OCV Newsletter, October 2013  
Dear Neighbor:


October is Fire Prevention Month, and in light of tragic home losses in our community this past summer, we thought it time to STOP (drop and roll) and review some basics of fire prevention.  Our focus on this important issue is timely for yet another reason: due to recent improvements in emergency services provided by the county and rural fire departments, your family can be safer than ever. 

We extend a special "thank you" to rural fire leaders Steve McCauley of Orange Grove and Tony Blake of White Cross, as well as Jim Groves of Orange County, for putting this material together.

We'll also catch you up on other news related to rural Orange County!
In This Issue
Upcoming Events
Fire Safety Touches Rural Orange County
Progress on Economic Development in Orange County
Wake County Looking at Transit - but not TTA's Plans
Orange County Schools Hires Geri Martin as Superintendent
Animal Control Ordinance Under Review
Check Out All Options Before Buying Health Insurance
Project Engage is Underway
Disposing of Old, Expired, or Unwated Medications
Senator Kinnaird Gives Up Her Seat
Sheriff Lindy Pendergrass to Retire
Upcoming Events   
  • Town Hall with NC Senator Foushee.  State Senator Valerie Foushee will host Town Hall meetings throughout Orange and Chatham counties.  The first of these will take place on Tuesday, October 22, 7:00 pm, at the Orange County Public Library, 137 W. Margaret Lane, Hillsborough.  For more, click here.
  • Understanding the Affordable Care Act.  Tuesday, October 22, from 7:00-8:30, at Extraordinary Ventures, 200 Elliot Road, Chapel Hill.  Janet Hoy, Vice President of the League of Women Voters of Orange-Durham-Chatham, will present Understanding the Affordable Care Act (ACA) or ObamaCare. The goal of this educational program is to provide an understanding of the new law and how it will be implemented in North Carolina.  The program is open to the general public. Admission and parking are free.  For more information, click here

  • Schley Grange Fundraiser Breakfast. This fundraiser for the Schley Grange will take place on Saturday, November 2, from 6:30-10:00 am.  Eat in or take out. 
  • The 19th Annual Orange County Studio Tour.  An opportunity to visit local artists throughout Orange County.  Sponsored by the Orange County Artists Guild.  Takes place the weekends of November 2-3 and November 9-10.  Click here for more information. 

Fire Safety Touches Rural Orange County  


Tragedy in White Cross
This past summer, a family in the White Cross community suffered a terrible loss when their home caught fire in the middle of the night.  A firsthand account of this tragedy mentions the need for water access, as well as  trained and committed volunteers, two concerns of our rural fire departments:

"We are adjusting to a new reality here (in White Cross).  Sunday night, about 1:30 am, I was awakened by pounding on our front door and repeated ringing of the doorbell.  On my way out of bed, I glanced out the window and saw an enormous wall of fire through the woods.  Our neighbors were at the door, along with their four dogs and one of their three cats.  Their house was on fire, a literal inferno.  They had called 911 and firefighters were on their way.  It was a horrible, sickening night, and even before daylight it was evident that their house was a total loss - along with cars, all forms of ID, credit cards, iPhones, computers, not to mention invaluable personal belongings - portraits (she had painted) of her dogs, among them - and all the beautiful features that come with a (custom) house . . .

I walked down to the cul-du-sac this morning to put signs up for the mail carrier and UPS and FedEx drivers, and began talking with one of the volunteer firefighters who devoted hours to controlling this fire.  He mentioned the problem of WATER.  The county is in need of more landowners with ponds to step forward and agree to have their ponds used as water sources by the fire department.  He also mentioned that more training and equipment is required of firefighters all the time - and that more volunteers are needed . . . "

Despite the fact that this house was well-equipped with smoke alarms, by the time the homeowners were fully awake and had located the source of the smoke, the fire was off to a roaring start, far too hot to be even momentarily subdued with a small kitchen fire extinguisher.

Once fire companies responded to the call and arrived on the scene, another problem surfaced: the narrow gravel road leading to a small cul-du-sac at the foot of the homeowners' driveway made access difficult for the large trucks that must come and go, hauling water to fight the fire.  All told, four separate companies arrived at the scene.  There was little room for trucks to maneuver . . . and minutes can make a big difference in fighting a house fire.

You Can Make a Difference 
If you live on a private road or have a long driveway, please be sure that it is wide enough to provide easy access for firefighters and their equipment.  If it is overgrown or has tight turns, it will be difficult for emergency vehicles, especially large fire engines and water trucks.  If you need assistance, contact your local fire chief.  

If you are a cyclist, please stop and pull off the road when emergency vehicles are trying to pass.

If you have an accessible pond or stream, please consider giving your fire department permission to use it. You may have noticed little blue signs along some of our county roads.  They indicate that there's a pond or stream nearby, and that the property owner has given permission to use the water in the event of a fire.

Also, consider becoming a volunteer for your local fire department.  By volunteering, you will not necessarily be obliged to take on the role of a fire fighter or first responder.  Rural fire departments need help with bookkeeping and accounting, grant-writing, as well as helping with the task of maintaining the fire station and its vehicles.  A simple visit and thank you goes a long way.  Homemade cookies are always appreciated.  And . . . bring the kids!

Take a few minutes to read over the Fire Safety and Prevention Guidelines provided to us by Tony Blake of the White Cross Volunteer Fire Department.

County Ambulances Now at Fire Stations 
The county ambulance response times are improving, and, in part, it's due to county ambulances being co-located at some fire stations, namely Orange Grove and Rural Orange.  The county is in discussion with New Hope, Carrboro, and Chapel Hill fire departments about the possibility of placing ambulances at their fire stations.

This example of cooperation is saving taxpayers millions of dollars - and, more importantly, strengthening ties between emergency medical professionals, county fire fighters, and the communities they serve.  Neighbors can stop by these fire stations to meet emergency medical teams and learn about the services they are trained to provide.

Special thanks are due to Emergency Services Director Jim Groves and Commissioner Earl McKee for working to create a cooperative and community-based Emergency Services system, one where everyone wins.

New Fire Stations and Safety Programs Improve Insurance Ratings
Orange Grove Volunteer Fire Department is putting the final touches on Fire Station #3, on Nicks Road.  Although the station is awaiting formal approval from the state fire marshal, this project signals the successful end result of a three-year effort by Orange Grove to assure that every property owner within their fire district can acquire affordable insurance protection.

White Cross has begun work on its new Fire Station #2, on Neville Road.  In addition, White Cross is expanding its main fire station on Old Greensboro Road, adding new safety features as well as a training area.  These improvements will extend the White Cross Fire Company's ISO 7 to 99% of the homes in the eastern portion of its district, lowering insurance premiums for those homeowners.

Orange Grove, Eno and other fire departments within the county, are waiting for the state fire marshal's authorization on their ISO 7 rating - which will lower homeowner insurance premiums for nearly all homes within their districts.

First Response is a Full Cycle
Jenni and Paul Shafer with Orange Grove First Responders
(photo courtesy  of Erin Wiltgen, News of Orange)
This past June, horse trainer Jenni Shafer was kicked in the head by a horse.  First Responders from Orange Grove Fire Company were initially uncertain that Jenni would survive; she was bleeding profusely from a skull fracture.
They stabilized Jenni and waited for an ambulance to arrive and rush Jenni to UNC Hospitals.

With the help of rehabilitation therapy, Jenni is recovering quickly from multiple surgeries.  Once back to work at NC Therapeutic Riding Center, Jenni wanted to thank Orange Grove's volunteers and asked to meet with the team who helped to save her life.  For more on this heartfelt reunion, click here.

Progress on Economic Development in Orange County   


Orange County and the town of Hillsborough are hard at work attracting new businesses to the area.  County Economic Development Director Steve Brantley worked with both Mebane and the State of North Carolina to recruit Japanese-based Morinaga and Co. to the county's new Buckhorn Economic Development District.  

Orange County will be the site for Morinaga's first U.S.manufacturing operation.  This plant is sited under a light manufacturing zoning designation, one suitable for businesses producing no emissions and having low water use.

Morinaga's 120,000 square-foot plant plans to provide 90 jobs, with an average salary of $38,000.  The agreement includes financial incentives, along with employee training provided through Durham Technical Community College.  For more, click here.    

There's more excitement as Tractor Supply plans its new store in Hillsborough, at NC 86 and I-85.  The permits are approved - and we're now waiting for word on the grand opening.  For more, click here.

Wake County Looking at Transit - but not TTA's Plans   


Last spring, Orange County levied a sales and vehicle tax increase to fund Triangle Transit Authority's (TTA) plan to provide bus and light rail service to Orange and Durham counties.  The assumption at the time was that Wake County would also participate in the plan.  In fact, the light rail (LRT) portion of the TTA plan is based to a great degree on the large projected population growth in Wake County.

Last month, however, Wake County announced that it has chosen to retain outside experts for the purpose of exploring alternatives for governance, funding, and technology.  This decision is due, in part, to pressure from town mayors and the business community who felt that too many citizens would not be served by the rail plan, and that it was unlikely to be funded by the state or federal government.

For more about Wake County's actions, click here and here.

Despite the fact that the federal government has returned TTA's grant application, TTA is moving forward on plans for Orange and Durham counties, with estimates to spend $30-36 million on LRT studies.  TTA will be issuing a report to the county commissioners later this year to discuss these developments. 
Orange County Schools Hires Gerri Martin as Superintendent
Following a lengthy and thorough search, Orange County Schools has hired Dr. Gerri Martin as the district's new superintendent.  Dr. Martin brings with her 27 years of experience in the field of education, and comes to OCS from McDowell County Schools.  For more, click here.
Animal Control Ordinance Under Review
Orange County is in the process of bringing its Animal Control Ordinance in line with those of Carrboro and Chapel Hill.  Once the ordinances are unified, the county will assume responsibilities for animal control in both the towns and unincorporated areas.  Currently, the county only serves Hillsborough and the unincorporated areas.

This project is both complex and challenging, especially given that the county has chosen to modify ordinances as they're unified across jurisdictions.  Rural residents have raised concerns regarding new limits on the rights of property owners, as well as new authority granted to Orange County Animal Control.  Of particular concern are: 
  • The removal of exemptions for property owners in the event that their dog bites a trespasser on their own property.  Under the proposed ordinance, the county can declare your dog as "vicious" if your property is not posted and a dog bites a trespasser.
  • The lack of an independent appeals process.  The new ordinance adds an "appeals process" to the Animal Services Advisory Board, a volunteer organization that works closely with Animal Services.  Since the appeal is the only affordable legal action available to most people, citizens have asked that appeals be made to an independent board, using a quasi-judicial process involving sworn testimony, documentation, and the like.
  • The lack of information about citizens' rights, such as the legal right to appeal to a magistrate of the district court and a possible requirement that any county summons be delivered to the pet owner in person.
The commissioners have asked staff to revisit the ordinances and consider citizen comments.  Commissioner Jacobs personally worked with staff to develop a plan and a timeline to address issues that were raised by citizens.   The new timeline includes efforts to engage expert Aimee Wall of UNC's School of Government.  Professor Wall is an attorney who specializes in Public Health and Animal Control Law.

To view a video of this discussion and both the red-lined and final versions of the proposed ordinance, click here.

If you have comments or questions that you would like to be addressed in the revised ordinance, please contact interim County Manager Michael Talbert.

The county hopes to have a new unified Animal Control Ordinance in place by March of 2014.
Check Out All Options Before Buying Health Insurance
Regardless of where you stand in the issue of the Affordable Care Act (a.k.a. "ObamaCare"), you need to know the facts, especially if you buy your own health insurance.  Recent letters sent out by Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina offer suggested insurance plans, but you need to keep in mind that they are not the only option - and may or may not be the best option for you or your family.  For an article about the Affordable Care Act and the letters issued by Blue Cross, click here.

Under the Affordable Care Act, you have choices concerning both insurers and plans.  Please visit www.healthcare.gov to learn more, including whether you may qualify for premium and/or tax credits based on your family status and income.   
Project Engage is Underway
The past two OCV newsletters have included articles about Project Engage, an effort by Orange County's Department on Aging to engage with and better enable older adults, thereby making a difference in the lives of "Seniors" living in rural communities throughout Orange County.

The county is seeking community members who are natural leaders and connectors, to participate in a 12-week program to become familiar with community resources and create senior resource teams.  This is a unique opportunity to participate in the rural community and work with like-minded people to find new means of connecting "Seniors" with local resources.

If you are interested in learning more, please contact Project Engage Director Janice Tyler or call 919-245-4255. 
Disposing of Old, Expired, or Unwanted Medications
The Orange Partnership for Alcohol and Drug Free Youth is excited to announce a new, safe, and permanent means of disposing of old, expired, and unwanted medications.

The Hillsborough Police Department, in collaboration with the Partnership, has installed a medication drop box in the lobby of the Hillsborough Police Department, 127 N. Churton Street.  Expired, unused, and unwanted medications may be turned in for safe disposal from 8 am to 5 pm, Monday through Friday. 

Liquid medications must be in original containers.  Medications in pill form must either be in original containers or a sealable bag.  Needles will not be accepted.

This makes the third permanent medication drop box in Orange County.  Other locations can be found at the Chapel Hill Police Department (828 MLK Boulevard) and the Carrboro Police Department (100 N. Greensboro Street).

For more information, contact Gayane Chambless
Senator Kinnaird Gives Up Her Seat

After 20 years of exemplary public service to the citizens of Orange County, NC Senator Ellie Kinnaird made the choice to step down from that office and turn her full attention to ensuring that all eligible citizens can freely exercise their right to vote under the new NC Voter ID Law.

OCV would like to thank Senator Kinnaird for her outstanding service, in particular her steadfast advocacy on behalf of environmental issues and citizens' rights.

To join and support Senator Kinnard in educating  North Carolinians about changes in voting requirements and assisting eligible citizens in obtaining the necessary documentation now required in order to cast a ballot, contact Ellie via Facebook or contact Dr.Brenda Rogers of the League of Women Voters of Orange-Durham-Chatham.

Former NC Representative Valerie Foushee was selected by the Democratic Party to complete Senator Kinnaird's term.  Foushee was sworn into office on September 25, 2013, and has assumed the responsibilities of representing the people of NC Senate District 23, which encompasses Orange and Chatham counties.  She will face re-election in 2014.

We send best wishes to Senator Foushee, who brings years of experience with rural Orange County to her new role in the state legislature.

A new committee is being formed to fill the NC House District 50 seat vacated by now-Senator Foushee.  Five candidates have applied for the seat, which should be filled by the end of October.  For more on this seat and its candidates, click here
Sheriff Lindy Pendergrass to Retire
After 32 years of service, Sheriff Lindy Pendergrass will retire.  Sheriff Pendergrass will finish his current term and not seek re-election in 2014.  It will be hard to imagine Orange County without Lindy at the helm of the Sheriff's Department; he is leaving huge shoes to fill.

Most of us have had first-hand experience with the dedicated team of deputies and law enforcement professionals that formed under the leadership of Sheriff Pendergrass.  Community Watch and Seniors and Law Enforcement (SALT) are just two of a long list of programs that he helped to put in place.   
The Sheriff leaves behind a legacy of outstanding outreach and community services, all of which have helped to make Orange County a safer place to live.  OCV would like to offer a special thank you to Sheriff Pendergrass for his contributions to our community.
In this time of quibbling, quarreling, grandstanding, and often uncivil discourse in both our national, and state capitals,  please join me in feeling especially grateful to live in rural Orange County, surrounded by the colors and traditions of fall.


Thank you for your continued support for Orange County Voice and the rural community.



Bonnie Hauser, President 
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Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.  - Margaret Mead
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