TS O L
The Rant y l h t Mon
SANFORD, NORTH CAROLINA
PACKED POTENTIAL Local and out-of-town buyers are jumping on available downtown buildings with big plans in mind
2 | March 2022
Spring is here!
Trusted Real Estate Professionals that know this market and are ready to help you. Gina Allen
The RantMonthly March 2022 | Sanford, North Carolina A product of LPH Media, LLC Vol. 4 | Issue 3 | No. 36
Editorial Gordon Anderson | email@example.com Billy Liggett | firstname.lastname@example.org Jonathan Owens | email@example.com Richard Sullins | firstname.lastname@example.org Advertising Brandon Allred | email@example.com (919) 605-1479 Contributors Ben Brown Editorial Board William Bendix, Clarie Trevor, Charles Bickford, William Frawley, Robert Ellis, Sam Levene, Mel Allen, H.V. Kaltenborn and Mark Koenig
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The Rant Monthly MARCH 2022
SANFORD, NORTH CAROLINA
PACKED POTENTIAL Local and out-of-town buyers are jumping on available downtown buildings with big plans in mind
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Real Estate Tip #1 Have A Real Estate Agent On Your Side — Especially In Today’s Market! Sellers: Legal requirements and other pitfalls can stop a sale; Adcock agents get sales closed. Buyers: Adcock agents know how to make winning offers without risking all your money. Contact us for more information.
ABOUT THE COVER Downtown Sanford has been on an upward trend for about a decade now thanks to a game-changing streetscape plan and continued investments made by small business owners. Today, empty buildings and storefronts seem to be going fast as more businesses and investors are looking to get in on the area’s growing potential. Our March 2022 edition looks at downtown’s growth and why people are going all in on its future.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. Advertising: firstname.lastname@example.org. 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 | March 2022
PAGE FOUR BOWLED OVER LitBand.com
90S ROCKERS LIT ADDED TO WAMPUS CAT Lit — a post-grunge, late 90s radio mainstay with hits like “My Own Worst Enemy” and “Miserable” — is one of the latest big names added to the Wampus Cat Music Festival lineup, organizers announced in February. Lit joins other big 90s-era bands Everclear and J.R. Richards of Dishwalla, as well as about 90 other artists scheduled to play the three-day festival set for May 13-15 at Gross Farms II near Broadway. Wampus Cat is a joint event between Indie On Air, the organizers behind downtown Sanford’s successful Carolina Indie Fest back in September 2021, and Gross Farms. It is described as a “three day immersive festival experience” with live music from over 90 acts across three stages designated “rock,” “country” and “indie.” As for Lit, the band has released six studio albums, including the RIAA Certified Platinum “A Place in the Sun” which included “My Own Worst Enemy.” According to the band’s website, the song is “one of the most broadcasted, covered, karaoke’d, recognizable rock hits of the last 20 years,” and it won them a Billboard Music Award for Modern Rock Song of the Year. Their video for “Miserable” featured Pamela Anderson and was one of the top 10 most played songs of 2000.
Nearly nine months after a fire ripped through Kendale Bowling Lanes and United Refrigeration, demoltion work remains ongoing on the buildings. While no updates have been released about the future of the buildings, new construction materials can be found in the parking lot of the once popular bowling alley. Above is a photo of the alley’s current state, shot from the front door.
FOUR BEST LUCKY CHARMS MARSHMALLOW SHAPES March is home to St. Patrick’s Day — the one time of year where you have a legitimate reason to eat Lucky Charms cereal. Conspiracy theorists will tell you the marshmallows all taste the same, but they’re a bunch of jerks. Here are the four best:
QUOTABLE “I know it’s an easy song to play, believe me, that’s why we wrote it that way. I love that kids just learning how to play can play it and get that feeling we did playing ‘Breaking the Law’ by Judas Priest or ‘Smoke On The Water.’ It was easy, but you felt that magic, that adrenalin.” Lit’s Jeremy Popoff on “My Own Worst Enemy”
Added in 1989 to symbolize the “power to float” ... apparently
One of the OG shapes from 1964, has a great “green” taste to it
Introduced in 1983 for “power of speed,” these actually made you faster
The “generic” Lucky Charms actually had more marshmallows and sugar
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6 | March 2022
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UPDATED CONGRESSIONAL MAP
A Congressional map approved by the legislature on Feb. 18 was thrown out and replaced on Feb. 23 by a panel of Superior Court judges, the News & Observer reported the following week. With the move, Lee County now finds itself in the state’s 9th District, along with all of Chatham, Randolph, Moore, Hoke and Scotland counties, and parts of Harnett, Cumberland and Richmond counties. Observers seem to be indicating that the district is likely to lean Republican, although some factors could make it potentially competitive under the right conditions.
8 | March 2022
THE LEAD HEALTH CARE IN LEE COUNTY
MURAL OF BLUES LEGEND ONE OF TWO PROJECTS PLANNED DOWNTOWN Sanford city government has announced two new downtown murals and is accepting proposals from artists interested in helping create them. One mural, located at 329 Carthage St., will commemorate local racing legend J.D. McDuffie and his pit crew. The second, planned for 212 Carthage St., will celebrate musician Floyd Council, whose name partially inspired British rock legends Pink Floyd. Council is buried in Sanford. South Carolina blues musician Pink Anderson — the other half of the name Pink Floyd — will also be included. The city’s Appearance Commission is currently accepting proposals from artists. They should be submitted by 5 p.m. on April 22, and must be from either North Carolina residents, or artists who were raised in North Carolina.
ABC BOARD HOSTING ESSAY CONTEST SCHOLARSHIP Local students have an opportunity to win one of 25 $2,500 scholarships from the Sanford Alcoholic Beverage Commission Board. The board is sponsoring an underage drinking prevention and education award for high school students who write a well-researched essay about the facts and dangers of alcohol use by minors and develop a plan of action for sharing their research with their school. Students must be in 12th grade and reside in Sanford or Lee County and must be under the supervision and direction of a teacher.
FIRSTHEALTH SEES MORE EMS CALLS, STAFF SHORTAGES IN OPENING MONTHS By Richard Sullins email@example.com The decision last August to award a fiveyear contract to FirstHealth of the Carolinas for emergency medical services in Lee County was controversial. Hundreds attended two public hearings that month as county commissioners had to decide between staying with Central Carolina Hospital, who had operated the franchise since the 1990s, or going with FirstHealth, who had been managing similar services in Chatham, Montgomery and Richmond counties. Even amongst the commissioners, there were differences in opinion about whether to keep the service locally or go with a larger provider. When the final vote was taken on Aug. 18, Democratic commissioners Mark Lovick, Robert Reives, and Cameron Sharpe joined Republicans Arianna Lavallee and Dr. Andre Knecht in voting in favor of awarding the franchise to FirstHealth. Opposing the measure were Republicans Kirk Smith, the board’s chairman, and Bill Carver. When the contract between the county and FirstHealth was negotiated a month later, several performance measures were written into the language so commissioners could use those metrics to determine how well FirstHealth was meeting the needs of the county. At a meeting in January when commissioners were adjusting the county’s strategic plan for the next fiscal year, those performance measures were reviewed. Call volume higher than expected
When FirstHealth submitted its proposal for EMS services for the county in May of last year, it predicted that it would respond
to an estimated 6,190 calls during its first year of service. From Oct. 1 through Dec. 31 of 2021, FirstHealth ambulances were dispatched to respond to 2,227 calls, making Lee the busiest county within the FirstHealth system. Annualizing those quarterly totals results in a projected annual number of 8,908 calls through Sept. 30 of this year. That’s 44 percent more than FirstHealth had anticipated serving. Many of those calls were related to COVID-19, but an even bigger factor was also at play. The emergency room remains a source of primary health care among the working poor, for those on Medicaid and welfare programs, and increasingly among the elderly. For many of these people, a visit to the emergency room by way of an ambulance is their access to primary care. Tim Simmons, FirstHealth EMS director for Lee County, believes that 70 to 80 percent of those 2,227 calls were not actual emergencies that required transport by an ambulance, but could have instead been carried out by patients making use of privately-operated vehicles. Studies done nationwide over the past 25 years support the conclusion that inappropriate ambulance use ranges from 12 percent to 52 percent, significantly lower than Lee County. The greatest numbers of calls by the time of day occurred at noon and then again between 2 and 6 p.m. The hours between 2 and 5 a.m. saw the fewest number of calls for ambulance assistance. Simmons said Monday through Friday continue to be the busiest days for the EMS crews, but the volumes of calls received on the weekends are only somewhat lower. During the public hearings in August,
several people expressed concerns that the majority of calls in Lee County would result in transports to FirstHealth’s hospital facility in Pinehurst, but that was not the case during the first quarter of performance. Only 15 percent of all calls made within the county resulted in transport outside of it. The greatest number of these (63) were for reasons of medical necessity, with another 16 made by helicopter, and 13 others were made because a facility outside the county was closer to the scene of the emergency. In all, 49 patients were transported outside the county at the request of either the patient or their family, and eight others were done at a physician’s request. Staffing and response times
The contract signed in September requires FirstHealth to station a minimum of four ambulances and Advanced Life Support crews to increase response times. Two crews are to be located at FirstHealth’s base on Central Drive in Sanford, with one other each sited at volunteer fire stations in Northview and Carolina Trace. In their review with the commissioners in January, FirstHealth reported having only three trucks available and staffed 24 hours a day. Simmons said that two new Advanced Life Support ambulances have been purchased and will be deployed soon at an additional cost to the contract of $125,000 each per year, if the county requests them. The contract calls for four ambulances, but FirstHealth only has three in operation. And to get to the level the contract calls for, the county will have to shell out more money. Sharpe asked whether the four trucks specified in the contract is enough to meet
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rantnc.com the county’s needs. Simmons believes a fifth truck will be necessary in the downtown area when the Northview fire station opens, “because most of our calls are coming from downtown.”
staff it?” asked Carver.
Staffing has been another concern. Simmons said that the Central Carolina Hospital EMS unit was less staffed than anticipated at start-up and that when FirstHealth assumed the contract on Oct. 1, it had only 10 fulltime equivalent positions in a staff having openings for 36. By Jan. 12, the number of openings had been reduced to 17 — slightly over half of the number that were available to be filled, with only five more applicants in the pipeline.
FirstHealth’s response time goal for the first year of the contract is to have a crew on the scene of each call received within an average of eight minutes and 59 seconds. Simmons told commissioners the actual response time during the contract’s first quarter averaged eight minutes and 21 seconds. By comparison, response times during Central Carolina Hospital’s administration of the contract varied between seven and 13 minutes, depending on the location of the emergency.
Simmons said another means of addressing the shortage is through the 24 current FirstHealth employees with EMT certifications that are enrolled in its EMS Academy, providing a year of free training in a hybrid format through a local community college in exchange for one year of employment as a paramedic. Still, this circumstance was an immediate concern for the commissioners. “Even if we had a fifth ambulance, could we
Simmons expressed optimism despite the numbers, saying, “I’m going out on a limb to say that we will have all our staffing issues taken care of within 90 days.”
The average turnover time — from arrival of the EMS unit on the scene until the case is turned over to staff in the emergency room — during the first quarter was 26 minutes and 13 seconds. Those handoffs don’t always happen so quickly, though. Congestion in the ER can result in longer turnover times, which in turn reduces the availability of ambulances and increases response times to other emergencies. In five cases, two hours or more were required to hand off the patient from an EMS unit to the emergency department.
Having vehicles available when needs arise is critical in a county with 63,000 residents and Sharpe asked Simmons about a recent situation where all available trucks were in use and an emergency arose that had to wait for approximately 42 minutes before help arrived. Simmons said that a confluence of circumstances had occurred with trucks out on other calls and maintenance issues on another that made it inoperable. The outcome of the incident turned out well, but it was a situation that Simmons said the department is taking steps to avoid a recurrence of in the future.
where emergency situations develop, they can be on the scene quicker and could often deliver the types of assistance that could be life saving in many instances.
Training program for fire departments
Establishing and advancing the First Responder program will be prime among FirstHealth’s EMS goals in Lee County in 2022, followed by an assessment of ambulance placements through call locations, an assessment of the requirements for additional ambulances and QRVs or “Quick Response Vehicles” that can be dispatched quickly to certain types of emergencies and operated by a single EMS employee, and the continuation of hiring additional staff.
A final performance measure that Simmons and Barry Britt, FirstHealth regional EMS director, addressed related to FirstHealth’s plan to offer tiered training at county fire departments, offering members the opportunity to study emergency medical response from basic first aid through more advanced levels. Britt said meetings have been held with each fire department to offer them whatever level and amount of training they desire. Britt said that since fire departments are generally located more closely to the scene
In addition to basic first aid, the initial level of training will include trauma first responder training, stop the bleeding and use of tourniquets, and “pit crew CPR,” where responders initiate chest compressions as soon as they identify a patient in cardiac arrest. A second tier of training will center on airway insertion (for EMTs only) and a third level will include intramuscular epinephrine (also for EMTs only) and Narcan administration.
The next quarterly report from FirstHealth EMS to the commissioners is due in April.
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10 | March 2022
@therant905 LEE COUNTY SCHOOLS
BOARD DROPS MASK RULE
Womack chastises others who kept mandate going through pandemic Photo: CCCC
CCCC NAMES STUDENT CENTER FOR BRADLEY Central Carolina Community College honored Kirk Bradley — the chairman, president and CEO of Lee-Moore Capital Company in Sanford — by naming the Health Sciences Center’s student area the Kirk J. Bradley Student Center, in recognition of his many years of support to the college. A celebration took place on Feb. 18, at the CHSC facility located in the Briar Chapel area of Chatham County. Programs at the facility include medical assisting, nurse aide, EMS/EMT, health and fitness science and BioWork. “It is wonderful to have partners who are great strategic thinkers; however, it’s best to have someone who’s not only a strategic thinker but who also has the ability to get things done. I think that Kirk is the epitome of that,” said CCCC President Dr. Lisa M. Chapman. “He has been as supportive as any community member the college could ask for.” Bradley and his wife, Deanne, toured the facility before the celebration that included college officials, family and friends. “The commitment that our elected officials have made, our school boards have made, and the community college has made is making a difference,” said Bradley. “I thank you for this honor ... I thank you for the opportunity and all my friends and family that came today to support me in this. It’s just a real honor. And I thank you.” In addition to his role at Lee-Moore, Bradley is active as manager of Eco CP Partners LLC in the development of Mosaic at Chatham Park, a 750,000-squarefoot mixed use project, as well as Northwood Landing in Chatham County.
By Richard Sullins firstname.lastname@example.org For 205 days, Lee County students, teachers, staff, and visitors were required to wear face coverings whenever they were present in the district’s schools because of the COVID pandemic. That requirement came to an end on Feb. 21, following a vote three days prior by the county’s school board to make masking voluntary again. All the board’s members voted in favor of the policy change was recommended by Superintendent Dr. Andy Bryan. Even so, the 12-minute meeting wasn’t without controversy. Republican member Sherry Lynn Womack questioned the motives of other members of the Board who wanted to lift the mandate. Womack, who has consistently voted against requiring masks in schools, sought to put Board members who have supported masking in the hot seat. “What has changed since our last meeting?” asked Womack, an opponent of mandatory masking as the virus spread. “The entire state is still (high transmission). This is nothing but a purely political move. You are falling all over each other to make a motion to end this,” she said. Democratic member Pat McCracken had just offered a motion to make masking optional starting on the following Monday, which wasn’t soon enough for Womack. “What’s the difference if we take these masks off today, go to masks optional now? When will we as a board say that now is the right time to say we go maskless? What has changed?” she continued. Republican Board Chair Sandra Bowen responded that the change in the state’s toolkit starting on Feb. 21 was the policy shift that now allowed the masking requirement to be safely dropped. But Womack kept pushing.
“That makes no sense,” she said. “Why do they keep putting the responsibility onto local school boards, but we never make that change?” Bowen brought an end to Womack’s charges, saying, “you are in favor of the motion. Is there anyone against it?” When no one spoke up, the vote was taken and the motion passed without opposition, and the meeting came to an end. The vote followed changes made on Feb. 17 to the StrongSchoolsNC Public Health Toolkit issued by the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, a document that governs the ways in which school districts are both recommended and required to handle the COVID-19 pandemic. Some restrictions will continue, however. Students and staff who test positive for the virus are recommended to be excluded from school for 10 days. If they choose to return early after just five days, they must wear a mask for the remaining five-day period. Also, the U.S. Department of Transportation requirements that mandate the wearing of masks on school buses are still in effect and not impacted by the school board’s decision. There hasn’t been a statewide mask mandate since the summer of 2021. The Lee County Board had met on February 8 and made no changes at that time to its policy. The mandate had been in place since being adopted by the board during the height of the Delta variant surge on Aug. 2. The board began to lay out a roadmap for ending the masking requirement at its Nov. 9 meeting when Democratic member Patrick Kelly offered a motion to leave the August masking mandate in place until 10 consecutive calendar days of “moderate-level” transmission of the COVID virus had been recorded in the county.
Since students returned to school on Aug. 23 and through Feb. 17, 1,370 students and 323 staff members have tested positive for the virus. Because of potential exposure, another 2,339 students and 91 staff members have been excluded from classes so far this year. Lee County has reported 250 cases and 3 deaths from the virus in the last half of February. The percentage of cases with a positive result during that same period is 15.4 percent, lower than Harnett and Moore counties but still higher than Chatham County. The county performed 532 COVID tests during the last half of February, a decrease of 38 percent. With the surge of the Omicron variant seeming to be on the wane, Bowen said the school system had more leeway than before to make a change in the requirements and having that kind of breathing room gave the board the freedom it needed to dial back the policy requirements. “I think it has been well documented that school systems across the state are all over the place when it comes to mask mandates,” she said, “and thankfully the numbers are seeming to go down, whereas before they were exponentially going up.” Womack said complaints she’s received about masking were second only to issues with teacher assistants during the past month. “Teachers and parents have continued to voice concerns in reference to masks,” she said. “You go to ball games and see people not wearing them. We don’t have correct masks for children to wear. So, I don’t feel that with all that is going on, the masks aren’t being effective. I still believe it should be a parent’s decision.” The Board meets again at 6 p.m. on March 8, with a budget workshop scheduled to start at 5 p.m.
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12 | March 2022 COLUMN | GORDON ANDERSON
SO MUCH CANDIDATE SPAM Ten years ago, I made a small donation to a statewide candidate who finished the election just short of her opponent but within the range to ask for a recount. It seemed at least possible that the result could change, and having just finished up a year working on the campaign for a Democratic member of Congress, I had a chance to see the race up close. I wanted to help. The recount didn’t change the outcome, and I can’t remember contributing to anyone else. A few years later, The Rant got off the ground, and I got out of working on political campaigns. But a decade on and apparently thanks to that one donation, my personal email account had been rendered effectively useless. It started out slowly enough, but by the time 2020 turned into 2021, I was getting emails from people running for Congress in New Hampshire. For Secretary of State in Michigan. For the state legislature in Georgia. Presidential campaigns. In September of last year, I decided to document in a Twitter thread the number of daily fundraising solicitations I got from Terry McAuliffe’s Virginia gubernatorial campaign. I gave up after 11 days, during which time I documented 72 emails. Now, having worked a bunch of campaigns, I understand how vital to success fundraising is. You can’t buy signs and ads without money. You can’t pay staff. I get it, and email has got to be an effective tool. Otherwise a sitting member of Congress from New York wouldn’t send them to me, topped with panic-inducing subject headers, twice a day. I don’t begrudge candidates and their staffs of trying to raise every dollar they can. I also know political campaigns on both sides of the aisle share their lists and that makes sense – but I literally gave $50 one time in 2012. I’m not sure how that makes me a likely target for someone vying to replace Senator Ron Johnson (R-Wisconsin). Starting in January, I decided to start unsubscribing. I’d been hesitant to try because there were so many accounts from which to do so (and it went beyond politics — I bought a $10 box of nitrile gloves at Harbor Freight recently and got like 12 emails in the next week), and I didn’t know if unsubscribing would just put my email address on another list. It took several days, but before long I was waking up to 20 emails instead of 50. Then it was 15, then 10, and now it’s just a handful. Anyway, if you want to email me asking to help fund your campaign (or to rate the jeans I just ordered — looking at you, Old Navy), I’m probably going to unsubscribe. If you just want to say hi, I might actually see your note now.
For professional purposes, reach Gordon Anderson at email@example.com. His personal email is unlisted.
OPINION COLUMN | BILLY LIGGETT
POLITICAL SNAKE OIL
ack in January, Donald Trump was attending a “very exclusive VIP luncheon,” and he really wanted me (ME!) to join him. A day later, he was reading over his daily list of donors and expressed disappointment that he didn’t see my name on that list. Seems I’m a pretty important guy. In February, it was Donald Trump Jr. himself who told me my Trump MVP Club invitation was waiting and that he was giving me “one last chance” to enter. My contribution (of any amount, mind you) would have made me an “official 2022 Trump MVP.”
next. “I told him that you’ve been a real Trump WARRIOR — standing up to the pathetic RINOS and the insane Leftwing radicals — so he wants to give you VIP Tickets to his Trump Rally.” I was told I could also win backstage passes and a picture with the “Home Alone 2” star at his rally. The email ended with a wink and a nod, “This opportunity is only for select Trump supporters, like YOU, so will you do me a favor and NOT share this with anyone?” I suppose this column might hurt my MVP status, but it’s a chance I’m willing to take.
Truth is, I’m drawn to the ridiculous, and with each email, I’m more amazed that these snake oil pitches get the job done. But I’ll be damned if they don’t work. I’ve been getting a lot of these emails from the 45th According to recent published reports, Trump’s Save president of the United States. America ended January with $108 Hell, earlier this year I was million in the bank (double the offered a chance to buy the last amount the Republican National Truth is, I’m drawn to the CPAC-edition MAGA hat, Committee has banked), despite ridiculous, and with each personally signed by Mr. Trump the fact that Trump hasn’t officially email, I’m more amazed that himself. declared himself a candidate for these snake oil pitches get the president in 2024. Those same It turns out, I’m actually not job done. But I’ll be damned if reports note that Trump also that important. I’m merely the they don’t work. isn’t raising the money for other victim of a prank going on its Trump-friendly candidates in this 25th year from my old high year’s midterms — very little has school friend — a prank that gone to current campaigns. began in college when we signed each other up for terrible magazine subscriptions like “Tiger Beat” or “Practical Poultry” and evolved into adding each other’s email to newsletters we want no part of. It’s one of the many reasons I will never truly be an adult.
I smelled a rat when I first started receiving emails from the Save America PAC, launched on Nov. 9, 2020, just days after Trump lost the presidential election to Joe Biden. I don’t hide the fact that I didn’t vote for Trump in either election he took part in, and I’m pretty confident I won’t check his name in any future elections as well. My first instinct was to immediately search for the “unsubscribe” button, but that first email — signed by Junior — was just too ridiculous to simply toss and ignore. “My father wants to personally invite you to his NEXT rally,” the first line read, complete with oddly capitalized
But who cares, right? While I cringe at the thought of a third election with this man given a platform, I’d much rather have to deal with him via emails that have a “I’m a prince in Nigeria” feel to them than worry about him coddling Vladimir Putin as the two play “Army Man” while invading neighboring countries. And, look, I get it. For half of this country, Trump is bullet proof. His terrible qualities are forgiven because he supports whatever [fill in the blank] conservative issue you support. And I’m not changing your mind, nor am I trying to. Rub that snake oil all over and pretend it’s fighting COVID or washing away your sins. You be you. Be a Trump MVP.
Be sure to add Billy Liggett to more conservative email lists using his address: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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14 | March 2022
THE WHITE BUILDING AT THE CORNER OF WICKER AND MOORE STREETS IS UNDERGOING SIGNIFICANT RENOVATION. PHOTO BY BILLY LIGGETT
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PACKED POTENTIAL Properties in downtown Sanford are changing hands at a rapid pace with both local and out-of-town buyers looking to jump on the area’s growth over the past decade By Gordon Anderson
n 2013, voters approved a bond measure that invested $6.5 million in streetscape improvements for the downtown areas in Sanford and Jonesboro. When leaders pitched that bond, they argued that Sanford needed to invest in itself in order to attract even more private dollars to an area that had shown signs of being on the upswing and needed just a little boost from local government. Today, it’s hard to argue that it’s worked less than perfectly.
It’s easy to forget the contrast between the downtown that existed before that project and the one that does today. In Sanford, longtime stalwarts Local Joe’s, Java Express and Mrs. Wengers made up the bulk of the area’s eating and/or drinking establishments. Today, they’re joined by places like the Smoke & Barrel, Hugger Mugger Brewing, and the Chocolate Cellar. As entertainment went, Temple Theatre wasn’t a bad only option to have, but some of the same establishments just mentioned have joined it in hosting live music and more.
An empty storefront on North Steele Street in downtown Sanford will soon be the home of Beech & Boon children’s boutique, owned by sisters-in-law Holly and Ashlee Beal. The Beals chose the location because of the potential of that area (near a new brewery and future restaurant) and because of the resources Sanford has put into downtown in the past decade. Photo by Billy Liggett
16 | December 2021
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Added Accents had been open as a boutique shopping option for a few years; today they’re joined by at least five others. Name the retail sector, and it’s indisputable that Sanford’s city center offers more options and attractions to bring people downtown than it did a little less than a decade ago. But while those years might seem today like the focus of a development boom for downtown, there are some signs that indicate they could be just a prologue for what’s to come. Downtown properties — many not even currently in use — are changing hands at an extremely rapid pace. Many of the buyers are local, but others are coming from out of town — and have a record of working on successful projects in other parts of the state. There’s not enough space in The Rant Monthly to detail all the downtown buildings bought and sold in recent years (and for every one of those, there’s another which is either “under contract” or has interested buyers), but even looking at a handful offers a tantalizing preview of what may be ahead. Punic Properties, LLC is a Raleigh-based corporation which has according to information on file with the Lee County Register of Deeds office has purchased at least six
downtown properties since 2018, including the Bowen Motor Company building at Carthage Street and North Horner Boulevard (2018), the Capital Bank building on North Steele Street (2019), the Belk and Steele Street Mall buildings on South Steele Street (2021), and as recently as February of this year, the Kimbrell’s Furniture Building on Moore Street. A broker for Punic Properties declined to discuss plans for the buildings, but the purchases alone — particularly by an entity from outside Sanford — can be seen as an indication that bigger things are likely coming. Punic Properties shares an address with at least one other company which has purchased downtown commercial structures in other parts of the state — and connected in other media to Jim Goodnight Jr., son of SAS founder and CEO James Goodnight. Goodnight Jr. in particular has a record of rehabbing and renovating historic properties in places like Wilmington. A story in Wilmington Biz from 2019 said Goodnight “sees rejuvenation along (a downtown Wilmington) corridor these days, just as he saw potential, and interesting stories, in downtown’s historic structures before he started his projects in Wilmington.”
Family Owned & Operated Since 1946
215 WICKER STREET DOWNTOWN SANFORD 4 BUILDING 1/2 BLOCK SHOWROOM
Jessica Nelson, owner of Millie’s Momma Bakes in downtown Sanford, opened up her shop near Hugger Mugger Brewing last summer and has enjoyed success in her first year. Her business is among several new to downtown Sanford that have made the area more “walkable” and event-friendly. Photo by Billy Liggett
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TOWN N W O D MARCH
UND TO W
18 | March 2022
Our agents make all the difference
“I took a few history classes (in college) and actually really enjoyed writing the papers. It’s all about storytelling and research and all that,” Goodnight was quoted as saying in that story. “It’s kind of the same thing with these old buildings.” Locals who are involved in commercial real estate say they’re frequently told by their counterparts outside Sanford about the value Sanford and even Jonesboro’s older commercial buildings offer. “I’ve had discussions with brokers from out of town and what they keep saying is what a goldmine we have here” with regard to value in downtown properties, said Brandon Atkins, vice president of the Taboys Corporation which was involved in the sale of the South Steele Street properties to Punic. “It’s not just one conversa-
tion, it happens all the time.” John Ramsperger, the owner of Sanford Real Estate, said it’s been a gradual but consistent trend that he only expects to continue. “The rents in these buildings have slowly started to come up, and compared to two or three years ago, there is a market for downtown rentals, and that’s justifying the prices these buildings are going for now,” he said. “Five years ago, you could get some of these buildings for $120,000 or $180,000, and today they’re going for $350,000 to $450,000.” To be clear, purchases by companies like Punic aren’t the only ones taking place. Ramsperger said there’s as much — if not more — investment in downtown Sanford that’s coming from locals, especially younger ones.
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Mark Lyczkowski (shown talking to DSI executive director Kelli Laudate ) is currently renovating the large white brick building at the corner of Wicker and Moore streets for commercial use. Photo by Billy Liggett
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rantnc.com “There are people who are under 45 who are investing in downtown right now,” he said. “Prior to that, you had a lot of people who had owned these buildings for a lot of years, so it’s a little bit of a generational shift and that’s really exciting to see.”
Located across from the new home of Wild Dogs Brewery and next to a space currently under renovation to hopefully attract and house a new restaurant, Holly and Ashlee saw a great opportunity to not only join downtown’s growing retail lineup, but enhance it.
Two of those local investors are James “For us, it’s really about joining a comand Kelli Laudate (Kelli is also the execmunity,” Holly said. utive director of “Shopping with Downtown Sanford “We wouldn’t have done this small businesses is so Incorporated), who 10 years ago — but we’ve personal. When we recently purchased watched businesses grow, and go to stores downa building at 145 there’s been a ripple effect. town, most of the and 147 North Just watching it evolve, it people we know by Steele Street and pushed us to say, ‘OK, now’s name now, and they welcomed their the right time to get involved.’” know us by name. first tenants — a There’s a personal children’s boutique feel when you’re called Beech and ‘shopping small.’ It’s just so much nicer. Boon — in February. We’ve watched the growth of downtown Sisters-in-law Holly and Ashlee Beal, Sanford, and we’re excited about becoming who founded Beech and Boon, weren’t a part of this community now.” initially sold on the idea of taking their online business and setting up shop in a long-abandoned building downtown Sanford. But what the building lacked in cosmetics, it made up for with potential.
Holly says before the building was ever part of the equation, it was Kelli who sold them on the idea of coming downtown and opening up shop.
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@therant905 “It’s not the nicest spot yet, but I see the growth potential, and I feel like it takes stores like us coming in to continue that growth,” she explained. Holly said recent investments in downtown — from the ambitious streetscape project to the murals that have brought life and color to older buildings — convinced them they’ll have the city’s support to continue to improve and enhance their surroundings. “I think that knowing that a city is investing their time and money into creating a safer and nicer environment really makes me feel much more confident about opening up a business here,” she said. “I know that where we’re at, there’s still a lot of work to be done, and I know they’re looking at doing streetscape work on this side of Steele Street. So knowing that they
Smoke and Barrel owner Jeff Towson is currently renovating the space above his restaurant for apartment and office space. He hopes to start brining in tenants in the next few months.
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have our back, it just makes me feel more confident. We wouldn’t have done this 10 years ago — but we’ve watched businesses like Cute Closet grow, and there’s been a ripple effect. Smoke & Barrel came in, and we started getting nicer places to eat and more fun shops. Just watching it evolve, it pushed us to say, ‘OK, now’s the right time to get involved.’” Another example of local investment is Chad Spivey, who along with partners Josh Payne and Ryan Murphy purchased a building at 112 S. Steele St. in March 2020. It’s now home to Sweet Southern Home and Design and Sara Coffin Photography. Spivey, an insurance agent with Harris & Company in downtown Sanford by day, said his decision to invest came in large part due to interest from outside the city.
Sweet Southern Home Design and Sara Coffin Photography are housed in a recently renovated building on South Steele Street owned by Chad Spivey, Josh Payne and Ryan Murphy.
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@therant905 “When you see that kind of money coming into your town, you know it’s not going to get any cheaper,” he said. “I’d like to buy another one, but there’s just not really anything else available.”
the surrounding areas in the mid 2000s and early 2010s. “My boss would get monthly real estate listings and saw the old town hall building (on Charlotte Avenue),” she said. “Progressive’s corporate headquarters was in Maryland at the time, but he saw how centrally located Sanford was and how easily we could get to jobs across the state.”
Other buildings which have recently changed hands include a two story structure at Moore and Wicker streets, which purchaser Mark Lyczkowski is cur“I don’t think this is a 12- to rently renovating At the time, 24-month snapshot that’s that for commercial there was very little going to plateau. This is more use, and propercommercial activity ties along the 200 like a three or five or seven in the area — almost block of Hawkins year trend that’s only going to none, in fact. So Avenue that were continue’” Progressive’s efforts purchased and at the time led to a renovated (or are lot of raised eyebeing renovated) by downtown Sanford’s brows from skeptical locals. Progressive Development Company — a “We got a lot of ‘you really want to go company whose experience in downtown Sanford over the past two decades is some- on the other side of the tracks?’” Martin said. thing of a blueprint for the boom that appears to be coming.
Joni Martin, Progressive’s development director since 1999, was present for the company’s purchase and renovation of several buildings along Chatham Street and
Progressive went on to purchase and renovate the neighboring Coca Cola building, as well as virtually the entire 200 block of Chatham Street — all of which have gone on to house active businesses and even change hands again in the years since.
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rantnc.com “As soon as we did the exteriors for those buildings on Chatham Street and showed how storefronts would look, it really started to pop,” Martin continued. “And when we have more vested owners downtown, it’s a win-win. More people care, and more people want to do the right thing.” For Martin, the current trend is gratifying — and like Ramsperger, one she doesn’t see waning any time soon. She also said interest from parties outside Sanford can be beneficial to growth. “Sometimes it takes an outsider to have that vision. It can be hard to see value in an old building you’re looking at day in and day out,” she said. “So I think we’re in a unique position. We have plenty of inventory, our city has been involved with events and things like the streetscape, and now we have an increased number of investors. It’s what a lot of communities want.” Another thing observers seem to see coming along with the purchase and redevelopment of long vacant or underutilized downtown properties is an increase in living space. There’s already the Lutterloh building on Chatham Street, which
opened as apartments in 2019, as well as the Wilrik Hotel, owned by the city of Sanford and used as low income housing. Smoke & Barrel owner Jeff Towson is finishing the process of turning his upstairs space into apartments, and Local Joe’s owner Joe DelVecchio also has apartments above his restaurants. Ramsperger and others like Kelli Laudate, the DSI director, said that given the makeup of so many downtown buildings people should expect more living options to open up in the near future. “I don’t think this is a 12- to 24-month snapshot that’s going to plateau. This is more like a three or five or seven year trend that’s only going to continue,” Rampserger said. “When you start seeing more loft apartments, that’s going to bring more younger people downtown with higher incomes. These are just going to be more people spending more time in those restaurants and bars and boutiques.”
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24 | March 2022
THOMAS HARRINGTON WAS CAMPBELL’S OPENING DAY STARTER THIS YEAR, PITCHING A SIX-INNING ONE-HITTER ON FEB. 18. PHOTO BY BEN BROWN Source: HAVEN in Lee County
The Rant Monthly | 25
Former Southern Lee phenom Thomas Harrington went from Campbell walk-on to Big South Freshman of the Year in 2021. He’s back with big expectations this season. By Billy Liggett
homas Harrington breezed through the first four batters in Appalachian State’s lineup on Opening Day before facing a familiar foe in former Southern Lee High School teammate (and his former catcher) Hayden Cross. Cross, no stranger to Harrington’s approach on the mound, drilled a single up the middle and gave Campbell’s ace a wink after he reached first base. “Yeah, I knew he was sitting on a fastball, and I just took my chance,” Harrington says with a grin. “He swung and connected. I guess I’d rather give up a hit to him than anyone else.”
“There were all these expectations coming in, and to just go out there, compete and have my best stuff in the zone — to just let the result take care of itself — it was great,” Harrington says.
Harrington didn’t give up a hit to anyone else. In six innings of work in his 2022 debut, Harrington allowed just the one hit, hit another batter and struck out a career-high 13 Pioneers in the Camels’ 9-0 win. It was a stellar outing — in front of several Major League scouts sitting in the stands at Jim Perry Stadium — for the defending Big South Freshman of the Year and the conference’s pre-season Pitcher of the Year.
The expectations are big for a young man who, despite a stellar career at Southern Lee, received minimal looks from Division I baseball programs after high school. In Sanford, Harrington was a two-time all-conference pitcher, and as a junior in 2019, he posted a 4-0 record with a 0.32 ERA, striking out 54 and giving up only 18 hits in 43 innings. He pitched just one game as a senior — giving up a hit in five innings —
Southern Lee grad Thomas Harrington was the Big South Conference Freshman of the Year in 2021 and enters the 2022 season considered one of the best young pitchers in all of college baseball. He lived up to that billing on Opening Day, striking out 13 in six innings in a win over Appalachian State. Photo courtesy of Campbell Athletics
26 | March 2022
@therant905 before the pandemic canceled his season. He was also the starting quarterback for the Cavaliers, throwing for 892 yards and 9 touchdowns during his junior season in 2018. He was on his way to bigger numbers in his senior year before an injury derailed his season and pushed his focus solely on baseball. North Carolina Central University, North Carolina A&T and UNC-Asheville were among the programs interested in Harrington, but he chose instead to walk on at nearby Campbell, which has become a regular guest in the NCAA Tournament over the past 10 years. He said he was partially drawn to the program’s success, but more interested in working with the coaching staff at Campbell and being part of the atmosphere. “I’ve only been here about two years, and already, this program feels like a group of 40 best friends. It’s just awesome here,” he says. “The atmosphere is awesome, and the standard we’re held to is awesome. The academics are great. All of that went into my decision.”
Thomas Harrington helped lead Southern Lee to conference titles in 2018 and 2019. Photo by Ben Brown
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rantnc.com Harrington knew coming in that he had the talent to not only make the squad, but contribute. He figured he would spend his first season coming out of the bullpen and giving an inning or two when needed. But just days before the beginning of the 2021 season, Harrington learned the coaching staff was penciling him in as the Sunday starter — third in the rotation.
straight to App State and East Carolina. Harrington was scheduled to make his second start of the season on Feb. 25 against Maryland (that game had not been played as of press time). The dream is a trip to Omaha, and despite the slow start, that’s not a ridiculous dream. Campbell entered the season ranked in the Top 25 of several college baseball polls, and in addition to Harrington, the Camels feature another top sophomore in shortstop Zach Neto, the defending Big South Conference Player of the Year predicted by many to go in the first round of the Major League Baseball draft this year. Campbell was just a few outs away from pulling off a major upset against the eventual champ last year.
He answered the call, going five strong innings giving up just one run and striking out six in what ended as a 3-2 win over Liberty. The season only got better from there — Harrington made 16 appearances (14 starts), going 6-3 and posting a 3.45 ERA, the fifth lowest in the Big South and the lowest among all freshmen. His 75 strikeouts were a team high, and his best game came against USC Upstate, a comAs for what happens after 2022, Harplete game one-hit shutout. On the biggest rington is mum. He has the attention of stage — the regional scouts, and more final against eventual starts like his opener “I’ve only been [at Campbell national champion on Feb. 18 could Mississippi State, University] about two years, and catapult him up the Harrington kept the already, this program feels like a draft ranks before Camels in the game group of 40 best friends. It’s just June 2. He did say working five innings awesome here. The atmosphere he’s been in contact of one-hit relief in a with former Camels is awesome, and the standard tough 6-5 loss. currently in the
we’re held to is awesome. The
The accolades big leagues and in academics are great. All of that were many at seavarious minor league went into my decision.” son’s end. In addisystems. Cedric tion to being named Mullins, who spent Big South Freshman a season at Campbell of the Year, Harrington was second-team before leaving for the pros, was an All-Star All Big South, a College Baseball Newspacenterfield starter for the Baltimore Orioles per Freshman All-American, a third-team in 2021 and became the organization’s first Baseball America Freshman All-American 30/30 hitter. Reliever Ryan Thompson and a first-team D1 Baseball Freshman pitched in the 2020 World Series for the All-American. Tampa Bay Rays. Harrington is humble when the awards are mentioned, but he credits the Campbell coaching staff for helping him develop in that crucial first year. “I’d always thrown hard, but physically, I wasn’t there yet coming into college,” he says. “Then I got in the strength program with our strength coach Matt Rodriguez, who’s awesome. He helps our program so much, and I attribute a lot to him, as well as our pitching coach, Tyler Robinson. They’ve both given me the utilities to get better.” The goal this season is to “win as many games as we can,” Harrington says. After Campbell’s opening win, it dropped three
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Cam Cowan, a 2021 Campbell grad currently in the Cincinnati Reds’ farm system, texted Harrington up after his big opener and teased him about coming close to his school record of 15 strikeouts, set on Opening Day in 2020 against South Alabama. “He teased me about not being able to beat his record, and I told him, ‘Nah, they wouldn’t let me go long enough,’” he says, again with a grin.
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28 | March 2022
LEE COUNTY LIBRARIES TO RESUME IN-PERSON PROGRAMS IN MARCH Lee County Libraries began offering in-person and outreach programming in February, with several events planned for March. The programming includes: Toddler story times every Wednesday and Thursday at 10 a.m. Wednesdays will continue to be offered on the library’s Facebook page via Facebook Live. The first week of the month is “story time and a craft,” and the third week is “STEAM story time.” •
“Encanto” will kick off Movie Night at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, March 8.
On March 10 at 4 p.m., the library will host the kick-off meeting for the Teen Anime Club.
On March 11, Children’s DropIn Craft will be held from 1:30 to 4:30 p.m.
On March 15 at 6 p.m., the Banned Book Club will meet (offered every third Tuesday).
And on March 18, N@ML: Women in Space with Dan Combs will be held at 10 a.m.
Additionally, many online programs will continue to be offered. Follow the library on Facebook or Instagram and subscribe to their YouTube channel @ LeeCountyLibrariesNC. The library will begin newly expanded hours beginning March 5 — Mondays from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. New hours are as follows:
(Left) The current Moncure quarry run by Wake Stone Corporation, just off U.S. 1 along the Deep River. (Top right) Ramsey’s Tavern, located at the site long before it became a quarry, was once a campsite for British Lt. Gen. Lord Charles Cornwallis during the Revolutionary War. (Bottom left) Cornwallis and Continental Maj. Gen. Nathanael Greene, whose fighting in modern day Greensboro days before carried over into what is now Moncure.
REVOLUTION FINDS MONCURE Current site of massive rock quarry along Deep River was location of a small skirmish and Cornwallis campsite during Revolutionary War
Monday/Tuesday/Thursday: 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.
By Billy Liggett
Wednesday/Friday/Saturday: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
You’ve probably driven up and down U.S. 1 past the Lee/Chatham county line a million times without noticing Wake Stone Corporation’s Moncure rock quarry, accessible by Deep River Road. Tucked behind a hill of trees near the Deep River bridge, the massive quarry is home to hard meta-volcanic rock, crushed for construction use (North Carolina is consistently one of the top 10 states in the U.S. for the production of construction aggregate).
The staff is also working to open the Broadway Branch in April. Updates include a collection analysis, complete interior painting and interior floor redesign of the facility to be welcoming and user friendly. Visit the main branch located at 107 Hawkins Avenue, Sanford; call (919) 718 - 4665; or check out any of the library’s social media pages.
But the location of the Moncure quarry also holds a piece of early U.S history as the site of a small skirmish during the Revolutionary War. According to AmRevNC, a site dedicated to the 18th Century war’s history in North Carolina, the site was home to Ramsey’s Mill and Ramsey’s Tavern — built in the 1760s by Ambrose Ramsey, a large landholder and pioneer in Chatham County and colonel and commander of the Chatham County Regiment of the N.C. militia during the Revolutionary War from 1775 to 1783.
According to the history books, following the Battle of Guilford Courthouse in what is now Greensboro on March 15, 1781, Lt. Gen. Lord Charles Cornwallis retreated his men to Wilmington, and on the way, his army camped at Ramsey’s Mill, arriving on March 26. The tavern served as a headquarters for Cornwallis and his men while troops used rocks from the mill dam to build a makeshift bridge over the Deep River to allow his army to continue its march toward what is now Fayetteville and eventually Wilmington.
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rantnc.com Continental Maj. Gen. Nathanael Greene — the “Fighting Quaker” — followed Cornwallis’ troops from Greensboro and on March 27, caught up to the British troops at the tavern. According to AmRevNC, a company of about 40 state cavalry troops began firing at British sentries at the northern edge of the camp as British troops on the southern end frantically built the bridge. The rest of Greene’s army was still about 12 miles away. Three or four British sentries were captured, and the continental troops moved through a line of German mercenaries fighting for the British using hickory clubs mounted with a heavy piece of iron. According to the website: “They passed deeper into the camp through the [Germans], to whose heads they applied the clubs so effectually.” The British did cross the river to escape and destroyed the bridge so Greene’s troops could not follow. According to AmRevNC, Cornwallis and his men got out so quickly, they left behind meat hanging in the tavern’s slaughter house, and the troops who died of their wounds from the Guilford battle were left unburied.
When Greene’s army did arrive the following day, they ate the meat and buried the British dead. Greene later wrote: “I wish it was in my power to pursue them further; but want of provisions, and a considerable part of the Virginia militia’s time of service being expired, will prevent our further pursuit.”
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The two armies never met again. Greene attacked British installations in South Carolina and Georgia, and Cornwallis recovered in Wilmington and led his men north to Virginia. Nearly 100 years later, around the time of the Civil War, that area became the town of Lockville, home to several mills (including Ramsey’s), a machine shop, a merchant and several homes. In 1873, the entire town was sold to the Deep River Manufacturing Company, which worked to find ways to transport iron from upstream to its foundries downstream. According to AmRevNC, Ramsey’s Mill burned down in 1911 and was picked apart by souvenir hunters.
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NATIONAL BOARD CERTIFIED BROADWAY TEACHERS RECOGNIZED BY BOARD
Two Lee County Schools teachers have achieved a special level of proficiency in their proficiency this year and they were recognized for their achievements at the Feb. 8 meeting.
Erin Hagood, a music teacher at Broadway Elementary, and Kayla Chamberlain, an art teacher also from Broadway Elementary, received their Chamberlain National Board Certifications, joining a very elite number of teachers across the country to have demonstrated a high level of mastery in teaching skills. National Board Certification is the most respected and sought-after professional certification available in education and provides numerous benefits to teachers, students, schools, and the community. It was designed to develop, retain and recognize accomplished teachers and to generate ongoing improvement in schools nationwide. Only three and a half percent of all teachers in the United States have earned their National Board Certifications. On behalf of the board, Bowen paid tribute to the hard work put in by Hagood and Chamberlain, saying, “Congratulations on this achievement. It is without a doubt a testament to your hard work and going above and beyond. As if you didn’t already have enough to do during the day in your day job, you put in the extra effort outside of that to achieve this additionally and it’s outstanding.”
DID YOU KNOW? In the United States, surveys reveal that teachers are second only to military personal as the occupation that contributes most to society’s well-being.
CASES CONTINUE TO FALL COVID-19’s Omicron variant peaked in Lee County on Jan. 10, but positive cases have seen a steady decline — 40 percent in the last month By Richard Sullins email@example.com The Omicron variant of COVID arrived in Lee County the day after Christmas and now, nearly two months after its arrival, this latest form of the virus is finally beginning to pack up and leave like a relative who came for the holidays and stayed far too long. As the end of February arrived, the number of cases that have been reported in the county since the pandemic started in March of 2020 reached 15,746. But in the last 14 days, only 215 cases of the COVID virus have been confirmed within the county, and the percentage of cases being returned from laboratories with positive results has dropped from more than 40 percent a month ago to 11.81 percent on Feb. 25.
months since the pandemic began and bringing the total so far to 134. The total number of cases in the County hit 10,000 just two days before Christmas. Less than two months later, another 5,000 cases had been added to the total as Omicron infected its victims without respect to persons. Meanwhile, vaccination rates have almost come to a complete halt. By Feb. 25, a total of 36,062 people had been vaccinated with at least one dose, about 57 percent of the county’s total population. The number of persons in the county who have received the initial immunizations as well as the booster shots remains very low at 14,451, or 23 percent of the total population. All persons ages 5 and up are eligible now to receive the vaccine.
The number of tests performed over the last seven days is 722, a number that represents a 17 percent increase over the previous week. The last week has also seen 10 hospitalizations from COVID, the same number as the previous week. And while the percentage of general hospital beds occupied by COVID patients dropped by 7.44 percent, the percentage of ICU beds filled by COVID sufferers increased by 3.57 percent.
But even with the good news, Omicron has not yet surrendered its grip on the Tarheel State. It remains very active in the western North Carolina mountains, with Swain and Madison counties having the highest infectious rates among the state’s 100 counties. There, the percentages of positive cases are still more than 3 times higher than seen in Lee County. And 98 counties, including Lee, that relapsed into high transmission rates of the virus are still classified that way today.
The Omicron variant peaked on Jan. 10, with 317 cases reported in a single day and caused the largest number of infections in the pandemic’s 23-month history. Five more deaths were reported in the county during February, making it one of the deadliest
Scientists continue to caution us that not all numbers are being reported. They do not include the number of home health tests that have returned to the stores in recent days that continue to be snatched up by consumers and that are now available from
the federal government. And there is this – scientists are monitoring the spread of a new mutation of the Omicron variant, a subvariant called BA.2 that is more infectious and more resistant to immunity than the original virus. But they are undecided at this point as to whether this new version will likely cause the kind of widespread infections that its predecessor did. Meanwhile, the Lee County Health Department continues its fight against the virus and is working to make sure that vaccines are available to those who want it. Director Heath Cain told The Rant, “We are working daily to ensure anyone who wishes to receive their booster dose has access to it. Our goal is to protect the health and well-being of our community. Our vaccine clinics at the Health Department on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 1-4 pm is another tool we are using to mitigate the spread of this virus.” Cain said that the Health Department is also providing COVID-19 testing, both Rapid and PCR, at the Wellness Clinic on Mondays and Fridays from 12:30 to 4:30 p.m. and on Wednesdays from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. The department is continuing to distribute N95 masks daily from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Government Center, 106 Hillcrest Drive, with a limit of three masks per person ages 12 and up. More information can be obtained by calling (919) 842-5744.
The Rant Monthly | 31
32 | March 2022
FIRM CHOSEN TO DESIGN PROJECT Highly anticipated sports complex will house at least 10 multi-purpose fields and five baseball fields By Richard Sullins firstname.lastname@example.org
University Softball Complex and the SanLee Park Nature Education Center in Sanford.
The Lee County Multi-Sports Complex took another significant step forward in February as the county Board of Commissioners selected the firm that will design the look and layout of the project.
The property for the sports complex is located near the intersection of the U.S. 421 bypass and N.C. 42, known locally as Broadway Road. The tract of land comprises 119.82 acres and was authorized in November 2020, when 58.59 percent of Lee County voters approved a bond referendum for the project.
From a field of six applicants, the commissioners chose the McAdams firm from Durham, a civil engineering, land planning, landscape architecture and geomatics company that also has offices in Raleigh and Charlotte.
Lee County’s upcoming multi-sports complex will provide the area with bigger and better venues to host large tournaments, providing a boost to the local economy. Photo by Billy Liggett
Founded in 1979, the firm has extensive experience in creating parks, recreational spaces, and greenways. Among their successful projects nearby are Finley Fields North and Hooker Fields at UNC Chapel Hill, the Duke
The commissioners purchased the land in August in a payment of $1,914,000 for the Myrtle Matthews Poe property that was combined with a donated tract of land from the Stewart family through Wesara Associates LLC. That action also provided payment for the $102,110 in due diligence work done by McAdams in the spring and summer of last year.
Sports Categories Pickleball Golf Cycling 5K & 10K Run Table Tennis Track & Field Cornhole Fun Walk 3 on 3 Basketball Badminton Tennis Shuffleboard Horseshoes Bocce Swimming Croquet
Arts Categories Visual Arts Heritage/Folk Art Performing Arts Promoting health and wellness through staying active and involved year round.
Open to Citizens in Lee County & Surrounding Counties Ages 50 and Better Registration March 2022 Events April & May 2022 How to Register
Forms and schedule available at The Enrichment Center, 1615 S. Third St., Sanford Online www.leecountync.gov/ec Questions? Contact Jimmy Solomon, SGSA Coordinator, 919-776-0501 Ext. 2207 or email@example.com Qualifiers will move on to participate at State Finals.
Literary Arts “I enjoy seeing the art showcase, reading the stories and poems and meeting other participants. It’s a lot of fun as well as friendly competition!” ~Silver Arts Participant This program is sanctioned by NC Senior Games and sponsored state wide by the NC Division of Aging & Adult Services.
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rantnc.com Land development can be a risky business. The larger the tract, the greater the potential risk and this type of research into the property is routinely performed to determine the viability and feasibility of developing a property for its intended use.
four months. The design itself is expected to take about six months, followed by permitting and execution of construction documents. If there are no major hitches, construction on the facility could begin as early as spring of 2023.
The site will have space for at least 10 multi-purpose fields and five baseball fields, all full-sized. The land lies within the Sanford city limits and no rezoning will be necessary, since the proposed uses are already permitted within the existing zoning districts. Water and sewer lines are readily available, although sewer capacity might need to be upgraded depending on the timing of the development.
Jimmy Randolph, CEO of the Sanford Area Growth Alliance, spoke to the Commissioners on the importance of the complex to the region’s growing economy.
Access to the property will be from Broadway Road instead of directly from the 421 bypass. Broadway Road is set for a widening project in the coming months by the state Department of Transportation and McAdams recommended early coordination with the county to avoid any potential conflicts that could lead to construction delays. The next step in the process is what McAdams calls “listening and envisioning,” which it anticipates will take up to
“As the demand for our labor force has continued to grow, it’s world-class amenities like this that will help our community to continue to grow even more,” he said. “As more and more high-quality residential options become available in Lee County, it may be that amenities like the multisports complex determine whether a new generation of citizens decides to become tax paying citizens or live somewhere else.” McAdams’ proposal to the county had one other interesting finding. In order to compete for the hosting of regional and national tournaments, a minimum of 2,000 hotel rooms are required to be available. At present, Sanford has only 585 rooms — and that’s going to be an issue for community leaders.
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34 | March 2022
PROMISE PROGRAM HAS BIG IMPACT More than 1,000 dually enrolled students from Lee County have taken part in free tuition program By Richard Sullins firstname.lastname@example.org Growing numbers of students are taking advantage of dual enrollment opportunities at Central Carolina Community College to accelerate completion of college certificates, diplomas and associate degrees that lead to college transfer or provide entry-level job skills, CCCC President Dr. Lisa Chapman told the Lee County Board of Commissioners recently.
Students who participate in dual enrollment programs have higher retention rates and GPAs.
Chapman met with the board during its retreat in late January to give an update on the Central Carolina Promise program, which guarantees two years or five semesters of free tuition for students who are dually enrolled.
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The program provides a unique opportunity for students who want to go to college, allowing all eligible Chatham, Harnett, and Lee county residents who graduate from a public high school, private school, charter school or homeschool between 2019 through 2022 to be guaranteed up to two years of free in-state tuition and required fees at CCCC. Just over 1,000 of the students in the program are from Lee County. Chapman said growing numbers of students are taking advantage of the dual enrollment opportunities to accelerate completion of their college certificates, diplomas and associate degrees that lead to college transfer or provide entry-level job skills, but there are still students not being reached by the program.
“We want them to make their own good decisions about what they want to do, but we also want to know that we have done a good job ourselves in letting students know what is available to them,” she said. By almost every measure, students who participate in dual enrollment programs do better academically than those who don’t. They return to college for their second year at a rate 10 percent higher than those who are first-time full-time students, they earn credentials at a faster rate and their grade point averages are generally higher. Chapman says the college places a premium on coaching students on career availabilities within the county and region, not just registering them for classes. “At the end of the day,” she said, “if we
The Rant Monthly | 35
rantnc.com have given a student as much information as we possibly can about a range of careers that is open to them so that they can make an informed choice, then we’ve done a good day’s work.” Transfer programs remain the most popular among participants in the Central Carolina Promise program, studies such as nursing or engineering that bring students right back into the community. Industrial systems, health and fitness, and information technology also remain consistently popular. And in terms of short-term training that can help a student get that all-important entry level job, welding ranks very high on the list. But there is still work to be done to make the program live up to its own promise. After starting in 2018 with a small
number of students, it expanded in 2019 to greater numbers of participants across a broader number of programs. In that last full pre-pandemic year among Lee County students, white students made up 53 percent of the enrollees, 39 percent were Hispanic, and just three percent were Black. By contrast, the general population of the County is 57.8 percent white, 19.6 percent Hispanic, and 20 percent Black. The discrepancy is an issue Chapman says the college is working on. “We have some work to do in that area. We need to make sure that our students who need to benefit from this are getting the information about this and have the opportunity to make an informed choice,” Chapman said. Commissioners Chairman Kirk Smith, a Republican, wondered whether the dif-
ferential could be the result of a perceived difference between cultures on the value of education. “I don’t know why Black students aren’t participating. We have a larger Hispanic population but why they are engaged more is a question we have to answer,” Chapman replied. “One thing we have to address is how we communicate the potential of this program to the community. I think we have to engage community champions. I need to know them and they need to know me. We are working to do that and I think that’s one of the things that’s going to make the difference.” Diversity is an important challenge for a growing institution like Central Carolina, one that Chapman and her team is facing head on. “We are very close to becoming a His-
panic-serving institution,” she said, a distinction achieved when at least 25 percent of a college’s enrollment is Hispanic – and which opens the door for millions in new federal grant dollars. “We are almost standing at that threshold now, but we still have a mountain to climb in working with our county’s Black non-Hispanic population. It’s become almost a trite expression to say that we want to make sure no one gets left behind, but that’s what we are doing day in and day out. Staying focused on the goal, and the goal is making sure that every single student who walks through our doors gets all the help we can give them to get where they want to go.” Democratic Commissioner Robert Reives Sr. told Chapman it’s never too early to start teaching kids about the College Promise program.
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36 | March 2022
SEVERAL NAMES ON THE BALLOT AS FILING FOR LOCAL PRIMARIES BEGINS After a two-plus month layoff, filing for the 2022 election began again in Lee County with a flurry of activity on Feb. 24.
Another potential candidate, David Buboltz of Lillington, has a campaign website which focuses heavily on abortion, gun rights, and “medical freedom.” It was unclear as of press time if he had filed. Filing ends at noon on March 4.
Four Democrats filed for seats on the Lee County Board of Commissioners that day.
Incumbent Robert Reives Sr., commissioner for the county’s District 1, and challengers John Kirkman (District 2), Chuck Baker (District 3), and Larry “Doc” Oldham (District 4) made their intent to run formal that morning.
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Reives had not yet drawn an opponent as of press time. Kirkman will face incumbent Republican Kirk Smith, the board’s chairman, and Baker is seeking the seat held by Republican Dr. Andre Knecht. The challengers should all be familiar to political observers. Kirkman is a former chairman of the Lee County Democratic Party and was a candidate for the state’s 12th Senate District in 2020. Oldham served two terms on the Board of Commissioners from 2008 to 2012 and again from 2014 to 2018. He was defeated in 2018 by District 4 incumbent Arianna Lavallee by just 30 votes. Baker faced Knecht in 2014. Smith, the only other candidate who had filed for the Board of Commissioners as of Feb. 24, did so in December.
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“I believe our district needs fresh leadership that will fight for our citizens, promote positive economic policy focused on our district, and give the citizens a voice in Raleigh,” Watson said.
The same day, Republican Alan Rummel filed for a seat on the Lee County Board of Education. He joined Republicans Eric Davidson and Chris Gaster, and Democrats Pat McCracken and Walter Ferguson in the race for three seats on the board. Democrat Christine Hilliard is expected to file as well.
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Additionally, Republican state Rep. John Szoka of Fayetteville announced on Twitter that he would seek election to Congress from the newly-drawn 9th District, of which Lee County is a part.
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Meanwhile, a three way primary for the state Senate’s 12th District, which covers Lee, Harnett and part of Sampson County, appeared as of late February to be taking shape. Assuming incumbent Republican Jim Burgin files, he is expected to face at least two other GOP office seekers. Ernie Watson sent a statement to The Rant describing himself as a “20 year Air Force veteran and small business owner in Sanford.”
The Sanford City Council gave its approval on Feb. 1 to a memorandum of understanding requesting assistance from the North Carolina Department of Commerce’s Main Street program and the Rural Planning Center to begin a review of downtown ordinances regarding potential bars and the serving of alcohol, event venues, and a social district, all aimed at creating another means of attracting people to the downtown area. The study, which could be completed in as little as a month, comes at no cost to the city. Sanford’s city ordinances don’t presently offer options for bars or meeting spaces. The result will be a report containing recommendations and options for the council to consider. Social districts are a new creation of state legislatures across the country in the wake of the COVID pandemic. Contained within House Bill 781, entitled “Bring Business Back to Downtown,” the districts are outdoor areas where patrons can carry open alcoholic drinks in provided to-go cups during certain hours. Sponsors of the legislation say that they provide more options for people who prefer social distancing and being outdoors. But social districts are not without their detractors. As the bill was being debated in Raleigh last summer, opponents said that they could produce more litter, public intoxication, and threaten public safety. Kannapolis, one of the first cities in the state to adopt its own such district, has reported few problems and more metropolitan areas are lining up this year to create their own. The Main Street study is the latest in a series of measures aimed at bringing people back to the downtown area.
The Rant Monthly | 37
STRATEGIC PLAN APPROVED, NOT WITHOUT DISAGREEMENT For only the third time in their history, the Lee County Board of Commissioners approved a strategic plan for the county that sets goals and objectives in six areas where their focus will be during the coming process of developing the budget: arts and culture; community safety; health and well-being; partnerships; education; and economic development. Republican Commissioner Bill Carver sparked controversy during the board’s workshop to review the plan on January 27 when he proposed adding an objective to the partnerships sector that would create dialogue on how races relate to one another. “I know that it can create anxiety talking about issues like this,” he said, “but it can also create mutual relationship development amongst all ethnic and racial groups.” The draft of Carver’s proposed new objective, according to documents contained within the commissioners’ meeting packets, was to “promote dialogue with community leaders to foster better relationships and trust among all ethnic and racial groups in Lee County and collect and review appropriate data to facilitate discussion that will improve the quality of life for all citizens.” Carver’s suggestion came after Sanford’s Equity Task Force reported to the county board on January 24 on perceived inequities in socio-economic factors between racial and ethnic groups living in the city and beyond. As the commissioners met at their workshop three days later, the voices heard during the battle over redistricting last fall were still ringing in Carver’s ears. “When we did redistricting last fall, we had a huge response from the African-American community that suggested we had lost their confidence. On Monday, they came to us and appealed that we take some action on the issue of relationships,” he said. Democratic Commissioner Robert Reives questioned the idea of what data was going to be collected and what was going to be done with it. Carver responded that nothing had been decided but that there were several models on how it could be used, including one from the North Carolina Association of County Commissioners. But in the absence of a purpose for collect-
ing data, Carver’s motion failed, although the revised plan itself passed. _____________________________
CUMNOCK ZONGING CHANGES APPROVED The Sanford City Council gave approval to a rezoning request from developer Mark Lyczkowski to take 14 acres in the Village of Cumnock Conditional Zoning District previously designated as Highway Commercial
and Office and Institutional and add it to the residential area. The land involves two tracts on the west side of Cumnock Road and north of the 421 Bypass that also adjoin Deep River. Residents adjacent to the area have continued to express concerns about the overall Cumnock Village project and how it might impact the character of the Cumnock community. Lyczkowski said that he had reassessed the project and no longer believed that the project needed 56 acres of commercial property within its boundaries. Residents had also raised worries about
the amount of storm water runoff that 56 acres of asphalt could generate, leading Lyczkowski to reduce the amount of commercial space down to 42 acres. An additional discovery of a quarter acre graveyard in the center of the proposed commercial district was another factor in the reduction in area of the commercial zone. Lyczkowski said that finding the graveyard is serendipitous because it allows it to become a part of a community of townhouses that will serve as a transition between the commercial sector and single-family housing.
38 | March 2022
project will come from an $80,000 State Capital and Infrastructure Direct Grant and another $160,000 from the county’s general fund.
PARTF GRANT RECIEVED FOR KIWANIS CHILDREN’S PARK Lee County was awarded a $209,000 grant from the North Carolina Parks and Recreation Trust Fund to complete Phase II of the site-specific master plan created in 2018 for the Kiwanis Children’s Park.
Phase II includes a nature themed play area for children ages 2 through 5, a restroom and shelter plaza, and ADA-compatible sidewalks with trail head and site furnishings. Phase I of the renovations to the park opened back up to the public last fall.
At its Jan. 18 meeting, the Sanford City Council approved a request from City Manager Hal Hegwer for a one-time sick leave of up to 80 hours for city employees who have either contracted or been exposed to COVID. The initial leave plan was made retroactive to Nov. 1, 2021.
The Parks and Recreation Trust Fund receives dollars from the state legislature in each year’s annual budget. By statute, 30 percent of allocations must be used for local government projects and matched on a dollar-for-dollar basis. The county’s share for completing the project is $370,915.
Hegwer requested a change in the retroactive date, adding an additional five months and making it effective on June 1, 2021, to accommodate a larger grouping of employees who had suffered when the Delta variant struck in the fall. The council unanimously approved the change and will continue to monitor the progress of the virus through the community during the winter months.
Another project approved during the meeting was the expenditure of $240,000 to install air conditioning and do other improvements at the Bob Hales Recreation Center on McIver Street. Funding for the
CITY APPROVES ADDITIONAL EMPLOYEE COVID LEAVE
Economic Development Chamber of Commerce
UNPRECEDENTED GROWTH presents
UNPRECEDENTED OPPORTUNITIES Over the past 24 months, the Lee County area has seen growth
Central Carolina Community College (CCCC) oﬀers
at a rate never before seen. With new job announcements from
industry-speciﬁc degree and certiﬁcate programs that train
pharmaceutical giants Pﬁzer, Astellas and Abzena, and
students for success in numerous ﬁelds including bio-process
advanced-manufacturing leader Bharat Forge, our community
technology, welding, computer integrated machining and
will see the creation of over 1,700 new jobs, with average wages
well above the county average. All Chatham, Harnett, and Lee County residents who graduate These announcements have created unprecedented
from a public high school, private school, charter school, or
opportunities for our community.
homeschool in 2022 may be eligible for two years of FREE in-state tuition and required fees at CCCC.
How can you take advantage of these opportunities?
LEARN MORE: www.CCCC.edu/Promise | ENROLL TODAY: (919) 718-7300 Sanford Area Growth Alliance | www.GrowSanfordNC.com | 919-775-7341
The Rant Monthly | 39
40 | March 2022
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