Bat In Family Playroom Marks Orange County’s 6th Rabies Case

Orange County Animal Services reported the sixth case of rabies this year, following an incident in which a bat was found inside a house.

Hillsborough residents trapped a bat in an upstairs playroom of their home on Tuesday. Animal Services was called to remove it for testing.

Though no members of the household reported contact with the animal, officials say it’s possible they were inadvertently exposed if the bat was in the house overnight.

Bat bites can be undetectable, so people sleeping a room with a bat might not even know if they’ve been bitten. In this instance, no family members slept in the playroom and the door was reportedly left closed all night.

Nonetheless, a public health nurse is working with the family to determine if they should undergo post-exposure treatment.

In the United States, rabies in humans is very rare, but the few cases reported in recent years have been linked to bats. Officials say if you come in contact with a bat, it’s crucial to contain it without further contact and call Animal Services immediately. Outside of office hours, you can reach an Animal Control officer by calling 911.

You can learn more here.

Whooping Cough Confirmed in Hillsborough

A second-grader at The Expedition School in Hillsborough has tested positive for pertussis, also known as whooping cough.

“We have one confirmed case of pertussis and one suspect case of pertussis in Orange County. They are two children that are both of the same family,” says Stacy Shelp, spokesperson for the Orange County Health Department.

The Expedition School is a year-round charter school serving children from kindergarten through 6th grade.

Patricia Brummit is the school’s business director. She says administrators received word of the diagnosis Monday afternoon. Parents have been notified, and some children who came in close contact with the student are taking preventive antibiotics to limit the spread of the disease.

“We have sent out all the information from the Orange County Health Department and then parents have made their own decisions about taking their children to the doctor,” says Brummit. “We have sent home some children who are showing symptoms and coughing for a while, just to be cautious.”

Shelp says pertussis is highly contagious.

“It is spread through coughing and sneezing. The good thing is it can be prevented through vaccination, so we do recommend that children receive the DTaP, it is actually one of the required vaccinations for school unless you have either a religious or medical exemption from that.”

Symptoms include runny nose, congestion, watery eyes, fever and a cough that can worsen until patients are left gasping for air. Shelp notes it can be especially serious for infants and young children.

“They are a lot more susceptible to this and often times they either end up hospitalized or it can be fatal, so we want to make sure people who are around newborns, infants or those who are immune-compromised have received their vaccination.”

While Orange County has high rate of school-aged children who are fully vaccinated, Shelp says our area also has one of the highest exemption rates in the state.

For more on whooping cough, click here.

Confederate Flag Supporters Rally In Hillsborough

Hundreds of Confederate flag supporters gathered in downtown Hillsborough Saturday for the “Southern Heritage Ride and Rally.”

From the steps of Hillsborough Town Hall, Gary Williamson spoke to a crowd of about 600 people. There were old people, young people, families and couples. Most carried or wore the Confederate battle flag. Even toddlers waved their own pint-sized versions of the Southern Cross. Williamson’s message was that their beloved symbols were under threat.


“They are trying to take it away from us, they are trying to make it disappear,” Williamson warned. “No government, no liberal idiots, no crybabies, no anybody is going to take that away.”

The crowd cheered and gave rebel yells as drivers or motorcyclists roared by on the street below with the Confederate flag flying above their vehicles.

Photo credit: Jess Clark

Photo credit: Jess Clark

Thomas Holmes drove in from Orange Grove for the rally. His friend Jesse Britt carried a giant Confederate battle flag. But Holmes’ Southern Cross is tattooed on his arm.

“It’s where I’m from. It’s who I am. It’s my blood,” Holmes said. “My great-great-grandpa died in the Civil War. He was a prisoner of war in New York almost all the Civil War, and he escaped. And in the last six months he got killed.”

Like many in the crowd, Britt says he and his friends are frustrated that the use of the Confederate flag has come into question after the shooting at Emanuel A.M.E. in Charleston, South Carolina.

“We’ve had this flag for years, and nobody said anything about it until some nutshell comes out and shoots some people,” Britt said. “It makes no at all sense to me—why they’re putting it on the flag. It’s not us. It has nothing to do with us. It’s one nutshell that probably played video games too much and saw too much violence in his life.”

When pressed about the flag’s use by hate groups, Britt says he wouldn’t use it, while Holmes rejects the idea that the flag is associated with hatred.

“I was raised in the South, and we were never raised around that hate with the flag,” Holmes asserted. “We’ve never known the flag to have hate to it.”

Across the street, Christine Gattis disagrees. She’s beating a makeshift drum in a counter-protest of about thirty people. Many are wearing white t-shirts printed with the words “Black Lives Matter.”

“I understand that it’s their heritage,” Gattis said, “but they’re ignoring the fact of what their heritage really is. It’s about slavery. It’s what the Confederate War was about.”

To try to prove the Confederate flag is not a racist symbol, organizers of the “Southern Heritage Ride and Rally” brought in speaker H.K. Edgerton. Edgerton is a well-known supporter of the Confederate flag, and he’s African-American.

Edgerton tried to distance the Confederate flag supporters from the murderer of nine black worshipers at Emanuel A.M.E.

“If that baby boy had gone to the Sons of Confederate Veterans website, he would have learned about the place of honor and dignity that folks who looked like me earned under the Southern Cross,” Edgerton said.

“He would have learned about those trains carrying black folks on plantations all around the Southland of America who made all the implements of war for General Lee’s army. He would have learned about those black folks who made food stuffs for General Lee’s army. And while they weren’t there legally, he would have learned about all those black folks who went out beside our man and fought beside him—a man that he not only called ‘master,’ but a man he called ‘family,’ and ‘friend.’”

Edgerton is, surprisingly, a former president of the Asheville NAACP. He was a hit with the virtually all-white crowd, especially when he made this statement:

“The only people that ever cared for black folks is the Christian man in the Southland of America. White folks in the Southland of America care more for black folks than they care for themselves.”

But his words disturbed Hillsborough resident Robyn Davis-Ellison. Davis-Ellison is African-American and so are her two sons. They watched Edgerton speak from the edge of the crowd.

H.K. Edgerton conducts the crowd in singing "Dixie." Photo credit: Jess Clark

H.K. Edgerton conducts the crowd in singing “Dixie.” Photo credit: Jess Clark.

“I don’t think he believes what he’s spewing,” Davis-Ellison said, aghast. “I don’t know how he can believe it, because he watches television. He sees everything on. I’m sure he was raised by African-Americans. He seems older than me, so I know the stuff I was taught to believe. And I think he’s a token, and maybe that equals money.”

Event organizers did pay Edgerton 400 dollars to speak with money raised through a GoFundMe page. Edgerton says he makes a full-time job being an activist for the protection of Confederate symbols.

“I spend seven days a week fighting for my babies in the Southland of America and my flag,” Edgerton said. “My computer right now when I left this morning had 47,000 emails and 30,000 Facebook messages. My babies are crying out for help all over the land.”

While the rally drew people from as far as Virginia, it was not as large as the Town of Hillsborough anticipated. Protestors from both sides crossed the street to share their views. And while some had angry words, the rally appeared to be peaceful.

Hundreds Gather in Hillsborough to Support Confederate Flag

Several hundred confederate flag supporters gathered in downtown Hillsborough Saturday for a ‘Southern Heritage Ride and Rally.’

It was pitched as an educational event to learn more about the history of the flag and other Confederate memorials. WCHL’s Jess Clark was there, listen below:


Last Thursday, on the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act, NC NAACP leaders held a press conference aimed to “promote the accurate history of ugly racist policies and symbols of hatred.”

NAACP Protests Hillsborough ‘Ride and Rally’

More than 150 people gathered in front of the historic Hillsborough courthouse for the North Carolina NAACP’s “Press Conference for Historical Accuracy.” The crowd included elected officials, local NAACP leaders and residents of many races, some waving small American flags.

North Carolina NAACP leader Rev. William Barber said his organization called the conference to mark 50 years since the passage of the Voting Rights Act and to protest the 2013 state voting laws and moves by the 2015 legislature to protect Confederate monuments.

“Our current legislature and governor will protect monuments and flags of our racist past that fuels racism in our present, but they refuse to protect voting rights.”

The NAACP press conference in Hillsborough came two days before as many as 1,500 Confederate flag supporters are expected to converge upon the town for Saturday’s “Southern Heritage Ride and Rally.” The rally was organized in response to efforts to remove the words “Confederate Memorial” from the Orange County Historical Museum.

“When we equate Southern heritage with pro-confederate rhetoric and symbols, we are falling victim to the lie of Southern heritage—a lie that so many of my white brothers and sisters have been fed for their entire lives,” said Laurel Ashton, field secretary for the North Carolina NAACP. She was one of many speakers at Thursday’s press conference who expressed skepticism about the history and values behind Confederate symbols.

“An accurate reading of history shows us that most Confederate monuments were erected 50 years after the war to celebrate a successful campaign of violent white terrorism to crush Reconstruction,” Ashton said. “An accurate reading of history shows us that it wasn’t until the 1950s when the Confederate flag became main-stream after a rise in white supremacy groups following the passage of Brown v. Board of Education.”

Rev. Barber called on Governor Pat McCrory and the General Assembly to repeal the monuments bill, saying the Confederate symbols it protects represent white supremacy.

“And if you push white supremacy to the nth degree, it means that you have the right to kill or destroy anybody that’s not like you,” Barber warned. “That’s dangerous. It’s dangerous yes, in the mind of Dylann Roof, but it is even more dangerous when it is supported by governors and legislatures of the state because it gives a legitimacy to it.”

The North Carolina NAACP will continue its protest of the state legislature and the removal of sections from the Voting Rights Act in a 170-mile march across North Carolina. The 170 miles are part of a larger march organized by the national NAACP. Like the historic march for voting rights in 1965, this summer’s march begins in Selma, Alabama, and ends in Washington, D.C.

Hillsborough Rally Planner Says Hate Groups Are Stealing Her Heritage

Kiley Mangum is a resident of Hillsborough and one of the organizers of the “Southern Heritage Ride and Rally” that’s expected to draw upward of 1,000 people this Saturday. Mangum says local and national events prompted her to plan the rally.

“One of the main reasons surrounded the Confederate Memorial building in Hillsborough, because they’re wanting to take the lettering off of it. From what I know, it has not been an issue until all this crazy stuff started going on and people started throwing up racism and tying it in with the Charleston shooting,” says Mangum. “I think we need to conserve that building. To me, it’s a big part of history; it goes all the way back to 1934. It’s really about conserving Confederate history.”

Some Hillsborough town leaders are pushing to remove the words “Confederate Memorial” from a building on Churton Street erected in 1934 by the Daughters of the Confederacy to serve as a whites-only library.

Today the building houses the Orange County Historical Museum. But some argue the inscription is a reminder of the injustices of slavery and the Jim Crow era. Members of the Historical Society say it deters visitors. They petitioned the town in June to take the lettering down.

As Hillsborough debated the fate of those few words, the Charleston, S.C. church shooting of nine black parishioners by an avowed racist white man who wielded the Confederate flag on social media set off nationwide controversy about the meaning of the flag. That debate resulted in the flag’s removal from outside the South Carolina state capitol. Across North Carolina, confederate monuments have been vandalized by those who see them as symbols of racist ideologies.

Mangum says that’s not right.

“It’s just not fair. They’ve been here so many years and it’s just all of a sudden there are so many complaints and so many people are upset by them. It’s all because of a few people want to use the flag for their own stupid purposes and not for what it really means. It’s not right. It ain’t fair.”

Saturday’s gathering is organized by a group called Orange County Taking Back Orange County. The rally will feature songs and speeches, with a focus on education. Mangum says her goal is to change the way people view the Confederate flag.

“We would love to,” says Mangum. “A lot of people have it set in their head that the Confederate flag is just nothing but slavery and racism and they tie it in with KKK groups. We’re nothing like that. We have nothing to do with any type of hate group whatsoever.”

When it comes to explaining what the Confederate flag means to her, she says it’s hard to put into words.

“To me it means, people fought and died for that, for what they believed in. It’s just like the American soldier today. They fight for what they feel is right.”

Mangum worries hate groups have stolen the symbols of her heritage.

“Everybody thinks, ‘Oh, you’re southern so you must be a racist or you must be a part of a hate group.’ It’s becoming a big deal now. The biggest part about it is, hate groups, they don’t only use the Confederate flag, they also use the American flag. But the American flag isn’t being talked about. It’s not being complained about.”

Despite this, she says she doesn’t see the need to go the extra mile to distance herself from those groups that do use the Confederate flag to promote racism.

“I know what’s in my heart,” says Mangum. “I know where I stand.”

The Southern Heritage Ride and Rally will feature a caravan of vehicles driving from Burlington to Hillsborough, followed by a two hour gathering at 2 o’clock on the lawn of Town Hall. Police are warning of traffic delays throughout the afternoon.

‘Southern Heritage’ Rally Could Bring 1,500 to Hillsborough on Saturday

The Town of Hillsborough is preparing for a rally in support of Confederate heritage this Saturday that’s expected to draw more than 1,500 people.

Billed as an “educational rally about Confederate heritage,” the event is organized by a group called Orange County Taking Back Orange County.

Members are hoping to draw attention to an effort by Hillsborough leaders to remove the words “Confederate Memorial” from a building built in 1934 that now serves as the Orange County Historical Museum.

The “Southern Heritage Ride and Rally” was inspired by a similar event in Alamance County last month that drew more than 1,000 supporters. Participants will drive from Burlington to Hillsborough then gather at 2 o’clock on the lawn of Town Hall for two hours of songs and speeches.

In a press release, Police Chief Duane Hampton says: “This is going to be a very challenging event for public safety to manage, and we are asking for and appreciate the community’s patience and help as this event happens.”

Multiple law enforcement and emergency management agencies will be on hand to direct traffic. Officials are asking “citizens who would like to express a counter view… to do so at another time.”

Police are also warning of traffic delays before and after the event. In addition to the rally, the Carolina Tarwheels Bikefest event is slated to come through Hillsborough on Saturday, with 850 cyclists visiting historic sites in and around town.

Police are reminding the public that weapons and alcohol are not allowed at the rally. You can learn more about parking options and street closings here.

In response to the planned “Southern Heritage” rally, the North Carolina chapter of the NAACP is hosting an event Thursday morning in Hillsborough called a “News Conference for Historical Accuracy.”

Reverend William Barber will commemorate the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and address the Governor’s decision to sign a bill protecting Confederate monuments.

That gets underway at 11 a.m. in front of the historic Orange County Courthouse at the corner of North Churton and East King streets in downtown Hillsborough.

Hillsborough Mother Charged with Leaving Infant Behind After Wreck

A Hillsborough woman is facing felony charges after fleeing the scene of an accident and leaving her 15-month old child strapped in the back seat.

27-year-old Tiffany Utsman made her first court appearance on Friday afternoon facing charges of felony negligent child abuse causing serious physical injury, felony hit and run involving injury, and Driving While Impaired.

Court records show the wreck happened around seven o’clock Thursday evening on Ben Johnson Road, in Hillsborough, near Utsman’s home. Utsman allegedly hit a tree causing the vehicle to flip, at which point she fled the scene on foot – leaving her toddler behind in the vehicle. Utsman allegedly ran down portions of railroad tracks before she was ultimately found in a resident’s bathroom – no word at this time on how she ended up in the bathroom.

Utsman is being held on a $20,000 bond and has a court date scheduled for August 17.

Reports of Smoke Spur Concerns Over Fate of Hillsborough’s Colonial Inn

Hillsborough town leaders hope to speed up the process of restoring the Colonial Inn following a pair of frustrating encounters with the current owner.

Mayor Tom Stevens says firefighters responded to reports of smoke coming from the Colonial Inn on Tuesday.

“Apparently the owner, Francis Henry, was burning some materials- some papers- in the fireplace to dispose of them,” says Stevens. “People saw the smoke, there was a call made, the fire department responded. It was merely the owner burning things in the fireplace. There was then a visit from the Fire Marshal, who strongly suggested he not do that.”

This comes one night after Henry and his legal representatives met with the Hillsborough Board of Commissioners to discuss a plan to save the 176-year-old building, which has fallen into disrepair since Henry bought it in 2002. The building was condemned in 2011. Henry was ordered to vacate the premises the following year.

Although the fire was controlled inside a fireplace, Stevens says he’s worried by Tuesday’s incident.

“What’s the owner doing there at all? He does own the property and have some rights to come in and supposedly be working on repairs, so that’s where it gets really questionable as to what reason is he really there?”

Henry asked the Historic District Commission in 2014 for permission to demolish the building, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Commission denied the request, a ruling that was later upheld by the town Board of Adjustment. Henry did not pursue further appeals.

In a bid to save the iconic inn, town leaders in January contracted with the Development Finance Initiative of the UNC School of Government to determine how best to bring the building back into public use.

Monday’s meeting was a chance for Henry to respond to that report and put forward a plan to collaborate with the town, but Stevens says that didn’t go as many had hoped.

“We were hopeful about this and I think we were pretty disappointed that there did not seem to be much of a plan other than batting around ideas,” says Stevens. “This is very similar to what we’ve been hearing before.”

All this leads Stevens to say the town may pursue more aggressive measures to protect the Colonial Inn from further neglect.

The town could conduct repairs then place a lien against the structure for the cost of those repairs. Officials could also explore seizing the building through eminent domain.

“I suspect we will be looking at the longer-term options about what sort of direction we are heading in, based on the responses we got that were fairly frustrating. It’s becoming more of a public safety issue. Certainly, the building is not in great shape and with every day that goes by, it’s not getting better.”

But, Stevens notes, there’s still hope for one of Hillsborough’s most famous landmarks.

“There are buildings that are in far worse condition that have been restored, so we know that if there were ownership and effort put into the building, at least the façade and the core of the building could be restored and put to good use.”

For a full timeline of the controversy surrounding the Colonial Inn, click here.

Races Heat Up For CHCCS, H’boro Town Board

We’re almost through the filing period for local elections – and on Wednesday, four new candidates added their hats to the ring.

Incumbent David Saussy and challenger Pat Heinrich are now officially in the race for Chapel Hill-Carrboro City School board. Saussy is running for his first full term; he was appointed to the Board last December to fill the seat left vacant by Mia Burroughs when she got elected to the Board of County Commissioners.

Saussy and Heinrich join incumbent Annetta Streater and challengers Rani Dasi, Theresa Watson, and Margaret Samuels in what is now a six-person race for four open seats on the board. Two other incumbents, Jamezetta Bedford and Mike Kelley, haven’t announced their intentions yet. (Bedford, though, has previously indicated that she was not planning to run again.)

And the race for Hillsborough Board of Commissioners also heated up Wednesday with two more candidates: incumbent commissioner Brian Lowen and challenger Ashley DeSena.

DeSena currently works as operations coordinator for the Pope Center for Higher Education, but she spent nearly five years as program coordinator at the Alliance for Historic Hillsborough from 2010 until this February. She also serves as vice chair of Hillsborough’s Parks and Recreation Board.

Also in the race for Hillsborough town commissioner: incumbent Evelyn Lloyd and challenger Mark Bell.

See the full list of candidates who have filed to date.

The filing period ends on Friday at noon.