Library belt-tightening

Does the library expansion construction contract with Clancy & Theys call for providing lunches to the construction crew? Because food is the only general commodity that has gone up in price noticeably since October 2008, when the contract was last drawn up. Yet the renegotiated contract, which appears on tonight’s consent agenda, has scaled back the luxury and ditched the coffee shop, and still costs more than the Dream House library costed out in 2008.

The 2008 contract laid out construction costs of $12,630,000 and a total project budget of $16,515,374. That would give us not so much a state-of-the-art library as a place we could go and sit, luxuriating in splendor, and pretend we were rich. But three years of a collapsing economy later, Clancy & Theys can’t guarantee that they can finish the project under budget. So town manager Roger Stancill scaled back the project, making some down-to-earth modifications while keeping the usable square footage the same. He agreed to replace the ipe wood louvered sun filters with aluminum, the Chatham stone foundation with stained and textured concrete, and some of the interior wood paneling with standard Sheetrock. He cut 24 of the planned 109 new parking spaces. And he exed out the granite fountain in lieu of donated sculpture.

Still, the new contract cites construction costs of $12,840,000 and a total budget of $16,892,835. We’ll have to bring our own coffee and donuts, and with the smaller parking area, we might be better off taking the bus.

As luck would have it, the federal government is giving the town $7.47 million to replace up to 15 35-foot buses. The town would need to kick in $1,867,500, but with state matching funds of 20 percent, the town’s obligation drops to $933,750. That money can be found in the Transit Fund and Transit Capital Reserve Fund already. And those new buses will be 40-footers. Fifteen new 40-foot buses for $933,750. As bargains go, that ranks right up there with my 2-cent peanut butter purchase and 52-cent movie rentals.

Council will also hear the proposed community plan and NCD zoning amendments for the Northside and Pine Knolls neighborhoods, and receive a petition that indicates the problem of student rentals has spilled over into the Davie Circle area.
– Nancy Oates

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  1. Library expansion also lost a clerestory for natural light, got reduced quality window frames and other little tweaks which still didn’t bring its budget back into line. A quick back of the envelope calculation on construction materials cost increases (and decreases) since 2008 (and 2010) shows that the cost bumps aren’t coming from there. Interesting that we’re losing about 25% of the much touted parking increase. It will be difficult to make the case that this is an access improvement given the Library bus route realignment.

    Also on tap, Jim Neal’s petition to have an independent review of the CHPD’s recent raid (62 signatures so far – ) and the cellphone ban.

    Not sure why the cellphone ban discussion is scheduled for this busy evening given the preliminary State Attorney General’s response that such a ban would be legally unenforceable. It’s also clear it would be technically unenforceable unless the Town adopted some very draconian policing practices.

  2. FYI, Laurin Easthom on the detention of local media during the recent raid.

    And a proposed apology:

    Resolution of Town Council November 21, 2011

    WHEREAS the police took action to detain and arrest several citizens at the Yates Motor Company on November 13, 2011 for breaking and entering, and in the course of so doing, detained two members of the media, Ms. Katelyn Ferral and Mr. Josh Davis, and

    WHEREAS Ms. Ferral and Mr. Davis were forced to lie on the ground and were handcuffed and Ms. Ferral was told not to take any further photographs;

    WHERAS Ms. Ferral and Mr. Davis positively identified themselves as a member of the press, had visible press badges, and vocally stated their positions;

    WHERAS Ms. Ferral and Mr. Davis were not attempting to disrupt the police in their work;

    WHERAS Ms. Ferral and Mr. Davis were told they would be detained and arrested if they were “caught on the premises again”;

    THE TOWN OF CHAPEL HILL officially apologizes for the actions taken against Ms. Ferral and Mr. Davis and will begin a review of current policies and relationships between the press and the Town of Chapel Hill Police Department.

    This day, November 21, 2011.

  3. DOM

     /  November 21, 2011

    It’s still not too late to stop the expansion – We could buy an e-book reader for every single citizen in Chapel Hill and still save $12,000,000!

  4. Nancy Oates

     /  November 21, 2011

    The town doesn’t need to apologize to Josh Davis. He was not at the scene on assignment. He displayed “press credentials” for a blog that is NYU’s equivalent of ReeseNews. As he no longer works for that site and was not on assignment for that organization as a freelancer, he was on the scene as an ordinary citizen, kind of like if Don and I were to wander down there and show our badges left over from when we worked for the N&O. (And at least Don and I would post a report on our blog. Davis has only a Twitter account, no blog site.) John Drescher at the N&O is very clear that Katelyn Ferral was the only reporter on the scene who was detained.

    And a clarification to Jim Neal’s petition: Ferral was not pushed to the ground by police. An officer told her to lie on the ground, and she complied, according to her account in the N&O.

  5. runner

     /  November 21, 2011


    I expect none of the information that you just stated to be addressed in the meeting tonight. My prediction is that the facts will be determined by the protesters and their apologists.

    It’s also going to be interesting to see how the Mayor explains his knowledge of the situation, since the early press accounts had him unaware of the situation until after the event. Yet, the Mayor of Carrboro went down there “for tea” and got a front row seat for the festivities.

  6. Terri Buckner

     /  November 21, 2011

    Does this mean you wouldn’t object to be told to lie face down on the ground with a gun aimed at you Nancy?

  7. Nancy Oates

     /  November 21, 2011

    If Ferral was instructed to lie down at gunpoint, Jim Neal should say that in his petition, not change it to say she an officer pushed her. And Ferral’s account in the N&O didn’t say she was told at gunpoint. If she had been directed at gunpoint, that would be an important detail to include, and I would hope if she didn’t know at the time to include it, her supervisor has since instructed her otherwise.

  8. Fred Black

     /  November 21, 2011

    runner – the Chief of Police is supervised by our Manager who is appointed by the Town Council. The Mayor and Coucil should work through the Manager.

    Nancy – when people break and enter into a building, does a person with a press ID have the right to enter the building to interview them or is that also illegal?

  9. Chris Jones

     /  November 21, 2011

    Fred –
    I know your question was directed at Nancy, but in my opinon, she had every right to be there to cover a news story. Likewise, the CHPD has every right to take someone’s “press pass” or any other form of identification with a grain of salt in a situation like this one. She was detained, like everyone else at the scene, and subsequently released upon verification of her identity.

  10. Fred Black

     /  November 21, 2011

    Chris – is “there” outside or inside the building?

  11. Nancy Oates

     /  November 21, 2011

    Fred — Don and I disagree on this, but I don’t think Ferral or Mark Schultz should have been inside unless they had first secured permission from the owner, Joe Riddle. Without the owner’s permission to be inside, she should have stood outside the open garage door and asked her questions. Police should have asked Ferral what she saw when she was inside — and she should have told them — but police may not have known a reporter had been inside. Ferral’s reports indicate she has not yet contacted the police to get their side of the story. The only comments from police in her multiple stories on the incident come from press releases and a press conference.

    She’s an inexperienced reporter who may have gotten so caught up in the excitement of having a press pass that she forgot her job was to get the full story. The fact that her supervisor was trespassing along with her bodes poorly for her learning what she needs to know to do her job well.

  12. Chris Jones

     /  November 21, 2011

    Fred –
    That’s a multi-part answer . . . I hope you’ll bear with me.
    I believe that, to a degree, her legitimate press credentials, on a legitimate assignment, would offer her a measure of freedom to be inside the building. She would be carrying out her job by interviewing the trespassers. Obviously, she is free to be on a sidewalk (public parking lot, street, whatever). Now, since she has been observed engaging with the trespassers, and if the police are not able to previously identify her and “clear her” (for lack of better terms), then they must treat her in the same manner that other suspects were treated. I don’t believe that her (or anyone else’s) press credentials, in this or any other scenario, provide her with some form of blanket immunity from criminal investigation . . . the CHPD has to be able to establish that she is not a perpetrator of a crime.
    I also don’t believe that press credentials automatically grant one access to restricted areas – be it private property, scenes of crimes, etc.. This scenario just happened to be one where there was no “control” over ingress/egress from the site; if, for instance, my business was robbed tomorrow, the answer is no – she is not allowed on the premises, and has no “right” to be there unless invited.
    Finally, while I believe that she and other reporters have freedom to pursue their assignments, they also bear a standard of personal responsibility (I know, that’s a concept that doesn’t matter to most people these days, it seems . . . it’s always someone else’s fault). If you choose to put yourself in a scenario where you could be misidentified, then you must be prepared to deal with the possible repercussions.
    I’m really not sure what your question may be leading to, but, if it is “do I believe that the CHPD violated her freedom as a member of the press?”, my answer is “no.” I believe that she had a right to be there and cover the story, and that the CHPD had a right to detain those they were interested in questioning. She was subsequently cleared, and continued to provide coverage (including her personal experience) of the event, so I don’t believe that her rights were violated. If Council deems it necessary to apologize, I, personally, would be disappointed — not particularly surprised, but disappointed. I can empathize that she had an unpleasant experience; I do not sympathize with the outcome. Just my two cents.

  13. runner

     /  November 21, 2011

    Chris Jones,

    You are way too logical for an internet forum. I would also bet that your brand of logic will not be shared with most of those present at the Town Council meeting tonight.

  14. Fred Black

     /  November 21, 2011

    Thanks Nancy and Chris for your thoughts. I wondered about this as a freedom of the press issue so I asked the N&O Publisher what he believed. He provided a response and I appreciate his taking time to do it:

    “The reporter did enter the building briefly to interview people inside. There was not a “No Trespassing” sign on the building, nor had notice been given that she was not to enter the building. It’s reasonable for a credentialed reporter to enter such a building to conduct interviews. Chapel Hill police apparently thought so, also, for they did not arrest her. Neither the mayor nor the town manager has complained about her entering the building to interview the people inside. “

  15. John Kramer

     /  November 21, 2011

    I guess then, according to the N and O, I can enter any building I want as long as there is not a “no trespassing” sign on it.

    What genius. Let’s all live by that concept. But first, let me lock my doors and prepare “otherwise” for those entitled to come into the building that I own since it does not have such a sign.

    Once again, Chapel Hill (and its press) at its finest. Individual rights be damned, I can go in that building. LOL! Thanks for the chuckle, guys.