Yeah, I saw it.

I heard there was some kind of mess on Facebook about this. Looks like much to do about nothing. The fact that neither of the parties in charge of this home improvement project gave any thought to the optics involved is sad enough, but the fact that I even feel the need to mention it is sadder still. A sad reflection on a few handfuls of adults hurling insults across the internet like a bunch of six-year-olds in a playground disagreement.

The worst anyone in this picture is guilty of is bad optics, as in failure to consider how the pack of internet reactionaries down the street, around the corner, or across the highway would react to any suggestion of anyone doing anything they ought not to do or should’ve done differently. Forward is never backward. We’re better than any of this.

Talk soon.


Everyone deserves clean water.

Water is an essential element of life. A human being can survive for a month or more without solid food, but after about three days we all die without clean water. Randolph County needs a countywide water system, especially on the eastern side of the county. It is nothing short of criminal that today, well over a decade after the completion of Randleman Lake, there are still people in this county without access to a reliable supply of clean drinking water.

County and municipal leaders have long been aware of a need for a reliable supply of water to several communities on this side of the county. Plans have been floated several times, including last year, to extend a distribution main from Ramseur up NC Highway 49 to serve an area where existing water wells are known to be contaminated. Each time, those with the power to push such a project to completion have either lost interest or been too busy to see it through. It seems that despite so much lip service to the contrary, our leaders, past and present, do not really give a damn about those people.

The town of Ramseur owns a water treatment plant and reservoir with enough capacity to serve at least two or three times as many customers as it does today. More customers mean more revenue flowing through the system, which in turn means more available funds for plant maintenance and line replacement, not to mention a few more good jobs. A state inspection of Ramseur’s water treatment plant (WTP) earlier this year revealed a long list of issues, some dating back to at least 2017, which if not addressed could lead to catastrophic events that might leave the town and all of its water customers without potable water.

Instead of actively seeking ways to expand its customer base after Ramtex, once the town’s biggest water consumer, left town, Ramseur chose to simply let things stagnate. For a while, water plant operations were contracted to Suez, and during that time maintenance was almost nonexistent. What was done amounted to jerry-rigged, piecemeal repairs made only when they could no longer be ignored. Suez is gone now, but that doesn’t change the facts on the ground. Ramseur’s water plant and distribution infrastructure need a major influx of cash to bring the system up to date, and Ramseur leadership has, over the years, shown itself unwilling or unable to properly manage its water system. Perhaps there’s another, better option.

Fifty odd years ago our neighbors to the west in Davidson County chose to create an independent non-profit water company, Davidson Water. Today that system is among the largest in the nation and even serves some of our neighbors on the west side of Randolph County. There is no valid reason why something similar could not be established here. None. All that is needed is the will to do so and pressure on elected officials to make it a priority.

A strong case exists for the creation of an independent, non-profit water company to serve communities up and down the east side of Randolph County. Such an entity could lease or purchase the existing Ramseur WTP and expand service to most of this side of the county within just a few years. Ramseur could retain their wastewater treatment system and the revenue it generates, but would no longer be burdened by the maintenance costs of the WTP. 

The availability of a clean reliable water source is key to economic growth anywhere. The creation of an “Eastern Randolph Water Company” would lead to an economic development boom that would benefit everyone on this side of our county. The time is right for a group of visionary leaders to come together and study the possibilities of such a project. Are you one of those leaders?

The Case For Hiring A Town Administrator

[Editor’s note: Since publishing this essay in 2019 I have learned more about this issue. I have since modified my opinion. We do not need a town administrator: we need a MANAGER. Hiring a town manager requires a change to our municipal corporate charter, from a mayor-council to a council-manager form of government. A manager cannot simply be defunded and our government reverted back to the broken system we have now. Otherwise, the reasons cited below remain valid.]

The question of whether to hire a town administrator, in addition to a clerk, is an important decision for Ramseur today. Most of the candidates who appeared at the forum last weekend stated that they understand the value of hiring an administrator but there was some disagreement over whether and how to go about filling both positions. Most citizens of Ramseur seem to agree that we can no longer afford not to hire a professional town administrator.

Mayor Shaw has stated that he would prefer the board hire one person to fill the roles of town administrator, clerk, zoning administrator, and finance officer (treasurer). That’s pretty much where we were until last July when our former clerk, Bobbie Hatley, resigned. She, Commissioner Cheek, and Mayor Shaw were the de facto administration of the Town of Ramseur, and that arrangement ended badly for several reasons, not the least of which involved tasking one person with far too many responsibilities.

It wouldn’t matter if we paid an administrator a salary of $100,000 or $1,000,000; if you ask more than is humanly possible from a person no amount of money will make the arrangement work. Asking one person to fill too many roles in an operation as complex as a town – even one as small as Ramseur – is a recipe for failure. Our Board of Commissioners should be working to fill two positions: town clerk and town administrator.

In those two individuals, the board should be looking for a combination of experience and education that would allow a clerk and administrator, working as a team, to handle all of the administrative duties listed above and others that may arise in the course of doing the town’s business, including billing and collecting payments for our water and sewer utilities. If additional help turns out to be necessary, that need could be filled by part-time student interns or retirees employed a few hours each week to answer telephones and accept payments at the front desk. It’s not rocket science folks.

The remainder of this article will lay out why I believe this is the solution we should pursue. I will draw from sources at the UNC School of Government (SoG), as well as relevant information from other states.

First, it’s important to define what a town administrator is and how that differs from a town manager in North Carolina.  Frayda Bluestein at UNC SoG defined the terms in a blog post on the subject in 2010.

There are no specific statutes that describe town administrators or delineate their powers. That’s because a town administrator is a position created by the governing board in mayor-council cities. In a mayor-council city, the council has the legal authority to appoint employees and has broad authority to organize the government. (See G.S. 160A-146).  In addition, G.S. 160A-155 specifically authorizes the council in mayor-council cities to delegate to any administrative official or department head its authority to appoint, suspend, and remove employees. Under this authority, the council may create the position and hire an administrator to perform functions similar to or even identical to those that a manager in a council-manager city would perform.

“So what’s the difference between a manager and an administrator? In a council-manager form of government the manager’s powers and duties are set by state law (G.S. 160A-148).  The council has no authority to modify the manager’s powers, except perhaps to add to those listed in the statute. An administrator’s powers, on the other hand, are delegated by the council and can be defined, modified, or even completely eliminated, in the council’s discretion.

“In addition to supervisory authority, councils may delegate to administrators authority for things like approving contracts and other expenditures, and in some cases, cities confer upon the administrator the duties of clerk or finance officer. Basically, the council can delegate to an administrator any of its power or duty as it chooses, as long as no statute requires the power or duty to be exercised by the board itself.”

Contrary to what some candidates and current commissioners have stated in the past, hiring a town administrator takes no authority away from the board. In fact, everything I read on the subject says just the opposite; hiring a qualified administrator gives board members more time to focus on what they were elected to do: study issues and make good policy decisions.

Our local board would most likely not want to authorize an administrator to approve contracts, nor do I believe they should, but they probably would ask an administrator to develop contracts or the research materials needed to solicit bids and select the best options available.

Most of the candidates told us last weekend that they do not have all the answers, and no one should expect them to. We should expect them to hire professionals who in turn will empower the board members with the information needed to make the best decisions possible on every issue they consider.

Hiring two people to fill the necessary administrative roles in our office, regardless of how the duties are divided between them, would help ensure that if one resigned or became incapacitated there would almost always be at least one person in the office familiar with the day to day functions that keep our town running smoothly. The chaos we’ve seen since clerk Hatley’s departure provides all the proof anyone should need to see the value of having both an administrator and a clerk on our payroll.

Departmental supervisors reporting to a single administrator gives board members, as well as every employee or contractor in every department, a stable chain of command that doesn’t change after each election. It also eliminates the ridiculous argument that some commissioners are more important than others and must be available in town during business hours. The practice of individual commissioners being assigned responsibility for separate departments must end with this year’s election.

Continuity and stability are sorely lacking in the way our local government operates today. Under an administrator, departmental supervisors would have one person to report issues to. Often a policy, already in place, could be referenced and the issue resolved on the spot. In cases where no policy exists, an administrator could research the issue and distribute information to board members who would then discuss it and make a decision in a public meeting. That process takes no authority away from elected officials. If anything it empowers them to be better policymakers.

After reading through the materials available online, and in the textbook I purchased from UNC SoG, I was curious about what other states have to say on the subject. Obviously, every state is different, but at a base level all local governments exist for one purpose: to provide citizens with services that are cheaper in bulk; things we all want or need such as police and fire protection, sanitation, water, and sewer treatment or recreational opportunities

A case study from the University of Tennessee Municipal Technical Advisory Service (MTAS) made a very good case for employing qualified town administrators. According to MTAS, in municipalities without professional administrators governing boards often do not receive the full and accurate information needed for making informed decisions.

Cities without professional administration also frequently lose considerable funds every year to neighboring local governments. “In one city, $350,000 was being lost annually, and the city could only recover lost revenue for the most recent 12 months.” Over several years that amounts to losses in the millions of dollars.

A qualified town administrator will almost always save a municipality money in the long term. One administrator in Tennessee recovered $332,000 in local sales taxes that were wrongfully distributed to other jurisdictions. This added that much to city coffers every year going forward. Sounds like that administrator more than paid for themselves.

According to MTAS professional administrators give governing boards better control because accountability is more centralized. That affords board members more equal involvement and provides citizens with a central point of contact in resolving complaints.

A city attorney’s role and the cost is also minimized with a competent town administrator. Small towns that say they can’t afford an administrator often pay an attorney well over one hundred dollars per hour to address administrative issues that could easily be handled by a professional administrator paid considerably less.

Finally, city administrators provide for more effective use of state and federal grants in providing and paying for city services. A full-time administrator who has the time and latitude to interact with other agencies is more likely to be knowledgeable about the availability of federal and state grants.

I encourage everyone, especially current and aspiring board members, to read the full study, found here, and another document, from the Illinois City/County Management Association, that makes an excellent case for professional town administration as well. This seems like a no-brainer.

When we hire our next administrator I hope the board will have the wisdom to hire someone from outside the community; someone without pre-existing alliances or entanglements. Perhaps more important, the board must give that person the latitude to do the work, and not be an obstacle in the path of progress.

I didn’t live here the first time Ramseur tried having an administrator, but I’ve talked with several people who did, and one common thread has emerged from those discussions: our first administrator’s hands were tied by a board unwilling to let him do his job.

Ramseur needs both a full-time clerk and a qualified administrator to lead our local government, and a board smart enough to get out of the way and let those people do their jobs. Having a competent professional staff handling the day-to-day operations of our town will provide a level of stability that our current system of schoolyard popularity contests and musical chairs, with players changing every other year, simply cannot.

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How Municipal Government In North Carolina Should Work

I recently purchased the 2014 edition of County and Municipal Government in North Carolina, edited by Frayda Bluestein and published by the UNC School of Government. It’s a large, 807-page textbook that is so well organized that it needs no index or glossary. It’s packed with useful information and well worth the $125 price tag for anyone interested in how local governments work in our state. It’s a vital resource for anyone elected, appointed, or planning to run for any seat on a county or municipal board in North Carolina.

In North Carolina municipalities are organized as cities, towns, or villages, but in the eyes of the state, all these terms mean the same thing. Likewise, the governing board of any town in our state can be called a city council, a board of commissioners, or a board of aldermen. Each term means the same thing: a body of elected officials who set policy for a city

There are two forms of municipal government used in our state: mayor-council and council-manager. The mayor-council form, where a mayor handles most administrative duties while the council sets policy, was the original form of municipal government in America, established during colonial times. As cities grew systems of patronage emerged, leading to corruption, political favoritism, and gross inefficiencies. In response, during the early decades of the twentieth century, the council-manager system developed as an alternative to the mayor-council system.

Today the council-manager form of government is the primary form for most mid-sized American cities with populations between 2,500 and 250,000, while the mayor-council system – with many variations in the powers of the mayor – is more common in small towns with populations below 2,500 and larger cities of more than 250,000 residents. The town of Ramseur, North Carolina is organized as a mayor-council form of government.

Municipalities in North Carolina are established by corporate charters enacted by the state legislature, but cities may alter or amendment of their charters in accordance with North Carolina General Statutes (GS). If a town wishes to evolve from the archaic mayor-council system of government to a council-manager form, GS 168A-148 stipulates that the manager has hiring and firing authority over all employees not otherwise hired by the council.

Ramseur dabbled with a town administrator about a decade or so ago. No charter amendment was required for that experiment because hiring an administrator allows a board to retain more authority, such as hiring and firing, and to play a more active role in administering local government, and this, I have come to believe, is the root of many of our problems in Ramseur: our commissioners have too much authority and too little understanding of how an efficient organization of any kind should operate.

The powers of a mayor in North Carolina are limited by statutes and consist of presiding at council meetings, voting to break tie votes, and signing checks, contracts, and other legal documents on behalf of their city. Many mayors in North Carolina do have greater influence over the administration of their towns, and it is not unheard of for a town council to delegate to a mayor additional duties such as representing the city on regional advisory boards, helping to craft meeting agendas, or serving as the primary media contact and spokesperson for the town.

Most powers held by local mayors are created by municipal charters or by the action of a city council. GS 160A-69 recognizes the mayor as the head of a city for purposes of serving civil process, and this is typically recognized by most state and federal agencies in civil matters. The same statute requires the mayor to preside at all council meetings, while GS 

160A-71 affords the mayor powers to call special meetings of the council. In small towns without a manager, the mayor is often seen as the de facto chief administrator. While this might seem like a natural choice, GS 160A-151 makes it illegal for the mayor or any other member of the council to serve in this role, even temporarily.

No matter what form a municipal government takes, GS 160A-67 states that ”except as otherwise provided by law, the government and general management of the city shall be vested in the city council.” Under GS 160A-146, a city council has the authority to reorganize the city government. This means that the council may, except when expressly prevented by other laws, “…create, change, abolish, and consolidate offices, positions, departments, boards, commissions, and agencies… to promote the orderly and efficient administration of city affairs…”

Town councils decide what services a city will provide and they establish fiscal policy by adopting an annual budget ordinance and setting municipal property tax rates. Local governing boards also adopt all citywide ordinances and manage numerous other administrative matters such as the purchase and sale of city property and contract negotiations. Board members may only act when properly convened in accordance with open meeting laws; no individual member of the board nor the mayor may act unilaterally unless given specific prior authorization from the board.

Under a mayor-council system of government, the council is responsible for establishing or abolishing any departments deemed necessary or desirable. Typically, these departments include police, fire, water, streets, sanitation, recreation, planning, and inspections, though some services may be contracted or shared with the county government, at the board’s discretion.

A town council appoints department heads who typically have the authority to hire/fire employees under their supervision. In cities with populations under 5,000, the mayor or council members may serve as department heads and receive reasonable compensation, but in cities where the population is greater than 5,000, this arrangement is prohibited by law. Councils also have the right to combine the responsibilities of several departments under one person. For example, a public works supervisor might be appointed to direct both streets and sanitation, or a public safety director may be appointed to oversee police, fire, and other emergency management services.

In organizing and directing the various functions of city government, a council may use one of several organizational plans, unless the city charter states otherwise, but the council always has the power to alter the city charter within statutory limits. Whatever administrative plan is used, it is imperative that the council define the responsibilities of each department head; coordinate the activities of each; establish clear lines of authority between the council, department heads, and employees; and establish a workable plan enabling the board to adequately supervise all municipal services to the satisfaction of the community it serves.

The three administrative methods used by towns operating under a mayor-council system are: (1) the entire council supervises all departments as a single body, (2) one council member is assigned to supervise each department, and (3) subcommittees of the council supervise one or more departments.

Under the first option, a council appoints all department heads, who then look to the full board for direction. This plan can be difficult to sustain and is usually best suited to small towns with no more than three or four departments to manage.

The second option – each department assigned to a specific council member – is how Ramseur currently operates. Under this system, each department is assigned to a specific board member who exercises administrative control at the direction of the board. Department heads report directly to the assigned board member, but personnel decisions are usually reserved for the full board. One of the drawbacks to this system is a tendency for some council members to become more concerned with their respective departments than with the overall operation and administration of all city services, which is the council’s principal duty.

The third option – a committee system – creates subcommittees of the council to study and make recommendations regarding the operation of respective departments. Under this system, committees of two or three members are assigned general areas of responsibility that may include several departments. For example, water, sewer, and sanitation might be assigned to a public health committee. Committees such as this are considered governing bodies and as such must operate within the same open meeting laws the full board is bound to. If a municipal charter is silent with regard to committees a council may establish them as long as they remain consistent with the municipal charter and any applicable statutes.

While this synopsis is admittedly oversimplified in places, readers should now have a general idea of what ought to be expected of elected officials and how they should behave in office. Look for other articles like this in the future as time permits.

Source: County and Municipal Government in North Carolina, Second Edition, Chapter 3 – County and City Governing Boards, by Vaughn Mamlin Upshaw, faculty member, UNC School of Government.

Ramseur Dam Removal Project

On February 4, 2019, David Harper, executive director of Unique Places to Save (hereafter referred to as UP2S), a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization, appeared before the Ramseur Board of Commissioners seeking a letter of support to supplement a fundraising grant application to the Clean Water Management Trust Fund. Mr. Harper’s remarks were listed on the agenda as ‘dam removal project’. I can’t speak for anyone else in the room that night, but it seemed like a topic out of left field. I did not see that coming.

According to Mr. Harper, his organization is partnered with a group of investors called Watauga Unique Properties, LLC (hereafter referred to as Watauga), which recently acquired approximately 22 acres along both sides of Deep River, straddling the Brooklyn Avenue bridge. Mr. Harper explained that his organization’s role is to, “find a way to convey some of that land to the Town of Ramseur as a potential park and greenway site.” Continue reading “Ramseur Dam Removal Project”

Know Your Rights!

Knowledge is power. As citizens of the state of North Carolina, we have certain rights under the law which allow us to observe, investigate, record, and report the actions of our government. It is vitally important that every citizen know and understand these rights and how to use them.

Constitution of the United States

The Constitution of the United States of America is our nation’s founding document and thus is considered our highest – most important – set of laws. All other laws, be they local ordinances, state statutes, or national laws, must conform with and not violate the rights and rules set forth in our Constitution.

On September 25, 1789, the First Congress of the United States proposed twelve amendments to the Constitution. Ten of the proposed amendments were ratified by three-fourths of the state legislatures on December 15, 1791. Those ratified articles constitute what has since come to be known as the Bill of Rights. Below are two of those ten amendments most relevant to a citizen’s ability to criticize government officials and policies.

Amendment I

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

You have the right to state your opinion about pretty much anything you wish, as well as the right to publish those thoughts. The First Amendment does not protect you from the consequences of your words, nor does it protect all speech. For instance, if you make statements that incite violence towards people or property, you may find yourself facing civil and/or criminal penalties.

Amendment V

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

There’s a lot going on in the Fifth Amendment, but for our purpose here the most important part is what’s called the “due process” clause. Basically, due process means that no citizen of the United States can be hauled off to jail, prosecuted and convicted of a crime, or have their property confiscated by agents of the government without a fair, legal trial.

The Bill of Rights originally only applied to our federal government; not state or local authorities.

Amendment XIV 

All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

The Fourteenth Amendment is a fairly long article, so again I have only included Section I, the part most relevant to citizen watchdogs, here for the sake of brevity. In short, this section says that all rights in the Constitution, including the Bill of Rights, also apply to state and local governments.

North Carolina General Statutes

Now we’ll move into laws specific to citizens of North Carolina. Please bear in mind that I am not an attorney and no part of this is intended to constitute legal advice. What I write here is simply my opinion. If you find yourself faced with cease and desist letters, court summons, or arrest, keep your mouth shut and call a lawyer!

The federal Freedom of Information Act is the proper law to reference when requesting public records from the federal government. There may be other statutes that are agency-specific as well. State and local authorities may honor requests made referencing this law, but in North Carolina, they are not required to do so.

Fortunately, the North Carolina General Assembly passed legislation sometime in the past which became the North Carolina Public Records Act. The statute is fairly extensive. I’d recommend that anyone interested in making such requests of their local government or the state of North Carolina take the time to read Chapter 132 of our General Statutes in full.

§ 132-6. Inspection, examination and copies of public records.

(a) Every custodian of public records shall permit any record in the custodian’s custody to be inspected and examined at reasonable times and under reasonable supervision by any person, and shall, as promptly as possible, furnish copies thereof upon payment of any fees as may be prescribed by law.

This says that state or local government must provide you with copies of emails, invoices, meeting minutes, or recordings (less any protected information such as personnel matters; read the statute) in a timely manner. My experience in Ramseur has been that if it exists in an electronic form they will email you a copy or place small requests on portable data storage devices free of charge. If copies must be made of physical documents they charged me $0.25 per page.

(b) No person requesting to inspect and examine public records, or to obtain copies thereof, shall be required to disclose the purpose or motive for the request.

You are under no obligation to tell them why you want to see any records you request or what you plan to do with the information. They cannot ask for nor can they deny your request because you refuse to answer such questions.

(c) No request to inspect, examine, or obtain copies of public records shall be denied on the grounds that confidential information is commingled with the requested nonconfidential information. If it is necessary to separate confidential from nonconfidential information in order to permit the inspection, examination, or copying of the public records, the public agency shall bear the cost of such separation.

If confidential information is found within the documents you request, they cannot charge you for the time required to redact or remove said information.

§ 143-318.14. Broadcasting or recording meetings.

(a) Except as herein below provided, any radio or television station is entitled to broadcast all or any part of a meeting required to be open. Any person may photograph, film, tape-record, or otherwise reproduce any part of a meeting required to be open.

If you wish to record a public meeting you cannot be denied the right to do so as long as you are not interfering with the meeting. There are a few more paragraphs to this statute, but they generally pertain to broadcasting and the placement of equipment for said use.

There are probably many other relevant statutes that I haven’t covered here, and as they come to light I will either update this post or write about them elsewhere.

Bottom line: you have a right to speak your mind, and so long as you speak the truth and have taken reasonable steps to verify or collect evidence that proves the truth of your statements and there is not much that government officials can do to stop you. You have the right to sit in any open public meeting with a camera or a recording device and record the proceedings to your heart’s content, and you may publish those recordings as well.

You also have the right to ask for any government record, whether local, state, or federal, as long as you know who and how to ask. You are under no obligation to state why you wish to review such records or what you plan to do with what you learn from them, and as far as I can tell you cannot be required to provide your name, address, or any other personal information when doing so.

Know your rights!

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How to Make a Public Records Request in Ramseur, North Carolina

On Friday, January 11, 2019, I decided to request a few public records from the Town of Ramseur, so I emailed our Town Clerk, Bobbie Hatley. This is what I sent.

I would like to obtain the following records under the Freedom of Information Act.

  1. Hard copies of all incoming and outgoing email to all commissioners, the mayor, town clerk and water billing clerk, January 1, 2018 to present.
  2. Hard copies of all cellular telephone bills for all phones issued to commissioners or the mayor, town clerk, and water billing clerk, January 1, 2018 to present.
  3. Hard copies of all invoices and payment receipts for the following departments, to include vendor names, amounts billed/paid, and dates, and a description of services or goods purchased/received, January 1, 2018 to present.
  • Ramseur Lake
  • Leonard Park
  • Fire Department
  • Cemetery
  • Library
  • Museum
  • Public Works/Streets
  • Water & Sewer
  • Sanitation

On Tuesday, January 15th, I received the following response from Ms, Hatley.

I have not begun to work on this request at this time. I am in the middle of water billing and tax preparations right now. I will be in touch.

I emailed her back and told her I would stop by her office later that day to discuss my request and “may be able to save you some work.” When I got there I was welcomed into the Clerk’s office and told her that if she would make me a copy of the Randolph Health Community Foundation grant application submitted in August of 2018, I would reduce my request by about 90%.

Ms. Hatley immediately retrieved the document from her files, scanned it and emailed it to herself, and placed it on a USB memory stick I provided. At that point, I crossed off most of the list posted above from a printed copy of the email I had brought with me, leaving only a request for invoices and receipts for maintenance and repairs to Sunset Knoll Cemetery, our branch library, and Ramseur Lake, excluding recurring bills such as monthly utilities.

Ms. Hatley informed me that my request would take some time to fulfill since they were in the middle of printing water bills and she was working on 2018 tax information which by law is supposed to go out before January 31st each year, but two days later, on January 17th, I received a letter from the office of attorney Robert Wilhoit. If you click on the image to the left it should open up a copy large enough to read.

Essentially, the letter says that municipalities in North Carolina are not covered by the federal Freedom of Information Act. To get public records here one must make their request under the North Carolina Public Records Act, found in Chapter 132 of North Carolina General Statutes.

There is also a common misconception that government agencies cannot charge citizens for access to public records. This is only partly true; they can charge us “reasonable” fees to offset the cost of printing or labor required to comply. In Ramseur, this works out to about $0.25 per printed page. The grant application I requested was delivered in the form of a PDF document which I received at no cost.

After receiving Counsellor Wilhoit’s letter I further refined my request and resubmitted it this way.

I am hereby requesting, under the North Carolina Public Records Act, copies of ALL invoices, receipts, and correspondence relating to repairs and/or maintenance of Sunset Knoll Cemetery, which is owned and maintained by the Town of Ramseur, excluding invoices and payments for utilities, grave opening services, and lawn maintenance (grass cutting/trimming). 

Specifically, I want to know who was paid, how much they were paid, when they were paid and what product or service was provided, and what method of payment was used. This shall include masonry work, electrical and lighting installations or repairs, painting, landscaping/shrubbery removal or planting, and any other non-recurring expenses from January 1, 2018, through January 18, 2019.

This request is made in accordance with NCGS 132-6.2. I will accept copies in digital form (PDF), as Ms. Hatley has already demonstrated a willingness to provide, or in physical form (paper copies). I understand I may be charged a fee of $0.25 per page copied. Digital copies may be emailed to this address or, upon request, I will provide Ms. Hatley with a USB memory stick (a.k.a flash drive) for the purpose of delivering said media.

This request supersedes all previous requests.

I’m still waiting for this request to be filled, but I made another much smaller request for an email this morning, referencing the same statute, and received what I asked for just before the close of business today, so it does work. I appreciate Ms. Hatley’s quick response to this request.

If you request records that might be useful to the Watchdog, such as meeting minutes, invoices, contracts, etc., feel free to contact me at I’d love to hear from you and your privacy will be respected and protected to the fullest extent of my ability.

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Greensboro-Randolph Megasite Developers Seek Pollution Permits

Our water supply is at risk! The Greensboro-Randolph Megasite Foundation, Inc., is asking the Department of the Army for authorization to discharge dredged or fill material into waters of local creeks and ponds surrounding the Megasite. With few exceptions, every stream within the Megasite footprint eventually drains into Deep River by way of Sandy Creek. In order to get from Sandy Creek to Deep River, all that water – and any pollutants it carries – must flow into and through Ramseur Lake, where every drop of water we use in Ramseur, and parts of Franklinville and Coleridge, comes from.

Greensboro -Randolph Megasite map

While I recognize that we need good manufacturing jobs here, I am far from convinced that the Greensboro-Randolph Megasite will benefit our community as promised. From where I sit it appears more likely that Greensboro will reap the lion’s share of economic benefits while the people of eastern Randolph County, from Julian to Ramseur and beyond, will gain only polluted water and soil. Think about the problems our neighbors in eastern North Carolina are dealing with because of GenX contamination in their water. Do we really want to risk our water supply for a project that will mostly benefit Greensboro and Guilford County?

Ramseur Lake and Deep River are two of our community’s greatest natural resources. With the loosening of Clean Water Act regulations by the Trump administration and the erosion of state water quality protections by the North Carolina General Assembly in recent years, I have little to no faith that anyone representing us in Raleigh or Washington D.C. will prioritize protecting our shared water resource over the financial interests of the wealthy investors involved in the Megasite.

Another Megasite is being developed just over the county line near Siler City, and while its development could bring the same environmental issues, our water supply would not be put at risk, and we’d still reap all the benefits promised by the Greensboro-Randolph Megasite; probably more.

The Army Corps of Engineers, Wilmington District, will receive written comments pertinent to the proposed work until 5pm, January 17, 2019. Comments should be submitted to Andrew Williams, Raleigh Regulatory Field Office, 3331 Heritage Trade Drive, Suite 105, Wake Forest, North Carolina 27587, at (919) 554-4884 extension 26. Any person may request, in writing, that a public hearing be held to consider the application. Requests for public hearings must state, with particularity, the reasons for holding a public hearing.

I believe a public hearing, including an explanation of how our water will be protected, what assurances we have that regulations will be enforced, and how polluters will be held accountable should be demanded.

Please make your voice heard.