Wednesday, September 30, 2009

what's new?

As always, there's lots to do and not enough time to do it in, especially since I'm the latest in the office to succumb to some kind of cold/flu-like illness.

This week I'll (hopefully!) have:
• A story about Monday's Board of Education meeting
• Something on the work Central's PTSA is doing (they're awfully busy!)
• A local boy got a story published in a magazine
• The McKees cornfield maze is back up and running.

And other odds and ends as I hear about them.

So let me know! Give me a ring at 732-2171 or drop me a line at v (dot) shortley (at) newsoforange (dot) com.

This week

With three candidates vying for two seats on the Hillsborough town board and the mayor running unopposed, Hillsborough's races don't seem to pack as much of a punch as the ... let's call it "activity" ... to the south. But, local races are still important, so don't forget these key election dates.

I am sitting down with town board hopefuls over the next few days to ask some broad questions about their views on hot topics and ongoing concerns I have heard from residents over the time I've been at The News of Orange. Look for those Q&A sessions to appear in either the Oct. 14 or Oct. 21 paper, depending on what else is in the paper on Oct. 14.

The Northern Orange Black Voters Alliance will hold a candidate forum on Tuesday, Oct. 13. I plan on covering the event, but if you want to be there in person, it is a the Fairview police substation at 7 p.m.

For this week, early returns (already with the election language?) are as follows:
• Project Homeless Connect is next week, and I plan on having some information about local students who are helping with northern Orange County's homeless services.
• I am working on a story about class reunions, looking back at Hillsborough when these classes graduated.
• Seasonal flu shots are being offered soon in the schools. We'll have more as we learn it.
• Updates on the hospital proposal, waste transfer station and other issues.
• Plenty of photos, and Vanessa's stories, too.

I am in and out of the office this week, so feel free to drop me an e-mail at josh(dot)kastrinsky(at) if you can't catch me here.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Parking Deck redux

For this week's paper, I spoke with a member of Hillsborough's planning department about the town's impending study of downtown parking, a much-commented-upon situation from those visiting the town and, as evidenced by the fact there is a study, an issue for those living and working here as well.

In the article, there was a statement about spots in the Eno River Parking Deck, 228 S. Churton St., being opened up to customers visiting county offices. Offices soon to be located adjacent to the deck are all of those above the Gateway Center, the new four-story county campus building and the new public library, the latter two set to open this year, as far as we have been told.

There are a few points to clarify/correct: The county has already been renting 200 spots in the parking deck for government and employee use, and they do not know whether any will be available to the public.

For several months, people have asked us and, I presume, county officials whether there will be free parking spaces available for customers at the library. After several phone calls and e-mails today, it's been clarified that none of the spaces have been designated as "customer parking." However, being a public parking deck, paid spots are available for anybody parking downtown.

That's the latest. Hopefully that clears up any confusion. Have a good weekend.

moving forward

Gail Hughes, soil conservationist with the Orange Soil and Water Conservation District, uses a twig to point out features on a map of the potential eco classroom site at C.W. Stanford Middle School on Thursday, Sept. 24.

Many of those involved with the project went out yesterday — braving the hot, humid weather — to try and narrow down potential sites for the eco classroom, located in a wooded area between Orange High and Stanford Middle schools. I'll have more information on how that went this week.

Also this week:

• Central has a ton going on! I'll have photos from a couple of the events on the Education Page.

• Dogs took over a local assisted living facility for an afternoon.

• The two Boards of Education in the county met with county commissioners to discuss the impact of their budgets, SAPFO and other things, to interesting results

• Watch out for those "Bands on the Run"!

• There will be a Community Health Gala in the Fairview community Saturday.

• And much, much more!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

What's this? and this week

Since I really don't know how to categorize this photo, let me put it this way: On the left is an old water pipe taken from in front of the courthouse during construction this month. On the right, despite looking like a log with a hole, is an even older water pipe from near the same location.

At last week's town board meeting, board member Evelyn Lloyd said she wanted to display these items in her store after town engineer Kenny Keel showed the board what they had unearthed downtown. Maybe it's not the most exciting artifact a downtown project has uncovered, but if you ever wondered what a 100-year-old water pipe looks like, today is your day.

Back to the paper, the town board has a few "hot topics" to discuss next Monday, including whether the town should explore an event policy and what Hillsborough should do to help the county's waste stream. Look for coverage of that. I'll have a few features — women in the Walnut Grove United Methodist Church community will be walking 60 miles in three days to benefit breast cancer research, and the folks behind the Handmade Parade event you've seen so many notices about in the paper and on the street talk about what the event means for the arts council.

We'll have plenty of photos and some updates from the school board and other school happenings.

UPDATE: This weekend's productions of "Murder in the Library" (in the parking deck) have been canceled. Ticket-purchasers will receive a refund. If they haven't reached you, call the library at 245-2525.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

joint meeting

At the joint Orange County Schools/Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools/Board of County Commissioners meeting, county Planning Director Craig Benedict played the following video of the famous chocolate factory sketch from "I Love Lucy" while explaining the Schools Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance:

The Home Builders' Association was the factory lady, trying to squeeze as much work (or as many developments) into one day (town, area) as possible. Lucy and Ethel were Orange County Schools and Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools, trying to wrap children up into little packages and send them out into the world. See what happens when factory lady has her way? Catastrophe.

(The purpose of SAPFO is to coordinate the building of new developments with capacity in the schools.)

More on this meeting in next Wednesday's paper.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Rain, rain go away. No, seriously, go away.

Rain can cause a lot of problems with our coverage. It can ruin a big rivalry football game tonight, leaving us devoid of images of the action for next week's paper. It can cancel schools events, leaving gaps in coverage. It can knock out our Internet connection for a few hours, which is sort of like the end of the world when you spend your day constantly checking e-mails, confirming information and trying to send pages to the press. So here's hoping we have a few dry days ahead.

Each week I do the Athlete of the Week feature at each high school, and the students give thoughtful answers our questions. Occasionally, there is the standout answer that you remember for awhile. I got one of my favorites this week about a favorite sports memory, one that involves a mechanical chicken. It's right up there with a Cedar Ridge athlete who looks up to Batman. Be on the lookout for that.

There's still plenty going on despite the weather, though I would check ahead to ensure some of these don't get rained out:

• Cedar Ridge hosts Orange in football tonight at 7:30 p.m. One thing I have noticed from athlete interviews is Cedar Ridge athletes of mention their goals as the following: Have a good season, make the playoffs, make all-conference, beat Orange in anything they can. I don't hear as much from Orange athletes about beating Cedar Ridge. Is the rivalry not mutual?

• Handmade Parade puppet workshop, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., 200 Spring Valley Road in Carrboro. This out-of-town event is tied into the Arts Council's annual parade. In a few issues, I'll have a story about how they've scrapped and clawed to get this event together, even though organizers have no idea what puppets people will bring until the day of the event. For more about upcoming workshops, see

• Auditions for "Smoke on the Mountain," Saturday and Sunday. The Orange Community Players are looking especially for those with musical talent for this November production. Auditions will be held from 9 to 11 a.m. on Saturday, Sept. 19, and from 3 to 5 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 20, at First Baptist Church, 201 W. King St. There are roles for four men ages 17 to 50 years old and three women ages 17 to 50 years old, as well as openings for the tech crew and for a stage manager. For more information, call director Wayne Leonard at 383-7589 or visit

Stay dry.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

This week

So, last night I walked across the street to the Hillsborough town board candidate forum, put together by the Orange-Chatham Group of the Sierra Club, only to find 20 people huddled in front of the Old Courthouse as a light rain fell.

Apparently, the courthouse was booked for the night, but nobody in attendance — town or county officials included — had a key. They discussed new locations, including our office, but as anyone who has been here can tell you, we can't fit 20 people comfortably in our conference area. Eventually we all moved to the Town Barn, but it was an odd scene to begin a candidate forum.

The three candidates — Frances Dancy, Michael Gering and Bryant Warren, running for two seats — answered a variety of questions on sustainable development, walkability and the rural buffer, among others. It appeared they were well-prepared for the questions, and their answers indicated they pretty much agreed with one another on most major points. I'll have something small recapping it next week. I've saved my questions for one-on-one interviews in the coming weeks. Your questions are welcome as well. Comment on the blog or send me an e-mail at josh(dot)kastrinsky(at)newsoforange(dot)com.

Also coming from me this week:

• An 11th-hour vote will keep the Bradshaw Quarry Solid Waste Convenience Center open through at least December. It will cost the county $5,000 per month in non-budgeted expenses. Read more about what it means next week.

• From last week's loaded town board agenda (the density of which, in paper form, is somewhere between sheet rock and a concrete block) are several items — town employee awards, the annual citizen survey and a discussion of the town's event policy (which has been discussed before).

• I'll have something about the downtown parking study, an art program feeding supplies to the schools and county buildings on the block.

• We'll have sports coverage, most prominently of the Orange/Cedar Ridge football game (we can no longer use some variation of "Schock-er" in the headline).

• Also, find out what's in store for the final Last Fridays of the season. Hopefully, it stops raining by then.

As always, contact me at the above-listed e-mail with what's going on in the county.

what's next?

So, I've got a few things coming up this week, and this paper is shaping up to be a good one.

• I talked to a local reverend who has a prison ministry.
• The "eco" classroom group at C.W. Stanford has another meeting (hopefully, indoors!).
• A teacher at one of our elementary schools plants a garden each year; now, it's ready for harvest.
• The Board of Education meets this Monday.

And a few other odds and ends.

As always, send me your events, pictures and anything else you've got that has to do with the schools to v (dot) shortley (at) newsoforange (dot) com.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Composting class this weekend

These are a bit outside our coverage area, but there are two composting workshops taking place within the next few weeks. From Orange County Solid Waste:

"This Saturday, September 19 from 10 a.m. - 11:30 a.m. at the Community Center Learning Garden on Estes Drive in Chapel Hill, Orange County Solid Waste Management in cooperation with the Town of Chapel Hill Parks and Recreation Department will be providing a compost demonstration, featuring outdoor composting using homemade and manufactured recycling containers and indoor composting with worms. Attendees will learn composting fundamentals, chemistry, biology/ecosystems, benefits and long term maintenance. No registration is necessary, and participation is free. Contact Muriel Williman at (919) 968-2788 or email for more info on Saturday's workshop.

Make your own worm bin at the Scrap Exchange Make and Take indoor composting (aka worm bin) workshop on Wednesday, Oct. 7 from 6 to 8 p.m.
Cost is $40 (includes supplies), at The Scrap Exchange, 548 Foster St., Durham, NC 27701
Make your own tidy and efficient indoor composting bin specially designed for composting in apartments or tight spaces. This informative workshop includes supplies to construct your own bin, instruction from seasoned composting experts Bianca Howard (City of Raleigh Solid Waste
Management) and Muriel Williman (Orange County Solid Waste Management), and of course, worms!
Composting creates humus, the organic component of healthy soil and a natural fertilizer, from your kitchen vegetable and fruit scraps. Learn all you need to know to recycle your food waste, care for your worms, harvest the compost and feed your plants. Want pets but can't afford a
puppy? Worms don't bite, bark, or need to be walked, you can have thousands at a time, and they eat your garbage. What could be better? Worm bins also make great gifts, so make and take two bins for only $12 more!
To register for the 'Make and Take' wormbin workshop, email: or call the Scrap Exchange at (919) 682-2751."

OK, I'm not so sure about worms as "pets," but to each their own.

Monday, September 14, 2009

hands for habitat

It was a beautiful (albeit warm) day Saturday for the Hands for Habitat kickoff in the Fairview community. Lots of people stood up and spoke, including several students. Adam Foster, the student who designed the home, was also in attendance, which was really lovely, as were the cousins who will be the eventual owner of the home.

The lovely lady speaking on the foundation of the home is Habitat for Humanity of Orange County Executive Director Susan Levy.

For more info, see this week's paper. And by Wednesday afternoon, I should also have a photo gallery up of the pictures I took at the event. So there's that, too.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Today's image

I noticed this outside Cedar Ridge High School this morning when doing my Athlete O' the Week rounds. I hadn't noticed it before, so I can assume it is a new monument. The text reads:
"In Memory and Honor of the Victims and Heroes of September 11, 2001." It was placed by the Cedar Ridge history club.

More (minor) changes coming to solid waste services

Some small changes are coming to county solid waste customers, and it only affects those in Carrboro and Chapel Hill town limits, meaning Hillsborough is not affected. Which is why it's on the blog but not in the paper. From Solid Waste:
Beginning Monday September 14 about 10,500 households within town limits of Carrboro and Chapel Hill will have a new curbside recycling day.
There will be no change in service for 7,700 homes, including all households within the Town of Hillsborough. Affected households are being mailed a postcard alerting them to the change. Signs will be posted at key intersection of impacted areas.
Route information will be posted on the County's web page
"Over the past ten years the differential growth in our communities has resulted in a significant imbalance in the number of households serviced each day," explained Gayle Wilson, Solid Waste Management Director. "As a result of the current uneven geographic distribution of the units serviced on any one day, present routes are inefficient and have become operationally impractical. The expansion of collection programs to include mixed paper in 2006 and now corrugated cardboard in 2008 has resulted in each household generating more recyclable material. This has put pressure on the current collection system and has exposed the need to perform this reroute to increase efficiency."
Rerouting the urban curbside program will help make collection more efficient, rebalance the work-load, and help to ensure the best service for our citizens. A comprehensive outreach effort to publicize the reroute will make the transition relatively smooth. The majority of the costs for this outreach campaign will be paid for by curbside contractor Waste Industries.
Impacted households are evenly distributed throughout Carrboro and Chapel Hill while the service day for households in the Town of Hillsborough will not be effected. This reroute will end the informal practice of having recycling collection and trash collection take place on the same day for residents of Carrboro. There has been no effort, past or present, to coordinate the trash collection day and recycling day in the two other municipalities, and the need to maintain this routing practice for Carrboro is no longer practical as it has become counter productive to the creating the most efficient routing.

As many might have noticed, this is not the only change coming to Solid Waste services in the county. A week from Sunday, the Bradshaw Quarry Solid Waste Convenience Center (or BQSWCC, as the kids call it) will be closing permanently. Residents are still urging commissioners to reconsider the "permanently" part.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

911 services fixed

UPDATE: The county has reportedly fixed the 911 issue. Carry on.

From the county at 10 a.m. this morning:

"This is an alert from Orange County Emergency Services. 9-1-1 telephone
service is down across Orange County.
The workaround phone number for 9-1-1 emergency calls in Orange County
is 919 732-5856.
A CodeRED message has also been sent to impacted residents."

Hillsborough candidate forum held next Wednesday

It may lack the intrigue of the 2010 races (U.S. Senate, county commissioners, school board), but there is a municipal election this fall in Hillsborough, and we're entering the campaign season.

The Orange-Chatham Group of the Sierra Club will hold a Hillsborough candidate forum from 7 to 9 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 16 at the old Orange County Courthouse, 100 E. King St. Invited are town board candidates Frances Dancy, Michael Gering and Bryant Warren, as well as unopposed mayoral candidate and incumbent Tom Stevens. Questions from the audience can be submitted.

For more information, call 489-3046.

Monday, September 7, 2009

emerson waldorf school movement class

Here's something that came across the e-mail that will likely not make it in this weeks paper, since the education page will likely be cut this week.

Movement and learning class at Emerson Waldorf

Emerson Waldorf School announced that educational consultant and remedial teacher Connie Helms will give a lecture and workshop entitled “Movement and Learning,” from 7:30 to 9 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 9, at the school, 6211 New Jericho Road in Chapel Hill.

Parents and educators have noticed that today’s children are different, exhibiting both extraordinary gifts and disturbing behaviors such as anxiety, attention difficulties, learning challenges and behavioral problems. This lecture will explore the unique needs of today’s children, focusing on the deep connection between physical movement and learning. The presentation will examine practical daily activities that support children's neurodevelopment, including eye/hand coordination, fine motor skills and auditory processing skills. Through discussing the ways childhood play, playground activities and rough house play support child development from birth through age 12, parents and teachers will gain more understanding of how simple movement activities can provide a healthy foundation for learning.

This lecture is the first of a series of lectures on “Parenting in Complex Times” commemorating the 25th anniversary of the Emerson Waldorf School, founded in 1984. Other talks and workshops will be held throughout September, October and November, and will include a workshop by author, Kim John Payne, in conjunction with the publication of his new book, Simplicity Parenting.

Established in 1919, Waldorf education is the world’s fastest-growing independent school movement. As North Carolina’s only Waldorf School, Emerson has offered an atmosphere of creative, intellectual, and practical excellence since 1984. Nestled on a 54-acre wooded campus, EWS is a full member of the Association of Waldorf Schools of North America.

For more information about the school or the workshop, visit

Thursday, September 3, 2009

what's next

Well, despite the four-day workweek, I've still got a bunch of stories coming in for the 9 Sept. edition.

Here's a look at some of what I've got so far:

•I got my hands on the district-level numbers for SAT scores, and there's some interesting stuff in there.

• The state teacher turnover report was released today, and the district's rate is a bit higher than the state's, though not nearly as high as Jones County, which has the highest turnover rate of more than 25 percent.

• I'll be heading over to Central Elementary School for two stories, but you'll have to wait and see what they are!

• Durham Tech is having a JobsNOW orientation tonight at the Orange County Campus. I'll have some information about that.

As Josh said, I'll be off tomorrow, so I hope everyone has a great Labour Day weekend!

Just in case ...

I couldn't let this week pass without showing this photo (which would have been great in print if we had more space). This is the Orange County Sheriff's Office's urban assault vehicle, which I have only seen at public events and have never seen self-propelled.

(Before you wonder why the county government needed this, it reportedly was purchased from a federal equipment surplus for very,very cheap – as in a few dollars.)

I guess this might be used on Franklin Street or at a really rowdy Hog Day. Or, in its "community watch" function, to slow speeders in Hillsborough's historic district. (Photo by David Hunt)

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Last night and the week ahead

Ah, Monday holidays. When you produce a paper on Tuesdays, Monday holidays can't really happen for us writing types. So, there has been a little confusion about office hours I wanted to try and clear up.

We're not closed this week or next, though there are exceptions: Vanessa and I will be taking our holiday Friday. We will be here Monday. Some of our advertising folks will be here Friday, and others Monday. Deadlines have not changed. If you want to submit something for editorial or buy an ad, someone will be at the office Friday and Monday. If you want to talk about something with the editorial department (the fancy phrase for the two of us), we'll pick up the phones Monday.

Now that I have tried to clear that up, a request: I will be contacting each of Hillsborough's town board candidates and the incumbent mayor (running unopposed) for a pre-election Q&A in the next week or so. I have a short list of questions, mostly straightforward and open-ended, but I'm open to question suggestions. There might be some issues for town residents that don't get a lot of attention, and you want to know what town officials will be doing to address them. Send your questions to me at and I'll see if I can get them to the candidates.

NEXT WEEK: Last night, commissioners decided to keep four options open for the county's waste – three of them are transfer stations and the fourth would be an agreement with Durham to accept Orange's waste, meaning the county would pay tipping fees and hauling costs but would not have to build a new structure for now. I'll have a rundown on what these options entail and how each commissioner said he or she is leaning.

I'll also have more on county recreation options and how the public can get involved; a recap of some town development still in the court system; and potentially a few other items.