Rogers Road Sewer Project Moving Forward

Another hurdle has been cleared in the Rogers Road sewer project.

Orange County Commissioners voted unanimously at the board meeting last Tuesday to move forward with acquiring easements to extend sewer lines to the Rogers Road community.

The Orange County landfill was located in the historically-black community for more than 40 years before closing in 2013 under pressure from environmental justice advocates. Planning to bring in new sewer service has been in the works for more than two years. The proposed sewer line is approximately 18,500 linear feet.

Commissioners heard from county deputy manager Travis Myren about acquiring land to go forward with the project.

“There are about 80 easements that need to be acquired in total,” Myren said. “Seventy-three of those are within the historic Rogers Road neighborhood and seven parcels are outside of that area.”

Myren said the total cost of acquiring the land is estimated to be $212,000. The easement cost is based on current property taxes and will not take into account the property revaluation that goes into effect next year.

Myren presented three recommendations to the board: authorizing the payment of negotiated easement value, authorizing staff to proceed with the condemnation process if a voluntary easement cannot be reached and authorizing staff to bring a budget amendment before the board to cover the cost of acquiring the easements.

The funding will be provided by the county and the municipalities of Chapel Hill and Carrboro.

County manager Bonnie Hammersley said that the Towns of Carrboro and Chapel Hill have been “on board with this.” She added that a team made up of representatives from the county, each town and the Jackson Center have worked closely with the Rogers Road community and OWASA to move the project forward.

Myren said that the county hopes to conduct the voluntary easement outreach by the end of March.

“For those properties for which we cannot voluntarily negotiate the easements, we would proceed with a condemnation process in early April,” Myren said. “That process would be completed then by about the middle of May. And we would need to have all of the easements in place by the time permits are filed on or about June 21.”

County attorney John Roberts said that if any property owners do not want to agree to the voluntary easement process, it should not slow down the project moving forward.

“If someone refuses to grant an easement, the county would place a deposit with the clerk of court,” he told the board. “Once the county places that deposit – and this is after a notice period in which the property owner is notified – once the county makes the deposit of the estimated value of the easement to be acquired, then the county essentially has the easement at that time.”

Minister Robert Campbell, President of the Chapel Hill – Carrboro NAACP, has been instrumental in organizing the effort in the Rogers Road community. He said at the meeting that the community meetings have helped answer questions and calm nerves surrounding the easements.

“People are excited about the possibility of being able to connect up to sewers pretty soon,” Campbell said while thanking the board. “We see the progress that is taking place. Now people are being a little more relaxed, but they are constantly asking questions and they are engaged in the process that is taking place.”

Commission chair Earl McKee thanked Campbell for his continued work to assist the project over the lengthy process.

“I know it’s been a long process but, as we used to say in the tobacco fields, ‘I think we’re in the short rows now.’”

Top 11 Slogans Now Ready for Review

Orange County has an opportunity to change the “Welcome to Orange County” Interstate sign, currently placed on I-40 at mile marker 269, heading west.  The current sign is damaged and needs to be replaced.  Instead of replacing it with the exact same sign, which welcomes interstate travelers with the message, “Orange County: You’ll Be a Fan for Life, ” the Orange County Board of Commissioners asked the public to suggest other ideas for slogans.

The current sign is damaged.

Close to 900 slogan suggestions were submitted during December and January.  After sorting out duplicates, those that were too long (longer than 6 words) or had inappropriate language,  the list was narrowed to 351.

The list of 351 was passed to several independently operated groups for informal polls and focus groups, until a list of 51 could be submitted to the Orange County Commissioners for review and ranking.

This process yielded a list of 11 which is now being submitted to the public for review and evaluation via Facebook, a poll on and paper balloting (details below) between now and midnight on February 21.

Everyone who participates in the polling process will be entered to win a night’s stay at The Siena Hotel, dinner for two at Il Palio Restaurant and a fun gift basket.

There are multiple options for registering your favorite slogan.

1. On the Chapelboro website 

2. On the Visit Chapel Hill & Orange County Facebook Page

3.  On the WCHL & Facebook Page

4.  Paper ballots are available at:

  • Chapel Hill/Orange County Visitors Center (Free parking)
    501 W Franklin St, Chapel Hill, NC 27516
  • Orange County Visitor Center (Street parking)
    150 East King Street, Hillsborough, NC  27278
  • Seymour Center (Free parking)
    2551 Homestead Road, Chapel Hill, NC 27516
  • Central Orange Senior Center, Next to Sportsplex (Free parking)  103 Meadowlands Road, Hillsborough 27278Use the entry forms and boxes located at:


The final slogan will be selected and announced by the Orange County Commissioners in late February/early March.

For more background information:  Orange County Wants a New Sign

Orange County Health Department Focuses on Public Outreach

The Orange County Health Department has released its annual report highlighting some of the department’s successes.

Spokesperson Stacy Shelp said a lot of their work relies on strong local partnerships.

“The work we are doing both as a health department and a community is just so critical and we are really seeing an impact being made. We are seeing healthier individuals and a healthier culture,” said Shelp.

Orange County is the first health department to post their health inspection scores directly to Yelp, a popular website that evaluates restaurants on customer reviews.

“Knowing the importance of technology and peoples use of applications such as Yelp to look at where am I going to go for dinner? This would be a great place to have that information at your fingertips when you’re making those choices,” said Shelp.

There have been some trends over the past year that worry the health department.

“We are also seeing more trends that are a little more frightening, like an increase in STD cases, so really needing to do more education around prevention of sexually transmitted diseases,” said Shelp.

Last year the health department received recognition for its opium overdose program. Police and emergency services now have access to the drug Naloxone, which can help reverse an overdose.

The Health Department has also extended their anti-smoking efforts to include public housing.

“Our services and our partnerships have gone in and worked on projects around teaching property managers about how they can create their own smoke free facilities in public housing, which is very exciting,” said Shelp.

You can view the full report here

Orange County Prepares For 2017 Property Revaluation

At least once every eight years, North Carolina requires all its counties to conduct a property revaluation to establish the fair market value for all homes in the state.

“The main thing with the revaluation is to reestablish the equity in the market,” said Orange County tax administrator Dwane Brinson. “Neighborhoods appreciate and depreciate at different rates. Once you do a revaluation, the goal is to just reestablish that equity so that everyone is paying on the current market value of their property.”

The last revaluation was done in January 2009 and the next one will take effect January 2017. Brinson said urged residents to remember that their current tax assessments use the 2009 value of their property, which will change in 2017.

“That increase or decrease in the value is not for that one year, it actually spans the past eight years,” he said.

Brinson said the county is looking for more input from the community and because of this, the Board of Commissioners extended the deadline to February 29 for submitting property listings.

The county sent listing forms to residents on December 31, 2015. Included in those envelopes was a new form that Brinson said the county has never tried before. It shows residents the county’s record of their home and lets people make corrections if information is false.

“We’re asking residents to take a look at that,” he said. “And if something is wrong with the property characteristics, to let us know ahead of time. That way we can go in, correct the records and make sure that we’re valuing the property for what it is.”

From December 2016 to February 2017, the county will send value change notices to residents. If you are unsatisfied with your valuation, there is an appeals process.

For more information on the revaluation, visit the county website.

Precipitation Over But Roads Still Icy

Communities across our area are continuing to deal with wintry weather and the challenges that presents.

Chatham, Durham and Orange Counties will be under a Winter Weather Advisory until noon on Sunday due to the threat of black ice, as forecasts are not calling for additional precipitation.

Power outages were concentrated from Raleigh to the east and knocked power out to tens of thousands of North Carolinians. But other than periodic individual outages, Chatham, Orange and Durham Counties were not impacted by widespread outages.

Chapel Hill officials reported responding to three vehicle accidents during the day on Friday but noted that residents were staying off the road for the most part on Saturday. Residents are continued to be encouraged to not park on roadways to allow for plows to clear the thoroughfares.

Crews are evaluating to determine if Chapel Hill Transit will be able to operate on Sunday. Community centers are expected to open at 12:30 Sunday afternoon, but the aquatic center will likely be closed on Sunday.

Due to the inclement weather, Orange County Public Libraries will continue to be closed on Sunday.

Hillsborough officials reported an estimated 10 vehicles being left on roadsides. Two vehicles abandoned in the roadway along West King Street and Lakeshore Drive were moved.

Police continue to ask residents to stay off the roads. “If you don’t have to go out, don’t,” advises Sgt. William Parker. “If you do and your vehicle gets stuck, don’t leave it in the middle of the road.”

Durham reported the highest number of accidents with 40 crashes being responded to on Friday.

Orange County Officials Preparing for Winter Weather

***A Winter Storm Warning has seen issued for Chatham, Durham and Orange Counties until staring at Friday at 12:00 AM until 6:00 PM Saturday night.***

Winter weather is approaching our community and officials want residents to get prepared.

Orange County Emergency Management coordinator Kirby Saunders says crews are working to make sure precautions are in place.

“We are placing our shelters team on standby and identifying shelter sites, should they be needed,” Saunders says. “We’re also conducting some walkthroughs of school facilities that could serve as shelter locations.”

Winter Weather Cancellations and Delays

Crews with the North Carolina Department of Transportation are also working to prepare roadways for potential inclement weather.

Ryan Ellis with the National Weather Service spoke with WCHL’s Ron Stutts on Friday morning:


Saunders says the message for Wednesday is to allow extra time and slow down on the evening commute.

“There may be some slick spots on roadways throughout the community,” Saunders says. “Just be aware of those and allow yourself plenty of distance on the way home.”

Saunders says that forecasts are calling for more intense weather on Thursday night into Friday and that this is a good opportunity to prepare.

“Be prepared for at least 72 hours of food, water and essential medications,” Saunders advises. “And also pets, don’t forget pets.”

Saunders says residents can also take steps to prevent pipes freezing in their homes by opening cabinet doors to allow the warm air in and to leave faucets dripping to keep water from becoming stagnant and freezing.

Saunders says residents can follow emergency services on social media for real-time updates.

“We’ll post routine updates on roadway conditions or blocked roadways or downed trees or potential power outages,” Saunders says. “Also, that’s a great source of information if we were to open a shelter; we’ll definitely have that information up there.”

Saunders also recommends signing up for OC Alerts.

“You can indicate to us when you register any special needs you may have,” Saunders says, “if you need assisted-walking devices or if you’re on oxygen or have special medication requirements.

“So that if we do have a power outage, it’s easier for us to reach out to those who are most in need and try to make accommodations for them.”

Power Restored in Orange and Durham Counties

Power has been restored to portions of Orange and Durham Counties that were without power earlier Wednesday.

The Duke Energy power outage map is showing all of the reported outages have been restored.

At the peak, more than 8,000 customers were suffering outages in Orange and Durham Counties.

The initial outage was reported around 10 o’clock Monday morning and power was restored before one o’clock in the afternoon.

Five schools in the Orange County School system – Central Elementary, Hillsborough Elementary, Cameron Park Elementary, Stanford Middle and Orange High School – were temporarily without power.

Duke Energy officials say a large transmission line carrying power to three substations was having “issues” causing the outages.

Orange County Law Enforcement Investigating Efland Death

This story was updated with additional information Tuesday morning.

Members of the Orange County Sheriff’s Office are investigating a death in Efland, authorities confirmed Monday afternoon.

Orange County Sheriff Charles Blackwood says deputies received a call at 2:38 Monday afternoon of shots being fired near the Efland – Cheeks Community Center.

Blackwood says a deputy was less than 100 yards from the scene when the call was dispatched, but he says the deputy did not encounter any suspects when arriving at the scene.

Blackwood says the deputy found a young black male who had been shot “9 or 10 times” near the trunk of a Nissan Sedan in the parking lot of the community center. Blackwood says the trunk was open when the victim was found.

Blackwood says authorities are investigating “many leads” and have identified the victim as 22-year-old Tevin Deshawn Kendrick, of Durham.

An autopsy is being done on Tuesday morning, according to officials.

Additional deputies were stationed near Efland – Cheeks Elementary School on Tuesday morning, which is next door to the community center. Both the community center and school were closed on Monday in observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Blackwood says authorities are still working to track down any surveillance video that may be available.

Blackwood say authorities believe this was an isolated incident.

Blackwood wants to remind residents not to hesitate when calling 911 after hearing or seeing anything that residents deem suspicious.

If anyone has any information regarding the investigation, you are asked to contact investigator Tim Jones at the Orange County Sheriff’s Office at (919) 644-3050 or (919) 245-2900.

Murder Case Against Chandler Kania Continued Until March

The case against 20-year-old Chandler Kania has been continued until March 8.

The former UNC student was scheduled to appear in Orange County Superior Court Tuesday facing several charges, including three counts of second-degree murder, in connection with a wrong-way crash on I-85 in July.

Neither Kania nor his attorneys were present for the hearing on Tuesday morning. Assistant District Attorney Jeff Nieman said that he is still awaiting a piece of discovery, the crash reconstruction report, before proceeding with the case.

Kania drove the wrong-way on I-85 for at least six miles, according to law enforcement, before crashing head-on into another vehicle, killing three of the four passengers. One of the deceased was a six-year-old girl.

Kania’s blood-alcohol content was a.17, twice the legal limit to drive in North Carolina, according to records.

Two Chapel Hill establishments, La Res and He’s Not Here, were investigated by authorities for allegedly serving alcohol to a group of underage patrons, that included Kania, the night of the crash.

La Res had its alcohol permits suspended for two weeks and paid a $5,000 fine as part of an offer in compromise with the North Carolina Alcohol Beverage Control Commission.

He’s Not Here recently reached an agreement with the commission that includes a 21-day suspension of alcohol permits and a $15,000 fine. That agreement is not official until it is ratified by the ABC board, which could happen at the board’s meeting on Wednesday.

Chandler Kania is currently under house arrest at his parents’ home in Asheboro recovering from injuries sustained in the crash after posting a $1 million bail.

Local Shelters Opening Emergency Services with Frigid Temps

The IFC Community House will open its doors for emergency shelter once again on Tuesday night with temperatures expected to drop to the low-20’s or upper teens overnight.

The Durham Rescue Mission also has provided emergency shelter this week with below-freezing temperatures.

The Community House is now located at 1315 Martin Luther King Junior Boulevard.

Homeless men in Orange County seeking shelter can call the Community House at (919) 967-1086 before four o’clock in the afternoon to sign up for a space. Those seeking shelter can also arrive at the Community Kitchen at 100 West Rosemary Street at six o’clock to eat dinner and be transported to the shelter.