12:30p.m. Update: Water Main Breaks At N. Columbia & Carr Sts.

12:30 p.m. update: The water main has been repaired, however the road will remain closed a little while longer.

According to the Chapel Hill Fire Department’s public information officer, Lisa Edwards, North Columbia Street from Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard to Stephens Street remains closed to allow for replacement of the asphalt damaged during the repair. She says its expected to remain closed through the afternoon.

Story originally posted September 10, 2014, 6:16 a.m.

Crews have been working through the night to repair a water main break at North Columbia and Carr streets near Chapel Hill Town Hall.

N. Columbia is closed between Stephens Street and the merge with Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard. The line broke right around the intersection with Carr St.

water main break

Click to enlarge

Orange Water and Sewer Authority (OWASA) crews are working to repair the line. In the meantime, the utility is providing bottled water to the approximately ten homes that are without the service at this time. Emergency crews still have access to the affected area if necessary through other roads that remain open.

The break was reported at around 7:25 p.m. Tuesday night.


Local Leaders Want Information on Military Surplus Owned by Law Enforcement

Local elected officials are working to find out which law enforcement agencies in Orange County have received military surplus gear from the federal government.

Carrboro Alderperson Damon Seils told WCHL that he and fellow alderpersons have been trying to answer a lot of questions about that from constituents over the past few days.

“The lingering conversation that’s been going on over the past few years – one of my frustrations during that period has been that it’s difficult to have a conversation with a lack of information,” said Seils.

That lingering conversation likely started in Chapel Hill back on November 13, 2011.

That’s when a Chapel Hill SWAT team, armed with assault rifles and dressed in riot gear, forced Occupy protesters out of the Yates Motor Company building off Franklin Street.

Many citizens expressed alarm at what was called excessive force. Now, as the tragic events in Ferguson, Missouri play out daily on television, new evidence gives Orange County citizens new reason to suspect that the trend of militarized law enforcement could potentially be a problem here at home.

As WCHL reported Monday, a recent New York Times story contains Department of Defense data that shows Orange County has received more military surplus armored vehicles than any other North Carolina county.

The location of just one of those six vehicles has been revealed, thanks to information obtained during an investigation by the ACLU of North Carolina last year.

Orange County Sheriff Lindy Pendergrass responded that his department received one such vehicle in 2007 for hostage or barricade situations, but it has never been used.

Carrboro and Hillsborough were not asked, but Seils told WHCL that the Carrboro Police Department does not participate in the so-called 1033 program of the Defense Department, although it “may have in the past.”

Hillsborough Mayor Tom Stevens has also weighed in, telling WCHL that the town’s police department does not own armored vehicles.

Last year, when the ACLU investigation of the state’s 60 largest law enforcement agencies was conducted, a senior legal adviser for the Chapel Hill Police Department replied to the ACLU that the department had “no documents responsive” to a request for information about armored vehicles, and several other information requests were left unsatisfied as well.

Communications Director Mike Meno of the ACLU of North Carolina said the ACLU has reached out to hundreds of police departments across the country, and found that many were reluctant to provide information about participating in 1033.

But some facts can’t be hidden so easily. The ACLU has determined that nearly 80 percent of SWAT raids in the U.S are currently launched to serve low-level arrest warrants – and usually, for drug offenses. That’s a far cry from a SWAT team dealing with a mass shooter or a hostage crisis.

Meno said it’s often a case of “mission creep.” Departments will obtain military gear for one specific purpose, and eventually, the gear is being used regularly.

“Very often, it’s law enforcement who are introducing violence into what is an otherwise non-violent situation,” he said. “And I think one of the things we find really concerning is that there’s so little oversight and transparency.”

He said the ACLU urges municipal governments to impose “meaningful restraints” on local law enforcement regarding the uses of military weapons and tactics.

Meno said that investigations by the ACLU also affirmed what a lot of people may have already figured out from watching the Ferguson tragedy on TV.

SWAT raids are conducted disproportionately on people of color.

“You know, just locally, in Chatham County, the numbers we got back showed that thee was a 15-to-one racial disparity, where a black person was 15 times more likely to be the subject of a SWAT raid than a white person.”

Chapel Hill Mayor Pro Tem Sally Greene told WCHL on Monday that she planned to meet that afternoon with Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt; Police Chief Chris Blue; and Town Manager Roger Stancil to discuss the New York Times report.

Greene said to expect a “coordinated statement” sometime this week.

Carrboro Alderperson Seils said he’s been discussing the issue of police militarization with Carrboro Police Chief Walter Horton, as well as Town Manager David Andrews,

Seils said that more information will be available in the coming days, as the Town of Carrboro also releases a public statement.

WCHL is waiting to hear back from the North Carolina State Highway Patrol about the patrol station on US 70 in Hillsborough.


Man Does Not Survive Jump From I-40 Overpass

photo 3

Update 3:30 p.m.: The Orange County Sheriff Department confirmed that at 12:15 p.m. a male subject was seen sitting on the side wall of the NC-86 overpass of I-40. A passing driver called 911. A passerby attempted to approach the man, but before that person could reach him, the man jumped.

He fell in the emergency lane of I-40 westbound, according to a press release from the Sheriff’s department, and did not survive the fall. Emergency services attempted to revive the individual, but were unsuccessful.

The Sheriff’s department reported no vehicles on I-40 struck the decedent. The man’s name has not been released, pending family notification.

Update 2:35 p.m.: NC Highway Patrol Public Information Officer Jeff Gordon told WCHL that state troopers only assisted in shutting down portions of the road and were not involved in the investigation. The Orange County Sheriff Department is investigating, according to Lieutenant Gordon. He said officials were responding to a “subject on the bridge.”

No one was available to speak in the Orange County Sheriff Office as of 2:45 p.m. Thursday, according to a receptionist.

Story originally posted August 14, 2014 at 1:53 p.m.

Police are investigating an incident that occurred around noon Thursday on I-40 at NC-86, exit 266.

Chapel Hill Police, North Carolina State Highway Patrol, Orange County Sheriff, Orange County Emergency Services, and the New Hope Fire Department responded to the overpass of NC-86 and I-40 and shut down the right lane and shoulder of the interstate. The right lane of NC-86 was also shut down on the overpass. Traffic quickly backed up on I-40 WB to NC-54, exit 273.

photo 4A Chapel Hill Police officer standing on the overpass at the scene said the area was closed due to an active investigation, but could not give any additional details about the incident.



Durham Tech’s New Look; “Free Movies Under The Stars”; Chatham Tax Bills

School’s back in session and Durham Tech has a new brand!

The school unveiled a new branding campaign earlier this month – complete with a new logo that adds the color orange, in honor of its Orange County campus.

For more information on the new campaign – and more information on the college itself – visit DurhamTech.edu.

Head to the Wallace Parking Deck on Rosemary Street on Friday, August 15, for the latest installment of “Free Movies Under The Stars”!

This Friday’s movie is the Coen brothers classic “Raising Arizona.” The movie gets underway at 8:30 p.m. It’s free and open to the public, and free popcorn will be served as well.

If you’re a Chatham County resident, start looking for your 2014 property tax bill – county officials say they should be arriving in the mail right around now.

Tax Administrator Frances Wilson says it’s important to carefully review your tax bill after receiving it, to make sure there aren’t any problems.

January 5 is the payment deadline. For more information on payment options, visit ChathamNC.org.


Two Local Drug Dealers Caught

Additional reporting by Elizabeth Friend

Two local, repeat-offending drug dealers were recently taken off the streets after separate incidents of selling cocaine near schools.

carrboro policeCarrboro Police arrested 42-year-old Mack James Matthew Cameron Monday after discovering an outstanding warrant during a routine traffic stop. He was charged with being in possession of a controlled substance within 1000 feet of a school.

Cameron was first charged in North Carolina with possession of a schedule II substance when he was 23 and was put on probation. However, probation was revoked because he was caught in possession of a schedule II substance again just more than seven months after his first offense on record. For that, he served nearly eight months in jail in Orange County.

Cameron has gone on to serve an additional five years, seven months for multiple drug possession and trafficking arrests.

U.S. Marshals arrested 40-year-old Bobby Lee Davis on Friday in the town of Graham. Chapel Hill police charged him with multiple felonies, including three counts of selling cocaine, three counts of possession of cocaine, and two counts of selling the drug within 1000 feet of a school. Police allege Davis dealt drugs in the Homestead Park area.


Kleinschmidt: Landlords Get a Great Deal With Section 8 Vouchers

Mayors Mark Kleinschmidt of Chapel Hill and Lydia Lavelle of Carrboro joined forces this week to ask local landlords to do the right thing, and accept Housing Choice Vouchers from low-income residents.

The mayors held a news conference at Carrboro Town Commons on Tuesday to address the issue of landlords refusing the vouchers, as rents continue to rise in both communities.

Kleinschmidt spoke to WCHL’s Aaron Keck on Thursday about the growing problem.

“Complexes are now saying that they aren’t going to take them anymore,” said Kleinschmidt. “Now that they’re renovating and they can charge higher rents, they’re saying, ‘You’ve got to find someplace else to live.’ And this is causing a housing crisis for dozens of families and individuals in both our communities, and throughout Orange County.”

Kleinschmidt said that more then 600 families in Orange County rely on the vouchers, which come from the federal HUD program and are administered by the county government.

In Chapel Hill and Carrboro, about 60 tenants have lost their apartments since last summer because of new rental policies.

”We need landlords –and not just owners of apartment complexes – to step up and learn about the Housing Choice Vouchers and understand that they can take them in lieu of cash payments,” said Kleinschmidt. “In fact, being a landlord who gets a Hosing Choice Voucher as part of a rent payment is actually more reliable than any other way of getting payment.”

That’s because the payment is deposited, like clockwork, directly into the landlord’s account every month, he added.

Kleinschmidt told WCHL that he and Lavelle will keep up their efforts to promote affordable housing, by having private meetings with local landlords and apartment building managers.

Chapel Hill’s mayor also pointed out that police officers and teachers are among the types of citizens that often qualify for the vouchers.


“Downtown Imagined” Wants You!

Chapel Hill’s “Rosemary Imagined” project has expanded and become “Downtown Imagined” – and once again, the town is asking for your input.

Head to University Baptist Church on Monday, August 11, for a pair of drop-in meetings – one from 11:30 to 1:00, the other from 4:30-6:30. (The two meetings will be identical – come to whichever’s most convenient.) Town staff will deliver an overview presentation, but the primary purpose is to solicit community feedback on the project’s current status and gather ideas about future planning for downtown.

Town planner Megan Wooley and Meg McGurk of the Chapel Hill Downtown Partnership have been spearheading the project. They joined WCHL’s Aaron Keck on the air this week to discuss it.

For more information about the Rosemary Downtown Imagined project, visit RosemaryImagined.com.

University Baptist Church is located at the corner of Franklin and Columbia Streets in downtown Chapel Hill. The meetings will take place in the church’s Great Room.


Chapel Hill, Carrboro Mayors Implore Landlords to Accept Section 8 Tenants

The Mayors of Chapel Hill and Carrboro held a joint news conference Tuesday morning at Carrboro Town Commons to highlight the problems of low-income residents whose Housing Choice Vouchers are being rejected by local landlords.

“The community that needs Housing Choice Vouchers is a large one, here in Orange County” said Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt. “More than 600 families are beneficiaries of this program today, and it’s an instrumental program in providing for affordable housing opportunities for people of low income.”

Last summer, leaders of Chapel Hill and Carrboro began hearing that some prominent landlords, including General Services Corporation, had stopped accepting Housing Choice Vouchers.

In Carrboro, GSC owns Estes Park, Royal Park, Carolina Apartments, Ridgewood and University Lake. In Chapel Hill, the corporation owns PineGate, Booker Creek, Franklin Woods, and Kingswood.

Kleinschmidt and Carrboro Mayor Lydia Lavelle said they called this morning’s news conference in order to “demystify” the Housing Choice Voucher process for any landlords who’d like to help low-income families.

“This is the loss of one’s home,” said Carrbroro Mayor Lydia Lavelle “and not just losing that home. There are these other unfortunate realities that go along with that. For instance: financially, of course. What types of new transportation have to be arranged? Can I make it to my workplace? You know – what about my health care needs?”

The two mayors, along with speakers from Orange County government, which administers the program, reminded any landlords listening that families who use vouchers are working and paying into the process, and that they tend to be good, long-term tenants.

One example was 43-year-old Paul Reynolds, who graduated from UNC in 1993, and was injured in a bad car wreck shortly after.

He’s in a wheelchair now, and working as a greeter at the WalMart at New Hope Commons. Reynolds has lived at 86 North Apartments, formerly known as Timberlyne, for 17 years. He’s about to lose his apartment when his landlord stops accepting vouchers in December. That means he’ll lose the Food Lion, Rite Aid and post office across the street from his home, as well as other amenities that have become essential to his life.

“I do not want to be moved to another apartment complex because I’m in a wheelchair, obviously, so I’ve got to have my walk-in shower that I have,” said Reynolds. “So basically, I do not want to move at all.”

Eller Capital Partners acquired Timberlyne last year and re-branded it 86 North. All of the company’s recent property acquisitions are shown on its website, ellercapital.com. In the description of 86 North on the web page, it says that the apartment complex is undergoing “a modest renovation.”

According to several speakers at the news conference, that’s the story all over Chapel Hill and Carrboro. Companies are renovating apartments, and raising rents, to price points above the caps required by the voucher program.

Bu there may be another part of the story. James Davis of the Orange County Housing Authority said that participation in voucher programs may have temporarily affected payments to companies like General Services Corporation during the federal government sequester of 2013.

“Fortunately, our voucher program wasn’t affected,” said Davis. “However, in a different state, GSC properties were affected, and to make it a universal decision, they had to make it applicable to all of their properties.”

The maximum rent allowed in Chapel Hill and Carrboro to get voucher assistance for an efficiency apartment is $575 per month. For a one-bedroom apartment, it’s $711. For two bedrooms, it’s $843. The cap for three bedrooms is $1,087. And for four bedrooms, it’s $1,273.

Ellie Kinnaird, the former mayor of Carrboro and a former state senator, has been active in helping out displaced Section 8 tenants. She attended Tuesday’s news conference, and pointed out that Chapel Hill and Carrboro were grouped with Durham when the caps were figured.

Durham rents are typically lower. That makes things especially tough for low-income Chapel Hill and Carrboro residents trying to find apartments, she added.


Carrboro and Chapel Hill Mayors Hold Joint News Conference on Housing Vouchers

The Mayors of Chapel Hill and Carrboro are holding a joint news conference Tuesday to highlight the problems of low-income residents whose Housing Choice Vouchers are being rejected by local landlords.

“The existence of the housing choice vouchers is important to so many families here in our community,” said Chapel Hill mayor Mark Kleinschmidt. “We are known far and wide as a community where it’s difficult, often, to find affordable housing.”

Housing Choice Vouchers are funded through the federal government’s Department of Housing and Urban Development. In Carrboro and Chapel Hill, they are administered by Orange County government.

Eligible renters are required to pay the difference between the rent charged by the landlord and the amount subsidized by the program.

Last summer, leaders of the Towns of Chapel Hill and Carrboro began hearing that some prominent local landlords, including General Services Corporation, had stopped accepting Housing Choice Vouchers.

In Carrboro, GSC owns Estes Park, Royal Park, Carolina Apartments, Ridgewood and University Lake.

In Chapel Hill, the corporation owns PineGate, Booker Creek, Franklin Woods, and Kingswood.

According to the press release from the Town of Chapel Hill announcing today’s news conference, the refusal of some landlords to accept the vouchers displaced about 60 families.

Carrboro Mayor Lydia Lavelle told WCHL that while there was an initial outcry over that, there hasn’t been much public discussion since.

She said that now is the time to bring the issue, again, to the forefront.

“Over the course of the last year, as the folks who use these vouchers – as their leases have run up, they’ve encountered difficulty in trying to find other apartments or rental agencies that will accept housing vouchers,” said Lavelle.

She added that the conference is also part of a brainstorming process that gets the community involved in thinking through the problem.

“Several housing organizations have been meeting to try to help these residents,” said Lavelle, “as well as the Town of Chapel Hill and Town of Carrboro. We’ve been working on it as well.”

Lavelle said she hopes that other landlords in the community will respond positively.

She added that current and previous voucher users will be at the news conference, as well as some realtors that accept housing vouchers, and are happy to share their experiences.

Carrboro’s mayor said that while there are some administrative hassles for landlords that accept vouchers, those are outweighed by the advantages of honoring them.

“Often, these renters are long-term residents,” said Lavelle. “So, once you are able to establish a home, and once one of these residents is in their home, they very often become a very good tenant, and stay on for many years.”

The Carrboro Board of Aldermen discussed the situation at the last meeting in June. They agreed to allocate money from a housing trust fund to help eligible tenants pay down their deposits.

Lavelle said that Orange County is also looking at ways to streamline the process on the front end, and make it easier on landlords.

WCHL reached out to General Services Corporation’s Durham office for comment, and was referred to the corporate office in Richmond, Virginia. A message was left, and GSC had not returned the call as of Monday afternoon.

The press conference with Mayors Kleinschmidt and Lavelle will be held at 10 a.m. at Carrboro Town Commons, next to Town Hall at 301 West Main Street.


UPDATE: Missing Person Found

<<UPDATE>> The Chapel Hill Police Department has located Mr. Williams.

The Chapel Hill Police Department wants your help in locating 51-year-old Jerry Wayne Williams, who was last seen on August 3, 2014 at the group home where he resides at 1400 Ephesus Church Road.

Williams is described as a white male, standing at 5-foot-10 and weighing about 190 pounds.

Williams reportedly walked away from the group home Sunday night. He is diabetic and cognitively impaired.

If you see Williams, or have any information about his whereabouts, please call the Chapel Hill Police Department at 919-968-2760.