Franklin Street From Estes Dr to Elliott Rd Closed – Natural Gas Leak

CHAPEL HILL – Chapel Hill Police Sgt. Bryan Walker confirmed Wednesday at 10:35 a.m. that Franklin Street was closed in both directions between Estes Dr and Elliott Rd for a natural gas leak.

Sgt. Walker said he was unaware of any evacuations in the area. EMS and gas crews were on the scene managing the incident.

http://chapelboro.com/news/safety/franklin-street-from-estes-dr-to-elliott-rd-closed-natural-gas-leak/

CH Officials Warn of Fraudsters, Mosquitoes & More Rain

CHAPEL HILL- The rain kept falling Wednesday morning, even as town and county officials came together to update the community on efforts to clean up and dry out in Chapel Hill.

Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt told the crowd that Sunday’s rains and flooding were unlike anything the town has experienced in the past.

“We experienced an historic rainfall here in Chapel Hill. Five to seven inches in a 24 hour period proved to be too much for our facilities,” said Kleinschmidt.

And there may be unexpected problems in the days to come.

Chapel Hill Police Chief Chris Blue warned that fraudulent contractors may soon start going door-to-door, looking to profit from unwary flood victims.

“Those contractors are going to come knocking on doors sooner than any of us are ready for, I’m sure,” said Blue.

He urged residents to check with the Better Business Bureau and the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Chamber of Commerce for a list of approved contractors who are familiar with local regulations.

Chapel Hill Fire Chief Dan Jones said the area will see an explosion of mosquitoes, which could pose a health threat.

“Think about children that are in play areas where there maybe standing water in grass, because the mosquito influx from this amount of water is going to be huge,” said Jones.

With more rain in the forecast, Chief Jones once again warned residents not to drive through flood water, as even just a few inches are enough to pose a danger to motorists. He said emergency officials had multiple calls to rescue people trapped in stalled vehicles during Sunday’s storm.

Orange County declared a state of emergency on Tuesday. Orange County EMS Director Jim Groves said damage assessment teams are taking stock, and there is the possibility that flood victims could receive state or federal aid.

Sunday’s flooding left more than 130 residences uninhabitable. About nineteen displaced people are staying in the temporary shelter set up at Smith Middle School, while many more are staying with family or friends. Groves urged the community to reach out with any available resources.

“If people have spaces available, we encourage them to contact the social services office,” said Groves. “Also if they have clothing that they want to donate or if they have money that they want to donate to these victims, they can write a check to our department of social services.”

Officials stressed that while the clean up efforts are progressing smoothly, full recovery from the flooding could be weeks, or even months away.

If you’d like to help, or if you need help recovering from Sunday’s floods, check out the resources listed below:

Orange County Department of Social Services

Triangle Red Cross

Chapel Hill-Carrboro Chamber of Commerce

http://chapelboro.com/news/safety/ch-officials-warn-of-fraudsters-mosquitoes-and-more-rain/

OC EMS Works With Department On Aging To Keep Elderly Safe

ORANGE COUNTY-Recently, several local government departments have been focused on collaborating with each other—and for Orange County Emergency Services, that has meant working alongside the OC Department on Aging to help maintain safety in the area’s elderly residents.

OC Emergency Management Systems Operations Manager Kim Woodard says the two departments are currently working on a falls prevention program.

“It’s actually a collaboration between those two departments and UNC Hospitals,” she says. “It’s going to entail basically doing some home visits and some fall safety checklists to help prevent falls in the elderly population.”

With more than 100 employees, the OC Emergency Services Department is one of the largest departments in the county. Woodard says that makes collaborations like this one even more important.

“Emergency services in and of itself is taking four very specific professions and sort of merging them into one department: emergency management, the fire marshal life safety division, emergency medical services, and then we have the 911 side,” she says.

The falls prevention program isn’t the first time that OC Emergency Services has collaborated with another county department; Orange County EMS also just finished work with OC Social Services on a project entitled “Work First.” Woodard says the initiative was designed to keep qualified local residents employed by training them in EMT-related skills.

“We met with these folks and basically talked about how you become an EMT or paramedic, and then we walked them into the community college program that way,” she says. “Many of these folks were single parents who were down on their luck. They had to work with social services for financial assistance, and they had to be either volunteering their time or actually physically looking for work.”
As budget season approaches and the economy recovery slowly continues, many local government employees are thinking about their priorities and whether certain areas of their departments could be facing steep cuts. But OC Emergency Management Coordinator Darshan Patel says he’s optimistic that collaborations like these will be allowed to continue.

“There’s been a lot of discussion in recent times about response times and about the resources that emergency services has, and all that has culminated in a comprehensive approach to looking at the funding requirements for emergency services,” he says. “We feel that we have a strong support base in our commissioners, community partners, and municipalities to support emergency services and take us where we need to go.”

For more on Orange County Emergency Services, click here.

http://chapelboro.com/news/health/oc-ems-department-works-with-department-on-aging-to-keep-elderly-safe/

Library Planning, New Tech and EMS Upgrades Top OC Spending Plan

CHAPEL HILL- Orange County Commissioners on Tuesday took a first look at a plan to spend $209 million in capital investment projects over the next five years.

County leaders plan to spend $18.7 million in the next fiscal year on a host of projects including a library branch, communications and technology upgrades and improvements to the EMS system.

County Manager Frank Clifton told the board many of the projects on the list are the culmination of years of planning.

“Some of these projects are eight, nine, ten years old, and they’re moving forward incrementally,” said Clifton. “We’ve made a concerted effort to take projects that were at one time someone’s vision and put them into reality in the past several years. Rather than take on a lot of new projects, do something about projects we’ve committed to in the past.”

The plan sets aside $600,000 next year for design and land purchases to build a Southern Branch Library in or around Carrboro. The full project is slated to cost $8 million.

Next year’s plan also calls for $875,000 to build a stand-alone EMS station, but Commissioner Earl McKee argued that might not be necessary, given that the Orange Rural Volunteer Fire Department has agreed to co-locate an ambulance at its Phelps Road station.

“I will be advocating to push back or remove that first year EMS station completely, under the reasoning that the Phelps Road station takes the place of it,” said McKee.

Upgrades to the EMS communications system will cost $1.7 million, and the board is setting aside an additional $700,000 for other information technology needs.

By 2018, county leaders hope to complete construction on the new library, three EMS stations and a new $30 million dollar jail. The county will also spend $6.6 million to expand the Southern Human Services Center, with an eye to opening a new dental clinic in Chapel Hill to replace the Carrboro clinic that closed in 2011.

According to growth projections, no new schools are needed until 2017 at the earliest, but Commissioner Alice Gordon reminded the board that many schools in both districts are more than four decades old and may need renovation.

“I just think it’s important to underscore our conversation about the older school facilities,” said Gordon. “I bring up the Culbreth Science Lab because it’s been hanging around as an inadequate facility for so long, but it could be the first of several projects that we stage.”

This was the board’s first glance at the manager’s recommended five year spending plan. Commissioners will review the plan at a work session on April 11.

http://chapelboro.com/news/library-planning-new-tech-and-ems-upgrades-top-oc-spending-plan/