The Rant y l h t Mon FEBRUARY 2021
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RENTALS ON THE RISE Apartments booming to keep up with Sanfordâ€™s growth
2 | February 2021
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The Rant Monthly
SANFORD, NORTH CAROLINA
RENTALS ON THE RISE Apartments booming to keep up with Sanford’s growth
ABOUT THE COVER We’ve written a lot about population and job growth in Sanford and the resulting boom in housing, with two large-scale subdivisions now under construction. But we haven’t looked at another result of Sanford’s growth — the rise in apartment complexes and rental housing. That is, until this month. In this February edition of The Rant Monthly, we report on |the “rise of the rental” in Sanford, and what more apartments will mean in attracting more people to live and work in our fair city. Photo by Billy Liggett
The Rant Monthly is located in beautiful Sanford, North Carolina. Please address all correspondence to LPH Media LLC, 3096 South Horner Boulevard #126, Sanford, NC, 27332. Editorial email: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. Advertising: email@example.com. The Rant Monthly is published monthly (obvs). The Rant Monthly is wholly owned and operated by LPH Media LLC, a North Carolina corporation. Submissions of all kinds are welcome. This publication is free — one per reader, please. Removal of this newspaper from any distribution point for purposes other than reading it constitutes theft, and violators are subject to public flogging and ridicule. Printed by Restoration News Media LLC in Raleigh, NC. Copyright 2021, LPH Media LLC, all rights reserved.
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4 | February 2021
@therant905 RELEASE THE HAWKS
PAGE FOUR THE PODCAST Find these and all epsiodes of our podcast at rantnc.podbean.com or on Apple Podcasts ONLINE Jaime Osborne Lee County outdoor specialist talks about educational opportunities for young people FEBRUARY Tracy Carter Lee County sheriff will join The Rant to talk about his big retirement announcement
Byron Wortham with Holly’s Nest animal rescue will be releasing two hawks in Broadway at Lett Family Park at 1 p.m., on Saturday, Feb. 6. Both hawks were gunshot victims — one is a juvenile, the other is an adult. Dr. Julie Davis with Carolina Veterinary Hospital will be on hand to field questions from the public.
SIX LAST-MINUTE VALENTINE’S GIFT IDEAS We’re warning you now that Valentine’s Day is this month, but in case you forget and need last-minute ideas, these are sure to (maybe) please:
FEBRUARY Tim Emmert Hugger Mugger owner to talk about this year’s Carolina Indie Fest (more on Page 30)
If you’re in a panic
Look, babe, I ordered it
It’s like cash, man
GETTING MARRIED SOON? DID YOU NOW? Falling in love is much like taking a dose of cocaine, as both experiences affect the brain similarly and trigger a similar sensation of euphoria. Research found that falling in love produces several euphoria-inducing chemicals that stimulate 12 areas of the brain at the same time. — BoredPanda.com
They’ll think you tried
Back Rub It’s free
Blame the pandemic
The Rant is looking for women looking to get married this year. Wait ... that didn’t sound right. Uh ... we’re doing a big story this spring on Sanford’s budding wedding industry (yes, it’s real), and we want to talk to people getting married here this year. Email firstname.lastname@example.org, and let’s talk ... about the story, of course.
The Rant Monthly | 5
Krystle Walsh, R.N., Amber Cicogna, R.N., Sun Moon Kim, M.D. and Peter Ellman, M.D.
Knowing what causes heart disease and how you can prevent it can help you live a longer, healthier life. Take our online heart disease risk assessment at www.FirstHealth.org/HeartQuiz
6 | February 2021
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The Rant Monthly | 7
rantnc.com COLUMN | GORDON ANDERSON
Comment section is full of law degrees
ack in the spring of 2020, we reported on a member of Sanford’s Opioid Abuse Commission being arrested on some pretty serious charges related to the alleged possession of opioids.
to prosecute if it could be proven reasonably enough that the drugs belonged to someone else.
It was notable in a man-bites-dog sort of way. The man in question had stated via his presence on the board a desire to help address the opioid epidemic via public service; it only made sense to report on the charges when they were levied and he subsequently stepped down from his position.
We can’t be in court every day to witness firsthand the resolution of every criminal case, but if we report that someone’s been arrested, we’re sure as hell going to report that they’d been exonerated. That’s what we did in this case (and it’s why I’m not repeating his name in this column — the guy has probably been through enough).
Fast forwarding nearly a year, we learned in January that most of the charges were dismissed after further investigation, according to his attorney, determined that the opioids in question didn’t belong to him. The District Attorney in Wake County, where the charges were filed after a traffic stop there, apparently agreed there wasn’t much of a case
What struck me, though, was the online response to our article. I’m consistently puzzled by the inability of some folks to grasp that the scenario in question could be true. They see a triumph of the justice system instead as a failing and a slap in the face to law enforcement. They see being or having “a good attorney” (one of the only non
governmental occupations mentioned in the Constitution) as evidence of wrongdoing and a route to escaping punishment. Very often these are some of the same people who insist they don’t believe the government or the media. It’s funny, and not in a ha ha way, because very often when the government announces criminal charges and we in the media report on them, these folks often not only believe every word they’re told, but also rush to convict the accused before the justice system can even address them. Are guilty people sometimes set free? Of course. Has that got to be demoralizing to people in law enforcement? Absolutely. But this isn’t about the justice system being perfect. It’s not. But I can’t think of a law enforcement officer I know (and I know a lot of them) who doesn’t acknowledge that
mistakes are sometimes made, nobody’s perfect, and yes, innocent people sometimes get charged with crimes they didn’t commit. These people tell me they believe everyone deserves their day in court, and if they found themselves in trouble, they’d take advantage of their right to representation. So, I bet, would every single person who comments negatively when the accused are exonerated and we report on it. The next time we report on a criminal allegation, remember that — especially if you weren’t there — it’s just that. Gordon Anderson was awarded an un-honorary law degree by Degrassi Junior High in 1971. He specializes in representing himself in small claims court in matters not involving him in any way. He cannot give you legal advice, so don’t email email@example.com asking for it.
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8 | February 2021
I’M VACCINATED; NOW WHAT?
“Anyone who tells you that masking and distancing is the ‘new forever normal’ doesn’t understand diseases, history or human nature. This isn’t forever. I am expecting these vaccines to be one of the great achievements of the 21st century.”
Local infectious diseases physician offers her insights on what it will take to return to ‘normal’
By Dr. Gretchen Arnoczy FirstHealth infectious diseases physician
Since March 2020, we’ve all had visions of the life we want back. Personally, I imagine casting off my mask and running towards a big family get together to just start hugging.
We want to make sure that vaccinated people aren’t just getting very mild or asymptomatic cases but still spreading the disease. We need to prove that the vaccine truly halts transmission, not just severe illness. That data is being collected. I don’t think we’ll have to wait long.
I’m from a big extended family. As in 29 first cousins big. If you ever go to one of my extended family’s enormous get-togethers it’s a giant hug fest where everyone brings too much food, a whole bunch of kids and every embarrassing story from our collective childhoods to tease each other about. I LOVE a good gathering, and I can’t wait to get back to them. Over the past few months, we got really great news about the COVID-19 vaccines. The two approved COVID-19 vaccines showed 95 percent efficacy, and the safety data appeared outstanding. A lot of us here at FirstHealth of the Carolinas proudly showed off our vaccine selfies and started getting excited about the future. I’m a frontline health care worker who has been seeing COVID-19 patients regularly at my hospital. I’m now more than two weeks from my second COVID-19 vaccine. Can I throw my mask away and start planning that big family reunion? Not quite yet. I want to be completely honest. I’m really hoping this is a “YET” situation. Anyone who tells you that masking and distancing is the “new forever normal” doesn’t understand diseases, history or human nature. This isn’t forever. I am expecting these vaccines to be one of the
Dr. Gretchen Arnoczy, photo courtesy of FirstHealth great achievements of the 21st century. COVID-19 may permanently change some aspects of our world, but I’m hoping to show off my lopsided smile and occasionally awkward hug again soon. The vaccine studies were done as fast as safely possible. They wanted to prove that the vaccine can reduce symptomatic illness and death. They did that, and they did it FAST. This was fantastic work. The next part is a little trickier. We know that some people who get COVID-19 don’t have symptoms, or have very mild
symptoms, but they can still spread it to people who are vulnerable. This is the reason for the mask mandates, the social distancing, the isolation. This is the reason to keep seemingly healthy people away from each other. It is possible to give this infection to someone you love without feeling sick. So. Do vaccinated people do that? THIS is the big question. We need to prove that getting the vaccine keeps you from getting the infection at all. We have to prove that getting the vaccine keeps people from spreading it.
In the meantime, we are all hoping that case numbers and hospitalizations will go down as vaccinations go up. I’m strongly expecting GOOD NEWS. I’m strongly expecting these vaccines to stop not just disease but transmission. But until we see the data, until the numbers are better, we’re going to play it safe. Keep practicing the three Ws; wearing a mask, washing your hands and waiting 6 feet apart. Early data from the vaccine studies looked good. In the Pfizer study, some people got COVID-19 between shot #1 and shot #2 (before they had full protection). The people who got a placebo had much more virus in their nose than the people in the vaccine group. That’s encouraging. I bet we’re going to find that these vaccines halt transmission. We just need to prove it first. Gretchen Arnoczy, M.D., is an infectious diseases physician who has helped lead FirstHealth’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Rant Monthly | 9
County reports 12 COVID deaths in January Editor’s Note: Prior to publication, the most recent COVID report from the county came on Jan. 25. These numbers reflect that latest report. The number of Lee County residents who have tested positive for COVID jumped by 253 in the third week of January, and six new deaths from the disease were reported on Jan. 25, according to the Lee County Health Department. The six new deaths were in addition to the four reported over the prior weekend. Fifty six Lee County residents have now died from COVID-19. “The reported COVID-19 deaths today in Lee County are a sad reminder of how dangerous this virus can be,” said Lee County Health Director Heath Cain. “Please keep the family and friends of the individuals who passed away in your thoughts and prayers and join us in offering our sincere condolences during this difficult time.” The county doesn’t release details about patients who have tested positive in accordance with federal health privacy laws. Two of the deaths occurred at Central Carolina Hospital. CCH reported 11 other individuals are currently hospitalized with COVID. The 253 new cases reported on Jan. 25 bring the total number of county residents who have tested positive to 4,682. According to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services COVID dashboard, the current rolling seven day average for new cases in Lee County is 35.14, and the percent positivity rate is 14.2. Both numbers, while high, continue a significant downward trend from recent weeks.
Health Department announces vaccine call center for those eligible The Lee County Government Health Department announced it will open a temporary call center beginning Feb. 1, to process vaccine registrations.
increase the number of callers we are able to register each day. This will not eliminate all of the issues with high call volume and demand, but this will certainly help.”
Those eligible under Groups 1 and 2 of the NCDHHS vaccine rollout plan may call (919) 352-3360 to register Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The temporary call center will be staffed with up to seven call-takers at one time to receive and process vaccine registration calls and requests. The two phone numbers previously used for registrations will be reassigned; phone calls to these numbers will be directed to call (919) 352-3360.
“The Health Department continues to experience extremely high call volumes to our vaccine registration lines and the two phone lines currently dedicated for registration calls are quickly overwhelmed each day as the demand for vaccine grows,” said Heath Cain, LCG Health Department Director.
The Health Department is currently registering individuals for the COVID-19 vaccine in Group 1 and 2 of the NCDHHS vaccine rollout plan. This includes essential healthcare workers that have close contact with COVID-19 patients, long-term care facility staff and residents, and older adults aged 65 and older.
“Thanks to support from our county departments and staff, as well as community Covid-19 Vaccinations: volunteers, we have been able to set-up a small call center in the county Your best shot Emergency at stopping COVID-19. Operations Center that will allow us to Callers not eligible under Group 1 and 2
will not be registered at this time. The county continues to offer an online pre-registration form available at leecountync.gov/covid19. Those who submit a pre-registration form and are eligible under Group 1 and 2 will be contacted by the Health Department within five to seven business days to complete the registration process. Once registered, individuals will be notified of the next available vaccine registration clinic. As a new service, registered participants of a Lee County Health Department vaccine clinic may expect to receive an automated phone call reminder the day before their scheduled clinic to confirm their registration and assigned time for arrival. Please do not attend a county vacYOU HAVE A TAKE YOUR cine clinic unless you are registered; individuSHOT. als that are notSPOT. registered will not be allowed to participate.
You have a spot, take your shot. A tested, safe and effective vaccine will be available to all who want it, but supplies will be limited at first. To save lives and slow the spread of COVID-19, independent state and federal public health advisory committees recommend first protecting health care HAVE TAKE YOUR workers caring for patients with COVID-19, people who are at the highest risk of being hospitalized or dying, and those YOU at high riskAof exposure to COVID-19. Keep practicing the 3 W’s—wear a mask, wait six feet apart, wash your hands—until everyone has a chance to get vaccinated.
Covid-19 Vaccinations: Covid-19 Vaccinations: SPOT. SHOT. Your best shot at stopping Your COVID-19. best shot at stopping COVID-19. 1b
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Adults Everyone at high risk who for • Group 1: Anyone 65-74 years old, • K-12 students age 16 and Vaccinations will be available COVID-19 exposure & and at increased wants andaatsafe increased and and frontline essentialto fighting regardless and frontline essential of health status or living over. Younger children exposure will groupsworkers. in the following order. Long-Term risk Care ofstaff severe illness. workers. risk of severe effective illness. COVID-19 situation only be vaccinated when • Group 1: Anyone 75 years or and residents. the vaccine is approved for vaccination. • Group 2: Anyone 16-64 years old older, regardless of health • Health care workers them with high-risk medical conditions status or living situation administering vaccine that increase risk of severe disease There is not enough vaccine for There is notinenough vaccine foruniversityVaccinations will happen by group in • Health care workers caring • Health care Vaccinations workers caring will happen by group • College and everyone in thiscare phase to be to be for and working directly for and working the following directly order: students the following order: • Group 2: Health workers • Long-term care staff and from COVID-19 such aseveryone cancer, in this phase vaccinated the same time. with patients vaccinated time. with patients in with COVID-19, and with COVID-19, frontlineat essential workers residents—people skilled serious heart conditions, •COPD, Group 1: Anyone 65-74 years old, at the• same K-12 students age 16 and • Group 1: Anyone 65-74 years old, Vaccinations will be available to Vaccinations will be available to including staff responsible for including staff responsible for 50 years or older* nursing facilities and in adult, sickle cell disease, Type 2 diabetes, regardless of health status or living over. Younger children will regardless of health status or living groups in the following order. groups in the following order. cleaning and maintenance in cleaning and maintenance in family and group homes among others, regardless of living situation only be vaccinated when situation • Group 3: Health care workers those areas those areas • Group 1: Anyone 75 years or • Group 1: Anyone 75 years or the vaccine is approved for •situation Group 2: Anyone 16-64 years old • Group 2: Anyone 16-64 years old and frontline essential workers • Health care workers administering vaccine
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incarcerated or living in other close * The CDC defines frontline essential • Group 2: Health care workers • cancer, Group • Long-term care staff and • Long-term care from staff COVID-19 and such who as from COVID-19 such as cancer, group living settings is not2: Health care workers workers as first responders (e.g., and frontline essential workers and frontline essential workers residents—people in skilled residents—people COPD, in serious skilledheart conditions, COPD, serious heart conditions, already vaccinated due to age, firefighters and police officers), 50 years or older* years or older* nursing facilities and in adult, nursing facilities sickleand cell in disease, adult, Type 50 2 diabetes, sickle cell disease, Type 2 diabetes, corrections officers, food and medical condition or job function family and group homes family and group among homes others, regardless of living among others, regardless of living • Group 3: Health workers • Group 3: Health care workers agricultural workers, U.S. care Postal Service • Group 4: Essential workers not yet situation situation and frontline essential and frontline essential workers workers, manufacturing workers,workers anyworkers, age •vaccinated* Group 3: Anyone who isof any age • Group 3: Anyone who is groceryof store public transit or living in other incarcerated or living in other close workers, those who work inessential the * Theincarcerated CDC defines these as workers inclose * Theand CDC defines frontline * The CDC defines frontline essential group living is and not group living settings who is not education sector (teachers and(e.g., support transportation andsettings logistics,who water workers as first responders workers as first responders (e.g., alreadyfood vaccinated due to and age, and police officers), already vaccinated due to age, staff firefighters members) and as well as child care wastewater, service, shelter police officers), firefighters corrections officers, food and corrections officers, food and workers medical or job function medical condition or job function housing (e.g., condition construction), finance (e.g., agricultural workers, U.S. Postal Service agricultural workers, U.S. Postal Service bank tellers), information technology and • Group 4: Essential workers not yet • Group 4: Essential workers not yet For more information: workers, manufacturing workers, workers, manufacturing workers, communications, energy, legal, media, and vaccinated* vaccinated* YourSpotYourShot.nc.gov grocery store workers, public transit grocery store workers, public transit public safety (e.g., engineers), and public workers, and those who work in the workers,in and those who work in the * Theworkers CDC defines these as workers * The CDC defines these as workers in health
Regular COVID-19 news updates available at rantnc.com
education sector (teachers and support staff members) as well as child care workers
NC Department of Health and Human Services • YourSpotYourShot.nc.gov NCDHHS is an equal opportunity employer and provider. • 12/2020
transportation and logistics,education water andsector (teachers and support transportation and logistics, water and staff members) as well as child care wastewater, food service, shelter and wastewater, food service, shelter and housing (e.g., construction),workers finance (e.g., housing (e.g., construction), finance (e.g., bank tellers), information technology and bank tellers), information technology and For more information: communications, energy, legal, media, and communications, energy, legal, media, and YourSpotYourShot.nc.gov public safety (e.g., engineers), and public public safety (e.g., engineers), and public health workers health workers
NC Department of Health and Human Services • YourSpotYourShot.nc.gov NC Department of Health and Human Services • YourSpotYourShot.nc.gov NCDHHS is an equal opportunity employer and provider. • 12/2020 NCDHHS is an equal opportunity employer and provider. • 12/2020
For more informat YourSpotYourShot
10 | February 2021
@therant905 LAW ENFORCEMENT
LOCAL MATTERS MORE PUBLIC ART PLANNED FOR CHARLIE WATSON LANE Charlie Watson Lane in downtown Sanford is slated for $20,000 in public art, lighting, and security enhancements, thanks to grants from local community nonprofits and the City of Sanford Public Arts Fund. Charlie Watson Lane is the official name of the alley that connects South Steele Street to the public parking lot on Carthage Street. It was named after a local man who delivered The Sanford Herald to downtown businesses and visitors for decades. “Charlie Watson Lane already attracts people to downtown Sanford,” says Liz Whitmore, the city’s Historic Preservation Planner and liaison to the City of Sanford Appearance Commission. “We want to continue building it as a safe, visually interesting space that welcomes visitors and makes it convenient for them to patronize our restaurants and shops.”
Lee County Sheriff Tracy Carter (right, pictured with N.C. House Rep. John Sauls), announced he will not seek another term in the 2022 election. Photo: Facebook
The alley is already home to the Before I Die wall, the interactive Wings butterfly mural, and the three-dimensional Caterpillar art installation. The following enhancements will follow:
Sheriff’s Capt. Estes first to announce bid for Carter’s seat in next year’s county election
Sculptor Jason Moore has been chosen to add a decorative arch on the South Steele Street entrance to Charlie Watson Lane. •
Local artist Chris Dalton will tile the arch’s pillars in a mosaic pattern.
Security cameras will be added.
Decorative lighting, which has already been installed.
To fund the improvements, the Visit Sanford Tourist Development Agency granted $7,000 and Downtown Sanford, Inc. granted $5,000 to the City of Sanford Appearance Commission. The City of Sanford’s Public Arts Fund has contributed $5,500.
CARTER WON’T RUN IN ‘22 After the 2022 election, Lee County will have a new sheriff for the first time since the mid-2000s. Tracy Carter, who has served the county’s highest elected law enforcement official, announced at a press conference on Jan. 7 that he will not seek a fifth term in 2022. “I’ve made a decision, after a lot of thought, for quite some time now, that I will not seek a fifth term as sheriff of Lee County,” he said. “I don’t think that anyone should be in this position for
more than four terms. That’s enough for anyone.” Carter, a Republican, was first elected in 2006 over Democrat Kevin Bryant after falling short in a 2002 campaign. In 2010, he ran unopposed, and he won campaigns in 2014 and 2018 against Democrats Justin Rosser and Kevin Dodson, respectively. Days after Carter’s announcement, one candidate announced his intent to seek the seat. Brian Estes, a captain with the Lee County Sheriff’s Office professional standards division, announced via his private Facebook page on Jan. 11 that he will seek the seat. Like Carter a Republican, Estes as of Jan. 29 has been the only candidate to announce plans for the 2022 cycle. “I am excited to announce that I will
be forming a committee to seek the office for Sheriff of Lee County. After many prayers and discussions with my family, I would love to serve the great citizens of our County as Sheriff,” Estes wrote. “I have lived in Lee County my entire life and served with the Lee County Sheriff’s Office for the last 18.5 years. My badge has always been a symbol of public trust to me. Over the next few months you will learn more about my experience, education, and training. I look forward to sharing the visions that I have for the Sheriff’s Office.” Filing for the office of sheriff in Lee County begins in December of this year. Editor’s Note: Sheriff Tracy Carter is slated for an upcoming episode of the Friends of The Rant podcast in February.
The Rant Monthly | 11
rantnc.com BOARD OF EDUCATION
LCS TO INVESTIGATE D.C. TRIP County Board of Education, because the actions she has taken makes me feel unsafe.”
School board to look at Womack’s participation in Trump rally on day of Capitol siege
The majority of the comments concerning Womack asked for her resignation or removal from the board. A few were in support of her. “I am dismayed that you are crucifying a board member for their political beliefs,” wrote Cindi McGee. “Cancel culture is socialist and not what Lee County Schools should be setting as an example for their students. They should be taught that bullying is wrong. You are currently the biggest bullies in the room. Shame on you and your attempts to silence diversity of thought.”
By Billy Liggett The Lee County Board of Education voted 5-2 last month to investigate board member Sherry Lynn Womack’s involvement in a rally for President Trump in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 6 that culminated with the violent siege of the Capitol building. More than 50 statements from members of the community and even Lee County students condemning Womack’s presence at the rally were read aloud by Superintendent Andy Bryan before board member Pat McCracken offered a motion authorizing school attorney Jimmy Love to lead the investigation. The motion passed 5-2 with Republicans Sandra Bowen and Christine Hilliard voting in favor and Pam Sutton and Womack herself voting against. Womack and Sutton were the only two board members not physically present at the Jan. 13 meeting, both attending via Zoom. And Womack did not offer a statement about the vote, aside from saying “absolutely not” when voting for the investigation. The vote stems from Womack and her husband Jim’s presence in the nation’s capital on Jan. 6. Sherry Lynn was quoted in an article by the USA Today that day saying she traveled to Washington to “demand better election security and stronger voter ID laws,” citing what she believed to be “suspicious” videos of ballot counting in Georgia. “I’m not one of those conspiracy theorists,” she told USA Today. “But these are legitimate questions that need to be asked.” Womack is not believed to have entered the Capitol when hundreds of Trump
Sherry Lynn Womack, photo from Facebook.com
“I do not regret travelling by bus to D.C., in support of my president. I did not participate in any violent activities, nor do I condone the behaviors of some protestors who swarmed into the Capitol.” — Sherry Lynn Womack supporters stormed its halls hours later. But several of the public statements read Tuesday night were critical of her identifying herself as a member of the Lee County Board of Education in the article. Brenda Johnson and Vonda Reives of Sanford said in a joint statement that they believed Womack violated the board’s Policy Code 2220, which states any person speaking in an official capacity should do so “from the standpoint of the best interests of the school district [and] not as a representative of his or her own personal
ideas or feelings.” “Sherry Lynn Womack pursued to speak to the media … and presented questions that were already discounted by many sources,” Johnson and Reives wrote, “and her personal actions to represent herself as a board of education member in the aftermath of this violent riot is despicable.” Jayden Marshall, a Lee County High School student, said he doesn’t want someone who “represents hate” on the school board. “Mrs. Womack should also act as a leader and should not be attending an event that is going against CDC [guidelines] and coming back home to spread the virus,” Marshall wrote. “She posted pictures on her personal social media account at the event, and she was not wearing any personal protection gear.” LCHS junior Alyssa Martin said she was “extremely disgusted” by Womack’s presence in D.C. “Her participation … was a clear representation of a leader who stands for hatred, oppression against minorities and a symbol of racism — meaning she shares the same ideology and values as the riot symbolized,” Martin wrote. “I demand her immediate resignation from the Lee
In a statement she read at the end of the meeting, Womack responded to those who opposed her involvement in the rally. “Last I checked, this is a free country. And I have a constitutionally protected right to assemble and express my concerns in public places,” she said. “My service to the Lee County Board of Education is not conditioned on me waiving those rights. I also realize that as an elected official, my actions are constantly being scrutinized. So it comes as no surprise there are some who will be critical of my participation in the rally at the capital last Wednesday. That is their prerogative. “I do not regret travelling by bus to Washington, D.C., in support of my president. I joined over a million other patriots who were there to celebrate President Trump’s many accomplishments and to show my support for him in this difficult time, for many have questioned the legitimacy of this election. I did not participate in any violent activities, nor do I condone the behaviors of some protestors who swarmed into the Capitol. “I condemn all actions of violence and threats to government officials that took place. And I would highly recommend all board members actually read our policy code 2220 before they make the decision to waste tax dollars to hire an attorney to look into something that is completely false.”
12 | February 2021
High-density now the norm, whether we like it or not
anford’s planning board recommended in January that the city council vote against a proposed development along Cool Springs Road in West Sanford. The development — Glen at Cool Springs — will feature 131 new homes, each situated on a quarter-acre of land. There will be little green space between the houses, and the neighborhood will connect to nearby Westlake Downs and Brownstone neighborhoods, where the houses are bigger and built on more land.
To the more than 100 nearby residents who have signed a petition against the development and have written or spoken publicly to the council, you might be saying, “tough.” Similar complaints were lodged last year against the Galvin’s Ridge subdivision in the Deep River area. That will also be a high-density subdivision, with nearly nine times the homes. Yet, the council approved Galvin’s Ridge, and construction began on it this year.
What’s the difference, you ask? Galvin’s Ridge is surrounded by industry, farmland and U.S. 1. The Glen will be sandwiched between established neighbhorhoods whose value could drop. The Glen could also affect waterways in an area that’s had its fair share of flood problems. The reality is, though, that high-density, quick-build neighborhoods are currently the “it” thing in Lee County and in growing portions of North Carolina. They’re more profitable for builders and are a quicker fix for cities like Sanford in need of housing to keep up with the growing population. Galvin’s Ridge was approved because of need. The Glen — despite residents’ concerns and the planning board’s lack of recommendation —might be approved as well at this month’s council meeting. Housing is needed here. It’s our hope that the builders will come back with a plan that adds new homes and answers the concerns of residents of Westlake Downs and Southern Road.
Happy to see life at the lodge
he sale of an old building from one party to another, in another time and place, might sound like a fairly boring thing.
In the case of downtown Sanford’s Masonic Temple, it’s not only interesting, it’s cause for celebration. Cori McKee-Whipple, the owner of the real estate investment company which purchased the building in December and in January announced plans to renovate it from top to bottom, has her work cut out for her. But if she’s able to achieve her vision in Sanford, a nearly century old building in the heart of downtown will go from largely unused to bustling with both business and residential activity. In addition to apartments on the two upper floors, McKee-Whipple plans to turn the ground floor into commercial space and attract a “speakeasy” type establishment into the basement. Those plans are impressive, and also impressive so far is McKee-Whipple’s commitment to preserving the structure’s history by facilitating the return of some historical items that remained inside to their original owners — the members of Sanford’s Masonic Lodge. So congrats to McKee-Whipple and her company, Owls Nest Properties, on committing to Sanford. It’ll be exciting to see what else she has in store.
The time to remove Womack came and went in November
herry Lynn Womack was right there among the unmasked protesters demanding North Carolina “reopen” in April — despite, of course, the state’s rising COVID-19 cases in the early months of the pandemic. She yelled the divisive cry of “All Lives Matter” at Black Lives Matter marchers later on in June. Three years before that, she argued against building a new school in a largely minority neighborhood in Sanford because of “crime rates,” then got upset when it came out that she’d had an arrest of her own in 2011. Womack has been a lightning rod on the board and in local politics, there’s no doubt about that, and she’s become a vocal leader in the increasingly combative and divisive Lee County Republican Party. Case in point — she carried (and encouraged others to carry) a baseball bat with TRUMP carved into the wood to election sites in 2016. So, yes. Combative. These are the reasons I feel like Sherry Lynn Womack shouldn’t be on the Lee County Board of Education. And these are the reasons I voted against her in November. Unfortuantely, I was in the minority. Of the eight candidates vying for the four open seats last fall, Womack led the field. In a tight race overall, her 13,735 votes were nearly 300 more than the second place finisher, if the numbers add up (which Republicans this year will argue do add up, but only if they’re on the winning side). We knew who Womack was before November. It was no surprise to anybody when we learned she was among the million or so Trump supporters who gathered in Washington, D.C. on Jan. 6 to hear former President Trump beat the “Stop the Steal” drum despite no credible proof that his “win” was stolen. It was also no surprise to see Womack’s name in a USA Today article that same day where she repeated ballot-hiding conspiracy theories and identified herself as a member of the Lee County Board of Education.
And while, we were shocked and embarrassed to see men and women storm the Capitol just hours after that rally — many with violent intentions — were any of us truly surprised? We certainly are acting like we were. Two weeks after the D.C. debacle, parents of school-aged children and members of the community came off as shocked and appalled by Womack’s appearance at the rally. Many have called for her resignation. Many also believe she was part of the siege (Womack insists she was not, and I believe her ... as much as I disagree with just about everything she believes politically, she’s not that person). Yet, the Board of Education voted 5-2 (Womack was allowed to vote on this somehow) to investigate her involvement, possibly to appease those who want to see swift justice. The investigation will likely be a waste of time. Nothing will be discovered that we didn’t already know. Do I think Sherry Lynn Womack should be a member of the Board of Education? No, I don’t. But not because she attended a rally in D.C. I think her appearance at the “reopen’ rallies was more insulting — especially for someone who recently expressed concern over teacher safety during the pandemic. But in her statement at the end of the January meeting, Womack was right. It’s her First Amendment right to protest. We’re all hung up on the fact that this particular protest ended in a historically violent and sad fashion, but those who took part in the violence and the man who told them to do it are to blame. Most involved have been arrested, and the ring leader has been impeached (again). We had our chance to oust Womack in November, and instead, we crowned her the queen. Lee County is still Trump Country (hell, even Dan Forest won here). If Womack is going to get ousted, it should be at the polls. We’ll even let her do the recount. o Email Billy Liggett at firstname.lastname@example.org, if you really want to. It’s fine if you don’t.
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READER RESPONSE WOMACK INVESTIGATION Lee County Board of Education member Sherry Lynn Womack attended the rally for former President Donald Trump on Jan. 6 to contest the results of the November presidential election. Womack was quoted and identified as a member of the board in an article that later appeared in USA Today, after some from the rally stormed the Capitol building to stop the House and Senate’s count of the Electoral College votes. Though Womack has denied any involvement in the Capitol demonstration and siege, some in Lee County have called for her to step down from the board, which voted 5-2 in January to investigate her involvement that day. Below are just a few of the more than 150 comments the story received on The Rant’s website and Facebook page. _____________ I remember The Rant publishing a story on the peaceful Black Lives Matter protests in Sanford. I also remember seeing Sherry Lynn Womack at one of those BLM protests (chanting “All Lives Matter,” which could be viewed as instigation.) No one hurt anybody, nor was there any damage to property in Sanford. Womack was still elected after all the complaining over the summer. You don’t like her? Run against her. Vote her out. She appears to seek out news outlets to get noticed. What is her end goal? No other elected official in Lee County is seeking this type of attention. Grant Welch _____________ As a Lee County school educator who has to keep her political views in check while teaching (and I am happy to do that), this is disgusting. To be a part of such an undemocratic event and flaunt her position in the interview … trust me, she is not well thought of among the Lee County schools educators I know. Gwen Babcock _____________ I can’t believe people actually want her taken off the board because she backs Trump and went to this rally. Really people? Get a damn life. She didn’t hurt anyone by just being there. We need to create a new word — Trumpaphobe — for people biased/scared of or otherwise against Trump and anyone who
is for him. Bigotted Trumpaphobes. I don’t even know Sherry, but these dumb reactions to her going just set me off. If she does her job well, leave her alone. Rosine Perry _____________ So she thought it was a good idea to attend a super spreader riot and possibly bring it back to Lee County? Shame on her. Keshia Richmond _____________ Did she or did she not enter or attempt to illegally enter the Capitol? If not, she was just one of the deluded cultists. If she did enter or try to enter, then she committed a felony and since a law enforcement officer was murdered, that becomes possibly a very serious felony. So what was it Mrs. Womack? Being that you are an elected county official, the citizens of Lee County deserve to know. John Pickett _____________ All y’all hating on this — where were you when the Democrats were burning down businesses and tearing up entire towns ? Mike B. Parker _____________ OK, here is a question? How many school board members have actually attended any funeral of any child who has passed within our school district? How many members are actually that involved to take the time to inform themselves of such, then take their time to make an appearance and offer their condolences and to help in any way possible? I’m waiting. Paulette Harmon _____________ Just so we all understand what is going on here, she went to Washington to a protest to show she questions the integrity of the election — which I do, as well as millions of other Americans. She did not participate in entering or vandalizing the building, but she should not serve on the school board because she was there? She didn’t do anything wrong. She has a right to protest just like anyone else. Susan Smith
Anyone who attended that riot had the same goals: Disrupt, delay and change the Electoral College vote count in Trump’s favor. Capture and destroy the certificates of ascertainment of the Electoral College votes. Pressure Congress and Vice President Mike Pence to overturn the election of former vice president Joe Biden. Ransack, vandalize and overrun the United States Capitol building. All because the Trump supporters didn’t get their way. It doesn’t matter if she managed to get inside the Capitol or not. She fully supported this unconstitutional crap. This clearly boils down to morals. A person who can’t accept reality shouldn’t be anywhere near the school board.
I am disgusted that she sits on a board making decisions for my children. Lindsay Tipton _____________ Complete BS. It is down party lines. People are upset because she is a Republican. If a Democrat had been involved, nothing negative would be said. David Melton _____________ Who’s surprised? She represents the values of the majority of Lee County, apparently.️ I’m glad she made national news. Hope she goes viral.
Jared Campbell _____________
Justice Thompson _____________
I am saddened that so many people in Lee County cannot accept the outcome of an election. This is such a basic principle for any functioning republic or democracy. Apparently many of you would enthusiastically support a coup to keep the politicians you prefer in power regardless of the actual election results. I truly cannot think of any concept that is less patriotic or American. While Lee County badly needs a better leader than Womack on our school board, many of the authoritarian-loving “commentators” demonstrate why we have someone as seditious as her on our school board. Luke Cassidy _____________ Many of us are concerned about election irregularities. I am pleased that patriots like Sherry Womack made the effort to go to Washington, D.C., to protest. Indifference got us to this point. Thanks, Sherry. Mike McDonald _____________ When one swears an oath to defend and protect the Constitution and then appears at a riot to obstruct the constitutionally declared action to certify the new president, then that person has violated their oath. No amount of backstepping, sidestepping or excuses can whitewash that action. As an elected official, one is held to a higher authority, and the sooner these elected officials realize they must act as responsible adults and not wildly opinionated rioters, the better off we will all be. Carolyn Rotter
But this is who was voted in. Why are y’all surprised when we knew what she was about. May Hemmer _____________ It’s infuriating that a person like this gets to make decisions on how the children of our county are educated. Sara Cassidy _____________ This is 100 percent about her mentioning that she represented Lee County while she was there. She represented herself, and that’s all she should have been quoted saying, but it’s not. Alyssa Marie Have an opinion on this story, on this month’s cover story or on any story that appears in The Rant? Comment on our website, on our Facebook page or email email@example.com to be heard.
We’re always looking for interesting people (and friends) to be on our podcast. Email Gordon Anderson at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more.
14 | February 2021
South Park Village Apartments | Photo by Billy Liggett
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RENTAL HEALTH S A N F O R D E X P E R I E N C I N G A N A PA R T M E N T B O O M
More jobs and more people have meant for construction of single-family homes in Lee County, with two major subdivisions on the way. Also on the rise are apartment complexes and town homes, a sign that Sanford is attracting a more diverse population. By Gordon Anderson
f you feel like you’re seeing a whole lot of new apartment buildings going up around Sanford and Lee County in the last several months, it’s not just your imagination. A group of townhomes at Carthage Colonies is under construction off Carthage Street. The new Hawkins Walk complex is being built where Hawkins Avenue crosses over the U.S. 421 bypass. Sandhill Court Apartments is going up on Pendergrass Road. An expansion into a second phase is happening at South Park Village on N.C. Highway 87. Speaking in general terms, these projects — referred to as multi family units in industry talk — are popping up in just about every part of Lee County.
South Park Village apartments on the southern end of Lee County has taken advantage of growth in that area and will neighbor the upcoming Laurel Oaks subdivision.
16 | February 2021
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There are currenlty more than 6,100 apartment units in Sanford, with another 1,250-plus expected to be built in the near future. Above: South Park Village apartments.
And there are plenty more on the way. In addition to the projects listed above, which are all in construction, another three — Kendall Creek Apartments, also on Pendergrass Road, Southeastern Development Apartments on Dalrymple Street in Jonesboro, and Pine Reserve Apartments on Center Church Road in Tramway — have been approved by the local planning department, and two more (Kendale Lofts on Lee Avenue near Kendale Plaza, and another complex on Canterbury Road) are in review. If all of these projects come to completion, 1,268 multi-family housing units will be added to the 6,106 that already exist in Lee County (think Falls Creek on Wilkins Drive, The Oaks off Amos Bridges Road, Ryder Downs on Pendergrass Road, High Ridge off Wicker Street, and any number of other similar complexes). “I really do believe that with our projected population growth, these new units will be absorbed,” said Susan Keller, who with her husband Carter owns Rampart Property Management, the company that owns South Park Village and is currently building that community’s second phase. “There’s a great benefit to renting — it allows you to be a little more free, and the generations that rent are typically younger and more focused on experiences.” Keller added that, like everything else,
the way people live has been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. In a lot of cases, that means apartment living is desirable now more than ever for a good number of people. “For so long, the focus was on places like Raleigh and Durham, and the closer you could be to the downtown areas the better,” she said. “And for that you had to trade some amount of space. But now, a lot of people are less likely to want to live that close together, and for people that have the ability to work remotely, it doesn’t matter where you are. So all the sudden, an apartment complex in a place like Sanford looks more attractive, especially if we can offer other amenities, like space to work from home, as part of your experience.”
KEEPING PACE While the number of local apartments stands to increase by about 20 percent in the coming months, it doesn’t appear that the overall percentage of multi family units compared to single family will increase at all in the coming months and years — with at least 2,700 single family units either under construction, approved or in review, that balance (currently at about 77 percent for single family versus 23 percent for multi family) will remain essentially the same assuming all of the proposed constructions go forward. Instead, signs
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point to the apartment boom as really just a function of one sector of the housing industry keeping pace with overall growth. John Ramsperger, who owns Sanford Real Estate, echoed Keller’s point about the profile of the “typical” apartment renter, if there is such a thing. “Going back to the 2008 recession, that made a lot of the population much more transient. And the generation growing up now is probably less sold on things like buying a home, and so apartments are very attractive to them,” he said. “There’s also a housing boom going on, and prices are going up. That put (houses) out of reach for some people, and so apartments are there to serve that part of the market as well.” As of the last decennial Census, Lee County’s population stood at just under 58,000. But that was 10 years ago, and because the numbers from the 2020 effort aren’t in yet, gauging any growth in population is a little difficult. But there doesn’t seem to be much doubt that Lee County will see some significant population increase — North Carolina is likely to be the country’s ninth largest
One of the larger new complexes being built in Sanford is taking shape along Hawkins Avenue where it crosses the U.S. 1 Bypass.
18 | February 2021
The 288-unit apartment complex being built on Hawkins Avenue where it crosses the U.S. 1 Bypass is said to include residential amenities such as a dog park, a car wash and more. The northern end of the Hawkins Avenue corridor has experienced commercial growth already, with the recently built 43,000 square foot FirstHealth Medical Center on Beechtree Drive and constructions that’s begun on a Fairfield Marriott hotel along Amos Bridges Road near the Northview Food Lion.
state when it’s all said and done, and while much of that growth has occurred in more urban counties, smaller ones like Lee are sure to have played their part. Any influx of new residents is likely to have an impact on the the provision of government services, but Lee County Manager John Crumpton does anticipate the growth in the multi family sector to present any problems or challenges as far as the county’s primary responsibility — public education — is concerned, particularly since apartment dwellers tend to be
younger and have less children (or older, with grown children). “When we looked at what happened with the most recent increase in apartments, we didn’t find a lot of children that came with that. So we’re probably more concerned about the single family units,” he said. “Looking at that many units, it’s hard to project how many kids are going to come with that home. Our county from a population standpoint has been growing one to two percent per year in the last five years. But even with that, you (average
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rantnc.com daily membership) in the public schools has gone down every year since 2014.” Crumpton was quick to note that the decrease in average daily membership is largely attributable to a declining birth rate and the upswing in private, charter and home school options rather than any decrease in population. Instead, Crumpton said he anticipates the private sector will have to react as much or more to population growth than the public sector — whether that new population lives in single family homes or multi family apartment or townhome units. “If we end up with 10,000 new people, that may mean we need a new school in another ten years, although we currently have capacity in our schools,” he said. “But there’s also going to have to be a lot of other support in place — that means grocery stores, drug stores, restaurants, and those other types of things people want in a community.”
Sandhills Court on Pendergrass Road is currently under construction, with plans to open sometime in 2021.
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20 | February 2021
@therant905 Crumpton said the “break even point” — the cost of a single home at which the county receives more in tax revenue than it spends on services is probably somewhere around $270,000. But applying that formula to apartments is difficult because it’s something of an apples to oranges comparison. “Obviously everyone can’t have a $270,000 home,” he said. “And many of the people in apartments are single, or older couples who don’t have kids in the schools.” Keller concurred that the private sector will respond to population growth and said that the growth in apartments logically follows much of what’s put Sanford in the news recently — namely the massive growth in new business and jobs locally.
Ryder Downs on Pendergrass Road is one of Sanford’s newest apartment complexes, just yards away from the currently under construction Sandhills Court and the fairly new Woodland Heights complex.
As has been reported in this space plenty of times before, the past couple of years have seen an influx of new jobs and industry, and there’s plenty of reason to believe more is on the way. If even a fraction of those filling the new jobs come from else-
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The Rant Monthly | 21
rantnc.com where and choose to live in Lee County, they’ll need rooftops. “All of that news has been very positive,” she said. “But if you want people to live here, there need to be amenities.”
FILLING FAST Keller said the South Park Village complex has essentially been at 100 percent capacity since opening, and she anticipates that staying the same even with the influx of new units. “We do have a lot of people from Sanford, but because of our location we also have a lot of people who commute to Raleigh or Fayetteville. We have a significant military population,” she said. “But the need for housing is so great that I really believe there’s room for both (new single and multi family housing).” Ramsperger, the owner of Sanford Real Estate, said that he doesn’t have any reason to anticipate a slowdown in the boom of new apartment complexes and townhouses going up. In fact, he said he fully expects more. “Right now, there’s just not nearly enough housing inventory for home buyers in Lee County,” he said. “You literally have 10 or 12 houses on the market while there are 50 or 60 buyers. That’s why things sell in two days and for more than the list price.You’ll see more new single family homes come on the market starting in the summer, and that may pull some renters out of apartments, but I still only see more apartments being built. People who know how to calculate the demand for new apartments obviously see the demand in Sanford.” For Ramsperger, who came to Sanford from the Raleigh area in the 1990s, what’s
unfolding is something he saw in his previous home. And while Sanford will never be as big a city as Raleigh or Durham, it’s experiencing the early stages of a similar dynamic. “Sanford is not the sleepy little bedroom community it was 15 years ago,” he said. “Many of the ones renting now may not be someone who would want to live in a quiet little cul de sac for 19 years. They’re more likely a commuter. In any case, you have a lot of these apartment communities that have waiting lists where you have 10 or 15 or 20 families who are saying they want an apartment when one comes available.” Keller said the boom in apartments isn’t exactly unique to Sanford — Rampart owns a similar complex in Pittsboro, which is also at capacity. She added that builders are interested in such projects right now because it’s a good business model. “From an investment standpoint it’s a good thing to do,” she said. “They hold their value and they produce cash flow.” But she also said the idea that everyone even wants to own a home isn’t quite correct, and apartments make more sense for plenty of people. She noted that South Park and other similar complexes aren’t considered low-income housing and that potential residents have to provide proof of a certain level income. “Having these kinds of living options isn’t bringing down the median income,” she said. “There are all kinds of reasons people would rather rent. Maybe they don’t want the big yard, or any yard at all. Maybe they want to move somewhere that’s close to their children and that’s their main concern. But our residents are part of the community. They’re the people you see downtown and on weekends at soccer and baseball games. And we’re glad we can provide these opportunities for them.”
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22 | February 2021
The 53 acres between the Westlake Downs neighborhood and Southern Road is currently filled with trees and a winding creek. The proposal to build 131 homes on the site will go before the Sanford City Council on Feb. 2. Photo by Billy Liggett
THE GLEN AT COOL SPRINGS
DEVELOPMENT DEBATE Proposed subdivision may bring 131 homes to a 53-acre site in West Sanford. Nearby residents are strongly opposed to the plan, and this time they have the backing of Sanford’s planning board.
By Billy Liggett The idea for the Glen at Cool Springs subdivision was born from a need for more single-family housing in a city currently experiencing an economic and a population boom. Like the Galvin’s Ridge subdivision that just started construction off U.S. 1 on the northern edge of Sanford, the Glen has been met with opposition from nearby residents against the idea of having high-density neighborhoods in their backyards.
Unlike Galvin’s Ridge, those who oppose the Glen at least have the backing of Sanford’s citizen-led planning board. The Sanford City Council will meet on Feb. 2 to discuss and possibly approve or axe the proposed subdivision, located off Cool Springs Road in West Sanford bordering the Westlake Downs subdivision. Their decision will be based on previous meetings and discussions for the development — which is currently drawn up to include 131 homes, each on a quarter-acre lot and each with little space be-
tween the homes — and may or may not be influenced by the Sanford Planning Commission’s decision in January not to recommend the plans move forward. The commission — made up of non-elected citizens appointed by the city — heard from a few dozen residents and families living near the proposed subdivision unanimously against it. More than 170 residents in the area signed a petition voicing their opposition, and statements from these men and women during public hearings lasted over an hour at recent
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rantnc.com meetings. “We are not against growth,” said Bo Holland, a resident of nearby Southern Road, who spoke to the board and issued written public statements to the board and the city council. “In fact, we all welcome it. But as we’ve stated many times, we want smart growth that is aligned with the spirit of the city’s Land Use Plan. The planning board has spoken clearly against this proposal and have rejected it unanimously. “We have confidence that with all of the evidence clearly showing that the Glen is not in the best interest of Sanford, [the city] will reject this proposal.”
MEET GLEN On Jan. 19, the Sanford City Council annexed 53 acres of land off Cool Springs Road between Westlake Downs and Southern Road. That same night, residents of those adjoining neighborhoods delivered over two hours of statements in opposition to the proposed development of that land. The planning board voted unanimously to disapprove the rezoning request made by
While the above image is not an official representative of the type of home planned for the Glen at Cool Springs, the image was included on the cover of the proposal offered by North Carolina-based Atlantic Coast Land Development LLC.
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24 | February 2021
The white section above represents the 131-lot subdivision proposed by North Carolina-based Atlantic Coast Development. The Glen at Cool Springs, located off of Cool Springs Road, would neighbor Westlake Downs and Brownstone subdivisions and would share connecting streets with both subdivisions, if approved by the Sanford City Council.
developer Dan Koeller of North Carolina-based Atlantic Coast Land Development. According to minutes from those meetings and plans submitted by Atlantic Coast, the Glen at Cool Springs is a 131-lot proposed subdivision that will fill 53-plus acres. The north end of the subdivision would run alongside Southern Road, which features a handful of homes, each situated on several acres of land. The southern end of the Glen will run parallel to Westlake Downs, whose homes run in the low $300,000 to $500,000 range and each sit on anywhere between a half acre and full acre of land. While estimated home values for the Glen have not been made public, the developers have stated the homes will be classified as R-10 — which in Sanford
means homes with mixed residential styles can have up to four dwellings on a single acre. The Glen is proposing up to 2.45 homes per acre — considerably more dense than its surrounding communities. The Rant reached out to Koeller and Atlantic Coast to learn more about the proposed development but has received no response as of this publication. However, the company described its community in documents submitted to the City Council for its January and February meetings. “The vision for the Glen at Cool Springs is one of tree-lined spaces and sidewalks on both sides of the road to foster a sense of place,” it read. “Common green space within the neighborhood provides places for gathering and conversation. Glen at Cool Springs will be the perfect place for someone to call home.”
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rantnc.com The first community meeting on the proposed annexation and zoning was held on Nov. 19, with 26 people in attendance to voice their opposition. Among their concerns: increased traffic for those “cutting through” Westlake Downs and the adjoining Brownstone subdivision, possible drainage/flooding issues created or made worse by development of the site, the possible decrease in surrounding property values, the lack of a buffer between the properties and whether or not existing sewage lines could handle an additional 131 new homes. According to Marshall Downey, director of the Planning and Development depart-
ment, the planning committee that heard the residents’ concerns is a group made up of citizens appointed by the city council. The group is required by state law to review zoning and development requests and make their recommendations to the city.
to not recommend the development to the city council. But just as important, according to McIver, was the board’s belief that the development was not in the best interest of Sanford or the communities along Cool Springs Road.
“They serve more as a third-party independent review,” Downey says. “The city council can choose to vote based on their recommendations or go another way.”
“We as a board looked at everything,” McIver says. “Several of us even walked that property to take a good look at it. The proposed R-10 neighborhood would have been similar to Carthage Colonies [off Fire Tower Road], and those homes range in the $210,000 to $225,000 area. There’s a big difference in house sizes, land space between homes and density from the homes in Westlake Valley. These homes just didn’t
One of those third-party reviewers was Fred McIver, who works in quality assurance at Coty and is a noted tennis instructor in Sanford. McIver said the residents’ concerns and public statements played a big part in the board’s unanimous decision
“Our decisions are based on what we want Sanford to look like now and five, 10, 20 years down the line. We don’t want houses built now that are going to look like sugar shacks 10 years from now.” — Fred McIver, chair, Planning Board
26 | February 2021
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McIver also says the board was put off by the developer’s refusal to answer questions and provide information on flood control. “I look at us as a visionary group,” McIver says, referring to the planning board. “And our decisions are based on what we want Sanford to look like now and five, 10, 20 years down the line. We don’t want houses built now that are going to look like sugar shacks 10 years from now. Not in Lee County. We felt like the land owners wanted to get rid of the land and push this through. When we see people trying to force something through like that, we don’t like that.”
OUT OF CHARACTER Galvin’s Ridge, a nearly 1,000-home high-density subdivision located off U.S. 1 and Colon Road on the northern edge of Sanford, began construction in 2020 and its first homes are expected to welcome families as early as this year. Like the Glen at Cool Springs, the idea for Galvin’s Ridge wasn’t well received by residents in that area, like Ron Noles, who called the city council “hypocrites”
for approving Galvin’s Ridge and voting against a similar proposal on Valley Road (like the Glen, also in West Sanford) a few years prior. “When the developer says there will be 10 feet between each house, and each home will have 20 feet for the backyard and 20 feet for the front yard, how can the city not have a problem with that?” Noles said back in February 2020. “Lee County had the opportunity to set a new standard for developing a place where families would be happy to settle in and not just become a bedroom community for our larger neighbors.” The opposition to the Glen has been louder and more organized. According to a petition provided by the group, 175 people representing over 90 percent of the surrounding properties signed in opposition to the development. Fifty-four signees represented the 35 properties in Westlake Valley. Their reasons against were many: “The existing proposal for the Glen is totally out of character and compatibility with the surrounding neighborhoods,” said Sarah Womack, a Southern Road resident. “It is our firm belief that this development will have an irreversible, negative impact on
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rantnc.com the existing property owners, not just on the perimeter of the property, but throughout the surrounding neighborhoods.” Womack echoed McIver’s statement that little is known about the proposal, based on documents provided by the developer. “After repeated efforts to learn more about the details of the Glen, we still know very little about how stormwater will be managed, the buffer, and even the construction of the homes,” she added. “As neighboring communities, we feel there is too much at stake to go into this with so many details left unknown. We have also spoken to local realtors who confirm our belief that there is a market for larger lots, larger homes. We believe this land is not conducive to develop R-10 lots for the reasons of zoning and stormwater incompatibility.” Marilyn Novosel says the community isn’t opposed to any and all construction projects. She offers a few concessions the developer could make to gain more support. They include not connecting roads to Westlake Downs, providing a substantial barrier (such as existing trees) between the neighborhoods and performing environmental studies on storm-
water and flooding. It would be nice, also, if the homes weren’t so tight. Larry Wilson, a resident of Wellington Drive in Westlake Downs, says there is a need for high-density housing in Sanford, but that’s not the only type of housing the city should be focusing on. “Our growth will bring professional, technical and management level people in all sectors who will want larger homes,” Wilson says. “City leaders should strive to have balance and diversity in all areas as we grow. This includes businesses, the people and residential development. The drive to develop as much high density housing as possible should be scaled back. Support and encouragement should be given to developers that want to build for families that need larger homes.” Wilson says he feels like West Sanford has always been an “attractive community,” and the city should make decisions that support this image. “The city’s land use plans should recognize the importance of new construction being compatible and in character with the neighboring communities.”
28 | February 2021
LOCAL MATTERS DRUG CHARGES DROPPED AGAINST FORMER OPIOID COMMISSION MEMBER All but one of the charges levied in March against former Sanford Opioid Commission member Armunda Hancock — a single count of possession of drug paraphernalia — have been dismissed, according to Hancock’s attorney. Hancock resigned his position on the opioid board after being charged by deputies with the Wake County Sheriff’s Office with trafficking opiates by possession, trafficking opiates by transportation, possession with intent to sell and distribute opiates, and more after a traffic stop in which multiple opioids were seized. At the time, Hancock said he maintained his innocence. Hancock’s attorney, Chas Post, said the Wake County District Attorney’s Office dismissed most of the charges in December after “a more thorough and detailed investigation.” Hancock pleaded no contest to a single count of possession of drug paraphernalia. “Mr. Hancock was wrongfully accused of mid-level felony drug trafficking charges that he did not commit. During a more thorough and detailed investigation regarding the facts of the case by myself and the Wake County District Attorney’s Office, it was determined that the alleged narcotics found in the vicinity of Mr. Hancock’s person were, in fact, not Mr. Hancock’s,” Post said in a statement. “Instead of risking going to prison,Mr. Hancock pled no contest to one misdemeanor count of being in constructive possession of drug paraphernalia. A no contest plea is not a guilty plea — it is simply a judicial mechanism for folks charged with a criminal offense to resolve their case without the risk of getting convicted of something more serious and without admitting guilt to something they did not do.”
The old Masonic Temple in Downtown Sanford will be used for commercial spaces and apartments after sitting vacant for years thanks to an investment from Owls Nest Properties.
MASONIC TEMPLE TO SEE NEW LIFE AFTER SITTING YEARS VACANT Commercial and residential plans in the works for historic building next to Temple Theatre By Gordon Anderson At a late January event in the Masonic Temple building at the intersection of Carthage and Steele streets in downtown Sanford, a step was taken into the building’s future while simultaneously honoring its past.
The building was sold to a developer in December who plans to renovate the historic structure for both commercial and residential uses.
Cori McKee-Whipple and her husband David own Owls Nest Properties, which has been active locally with a few residential projects in recent months and closed on the Masonic building in December. McKee-Whipple lives in Apex, but “discovered” Sanford as she began looking for places to make real estate investments. “The amazing thing that really tied me to Sanford is that you have so many historical buildings,” she said. “We’re really fortunate that we came to Sanford when we did. Things really just all aligned at
the right time.”
An existing business in the building, Nunnery’s Shoe Shop, will remain, and McKee-Whipple says there are plans for commercial spaces including booth rentals on the street level and nine apartments on the upper floors. She also hopes to attract a “speakeasy” type establishment in the basement. McKee-Whipple said the building’s long history — it’s nearly 100 years old, and hosted Sanford’s Masons until the mid 1980s — is something she intends to preserve as work moves ahead. On Jan. 28, she and the building’s former owner, Joel Williams of Cary, hosted several members of Sanford’s
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rantnc.com Masonic Lodge as they explored the property which has been vacant for decades. Items left inside the building included a few chairs, pillars from the group’s original meeting hall and more. Bill Minard is a past lodge master and was part of the group on hand Thursday. He joined the lodge in the mid-1980s, about six months after the organization moved out of the building. Until a few weeks ago, he’d never been inside. He said the group doesn’t have any specific plans for the items and will probably offer them to current members on a first come, first served basis. “It’s interesting. I don’t know how else to put it,” he said. “It’s nostalgic.” According to the company’s website, Owls Nest is committed to “bringing properties that may have lost their hearts back to life.” That appears to be the case with the Masonic Temple. “Owls don’t build nests, they reuse them,” McKee-Whipple said. “So we are looking for things that have been abandoned or neglected that we can bring back to life.”
Old items found in the historic Masonic temple were returned to local Masons. The century-old building hosted Masonic meetings until the mid-1980s.
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30 | February 2021
Paleface, a singer-songwriter who has been touring nationally and internationally since the early 1990s and has at least 18 albums under his belt, will serve as one of Carolina Indie Fest’s headliners. Photo: YouTube
CAROLINA INDIE FEST | SEPTEMBER 18-19
WHEN ‘LIVE’ RETURNS Tim Emmert of Hugger Mugger Brewing teams up with indie record label for live music festival in downtown Sanford in September
By Gordon Anderson
Despite some significant strides in recent years, Sanford hasn’t historically been known as a hub for live music. And while live music isn’t happening anywhere right now thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, that’s obviously something that will change as more and more folks are vaccinated and the restrictions begin to ease. And Sanford is set to change with it, as a free, two day, three stage music festival
that will feature at least 36 acts from across the country is now scheduled for Sept. 18 and 19 in and around Hugger Mugger Brewing.
Carolina Indie Fest is a project spun up by Hugger Mugger’s Tim Emmert, and Jeff Popka of Indie on Air, a record label which hosts similar festivals in Texas, Colorado, Delaware and several other states. Emmert met Popka through Cliff Wheeler, a Lemon Springs-based country musician who frequently performs at Hugger Mugger and is signed to Popka’s label.
“We’ve had lots of acts play at the brewery, but it can be hard to capture or attract people for just one or two bands,” Emmert said, explaining that the idea of a multiday festival with a variety of acts might provide a better foundation for spinning up an atmosphere for live music. “Cliff told me about Jeff, who has experience doing these festivals around the country.” Popka is based in Evansville, Indiana, and first visited Sanford in July. He said he immediately recognized downtown as an ideal place for a music festival.
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rantnc.com “The location is very appealing, and it’s a place where we feel like we can start out and grow a little bit every year,” he said. “I think we’re going to surprise a lot of people.” The festival will feature an acoustic stage inside Hugger Mugger, a stage near the brewery’s beer garden and a main stage on Steele Street. There will also be “busker stages” throughout downtown offering open mic opportunities for attendees. Popka and Emmert have worked hand in hand with the new Sanford Tourism Development Authority, and Emmert said he expects between locals and those who travel from out of town that several thousand people will attend. And while the name Carolina Indie Fest - might suggest a roster of up and comers, Popka says many of the acts will be national. One such act has already been announced. Paleface, a singer-songwriter who has been touring nationally and internationally since the early 1990s and has at least 18 albums under his belt, will serve as one of Carolina Indie Fest’s headliners. For those looking for a sonic comparison, Paleface has musical connections to acts like Beck, and North Carolina’s Avett Brothers.
He was “discovered” in 1990 by a former manager of The Doors and The Ramones. Other announced acts include: ADDIE TONIC (Denver, Colorado): 90s inspired alternative rock described as a cross between Slash and The Cranberries. THE ACCIDENTALS (Traverse City, Michigan): Female-fronted multi-instrumentalist power trio which has drawn comparisons to artists like The Beatles, the Decemberists, Niko Case and more. CLIFF WHEELER BAND (Lemon Springs, N.C.): Lee County’s own were named the 2020 vocal group of the year by the Carolina Country Music Association and entertainer of the year by the International Singer Songwriter Association. WILLOW HILL (Nashville, Tennessee): Husband and wife pop country duo named a “band to watch” by Rolling Stone Magazine.
TOUGH ON FRIDAYS (Georgetown, Texas): Alt rock trio which mixes “charm and innocence with street smarts and garage band swagger.” For more information and the full lineup, followfacebook.com/officialcarolinaindiefest
GET TO KNOW PALEFACE The headliner for September’s Carolina Idie Fest in Sanford will be singer-songwriter Paleface, who’s been active in the music industry for over 30 years. Paleface’s career began in 1989 when he met songwriter and underground icon Daniel Johnston, who taught him to write songs and record music. At this time, Paleface was roommates with future Grammy award-winning and internationlly known singer/songwriter/musician Beck in New York City. “We used to go to all the open mics together,” said Beck. “He taught me Daniel Johnston songs on the sidewalk and let me sleep on his couch. He was a great songwriter, a generous friend and a big influence on my early stuff”. Paleface was discovered at a New York City open mic night by manager Danny Fields (The Stooges, The Ramones, MC5), who took him under his wing him for eight years. He has released albums for
Polygram and Sire records, as well as indie labels Ramseur and now defunct but once mighty Shimmy Disc.
Cliff Wheeler Band
He’s been called a major musical influence by not only Beck, but also The Avett Brothers. Paleface has collaborated andappeared on three of The Avett’s albums, most notably as the “4th thief ” on their album Four Thieves Gone. Additionally, Paleface is a visual artist, and his music-lyric inspired paintings are collected by fans worldwide. He currently tours on a full-time basis as duo with longtime girlfriend and Puerto Rican drummer Monica “Mo” Samalot. Willow Hill
32 | February 2021
LOCAL MATTERS MEDICAL SONOGRAPHY PROGRAM AT CCCC GETS INITIAL ACCREDITATION The Central Carolina Community College Medical Sonography program has received initial accreditation from the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs. “We are incredibly excited that the culmination of years of work by our Medical Sonography faculty has resulted in an accredited program that allows our graduates to complete the nationally recognized American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography Registry,” said Lisa Johnson, Ed.D., CCCC Dean of Health Sciences and Human Services. “Accreditation for the Medical Sonography program allows for our college to measure and improve quality in the education process that ultimately results in a qualified graduate providing top-notch patient care for our community and at the end of the day can lead to life saving information for the patients we serve.” CCCC’s General Medical Sonography program is an associate’s degree program that educates and trains students to operate special equipment to create images that help physicians assess and diagnose medical conditions and/or assist physicians and surgeons during invasive procedures.
ABC TO SPONSOR DRINKING PREVENTION AWARD The Sanford ABC Board is sponsoring an Underage Drinking Prevention & Education Award for high school seniors. Students who apply could receive a $2,500 scholarship award; awards will be selected by a panel of judges at the NC ABC Commission. The deadline to apply is April 19. Learn more at sanfordnc.net.
In 1984, Billy Ray Cameron became the nation’s first Vietnam veteran elected as commander in chief of the Veterans of Foreign War. Cameron died in December at the age of 76.
BILLY RAY CAMERON
LOCAL VETERANS COMMUNITY LOSES AN LEADER, ICON Camerons fought in Vietnam as a Marine and returned home to become nation’s first VFW commander to have served in that war By Charles Petty Lee County lost a giant in December. Billy Ray Cameron was nothing short of iconic, not only in Lee County but also across the state, and in some ways,
the entire nation. Cameron died on Dec. 17, 2020, at the age of 76. “He was a living example of how to help the veterans community,” said former North Carolina Lieutenant Governor Dennis Wicker. “He was a great believer in public service and indeed lived it and committed his life to it.” Born in Lee County but raised in neighboring Harnett County, Cameron quit college at N.C. State University — just 20 credit hours short of earning a degree in physical education — to join the United States Marine Corps as the Vietnam War raged overseas. Serving with the 1st Marine Division near Da Nang, Cameron became known as “Pops” because at 23 he was the oldest man in
his squadron. He received two meritorious combat promotions and became a squad leader, and was also the recipient of two Purple Hearts. The first came after he rode over a landmine in a Jeep and was thrown from the vehicle. The second came after he stepped on a landmine. The toll of these injuries continued to plague Cameron for years to come, but also informed his sense of public service and community. Years later, in 1984, Cameron was the first Vietnam veteran elected as commander in chief of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, an occasion so momentous that it was featured in The New York Times. During his tenure, the VFW grew
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He also worked in public service, becoming Lee County’s director of emergency management in 1971, a role he would hold until 1993. That year, he assumed the same role for the entire state, and he became deputy secretary for the North Carolina Department of Crime Control and Public Safety in 1997. He would serve in that position until 2003. A family man and devoted to his wife Jeannette Gilliam Cameron and his children Edward and Leah, Cameron’s friend Jim Foster described him as “Marine tough” and fondly recalled their 50 year friendship. Being neighbors and fishing buddies, Foster and Cameron often enjoyed a good laugh, helped each other in times of need and golfed with their sons in father-son competitions. In 2003, Cameron suffered a massive
“He was a living example of how to help the veterans community,. He was a great believer in public service and indeed lived it and committed his life to it.” — Former Lt. Gov. Dennis Wicker stroke that left him unable to speak until his death. Jeannette cared for him faithfully at their home in Sanford right up until the very end. She remembered her husband’s strong character and kindness and how it left an impact on everyone he met.
also remembered the acts of service Cameron performed to help on the state level to raise awareness of veterans needs and conditions. His advocacy for veterans was a hallmark of his service even while he dutifully performed his job with the state department of Crime Control and Public Safety. His continued work with the state and VFW touched the lives of countless
“He had a strong attachment to our community,” she said. “He was a people person, he enjoyed people and cared deeply about others, always wanting to help where he could.”
many ensuring lives and livelihoods were protected. “He was a close friend of mine for many years,” Wicker recalled. “Billy Ray Cameron devoted his whole life to serving his country, his state and his community.” In spite of the stroke and injuries from war, Cameron never ceased being a positive force for good. He continued to attend church and VFW meetings and, in his own way through his illness, help the Lee County community. With a smile and good will towards his neighbor, Cameron was the ultimate example of being a community-minded, caring human who left the world a better place.
Wicker, the former lieutenant governor, has many fond memories of Cameron. Wicker’s father, who was a World War II veteran, was a fellow member of the VFW and helped serve the community with Cameron in the organization. While serving with Governor Jim Hunt, Wicker
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to over one million members, and he remained an active member of the North Carolina VFW for decades, frequently lobbying Congress to help his fellow veterans, particularly with regards to veterans hospitals and benefits.
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34 | February 2021
CONSTRUCTION BEGINS ON VALENTI’S RESTAURANT A construction permit has been issued for the long-awaited Jonesboro-area Valenti’s restaurant, and motorists in the area may have seen the “coming soon” sign that’s recently been planted on the property at 405 E. Main St. The project has been in the works for almost two years — the Sanford City Council allowed a rezoning on the property in March of 2019, and owner Adam Valenti said at the time he hoped to begin construction that year. By March of 2020, Valenti said he was getting closer, but then the pandemic thing hit. Valenti’s has operated a location in Vass since 1996.
MAN CHARGED AFTER GUNS, DRUGS FOUND IN HOME Drug agents with the Lee County Sheriff’s Office arrested a local man in January after finding multiple drugs and firearms, including one that was listed as stolen. Shane Carter Taylor, 28, faces charges of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, possession of a stolen firearm and multiple possession counts. Deputies executed a search warrant at 1874 Saunders Road on Jan. 21 and found 34 ounces of marijuana, 54 dosage units of Suboxone and 488 dosage units of Xanax. Agents also found two assault rifles, four pistols, a shotgun and $6,440 in cash.
Brian Ek (far right, also known as Brian Lee) interviews the late Charlie Daniels in the studios of WWGP in Sanford. Ek has written an autobiogrphy about his time in Sanford and about being host of the popular Swap Shop program.
SWAP SHOP MEMORIES Brian Ek (a.k.a. Brian Lee) has penned a book on his time helming the popular radio show By TAMARA DICKS Maple River (Minn.) Messenger
Brian Ek admits that listening in school was not his strong suit. But that doesn’t mean he didn’t learn. Growing up in the Maple River community in rural Minnesota, Ek fondly remembers teachers — John Solting and Jim Siatsis, he recalls — who he believes taught their students to the best of their ability and who really cared.
Brian remembered, “They both taught with passion and impacted me greatly with their speaking ability and that helped me become a better speaker.” Ek knew since age seven that he wanted to be on the radio. He grew up listening to WCCO Radio in Minneapolis and following the late Steve Cannon, a legend in that area. “Steve Cannon was mostly responsible for my joining the radio industry.” As a child, Ek worked constanly on his announcer voice. “I remember watching cartoons as a child and trying to mimic the voices.” As time went on he got quite good at it and can now mimic quite a few including Popeye, Ronald Reagan, Bugs Bunny, the Tasmanian Devil and more. To work toward his dream of being a
radio announcer, Ek went to Austin AVTI for broadcast schooling. After graduating, he took his first on-air radio job at KSUM and KFMC Radio in Fairmont, Minnesota. He worked at that station for two years and found the people to be helpful. “I decided after speaking with people at the station in Fairmont to attend Brown Institute, because they were supposed to be the best broadcasting school in the country and had a ‘lifetime’ placement service,” Ek said. His time at Brown was fully focused on learning the finer points of broadcasting. After graduation from Brown, Ek worked at WDER radio in Derry, New Hampshire. He spent a few years working retail and parttime radio. Then he moved south to Southern Pines, North Carolina,
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rantnc.com and shortly after moving started at WWGP in Sanford, where he started hosting a radio show called “The Swap Shop.”
Ek retired from on-air radio broadcasting shortly after having a slight stroke in 2016, however, he is anything but idle.
Swap Shop’s purpose was to provide a medium where people could buy, sell and trade each day.
“I still continue to record radio commercials and other audio production for clients around the country. I’ve always enjoyed creating radio commercials.”
The show originally took an hour time slot, and Ek co-hosted with Margaret Murchison. Ek and Murchison — due to the popularity of the show — took the program to a four-hour time slot, with sponsorship growing from a handful to more than 30 sponsors. Murchison’s segment grew from 15 minutes to 45 minutes. Ek explained the show’s transformation, “When I took it over we added ‘PSAs’ or Public Service Announcements,” he said. “I also wanted to add a flare of entertainment to bring in more listeners so I also added live interviews with some of the most popular music and comedy artists in the world.” During his time, Ek interviewed Roy Orbison, Gordon Lightfoot, William Hung, Carrie Underwood, Taylor Swift, George Jones, LeAnn Rimes, Johnny Cash, Ray Price, Kenny Rogers, Brad Paisley, Charlie Daniels, Bill Engvall, ‘Larry The Cable Guy’, Jeff Foxworthy, Luke Bryan, Willie P. Richardson ‘The Phone Prankster’, Jimmy ‘Mouth of the South’ Hart from WWE and more. The show was wildly successful. Ek said, “I had finally, after all my previous years in broadcasting, found my niche and I never wanted to give that up. In fact, someone asked me if I didn’t get paid to do the show if I would still do it? My reply was of course, ‘well yes!’” After getting the show up to a four-hour time slot, Ek decided to rename the show, The Swap Shop with Brian Lee. “I wanted to personalize the show,” he said. “I never wanted to use my real name, as I had issues in the past with ‘groupies,’ but at the time I wanted to use my radio name, Brian Lee.” Ek spent time promoting the show doing live remote broadcasts every chance he got. He said, “I even had groupies that would show up to greet me.” He left the show in 2008 and returned in 2013 for one more year. After that he worked in local markets just north of the Minneapolis area.
Ek is also an author of several books, one being an autobiography of his time with The Swap Shop with Brian Lee. “The Swap Shop was around for a long time prior to me taking it over,” he said. “The show still runs today. My book is an autobiography of the time I performed the show. It became the most popular listened to morning show in the central North Carolina area.” Ek also has a complete autobiography currently in the works, delving into his start in radio to his retirement and the times he had. “I am also currently working on a few children’s books and a book about my days in the mental health industry,” he said. “Whether or not I’ll get them finished is another story though. But I’m hoping to. My books are available on Amazon.com.”
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If keeping his hands in the radio biz and writing is not enough to fill his retirement days, he is also a bit of a philanthropist. “After retiring from on-air radio, I decided to give back to the community. I began working in the mental health field. I’ve worked with youth and adults since my radio retirement for different mental health companies and currently work for a company called Dungarvin, working with individuals with autism and other challenging issues,” he said. “Ironically, my current company’s corporate office is located in the building that finally housed Brown Institute (College) before it closed, in Mendota Heights, Minn.” Ek’s life has been interesting and jam packed with various adventures with the highlight being his time at The Swap Shop with Brian Lee. To those from small towns with big dreams he says to not hesitate and “follow your dreams. If you don’t, you may never know where life would have brought you.” Ek currently lives in Cambridge, Minn., with his high school sweetheart, Keri, and his cat “Listen Linda”, who is just a bit mouthy. Must be all those years of listening to Brian Lee.
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36 | February 2021
@therant905 LEE COUNTY SCHOOLS
BOARD VOTES TO STICK WITH PLAN B, WILL REVISIT HIGH SCHOOL IN FEB. LOCAL MATTERS HARNETT MONITORING 11 COVID-19 OUTBREAKS The Health Department is currently monitoring 11 outbreaks for COVID-19. In a congregate living setting, a COVID-19 outbreak is defined as two or more laboratory-confirmed cases. The following facilities are experiencing COVID-19 outbreaks: Harnett Woods Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, Emerald Health and Rehabilitation Center, Universal Healthcare, Carrolton of Dunn, Oakhill Assisted Living, Senior Citizens Village, Senter’s Memory Care, North Willow Group Home, and Pinecrest Gardens. Two correctional institutions, Harnett Correctional Institution and Harnett County Detention Center. According to the county, this data is preliminary, and these numbers and facilities are subject to change as more information is obtained during outbreak investigations.
HARNETT POSTPONES ALL COVID VACCINE CLINICS Demand for the COVID-19 vaccine in NC and Harnett County vastly exceeds the current supply. The Harnett County Health Department is currently postponing scheduling any first dose COVID-19 vaccine clinics effective immediately due to lack of vaccine supply. Anyone who has currently received a scheduled appointment will be seen. For others who have not been contacted or scheduled for a COVID-19 vaccine appointment, your name will be placed on a waiting list. For more information on the County’s COVID-19 vaccination response, visit our COVID-19 vaccine information webpage at https://www.harnett.org/publicinfo/ covid19-vaccine-information.asp
By Billy Liggett After several comments from parents and students both in favor of and against the idea of in-person classes while Lee County is experiencing a record number of new COVID-19 cases, the Lee County Board of Education voted 4-3 on Jan. 13 to continue with Plan B (a hybrid of online and on campus classes) for elementary and middle school students and to revisit a change for high school students at its Feb. 9 meeting. The vote fell along non-partisan lines as Democrats Patrick Kelly and Pat McCracken joined Republican Sherry Lynn Womack in voting “no” for Plan B. All three suggested during Tuesday’s meeting that Lee County should go fully remote for the time being until COVID cases recede. A day before the meeting, the county reported nearly 400 new cases over the previous seven days and its 45th death. “I came here tonight wanting to move students in another way because of the 18-percent [positivity rate],” Kelly said during the meeting. “It’s hard for me to not listen to CDC guidelines, which recommend [remote learning if numbers surpass] 10 percent.” Kelly, who was among the first group of people to receive a vaccine because of his work with first responders, said he’s seen too much death in the county and has had to console too many people who’ve lost loved ones to vote otherwise. “I can’t in good conscience say that staying in school is the best decision right now,” he said. Womack said she had heard from too many teachers to believe Plan B is the right choice. “Teachers have legitimate concerns over returning to school,” she said. “It’s tough for everyone, but we need some type of written order that tells us exactly what we’re going to do. It just seems like we’re being very inconsistent right now.” Board members Dr. Lynn Smith, Chris-
Lee County Superintendent Andy Bryan reads comments from parents and teachers at the January board meeting, most of those statements urgin the district to reconsider in-person classes this spring. tine Hilliard and Pam Sutton voted to continue with Plan B, and board chairman Sandra Bowen made the tie-breaking vote to continue with the plan and revisit all levels of K-12 education in early February.
are increasing the spread, which in turn they would bring back into the school. Not only would it be a risk for us as teachers and our families, but also for our students.”
“Hopefully, the current spike will be in decline, and if we’re in a good place to continue a slow rollout for a Plan B for high school students, that might be a feasible option,” Bowen said.
Fourth grade teacher Scott Fann-Smith said he supports continued in-person classes for those whose children have trouble with online learning.
The board received dozens of public comments from parents and students read by Superintendent Andy Bryan before the discussion. Most of the comments asked the school board to consider sticking with remote learning for the safety of students, teachers and staff. “I feel at this time for students to come back into school is definitely the wrong choice,” wrote Michael Jones, a teacher at Southern Lee High School. “If the students would come back to school, you must remember we are on the front lines. Our health and safety would be at risk during this pandemic. I have witnessed students in groups outside of school not practicing the 3W’s. My fear is that they
“My students who have chosen to come to school in person are thriving and performing dramatically better in person than they would if they were forced to learn online only,” he wrote. “I have had students who are virtual personally tell me when I am teaching that they are confused with a certain topic, and that they knew they would understand better when they came in person later on in the week. … Please at the very minimum allow the kids who have chosen to move from virtual learning to in person learning do so. We have the safety precautions in place, and it is our job to make sure that they are met while also meeting the needs of our children.” The next meeting of the Board of Education is scheduled for Feb. 9.
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rantnc.com TWO SANFORD MEN CHARGED IN D.C. RIOT Two Sanford men were among the handful of North Carolinians charged by authorities in Washington, D.C. after supporters of President Donald Trump stormed the Congressional building on Wednesday, according to multiple news outlets. Multiple outlets in early January identified Lance Grames, 42, and Jere Brower, 45, as having been charged with unlawful entry and curfew violation. According to the News & Observer’s report, Grames, Brower and a suspect from Matthews, N.C. named Earl Glosser “did not disperse after at least three warnings from the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD), court documents state. MPD and Capitol Police also warned people to get off of Capitol Grounds using audio-amplification devices, but Grames and Glosser did not do so, the documents state.” Both Grames and Brower have been involved in local Republican politics. Grames was part of a pro-Trump convoy held in east Sanford back in September in which a Trump flag was ripped off his vehicle, causing a window to break. Grames told police at the time that he was spit on during the incident. Meanwhile, both men spoke at a December meeting of the Lee County Board of Commissioners, with Brower calling Gov. Roy Cooper’s call for civil penalties for violations of the state’s COVID protocols “unconstitutional.” According to the report in the Herald, both men were released from custody on a written promise to appear in court after pleading not guilty to the charges.
CAMPBELL PARTNER CPVH BREAKS GROUND ON NEW EDUCATION CENTER Cape Fear Valley Health broke ground today on a state-of-the-art education and research center for medical residency programs that will benefit Campbell University medical students for generations to come. The Center for Medical Education & Research and Neuroscience Institute will span five floors and 120,000 square feet and will include lecture halls, classrooms and simulations labs to provide resident medical students with hands-on, applied learning with sophisticated technology, CPVH CEO Mike Nagowski said. The facil-
ity is expected to open in summer 2022. “This new building will radically increase the number of patients we can serve, the quality of care they receive and ultimately, add significant numbers of new doctors to our region,” Nagowski said. Cape Fear Valley is one of the six hospitals partnered with Campbell’s Jerry M. Wallace School of Osteopathic Medicine’s post-graduate residency programs. Residency for these graduates can range from an additional two years of education to an additional seven years of training, depending on the specialty. Cape Fear offers residencies for Campbell students in emergency medicine, internal medicine, cardiology, OB/GYN, surgery, psychiatry and transitional year training.
COUNTY ACCEPTING NOMS FOR GOVERNOR’S VOLUNTEER SERVICE AWARD The Lee County Government Enrichment Center continues to accept nominations for the 2021 Governor’s Volunteer Service Awards. Nomination forms are available at the Enrichment Center located at 1615 South Third Street in Sanford or online at www. volunteernc.org. Completed nomination forms must be submitted to the Enrichment Center by 5 p.m. on Feb. 3.
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The annual awards program was created in 1979 and provides an opportunity to recognize the state’s most dedicated volunteers. For more information about the 2021 Governor’s Volunteer Service Awards program in Lee County, contact Janice Holmes at (919) 776-0501 or jholmes@ leecountync.gov.
LIBRARY VIRTUAL, CURBSIDE SERVICE TO CONTINUE Lee County Libraries announced that virtual and curbside programs and services will continue as the department expands opportunities for the public to utilize library programs and services while observing COVID-19 safety precautions. Lee County Libraries continues to operate on a modified schedule due to COVID-19. To learn more, contact Lee County Government Director of Library Services, Beth List at (919) 718-4665.
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38 | February 2021
FORMER CCCC STUDENT ACCEPTED INTO YALE MEDICAL PROGRAM Courtesy of CCCC Caring for people around him has always been a top priority for Andrew Sescilla. Now, the former Central Carolina Community College student will make that pursuit his life’s work as he begins study in the prestigious physician assistant program offered by the Yale School of Medicine.
Andrew Sescilla, photo courtesy of CCCC
Not long ago, the University of Pittsburgh graduate in business administration was thinking about anything but medicine, serving as Director of Army Engineer operations, where he provided assistance to people facing crisis situations across
the United States and in other locations around the globe. But that experience sparked an interest in healthcare, a path he decided to pursue after leaving the U.S. Army -- first as a paramedic in Chatham County, where he has lived for the last decade, and soon as a physician assistant. Sescilla will be studying in an online master’s degree program that prepares graduates to seek licensure as physician assistants. While courses are delivered online, the 28-month, full-time program requires some in-person instruction, as well, with clinical rotations near students’ home communities and three weeklong, hands-on “immersions” in New Haven,
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rantnc.com Conn., on the Yale University campus. Pursuing an online degree program, even with plenty of in-person instruction, wouldn’t have seemed like a viable option a few years ago. Sescilla admits that it took him a while to adapt to online instruction, though he eventually discovered during his return to college that the online format actually did fit his learning style. Another challenge: Juggling his new academic pursuits with family obligations, though the devoted father learned a lot about how to make it work during his return to the classroom at CCCC. Part of that lesson came from his own experience -- squeezing study into short breaks in his EMS work schedule and taking long walks with class notes in hand. Oddly enough, the walks gave him the time and mental refreshment needed to memorize the massive amount of information covered in his anatomy and physiology classes. Then, he learned a lot from his fellow students, many of whom were facing some of the same challenges. “I met more students than I expected that were like
me,” he says. “These students were either changing or advancing careers later in their life. It was also a great experience to share having to do school work with my kids.” When the first year of study begins with online classes in topics as diverse as human anatomy, patient assessment, pharmacology and behavioral medicine, it won’t be easy. But CCCC Biology instructor Dr. Amy Kennedy has no doubt her former student is up to the challenge. “He is an exceptional worker,” Kennedy says. “He seemed to juggle a lot of balls, yet managed to fulfill his varying roles well.” Sescilla is confident, too. He says the CCCC faculty has prepared him to reach his professional goals, even in a medical field that he would never have considered just 10 years ago. And he carries with him one important lesson that he offers for current CCCC students and that should serve him well as he launches into study in one of the nation’s most respected universities. “Something that took me a long time to learn in life,” he says, “is that asking for help is a sign of strength, not a weakness.”
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40 | February 2021
Matthew E. Stone
The February 2021 edition of The Rant Monthly, a publication of LPH Media LLC in Sanford, North Carolina.