UNC Report on Colonial Inn: $3 Million Investment Needed

A UNC School of Government report on Hillsborough’s Colonial Inn gives stakeholders some hard numbers to consider when it comes to saving the rundown 176-year-old building.

On January 12, the Hillsborough Board of Commissioners voted to pay $8,500 to the school’s Development Finance Initiative to analyze different models for making the Colonial Inn an attraction for private developers.

DFI works exclusively with local governments, with the goal of attracting private development and investment in community projects.

Christy Raulli is associate director for DFI.

“So we put together a development budget,” said Raulli, “to give them that total project cost – how much a developer could access from federal tax credits; If the North Carolina State Historic Tax Credit comes back, how much they could likely access through that.

“So, how much a developer could access from debt and equity though a variety of sources. And then we calculate what the gap is.”

According to DFI, the project cost is close to $3 million – mostly, in renovations.

Mayor Tom Stevens and town Commissioners looked at that report on Monday night.

“They said that the value of it, currently – depending on which model – is somewhere between $142,000, and less than zero,” said Stevens.

As it stands, private developers could expect about a 3 percent return on that $3 million investment. Generally, developers are looking for between 18 and 20 percent.

So now, the task of town government is to sweeten the pot somehow.

“The cost of the rehabilitation would make it prohibitive for the town to just take it on as a solo project,” said Stevens.

Grants, tax breaks, philanthropic contributions and various incentives could make the Colonial Inn more appealing to developers, although it may take willingness on their part to lower expectations on a return.

One sticking point that remains is the asking price for the property. Owner Francis Henry, who purchased the Colonial Inn at auction for $410,00 in 2001, has found himself in some legal battles with the town over the upkeep of the place.

Now, the ball is in his court to come up with an asking price developers can live with, if he even chooses to sell. He’s turned down several offers.

Still, the mayor said he is hopeful.

“Francis Henry did, in fact, come to one of our board meetings, and presented us with a letter, and said he was appreciative of the process,” said Stevens. “I believe he saw that the town was going to fund this – which is an independent third party – to take a look at the inn. I think that was perceived as a positive step, and as an investment the town was willing to make upfront.”

Stevens said he’s just glad that stakeholders now have realistic numbers to look at.

“I would be surprised if nothing is happening in the next six months,” said Stevens. “I think, at that point, the town would probably want to flex its muscles a little bit.”


Former Hillsborough Officer Pleads Guilty to Indecent Liberties with a Child

A former Hillsborough Police Corporal has received a sentence of 20-to-33 months, with active jail time suspended, for two counts of indecent liberties with a minor.

James Riley Jr. pleaded guilty on March 23, in Orange County Superior Court, according to court records.

Riley began working with the Hillsborough Police Department as an officer in January 2004, according to the department. He was dismissed from his position on July 23, 2013, three days after the town placed him on administrative leave following an internal investigation.

After receiving a complaint of potential misconduct by an off-duty officer, the department opened an investigation into Riley. The town contacted state authorities after their investigation found potential criminal misconduct.

The Orange County District Attorney’s Office filed charges against Riley in April of last year.

Riley’s use of his position as an officer, even while working off duty, was cited as an aggravating circumstance by the court in determining his sentence. He is on probation, was placed on the N.C. sex offender registry and was ordered to perform community service.


Arrest Made in Hillsborough Attempted Armed Robbery

An arrest has been made in connection with a December 23, 2014, attempted armed robbery in Hillsborough.

US Marshals arrested 24-year-old Jermaris Dejuann Bolden after Hillsborough Police issued warrants for his arrest on charges of Attempted Robbery with a Dangerous Weapon and Assault with a Deadly Weapon with Intent to Kill Inflicting Serious Injury.

During the attempted armed robbery, Hillsborough investigators say that Bolden approached two victims and demanded to turn over their property while being held at gunpoint. During the incident, one of the victims attempted to disarm the suspect by physically grabbing the gun. The gun discharged striking both victims, before one was able to wrestle the gun away and shot the suspect in the leg.

Both victims were treated and released from UNC Hosptial.

Marshals arrested Bolden on the charges on Friday, in Greensboro. Bolden was transported to the Guilford County Jail, where he is currently being held on the charges.


This Month, “The War Ends” In Hillsborough

In Hillsborough in April 1865, more than 90,000 Confederate soldiers under the command of General Joseph E. Johnston surrendered to Union General William T. Sherman. It was the largest surrender in the war, effectively ending the Civil War in North and South Carolina as well as Georgia and Florida.

This month, the town of Hillsborough and the Alliance for Historic Hillsborough mark the 150th anniversary of that event with a month-long commemoration called “The War Ends at Home: Hillsborough 1865.”

It begins on Saturday, April 4: from 10-11 am, local historian Steve Peck will lead group tours of the Old Town Cemetery near the corner of N. Churton and W. Tryon Streets. The commemoration continues all month long: highlights include an ongoing exhibit about one-room schoolhouses at the Orange County Historical Museum; a lecture on former slave and Mary Todd Lincoln confidant (and Hillsborough native) Elizabeth Hobbs Keckly on April 29 – and “This Unfaltering Faith,” an exploration of the role of churches in Civil War Hillsborough, with events at several churches in town that date back to the era.

WCHL’s Aaron Keck spoke about “The War Ends at Home” with Alliance for Historic Hillsborough executive director Sarah DeGennaro and St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church Rector Brooks Graebner.

For a full schedule of events, click here. The commemoration runs all through April, with some ongoing exhibitions continuing into May.


Hillsborough Police Search for Suspect in Shooting

Hillsborough police are looking for the gunman who shot someone in the wrist.

The incident happened around 3 o’clock Thursday afternoon on West Hill Avenue. The victim was treated at UNC Hospitals for non-life threatening injuries.

Police are looking for a black Chevrolet Malibu with tinted windows and factory wheels, but Lieutenant Simmons says they have little information about who was in the car.

“This is one of those ones where we have a vehicle description, but we don’t really have good descriptions of suspects, or descriptions of suspects at all really,” says Simmons. “There’s a white male driver and we’re unsure about the passengers.”

Anyone with information is asked to contact the Hillsborough Police Department at (919) 732-9381.


Hillsborough PD Looking for Appliance Thieves

Hillsborough Police are seeking information regarding a series of break-ins.

Lieutenant Simmons with the Hillsborough Police Department says the string of incidents have a common theme.

“We’re seeing a rash of break-ins in new homes under construction,” he says. “They’re going into the new homes and stealing appliances.”

Nine dishwashers of various makes and models have been removed from new residences in three construction sites between February 23 and March 14. Damage from each occurrence is in excess of $35,000.

Police are seeking two suspects, one male (pictured above) and one female (pictured below).


Police have identified possible suspect vehicles as a newer model white minivan (possibly a Toyota Sienna or similar) and a white Ford F250/F350 Super Duty pickup truck with small lights on the roof and a toolbox in the truck bed.

Hillsborough_1 Hillsborough_2

If you see any suspicious activity, specifically around new construction sites, you are asked to notify authorities.

“Any suspicious activity that they see, even if it turns out to be something that’s legitimate,” Simmons says. “We’d like to be able to check on each individual instance to make sure that it’s not something going on.

“Construction sites are places that are typically dormant when the construction workers are gone. And if there’s just one random vehicle in there, we’d like to get a call on that.”

Simmons says they have no indication at this time the suspects have any connection to the construction crews that are working on the sites where appliances were stolen.


Apply Now For Hillsborough’s First “Citizens Academy”

The town of Hillsborough is inviting you to learn more about how local government functions – as part of its first-ever Citizens Academy.

The Citizens Academy is a six-week course designed to help you learn more about town government – and to get folks more interested in getting involved as well. It begins on Wednesday, March 11, and runs for six weeks, with classes from 7-9 pm every Wednesday through April 15 held mostly at Durham Tech’s Orange County campus. (There will also be one Saturday session – a tour of the town’s water and sewer system on March 28.)

Read the town’s full news release.

Hillsborough Mayor Tom Stevens says it’s part of a town-wide effort to “be more systematic” about transparency and getting people engaged – because, he says, that effort makes for better government.

“We want to make sure there’s a wide pool of citizens who are available to serve on advisory boards, or perhaps even run for office – or if nothing else, just give us feedback on the budget and some of the policies that we’re doing,” Stevens says. “It really does make a difference, we do listen to people, (and) it’s very important to get different viewpoints, (because) that helps us all arrive at better decisions.”

Read the course syllabus, including the topics for each week.

The deadline to apply for the Citizens Academy is Monday. Priority goes to Hillsborough residents, but everyone is welcome.

To apply for the Citizens Academy, click here.


In Hillsborough, Just Seven People To Clear The Roads

With more than an inch of snow expected to fall, plus a quarter inch of ice, local road crews were out all night trying to keep the streets drivable.

In Hillsborough, Mayor Tom Stevens says all that work is done by a skeleton crew of just seven people.

“These guys are unsung heroes,” he says. “We have seven in the department, and they’re doing good work out there.”

Stevens says about half the crew was out during the nighttime hours, and the rest will be out today. They’ll be clearing the roads of as much snow as possible – but Stevens says it still won’t be ideal.

“There’s very little we can do about the ice, if it gets to be icy out there,” he says. “We just have to wait it out like everybody else.”

The winter storm warning is in effect until 9 am.


Google Fiber Won’t Reach Hillsborough

Google Fiber is coming to the Triangle!

…Just not the entire Triangle.

In response to a flurry of questions following last week’s announcement from Google, the town of Hillsborough on Friday released a statement reminding everyone that Hillsborough is not one of the communities included in the program.

Google Fiber will be coming to Chapel Hill and Carrboro, as well as Raleigh, Durham, Cary, Garner, and Morrisville. (Pittsboro is also not on the list.)

The full statement from the Town of Hillsborough is below.

The Town of Hillsborough welcomes the ultra-fast network connections that Google Fiber is bringing to the Triangle; however, the town is not among the communities receiving this service.

The town has been in communication with Google and is open to finding ways to receive a fiber-optic network for increased broadband service within the community. At this time, no plans exist for service from Google Fiber. Competitors offering ultra-fast Internet connections may be an option for the town.

Google Fiber will be provided in the following Triangle locations: Carrboro, Cary, Chapel Hill, Durham, Garner, Morrisville and Raleigh.

In Hillsborough, Orange County government is working with Time Warner Cable to provide wireless Internet service to a portion of the downtown. Service is planned for the Churton Street corridor between the Eno River and Tryon Street. The county and town also are discussing expanding the service to other common spaces around town that would benefit from public wireless access points.


Vote For Hillsborough As “America’s Coolest Small Town”!

It’s time to head online and vote once again for Hillsborough in Budget Travel’s “America’s Coolest Small Town” contest!

Hillsborough was the nation’s top vote-getter in the first phase of the online vote – but now the scores have reset to zero as the top 15 vote-getters move into the semifinals. The top 10 will get a write-up in Budget Travel magazine – but the leading vote-getter this time will be crowned “America’s Coolest Small Town” for the year 2015.

Click here to vote.

You can vote online once a day, every day, from now through February 25 by visiting BudgetTravel.com; it takes less than a minute to vote. Right now Hillsborough is running third, with Grand Marais, Minnesota in the lead. (It’s on Lake Superior, an hour south of the Canadian border.)

WCHL’s Aaron Keck spoke with Hillsborough Mayor Tom Stevens, as the town starts working to get out the vote.


You can sign up for daily reminders to vote by visiting this page on the town’s website, www.ci.hillsborough.nc.us.

Photo via the Town of Hillsborough.

Photo via the Town of Hillsborough.