OCV Newsletter, June 2014   
Dear Neighbor:

This year's budget season brings with it a fresh set of challenges, particularly given uncertainty from the NC General Assembly on issues such as teacher pay, curriculum, and social safety nets - not to mention new fracking rules and other legislative changes.  The county is having its own struggles with containing costs and managing priorities.

Budgets should be set in a week or so.  For now, here's a report on what's happening in the county.  Later this summer, we'll follow this issue of the newsletter with a special budget issue, one which will focus on what has been funded and whether education made the cut.   
In This Issue
Upcoming Events
Schools Front and Center in Budget Discussions
Curbside Recycling Referred to Committee
Public Transportation Coming to Northern Orange
Hidden Treasures: Chestnut Ridge Camp and Retreat Center
Sustaining Sustainable Foods
Project EngAGE Engages
Leadership Changes at Orange County Schools
Orange County Hires a New Manager
Summer Safety Tips: Snakes, Ticks, and Rabies
A Promise Kept?

Upcoming Events    

  • Hog Day:  Saturday, June 20 and Sunday, June 21, Efland Ruritan Club, 3106 Highway 70 West, Efland.  Orange County's largest and longest-running festival.  Local bands, fun contests and games, BBQ cook-off contest.  Sponsored by The Optomist Club of Orange County.  For more, click here.
  • Have a Drink with Big Brothers Big Sisters:  Monday, June 23, 5:30-7:30 PM, Hot Tin Roof, 115 W. Margaret Lane, Hillsborough.  Tips and proceeds go to Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Triangle, who provide mentors and support services to nearly 1000 children in the Triangle.  To learn more, click here.
  • July 4th Parade and Fish Fry:  The Caldwell July 4th Parade starts at 11:00, at Handy Andy's (NC 57 and Guess Road). Then on to the Grange (around noon) for a flag ceremony and Fish Fry.  Guests are encouraged to bring a covered dish, dessert or soft drinks.  Donations are welcome for the good of the Grange. 
  • Run-Off for 2014 Primary Election:  Tuesday, July 15.  For Early Voting information, click here.  Democratic Ballot for Sheriff is countywide.  Republican Ballot for U.S. House of Representatives is for the 6th District:  Caldwell, Cameron Park, Cedar Grove, Efland, Eno, St. Marys, and Tolars. 
  • Last Fridays are Back!  Downtown Hillsborough.  16th Season!  Free Concert Series, April through September.  Artists and craftspeople, open galleries, restaurants.  Sponsored by the Hillsborough Arts Council.  Click here for more information.

Schools Front and Center in Budget Discussions       


Residents of rural Orange County have joined those of the towns of Carrboro, Chapel Hill, and Hillsborough in calling for full funding for our public schools.  This year, school funding has become especially important, given uncertainty from the state, combined with issues surrounding equity among and between rural and urban school districts.  Funds are needed for our schools so that they can respond to last year's state-mandated cuts to teacher pay, as well as proposed new cuts effecting teacher assistants, social workers, and nurses.


Orange County Voice has joined leaders throughout the county in asking our commissioners to fully fund both school districts within Orange County.  The group is encouraging the commissioners to slow down on non-essential spending in solid waste, county offices, and parks, and, if needed, to draw upon the county's well-funded reserves to make up the difference caused by state cuts to education.  To view our letter to the commissioners, click here.

Our comments were sensitive to issues raised by the interim county manager: that the county's spending is not sustainable and that several cumulative tax increases lie ahead.  The county dipped into savings five separate years to balance its budget.  We believe that it is important to explore possible options to contain non-essential spending, so that the county can remain affordable.  For more, click here.

In addition, OCV's Bonnie Hauser has raised questions about the need to modernize school funding, in order to assure that our public schools are funded first.  Such modernization will take time, leading Bonnie to ask that the commissioners make schools a priority and fund them immediately.  For more, click here.

Orange County's commissioners will finalize their budget on Thursday, June 17, so there is still time to write to write to the commissioners and voice your view.  To write to the commissioners, click here.
Curbside Recycling Referred to Committee

After another year of hearings and deliberations, Orange County commissioners have decided - at a cost of $2 million - to fund curbside recycling out of the county's solid waste reserves, and to form a committee to deal with future issues related to services and costs.  They have made no decision for or against the service district tax, a special tax only for residents in the unincorporated parts of the county.

OCV was pleased that so many citizens spoke out against the proposed service district tax and so eloquently explained that the rural curbside program is ineffective for families with long driveways and gravel roads.  Most families  
who favored rural curbside recycling preferred a fee over the proposed service district tax.

Even though future service and funding remains uncertain, commissioners approved the expansion of the rural curbside service area - and an investment of $840,000 in trucks and roll carts for the rural program.  We were disappointed by this decision, since there is no service plan or funding source, and funds are needed for schools.  Furthermore, this action limits the options that can be considered by the newly-formed committee.  For more, click here.
Public Transportation Coming to Northern Orange
Improvements to transit services for rural Orange County are in the works.  The Orange County Planning and Inspections Department, together with Triangle Transit, recently held public outreach sessions to discuss proposed new and expanded transit services.  The planned improvements are as follows: 
  • TTA will inaugurate an Orange-Durham hourly express route (ODX) peak service (hours: 6-9 AM and 4-7 PM) that will run from Mebane, Efland, and Hillsborough to Durham and back.  Phase I will start August 2014, and run from the North Hills Shopping Center Park-and-Ride, in Hillsborough, to the Duke/VA hospitals and Durham Station.  Phase II is tentatively scheduled to begin in early 2015, and will expand the service westward on Highway 70, to Mebane (via Efland), in the morning; back to Hillsborough on I-85; then on to the Durham stops.  Phase III will add a stop at a yet-to-be-built Mebane Park-and-Ride.
  • Orange Public Transit (OPT) will provide hourly service in mid-day (10 AM-2 PM), along Highway 70 between Mebane, Efland, Buckhorn, and Hillsborough.
  • OPT will inaugurate once-a-week  service:  1A eastward along St. Mary Road up to Highway 57, westward to Highway 86, and southward to Hillsborough; and 1B westward along Highway 70 to Efland, arcing northeast back to Highway 86, then southward back to Hillsborough.
  • OPT will extend the service to the Central Orange Senior Center so that service starts earlier and returns later, to allow seniors to spend more time at the center.
  • OPT will inaugurate an Efland-Hillsborough commuter route service during peak periods, to connect with the Triangle Transit ODX service described above.  This service will also provide an employment commuting-oriented service for northern Orange County transit-dependent residents who have employment destinations in the southern part of Hillsborough.
  • OPT will provide an extension to Cedar Grove for commuters using the current 420 route to Chapel Hill.
  • OPT will expand the existing Hillsborough circular service for an additional hour daily.


OPT will be providing the additional services described above with its current fleet of buses.  Additional buses are not programmed to be procured until 2016, and later. 


To learn more about the county's plans or to provide feedback, please contact Alex Castro.

  Hidden Treasures: Chestnut Ridge Camp and Retreat Center

One of rural Orange County's hidden treasures is Camp Chestnut Ridge and Retreat Center, near Efland.  Located within a 360-acre natural area, it offers a variety of programs, including Summer Camp, PreSchool, After-School, Horseback Riding, and Outdoor Education.  Among its many features, you'll find a Low Ropes Course, a High Ropes Course with a 530-foot zipline, and a Community Garden.    

You can lease the facility for retreats or birthday parties.  For more information on Chestnut Ridge and the programs they offer, visit camp chestnut ridge.
Sustaining Sustainable Foods

Did you know that  Orange County, in partnership with Alamance, Chatham, and Durham, operates a food processing center in Hillsborough?  The center includes a commercial-grade kitchen where new food businesses can get a start.  The center currently has 34 clients, the best known being Luna Pops and Vintage Bee, both of which boast global sales and distribution.

The center is a not-for-profit operation designed to incubate new companies and provide a professional setting in which they can master recipes and package foods for commercial distribution.  Food processors, caterers, and similar businesses - all of whom rely on local farms to produce their product - use the center.  The center is growing quickly, and hopes to be able to cover its costs by the end of the year.

One challenge that lies ahead for the center is to determine whether Orange County can manage to keep the now-successful businesses in the area.  Four clients are now looking for commercial space to lease, and finding that available space in Orange County is either too small or too expensive.  As we all know, it is easy to fall in love with Orange County.  Any companies who have had the support of this local incubator and are eventually forced to locate elsewhere will do so reluctantly.  To learn more, click here.   
Project EngAGE Engages
Project EngAGE is an interactive senior leadership program that engages senior volunteers to serve as resource leaders in their community.  The idea is to provide these volunteers with the necessary tools and ideas so that they can return to their communities and help make them ideal places for fellow seniors to "age in place," in their own homes, in their own communities.

The first class of Orange County volunteers has now dispersed, and are beginning the process of starting new programs within their own communities.  Interested new volunteers are always needed, and anyone interested should get in touch with Mary Fraser, Aging Transitions Administrator for the Orange County Department of Aging.  She can be reached at 919-245-4276.

The following subgroups have formed.  Here is a summary of their progress:

Chapel Hill Project EngAGE Group
Contact:  Yvonne Mendenhall at menholiday@aol.com  
This group has started a "village2village2village"community, with seven neighborhood/community groups within the Chapel Hill town limits.  Contacts are now being made with seniors in Carrboro.  In June, an introductory lunch, as well as an upcoming "Port-a-Pub" event, will be held for Aging in Community start-ups.  Communication by way of Facebook and other social media sites will keep the various communities informed.  Several challenges have been met by using the resources available through the Department of Aging.  An informational brochure on the program has also been developed.

Bingham Township Project EngAGE Group
Contact:  Gail Alberti at gesa@embarqmail.com
This group has met with the Orange County Sheriff's Department and their SALT (Seniors and Law Enforcement Together) representative, to exchange information.  Brochures and refrigerator magnets containing information about Project EngAGE and Meals on Wheels were given to the SALT representative to deliver to the seniors they visit.  Project EngAGE volunteers have also offered to meet with neighborhood groups about concerns.  Future meetings with church leaders are planned.

Northern Orange Project EngAGE Group
Contact:  Norma White at n.b.white@embarqmail.com
This group consists of volunteers from Schley, Caldwell, Hurdle Mills, Eno, Rougemont, Cedar Grove, and Efland/Cheeks.  A Community Watch Program for the Caldwell, Hurdle Mills, Cedar Grove area was initiated for the purpose of improving security and safety for area seniors.  A decorated float with Project EngAGE will be made for the Caldwell 4th of July Parade.  Information about Project EngAGE was given out at the Schley Grange, and a bookcase was set up at the grange hall for senior information brochures and copies of the Senior Times.  Other issues of concern include the northern expansion of Meals on Wheels, transportation issues, and an interest in improving the use of community centers in both Cedar Grove and Efland/Cheeks so that they can function as activity centers for seniors in those communities.  Banners and posters with Project EngAGE to use at community events were also a suggestion.    
Leadership Changes at Orange County Schools

Orange County Schools Superintendent Geri Martin and OCS Chief Academic Officer Amanda Hartness are leaving.  Dr. Martin left after seven months on the job, and with $100,000 in severance pay in addition to her $120,000 a year salary.  Dr. Del Burns will step in as interim superintendent.  For more, click here.

Dr. Hartness came to OCS in March from Chapel Hill-Carrboro Schools, and will become assistant superintendent in Chatham County, where she lives.  Her timeline to start in Chatham has not been established.  For more, click here
Orange County Hires a New Manager

Orange County has hired Bonnie Hammersley to become the next county manager, starting in June.  Hammersley replaces interim county manager Michael Talbert, who is retiring.

Ms. Hammersley is a native of the Midwest, with 26 years of experience in county government.  She served as county manager in Muskegon County, Michigan and also worked in Dane County, Wisconsin.

OCV congratulates Ms. Hammersley and looks forward to working with her on important county issues.  We would also like to thank Mr. Talbert for his impressive service and wish him well in his retirement.

For more, click here.

Summer Safety Tips: Snakes, Ticks, and Rabies
It is shaping up to be a wild spring and summer, when it comes to the safety and health of both our family and our pets.  Precaution can make all the difference.

Copperheads are Active
Veterinarians are noting an unusually high incidence of bites from copperheads, so please keep an eye out, especially at dusk, in the cooler evening when snakes are active and more likely to strike.    

Please be aware that not all  snakes are venomous - and that some can be a friend to homeowners and gardeners.  Although they are also known to raid chicken coops and bluebird boxes, both black racers and black rat snakes eat small rodents such as mice and voles.  You can be assured that they no more want to be surprised by you, than you want to be surprised by them.  No, a black racer will not chase you; but it will bite if threatened, just like a black rat snake.  And . . . as this photo illustrates, it has been known to eat copperheads!

Rabies on the Rise

Orange County recently reported the 14th case of rabies for the year 2014.  That's two more cases than were reported for all of 2013.  Please keep vaccinations current on all of your pets.  Orange County will host a low-cost vaccination clinic on Saturday, June 14.  More more, click here.

Don't Forget Ticks!
Tick season is well underway.  If you've had a tick bite and are showing flu-like symptoms (fever, chills, etc.), you may have a tick-borne illness such as ehrlichiosis.  Please see your doctor, and if you test negative for flu, talk to your doctor about ticks and a preventative course of doxycycline, an inexpensive antibiotic that works for most tick-borne illnesses.  In this case, an ounce of prevention can save your life.  For more, click here.   
A Promise Kept?

On May 15, the Rogers Road community broke ground on their new Community Center.  The county manager, county commissioners, task force members, leaders from the Rogers Eubanks Neighborhood Association (RENA), and many others attended.

The center is partial mitigation to the community for hosting a landfill for 40 years.  The landfill was opened by the town of Chapel Hill in 1972; in 1999, Orange County assumed its ownership and operation.

In May 2011, RENA offered a mitigation plan developed with the support of
many community members, including Orange County Justice United and Orange County Voice.  Progress to date includes: 
  • closing the landfill in 2012 (done)
  • providing more barriers to vermin and odors (done)
  • cleaning up 45 identified dump sites throughout the community  (mostly done)
  • providing remaining families with water service (agreed upon, although  hookups to homes not completed)
  • providing sewer service to this historic neighborhood (planning underway)

We are excited about the groundbreaking on this community center and the promise it brings to the future of the Rogers Road community.  The center is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2014, and be used for after-school programs, summer camps, computer classes, and a host of other events organized and managed by the community. 

We recognize that it is a challenging time for teachers and families.  We encourage you to follow state and local issues in the News and Observer, as well as through other trusted news sources.  Be sure to get outside and enjoy the pleasures of summertime in rural Orange County - safely, of course. 

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


The OCV Board
Alex Castro, Jr., Chair, alexcastrojr@hotmail.com 
Nick Davis, Vice-Chair, nickdavis80@gmail.com 
Tish Galu, Treasurer,  galump@centurylink.net 
Norma White, Secretary, n.b.white@embarqmail.com 
Mike Hughes, mmh@mmhpe.com 
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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