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UNCC Student From Hillsborough Dies From Fall

A UNC Charlotte student who died early Sunday morning has been identified as 18-year-old Joshua Robert Helm of Hillsborough.

Helm was a graduate of Northern High School in Durham and was in his freshman year. According to the News and Observer, police say Helm fell from a seventh-floor window of the 12-story Moore residence hall.

The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department is still investigating the incident and hasn’t ruled out whether it was an accident, suicide, or something else.

The Charlotte Observer spoke with someone who lived on the same floor as Helm who said, “If anything bothered him, you couldn’t tell.”

Health, Safety, Schools, Libraries, And Hillsborough

If you still haven’t signed up for health insurance, the Chapel Hill Public Library is holding an all-day Affordable Care Act enrollment session on Monday, March 24, from 10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.

The library is holding the session in partnership with UNC Healthcare, the League of Women Voters, Planned Parenthood, and UNC’s Student Health Action Coalition.

The deadline to sign up for health insurance in 2014 is March 31.

For more information or to reserve a time, call the Chapel Hill Public Library at 919-968-2780.


Are you a veteran or connected to the military? Orange County’s Department of Social Services is inviting you to a new event called “Military Monday,” geared especially toward veterans to make sure they have access to benefits and other federal, state, and local resources.

The first Military Monday event will take place on March 24, from 9:00 a.m. to noon at Hillsborough Commons on Mayo Street. It will be a Career/Resource Fair, with benefit assistance, career assessments, education resources, the Mobile Vet Center and more.

For more information, contact Betsy Corbett at 919-245-2890.


Hillsborough Mayor Tom Stevens will deliver his annual State of the Town address on Monday, March 24, at 7:00 p.m. in the Orange County Public Library.

Among other things, the address will include an update on the town’s Riverwalk project as well as a discussion of Hillsborough’s future population boom. The town is expected to grow by 31 percent in the next four years.

Members of the public are invited to attend. Before the speech, from 5:30-6:30, planning staff will host a public information meeting on the status of downtown access improvements.


If you’re a parent in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools and you’d like more information on the district’s dual language program, the district is offering four information sessions this spring, beginning later this month and running through May.

The Dual Language program gives students the chance to become proficient in two languages, English and either Spanish or Mandarin Chinese. The district says Dual Language students, on average, outperform their peers on standardized tests and other student growth measures.

The first information session will be for the Spanish program on Thursday, March 20, at Frank Porter Graham Elementary School. The session will be offered in Spanish from 6-7 p.m. and in English from 7-8 p.m. Two more sessions on the Spanish program will take place—at the same times of day—on Thursday, April 24 at Carrboro Elementary and on Thursday, May 22, again at FPG.

There will also be an info session on the Mandarin Chinese program on Tuesday, March 25, from 6-7 p.m. at Glenwood Elementary.


Are you excited about the proposed new Southern Branch Library in Carrboro? What do you want to see there? What do you NOT want to see there?

If you have thoughts and ideas about the library, come out to a Community Engagement Meeting hosted by Orange County. The county is actually holding two meetings: the first is Tuesday, March 25, at 6:00 at Hickory Tavern; the second is on Saturday, April 12, at noon in Carrboro Town Hall. The first 50 participants at the March 25 meeting will receive gift certificates to Hickory Tavern.


The Hillsborough Arts Council has announced a partnership with a new charter school coming to Hillsborough this August.

The Expedition School will be taking part in the Art Council’s ArtCycle program, a program that collects new and used art supplies to be used in local schools.

The Expedition School is scheduled to open its doors in August. It’s a STEM-focused school for grades K-8.


Driving around this month, you might see some new signs on the road – all part of a local campaign to remind people to pull over if they see emergency vehicles coming their way.

The campaign is called “See the Light, Pull to the Right.” The idea came from a town employee, Fire Equipment Operator Luis Rodrigues. Six new signs are being installed near major intersections in Chapel Hill.

If an emergency vehicle is approaching you from behind, take your foot off the accelerator, merge to the outside lane if possible, and pull off the side of the road to allow the vehicle to pass.


Preview: Hillsborough Mayor’s State of the Town Address

On Monday, March 24 at 7 p.m., Hillsborough Mayor Tom Stevens will deliver his State of the Town Address at the Orange County Public Library

In his eighth year in office, Stevens is declaring that The State of the Town is strong.

First of all, there’s the upcoming completion of Riverwalk, a 1.8 mile greenway along the Eno River corridor, with pedestrian connections that include Gold Park, Occonneechee Mountain, and Downtown.

“We’re making the connection from Gold Park to the downtown,” he says. “The bridges just came in – were delivered. We think, next Tuesday, they might be getting the cranes back in to lift and place the bridge.”

Stevens says that town planners have really emphasized making Hillsborough a walkable community.

“Certainly, with any new neighborhoods, we are trying to make sure that we have good connectivity, and good sidewalks,” he says. “We’re trying to infill where we can.”

He says the small-town, connected feel not only benefits Hillsborough residents who enjoy its unique character; It’s also welcoming and inclusive for anybody, whether they live in the heart of Historic Downtown, or just outside of it.

“When you live in Kenion Grove, or Churton Grove, which is actually outside the town limits, or in Cornwallis Hills, or in West End, or in Fairview, you know, you really also feel like, ‘I’m part of Hillsborough.’”

Stevens estimates it’ll be late summer by the time the trails are open to the public. Expect a big community celebration when that happens.

The population of Hillsborough has grown by about 1,000 people for each of the last three decades.

Instead of seeing a big growth in the number of people, the town enjoyed a significant growth in the number of businesses.

But now says Stevens, housing is about to catch up. Between 400 and 500 new homes will be built in Hillsborough over the next four years, which will bring in between 1,000 and 2,000 new residents. That’s a 30 percent increase in population.

Stevens says he’s excited about the prospect. After all, a town known for its architecture, restaurants and art community didn’t just spring up magically.

“I think that’s the heart of what’s special,” he says. “You can take all the parts – we have this historic architecture that’s in Hillsborough. We have this history and this narrative about how Hillsborough’s touched history.

“But all these things don’t make it,” says Stevens. “All these things contribute to it. It really is the people. And it’s the diversity of the folks that we have.”

Honors, Tours, And Curiosities!

Congratulations to Desaray Rockett, Judith Blau, and Vimala’s Curryblossom Cafe–winners of this year’s Pauli Murray Awards.

The Orange County Human Relations Commission gives out the Pauli Murray Awards each year to a youth, an adult, and a business in Orange County “who serve the community with distinction in the pursuit of equality, justice, and human rights for all residents.”

This year’s winners were honored at a ceremony on Sunday, February 23, at 3:00 in the Central Orange Senior Center. Also honored were Judah Kalb and Nathan Bell – both students at Smith Middle School, and both winners of the Orange County Human Relations Commission’s 2013 Student Essay Contest.

As part of a class on African American Studies, Kalb and Bell wrote about the lasting impact of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Kalb won first place in the essay contest; Bell took second.


UNC has honored Roberto G. Quercia, chair of the City and Regional Planning department, with the university’s 2013 C. Felix Harvey Award.

Awarded by the Provost’s office, the honor recognizes “exemplary faculty scholarship that reflects one of UNC’s top priorities and addresses a real-world challenge.” It includes a $75,000 prize, which Quercia will use to develop the Bridges2Success Scholar Athlete Support Program, an academy that trains middle and high school coaches to promote academic success among male athletes of color.

To learn more about the program, visit


You’re invited to the annual meeting of the Chapel Hill Downtown Partnership, Wednesday, March 5 at 5:30 p.m. at the Carolina Inn.

Speakers will include Chapel Hill Police Chief Chris Blue and Al Bowers, the owner of Al’s Burger Shack.


Before there were art museums and science museums, there were “Cabinets of Curiosities”: densely packed rooms where scholars and nobles displayed rare and fascinating items from shells to gems to old relics and bizarre devices.

Now, UNC’s Wilson Library is celebrating those old exhibits with an exhibit of its own, “Rooms of Wonder,” on display through April 20. The exhibit features rare books and catalogs from the old rooms–as well as items from the UNC Rare Book Collection’s own “cabinet of curiosities,” including ancient Babylonian tablets, an Egyptian papyrus roll, and an “Incan record-keeping device consisting of intricately knotted threads.”

The exhibit is free and open to the public.


Wednesday, March 5, you’re invited to campus for a free screening of the documentary “Breaking Through,” chronicling the stories of LGBT elected officials across the country–including Tammy Baldwin, the first openly gay U.S. Senator.

The film begins at 5:30 p.m. at the Nelson Mandela Auditorium in UNC’s FedEx Global Education Center. Director/producer Cindy Abel and editor Michael Bruno will be on hand, and the film will be followed by a panel discussion featuring North Carolina’s LGBT elected officials–including Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt, Carrboro Mayor Lydia Lavelle, Town Council member Lee Storrow, Alderman Damon Seils, and State Representative Marcus Brandon.

You can watch the trailer online at


Chapel Hill Tire Car Care Center just completed a successful canned food drive, collecting nearly 1,000 cans of food for the IFC by offering customers a $10 discount on oil changes if they brought in four cans of food.

IFC officials say those cans will be used to help about 450 different families in the area.

To learn how you can donate, visit


Chatham Habitat for Humanity is teaming up with the MassMutual Life Insurance Company to give away free $50,000 term life insurance policies to benefit children of working families in Pittsboro.

You are eligible to apply if you’re a permanent legal U.S. resident of good health between the ages of 19 and 42, with a total family income between $10,000 and $40,000, and a parent or legal guardian of a child under 18.

You can apply at a one-day public event on Saturday, March 8, from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. at the Chatham Habitat for Humanity office at 467 West Street in Pittsboro.


You’re invited to explore the history of Hillsborough on Saturday, March 8, with a one-hour guided walking tour hosted by the Alliance of Historic Hillsborough.

The tour begins at 11:00 a.m. at the Hillsborough Visitors Center and winds through the center of the Piedmont’s oldest town, visiting schoolhouses, old homes and cemeteries along the way.

Tickets are $5 per person; children under 12 are free.

Cold Front To Bring Frozen Precipitation

National Weather Service Senior Forecaster Scott Sharp says once the cold front moves through the Triangle between 7:00 and 7:30 Monday morning, we should expect rain to switch to sleet at about midday.

WCHL’s Ron Stutts spoke with Sharp during the WCHL Monday Morning News.

***Listen to the Interview***

Checking In With Your Community

Duke Energy Spokesperson Megan Musgrave

Chapel Hill Transit Director Brian Litchfield

Orange County Public Affairs Director Carla Banks

Chapel Hill Police Chief Chris Blue

Carrboro Mayor Lydia Lavelle

Hillsborough Mayor Tom Stevens

Carrboro Police Chief Walter Horton

Comics, Bridges, And Community Forums

ORANGE COUNTY – The DSI Comedy Theater in Carrboro is gearing up for the annual North Carolina Comedy Arts Festival, the largest comedy festival in the South. This year’s festival runs for 10 straight days from February 6-16, featuring standup, sketch comedy and improv at venues across Chapel Hill and Carrboro. Longtime comedy writer Bruce Vilanch will be among this year’s headliners.

For a complete schedule of shows, visit


The next step in Hillsborough’s Riverwalk project has been postponed by a week: two 100-foot steel prefabricated bridges were scheduled to be delivered Thursday, but delivery has been delayed to February 13.

When the bridges are delivered, it will affect traffic on Churton Street downtown. Hillsborough police will direct traffic while the trucks complete their delivery.

When they’re installed, the bridges will cross the Eno River. Construction of Riverwalk’s mile-long Phase II began in October and is slated to be completed by fall, at a cost of $1.86 million.


Orange County 4-H is holding a Community Forum on Thursday, February 6, from 6-8 p.m. at the Orange County Center on Revere Road in Hillsborough.

The forum is rescheduled from last week; it had to be postponed due to the snow.

Construction Underway On $1.8 Million Phase Of Riverwalk Project In Hillsborough

HILLSBOROUGH - Construction is underway for the second phase of the Riverwalk Greenway Trail, which runs along the Eno River in Hillsborough.

The estimated project cost is $1.86 million, according to Town Planner Stephanie Trueblood. She said construction is expected to take eight to ten months, depending on the weather. The 1-mile trail could be open as early as fall 2014 for public use.

Riverwalk Map

Riverwalk Map

Trueblood explained that it will be a part of North Carolina’s Mountains-to-Sea Trail and is the first segment of that trail to be constructed in Orange County.

“It is also one of the only parts of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail that goes directly through a downtown. Our Riverwalk goes directly into Historic Hillsborough. It is going to be very easy and convenient for people to park in Hillsborough and access the trails. If they are walking, they can come through town and stop for lunch. There is a real close marriage there between tourism and downtown businesses,” Trueblood said.

This section of the trail will provide additional public access to Hillsborough’s Gold Park and will connect the park to a trail in River Park in downtown Hillsborough.

The first section of Riverwalk opened in 2009, with nearly 1 mile of paved loop trails in Gold Park, located on Dimmocks Mill Rd. in West Hillsborough.

Trueblood said the second phase of construction will make the trail more easily accessible to visitors who use wheelchairs, bicycles, strollers and other non-motorized wheeled vehicles.

“It is an 8-foot wide primary corridor that will be paved, and two bridges are being installed which will cross the Eno River. We put into a system of loop trails, too, so that runners and bikers who want to up their mileage can loop around and have more of a paved trail.”

There are also plans for a third phase to the Riverwalk Greenway construction project, Trueblood said, adding more trail sections and sidewalk connectors.

“I am actually hoping for Phase III to be open to the public at the same time. However, it is not a part of the same construction contract. We are in a permitting phase for Phase III right now. If all goes well and we get the necessary permits and get construction started this spring, then it is possible that it could open at the same time next fall.”

The second phase of construction is partially funded by a $425,000 grant from the N.C.Parks and Recreation Trust Fund, according to a Town news release.

The town has committed more than $3 million to the project since its inception, which has been leveraged by more than $1 million in grants.

Hillsborough Is Happening This Weekend

HILLSBOROUGH – The Town of Hillsborough kicks off its holiday season Friday night with the lighting of the town tree at 7:00 p.m. on the lawn of the Old Orange County Courthouse, and the festivities continue through the weekend.

Executive director of the Hillsborough/Orange County Chamber of Commerce, Margaret Cannell says it continues Saturday morning with the Hillsborough Holiday Parade.

“Hillsborough is a beautiful town,” Cannell says. “A parade down Churton Street showcases the beauty of the town and the wonderful businesses and restaurants that we have here. We hope that lots of people will come out and watch out parade and stay for a few hours afterwards to take part in the festivities that are continuing after the parade.”

The parade begins at 10:00 a.m. After the parade, Cannell says there will be things for your eyes, ears, and of course your bellies.

“The Burwell School Historic Site is hosting cocoa and caroling on the lawn afterwards, and there will also be some storytelling and a lot of the shops are open for different events and specials,” Cannell says. “So, it’s a wonderful opportunity to be in Hillsborough.”

Sunday, Cannell says, is your chance to go inside a few of the homes you may have driven by wondering if the inside is just as beautiful. It’s the 27th Annual Hillsborough Holiday Home Tour.

“We have seven private homes and 11 public buildings participating in the tour this year,” Cannell says. “The homes range in age from the late 1700s to the early 2000s, and they’ll all be festively decorated.”

All of these events are part of the annual Holiday Happenings in Hillsborough.

For a complete list of the events, click here.

2013 Mayoral Candidate Profile: Tom Stevens

HILLSBOROUGH – Hillsborough Mayor and candidate for re-election, Tom Stevens says growth is inevitable, and he’s happy with the processes that are in place to help keep the authentic small-town character of Hillsborough going forward.

“We have a strategic plan; we have a good infrastructure in place; we have a sense of the big things that we know that are enduring about Hillsborough,” Mayor Stevens says. “That’s our history; that’s our arts; that’s our diversity; it’s the connectivity; it’s the sense of identification; it’s our neighborhoods.”

WCHL’s Ran Northam spoke with Mayor Stevens about his seeking re-election and how he believes he’ll best serve you.

***Listen to the Interview***

Mayor Stevens is running unopposed.

He says including the town’s voice will continue to be one of his top priorities as mayor.

“I really think that is the mayor’s job as much as it is anybody else,” Mayor Stevens says. “You know, I’m a professional facilitator, and I think probably the thing that I’ve contributed most already to the Town Board, to public hearings, is including many voices.”

Between now and Election Day, we’ll be previewing each of the candidates one-on-one.

For more on Mayor Stevens, click here.