions

Well, here's some of what's coming up in tomorrow's paper edition:
  • Waste Transfer Station: Orange County Commissioners asked county staff for short- and long-term alternatives because of the delays hitting the project. (page 1)
  • Robotics Club: An inter-school club based at Orange High School brings all kinds of students together and increases interest in math and science. (page 1)
  • ICE: The Orange County Sheriff explains the county's role in a federal immigration program; some in the county oppose the measure. (page 1)
  • Colonial Inn: Planning staff hear more about the state of the Colonial Inn. They may soon set up a repair schedule. (page 1)
  • Board of Education: OCS Board of Ed members hear about updates to three policies: graduation requirements, assault/harassment/bullying and notification of infant abandonment. (page 1)
  • "Eco" classroom: Supporters of C.W. Stanford's outdoor classroom spoke to Board of Ed members Monday. (page 6)

Monday, January 26, 2009

Senior Center grand opening

The Central Orange Senior Center will kick things off officially at 10 a.m. Thursday with a grand opening ceremony. The center is located at 1 Dan Kidd Drive, attached to the Triangle Sportsplex.

In addition to the presentations planned for the ceremony, Footnotes Tap Ensemble will perform with the Seymour Center Tap Dancers at 7 p.m. on the center's main stage.

For more on the group, visit

athletes of the week: jan. 28

Every week, on the sports page, we do a feature called "Athletes of the Week."

Here's a quick preview of this week's picks from Orange and Cedar Ridge:

Bianca Richburg, 17, is a senior from Orange High who plays basketball. She seemed like a really sweet girl; she gave really great, detailed answers. She seemed very into fashion and very focused on basketball. I very much enjoyed talking with her and listening to her answers on the 10 set questions we ask every athlete, every week. She also had some great athletic role models she looked up to, basketball players and coaches who had already made it where she one day hopes to be. To find out who, you'll have to wait until this week's edition of the paper comes out.

Lindsey Fuller, 16, is a junior from Cedar Ridge High who runs track. She too was very interesting to talk to. I was impressed with her poise, and the way she spoke about her parents. Though many of the athletes we talk to for this feature say their parents are their biggest influences, she said some really lovely things about both of her parents, especially her mother. She seemed to me — in the admittedly brief few moments I talked with her — like a girl with a good head on her shoulders. It was good to see.

Anyway, look for their answers to our questions in this week's issue of The News of Orange County.

Wednesday event at library

A special dinosaur-related event will be held at the library on Wednesday, and since the paper hits newsstands just hours before and home delivery occurs afterward, we're posting it now. From the Orange County Public Library:

Wednesday, January 28, 2009
3:30-4:30 p.m., intended for children ages 6-12
Special Dinosaur Discovery program presented by the NC Museum of Natural Sciences — hands-on program with live animals as well as fossils.
Free at the Orange County Public Library

Not a great start to the week

We discovered this morning that somebody broke into our office last night and left with a small sum of money. But this should just be a warning, like a few other break-ins have been in the last few months, that too much caution isn't a bad thing.

Obviously, during tough economic times, it pays to be more aware of your surroundings. Businesses downtown have been among those broken into in the last 2-3 months, so being in a more crowded area doesn't exempt anybody from crime.

Hope everybody else's week is off to a better start.

Friday, January 23, 2009

OHS talent show

The Orange High School PTSO talent show will be this Tuesday at 7 p.m. I am planning on going, so, hopefully, I'll see some of you there! The cost is $5 at the door.

I also got the following e-mail from the PTSO regarding the talent show, so if anyone wants to help out, e-mail Maryellen at

The talent show is this Tuesday night at 7 pm in the OHS auditorium and we are in need of two people to guard the side doors of the auditorium and two people to help back stage. If interested, please let us know.

Long night

I forcibly removed myself from last night's county commissioners' meeting at 11:30 p.m., and I can only assume that it ended not long thereafter. From that meeting, I'm working on coverage of the latest waste transfer station details; the decision on the county-supported farmers' market; a discussion on the sheriff department's new fingerprinting system and the controversy surrounding it; and an update on the Brad Road discussion. Likely, the last one will be supplemented with material from Monday's town board meeting.

This morning, I followed my marathon Thursday night meeting with ... another meeting. This time, we will have an update on the "demolition by neglect" complaint and response regarding the Colonial Inn. No timetable was set at the meeting by town officials, but there was an indication that discussion between the town and Inn owner Francis Henry could produce a time frame and repair schedule soon.

And, at that, it's time to turn scribbled notes into (more) coherent thoughts. We take meeting notes the old-fashioned way because we lack a company laptop (I could excavate my 7-year-old model, but it would likely freeze from using Microsoft Word).

What does the weekend hold for you, now that we've swung from 15 degrees to 60 in three days?

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Meeting on again

Man, we are busy on the blogging today. Just a quick update from the Town of Hillsborough — The town board workshop, which had been 86ed out of a lack of anything pressing to discuss, is back on.

The monthly discussion session will be held at 7 p.m. Monday, Jan. 26, at the Town Barn. The only item listed will be "to discuss road improvements and congestion mitigation project priorities for inclusion in the regional priority list for NCDOT funding."

One could infer that the Elizabeth Brady Road bypass would be under discussion (there's that road again). I'll be there (as I am every other Monday), and we'll publish a small bit, should anything new come out of it.

as promised

Well, Cedar Ridge varsity girls basketball coach Lindsey Schopfel was kind enough to send me an identification on No. 00. So, here's a picture of Brooke Wright taking a free throw at last Friday's game against Orange High.

revolutionary war days

From The Alliance for Historic Hillsborough:

Revolutionary War Living History Day, Saturday, February 21, 10am-4pm on the grounds of the Alexander Dickson House (ca 1790), 150 E. King St., Hillsborough, NC. Continental, British and militia reenactors will demonstrate camp life during the Revolutionary War and commemorate General Cornwallis’ encampment in Hillsborough in February 1781. Events include marching drills, musket-firing demonstrations, open-flame cooking, and guided tours of Hillsborough’s colonial and Revolutionary War sites. More information available at 919-732-7741.

i'm on it

So, I've got a few things cooking for this week.

First, a few weeks ago now, I talked to the members of the multi-school Robotics Club. It's looking like we'll have room in this week's issue for it. I also took about 50 pictures, so look for the photo gallery of what they're up to.

There's a Board of Education meeting Monday, and it looks like there are a few interesting things on the agenda. I'm sure I'll get a story or two out of that.

Along with that, there will be an update on the Stanford "eco" classroom, since board of ed members will be hearing about that for the first time.

I'm going to try to get up with the county property assessor to talk about the property revaluation.

If anyone out there has any comments for those or any other stories, please drop me a line at or comment here.

Next week

As promised, what we're working on (I went through 400 e-mails sent in the last 36 hours, and 300 were spam):

• Tonight's BOCC (commissioners) meeting will likely yield multiple stories. What I know of right now are an update on the waste transfer station site search, a discussion on the future of the county's farmers' market and at least an update on the discussion of Elizabeth Brady Road. The talk about the extension of that road died down as leadership changed hands, but it will likely heat back up now that the new administration in Raleigh has begun.

• Friday morning, Hillsborough Planning Director Margaret Hauth will meet with Colonial Inn owner Francis Henry to decide on a schedule of repairs and/or fines under the town's demolition by neglect ordinance. We'll let you know what they decide.

• I'm hoping to follow up on the family that lost their home to a Dec. 26 fire. The community had made efforts to raise money to house the eight family members who lost the home.

• We'll also follow up on the status of an Orange Sheriff's deputy who was stabbed while on duty Wednesday night. He was listed this morning as "stable."
Here's the info we've got so far.

Vanessa will post later with what she's currently covering.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

orange county schools

Just a quick note to let everyone know (in case you didn't already): Orange County Schools will operate on a 2 hour delay tomorrow (Thursday). Tonight's tour of Hillsborough Elementary was rescheduled to Jan. 27 (next Tuesday).

Feeling blue ...

I noticed a distinctly blue tint to the paper today; the curtain in the background of the main photo is supposed to be green, for instance.
This week's issue is so full, we didn't have room for everything in our queue, even with most people off Monday and Tuesday — meaning no meetings, fewer people in government offices and schools, so fewer story sources with whom to work.
Overall, I think it's full of good information — bylined stories on more than just the front page. We just got done with the Gazette (see previous post), so it is now officially "next week."
Judging by our schedules and a backlog of e-mails — which often go unchecked between Tuesday morning and when the Web site update goes up, unless something breaking appears — we won't be posting our "next week" list until tomorrow morning.
We've changed the poll question, as we promised to do with more frequency. This week we're tackling Obama's first steps as president. Last week's had almost twice the normal number of voters; it seems that either the location change on the page helped, or people have really strong opinions about trains. If the latter is the case, we'll continue to follow the advisory board as they come closer to a proposed site — that should come within a month from now.
Speaking of opinions, we had a rush of letters to the editor late last week and early this week, so many that we could only fit a select number in the paper (some are still awaiting confirmation). If you sent something in, we will give it a read and get in touch ASAP. Suffice it to say that waste transfer station letters are about 10:1 compared to anything else.
The final stages of the Web upgrade - the link to MyNewsPhotos and story commenting — are coming, I promise.
Now that we're post-inauguration and post-snow, what's the news story you're following?

Hand in two pots

We'll be a little bit later on getting the content online today because we're splitting time between converting pictures and text and our once-monthly activity, the Woodcroft Gazette. It's a free monthly tabloid-sized publication for the Durham neighborhood of the same name that we coordinate and write part of because ... well, because that's part of what the job entails here.
We're short two staffpeople - our ad rep and our graphic artist, so things will be a little behind schedule — I need to archive our content from last week, lay out and edit a 12-page section, prepare Web content and possibly even consider what we're going to do for next week's News of Orange. No sleep for the weary ...
So it will be up there, albeit somewhat slower than on most Wednesdays.
Thanks for your patience. If you can't wait, print copies arrive around midday.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

let it snow

Though it tried its best, the weather did not prevent the upcoming edition of The News of Orange from getting put together today.

Everyone made it into the office (albeit some of us later than others), and we got it all done. Some things, unfortunately, did not make it in. Some of the pictures I took at Friday's crosstown rivalry game between Orange and Cedar Ridge were left out because we don't have team rosters for the CRHS teams. Without being able to identify players, we couldn't put their photo in the paper. Hopefully, we'll get their names soon, and I'll post the pictures here.

Town, county and school board meetings were all postponed until later dates because of the snow. Though we didn't get much in Hillsborough, other parts of the county got more than a dusting. I know where I am out in Carrboro, we got about 6 inches. Again, I took some pictures, and I'll get them up here tomorrow.

If you've got to be out on the roads, drive safely.

Monday, January 19, 2009

What's coming ...


Here's the short list of what is news in this week's edition. We figure out the "what goes where" step on Tuesdays, because things have a habit of changing with little warning; such is news. Between inauguration happenings (and if anybody knows of any demonstrations or celebrations going on in the area before we go to press tomorrow evening, we'd love to stop by and get a picture) and anywhere between 1 and 137 inches of snow forecast tonight, things could change in a hurry. So drive safe and please don't fight each other for the bread and milk at the store.
• We'll have some shots of MLK celebrations, both a program at the main library from last week and the march up Churton Street from this morning.
• Vanessa will have stories from the Board of Education about AYP scores and policies of both assault on staff and infant abandonment.
• She'll also have something on Partnership Academy's ongoing discussion about its future role in the Orange County Schools system.
• I will have an update on some of the things that have been happening in the long interim between Waste Transfer Station meetings. The commissioners meet Thursday.
• I'll also have a recap of last week's public hearing on Forest Ridge (formerly Ashton Hall).
• Also, the town board voted in some new or increased fees for businesses and special events.
Plus, we'll have an article on the new Senior Center and lots of odds and ends.

this week's education page

Because I've been facing a bit of writer's block today, I decided to lay out the education page a day early. So, I've got a bit of a preview for you on what's coming up on page 6 this week.

I've got a brief on an Arts in Education grant received by Orange Charter School; they're going to use it to celebrate Black History Month. It seems like a really interesting program.

I've got a picture and long cutline from Cameron Park, showing some students who helped gather winter accessories for a fellow North Carolina school.

There's a really sweet column from a teacher at C.W. Stanford about a particularly positive student there. I really enjoyed reading this one, and I think everyone else will, too.

And I wrote a story on Durham Tech's medical coding program and its instructor Marjorie Hamilton. It seems like a great program.

Name change

On second thought, the url will stay the same, but we'll just be calling this The Newsroom. It's simpler and cleaner.
If anybody has pictures or experiences to share from this MLK/Inauguration sorta, kinda holiday (we're all working here, like many Monday holidays), we'd love to see them (and possibly post them).
You can send it to either of our e-mail addresses or send them as a comment.

Friday, January 16, 2009


The News of Orange County is starting the new year off with more online features in an effort to not only provide additional content and multimedia, but to improve the way in which we communicate with our readership as a whole.
To that end, Vanessa and I decided we needed to go beyond recreating the weekly newspaper's content in its online form, so we're offering this as a way for us to communicate with readers in a less formal fashion. In the print product, what you know about us and what we do each week is largely constricted to bylines and photo captions. With Hillsborough Newsroom (the newsroom is at 109 E. King St. in downtown Hillsborough, and we didn't have any other bright ideas when asked to commit to a name), we're trying to provide more about what's going to be in the paper while it's in progress and to share some things that might not necessarily make the print product.
Other online features that should be rolled out by the time next week's issue hits the racks:

• More photo galleries — We take way, way more pictures than what makes the paper. Sometimes, it's to the tune of 25-30:1 in terms of what we take versus what is published; print space is finite. Often, we'll have 10-15 usable photos and 4-5 that we really like, but only one will make it in. This is a way to share our photos and to allow for you to buy them if you like them.
More details to come as we get links set up to the service that hosts the photos.
• Front page PDF — After we finish the paper on Tuesday night, we'll throw a PDF file of our front page online so people have some idea of what's coming.
• Integrating polls with the print product — Each week, we'll have a poll question online that will be similar to the question we ask for Perspectives that appears in next week's paper. That's the thing where you see one of us around town with a camera, stopping people on the streets.
(For us, the week begins on Wednesday morning when we post that week's paper online and ends Tuesday night when the next issue is off to the printer. Just to clarify.)
• Story commenting — By next week, we'll have our stories opened up for registered users to comment. This blog, hopefully, can duplicate the function of feedback online.

These are a batch of bells and whistles we've added to a site that lately hadn't seen many updated features. Let us know your thoughts.

the first of many

Josh and I figured it was about time the News of Orange had a blog, so we've gone ahead and set one up. We hope to use this thing as a vessel to communicate with readers and people in the county. We'll post what's going on in the newsroom, some previews of what we've got coming, photos and other things we hope you'll find interesting.

Please feel free to comment and offer your opinion on what we're doing here. Got a story idea? Post it here.