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Should Carrboro pay to use Chapel Hill Library?

Candidates split this week on how to pay for the Chapel Hill Public Library. The library costs $2.5 million a year to operate, rising to $4 million when the expansion is built. Yet, 40 percent of users live outside town, and Orange County's contribution remains just $250,00 a year.

Mark Kleinschmidt said he will draw relationships built over eight years on the Town Council to get more money from the county. He called charging out-of-county users "an unworkable idea. ... I'm not going to support charging a Carrboro student coming to the Chapel Hill library to check out books." 

Matt Czajkowski said Mayor Kevin Foy has relationships too and they have not helped the library's bottom line. [Foy has suggested charging out of town users for a library card.] "What's not discussed is the town of Carrboro," Czajkowski said. "It is flat out unfair for residents of Chapel Hill to be effectively paying for them to use our library." 

Augustus Cho said he would support a minimal fee for people living outside Chapel Hill.

Kevin Wolff did not comment on fees for out-of-town users. He said the town needs to be as proud of its library as its fare-free bus service and that the council needs to prioritize its spending. "It's our public library; we need to pay for it," he said.

Wolff continues offensive in race for Chapel Hill mayor

Kevin Wolff, making his third bid for Chapel Hill mayor, continued his attack on opponents Matt Czajkowski and on Mark Kleinschmidt at Wednesday night's forum sponsored by The Chamber of Commerce, Empowerment Inc., The Daily Tar Heel and WCHL.

Wolff stressed that no candidate brings the broad experience he does in business, law and science. He has a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering, an M.B.A. and a J.D. 

"By voting for Matt you'll be gaining nothing," he said. He repeated that Czajkowki had no political involvement before he ran for council two years ago and "didn't even vote." And when Czajkowski said he couldn't imagine someone being mayor without first being on council, Wolff said he wouldn't have that problem. He's watched council meetings and knows Robert's Rules of Order, he said.

"The butterflies, the lack of experience that Matt had, that's not me," Wolff said.

Wolff turned to Kleinschmidt and thanked him for his eight years of service to the town. He then listed three votes the councilman cast as reasons not to vote for him: lifetime health benefits for council members (actually I think it was until Medicare kicked in), the East 54 project and taxpayer-financed elections, which Wolff recently joined but has said he would like to reform to make it need-based.

And though he didn't name third opponent Augustus Cho, Wolff made an indirect response to him as well. After Cho, a native Korean, said he represented diversity, Wolff challenged anyone to question his diversity. On his Web site, Wolff says his father was a janitor who went on disabilty at age 43. One of five siblings, he said the family struggled to make ends meet and that he was the first in his family to attend college.


Chapel Hill won't buy Weaver Dairy Road office building

Looks like the town of Chapel Hill won't be buying Dawson Hall, an office building off Weaver Dairy Road, for a future police headquarters.

The Chapel Hill Town Council met in closed session Monday for a report about the possible purchase. The council decided not to proceed, after Town Manager Roger Stancil  cited several concerns:

- buying the site would put the town at its limit for keeping its current bond rating

- financing the building would depend on selling the current police headquarters site, which could not be guaranteed in a specific time frame. Also, the best use of the police site would require a rezoning, also not guaranteed 

- buying Dawson Hall would mean joining an association with other tenants of the Chapel Hill 40 complex, which could limit the town's ability to use the building and property as it needs

- there would be insufficient parking for the Police Department's needs, given the other tenants parking demands  

Stancil did recommend the town explore a short term lease of the property while the Chapel Hill Public Library is under construction for a long-awaited expansion.

Read Stancil's report here.

Wolff asks Czajkowski to quit Chapel Hill mayor's race

In an ad in tomorrow's Chapel Hill News, mayoral candidate Kevin Wolff calls on fellow candidate and current council member Matt Czajkowski to withdraw from the race.

"If you want another moderate voice on Town Council then ... Please join me in asking Matt to please drop out of the race for mayor of Chapel Hill and to support Kevin Wolff for Mayor of Chapel Hill," the ad reads. 

Woff has run for mayor twice before, winning about 30 percent of the vote. But he was largely silent in those bids, attending few forums. He now says with just 5 percent more votes, he can win in the four-person field. With law, business and engineering degrees he says he's the best candidate.

Czajkowski, who has two years on his council term, has been ineffective, rarely getting a second on his motions and failing to make allies, Wolff says. "Matt will remain ineffective, even as a mayor."

"In fact given his lack of progress in the past two years, without me to help bridge the gap between him and the other town council members, Matt will continue to  be ignored and unable to gain support for his initiatives."   

Too high, too close, or the future?

Met with Julie McClintock and Madeline Jefferson this week. McClintock, the former Town Council member, and Jefferson, the former Town Council candidate (and now out of the wheelchair after a serious accident), are part of Neighbors for Responsible Growth. The group holds a forum for Town Council candidates Wednesday at Town Hall.

NRG -- not to be confused with CFRG (Citizens For Responsible Government, which holds its own forum at 4 p.m. Sunday at The Franklin Hotel) -- is asking specific
questions: How would you determine sustainable growth rates? How can the town avoid unwarranted consequences in development? How will you determine whether the Carolina North agreement is working when the three-year assessment
comes up?

These are good questions. It is hard in the midst of development to know its long term impact. Is Greenbridge a national model for environmentally conscious development, or is it a blight that will hasten the demise of a historically black neighborhood across the street (or both)? Is East 54 the kind of mixed-use development Chapel Hill needs to foster mass transit and begin balancing the tax base, or a too out-of-scale project too close to the highway that has forever marred what had been a pastoral entrance to town (or both)? 

Chapel Hill Town Council keeps options open on Strom seat

The Town Council declined to take a vote on whether to appoint the fifth-place finisher in November's election to complete the two years left on Bill Strom's seat.

Mayoral candidate and sitting council member Matt Czajkowski called for a straw vote to give the voters "clarity" about the council's intentions, but other council members opted not to bind the newly elected council to a particular approach.

Mayoral rival Mark Kleinschmidt called Czajkowski's plan a "political stunt."

"It's also a fiction," Kleinschmidt said. "What if the fifth-place person doesn't, in fact, apply [for appointment?] It's a meaningless exercise." 

Chapel Hill mayoral candidate calls for new county landfill

Chapel Hill mayoral candidate  Kevin Wolff called for a new county landfill at this week's Sierra Club forum.

Candidates for mayor and Town Council were asked how they would handle solid waste. Not all the candidates were asked the question or volunteered an opinion on solid waste during other questions that followed.

Council candidates Gene Pease, Penny Rich and Will Raymond all said they did not like Orange County sending its trash outside the county.

"It's a difficult question," said Pease.

"I'm not a fan of transferring our trash to some other poor neighborhood,' said Rich, who called for municipal composting and a ban on plastic bags.

"We've kind of been a bit missing in action," said Raymond, of the town's role in the discussion.

Kevin Wolff, making his third bid for mayor, went the farthest.

"This is the Sierra Club," he said. "You are the peopel who can push this issue. Let's make themost environmentally friendly landfill in the United States."

"This is our opportunity right now," he said. "We have two years to do it."

The Orange County landfill is expected to fill up in 2011. The county is considering three sites for a transfer station, where garbage would be loaded onto larger trucks for disposal out of the county.

Chapel Hill candidate proposes all apply for Strom seat

Will Raymond, candidate for Chapel Hill Town Council, proposed tonight that all eight candidates apply for appointment to finish ex-council member Bill Strom's term.

Speaking at a Sierra Club forum in Town Hall, Raymond said having all eight candidates for four council seats put their names in for consideration would enable the council to appoint the fifth-highest vote getter in November's election. There are two years left on Strom's term.

"Quite frankly this is quite a mess," Raymond said. Nowhere else would a discussion about how to fill Strom's seat even be taking place, he said, because any other government would appoint the next highest vote getter in the general election. 

"We can short circuit this whole thing by all of us applying," Raymond said.

It's not clear the council would even pick from the general election candidate pool. Some have said the council should appoint a past member or experienced advisory board member to eliminate any learning curve. 

Raymond spoke in response to an audience member's question. The question was poorly worded. It asked whether candidates losing the election would apply to fill Strom's seat, which the council will fill by appointment. But the council has set an Oct. 11 deadline to apply and the election is Nov. 3, candidate Penny Rich noted.

Of those answering the question, incumbents Laurin Easthom, Ed Harrison and Jim Merritt said they would not apply. John Dehart said the council should wait to fill the seat, Gene Pease said he was undecided but leaning against applying. Rich said she wants to be elected but did not say yes or no. 

Only Matt Pohlman said he would apply. "I want to serve the town," he said.

No one responded to Raymond's suggestion.




Is Town Council looking for a new library site?

The Town Council will meet in a special session Friday morning to consider buying the 70,000-square-foot Dawson Hall office building off Weaver Dairy Road.

Earlier this year, Mayor Kevin Foy said someone had offered the
town about 60,000 square feet of office space near Interstate 40 for a new public library. Foy would not identify the seller, but in that area Dawson Hall is the only office building that large.

Red Wing Land, an affiliate of Southern Village developer D.R.
Bryan, constructed the three-story building in 2007 at the former VilCom Center, now called the Chapel Hill 40 campus. It has remained vacant.

The council will discuss the purchase in a closed session and has released no information about its possible plans for the building. Bryan Properties spokeswoman Rosemary Waldorf, former Chapel Hill mayor, declined to discuss the matter but confirmed that Dawson Hall is the building up for discussion.

Read more in tomorrow's News & Observer.

Council to start Strom replacement process Friday

The Chapel Hill Town Council will meet in special session Friday morning to discuss the possible acquisition of land, including a 70,000 square foot building owned by Red Wing Land LLC on the north side of Weaver Dairy Road and to begin the process for replacing council member Bill Strom.

According to a memo from Mayor Kevin Foy, the council would set a deadline of Oct. 2 for applications to finish Strom's term. The veteran council member resigned too late for his seat to be filled by the coming election.   

Here is the schedule the mayor proposes:

Sept. 4: vacancy officially announced and applications accepted

Oct. 2: deadline for applications to be filed

Oct. 12: Council Business Meeting to review applications and make nominations.

Nov. 9: Applicants will have an opportunity to make brief remarks regarding their interests in serving on the Town Council and Council may make an appointment that evening.

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