It’s only a slice

Don and I live simply. Because we are so focused on paying our high property taxes (purportedly the highest in the state), we rarely go out to dinner. But once in a while, we’ll pick up a pizza to go. Last night, Don called Tedesco’s, our favorite Italian joint, to place an order, but the line was disconnected. Yet another pizzeria went belly up. In a college town, no less.

The past couple of years have seen the demise of L’Incontro, in The Courtyard; Camos Bros., first in The Courtyard, then in Gateway Commons; Sal’s, in Eastgate; Franklin Street Pizza and Pasta, replaced by Tomato Jake’s, which closed within a year; and Pepper’s. All are independently owned, more or less local shops.

Mellow Mushroom, part of a small franchise, opened last month, though it doesn’t deliver. And the big chains – Papa John’s and Pizza Hut – are still going strong.

The closing of Tedesco’s means more than just one fewer place to get an excellent meal for good value. The Chapel Hill-Carrboro Chamber of Commerce, the town manager and Town Council all should pay attention and find out why yet another locally owned business couldn’t make a go of it in Chapel Hill. It may be due to Mark Marcopolis’ assumption: Chapel Hill’s tea party Democrats wouldn’t patronize a business that bore the same name as a tea party Raleigh Republican. (And if that’s the case, we’ve got more to worry about than a sluggish economy and high taxes.) But it may be the sign of an endemic problem of our own making.

A business-friendly atmosphere involves adequate signage, parking and a customer base open to newcomers. Council members are making baby steps to fix the first two. But other development decisions geared toward increasing property taxes steer our town to become dominated by wealthy retirees, a demographic less open to change than their younger counterparts. That increases the risk for any new business, tilting the balance toward chains that can absorb greater risk.

And that sets us on a path for the streets of Chapel Hill to look like The Streets of Southpoint.
– Nancy Oates

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  1. .

     /  May 1, 2013

    I like to visit Cane Creek and University reservoirs, and know from inspection and inquiry that sludge is not spread by municipalities on the fields around the former and the woods around the latter. That’s why I love that we don’t drink our own treated sewage, and hope we never do.

  2. Many

     /  May 1, 2013


    OK you are right. I was wrong. You are drinking Alamance County residents treated sewage 🙂

    “On Thursday, Fox 8 News was alerted by outraged local citizens that sewage sludge from Burlington’s Waste Water Treatment Plant was being spread in Alamance County on a steep hill just above the Cane Creek.”

    …and if that’s not good enough for you, see table 1 in the DENR report, search on “Cane”……

  3. .

     /  May 1, 2013

    That was a long read. The article from is about the City of Burlington spreading sludge in 2008 on fields in Alamance County by Cane Creek, below (south of) the reservoir. Upper Cane Creek and the reservoir are in Orange County. Lower Cane Creek flows through Alamance into the Haw River, which flows into Jordan Lake. To drink Alamance County residents’ treated sewage, we have to get water from Jordan Lake.

    The other article, while interesting, has nothing to do with Cane Creek reservoir. It is a survey article about how many pounds of phosphorus and “plant-available nitrogen” in sludge is applied to different NC watersheds based on permits granted statewide. Article specifies that it does not measure phosphorus and nitrogen escaping into ground water or rivers.

    I’m still glad not to be drinking treated sewage. Still hope we never do.

  4. Many

     /  May 2, 2013


    Ha! Nice try. You have defiantly drunk the Kool-Aid with your sludge 🙂

    The DENR document deals with: “Land application of wastewater residual solids to fertilize crops and dispose of treated sewage sludge” (first sentence)

    The document states that: “Sixty-eight counties in the state had at least one application occurrence in 2010. Union County had the highest amount of nutrients applied with 260,462 pounds of phosphorous and 264,759 pounds of PAN. Orange, Gaston, and Cumberland Counties had the next highest amounts of residuals application. Figure 8 and 9 show nutrients applied by county. The complete results are
    listed in Table 4 at the end of this report.”

    It also states that;

    “The quantification of residuals application is limited due to lack of information about application of residuals under permits for Distribution of Residuals Solids. In 2010, there were 77 active permits for Distribution of Residuals Solids. These facilities potentially generate large amounts of residuals that are spread on agricultural fields and other lands, but since they are not required to track and report this information it could not be included in this analysis.”

    OWASA is one of those facilities, as are most treatment plants.

    1) Sludge is deposited in watersheds that feed the Cane Creek reservoir
    2) ground water travels in many different directions. i have seen places where hydrology causes it to flow up hill.

    Sludge is not as bad as the effluent which flows directly into Jordan Lake from Durham, but like it or not you are drinking treated sewage and have been for a long time.

    I am glad you think you are not drinking treated sewage with you nitrogen and phosphorous.

  5. Geoff Green

     /  May 2, 2013

    I know a little bit about the schools, so I’ll comment on that.

    Many, what exactly are the “fancy buildings” that the school budget is being wasted on? Northside Elementary? What is fancy about it other than the various energy-saving techniques that are being used and which will reduce the buildings’ energy use over its lifetime?

    Let’s say that you can cut, say, $1 million out of the $21.4 million budget (that’s what it was planned to cost, not sure what the actual cost is) by eliminating some of the energy-efficient design elements. That would pay for a year of reduced fourth- and fifth-grade class sizes, or for teacher assistants if the state legislature goes ahead and cuts them out of the state educational budget. But you’re also paying more for building operating costs for years to come.

    The last few years have been tough for school budgets, and there’s not a lot of fat left in CHCCS (if there even was to start).You may argue that there are too many administrators, but someone has to do all work needed to comply with ever-increasing state and federal mandates.

  6. Bonnie Hauser

     /  May 2, 2013

    Geoff – you are blurring topics. For excess buildings check out Chapel Hill’s $52 million Town Operations Center – you know the place where they keep busses and garbage trucks. Or the county’s $37 million Gateway Center in Hillsborough – where despite promises to the contrary – the county owns all of it – except WEaver Street itself.

    Or how about $8 million for a Carrboro Library – when Chapel Hill just spent $16+ million to build one a couple of miles away. Lets not forget Ch Hill’s $50 park plan and the county’s

    Of course Elementary 11 is only $20 million down from the original $31 – which I’m told originally included $4 million for architects (really?)

    For schools – which I strongly support and I volunteer at two of the county schools. — the costs are alarming – especially when compared to others. A hard look might uncover ways to do better.

  7. Bonnie,
    So the original cost for the elementary school was $31 mil and it is now budgeted at $12 million? Isn’t that an example of reducing building costs?

  8. Many

     /  May 2, 2013


    Yes it is. Good job! It feels good! Let’s do it some more!

  9. Many – maybe you could convince Bonnie to recognize a positive example. She seemed bummed about even the costs that were actually cut because they had even been considered.

  10. Hello “.”

    I hate to be the bearer of bad news regarding sewage sludge.

    The area north of OWASA’s Cane Creek Reservoir. is spread with highly toxic Burlington’ s Class B sewage sludge. Some points of application are within less than .25 mile from the edge of the water, and are all uphill. In addition, toxic sewage sludge is spread right up to the banks of creeks that run into Cane Creek Reservoir!!! Furthermore, these fields are over applied with toxic sludge, in violation of their permits. Also, there is at least one permit that breeches the designated ‘critical watershed’ of the reservoir. The cancer rate in the neighborhood is over 70% of the people ages 1-60 year old that are still living….. There are whole families, with all members having different types of cancers.

    It is amazing to me that OWASA does not consider this a problem for the people of Carrboro and Chapel Hill… as THEY ARE DRINKING SEWAGE!! OWASA fought hard for this reservoir, and local families lost their farms, and OWASA allowed Burlington to pollute it…… There is a study by USGS that demonstrates the toxins found in this body of water.
    If you would like to see a wonderful colorful “ORANGE COUNTY BIOSOLIDS MAP”, that shows all active and inactive permits, feel free to email me @, and I will be happy to email it to you as an attachment.
    If you would like more info on toxic sewage sludge, and local issues regarding this topic, please go to….

    Myra Dotson, Chair
    Sewage Sludge Action Network

  11. Many

     /  May 2, 2013

    I have no influence on Bonnie. Although, we often agree.

    I think Bonnie (not speaking for her) would say the same; let’s look at expenditures and redundancies in in a new light and be smarter and more balanced.

    Let’s try to break down some of the silos in governments and get them pulling together.

    Let’s be realistic about our resources and deploy them well, rather than starving ourselves economically resulting in regressive economic flight..

    /soapbox on/
    This isn’t the tired old battle between development and conservation. If you think that it is then ask the Sierra Club why they support a LRT plan that will increase property values driving the middle classes out, resulting in more traffic road miles, while tearing up a watershed that helps to protect Jordan Lake. A watershed BTW that the Sierra Club itself identified as critical.

    This is about reexamining old preconceptions and understanding the puts and takes with much more information and available choices than we have had in the past. It’s about smarter not more.
    //end soapbox//

  12. Fred Black

     /  May 2, 2013

    Some of the great issues that Bonnie has raised here and during the hour nine segment of the WCHL Community Forum are addressed on the hour 10 segment by the managers.

  13. Bonnie Hauser

     /  May 2, 2013

    Thanks Many. Exactly. On WCHL, the last segment (elected officials and managers) raised some of the positives – yet our taxes are still increasing – in creative and unusual ways (sales taxes, fees, district taxes, etc, etc). Despite efforts to create economic development, we’re still waiting for a sign that our actions will bear fruit. If course correction is needed- hopefully we’ll be paying attention to the facts – not the rhetoric.

    BTW – – the school costs $20 not 12 million – still an improvement – due mostly to the economy – not because of fiscal discipline.

    What’s important is acknowledging that we have a cost problem – and we can’t grow our way out of it. If anything the cost problem is likely to suppress revenue growth and/or limit opportunities.

    If our leaders started with the couple of things that Many mentioned and took a hard look at options to share services/facillities, they could take out a nice chunck of costs without cutting services or jobs. Its likely that with simplification, services would improve.

    The road to insolvency is paved with stirring rhetoric. Its going to be up to the citizens to ask for better value from our goverment. Hopefully they’ll try the ballot box before they move to Chatham.

  14. Fred Black

     /  May 2, 2013

    Do you consider the opening of LaUNCh yesterday a positive action that bore fruit, Bonnie?

  15. Geoff Green

     /  May 2, 2013

    Bonnie, how am I blurring topics? Many’s post said “Cut the school budgets for fancy buildings and use that money to maintain or decrease class size. I would also consider the sin of combining the school districts.” That’s clearly all about fancy school buildings, not about library facilities or the Town Operations Center.

  16. Bonnie Hauser

     /  May 2, 2013

    Its great – but its going to take time before we know if it bears fruit – which to me means its a net economic positive (macro or micro -you pick) – after all the costs, subsidies, mentors, whatever.

    Oh – and it has nothing to do with costs.

  17. Many

     /  May 2, 2013

    Actually Geoff,

    Its more about focusing on what is important for the main purpose of the expenditure, in this case it would be class size not gilded 31 million dollar buildings. (thirty-one, really?)

    Its a lot like the Library.

    Certainly the location is bad. It absolutely could have been built cheaper on the bus line. Wait a minute! It was, it was called University Mall. People seemed to like it there. It was kid friendly. It made sense and enabled local businesses. It was on the bus line, It used an existing (recycled?) empty facility with lots of parking Chapel Hill could afford to run and staff it, and had walkable food and shopping nearby to boot!

    ……..but sadly, University Mall just wasn’t a Bentley.

  18. Bonnie Hauser

     /  May 2, 2013

    Hey Geoff – sorry I didn’t mean to block your comment – I blurred Many’s comments with one of my own.


  19. Fred Black

     /  May 2, 2013

    Just as Bonnie’s proposal to co-locate EMS in the firs stations isn’t possible right now because of space demands, so too the “shoulda – coulda” opinions on siting the library just aren’t based on the facts. “Somebody” said kick Dillard’s out of the Mall and put the CHPL there. Well, the Mall and Dillard’s both had votes. The idea back in the 80s was to keep the CHPL downtown but no available sites could be found. Prichard Park land was both available and affordable. It was built there and it did have bus service UNTIL ridership declined and CHT dropped it.

    Sometime, reality and the facts intrude on what we might think “shoulda – coulda” been done. These decisions are not made in a void; citizens serve on these boards and devote a lot of time studying these things and try to do what is best for the community. I remember when we got rid of the Bookmobile and we were heavily criticized for doing so. Problem was that the critics never ran the numbers and when given the numbers, they tended to want to reject them becuse “it was good for the Town to have a Bookmobile,” irrespective of the facts on the costs. Lot’s of that goes on here.

  20. Many

     /  May 2, 2013

    If existing structures had been considered earlier during the salad days, CH could have had a library that was cost effective and not a monument to wasteful spending. University mall was just an example, and of course by the time they put it at Prichard Park it was too late to consider University Mall as a permanent home. AFAIK the Mall never came up before the Prichard Park decision.

    Honestly I never saw the urgency of the decision in the first place. Also how the heck did it get to 16 Million? Weren’t there any checks & balances?

    Chapel Hill Library could also be more centrally located, maybe then the rest of the county could use it too. Chapel Hill is good at calculating the “trash centroid” when it suits them, why not things like libraries?

    My point being why are the sensible alternatives always victims of the gold plated Cadillac? Does it really take “a lot of time studying these things” to do what is best for “the community”? Which community are you referring to anyway?

    Co-locating ambulances is happening. But understand the county needs to kick in building funds to house them. Rural fire departments have been running on a shoestring since their inception and do not have room or the funds to add on bays for ambulances. OTOH with minimal investment many of them could house an ambulance, why isn’t that possible? Oops! Right! Orange County is near the bottom of county funding for public safety.

  21. Bonnie Hauser

     /  May 2, 2013

    Fred – don’t believe everything you hear. There are immediate opportunities to place ambullances in fire stations – and there are more opportunities to plan new fire stations -especially with Chapel Hill who’s planning new fire stations. In the meantime, rural fire departments and Carrboro’s fire station on Homestead all have space for ambulances. If co-location doesn’t happen, hopefully you’ll join me in outrage.

  22. Fred Black

     /  May 2, 2013

    So Bonnie, who’s opposed and why? I don’t think CH will see new stations until a few years to come.

  23. Deborah Fulghieri

     /  May 2, 2013

    The library at UMall was an good idea– but it meant permanently removing a significant proportion of UMall property tax base and Chapel Hill’s only department store (best boy’s department ever with its Ralph Lauren cheaper and closer than the Mebane outlet) AND putting a library in a flood plain. And the building price and modification were expensive. There were other reasons as well that maybe someone else can remember.

    I don’t see why Carrboro, Chapel Hill, and Orange County want 3 smaller separate library systems with separate staffs, resources and collections. Like the 3 separate economic development systems.

  24. Fred Black

     /  May 2, 2013

    Deborah, we have two systems. The CHPL was established in 1958 as a system separate from the County system. I think there are eight other separate systems in NC and all others are county libraries. The reasons were simple – the people at the time didn’t believe that the county system met their needs and therefore were willing to tax themselves to get what they believed they needed. There have been more than a few studies on our two systems but uniting them seems too difficult at this point in time because of money. The OC Library is responsible for servicing Carrboro and ALL other citizens of OC. CH taxpayers pay for two libraries. Zero chance of that changing near term. I think the same is true with the schools for many of the same reasons.

    So what do you recommend as actions to turn this around?

  25. Bonnie Hauser

     /  May 2, 2013

    Today – there are two library systems – Ch Hill and the County. I wish Chapel Hill scaled the expansion back but its too late. The county built a new library in Hillsborough. That should do it. But there’s an interest group in Carrboro who’s been fighting for a library for 25 years and there’s $8 million in the capital budget to site and build one. (There’s currently a small library in McDougle and of course the Cybrary)

    I read with great interest – about the 20 libraries in Wake County – not every town has one – and no one drives more than 15 minutes to get to one. And if you walk into any library, you have access to the countywide collection and whatever you are looking for will show up in 3 days. That’s what progressive looks like to me — and a far cry from what OC/CH is planning.

    Fred – the abulance substations are years out – so there’s plenty of time to get this right – especially if the town and rural fire departments and the county plan jointly. There’s good cooperation between the fire chiefs and the new ES director. But you heard the resistance on the air – what that just equivocating politics or something more? You’re takeaway was that its a problem. Its not – unless the county wants it to be.

  26. Many

     /  May 3, 2013

    I have always wondered, perhaps someone here knows? Why is it Chapel Hill Library is funded by state grants and Orange County seems to be missing from the funding?

    After all, its only a slice.

  27. Many

     /  May 3, 2013


    My point was not to eliminate Dillards, but that the new library runs county to “Transit Oriented” “Walkable” “Convenient” and all of the other main tenants of the stated Chapel Hill 2020 planing……….How did this happen? What is being done to make sure it does not happen again?

    U-Mall was a good idea. I think any of the reasons not to do it could have been mitigated up to and including adding to the Mall structure itself. I think there were other locations that would have been just as good.

    I agree with your point about three systems, however whenever Chapel Hill controls the system, it seems as if the rest of the county is forgotten (unless we are talking trash disposal). In the case of the Library it is so far off the beaten path, as to seem unfriendly and inconvenient.

  28. Fred Black

     /  May 3, 2013

    Orange County is part of the Hyconeechee Regional Library and is funded through those dollars.

    Keep believing that the Mall was an option. They have to agree to it and they only agreed to a temporary siting. If you know other locations, please share because all other possibilities were evaluated.

    For the third time, there are only TWO library systems in Orange County. The two facilities in Carrboro are part of the Oarange County system. How does CH control the OC system?

  29. Many

     /  May 3, 2013

    wrt control; I was responding to Deborah s comment “I don’t see why Carrboro, Chapel Hill, and Orange County want 3 smaller separate library systems with separate staffs, resources and collections. Like the 3 separate economic development systems.”

    I think there were options that better served the “community” such as multiple smaller sites or breaking down the silos. Adding to University Mall was also an option I did not hear considered.

    It seems there is a general lack of thinking outside the box, and a propensity to “group think”..

    “If everyone is thinking alike, then somebody isn’t thinking.” – George S. Patton

  30. Fred Black

     /  May 3, 2013

    Many, are you being intentionally dense? Put your “better options” on the table and I’ll tell you if they were considered. UMall WAS considered and REJECTED, mainly because it is on a flood plain, so adding to it made no sense.

    As I told Deborah, there are only TWO SYSTEMS. Carrboro is under Orange County, not a separate system. It is not like the three economic development departments. There were many options considered and evaluated; sorry that you don’t like the outcome.

    I guess you don’t volunteer to do these things since they will want your name and address.

    I’m finished.

  31. Many

     /  May 3, 2013

    No Fred. I am not being intentionally dense, are you?. Was the option of adding a connected building (hopefully somewhere south of 16 Million) considered? I can answer that, no, it was not. Were smaller distributed Libraries, rather than the edifice in the middle of the woods considered? No, it was not.

    A flood plain can be dealt with. Dillard’s and So. Season do it. Hell, both Eastgate and University Mall are in flood planes, The flood plain is a specious argument if I have ever heard one..

    Don’t you worry. I do volunteer and I am intimately involved. That is one big reason why I do not identify myself. My criticisms and questions would not go over well in some quarters, and I am afraid of the collateral impacts on others more than myself There is far too much “shoot the messenger and their associates” in this town.

    I KNOW there are only two Library and school systems, however there are THREE Planning departments, THREE Solid Waste well as other widely pointed out duplicate services.

    Plus, I like to annoy you 🙂

    If only.

  32. Many

     /  May 3, 2013

    Do I hear an echo in here?

    Thank you for your service and your honesty, Chancellor Thorpe.

  33. Out of curiosity, at what point would onerous, larcenous state & federal policies which continue to narrow local options (and contribute heavily to these issues under discussion) become something worthy of concern and comment? Or are we like the child of an alcoholic who continues to enable destructive behavior and just adapts, trying to do with less, and not mentioning the dysfunctional family (society)?