Monday, March 30, 2009

tax revolt on FOX

Sent from Kathy Hartkopf, from Orange County FreedomWorks:
Tax Revolt: Orange Tax Revolt was just notified by Fox that the footage shot in Orange County will be aired tonight at 7 p.m. on Fox Report with Shepard Smith. As always, breaking news could bump the piece. If this happens, we will be notified of the new air date and time.

Send us your comments

We'd like to hear your thoughts on Sara Overaker, a 17-year-old Cedar Ridge student who died last Thursday in a single-car accident on Schley Road. You can post them as a comment at the bottom of this post or send them to

Friday, March 27, 2009

More about the next paper

I just made the realization that April 1, the day of our next issue, is April Fools Day. But please don't take that to mean that we're going to be releasing any fake news — it seems like an awfully inappropriate time (10.7 percent NC unemployment) to be making light of much these days.

On a less ominous note, for next week's issue, I'll have more on a few issues I wrote about here earlier in the week (town budgeting wastewater treatment expansion, county tax issues). I will also be attending (but not reporting on for this issue because of our publication schedule) a Solid Waste Advisory Board meeting at which members of Orange County Voice and county-hired consultant Olver Inc. will present information on trash hauling and disposal costs for the county's potential waste transfer station. On April 21, Solid Waste Director Gayle Wilson is expected to give an updated report on where things stand on the property sale negotiations and alternative or interim options for waste disposal. We'll have something before then to update those happenings.

One other thing — I took some photos the other week with a local real estate person and a homebuilder who are including a new "smart car" with the sale of a home. I am trying to put together a piece about the outlook for the local real estate market. If anybody knows of other enticing offers being included to sell a home, I'd love to know about them.

Since I normally throw something up here about a weekend event locally, hope for good weather and go find some fresh produce at the Hillsborough Farmers' Market (8 a.m. to noon, Home Depot lot in Hampton Pointe). The Eno River Farmers' Market opens next Saturday at the Public Market House on Margaret Lane.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

coming up this week

Here's what I've got coming up this week:

° A third-week story on the status of band programs in Orange County from the Board of Education meeting a couple of weeks ago.

° A speaker from Bangladesh who spoke about her homeland at C.W. Stanford.

° A children's book featuring Hillsborough was read by Mayor Tom at Cameron Park Elementary.

° New Home Elementary celebrated Read Across America with UNC (and apparently Duke) basketball (female) players reading to students.

° County commissioners are having a meeting about the replacement of County Manager Laura Blackmon, who tendered her resignation not too long ago.

° Cedar Ridge High's chorus recently got some pretty incredible honours.

If you've got any information about upcoming education-related events (at Orange County Schools or any other schools within the area), please shoot me an e-mail at

Pops in the Park is back

It may not feel that way outside yet, but outdoor concerts, festivals and parades are just around the corner. There will be two Easter egg hunts held April 4, one at the future New Hope Park and one at the Burwell School in Hillsborough. Details in the calendar.

Of course, Last Fridays will be back on ... well, the last Friday in April. An here's a release we just got about the Durham Symphony's annual "Pops in the Park:"

The Durham Symphony's 15th annual Hillsborough Pops in the Park FREE Family Concert is scheduled for Sunday, April 26, 3pm. The concert will be held at Cameron Park on the Greens.
Cameron Park is located behind the Orange County Board of Education Building (200 E. King Street). The rain site for this event is Orange High School Auditorium. This concert is sponsored by the F.M. Kirby Foundation and supported by the Alliance for Historic Hillsborough.
So grab your blankets, pack your picnic baskets and join us for an afternoon of entertainment. We hope you will take this opportunity to see your community orchestra in your own back yard – Cameron Park – playing with passion and joy for the sheer love of performing classical music.
For more information about the Durham Symphony’s Hillsborough Pops in the Park FREE Family Concert, visit or call (919) 491-6576.
To contact the Durham Symphony, call Kelly Kovalesky at (919) 491-6576 or email

We'll be back tomorrow with a list of what we're working on for next week.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

It's going to be a tough budget cycle

Last night, Orange County Commissioners met in a work session in which they discussed several scenarios for forming a budget for the coming fiscal year. Of the four scenarios discussed, the outcome for the county (and thus money for schools and other public services) was not sunny — the county could come up anywhere between $8.7 million and $16.7 million short of last year's $183 million revenue.

Commissioners also sought to clarify a point that they felt had not been fully relayed to the public — the county is seeking a property tax rate that will generate no more revenue than it did last year. That is revenue-neutral, in it's definition, they said, but it is not tax-neutral. Taxpayers will likely see their property taxes go up.

The reason this would still be revenue-neutral is that other taxes collected — such as on motor vehicles and sales tax — are projected to be down significantly. This is because people are spending less — the example was that if they got X revenue from tax on a new car or updated infrastructure from a major company, that money isn't coming in this year because purchases are being delayed.

Now, one of the four scenarios (which are not their only options) assumed that revaluations would go through and the county would "hold harmless" taxpayers whose properties increased by 24 percent or less. That would be more than 54 percent of taxable properties; it would lose the county $16.7 million in revenue compared to last year.

The final decision was to pursue a revenue-neutral ad valorem tax rate, and to potentially cut from there to meet the budget goal. That rev-neutral would be somewhere between 84 and 87 cents per $100 valuation, a drop of 13 to 16 cents from this year's 99.8 cents.

We'll have an article next week detailing their discussion and with more information about whose valuations have gone up by how much. Two-hundred and forty-two properties increased by more than 100 percent; commissioners said that those people should be encouraged to appeal if they have not already. That 242 figure should be put in perspective, though —that's .09 percent of total taxable properties, of which there are more than 51,000.

Look for more next week.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

If you think Hillsborough rates are bad ...

I'm about to jump into paper production mode (tunnel vision), but I wanted to share a quick snippet from last night's town board workshop — what, was there some other meeting happening last night?

I will probably have a story for next week — board members discussed a trickle-down effect on capital fee increases and wastewater treatment issues that would come from scaling down the plant expansion that has been discussed for several years. The state has frozen some funds that would allow the design to be fully funded, so the town is exploring a smaller-scale approach.

Anyways, the interesting point — water rates for town customers has been a point of angst for several years, and many residents believe are some of the highest they have seen. Water Sewer Advisory Board member Dan Barker informed the assembled representatives last night that Hillsborough isn't standing out above the rest anymore in terms of high rates. Out-of-town customers are still paying on the high end, he said, but in-town customers are only paying the 57th-highest rates in the state (77th for sewer bills).

Town board member Brian Lowen responded: "Rates are still a problem for them if they're still struggling to pay their bills ... but this might be of a little comfort."

Monday, March 23, 2009

What's coming

We have had to make some adjustments because of space shrinkage in this week's issue, but here's what we know is coming (or will be writing with every intention of publishing it):

• UNC Health Care has entered into a tentative agreement to buy 85 acres in Waterstone. Find out what we know so far about the proposal and some of the questions Mayor Tom Stevens has about the land use.

• The rail station task force (actually a larger task force) is bringing its desire for funding to their legislative representatives for help to get the project moving. Find out why Hillsborough and Lexington officials feel that this project is crucial now and in the future.

• Town board members will discuss a contract for the wastewater treatment plant expansion design. How will the economy affect plans to move forward with the project?

• Another suspect has been arrested in connection with a March 14 murder on Butler Road, Orange County's first of the year. We'll have some details.

• The much-publicized Tax Revolt meeting takes place tonight; expect to see coverage from Vanessa, who might be camping out Krzyzewskiville-style for tonight's meeting at Orange High. Also, county numbers show that the number of revaluation appeals are at less than 4 percent. Read Wednesday for a full recap.

• Local parents and education officials are considering forming a chapter of SEPTA, which focuses on the needs of Exceptional Students. Vanessa has more details on the group's scope.

• A.L. Stanback students heard the story of Gizella Abramson, a Holocaust survivor from Raleigh. Read about her amazing story.

Happy Monday — enjoy the weather for me.


Friday, March 20, 2009

Task force has an audience with Rep. Price

Rep. David Price made an appearance in the Town Barn this morning to hear a pitch from Hillsborough and Lexington representatives for $10 million to develop a train station in both towns ($5 million per station).

Price seemed receptive to the concept and even proposed a few sources of money that might be able to fund it. But, he said, money is obviously in short supply.

On the note of earmarks, which were the source of some rancor that bogged down the federal stimulus package bill's progress earlier this year, Price made it known he doesn't think they are all wasteful spending.

"If I don't look after my district, I don't know who will," Price said.

Look for a story on that discussion in next week's issue.

In other news, this comes from Orange County this morning:
"The Orange County Aging Advisory Board along with other advocacy
groups are sponsoring a Legislative Update Forum at the Seymour Center
on Monday, March 23, from 1:30 p.m.- 3:00 p.m., followed with an
afternoon tea, according to Steve Lackey, Chair of the Aging Board.

The forum is open to everyone and designed to fulfill a key adopted
Master Aging Plan objective of increasing awareness for older persons,
local officials, legislators and the general public to legislative
issues related to aging. Alice Gordon, County Commissioner, will
moderate the program, and will be introducing Ann Johnson, Orange
County's Delegate to the NC Senior Tar Heel Legislature. Ms. Johnson
will touch on what older adults might do as legislative advocates. Mary
Edwards, Consumer Education Manager, with the North Carolina Division of
Aging and Adult Services will cover state wide community-based
legislative issues; and Jill Passmore, Lead Regional LTC Ombudsman, will
focus on long term care support issues.

Local and state representatives have been invited to share their
perspectives on aging legislation and what is likely to be introduced in
the current session of the General Assembly. The Orange County Advisory
Board will be sharing its recommended legislative priorities for 2009."

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Tax Revolt story is catching on ...

The Orange Tax Revolt meeting (7 p.m. Monday, March 23, Orange High School gym) just got a little more interesting. We'll be there and will have a story next week on both the meeting and Tax Assessor John Smith's explanation of the process to county commissioners from earlier this week. But this afternoon I received an e-mail informing us that the story could possibly see some national coverage:
"Across our nation, economic concern is prevalent. When it comes to citizen concern about property revaluations and property taxes, Orange County citizens are not alone. Seeing a national trend in housing values down, property tax revaluations up, FOX News is working on a story showcasing citizen concern and activism. On Monday, March 23, FOX News plans to travel to Orange County where they plan to interview the county manager, local residents, and cover Orange Tax Revolt. Orange Tax Revolt will be held at 7PM, March 23, in the Orange High School gymnasium.

Please understand that in order to cover a late breaking national news story, there is always a chance the FOX team could be diverted elsewhere.

For more information, please e-mail Kathy at"
Does the (potential) presence of national television media change your decision about whether to attend? We're curious what you think.

Also, as for what I am working on (with the radio at one end of the office and the temporary television on the other side for NCAA stereo):

• UNC Health Care has agreed to purchase 85 acres in Waterstone, though there is currently no proposal to town planners. Big potential here, but does the land cut in to the space now designated for residential units? We'll update as we know more.

• The rail station task force meets again to focus on more concrete details of a potential rail station on the Collins property.

• The town board holds its work session Monday night, when I imagine this Waterstone topic might come up again.

That's what I know for sure right now.


Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Woodcroft Wednesday

We just finished a Woodcroft Gazette, which eats up one day each month. Because of that process, everything else is pushed back just a little, so we're still feeling out next week's stories. More to come tomorrow.

We tried to fit as many briefs as we could into odd spaces, but some could not go. They'll go in later editions (those that weren't timely, that is) or will be posted here intermittently.

I've heard some other news about Waterstone, so hopefully I can at least update our site tomorrow while working on next week's paper.

For those who have sent in story ideas, we're making sure to put them in a queue for future use. Sometimes, the regular story load and space in the paper prevents us from getting to something for a few weeks, but we promise we're holding on to them.

Thanks for reading.

what didn't make it

As you'll all see, the paper was crammed full of great content this week. Unfortunately, some stuff on the Education Page didn't make it, including the Special Education PTA organizational meeting I attended March 12. It should be in there next week, though, so sit tight for that! It was a great meeting.

Also, I got this e-mail this morning from the OHS PTSO:

This Tuesday, March 24th at 7:00 pm, the OHS PTSO will be sponsoring a talent show starring the teachers of OHS called Panther Players. Come out and support the PTSO and see your favorite teacher perform. Gladys Knight and the Pips will be performing also. (Come out and see who they really are.) It will be a fun family night for all.

Monday, March 16, 2009

A few more things to expect this week

It's the most wonderful tiiiime of the year ...

I am sadly one of those people who will watch any NIT game I can because my life will feel devoid of basketball on Monday-Wednesday. But that's neither here nor there. Here's what is:

• I will also have another short town board story about Special Assessment Districts (an alternative form of finance that Waterstone developers are seeking because of the current credit freeze) and a possible delay in funding the design work for the town's wastewater treatment plant upgrades. Unfortunately, it is going to a theme this year — with state and federal taps being closed off or brought to a trickle, county and municipal budgets are going to suffer. It seems that every state-level decision has an impact on local schools or town incomes. We'll try to keep tabs on the latest local impacts.

• You can see what we have on a Butler Road shooting from this weekend that left a Chatham County man dead here.

• And, despite what I just posted above, it seems to be grant-writing season, as well as writing contest season. Keep reading The News of Orange to find yet more grant opportunities and writing contests (the latter being mostly for local students).

Back to my 29 news briefs, which is the proverbial round peg for a square hole.

Friday, March 13, 2009

This weekend

Here's another item that didn't make the paper. I'm guessing you should probably bring an umbrella, but I've been meaning to go on one of these myself:

Second Saturday Hillsborough Guided Walking Tour — 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, March 14. The tour starts at the Alexander Dickson House, 150 E. King St. Explore Hillsborough's history on a 90-minute guided walking tour through its historic district. $5. For more information call 732-7741 or visit

• Also, among the town board "leftovers" from last week — and this is going up on our Web site today, too — Town Planning Director Margaret Hauth told town board members this week that the Gold Park opening has been pushed back about a month, to mid-April, because of jurisdiction issues. So, she asks that people don't use the park just yet — it can be enjoyed in another month, when it will likely be warm for good.

(We have received quite a few walk-ins asking about when it will open, but my favorite has to be Town Manager Eric Peterson's daughter. While speaking to Peterson the other week, he told me his young daughter has been asking him almost daily about the park for a few months, imploring him to ask the town staff to let it open. So, long story short, it's almost open.)

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Lots of updates

Alright, we actually have plenty of items to update and one to correct, so I'll just put this out there in bullet point format. As always, we'd love your comments, good, bad or otherwise (but not libelous; we can't print libelous).

• A quick correction: The APS of Orange County Pet of the Week, Sushi Roll, is female. There was a little confusion with the material we received, and I didn't see the reply from them until after that page was done Tuesday. So, if that determines whether you want to add that dog to your home, it's a she.

• The next Orange County Tax Revolt meeting will be held at 7 p.m. Monday, March 23 (not March 16 as originally thought) in the Orange High School gym. That space might solve some of their issues with overflow crowds, but I don't know any space around here outside of the Dean Dome that would comfortable hold the 1,200+ estimated to have arrived at the first meeting.

(On the note of the Dean Dome - ACC Pancake "breakfast" is going on practically all day tomorrow at the Hillsborough Exchange Club, with pancakes — obviously — and ACC Tournament games on a projector screen.
How much productivity will you lose in the next few weeks during the first rounds of the tournament? I've always lobbied for making Thursday/Friday of tourney week a state holiday.)

• Look for something next week about another potential development near I-85. That stretch of 86 North and U.S. 70A, from Hampton Pointe to the Sportsplex, has been the target of several development proposals in the past six months.

• I did get an e-mail response from Valerie Foushee regarding Laura Blackmon's resignation, which I will add on to the story at Here's what she had to say:
" ... My only comment is that I am disappointed that Ms. Blackmon has decided to end her relationship with Orange County, but I respect her decision to do so. She has timed her departure to coincide with the budget process, so there should be no negative impact to our completing that process. As we just received notice on Friday, the board has not had the opportunity to determine next steps in seeking a replacement, but will begin this process as soon as possible."
Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

next week

Well, despite taking a break to go to the Spelling Bee, Josh and I managed to get the paper out pretty much on time. It was actually kind of nice to take a step back from production — if only for an hour — and go see something nice out in the community.

But anyway, here's what I'm working on for this week:
- Central Elementary has a man from Sierra Leone teaching students about Africa. I went and took some pictures. It was really interesting.

- The Orange County Special Education Parent-Teacher Association is having an organizational meeting tomorrow (March 12) at 7 p.m. over at Central in the media center. I'll be going to that to get some information about this.

- It's that time again: "eco" classroom update. I'll be sitting in on the meeting at Stanford and putting something together for the education page.

- I'll be writing something about the Spelling Bee, of course.

- The Board of Education is having their meeting Monday, and I'll be there to cover that.

- After a small glitch, our new feature, "Educator of the Week," will be back this week. If you know a teacher or administrator that deserves recognition, please e-mail me at

- And finally, I'll have two profiles on two 18-year-old precinct chairs, like Josh said.

If you know of any other events or stories, drop me a line!

Tuesday's overflow

We had intended to at least have the picture of the NOC spelling bee winner in today's issue, but there was very little space. So little, in fact, that several other things were pulled; some will run next week, others just could not make the cut. Among the victims of "space considerations:"

— A story about the county exploring a fire/rescue study, which led to some discussion on what should be considered critical spending. That will run next week.

— A feature on Matt Hughes and Kimberly Rider, both 18-year-old precinct chairs recently elected in Hillsborough. We had something written after Vanessa talked to Hughes, but decided a joint package would probably work just as well (if not better) next week.

—Spelling Bee pictures and recap — we'll post more throughout this week and have an article on the Bee next week. Gabi Stapel was the winner and will be taking on the rest of the nation (and parts of the world) later this spring. Interestingly, fourth-graders took the top three spots, despite being matched up against students as old as eighth-graders.

— Rabies Watch — Our nifty graphic did not make the cut for the print edition. We'll post the information online (sans graphic).

— Crime Watch — We were planning on starting an ongoing space, in conjunction with the department of corrections, featuring a photo and fast facts on someone wanted on outstanding charges who the state is trying to apprehend. Not sure when we'll be able to start using that.

— Joy Kwapien's "Food and Farm" column, which we'll run next week.

— Several news briefs and small stories that didn't find a home will appear here, on or in later editions.

As promised in the print edition, here's two other shots from the pinewood derby featuring local cub scouts (the kids on the front of the print edition are northern Orange County locals; the event included scouts from around the district).

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

spelling bee

So, I just got back from the spelling bee. It was quite lovely and went 17 rounds, not including championship rounds.

Here are the winners. We'll have more details and pictures in a blog tomorrow (since we're still working on producing the paper), as well as next week's paper, since we ran out of room in this one. Too much great content.

Third place: Jessica Eberle, fourth grader at New Hope Elementary.

Second place: Daniel Vaughan, fourth grader at Efland Cheeks Elementary.

First place: Gabriella "Gabi" Stapel, fourth grader at Hillsborough Elementary.

Here's a picture of Gabi with NOC General Manager Keith Coleman, who was also the event's emcee:

Congrats to everyone. All the kids did a great job. And thanks to everyone who came out and supported the kids.

Monday, March 9, 2009

County manager to leave June 30

BREAKING: Orange County Manager Laura Blackmon announced in an e-mail to county staff this morning that she will be leaving her position with the county as of June 30 and will be moving to Tennessee.

There are a few unanswered questions as to who fills her shoes and when, but it would appear as though she will stay through the course of this trying budget process, which will probably include cuts to several services (we'll explore that next week). For now, here's the copy that was sent this morning:
"Dear Employees,

By now you have probably heard I gave notice to the BOCC on Friday that my husband and I have decided to leave the area and move to Tennessee. My last day on the job will be June 30, 2009. I know the timing of this announcement is not good, but my employment agreement with the county requires I give 90 day notice and I was running out of time. By the end of June I will have been here over 2 ½ years. This is not as long as I had originally thought I would stay, but life isn’t always as we plan it.

I know you understand how difficult a year this will be for the budget. The BOCC has committed itself to a revenue neutral tax rate which means the tax rate will generate the same amount of revenue from property taxes as last year. A lot of residents are upset about the revaluation of their property, but the neutral tax rate should keep their taxes in check unless their property has increased in value above the average of all properties in the county.

Revaluation and neutral tax rate, however, are not the problem in and of themselves. The real problem for the coming year is most of our other revenue sources are declining, we have new facilities opening which means an increase in utilities and general operating costs, we have an increase in demands for services, especially in the human resources departments and the state is beginning to withhold revenue from us because of its budget shortfalls.

Things are not looking good for the county or the two school systems, which have already been told they too will see a decrease in funds next year. The Budget Office has estimated the shortfall to be about $8 million, which will be difficult to absorb without cutting services or staff. The BOCC has emphasized its desire NOT to reduce staff but to seek other ways of cutting expenditures. Those of you who are fully funded from outside sources such as grants, state and/or federal monies are more vulnerable than other employees because it will be hard to absorb the cost of your salary and benefits should those funding sources disappear. Nevertheless the Commissioners and Management are adamant about keeping everyone employed, so we will do our best to make sure no one loses their job.

Having said all that, it is crucial everyone understand and support the difficult decisions being made over the next few months. You have probably already heard there will be no cost of living or merit increases for employees next year. We are also expecting about an 8% increase in the cost of medical benefits next calendar year. These costs can be contained if we work hard to stay healthy and reduce our claims for insurance. Unfortunately that is easier said than done.

The department directors have submitted their budgets with a 10% reduction in operating line items, overtime and temporary employee expenditure requests. I am hoping this 10% cut will be enough given the shortfall we are expecting in revenues. However, some departments are actually seeing an increase in the cost of doing business (Public Works, IT, Parks and Recreation for example) or an increase in service demands (such as Health, DSS, and Emergency Services). In reality, once the final budget is approved some departments will see more cut from their budgets than other departments. I don’t see how this can be avoided. Tough decisions will have to be made about whether or not we open new parks or county buildings that are now almost complete, whether we cut operating hours for libraries, the animal shelter, senior centers and other county facilities, or whether we limit the amount of services we provide for those residents in our community most in need of assistance.

I think the bottom line will be for us to reduce, eliminate, or delay those services that are important but not as critical as our core services, which are the services the county provides because it is legally required by statute or because government is the best agency to do so. Such decisions will not be easy and we must do all we can to suggest, inform, recommend and ultimately support the Board of Commissioners who will be tasked with that responsibility.

In closing let me just say thank you for all you do for the residents of Orange County. As public servants we have a unique responsibility to the community and I know you will continue to do the very best job you can despite the difficulties ahead."

Friday, March 6, 2009

Slow ride, take it easy

The Hillsborough town board Monday will consider, among other things, a speed limit reduction in several residential streets in the Historic District. The changes would bring the speed limit from 35 mph to 25 or 20 mph.

The following streets would be affected:
• Caine Street, from Union Street to St. Mary’s Road
• Mitchell Street, from Corbin Street to Queen Street
• Cameron Street, from Corbin Street to King Street
• East Corbin Street, from Churton Street to the end of the town limit
• East Tryon Street, from Churton Street to St. Mary’s Road

The impetus for this move is that the Historic District Commission heard from residents in the St. Mary's Road area who said that drivers speed through the area as a cut-through to Cameron Park Elementary and county offices downtown. Additional roads were added to the list by town staff and the police department.

The TOTAL cost for all new signs would be about $500, the town estimates.

Would this affect your in-town travel at all? I find that, at least while traveling south on Churton Street, I don't even need the gas pedal to cruise along at 30 mph.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

What's coming

UPDATE: I should really check the calendar before saying there's a meeting. Turns out there is not a rail station Friday. The next meeting will be held in two weeks. My apologies.

Well, it's Thursday and my dance card for next week is pretty full - lots of meetings and wrap-ups to write in the next few days. Here's what I am working on so far:

• A write-up of the revaluation speakers at Tuesday's meeting (I hesitate to call them members of Tax Revolt or Freedom Works-led speakers, since it seems that people I have spoken to who were there aren't really associated with the group.)
I'd love to know people's thoughts on how likely it is that commissioners will vote to roll back the revaluation, similar to how it was done in Rockingham County last month.

• After almost everybody left the meeting, there was an interesting discussion on an emergency services study which could cost anywhere between $20,000-$112,000, depending on the depth and breadth of review that commissioners decide to pursue. Read next week for an explanation of what they're mulling.

• The Rail Station Task Force meets again tomorrow, their first get-together since receiving tacit approval on their recommendation of the Collins site. This is where the proverbial rubber will meet the road, as big ideas now have to be dictated into dollars, cents and a battle plan.

• I'm trying to look into a few details about the waste transfer station process, which had been buried a little since the latest big controversy - revaluations - hit the scene. Not much else to tell right now.

• The town board meets Monday. Possibly a Colonial Inn update?

I assume you'll be hearing from Vanessa's cubicle sometime soon.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Murphy's Law Tuesday

Tuesday, our production day, is always somewhat of an adventure, and yesterday was no different.

Thanks to snow delays and other factors, we relied on some great teamwork to make sure we had Spelling Bee contestants for the paper (thank you, Kay Daniels at the OCS office). The Bee will be held at 4 p.m. March 10 (Tuesday) at New Hope Elementary, and the winner gets to to go D.C. to compete against the nation's best spellers. We'll have coverage of this now-annual event in next week's issue.

For reasons that are still beyond me, our Internet connection failed at the very moment last night that I was attempting to send our front page to the press in Virginia, so I'm glad that it all came through without a major hitch.

Last night's commissioners' meeting included several hundred residents upset about their tax revaluation, and I had the misfortune of showing up 15 minutes late to the meeting (but got there before anybody from the public started speaking). After wrangling my way inside, I took notes while seated on the floor outside of the main Senior Center room used for the meeting , flanked by many members of the Orange County Sheriff's department (watching the room, not me). There was a strong law enforcement presence last night.

About 80 percent of the room emptied out after the speakers went before the board during the public comment session. On my way in, I noticed the following: Cars circling for almost non-existent parking; several dozen people waiting outside in the cold, pressing ears and eyes to the outside glass to find out what was going on inside; and countless more leaving as I arrived, likely determining that space wouldn't open up anytime soon. I hope to have a fire marshal's count of how many came soon, but it looks to be on par with the last meeting of residents on the issue.

Their message seems pretty clear — rescind revaluations and wait until 2013 (or maybe 2011, as Rockingham County has done), as allowed under the General Statutes. Once the March 31 deadline for appeals has passed, we'll likely see what the next move will be.

We'll have more today or tomorrow about what stories we're working on this week.

Monday, March 2, 2009

let it snow, let it snow, let it snow

Since I'm from up North, I love the snow. It was a lovely sight to wake up to this morning, though the ice coating the roads from yesterday's rain was not quite as lovely. Even so, I took some pictures on my way to work. I figured I'd share in the hopes that perhaps more of you will be persuaded to do so.

This is on Old Heritage Court, off of Old N.C. 86. It's a little cul-de-sac with a few houses on it on your left if you're driving north towards town. The snow was so densely covering the woods and brush in this area that it was hard to tell what was what. There was no one around at all; I think maybe one person drove by on Old 86 while I was out taking pictures, looking like a crazy person. I wish I would've brought my galoshes; I would have ventured further into the woods in an effort to get an even better shot.

This is the light pole at the corner of Old Heritage Court and Old N.C. 86. The road in the background is Old 86, heading north. This area was like a tunnel almost; the trees were all covered with snow.

Like Josh said, if any of you have any snow day pictures, please send them in! I only took a few in Hillsborough; most of mine were out in the county or in Carrboro.

Drive safely out there.

In like a lion ...

It's a picturesque snow day — if you're a student. Pretty much everything is canceled - local schools, county offices, the Preserve Rural Orange meeting on the waste transfer station progress (rescheduled for March 15).

We'll update in the paper, too, but the Orange Lady Panthers' basketball team advanced to regionals after winning yet again on the road Friday. They will play next on Wednesday in Greenville.

Being Monday, I am tied to my desk doing a million little things. If you go out to enjoy the snow today, send us some pictures. We can post some up here or in the paper. They can be sent to