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Chapel Hill council rejects move to repeal cell phone ban

Town Council member Matt Czajkowski’s recommendation Monday to repeal a contested ban on cell phone use while driving failed in a 5-2 vote.

Durham Judge Orlando Hudson voided the town’s cell phone use ban and its towing regulations in August when he sided with a civil lawsuit filed by George's Towing.

The town has appealed the case to the N.C. Court of Appeals.

“As we all know, we have no shortage of lawsuits,” Czajkowski said. “In fact, I think I read … we’ve actually hired outside counsel to help us with one of these, because the time demands have reached a point where we need some help.”

He and council member Laurin Easthom voted in favor of repealing the cell phone ordinance. However, Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt and council members Jim Ward, Lee Storrow, Donna Bell and Ed Harrison rejected the motion.

Flora Parrish, Chapel Hill Police records supervisor, said the town continues to get complaints about towing every day. She recorded three complaints Tuesday, she said.

Most are complaining about George's Towing, and usually about the high cost of being towed, Parrish said. George's Towing charges $90 for a car that is hooked up to the tow truck but hasn't left the parking lot. It costs $180 to retrieve a towed car.

Chapel Hill Town Council advances regional Internet project

Chapel Hill’s Town Council authorized the town manager Monday night to proceed with a bidding process for building a high-speed community Internet network.
The decision does not mean Chapel Hill will contract with a broadband service provider for the Gig-U project – part of the regional North Carolina Next Generation Networks initiative.
A contract would depend on the cost, whether the provider could meet the community’s goals, particularly in low-income neighborhoods, and if the deal could be enforced under state law.
The town will start accepting bids Feb. 1 from service providers that could design, build, install, operate and manage a complete network. A decision tentatively is scheduled for October.
The town has several incentives that could sweeten the deal, including a lease for use of the town’s existing fiber network.
Chapel Hill and Carrboro have installed 46 miles of fiber-optic cable that loop around the towns. Most of that is not being used yet.
Chapel Hill’s partners in the Gig-U project are Carrboro, UNC and UNC Health Care, Durham, Cary, Raleigh, Winston-Salem, Duke University, N.C. State University and Wake Forest University and Medical Center.

Candidates for NC Dem chairman to speak Wednesday in Chapel Hill

Eric Mansfield and Randy Voller, candidates for chairman of the NC Democratic Party, will participate in a town hall meeting Wednesday bout the direction of the Democratic Party.

The town hall will be held at Extraordinary Ventures (200 S. Elliot Road, Chapel Hill) on from 6:30 to 8 p.m.

“I believe that this forum provides the best possible opportunity for Piedmont Democrats to come and hear from our candidates for state party chairman. Democrats will come away with a better understanding of the candidates running to be our next chairman," said Matt Hughes, chair of the Orange County Democratic Party.

Candidates for the other offices have been invited and will have the opportunity to address the audience. These officers will be elected by the State Executive Committee on Feb. 2.

NCDOT reduces South Columbia Street work schedule

The N.C. Department of Transportation will close South Columbia Street for only three months this summer – good news for Chapel Hill's transit partners.
The 0.8-mile widening project started in December. The southbound lane of South Columbia Street would have closed April 1, routing traffic past UNC Hospitals on Manning Drive to N.C. 54 for six months.
Besides disrupting traffic, Chapel Hill Transit officials predicted it could cost a minimum of $850,000 to $1.5 million to reroute and adjust bus schedules. If they added more buses and drivers to maintain existing service levels, the cost could have been $1.25 million to nearly $1.93 million, officials said.
UNC Chancellor Holden Thorp wrote Dec. 11 to NCDOT Secretary Eugene Conti Jr. to ask if the state could help relieve the financial burden.
Conti responded Jan. 3 that the work had been rescheduled for roughly mid-May to mid-August.
“I certainly understand your concerns, and I have requested Division Engineer Mike Mills to investigate the proposed construction schedule as listed in the current contract to determine if this could be revised to address the amount of time that the transit buses would be affected,” Conti wrote.
The transit partners – Chapel Hill, Carrboro and UNC – will meet at 11 a.m. Jan. 15 in the Chapel Hill Transit Operations Training Room, 6900 Millhouse Road.

N.C. 54 restaurant can keep giant photos

An N.C. 54 restaurant emerged victorious Wednesday and will keep its larger-than-life photos of UNC coach Dean Smith and basketball superstar Michael Jordan.
Chapel Hill's Public Arts Commission voted unanimously that the window art does not fall under the town’s sign ordinance, land-use management ordinance or Community Design Commission rules.
Commission member Nancy Kitterman said it also doesn’t meet the town’s public art mural guidelines, because the photos are posted inside the Tobacco Road restaurant’s windows.
“If you put a giant sculpture on your front yard, I can see it every day. It’s your property. It’s your business, and basically, if I don’t like it, I don’t have to look at it,” she said.
The town’s review started with a Glen Lennox resident’s letter to the editor. Restaurant owner Brian Amra said the 12-foot by 22-foot vinyl photos block a view of the kitchen and will be there a long time.

What's in today's Durham News

Today's big local story broke too late to get into the print paper but is now on our website.

TAKING DURHAM OUT OF DURHAM REGIONAL: You heard it. Find out why Duke, which manages the regional hospital, wants to change its name. Jim Wise has the story at www.thedurhamnews.com

BELL'S BAIL BOND BILLS: Well, he doesn't have the proposed legislation just yet. But Durham Mayor Bill Bell's push for tougher bail rules for suspects in gun crimes is already running into some opposition. Find out what two local judges think in our story at www.thedurhamnews.com

BAD, BAD MAN: That suspect charged with robbing a Durham bank last month? Police have now charged him with robbing two. Find the link on our home page now at www.thedurhamnews.com or search under the News/Crime page.

Baker, entrepreneur and urban farmer Kifu Faruq has now added teacher to her resume. Find out whom she's educating in today's My View and how you can too. Rev. Barber and the Durham-based state NAACP is urging the General Assembly to resist extremism in the upcoming session (read about an unprecedented proposal to slash unemployment benefits on the front page of today's N&O).

And Glenn McDonald says a former American Idol finalist is coming to DPAC. ... All that and lots more in today's Durham News.

Thanks for reading,
Mark

What's in today's Durham News

Today's big local story broke too late to get into the print paper but is now on our website.

TAKING DURHAM OUT OF DURHAM REGIONAL: You heard it. Find out why Duke, which manages the regional hospital, wants to change its name. Jim Wise has the story at www.thedurhamnews.com

BELL'S BAIL BOND BILLS: Well, he doesn't have the proposed legislation just yet. But Durham Mayor Bill Bell's push for tougher bail rules for suspects in gun crimes is already running into some opposition. Find out what two local judges think in our story at www.thedurhamnews.com

BAD, BAD MAN: That suspect charged with robbing a Durham bank last month? Police have now charged him with robbing two. Find the link on our home page now at www.thedurhamnews.com or search under the News/Crime page.

Baker, entrepreneur and urban farmer Kifu Faruq has now added teacher to her resume. Find out whom she's educating in today's My View and how you can too. Rev. Barber and the Durham-based state NAACP is urging the General Assembly to resist extremism in the upcoming session (read about an unprecedented proposal to slash unemployment benefits on the front page of today's N&O).

And Glenn McDonald says a former American Idol finalist is coming to DPAC. ... All that and lots more in today's Durham News.

Thanks for reading,
Mark

What's in today's Chapel Hill News

The biggest local story broke after the CHN deadline. We reported it first online yesterday.

BREAK IN MURDER INVESTIGATION: DNA evidence may be helping Chapel Hill police close in on whoever murdered UNC student Faith Hedgepeth. Get the latest and hear from her father in Gloria Lloyd's report. (See newsobserver.com)

JORDAN LAKE QUESTIONS: For years local political leaders have resisted tapping Jordan Lake's water supply, despite having an allocation. So why does OWASA want to make it easier to withdraw water from the lake now? Tammy Grubb talks with OWASA planner Ed Holland and with critics of the move, who fear it will undercut conservation efforts. (See chapelhillnews.com)

ART THERAPY SHOW: Each month Debbie Meyer spotlights a local artistic endeavor in her long-running Brushstrokes column (recently expanded to a second column in our Durham News edition). Today she previews a show by local students working with the Art Therapy Institute in Carrboro. (See chapelhillnews.com)

Lucas Selvidge gets to help choose a new pastor in today's My View. UNC Associate Vice Chancellor Bob Lowman responds to criticism of the university's animal research facility. And speaking of animals, Orange County is holding two information sessions on coyotes. Find out what that's all about.

And on today's opinion page an invitation: Do you follow local policy making? Do you think you may have better answers than the policy makers. If you do, or even if you just have really good questions, we'd like to hear from you. The Chapel Hill News is forming a small group of people to provide signed editorials about local issues on our Sunday opinion page. If you're interested submit a sample essay of about 600 words to me at editor@newsobserver.com

Enjoy the warmth, and thanks for reading,

Mark

Battle of the Badges to honor Durham police officer killed in accident

For the third consecutive year, Battle of the Badges will host its annual Law Enforcement Basketball Tournament this Friday and Saturday at the Emily K Center, 904 W. Chapel Hill St.

Battle of the Badges was created in 2000 by Wake County Detention Officer Jerome Hall to raise scholarship money for college-bound youth in underprivileged areas nationwide, and to honor law enforcement officers who have died, according to a news release. The two-day “battle” also serves as an opportunity for officers from all aspects of law enforcement, and their supporters, to gather for friendly competition.

This year’s Battle of the Badges honors Durham Police officer Elbert Mitchell III, who died in a motorcycle accident in May 2011 in Myrtle Beach, SC. The inaugural Battle of the Badges, a decade ago was held in Baltimore in honor of Maryland State Trooper Corporal Edward M. Toatley, killed in the line of duty. For the last two years, the event was held in Raleigh.

Commissioner: Chapel Hill should ask Planning Board chair to resign

County Commissioner Penny Rich asked the Chapel Hill Town Council this week to seek the Planning Board chairwoman’s resignation.

Rich’s letter to the council references remarks Chairwoman Del Snow made Dec. 11 to the Orange County Board of Commissioners. Snow asked the commissioners to delay a regional transit plan and a half-cent sales tax to pay for it while considering other options. Snow spoke about the Planning Board's opposition to the plan during the public comment portion of the meeting. The Town Council supported the plan.

Rich said it was “highly unusual” for Snow to represent the town’s Planning Board in speaking to the commissioners without having been asked to do so by the council. She also questioned Snow’s ability to serve in light of her part in a pending lawsuit over the town’s Charterwood development approval.

“Ms. Snow’s interests are in conflict with the town and the citizens of Chapel Hill and I don’t see how she can vote on issues to move the 2020 Comprehensive plan forward given her stated positions,” Rich wrote in her letter.
Snow responded in a letter to the council that Rich’s analysis “is just plain wrong.”

The Charterwood lawsuit is irrelevant to the discussion, because people who pursue a legal dispute with the town do not give up their right to serve the town. Policy disagreements also do not disqualify residents from serving, she said.