Chapel Hill Town Manager Roger Stancil responded to a petition, which claims he mismanages town funds, saying he’s proud of the “consistent and transparent reporting of budget matters”.
Chapel Hill resident Tom Henkel delivered the petition to the Town Council last Monday asking the Council to review what he calls “apparent fiscal mismanagement” by Stancil and town staffers.
Henkel says he’s seen a pattern of over-reliance on outside consultants and a failure to rein in costs for their services. He cites the Central West Small Area planning process as a recent example.
However, Stancil said annual independent audits show the continued commitment to proper financial management.
He said in an email to Town staff Thursday afternoon that he decided to respond quickly with email rather than wait for Monday night’s council meeting because of the severity of the petition’s allegations.
Letter from Town Manager Roger Stancil
I am providing you with information related to the petition you received on Monday night now instead of at an upcoming Council meeting because of the seriousness of the petition’s allegations. I believe this information offers necessary clarification and context to each of the points in the petition.
I am proud of the Town of Chapel Hill’s financial management and our consistent and transparent reporting of budget matters. The Council and public receive regular financial updates throughout the year, all of which are posted on our website at www.townofchapelhill.org/budget Fiscal notes are regularly communicated on all Council business actions, so that the financial implications of our actions are clear and shared openly with the public.
Additionally, the following indicates the quality of the Town’s financial management:
· In every year since I have been the Town Manager, we have received independent audits with unqualified opinions. In fact, the Town has received such audits every year as far as our records go back.
· We have received recognition for our budget every year since July 1, 1996 (18 years) through the Government Finance Officers Association (GOFA). We have also received the Award for our Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR) Every year since the year ended June 30 1985 (29 years)
· We have a triple A (highest awarded) for our General Obligation Debt from Moody’s and Standard & Poors (since 2007-2008) – S&P upgraded our rating that year from AA+
Please let me know if you have questions about any of the information provided.http://chapelboro.com/news/local-government/roger-stancil-responds-allegations-financial-mismanagement/
The Town of Chapel Hill will hold a public meeting at Chapel Hill Public Library to discuss the potential sale of six properties.
The properties to be presented include the Old Town Hall, two fire stations, and the former Sports Arts Building.
Any interest in these properties would require further Council consideration, with all final decisions made by the Council, possibly in the fall of 2014.
Since 2002, the Council of the Town of Chapel Hill has been looking for some good ways to use the real estate.
The Council will seek adaptive reuse, public-private partnership, or preservation easement with Preservation North Carolina.
Any development on the Old Town Hall must respect its placement on the National Register of Historic Places.
The meeting takes place on Tuesday, May 27, at 6 p.m.http://chapelboro.com/news/development/chapel-hill-holds-public-meeting-property-sales/
The newest restaurant in Chapel Hill’s 140 West is celebrating its grand opening on Thursday, March 20.
Old Chicago Pizza and Taproom will mark its grand opening on March 20 with a ribbon cutting at 11:00 a.m.
Old Chicago got its start back in 1976 – and to honor that, the company will offer free pizza for a year for the first 76 customers in line. There will also be a free throw shooting contest outside on the 140 West plaza – and Old Chicago will donate $76 to Farmer Foodshare for each free throw that gets made. (Show the Tar Heels how it’s done!)
Listen to Aaron Keck’s conversation on the Wednesday afternoon news with Old Chicago’s Chris Beckler.
For the next two months, the Town of Chapel Hill is inviting you to give your feedback on the latest draft of its Bike Plan.
You can find the plan and a comment form online at TownOfChapelHill.org/bikeplan.
There will be a public forum to discuss the plan on Monday, April 28.
Chatham County officials say drinking water in some parts of the county might have a musty taste and odor for the next month or so – but it’s still safe to drink.
Chatham Water Utilities found higher-than-usual levels of compounds in water recently sampled from Jordan Lake Reservoir, causing the slight difference in taste. Director Leonard McBryde says this is a seasonal issue that’s “not uncommon for water systems that draw raw water from lakes.”
Since it’s seasonal, county officials say it should only last about a month – but in the meantime, residents can minimize the taste difference by refrigerating water in a pitcher, or using a carbon filter.
Orange County will be holding a second public hearing in April to discuss the proposed new solid waste service tax district for unincorporated areas of the county.
The district is being proposed as a way to continue funding the county’s recycling program. The program had been funded with an annual fee attached to residents’ property tax bill, but that fee has been discontinued.
The public hearing takes place on Tuesday, April 1, also at 6:00 p.m. at the Social Services Center at Hillsborough Commons on Mayo Street in Hillsborough.
Chapel Hill-Carrboro’s three high schools are holding “mock crash” events this spring to raise awareness of the dangers of impaired and distracted driving.
The events will begin with an assembly, followed by a crash reenactment in the footbal stadium. A UNC Air Care helicopter will land in the stadium as well, to simulate transport of an injured victim.
The mock crashes will take place at Carrboro High School on Friday, March 21; at East Chapel Hill High on Wednesday, April 9; and at Chapel Hill High on Friday, May 2 during the school day.
The Greater Chapel Hill Association of REALTORS has earned a grant to promote affordable housing in the local community.
The grant comes from the Housing Opportunity Program of the National Association of REALTORS; the Greater Chapel Hill branch will use the funds to produce a housing expo in Chatham County.
Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist Amanda Bennett will be on campus Thursday, March 20, speaking as part of UNC’s Women in Media Leadership Series.
Working for the Wall Street Journal, Bennett won the Pulitzer in 1997 for her coverage of the AIDS crisis, and a second Pulitzer with The Oregonian for an expose of the Immigration and Naturalization Service. She’s also the author of “The Cost of Hope,” a book about confronting death in the context of the U.S. healthcare system.
Bennett’s talk will begin at 5:30 p.m. on March 20 in the Freedom Forum Conference Center in Carroll Hall. It’s free and open to the public.
This weekend, a nationally-recognized dance choreographer will be in the Triangle to support arts education in local schools.
Jacques d’Amboise is the principal dancer-choreographer for the NYC Ballet. He’s in town from Thursday through Saturday, March 20-22, to support NC Arts in Action – which provides in-school and afterschool dance programs for kids, based on a model d’Amboise developed back in the 1970s.
On Thursday d’Amboise will be in Chapel Hill, meeting with fourth-graders at Northside Elementary School.http://chapelboro.com/news/news-around-time/biking-drinking-recycling-driving-housing-reporting-dancing/
Are you thinking about buying a home? Wondering how you can afford it?
Chatham Habitat for Humanity and EmPOWERment are co-hosting a two-part Home Buyer’s Education Workshop in Pittsboro, on Thursday, March 6 and Thursday, March 13 from 5:30-8:30 p.m. You’ll learn tips for shopping for homes and mortgages, how to financially prepare, and how to maintain your home after you’ve bought it.
The workshop takes place at 467 West Street in Pittsboro. It’s free and open to the public; dinner, door prizes and child care will be provided. To RSVP, contact Amanda Stancil at EmPOWERment by calling 967-8779, or Anna Schmalz Rodriguez at Chatham Habitat by calling 542-0794.
Congratulations to Casey Rimland, a medical and doctoral student in the UNC School of Medicine who was recently named as a Gates Cambridge Scholar.
Created with a donation from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Gates Cambridge Scholarship provides students with a three-year full scholarship to study at Cambridge University in England. Between 80 and 100 Gates Scholarships are awarded annually; Rimland is the second honoree from UNC.
Casey Rimland is originally from Charlotte and graduated from UNC-Charlotte in 2011. She’s also a thyroid cancer survivor, having been diagnosed in her first year of medical school.
To compensate for all the snow days, the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City School Board has updated the district’s class schedule for the rest of the school year.
There were three remaining days on the district’s calendar that were set aside as delayed-opening days, but all three have now been changed to regular school days. Those three days are March 13, April 10 and May 8 – all originally delayed opening, but now functioning as regular, full school days. Students should report to school at the regular time.
Congratulations to the AVID students from Smith Middle School, winners of this year’s sixth annual Black History Knowledge Bowl!
The event is sponsored every year by the Mu Omicron Omega chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority. It’s a competition between students at Culbreth, McDougle and Smith Middle Schools who participate in the AVID program (Advancement Via Individual Determination). This year’s Knowledge Bowl took place at Culbreth Middle School on February 22; Smith took first and Culbreth took second.
Results are in for the Town of Chapel Hill’s Community Survey, and the numbers indicate that—for the most part—residents are extremely happy with the town’s services.
More than 90 percent of residents who responded say they’re satisfied with the town’s fire department, library, and trash collection services; more than 80 percent say they’re satisfied with Chapel Hill’s park maintenance and police department. Those numbers are “well above regional and national benchmarks,” according to a release from the Town.
On the down side, residents said they were most concerned with traffic congestion and “how well the Town is preparing for the future,” and also said the Town could do a better job providing affordable housing and “access to quality shopping.”
You can check out the full results at TownOfChapelHill.org/survey.
It’s tax season—and if you need tax forms, the Orange County Public Library is offering select forms for free. Those forms include the 1040, 1040A, 1040EZ, Schedule A, Schedule B and Schedule SE.
In addition, the Orange County Department on Aging is offering its Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program—VITA for short—which provides free income tax preparation for qualifying individuals with low- to middle-incomes, regardless of age or county of residence.
For more information or to find out if you qualify, visit OrangeCountyNC.gov/aging/VITA.asp.
UNC has received a grant of more than $40 million from the National Institutes of Health, to fund a global clinical trials unit working to treat and prevent the spread of HIV.
The grant will fund five clinical research sites through the year 2021. Three of those sites are located in North Carolina; the other two are located in Africa, in Malawi and Zambia.
UNC received $430 million in external funding for HIV research between 2008 and 2012. The university is ranked as one of the top 10 programs in America for HIV/AIDS research.
CHAPEL HILL- The North Carolina Supreme Court announced Friday it will hear the case involving the Town Of Chapel Hill’s cell phone driving ban and towing rules.
In 2012 the town passed a ban on cell phone use while driving and approved new regulations for tow truck operators that capped fees and mandated more signage in lots.
George King of George’s Towing sued the town in protest, saying the rules are unduly burdensome to his business.
Both ordinances were set to take effect last summer, but King’s lawsuit has put the regulations on hold indefinitely. A 2013 ruling by the N.C. Court of Appeals held that the town could enforce the ordinances, but King’s request for review by the state Supreme Court has put both on hold once again.
Fireworks at Kenan. (Photo by Susan Murray.)
CHAPEL HILL – Thousands of local residents turned out at Kenan Stadium Thursday night for another memorable July 4 fireworks display.
Ron Stutts emceed the event, put on by the Town of Chapel Hill in conjunction with numerous local businesses and organizations. Among the attendees were Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt, new UNC Chancellor Carol Folt, and Chapel Hill Town Council member Sally Greene.
“It’s a great time to take some time out to enjoy some fellowship and fireworks,” Greene said. “I’ve got my son and my husband here with me, and we’re really enjoying it.”
After a week marred by torrential downpours, the rain held off all night — save for a brief sprinkle right before the fireworks got under way.
But the rain could not stop the show on Thursday; in fact, WCHL News Director Ran Northam said it only got the crowd that much more excited.
“(There was) a little tiny bit of a sprinkle just before the fireworks went off — that was greeted by many, many cheers,” he said shortly after the show began. “People (are) loving it now.”
The fireworks got underway right on schedule at 9:30, following an evening of entertainment featuring music from Liquid Pleasure and a watermelon-eating contest sponsored by DSI Comedy.
The show itself was not without incident: “One fire official did have to go down and put out a little bit of a fire there at the end,” Northam said. “There were a couple small fires there.”
And attendees were also surprised by another round of fireworks that started up after the 25-minute show appeared to reach its end. That second round lasted several more minutes, even as the lights in Kenan had already come back on.
Still, the show as a whole was an unqualified success — especially for new Chancellor Folt, who’s still getting oriented to Chapel Hill in her first week on the job.
“It’s been great,” she said of her first days in Chapel Hill. “I’ve just been meeting so many people, and everyone’s friendly — I keep hearing what a friendly place (Chapel Hill) is, and it’s absolutely true.”
More than the fireworks and the camaraderie, though, July 4 is a day to celebrate America — and in particular the Declaration of Independence, a document that not only established the U.S. as a distinct nation, but also expressed the fundamental values on which it would seek to build itself.
And Sally Greene says this year is especially noteworthy in that regard.
“This is the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg,” she says. “Abraham Lincoln gave an address for the ages when he gave the Gettysburg Address — and what he was doing there was cementing the Declaration as the founding document which the Constitution must interpret…
“He really was reinforcing the Declaration of Independence as the founding document that would bring forth all of our rights and ensure us those liberties to this day. So it’s a time to remember that — a time to remember what’s fundamental about our democracy, and a time to stand up and fight for it.”
The Kenan Stadium fireworks show is a longstanding annual event—but 2013 marks its second year back, after budget cuts forced the town to cancel it in 2011.http://chapelboro.com/news/entertainment/rockets-red-glare-caps-july-4-in-chapel-hill/
On June 4, the state Court of Appeals reversed the court’s ruling that struck down Chapel Hill’s ordinance. The town originally adopted the ordinance in March 2012, but the ordinance never took effect because George King, operator of George’s Towing, challenged the Town Council.
The new ordinance regulates and caps tow fees, it states that lots may not be located farther than 15 miles outside the town, and requires adequate signage for tow zones. Tow companies must also provide the person making the payment for the tow with a copy of the “Town of Chapel Hill Towing Information Handout”.
If a person returns to their car before it can be towed, the tow truck operator must return the car to the person without charging a fee unless the vehicle was already attached to the truck. If it was, a fee no more than $50 may be charged.
The ordinance also says a call to the towing company must be returned within 15 minutes of a message being left. Within 30 minutes of the call being answered or message being left, a person with the proper authority must release the location of the vehicle.http://chapelboro.com/news/local-government/ch-towing-ordinance-effective-monday/
It’s quite likely you’re reading this thinking that’s a great use of tax dollars: defending free speech. Well, you may be disappointed to find out Chapel Hill is on the receiving end of a reminder about First Amendment rights. The reminder comes from the American Civil Liberties Union and is about some controversial bus advertisements.
The ads were about U.S. military aid to Israel. As a recovering journalist, I can tell you there are two topics in the U.S. that if you cover them in any way, every single person reading/listening/watching will assume you’re biased. One of them is Israel.* And that assumption of bias occurs when you’ve tried to be as absolutely evenhanded as possible. In the case of the bus ads, there is a definite point of view. The sponsoring church wants to end U.S. military aid to Israel. So, a lightning rod subject with a definite point of view on the far end of one of the many spectrums in this multi-layered debate. No question, these ads were going to stir up a reaction.
The ads came down due to a technicality in the small print. If that sounds redundant, this is one of the few times I’ll defend my writing: It was a technical requirement that certain information be printed on the ad (all ads) that wasn’t included on these.
Despite the respite for the town in having a real reason to duck the controversy, it rages on.
While passionate people are debating the importance of Israel and the U.S. role in the region, I feel I’m watching a magician impeccably trained in the art of misdirection. There is plenty to debate about all aspects of the U.S. and every corner of the Middle East but it is our right to do so that is really in question here.
The right to express an opinion is why we’re all (I hope) voting in a few weeks and savoring the ability to do so. The right to disagree with an ad on a bus? That’s an absolute luxury folks, and one we should be embracing, not curtailing.
Word that Chapel Hill is going to continue the legal fight and appeal a judge’s ruling against a planned cell phone ban (including hands-free use) and a towing ordinance prompts a few questions:
First of all, I keep hearing and reading that downtown businesses must use towing companies and aggressive towing tactics in order to maintain spaces for their patrons. If this is the reason, why does towing persist after the business has closed? Why not resume it 30 minutes prior to opening? Again, I ask, what’s in it for the businesses? They not only allow it; they encourage it.
Now to the appeal of the cell phone ban. A recent Chapelboro news story quotes Chapel Hill Town Council member Penny Rich as saying town attorney Ralph Karpinos told the council the legal battle won’t incur any additional cost (emphasis mine) as it will all be taken care of by in-house attorneys. I had written about the costs of pursuing this ban under my “Savvy Spender” banner, saying I believe the town has better things on which to spend my money. That was based on a pre-vote opinion from the N.C. Attorney General that the town would not prevail in court.
I was no academic star in my required economics courses but I do remember the concept of opportunity cost. Forgive my inability to convey this elegantly but as I understand it, opportunity cost is what one gives up when one chooses an alternative course of action. So while the town may not incur any additional cost by using outside counsel, there clearly is some sort of cost in what else town attorneys won’t be doing. In other words, it’s highly unlikely they’d be sitting around doing nothing if they were not tasked with pursuing this so, as a taxpayer, I’d love to know what’s not getting done instead? That’s my cost.
Finally the start of school brings us to what is apparently the denouement in the saga of the involuntarily transferred teachers Anne Thompson and Bert Wartski. They fought all the way to the courthouse and lost and are now leaving their longtime base at Chapel Hill High School. I ask again the question I raised weeks ago: In the case of Anne Thompson, who is planning to retire after this coming school year and who just suffered the loss of her husband, why is there no mercy, no leniency, no ability to stand down?
My exclusion of Mr. Wartski is due only to the more lamentable circumstances of Mrs. Thompson. Shouldn’t Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools demonstrate a kindness that leadership must want to see from its students? What a great way to set an example that the bigger kid doesn’t always have to win.
If you can answer any of these questions, write to me at Donnabeth@Chapelboro.comhttp://chapelboro.com/columns/savvy-spender/follow-up-questions-towing-teachers-opportunity-cost/