Orange County Weathered Recession Better Than Most

An advocacy group’s analysis shows more North Carolinians are out of work now than before the recession.

North Carolina’s unemployment rate has dropped sharply since the darkest days of the recession. But the state still has more people looking for work than it did before the start of the Great Recession in 2007, according to Patrick McHugh, an economist for the North Carolina Justice Center, a left-leaning advocacy group.

“There are 100 counties in North Carolina and over 60 of them still have fewer jobs than existed before the recession hit,” McHugh said.

This statistic may have you scratching your head if you know that North Carolina as a whole has gained jobs since 2007. But McHugh says those job gains are concentrated in a few counties in the state.

And in the metropolitan areas where there has been job growth, McHugh says employment hasn’t kept up with the rise in population.

“Even if you only look at metropolitan areas—the 15 metropolitan areas that exist in the state—every single one of them actually has seen more growth in unemployed people than in employed people,” McHugh said.

Economists measure Chapel Hill and Durham together as one of the state’s metropolitan areas, and its residents did not escape the overall trend.

“The Chapel Hill – Durham area, if you compare back to 2007, has seen about an 8 percent increase in the number of people who are employed and almost 50 percent growth in the number of people who are unemployed.”

Orange County had a 5 percent unemployment rate for June, which is still higher than it was before the recession. But McHugh says compared to most of the state, Orange County has it pretty good.

“Orange County has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the state, and has seen decent job growth since the start of the recession.”

McHugh says the university presence and the county’s proximity to Research Triangle Park had a lot to do with its ability to weather the recession. McHugh says those employers also kept Chapel Hill and Durham’s wages up, even as wages have fallen in other metropolitan areas.

“If we adjust for inflation and we compare back to 2007, the average hourly wage in Raleigh has gone down by about two dollars, the average hourly wage in Charlotte has gone down just slightly by about 30 cents.  In fact, about half of the metropolitan areas in the state have seen wages not keep up with inflation.”

Chapel Hill and Durham have the highest wage growth in the state, with an increase of $4.50 per hour.

McHugh says he believes raising the state’s minimum wage would boost earnings and employment. June was the fourth straight month unemployment has increased in the state.

Carrboro Police Make 2 Arrests in Break-In

Carrboro Police have made two arrests in connection with an armed robbery.

Carrboro Police Captain Chris Atack says officers were called to the scene of a reported armed home invasion at Estes Park Apartments at 1:18 Tuesday morning.

“Upon arrival, officers discovered that two people had tried to force their way into an apartment with a weapon,” he says. “By the time officers arrived, the suspects had fled the area.

“We used one of our canines to track one of the suspects. And the track went for a period of time and actually our canine needed to be relieved by a Chapel Hill canine. And when the Chapel Hill canine took over, apparently the suspect was very near to where our canine had tired out.”

Atack says – with the help of the four-legged partners – police were able to take 29-year-old Joseph Moran into custody. Atack says after further investigation 29-year-old Jared Grant was also arrested.

Atack adds both suspects required medical attention upon their arrest.

“Both Mr. Moran and Mr. Grant suffered injuries as a result of the residents defending themselves,” he says. “They had not serious injuries, but they were significant injuries.”

Atack says this does not appear to be a random act, at this time.

“There was a nexus that led these people to a certain location,” he says, “and it’s not a random event.”

Atack says, because of that, police do not believe this is connected with a string of armed robberies in the area.

“Different folks, different MO, we don’t feel there’s any involvement,” he says. “We’re not sure exactly where this idea came from, but we don’t believe this is part of a greater trend at this point.

“We think it’s a singular event.”

Moran was charged with First Degree Burglary and Attempted Robbery with a Dangerous Weapon. He is being held under a $105,000 bond. The Orange County Court calendar shows Moran with a scheduled appearance for Wednesday afternoon on those two charges as well as felony possession with intent to sell cocaine, felony possession of a scheduled 1 controlled substance, and a misdemeanor count of carrying a concealed weapon.

Grant will be transported to the custody of the Orange County Jail after his release from UNC Hospital.

Atack says the police department wants to take this opportunity to encourage residents to notify authorities if they see anything suspicious.

“We always want to come out and check on things before there’s a problem,” he says.

If you have additional information regarding the Carrboro break in, you are asked to contact Carrboro Police or Crime Stoppers.

Suspect in Triple-Fatal Crash Released on $1 Million Bond

Chandler Michael Kania been released from the Orange County jail after posting bond, according to his attorney.

The 20-year-old Kania was being held under a $1 million bond while he faces three counts of second-degree murder, among other charges, in connection with a triple-fatal crash on I-85 last Sunday, July 19.

READ MORE: Bond Stays at $1 Million in Triple-Fatal Crash

Roger Smith Jr., one of two attorneys representing Kania, told WCHL that, “his family has taken him home to Asheboro where he will be under house arrest.”

Kania – who is a rising junior at UNC – is accused of driving his 2005 Jeep Wrangler the wrong way on I-85 for at least six miles before crashing head on into a 2007 Suzuki, killing three of the four passengers; 49-year-old Felicia Harris; 46-year-old Darlene McGee; and six-year-old Jahnice Baird. Nine-year-old Jahnia King was the lone survivor from the Suzuki; she suffered two broken bones in her left leg and a broken right collarbone, according to officials.

READ MORE: Kania Charged with 3 Counts of 2nd Degree Murder

Smith went on to say in the statement that Kania would immediately seek medical care and physical therapy for his broken right ankle, broken left foot, and broken left arm.

He adds that, once he has recovered from his injuries and is physically able, he will focus on other areas of treatment.

READ MORE: Head-On Collision on I-85 Kills Three

Judge Charles Anderson said at a hearing on Monday that he would only consider lowering the bond if attorneys agreed Kania would be placed in an alcohol treatment facility.

Smith says Chandler and the Kania family continue to grieve and mourn for the victims and their families.

READ MORE: Kania Family “Devastated” After Crash

Kania’s next court appearance is slated for August 10.

Bond Stays at $1 Million in Triple Fatal Crash

A judge denied the request that the bond be lowered in the triple-fatal wrong-way crash on I-85 last Sunday, July 19.

Roger Smith Jr. and Wade Smith appeared on behalf of 20-year-old Chandler Michael Kania in Orange County Court, on Monday, to appeal to Judge Charles Anderson for a lower bond.

“The plan would be for him to go home to his family in Asheboro, where he has the support there,” Roger Smith says. “Any other conditions that you want to impose on him, which I know you did on last Thursday, curfew, electronic house arrest…a continuing alcohol monitoring device; any of those are just fine.

“But I certainly hope you would consider reducing the bond from where it currently sits, and I would suggest to the court – I hope it’s ok – that you would set a bond at $250,000.”

Anderson denied the request, leaving the bond as it was originally set at $1 million, as Kania’s mother cried from her seat in the courtroom.

READ MORE: Kania Charged with 3 Counts of 2nd-Degree Murder

Kania is charged with three counts of second-degree murder among a litany of other charges related to the crash. He is accused of drunkenly driving the wrong way on Interstate 85 for nearly six miles before crashing head on into another vehicle, killing three of the four passengers.

Search warrants released on Monday show investigators believe Kania used a fake ID to drink alcohol at La Residence and He’s Not Here.

In arguing for a bond reduction, Smith touted Kania’s past – including serving as Student Body President at Asheboro High School and his lack of a criminal history.

But Assistant District Attorney Jeff Nieman put forward the state still considered Kania a danger to himself and others, as well as a flight risk – even though Kania has surrendered his passport.

“I concede there’s not a history of flight,” Nieman says. “But as I said on Thursday, those who would say he has no reason to flee would have also said there’s no reason to believe that he would have been operating a motor vehicle impaired by alcohol and killing three people last Sunday morning.”

Nieman adds he considers the state’s case to be very strong and Kania could face up to 65 years in prison if convicted on all charges.

READ MORE: Head-On Collision on I-85 Kills Three

Kania was not present in the courtroom Monday as he recovers from surgery on a broken right ankle, broken left foot, and broken left arm.

Nine-year-old Jahnia King is the lone survivor of the car struck by Kania’s 2005 Jeep Wrangler; she suffered two broken bones in the lower left leg and a broken right collarbone, according to Nieman’s statement last Thursday.

49-year-old Felicia Harris, 46-year-old Darlene McGee, and six-year-old Jahnice Baird were all killed in the crash.

Bakojo Oguntola is McGee’s cousin. He spoke after the hearing.

“I’m happy that the judge decided to hold the bond where it is,” he says. “It’s quite evident that the guy is guilty of the charges.”

But Oguntola adds his family doesn’t hold any malice in their hearts toward Kania or his family.

“He’s a victim as well, but like I said earlier, he’s a victim of his choices,” Oguntola says. “He’s a victim of the choices that he made. And he’s a murderer. A drunk driver.

“And we’ve seen this scenario so many times in this country. He’s a drunk driver. Whether he’s 20, 30, 40, or 50, it still comes out to be the same thing.”

Oguntola says he is at the hearing to fight for justice for those killed.

“There’s no mystery that privileged people have a way of pushing things under the rug,” he says. “And there has to be accountability.

“And we choose to be here to make sure that we have an eye on the situation; that in case family have an opportunity to speak up, then our voices can be heard – because Darlene’s voice cannot be heard. But we can speak on her behalf.”

He adds the family is still in mourning and they will keep Kania’s relatives in their thoughts.

“My heart goes out to his family, to his mother, and his father, his siblings, because they’re suffering a loss as well,” he says. “But it doesn’t negate the loss that we’re dealing with. It doesn’t negate the six-year-old. It doesn’t negate Darlene.

“Darlene doesn’t have a criminal record. Darlene worked two jobs. She was just a good person.”

READ MORE: Kania Family “Devastated” After Crash

Anderson said, during the initial appearance last Thursday, the case involved unimaginable horror. He followed up that statement, on Monday, with more questions about what we should be doing as a society to prevent these losses in the future.

“It begs the question, ‘What are we doing wrong in this world?’” he asks. “On college campuses all over the state and all over the country, we’re not better preparing our most privileged, intelligent, entitled children on how to handle alcohol.”

Anderson did say he was open to reducing the bond if the attorneys agreed for Kania to attend a rehab facility upon his release.

Kania’s next court appearance is set for August 10.

Kania Charged with 3 Counts of 2nd Degree Murder

The 20-year-old UNC student charged in the fatal crash on I-85 on Sunday made his first court appearance on Thursday.

Chandler Michael Kania was taken directly from UNC Hospitals to the Orange County Courthouse to appear before District Judge Charles Anderson. After being wheeled into the courtroom, Kania was served with additional felony charges including three counts of second-degree murder.

Kania Court_2




“The allegation is that he did unlawfully, willfully, and feloniously, with malice aforethought kill and murder Felicia Harris.”

Assistant District Attorney Jeff Nieman repeated those words, “the allegation is that he did unlawfully, willfully, and feloniously, with malice aforethought kill and murder” the other two victims who died in the crash – 46-year-old Darlene McGee and six-year-old Jahnice Baird.

READ MORE: Kania Family “Devastated” After Crash

Nieman announced other felony charges against Kania.

“He is also charged with three counts of felony death by vehicle,” Nieman adds. “He is also charged with felony serious injury by vehicle, allegation being he did cause serious injury – two broken bones in the lower left leg and a broken right collarbone to the person of Jahnia King.”

The nine-year-old King is the lone surviving passenger from the 2007 Suzuki Kania’s vehicle collided with.

via Orange County Sheriff's Office

via Orange County Sheriff’s Office










Kania’s mother sat in the back of the courtroom, sometime audibly crying, along with his father.

Nieman says malice was shown in the case, in part, by the distance Kania traveled in the wrong direction on I-85 before the fatal crash around three o’clock Sunday morning near mile marker 163.

“Based on eyewitness accounts, he was traveling that direction of travel for – we believe at this time – at least six miles,” he says. “At least one witness indicates that he was going ‘not slow.’”

“Those vehicles [driven by Harris and Kania] met basically perfectly head on.”

READ MORE: Head-On Collision on I-85 Kills Three

Nieman adds after the crash the 20-year-old from Asheboro gave officers the I.D. of another individual, who was over 21 years of age. He says Kania went to at least two bars before the accident and others with Kania the night of the crash attempted to keep him from driving his 2005 Jeep Wrangler.

“There are eyewitness accounts of his behavior from earlier in the night in which at least one and as many as five people, before he decided to get in the vehicle in Chapel Hill, attempted to physically restrain him,” he says, “and that he fought physically with at least one of those people – knocking at least one of those people to the ground.”

Nieman says another person attempted to take his keys but was unsuccessful before ultimately taking Kania’s cell phone in hopes to keep him from leaving.

Nieman called Kania a danger to himself and others as well as a flight risk and asked the judge to set the bond at $1.5 million.

Judge Anderson settled on bond at $1 million.

“This case represents almost unimaginable horror and loss and tragedy,” he says, “and is an indictment, in many ways, of the world we live in and the world we tolerate.”

If Kania does post bond, the judge imposed conditions that Kania submit to electronic house arrest, not to consume alcohol, submit to a curfew between eight o’clock at night and eight in the morning, and have no contact with investigators, victims, or possible witnesses in the case.

The only time Kania spoke at the hearing was to agree to waive his right to a public defender and to say he did not have any questions for the judge.

If convicted on all charges, Kania could face between 40 and 50 years in prison.

Kania’s attorney was not present at the hearing and a court review to ensure he has legal counsel is scheduled to take place on Monday.

Kania Family “Devastated” After Crash

The family of the UNC student who has been charged in the fatal collision from last weekend has issued their first statement since the accident.

Raleigh Attorney Roger Smith Junior is representing Chandler Kania, who is currently facing five charges following a collision where a 2005 Jeep Wrangler crashed into a Suzuki head-on while traveling the wrong direction down I-85 early Sunday morning near Hillsborough, according to the Highway Patrol.

Smith issued the following statement to WCHL on behalf of the Kania family:

“The Kania family is absolutely devastated about this tragedy. Their hearts, prayers and thoughts are with the victims and their families. Chandler is fully cooperating with law enforcement and will continue to do so.”

Law enforcement officials say Kania, the Asheboro native, was driving north in the southbound lanes of I-85 near Hillsborough at the time of the collision.

49-year-old Felicia Harris, of Charlotte, was driving the other vehicle involved. She and two other passengers – 46-year-old Darlene McGee, of Charlotte, and six-year-old Jahnice Baird, of Brooklyn, New York – were killed in the wreck.

Nine-year-old Jahnia King was also in the backseat of Harris’ vehicle and is still being treated at UNC Hospital. WRAL is reporting she was listed in good condition as of Tuesday.

The 20-year-old Kania, who is a student at UNC, has been charged with Driving While Impaired, Careless and Reckless Driving, Possession of an Open Container of an Alcoholic Beverage in the Passenger Area of a Motor Vehicle, Possession of Alcohol by a Person Under 21 years of Age, and Driving by a Person less than 21 years old after consuming alcohol.

Addition felony charges are expected once Kania is released from UNC Hospital where he is currently being treated.

Early Voting Sites Selected for October

Four sites have been chosen to host early voting for this fall’s municipal elections.

The Orange County Board of Elections has chosen three satellite early-voting sites along with the headquarters in Hillsborough for residents to vote this fall.

Chapel of the Cross, on East Franklin Street, will serve as one voting location. Chapel Hill Town Council member Lee Storrow says he is happy the board chose a location close to UNC.

“I’m actually really excited and supportive of this shift to Chapel of the Cross,” he says. “I think it’s a good location. It’s really close to Morehead Planetarium, which several years ago was a very successful early-voting site.

“Unfortunately, because of some renovations and changes in that building, Morehead is no longer available to be an early-voting site.”

Storrow adds this will allow the Carolina community and residents in a higher foot traffic area around Chapel Hill to have an easily accessible site to voice their opinion.

“I think it’s vital that we have a location accessible to the students, faculty, and staff at UNC-Chapel Hill,” he says. “It’s my long-term hope that we can create a consistent site; that it’s not changing every couple of years.

“I think Chapel of the Cross might provide us with that opportunity to create a really consistent site.”

Storrow says recent action by the North Carolina legislature only increases the need for a voting site near campus.

“The General Assembly changed the law several years ago to not allow out-of-precinct voting,” he says. “If we truly care, and want, and expect that all residents of our community are going to participate in the election and have access to participate in the election, means that having an early-voting location that’s either on campus or adjacent to campus is really vital.”

The out-of-precinct voting restriction only applies on Election Day, not to early voting.

Early voting will begin on Thursday, October 22, and finish up on Saturday, October 31. The Board of Elections office in Hillsborough will be open for early voting Monday through Friday from nine o’clock to six o’clock and on both Saturdays from nine o’clock until one in the afternoon.

The satellite locations will be at Chapel of the Cross, Carrboro Town Hall, and the Seymour Center, on Homestead Road. These locations will all be open for voting from noon until seven o’clock Monday through Thursday, noon until six on Friday, and nine until one o’clock on both Saturdays.

Storrow says he is hopeful the 2016 election will include Sunday voting hours.

The ballot this fall will include nine candidates for four seats on the Chapel Hill Town Council, three candidates for Chapel Hill Mayor, eight candidates for four seats on the Chapel Hill – Carrboro City School board, and five hopefuls for three seats on the Hillsborough Board of Commissioners.

In Orange County and Across the Nation, Heroin Use is on the Rise

A new report from the Centers for Disease Control shows heroin use is on the rise across the nation. That’s true in Orange County too.

A recent undercover drug operation by the Orange County Sheriff’s Office netted nearly 700 doses of heroin. Narcotics Investigator Brandon Wilkerson says he wasn’t surprised.

“It’s really not new; it’s becoming an epidemic along with the abuse of prescription medications,” says Wilkerson.

A study released Tuesday by the CDC shows heroin use increased 63 percent from 2002 through 2013. At the same time, the rate of heroin-related overdose deaths has quadrupled.

Researchers say the increase in usage affects men and women across a wide range of ages and income levels.

According to the report, heroin is cheaper, stronger and more readily available than in decades past, but what’s driving the demand is the popularity of prescription opiates.

CDC officials say states can address the problem by reducing the availability of opiate pain relievers and increasing access to medical insurance that covers treatment options.

States can also authorize law enforcement and medical personnel to carry naloxone, a drug that temporarily reverses opiate overdose.

Orange County was the first in North Carolina to issue naloxone kits to emergency responders following the passage of the state’s Good Samaritan law in 2013. The drug has already been used to save lives in Carrboro.

Wilkerson says Orange County deputies are training to use the kits as well.

“Starting in February this year, we actually have 15 deputies that have gone through the training,” says Wilkerson. “We’re still working on the naloxone kits and policies to implement that to be able to go out there and use it. We’re looking to get the whole department trained before the end of the year.”

In addition, the Orange County Health Department offers naloxone kits to friends and family members of those at risk of opiate overdose.

Phone Scams Target County Residents

A flurry of phone scams has targeted Orange County residents in the last several months, according to Orange County Sheriff Charles Blackwood. Blackwood says the most recent victim lost more than $2000.

“She received a call claiming that she had missed her jury notice and that she needed to pay a certain amount of money to avoid arrest,” Blackwood says. “They told her that they could make the process very simple for her if she just gave them her credit card and routing information. And they did that, and they bled her account.”

Blackwood says his office has received hundreds of calls from residents who received similar predatory calls.

“They vary from the threat of taking you to jail for unserved warrants,” he says, “or taking you into custody for failing to appear for a jury summons, failing to pay your IRS taxes….”

Some calls also claim the recipient has won prize money. But what the all the phone calls have in common is that they all ask for personal information.

“Whenever they ask you for your credit card information, your bank account information or any other personal information that you wouldn’t ordinarily give to someone on the street, you need to hang up and not go any further with the conversation,” Blackwood warns.

Blackwood says residents who believe they’ve been the target of a phone scam should file a report with the sheriff’s office.

How’s Your Internet Access? Orange County Wants To Know

Orange County is looking for your input on ways to improve internet access throughout the county.

Information Technology Director Jim Northrup says officials are trying to address a long-standing problem.

“We’ve known for years that internet does not span all of Orange County,” says Northrup. “We have a new County Mananger and she wanted to put a little more effort into trying to define the problem and come up with a solution.”

Now, officials hope to hear from as many Orange County residents as possible about the cost and quality of their broadband service. They’ve posted an online survey to gauge how you use the internet and where you live. Northrup says that location component is crucial to demonstrate the need to service providers.

“What we’re trying to do is develop a map and then, through public-private partnerships, actually present this map to internet service providers and say, ‘See, here’s 30 potential customers on this map and your infrastructure is only five miles away, why don’t you go ahead and try to supply service to those 30 customers?’”

Take the survey here.

Because this survey is designed to get responses from folks who don’t have adequate internet access, there are paper copies available at the Orange County Public Library in Hillsborough and the Cybrary in Carrboro, as well as a phone survey. Call 919-245-2294 if you need information about where to pick up a paper copy, or if you’d like to complete the survey over the phone.

Northrup says once areas are identified that lack reliable internet access, Orange County may be eligible for state and federal funding to help extend broadband service.

The deadline to respond to the county survey is August 1.