Chamber of Commerce Holds Annual Meeting

The Chapel Hill-Carrboro Chamber of Commerce held their annual meeting on Thursday.

Several honors were handed out during the proceedings. One award went to a public servant for their partnership with the business community. This year that recognition went to Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt.

Among the other awards handed out, longtime Orange County Sheriff Lindy Pendergrass was recognized with the Duke Energy Citizenship and Service Award.

The finalists for the chamber’s businesses of the year were also named at the meeting.

In the non-profit division: Table Inc., Walking Classroom, and the Compass Center for Women and Families.

In the Microenterprise of the Year: Balloons & Tunes, Community Empowerment Fund, and i9 Sports.

In the Mid-Size Business of the Year: Yes! Solar Solutions, Al’s Burger Shack, and the Habitat for Humanity ReStore.

In the Large Business of the Year: Suntrust, PHE Inc, and Summit Design and Engineering Services.

The winners will be announced at the Business Excellence Awards in April.

http://chapelboro.com/news/business/chamber-commerce-holds-annual-meeting/

Google Fiber Coming to Chapel Hill And Carrboro

100 times faster Internet service: that’s the aim of Google Fiber, which is bringing ultra-fast Internet to the Triangle.

“We are bringing Google Fiber to the Triangle,” exclaimed Michael Slinger, Business and Operations Director for Google Fiber during a press conference on Tuesday afternoon at Research Triangle Park. The press conference included Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt, Durham Mayor Bill Bell and Governor Pat McCrory.

Chapel Hill and Carrboro are among only a handful of communities in the nation to have this service.

Slinger says bringing Google Fiber to the Triangle has taken time and plenty of cooperation from local officials.

“Today, we are committing to invest in, and build, a brand new fiber optic network throughout Carrboro, Cary, Chapel Hill, Durham, Garner, Morrisville and Raleigh,” he said. “Last year, we began working with these cities to explore the possibility of bringing a superfast Internet and TV service to their residents and small businesses. The local leaders rose to the challenge.”

Listen to the full press conference, with comments from Slinger as well as Raleigh mayor Nancy McFarlane and Durham mayor Bill Bell.

 

In order to provide the service, Slinger said Google officials will spend the next few months working to run thousands of miles of fiber from Carrboro to Garner.

“Building a brand new fiber optic network takes time,” he said. “It’s going to take hundreds of construction crews and hundreds of installers. Their task will be to lay enough fiber to reach from here to London and back.”

Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt spoke with Aaron Keck on WCHL about what Tuesday’s announcement means for Chapel Hill.

 

Along with Chapel Hill, Google also announced a faster broadband for Carrboro, Durham, Cary, Morrisville and Raleigh. Google has had an office in Chapel Hill since its acquisition of Skia Incorporated in 2005. Last year, the team opened an office on Franklin Street.

Currently three U.S. cities can boast about having Google Fiber: Provo, Utah; Kansas City; and Austin, Texas. Charlotte, Atlanta and Nashville are also included in the Google Fiber expansion.

The full statement from the Town of Chapel Hill is below:

Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt along with Council Members and Town officials announced today (Tuesday, Jan. 27) that Google, Inc., is bringing its 100x faster Internet connectivity — Google Fiber — to Chapel Hill, making the community among a handful in the nation to have this service.

“Google Fiber has chosen Chapel Hill to advance its latest technologies, which is an honor and a promise about our community’s capacity as a tech and innovation hub,” Mayor Kleinschmidt said. “As a community of creative minds and innovators, we can’t wait to show the amazing things we will do with a gig.”

Currently, three U.S. cities can boast about having Google Fiber — Provo, Utah; Kansas City, Kansas/Missouri; and Austin. Along with announcing its selection of Chapel Hill for a new fiber future, Google also has selected faster broadband for Carrboro, Cary, Durham, Garner, Morrisville and Raleigh.

Improving broadband speed and choice for Chapel Hill residents has been a priority for years. When Google announced that it was accepting applications for Google Fiber technology in 2010, Chapel Hill was among the 1,100 communities that applied. Google Inc. has had an office in Chapel Hill since its acquisition of Skia Inc. in 2005. Last year, the team opened an office on Franklin Street that has played host to several community events and interns from local universities.

Google Fiber is Google’s Gigabit Internet service that offers Internet connection speeds for homes and businesses up to 100 times faster than today’s average broadband, as well as TV service with hundreds of high-definition channels. Today’s average American broadband speed is 11.5 Megabits per second. In contrast, Google Fiber will bring Chapel Hill residents access to “Gigabit” Internet connections up to 1,000 Megabits per second.

“We are here because of the hard work, passion and commitment of the town and its leaders,” said Kevin Lo, Director of Business Operations for Google Fiber. “The next chapter of the Internet will be written at gigabit speeds. These new networks will lay the foundation for a wave of innovation and economic growth. Chapel Hill is the perfect place to show us what’s possible, and we can’t wait to see what Chapel Hill will do with Fiber.”

Google will be working closely with Chapel Hill on the next steps to build a brand new fiber-optic network capable of delivering these gigabit speeds throughout Chapel Hill. The next stage of work includes designing and planning a new fiber-optic network down to a very detailed level. After this process, which will take several months, Google Fiber and Chapel Hill will begin constructing the network.

High-speed Internet will provide bandwidth that benefits business, education and health care in Chapel Hill. The one-gigabit-per-second speed will work to accelerate Chapel Hill’s burgeoning tech hub that includes Launch Chapel Hill, a start-up accelerator on Rosemary Street, 1789 Venture Lab on East Franklin Street, and UNC-Chapel Hill, which ranks among the top 10 research universities in the country. Aiding the movement of ideas from university labs to the commercial marketplace is the Carolina Research Venture Fund, which supports startups with a research focus.

What’s next? Google Fiber needs to build thousands of miles of fiber throughout Chapel Hill. They take all of the information submitted during the planning process to create a comprehensive plan for building the fiber network. The design helps enable Google Fiber to do construction more efficiently and smoothly. Some concrete steps they will take during this next phase:

- use the infrastructure data that the town has shared to create a map of where they can put fiber (e.g. existing utility poles, conduit) and areas to avoid (e.g. water, sewer and electric lines), as well as the most efficient sequence of construction.

- a team of surveyors and engineers hits the streets to fill in any missing details. You may see crews out doing detailed surveying work — lots of staring up at poles and even a bit of geological rock-testing.

- they take this information back to the office and create detailed network design maps, do work with the Town to locate network infrastructure and fiber huts, and start to prepare permitting packages.

- then they design the network, street by street.

It will take some time before Google Fiber starts signups. In the next several months they will be working with Town staff to design the network. Once there is a detailed plan in place, they can begin initial construction. Sign up on their website (https://fiber.google.com/newcities/) to receive updates.

For more information about community broadband in Chapel Hill, visit www.townofchapelhill.org/google.

http://chapelboro.com/news/business/google-fiber-coming-chapel-hill-carrboro/

Freezing Rain May Lead to Slippery Commute Wednesday

Winter has officially settled in across the Tar Heel state, and our area is no exception. After seeing heavy rain early Monday morning, temperatures have fallen and led to the possibility of some icing as we continue through the week.

The National Weather Service has issued alerts – including a Winter Weather Advisory for Orange County and a Winter Storm Watch for Durham and Wake Counties – that will go into effect late Tuesday and remain through mid-day Wednesday.

NWS Meteorologist Shawna Coakley says Tuesday we expect to have lingering drizzle, but the real problems may develop late Tuesday night into Wednesday morning.

“We’ll have temperatures right within a few degrees of freezing, and that brings with it a chance of freezing rain,” she says.

Coakley says we are not expected to see major accumulation, but “certainly you could get some glazing on surfaces. And you might see some difficulty with travel on roadways and walking on sidewalks.”

Coakley adds the chance of inclement weather will be rather widespread.

“We’re looking at the whole area for this, the entirety of central North Carolina,” she says.

The Wednesday morning commute may be a slippery one, if the variables of the forecast develop over the next 24 hours.

After that, Coakley says the temperatures will climb above freezing for the foreseeable future and the chance of rain will diminish to close out the week – taking any chance of inclement weather with it.

http://chapelboro.com/news/weather/freezing-rain-may-lead-slippery-commute-wednesday/

Carrboro Town Leaders Ready for First Meeting of 2015

The Board of Alderman is setting up for a very busy 2015 with their first meeting of the new year, on Tuesday night. There are several large agenda items for leaders of the Town of Carrboro.

Mayor Lydia Lavelle says she is expecting to see new developments concerning the Martin Luther King Jr. Park Master Plan.

“I do think citizens that are interested in the Martin Luther King Jr. Park will be interested in seeing what kinds of proposals are being made,” she says. “A couple of concept designs are going to be coming forward to us, after some community gatherings where we received a lot of input.”

The board will also be presented with information regarding the state of the transit system and suggestions to increase sustainability going forward.

“Every year [the transit system] is a huge project to grapple our hands around,” she says. “It’s one of the hallmarks of our community, but it is one that continues to increase in costs.”

The presentation is expected to be very similar to the arrangement brought before the Chapel Hill Town Council, last week.

The transit system is a large budget item, according to Mayor Lavelle, but she says there are several other key areas in building a new budget this year.

She says certain town costs are guaranteed to increase.

“We always have rising health care costs,” she says. “It’s always a given that, whatever our line item is for our employees and health care, that’s always going to go up a little.”

Lavelle says it will be important to see how much revenue the town is able to bring in during tax collection.

“In general, property taxes have stayed the same or gotten better,” she says. “With the hotel and different things, our commercial tax base should look pretty good.”

The mayor adds town leaders typically offer a conservative sales tax estimate, which could lead to additional revenue on top of projections.

The Board of Alderman meeting will be held at the Carrboro Town Hall beginning at 7:30 Tuesday evening and is open to the public.

 

http://chapelboro.com/news/local-government/carrboro-town-leaders-ready-first-meeting-2015/

Chapel Hill Mayor: “Tough Decisions” Coming on Transit System Sustainability

Chapel Hill town leaders are being forced to get creative when looking at options to maintain transit services that are offered.

Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt says the town is faced with a very clear problem.

“We need to come up with and develop a financial sustainability system for our transit system,” he says.

The solution to that problem, however, may not be as cut and dry.

At the last Chapel Hill Town Council meeting, a town-hired firm delivered the expected news that the state’s second-largest transit system, as it stands, is not sustainable in the long-term picture.

That firm listed five options to bridge the gap to a solution: passing a tax to raise money for area transit, reducing services, charging a bus fare, choosing an option other than purchasing buses outright, and the bus system partners – the Town of Chapel Hill, Town of Carrboro, and UNC – all contributing more funding.

Addressing these issues, Mayor Kleinschmidt says charging a fare for buses may have a negative impact.

“Fare-free buses don’t work for every community,” he says. “But it works really well here, because of the unique partnership we have with the Town of Carrboro and the university – particularly the student body.”

Kleinschmidt adds charging a fare would reduce ridership, which would eliminate the town’s eligibility for certain grants.

In terms of the partners in the transit system, the mayor says UNC has already been forced to make tough decisions.

“The university has already done some good work,” he says. “It doesn’t come without some tension. They’ve started charging people to park in park-and-ride [lots].”

Mayor Kleinschmidt says the student body may decide to increase their transit fee that is built into tuition. A fee the mayor says – to his knowledge – hasn’t been voted on since it was originally approved in 2000.

Kleinschmidt says the town’s tough decisions may involve reevaluating taxes.

“A couple of years ago we adjusted our transit tax rate,” he says. “That may need to happen again.”

But the mayor says he has always been proud of innovative paths town leaders and residents have navigated to find a solution.

With the transit system, that path may be looking at new options for purchasing buses.

“There are lease options,” Mayor Kleinschmidt says. “But we’ve not used them in the past. We’ve just purchased our buses, outright.”

All of the options that were suggested by the firm analyzing the system are still on the table with the town council. And the council has asked that the firm analyze each option further to help find a financial solution for the long-term viability of the transit system.

http://chapelboro.com/news/local-government/chapel-hill-mayor-tough-decisions-coming-transit-system-sustainability/

Area Schools Operating on a 2-Hour Delay for Thursday

Orange County Schools and Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools will operate on a 2-hour delay for Thursday, January 8.

Temperatures overnight are forecasted to drop to 11 degrees, with a wind chill of -3 at 7 o’clock Thursday morning.

The National Weather Service has issued a wind-chill advisory until 10 o’clock Thursday morning.

http://chapelboro.com/news/safety/orange-county-schools-operating-2-hour-delay-thursday/

Common Themes Develop Among 2015 Priorities

Flipping the calendar to a new year can cause reflection over what happened over the previous 12 months. It can provide a clean slate for starting new. And it can present new challenges.

Managing growth and fighting poverty are two ideas that would seem to counter each other. But, throughout our community, this juxtaposed theme continues to emerge. The message from many community leaders is that we must continue to strive for growth, while lending a helping hand to those in need.

In that vein, Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt says he is excited about the two zones in Orange County chosen by the Family Success Alliance, aimed at helping children from low-income families continue on to higher levels of education.

Kleinschmidt adds that Chapel Hill, specifically, has to focus on the “Design 2020” development project and work toward a public transit solution.

“We’re going to be exploring some new ways of financing bus purchases,” he says. “The earmarks that David Price, our congressman, used to bring to us to buy new buses are gone, and we have to find new ways to do that.”

Meanwhile, in neighboring Carrboro, Mayor Lydia Lavelle says they will be focusing on bringing more projects to the town.

“As the economy continues to do a little better, we’re hoping to see some more projects come forward over the next year,” she says, “including projects like the library.”

Kristen Smith, with the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Chamber of Commerce, says that she believes there will be a reenergized spirit to help those that are less fortunate.

“I think some people are renewing their focus on poverty,” she says, with the goal of finding “how we can come together and collaborate around that.”

Smith cites the UNC Global Research Institute, whose focus will be on “Feeding a Hungry World” for the 2015 – 2016 and 2016 – 2017 academic years.

Mayor Tom Stevens says the Town of Hillsborough will be focusing on ways to systematically build citizen engagement and leadership throughout the community. He adds that promoting tourism will be a key, along with managing growth.

“We’re going to have two new neighborhoods,” he says, “so we’re going to have a lot of new folks in town.”

Stevens adds that he believes Hillsborough can welcome new residents and hold on to its “small-town character.”

Riding the tourism wave, Laurie Paolicelli, with the Orange County Visitors’ Bureau, says that they are working to continue bringing in higher numbers of visitors to the area.

“We’re trying to work with our partners to figure out: Do we stay open a little later? Do we offer night lighting, more way-finding, more marketing of the area?” she says. “We have a lot of opportunity and a lot of smart leaders.”

Paiolicelli adds that it will be important to continue bringing in visitors to fill hotels that are targeting our community.

http://chapelboro.com/news/local-government/common-themes-develop-among-2015-priorities/

Carrboro, Chapel Hill Rank As Bikeable Communities

The League of American Bicyclists recognized Carrboro at the silver level, two levels away from the highest honor. The league recognized Chapel Hill at the bronze level, one level below silver.

Here’s what that recognition means according to Carrboro Transportation Planning Director Trish McGuire: “It means that we’re working to support cycling. We want to be among the communities that are recognized for valuing this mode of transportation.”

Every four years, this organization recognizes towns that excel in bike infrastructure, education for bikers and the public, encouragement of biking, enforcement of laws that protect bikers from drivers and town planning focused on biking.

Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt said he’s happy with the accolade but acknowledges a need for improvement.

“We’ve been reminded several times in the last year about how important bicycle safety is,” said Kleinschmidt. “We’ve had bicycle fatalities, many of which could have been prevented with better infrastructure, better signage, better bike and driver education.”

The league lists several areas of improvement for both towns in its “report cards.” The league says Carrboro should expand the network of bike paths and increase public education campaigns with a message to share the road with bikers.

And Chapel Hill’s report card says the town should hire a full-time bike and pedestrian coordinator.

The League of American Bicyclists also recognized UNC-Chapel Hill as a silver-level bikeable university.

http://chapelboro.com/news/safety/carrboro-chapel-hill-get-national-recognition-bikeable-communities-reports-suggest-improvements/

Final Weekend for “All Is Calm” at the Arts Center

World War One is being remembered at the Arts Center this holiday season on the 100th anniversary of the Great War, with “All Is Calm: The Christmas Truce Of 1914.”

Director Jeri Lynn Schulke says this play is a wonderful story of the holiday spirit, even during some of the most dreadful times in history.

“(It’s about) when soldiers in the first Christmas of World War I put down their guns, formed a truce, and celebrated Christmas together,” she described. “They sang carols, they exchanged gifts, and they shouted and buried the dead. They played soccer. All of that is told in this story.”

Schulke described the plays as both “moving” and “funny,” saying that the concert-style play has a lot of depth and different aspects that are brought out through the performance.

She says, “There’s a lot of music in it – interspersed with text taken from letters and diaries, war documents, and poems, but mostly music.”

This is the second time the play will be making its way through the Arts Center in Carrboro; Schulke says they put on a rendition of the play two years ago, but this version is a fresh show.

“It’s not just a re-staging of what we did before. It’s completely different,” she assures. “The stage is different. And the staging is completely different. You’re going to see a different show.”

There are some benefits of this being the second version of the show at the Arts Center. According to Schulke, she is more confident and they have been able to bring back three-quarters of the previous cast, which has made for a more comfortable experience for everyone.

And since it is the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the First World War, Schulke adds that this is the second of three shows that fit the theme of remembering the war.

“All Is Calm: The Christmas Truce Of 1914” will run through Sunday at the Arts Center in Carrboro. Tickets are available online at artscenterlive.org. You can also stop by the box office on East Main Street in Carrboro, or call (919) 929 2787.

http://chapelboro.com/news/arts/final-weekend-calm-arts-center/

PORCH Set to Eclipse Huge Benchmark

A local organization devoted to feeding needy families in our community is set to eclipse a major milestone.

PORCH is an organization that has a singular mission and humble beginnings. According to co-founder Susan Romaine, they got started by simply asking neighbors for a helping hand.

“Would you be okay putting a few cans of tuna out on your porch?” Romaine asked. “We would be very happy to come by and collect that tuna from your porch, deliver it to the food pantry, and we’re just going to keep this as simple as possible.”

From that simple start, PORCH is now set to eclipse the $1 million-raised plateau with their next food collection in mid-December.

Co-founder Debbie Horwitz says that once they began collecting food, an eagerness to help developed within their network. “What we realized early on was that so many people were so grateful for the opportunity to give.”

She adds, “Everyone is very busy, and we need to find simple ways to give. PORCH provided that.”

Romaine adds that the number of families in need in our community can be staggering. “It’s estimated that 1-in-5 families in Chapel Hill-Carrboro are food insecure. They wake up certain times of the month not knowing where that breakfast or lunch is coming from that day.”

PORCH is able to be as helpful to the community as they are due to their status as an entirely volunteer organization, meaning nearly 100% of donations are turned into aid.

According to Romaine, “Cash supports the “Food For Families” program – which is the delivery of fresh foods to 250 families in the community identified by the school social workers as being especially at risk of hunger. The non-perishable foods support eight local food pantries.”

Romaine and Horwitz joined WCHL’s Aaron Keck on the air last week.

 

A celebration for eclipsing $1 million raised to fight hunger will be held during the monthly food sort, at St. Thomas More beginning at 9 o’clock the morning of December 15. Horwitz says Carrboro Mayor Lydia Lavelle and Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt will be in attendance.

More information on how you can get involved helping PORCH fight hunger in our community is available at porchnc.org.

http://chapelboro.com/news/non-profit-news/porch-set-eclipse-huge-benchmark/