Occupy Chapel Hill

Occupy Wall Street has come to Chapel Hill. On Sunday, a diverse crowd of about 100 people sat in the sun in front of the Post Office on East Franklin Street, making plans for how best to support the Occupy Wall Street movement. Operating under the same restrictions as the New York gathering, Occupy Chapel Hill organizers used no microphones to address the crowd. Unlike its New York counterpart, Occupy Chapel Hill had no police presence. The crowd seemed enthusiastic but not riotous. They were breaking up into small, manageable groups to better discuss strategy when I left.

The agenda for tonight’s Town Council meeting lists nothing particularly contentious. Council members may get home at a decent hour tonight. Council will rule on the closing of the Dawson Place right-of-way, but correspondence indicates that the lawyers for both sides have reached an agreement to close the right-of-way, providing certain conditions are met.

The town may consider scheduling a hearing about changing the town’s towing ordinance. A point that would benefit consumers would be to make tow operators accept credit cards and checks instead of demanding cash to retrieve a vehicle. Benefiting the tow operators would be to make it a criminal offense for vehicle retrievers to cancel the check or credit card payment after getting their car back. The only ominous note was that tow operators noted their fees had not been adjusted in several years. Expect that to change.

In the matter of board appointments, there seems to be healthy competition for seats on the Parks & Rec and the Transportation boards. Council members can choose from among six applicants for the two open spots on the Transportation Board and from among nine applicants for the lone seat open on the Parks & Rec Board.

Council must also appoint a liaison to the Community Policing Advisory Committee. Expect Penny Rich to volunteer as she has previously singled that committee out as the “important” one of the town’s 19 boards and committees.
– Nancy Oates

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  1. Scott Maitland

     /  October 10, 2011

    That only the human capital in the Occupy Chapel Hill demonstrations were breaking off into small groups to create something instead of protesting. Sigh…………

  2. JWW

     /  October 10, 2011

    When you say “a diverse crowd of about 100” are you exclusively talking about skin pigmentation?

    Or do you include sexual orientation, age, height, gender, “race” (how many hispanics, asians, and Indians?), education, wealth, political thought, etc. in your definition of diversity?

  3. Nancy Oates

     /  October 10, 2011

    I could assess only by observable surface traits: age, height, weight, gender, race and whether they put a priority on expensive clothes. I couldn’t tell any of the other traits by looking, though the crowd’s support of the speakers suggested they were in agreement with the white men who spoke while I was there.

  4. Wonder if the modifications made to the Library expansion project to keep it within budget will come up? TM Stancil posits either paying for modified plan using general funds on top of bond funds or significantly altering design to fit budget if the rebid doesn’t mesh.

  5. Nancy Oates

     /  October 10, 2011

    Let me get this straight — the economy has been reeling for the past 3 years and prices/costs, particularly in real estate and construction, have plummeted precipitously (recall 140 West dropped its prices 30% after its rebid came in so much lower), but the town is expecting the rebid of the library to increase? Shouldn’t he have mentioned this when he pushed to cash in the bonds? Isn’t the town required to seek competitive bids?

  6. Not clear what modifications were made to bring down the cost (or expected cost).

    Chapel Hill has hit the reset button on the expansion of the Chapel Hill Public Library after the initial round of construction bids came in over the $12.5 million the town has allotted.

    Clancy & Theys Construction Company, which is managing the project, was unable to guarantee the project within its approved budget after receiving bids from 29 subcontractors.

    The town has modified the design plans to try to bring down costs — mostly by opting for less expensive materials — and will distribute the modified plan for rebidding on Friday, Oct. 7. New bids will be opened on Nov. 3.

    The design modifications won’t change the size or footprint of the building, and won’t affect its eligiblity for LEED silver energy efficiency certification.

    DaveHart, CHN, orangechat


    CHAPEL HILL – The long-awaited, much-discussed expansion of the Chapel Hill Public Library is on hold again, as the initial bids for the construction project all came in well over the Town’s allotted budget.

    Click here for a history of the expansion project and details about the construction.

    Twenty-nine subcontractors submitted bids to Clancy & Theys Construction Co. in late August. Town Manager Roger Stancil says the hope was to have a contract finished by September, but now he says it’s back to the drawing board.

    “We’ve done some reengineering and we’re rebidding certain portions of the project,” he says, “looking at finishes and other aspects of the project, so we can hopefully come within the Town’s budget when we rebid.”

    “It was pretty significant, but we’re optimistic that the changes we’ve made will bring the project in under budget,” he says. “And then we’ll be able to finish in (roughly) the same time frame that we had previously estimated.”

    Aaron Keck, ChapelBoro, Oct. 5th, 2011


  7. DOM

     /  October 10, 2011

    Let’s just say that anything holding up the library’s expansion project is a good thing. That might allow us to pay the money back to the state and postpone the project until we can actually afford to pay for construction AND the increased costs of keeping it open once it’s built. We don’t need another fiasco like the community pool situation.

  8. John Kramer

     /  October 10, 2011

    LOL Occupy Chapel Hill.

  9. DOM, the bonds were let but not to the State. Even if we pay them back ASAP it will not have been a cheap mistake – that’s where the balancing act comes in. Move forward with minor modifications paid for out of the general funds or redeem the bonds now and take a modest loss? Biggest political problem for Council is that a new borrowing will require a new bond referendum. If they had gotten the Local Govt. Comm. to grant a delay, which would surely have been approved, they wouldn’t have to face that problem.

    As far as debt, Council actually authorized $20+ M in bonds in 2010 of which $14+ M are for the Library (Library $14,260,000, Parks and Recreation $3,700,000, Streets/Sidewalks $2,450,000, for a total $20,410,000).

    Not sure what the “less expensive materials” Dave was referencing but until the Town Manager enumerates the changes, we won’t know how much pressure will be brought to bear by the folks who really pushed for passage (what will cause a bigger backlash – loss of fine Corinthian leather or piping hot espressos?)

    Next up is the extremely environmentally unsound idea of paving directly adjacent to Bolin Creek at Umstead Dr. We’re looking at messing up Bolin Creek even more – just in time for the Jordon Lake rules to kick in. A double whammy, then, of executing on a greenway project during fiscally distressed times and degrading further an impaired watershed (which we’ll eventually have to pay to fix).

    Every major capital project the Town has undertaken since the Operations Center – whose budget expanded radically in 18 months – to the Aquatics Center – to the tune of about 8% – has come in over budget.

    Continuing that pattern, while waiting on the Library bonds to be let, the Town realized roughly $252K additional revenues (from the Friends) to handle the design phase – all of which were consumed.

    Amounts appropriated for the Design Phase of the library Renovation project are hereby
    amended as follows:
    Current Budget Revised Budget (1/25/10)
    Temporary Salaries/FICA 0 30,200
    Legal Fees 0 5,000
    Design and Engineering 1,963,368 1,963,368
    Traffic Studies 16,632 16,632
    Miscellaneous Contract Services 10,000 10,000
    Art Acquisition 20,000 165,000
    Contingency 0 61,903
    Total 2,010,000 2,252,103

  10. DOM

     /  October 10, 2011

    Nancy –

    Thanks for all the info vis a vis library costs thus far – but I still think swallowing our losses today and walking away from the project is the better alternative. Who knows what unknown extras will appear tomorrow?

    Not to mention the fact that the addition was approved before Kindle, iPad et al were ever dreamed of. These devices have been around a little over two years and already Amazon’s e-book sales have outpaced their paper-based brethren. In ten years, books may well be as obsolete as LPs.

  11. DOM

     /  October 10, 2011

    Sorry, Will –

    Didn’t note that it was you who provided all the cost info. Thanks for all the details. You sure do your homework!

  12. John Kramer

     /  October 10, 2011

    I feel a new protest coming on. Join with me people, in this just cause. Rage against the establishment.

    Occupy Chapel Hill Library. Who is with me on this?

  13. George C

     /  October 11, 2011

    The citizen survey that was done two years ago showed that Chapel Hill citizens valued their Library as the second most valuable public service provided by the Town – after 1st place winner Public Safety. Before the Library closed for its move to UMall, more than 1,000 citizens passed through its door each day. They obviously weren’t downloading e-books which they could have done much more easily off the Library’s website from the comfort of their home. There are, as of yesterday, over 50,000 books, CDs or DVDs checked out of the Chapel Hill Public Library. The newly-expanded Library will have at least 3-5 times as much public meeting space as before – space that is sorely lacking in Chapel Hill. The newly-expanded Library WILL NOT have a coffee shop or expresso bar (sorry Will) – but it will have a teen center, again something sorely lacking in Chapel Hill. And the newly-expanded Library (as well as the temporary Library at UMall) will have all updated computer terminals, a necessity for those in Chapel Hill who need to learn computer skills in order to draft resumes or to email their granchildren.

  14. runner

     /  October 11, 2011

    Don’t challenge Chapel Hill’s Library Industrial Complex. It’s the third rail of Chapel Hill politics.

  15. George, just kidding about amenities though it would’ve been cool to have fine leather chairs. The small town Library I grew up with (a Carnegie) had hand-stitched (by Gilgamesh reputedly) leather seats which a kid could curl up in and spend a quiet, rainy day reading.

    I have never disputed the worth of additional meeting space, etc. but have consistently questioned the timing – which is abysmal.

    Runner is correct to some extent, I can vouch from personal experience that calling for the delay of the Library expansion carried significant political downside. It also highlights the distinct difference between leading and politicking.

    Leaders on Council (like Laurin) make the tough calls, irrespective of the consequences, because it’s the right thing to do. On the other hand, I was quite disappointed in Gene, who ran on a fiscal responsibility platform, cheer-leading the approval just months after taking his seat. I know he’s spent years supporting the Library, should be widely praised for work on its behalf, but he must have known moving forward was going to make a mess of the budget.

    Speaking of budgets, nice to see adopting a 2 year budget cycle getting some air play yesterday. I called for 2 year cycles starting in 2005 and have pressed Council to adopt that policy and create a Citizen’s Budget Review Board ever since. Got one, will still work to get the other.

    Unfortunately, there is a steep cost in having the majority of this and previous Councils drag their feet on prudent budgeting. With reserves reduced to barebone levels, there are very few options left – very steep tax increases, drastic reductions in services – most likely both. When they come, though, the one thing the politickers on Council can’t say is that they didn’t know it was coming – they’ve been warned by staff and the public for years that day will come.