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Durham County could OK $600K in hotel incentives tonight

By Virginia Bridges

The Durham County commissioners plan to hold a public hearing tonight (Monday) on giving up to $605,000 economic incentive grant to a downtown Durham hotel project.

Commissioners will likely vote on whether to award the incentives to the Gentian Group’s Holland Hotel project after the public hearing.  The 7 p.m. meeting will be held on the second floor of the county’s Administration Building, 200 E. Main St.

Gentian Group, composed of Durham investors, plan an $11 million transformation of the former Home Savings building at 315 E. Chapel Hill St. into a 54-room hotel with a restaurant and rooftop bar, according to county documents.  Gentian Group’s total investment in the 41,000 square foot project is expected to exceed $11 million. 

If approved, the county would match the incentive grant that the Durham City Council approved last month. City and County grants would not be passed onto the project until certain provisions are met. For example, county payments, paid over a seven year period, would not begin until after the hotel was completed.

Schewel fesses up on Durham race results

Monday night's City Council meeting was 'fessing-up time for Councilman Steve Schewel.

"I had challenged, in a foolish moment, the employees of the city of Durham to race against me," said Schewel. Eight of them finished the six-mile course ahead of him.

First finisher was Seven Eldredge of the Fire Department, with a time of 42 minutes, Schewel said.

"I thought I should give him a trophy," Schewel said. "But I thought the trophy would have had to say 'I beat Steve Schewel. Who cares?' "

Others who finished ahead of Schewel are Eric Halstead,
Tyler Peek, Jonathan Baker, Chris McDonald, David Cates, Hanna Jacobson and Chris Iannuzzi.

Schewel said Keith Herrmann and Daniel Terry would have beaten him, too, but they ran an extra half-mile by mistake.

About 30 runners came out to accept Schewel's challenge.

"I later said to the City Manager I should have gotten an age handicap," said Schewel, 61. "But he said it was too late and I should have thought of that at the time.

"I did beat some people, I just want that to be known."

Lincoln Apts. residents ask county to help stop evictions

By Virginia Bridges

Three residents facing eviction from Lincoln Apartments asked the Durham County commissioners this week to help save the apartment community and investigate its management.

The approximately 100 residents of the 150-unit low-income housing complex learned Sept. 28 that “unfavorable financial conditions” had led Southern Real Estate Management and Consultants Inc., the management company, and the Lincoln Apartments’ board to “cease operations” as of Oct. 31.

“We have paid rent every month, and we would like to know where is the money and why haven’t the promises on our lease agreements been kept,” said Bernadette Toomer, one of three speakers asking commissioners for help Monday night.

Commissioners Chairman Michael Page said he other county representatives met with city officials to discuss the issue Monday morning. “We are interested and we are trying to do all that we can to help you in this crisis that you are in,” Page said.

Deputy City Manager Keith Chadwell thought the parties had agreed to put off closing the financially strapped low-income complex for 60 to 90 days, after he and Neighborhood Improvement Services Director Constance Stancil met with them last month. In a memo, Chadwell said the Lincoln Hospital Foundation agreed to “some technical assistance” from the city to “dig further into the issues that caused them to make the eviction decision.”

But a few days later he said the situation had changed.

Howard Williams, president of Southern Real Estate, the apartments’ manager, said the complex faced an imminent water shutoff because it could not pay a water bill. Few residents are current on their rent payments, and rent is the apartments’ only source of income, he said.

What questions do you have about the light rail and rapid bus transit plan in Orange and Durham counties??

The staff of the Chapel Hill News and Durham News meets today with Triangle Transit to discuss the bus and light rail plan and the November sales tax referendum in Orange County to help pay for it.

I asked our facebook Friends a few minutes ago what questions they would ask. Here is what's come in so far. Please add your questions on my FB page or below.

Will they expand into Carrboro? to Cary?

Why are we going to be asked to pay for this via a tax at a time when there is rampant unemployment?

Wasn't there significant federal funding for this project?

Please explain why there is no direct bus to the airport.

How will we possibly be able to provide for economic vitality, environmental sustainability, and social equity for our region if the transit referendum does not pass?


1349189706 What questions do you have about the light rail and rapid bus transit plan in Orange and Durham counties?? The News and Observer Copyright 2011 The News and Observer . All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Durham INC resolve a little late

From our keeping on top of things dept.:

The InterNeighborhood Council spent 22 minutes last week debating whether or not to endorse the city's proposed UC-2 zoning for an area near NCCU. It was an earnest discussion.

In time, the delegates voted for a resolution favoring the zoning, but with conditions, and sent the resolution on to City Hall.

In response, City Hall replied that the City Council had approved the zoning three weeks before.

Better late than never, we suppose.

See photos from NC Pride here

Find out what's happening in this photo and see more pictures from yesterday's N.C. Pride Parade in Durham here.

Editor's Desk: Who makes you smarter about the issues facing Carrboro, Chapel Hill and Durham?

I came back from furlough with a thought. Forced time off does that to me. 

You can get your news in many places now, even local news. We try to post our stories online quickly (Tammy Grubb had two Town Council stories up Monday night). We also try to stay ahead of the curve and question the status quo (Katelyn Ferral's stories looking at whether Chapel Hill's pursuit of mixed-use development has delivered on its promise).

But increasingly, commentary has become an important part of our community papers, The Chapel Hill News and The Durham News. Columnists like Lynden Harris, Mark Zimmerman and Viv Taylor (among others in the CHN) and Carl Kenney, Pierce Freelon and Robert Wallace in the DN ask us to think about things in new and sometimes challenging ways. Our editorial pages overflow with what you, the readers, have to say about the issues you care about. Look at today's letters in the CHN about Johnny's in Carrboro, for example.

So, as I was running errands on my forced time off, I got to thinking, why not build our commentary section even more? Here's what I mean:

1348757786 Editor's Desk: Who makes you smarter about the issues facing Carrboro, Chapel Hill and Durham? The News and Observer Copyright 2011 The News and Observer . All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Report issued on Durham gangs

A report on gang activity in Durham has just been published by the Gang Reduction Strategy Steering Committee. A link to the report is below.

The report includes data on crime, school attendance, social factors affecting youth crime and gang associations and programs in place to prevent and dissuade youngsters from involving themselves with criminal gangs.

A link is below:

Duke hosts lax coaching clinic tonight

The Duke University men’s lacrosse coaching staff will host the first of its six free coaching clinics tonight (Sept. 19) at 7 p.m., in the Murray Building on Duke’s campus. Tonight’s clinic will cover a broad range of topics from creating a mission statement and off-season team development and giving an overview of each position on the field.

Trustees' $25K reward in Hedgepeth killing is personal money

We were unable to determine by deadline last night if the new reward for an arrest in the Faith Hedgepeth killing reflects additional public or private money. The UNC-CH Board of Trustees announced Wednesday that it is offering $25,000 through Crime Stoppers for information leading to the arrest in the student's death.

Trustee Sallie Shuping-Russell confirms the new reward money reflects private dollars from the Board of Trustees. "It is our money," she said in an overnight phone message. "Basically we're doing it because we think it's important that this crime be solved and we want to do everything we can to help."

The Chapel Hill Police Department has released no new information in the case, and the 911 call and search warrants have been sealed while the case remains under investigation. Police ask anyone with information to call the department’s tip line at 919-614-6363 or Crime Stoppers at 919 942-7515. Calls to Crime Stoppers are confidential.

In 2008, the Board of Trustees offered a similar $25,000 reward for tips leading to the arrests of Student Body President Eve Carson's killers. The governor's office later offered $10,000 more for information leading to the arrest of anyone who may have harbored or otherwise supported Demario James Atwater or Laurence Alvin Lovette Jr. after Carson's March 5 murder.

Last year the lead investigator on the Carson homicide case revealed that a Durham woman received the $25,000 Crime Stoppers reward for pointing investigators toward Lovette as a suspect. Justina Staten-Williams contacted Crime Stoppers five days after Carson was found dead.

The new reward in the Hedegepeth case now totals $29,000. The Haliwa-Saponi Tribe, of which Hedgepeth was a member, and Hawthorne at the View Apartments, where she lived, have also pledged $1,000 each to the Crime Stoppers reward fund. Members of the tribe had expressed concern about the size of the initial $2,000 reward for information offered by police. They wondered in gatherings why it was not higher.

Cynthia Silver, wife of the pastor at Hedgepeth's church, was one of many who questioned it. "Evil people will turn on evil people when money is involved," she said. "It should be higher."

Additional reporting by staff writers Anne Blythe and J. Andrew Curliss contributed to this post.