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The Rant y l h t Mon OCTOBER 2021

SANFORD, NORTH CAROLINA

FÚTBOL IS LIFE

San Lee Fútbol Club is growing soccer in Sanford at both the adult and youth levels E* R I RF E T S MP RDS U D IC UR WO T S ALI OT O N UR * N JO


2 | October 2021

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October 2021 | Sanford, North Carolina A product of LPH Media, LLC Vol. 3 | Issue 10 | No. 31

Editorial Gordon Anderson | gordon@rantnc.com Billy Liggett | billy@rantnc.com Jonathan Owens | jonathan@rantnc.com Richard Sullins | richard@rantnc.com Advertising Brandon Allred | brandon@rantnc.com (919) 605-1479 Contributors Ben Brown, Charles Petty and Kyra Rodriguez Editorial Board Dani Rojas, Jamie Tartt, Roy Kent, Sam Obisanya, Isaac McAdoo, Colin Hughes, Thierry Zoreaux and Declan Cockburn

Find Us Online: www.rantnc.com Facebook: facebook.com/therant905 Twitter: twitter.com/therant905 Podcast: rantnc.podbean.com

ABOUT THE COVER

The Rant Monthly OCTOBER 2021

SANFORD, NORTH CAROLINA

FÚTBOL IS LIFE

San Lee Fútbol Club is growing soccer in Sanford at both the adult and youth levels

STER MP S DU WORD IC LIST OUR NA OT UR * N JO

E* FIR

‘Fútbol is life’ is a phrase made famous recently on the hit AppleTV show, “Ted Lasso,” but it applies to the men who make up the San Lee Fútbol Club as well. Made up of former and future professionals and men with full-time jobs, San Lee FC is not only keeping adult soccer alive in Sanford, it’s promoting the sport to a new generation of boys and girls who have discovered a passion for the game.

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: gordon@rantnc.com or billy@rantnc.com. Advertising: brandon@rantnc.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 | October 2021

THE RANT JOINS THE NORTH CAROLINA PRESS ASSOCIATION LPH Media LLC, which owns and operates The Rant and The Rant Monthly out of Sanford, North Carolina, has joined the North Carolina Press Association as an associate member.

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PAGE FOUR BOTSWANA ADDED TO OUR PAPER ROUTE

“I think we enjoyed being a part of the North Carolina Press Association during our newspaper days at The Herald, and it’s exciting that we get to return with The Rant,” said Rant co-founder Billy Liggett. “Whether we got in by our merit or through a Byzantine clerical error, we’ll never know. But we’re happy just the same.” Liggett and Gordon Anderson founded The Rant as a radio show at WDCC on the Sanford campus of Central Carolina Community College in 2008, when they both worked together at The Sanford Herald. The Rant became a news blog operated essentially as a hobby after the show experienced an inauspicious ending in 2013. By 2017, Liggett and Anderson formed LPH Media to operate The Rant on a for-profit basis, and the company launched a monthly printed edition in April 2019 that has been published continuously since. “This feels like a logical next step for our company, and we’re excited to join the NCPA’s ranks and not only have access to their tools and resources, but also to share what’s worked for us and learn about the journalism the the other members are doing every day across North Carolina,” said Anderson. In addition to the website and monthly printed edition, the Friends of The Rant podcast appears on an (attempted) weekly basis.

DID YOU KNOW? We’re thrilled to now be read in Botswana, a nation that’s said to be one of the world’s fastest growing economies, as well as the likely birthplace of modern human beings. And with North America and Africa crossed off the list, The Rant Monthly only needs to find readers in South America, Australia, Europe, Asia and Antarctica to reach our goal of world domination.

The Rant Monthly, it seems, needs to create an award for “farthest flung regular reader” after learning about Helen Cotten, who apparently receives a copy of this newspaper each month at her home in Botswana. Originally from Sanford, Cotten now lives in the South African nation with her daughter Angie and son-in-law Craig Cloud, who was confirmed as the United States Ambassador to Bostwana in January 2019. Cotten, we’re told, keeps up with news from her hometown by receiving a copy of each month’s newspaper from her friend Vivian Simpson back home in Lee County. “Helen and Vivian have been close friends for almost 70 years,” said Jane Rae Fawcett, Vivian’s daughter. “They met while working at Heins Telephone Company as operators in 1953.” Thanks Helen and Vivian both.

FOUR HALLOWEEN COSTUME IDEAS FOR 2021 It’s the spookiest month of the year, which means you probably need ideas for your Halloween costume. These four trendy ideas are sure to make you the life of the socially distant party.

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You and a million others will be the hit of the party.

Go to a school board meeting for costume ideas.

Half of your friends will be like OMG I LUV IT.

Borrow our clothes and confuse your friends.


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8 | October 2021

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THE LEAD SCHOOL BOARD MEMBER SWITCHES PARTIES Lee County Board of Education member Christine Hilliard changed her party registration in September and will run for re-election in 2022 as a Democrat, according to a post on her campaign Facebook page. Hilliard wrote that her “relationship with the local (Republican) party is untenable.” “The county Republican party has given me little to no support over the last few years,” she wrote. “Even on election night in 2018 after it was announced that I had won, the chairperson said to my face that he had never considered me a viable candidate and gave me no chance to win.” She went on to say that she felt the local GOP had pressured her to “be in alignment with the local party’s stance, devoid of any type of independent thought” and that she “will not be treated as some sort of puppet.” The move changes the board’s partisan makeup from a 4-3 Republican advantage to a 4-3 Democratic advantage. Republican Sandra Bowen remains chair, while Hilliard remains vice chair. The Lee County Democratic Party welcomed Hilliard to the party in a written statement, which noted the party’s position that school board elections in Lee County should be nonpartisan. “We have witnessed Christine Hilliard run an honest and sincere campaign and vote consistently in the best interest of the students, staff, and faculty of Lee County Schools, regardless of politics. The Lee County Democratic Party believes education is key to a better job, more freedom, and more opportunities. We never believed the Board of Education should be partisan,” said Democratic Party Chair Vonda Reives.

COVID-19

AFTER BRUTAL MONTH, AREA AT CROSSROADS County health director says vaccinations are on the rise as positive cases remained high in August, September By Richard Sullins COVID-19 cut a brutal swath through Lee County during the first half of September, and even though it appears the number of positive cases has started to show a slight decline as October begins, what happens next could be determined by the extent to which county residents practice the good health strategies proven to slow the spread of the virus as a more familiar health threat prepares to make its annual return. The percentage of COVID tests that were returned as positive had dropped to a very low three percent as the summer began in June. By the time fall arrived in mid-September just three months later, more than 13 percent of the tests were being received as positive. But by the end of September just two weeks later, the percentage of positive tests had dropped by two percentage points, down to 11 percent, giving some reason to hope that the worst of the surge in cases was over.

Lee County Health Department Director Heath Cain told The Rant, “The positive cases seem to be trending down at this point, but we continue to monitor the data daily.” A look at the data lends some credence to that theory. The COVID-19 vaccines have been proven to help prevent the spread and the severity of infections. Vaccination rates in Lee County, which had been lagging since the vaccines first became available in December 2020, began to accelerate in September as the number of cases and the death count both increased. Cain told The Rant, “We are seeing an uptick in first doses at our Thursday and Friday afternoon clinics.” The number of persons having received at least one shot by September 26 was 34,103, or 65.4 percent of people ages 12 and up, representing 3,382 more persons than at the end of August. The number who had been fully vaccinated by that date was 28,720 or 55.1 percent of that same age grouping, an increase since August of 1,027 persons. In Lee County, the number of persons having tested positive for the virus in September was 924 cases per 100,000 residents, compared to an even 1,000 cases at the end of August per 100,000 residents, representing a decline of over 7 percent. Yet, there are other indicators that suggest that the surge remains unabated within the county. At the end of July, 84

persons had died from COVID-19 in Lee County since the pandemic began in March of 2020. By the end of September, another 13 had lost their lives to the virus, bringing the total for the 18-month period to 97 and meaning that 13.4 percent of those deaths died in just the last 2 months. The pandemic continues to have its greatest impact within the county among persons between the ages of 25 to 49 and disproportionately among females. During the month of September, 37 percent of all cases were reported within those age groups. The number of cases among females (58 percent) outpaced those among males (42 percent) during the month. The U.S. Census Bureau reports that 51 percent of Lee County’s residents are female. But the greatest impact may soon be among the county’s school-aged children, more than half of whom are too young to be currently eligible to receive the vaccine. By the end of September, 846 children had been quarantined because they had come into contact with someone in their family or close circle of friends who had tested positive for the virus. According to the Lee County Schools COVID-19 Dashboard, 398 students had tested positive for the virus by September 24 and were sent home, in addition to 40 members of the district’s staff. The dashboard also indicated that the high schools had the largest number of positive cases,


The Rant Monthly | 9

rantnc.com with Southern Lee having the largest number for the month (94), followed by Lee County High (70) and Lee Early College (6). During September’s final full week, 15 of the county’s 17 schools reported higher numbers of students testing positive than they did the previous week. Two (Bragg Street and Tramway) had unchanged numbers, but none had seen a decrease in their number of positive cases. And there’s this: the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services reported this month that 18 percent of hospitalized patients across the state – almost one in every five – are on ventilators. That’s the highest number since the rate was exactly the same one year ago in September 2020. The number of cases reported locally was most particularly telling, though, in terms of its overall size, especially in recent weeks. Since the start of the pandemic 18 months ago, 8,785 positive cases of COVID have been reported within the county. That number includes an increase of 1,273 cases through the end of August, when 7,512 cases had been logged by the end of the month. The question that many patients are asking their doctors and medical care facilities as October takes hold is what will happen as fall and cooler temperatures begin to drive people indoors. Increased contact in indoor conditions could mean greater chances of infection, and that could come at the same time as another perennial outbreak – influenza. Barely half of all Americans eligible for the vaccine have been vaccinated against COVID, and this month marks the annual arrival of the flu. Experts say that this year’s flu season may be particularly brutal. Because most people were so careful to wash their hands and practice social distancing during the COVID outbreak last winter, fewer people than usual came down with the flu. And while the best way to protect against the flu remains getting your flu shot, determining what’s in this year’s doses may turn out to be trickier than usual. Immunologists usually make their best guesses based on what the previous flu season was like. But because the winter of 2020 and 2021 was hardly a flu season at all, scientists have little to go on when figuring out what and how much needs to go into this year’s shots.

To complicate matters even further, the flu and COVID will likely be in highest circulation at precisely the same times. A recent University of Pittsburgh study, which is making the rounds in the scientific community but has yet to be peer reviewed, used mathematical models to figure out what a worst-case scenario might look like. The researchers determined that this year’s flu season could result in up to 600,000 hospitalizations if vaccination rates are low and this year’s strain turns out to be especially contagious. For the record, that’s three times the usual number during a typical flu season. Even without COVID. The flu vaccine remains the safest and best protection against the illness that kills about 35,000 Americans every year. Vaccinations are also our best defense, scientists say, against COVID, both from contracting the illness and from feeling the worst of its effects if we do come down with it. Getting your shot has never been any easier, according to Cain. “The Lee County Health Department is administering Covid-19 vaccines from 1:30 to 4:30 pm Thursdays and Fridays at the Lee County Wellness Clinic,” he said. “Anyone interested just needs to call (919) 842-5744 to schedule an appointment. With the new recommendations from the CDC, we will be providing a drive-thru booster vaccination clinic for all who qualify beginning September 28 at the Dennis A. Wicker Civic Center from 9 a.m. to noon on those days. We will make plans for additional vaccination clinics as we monitor demand of the booster vaccine.” The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced on September 24 that the Pfizer-BioNTech (COMIRNATY) COVID-19 booster shot is now recommended for individuals who have been fully vaccinated for six months or more with the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. People who are 65 years or older, 18 years or older with underlying medical conditions, or who work in a high-risk settings like healthcare workers, teachers and childcare providers or food workers are now eligible to receive the Pfizer booster shots. o Richard Sullins covers local government for The Rant Monthly. Contact him at richard@rantnc.com.


10 | October 2021

SUSPECT IN NORMA BROWN MURDER PLEADS GUILTY, TO SPEND LIFE IN PRISON Kenneth Earl Allen, who had been charged in connection with the March 2019 murder of 80-year-old Norma Brown, pleaded guilty in Lee County Superior Court. Allen, now 40, will spend the rest of his life in prison without the possibility of parole. Prior to the plea agreement, the state had been pursuing the death penalty. Allen, clad in an orange jumpsuit and shackles while sometimes audibly emotional members of Brown’s family looked on, sat flanked by his lawyers as Assistant District Attorney Mike Beam read aloud the factual basis for the crime. According to Beam, Allen had come to Brown’s home on Polly Lane off Lower Moncure Road the night of March 3, 2019 after smoking crack and running out of money. Beam said Allen was known to Brown — he had previously helped her move a refrigerator — so she apparently let him and offered him a glass of water. Later, Allen stabbed her in the throat and left the scene with her purse and her vehicle. The vehicle was found near downtown Sanford, and Allen was later located in the basement of a home on McIver Street based on a tip from an acquaintance of Allen’s, who told law enforcement that Allen had confessed to him. When Allen was arrested, he gave a confession to investigators with the Lee County Sheriff’s Office, Beam said. Brown’s son Richard Smith addressed the court, saying “I believe in the death penalty … but I want (Allen) to live for a long, long time in prison, and to suffer like we have. And I hope he rots in Hell.” Allen was also allowed to speak, saying he accepted his sentence and responsibility for the crime, but also told members of Brown’s family that he had not gone to Brown’s home with the intent to harm her and that “you know that’s not me.” “That’s why it hurts so damn bad,” Smith yelled back.

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LOCAL LEE COUNTY SCHOOLS

MASK MANDATE REMAINS School board votes 5-2 to keep face coverings despite some backlash By Richard Sullins The Lee County Board of Education voted 5-2 on Sept. 14 to continue its policy for the immediate future that students, faculty, staff, and visitors be masked at the county’s public schools as the COVID-19 surge worsens. The motion to continue the masks was made by Christine Hilliard and seconded by Patrick Kelly. Voting against continuing the masking requirement were Republican members Sherry Lynn Womack and Pam Sutton. A law enacted this summer by the North Carolina General Assembly requires each of the state’s school districts to vote each month on its policy regarding face coverings. The Lee County Board’s vote came after three public comments and a briefing by Mary Hawley Oates, Schools Nurse Supervisor. Thesley Byrd, Jr., who had addressed the Board previously about the issue on Aug. 2, appealed again for the repeal of the mask mandate, but also informing the board that “we have since disenrolled our children from the public school system. Please understand that my parental rights are not imaginary or perceived, as some have suggested.” Byrd called on those who disagree with the current policy to engage in what he termed as “peaceful noncompliance to effect the change you desire.” Another speaker, Tammy McCurry, claimed that masks can lead to mental torture and even kidnapping. “Children cannot see facial expressions, which is a very important part of development. It is very easy to abduct a child when their face is covered. In order to protect against airborne diseases, you would

need a respirator mask. These face coverings do nothing more than desensitize and demoralize. Are we living in Nazi Germany? This is America…Mental torture, cannot see facial expressions and made to feel guilty for not wearing them (masks).” But Sarah Shannon-Mohamed, a parent with young children in the school district, took a different view, recommending that the board go further than its previous action and take stronger steps to prevent infections.

“If we had the whole community working together, we wouldn’t be in this mess.” — Mary Hawley Oates, school nurse supervisor “In order to protect our students, it seems that more stringent protocols are necessary, like mandatory vaccinations for all staff, transparent data sharing, an option for students to learn virtually if their parents choose and continued mandatory masking for all,” she said.

However, the system is hiring additional school nurses to help with the caseload. “If we had the whole community working together to keep our kids safe,” said Oates, “we wouldn’t be in this mess.” At the request of Board member Patrick Kelly, School Superintendent Dr. Andy Bryan will bring to the next meeting of the Board several options that they could take to help prevent teachers from being burned out due to the health crisis. Several members of the Board and Superintendent Bryan complimented students for their resiliency in carrying on with their studies as schools started again in August. Bryan said, “I appreciate everyone’s efforts to make everything work and overcome some of these negative impacts of the last 18 months and how that has influenced our students and staff here in our community.” Board Chair Sandra Bowen said that the district’s teachers and staff have carried more than their fair share of the weight and deserve much of the credit for its success.

Oates said that one of the biggest factors that continues to spread the virus is parents who send their children to school when they have COVID-like symptoms or, in some cases, have actually tested positive for the illness.

“I want to express my sincerest gratitude to every employee of our school system because what has been asked of them is so much more than has ever been asked before in our recent history,” she said.

“If all parents followed protocols,” she said, “we wouldn’t have nearly the number of exposure problems that we do.”

“I commend the continued dedication, the support, and the love that is shared with our students. To see the change in the learning that is taking place, the change in the attitude of the students and the happiness to be back in the classroom, it’s made my home a happier place.”

Because of the overwhelming demands that COVID has placed on school nurses, they have been largely unable to pay attention to the other medical needs that students often have, such as diabetes and obesity.


The Rant Monthly | 11

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12 | October 2021 EDITORIAL

REDISTRICTING TALK IS BORING, BUT IMPORTANT Plenty of words were spent in this edition of The Rant Monthly and on our website exploring the process by which elected city and county leaders redraw their electoral districts, something required every ten years following the completion of the U.S. Census. It’s not the sexiest issue in the world, but it is important — your local politicians are literally deciding who you’ll be allowed to vote for (or against) based on where you live. If that’s not a process that deserves scrutiny, we don’t know what is. In the county’s case, we requested emails between commissioners related to the process and ended up finding out that the board’s chairman, Republican Kirk Smith, had sought input from an outside legal firm which consults on redistricting. Smith’s request for input came after county staff displayed reluctance to provide “political data” for use in drawing new districts, and while he told The Rant that he and fellow Republican Commissioner Bill Carver deemed the $18,000 price tag too high for consideration, the move raised as many questions as it answered. Why weren’t Smith and other members of the board’s Republican majority already aware that the use of political data in redistricting has been found unconstitutional in North Carolina? Did Smith share with his fellow board members the law firm’s proposal to create new districts? What criteria did Smith discuss with this law firm when he made his initial inquiry? We don’t know. And while Smith did ultimately affirm in writing that the use of political data “is certainly a legal conundrum, and as such I will retract the request,” the pieces of the puzzle we have been able to see fit together like a group of politicians at least kicking the tires on the idea of choosing their voters, rather than the other way around. We’ll know for sure this month how everything plays out, but all of this is a reminder that even seemingly boring issues are worth your attention.

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OPINION COLUMN | BILLY LIGGETT

Do your research and respect real research

I

work at a university. My job is to tell stories about the other people who work at and attend this university. As a result, I write a lot about our professors and their research, much of which is fascinating. Just this summer, I interviewed a professor who’s part of a global research team studying a 3-million-year-old Australopithecus fossil known as Little Foot, which was discovered buried in rock in a South African cave in 1994. It took 20-plus years for scientists to painstakingly remove the bones from the rock it was encased in, and only in the past few years have they been able to truly reveal the significance of the find. The professor I interviewed has spent his entire career studying human anatomy, specifically our shoulders and upper torso. He was brought in to help determine Little Foot’s behavior — the bones showed that this early human had shoulder blades attached to thick muscles more similar to modern gorillas than today’s humans. They suggested that our evolutionary ancestors were climbers for far longer than originally thought. Huge news on the evolutionary scale — if you believe in that sort of thing. Another professor I wrote about has spent her entire professional career studying the relationship between our guts and our brains. This professor is an internationally recognized expert and researcher in the areas of gastrointestinal disorders and behavioral sciences, having published more than 200 articles on the subject. She’s collected nearly 20,000

followers on Twitter, and she’s highly respected and recognized by her peers. Her research has determined — to put it simply — that when our guts are out of whack, it affects our entire body. Depression and anxiety can be the result of things like irritable bowel syndrome, constipation or upset stomachs. Not always, of course — there are many causes for mental health issues — but the key word is “can.” Knowing this is helping scientists and doctors focus on new treatments for disorders that have gone untreated.

Good lord, give [researchers] more respect than a TikTok influencer pointing up at conspiracy theories over a Post Malone track. Can we at least start there?

lives studying communicable diseases, viruses, public health matters and modern medicine are taking a beating by a good portion of our country who have taken it upon themselves to “do my own research” over the past two years. That “research” has involved YouTube scrolling, reading articles from questionable news sources and listening to (and believing wholeheartedly) unqualified speakers during the public comments section of school board meetings. Decisions to remain unmasked, unvaccinated and not properly medicated have led to preventable hospital stays and preventable deaths in this country. They’ve also built an inexplicable distrust in the men and women who have not only spent their lives doing real research in their respective fields, but have also done so with the best of intentions — without a hint of political gain. It’s frustrating and sad.

“Research is my heart,” this professor told me. “I love it. I absolutely think it’s fantastic that we live in a society that gets better because of research.” So why am I going on about people who are much smarter than me whose work has far-reaching impacts on the world we live in? Because I’m focusing on the word “research” here, and because we live in a country that has a very unclear understanding of this word. And yes, this all goes back to COVID-19, vaccinations, mask mandates and everything related to this [for those of you who were expecting something different, you may move on to the next article now]. The men and women who have spent their entire adult

I’m not saying everybody with a Ph.D., M.D. or D.O. degree is always 100-percent right. And I’m not saying you have to spend 20 years in a field to make an informed decision that you think is best for you. But good lord, give them more respect than a TikTok influencer pointing up to conspiracy theories over a Post Malone track. Can we at least start there? o Billy Liggett did his own research and determined that many of you will disagree with this column. Tell him why and post links to far-from-credible YouTube sources by emailing billly@rantnc.com.


The Rant Monthly | 13

rantnc.com READER RESPONSE LEE COUNTY SCHOOLS MASK MANDATES The Lee County Board of Education voted 5-2 to keep mask mandates in schools at a time when several districts and even states have discouraged or banned such mandates. Our readers had strong opinions on the decision: ________________ My sixth grader doesn’t mind them at all. In fact, he often still has it on when he gets home, because he forgets to take it off. He said you wouldn’t believe the kids who remove the mask to sneeze and then put it back on. It seems the kids who have parents in support of masks are having no issues with it, likely because they are expected even when away from school. We have a grandparent with lung cancer. We wear a mask and vax for her. Jennifer Laughlin ________________ Wearing a mask does work. Every school year, I always catch several colds. Since wearing a mask, I have not had one cold or missed a day of work. Keith Davis ________________ Does the Health Department still send a list of positive kids to each school? Is the list distributed to teachers? Are bus drivers given the list? The first week of school, the positive cases were exposed outside the school. They came to school with the virus. If everyone is wearing a mask, how many new cases have been traced to exposure in the classroom? I’m not hearing the answer to this. Are the schools doing exposure tracing? Are the teachers wearing only a mask? They could wear their mask with a face shield and a disposable lab coat. Angie Wood ________________ “Another speaker, Tammy McCurry, claimed that masks can lead to mental torture and even kidnapping.” So masks lead to kidnapping now? Seems legit. This is sarcasm, people. Hanna Basham

________________ As old as I am, I can only figure it has to do with people who are just not ready to accept how the world around our little locales has been changing. We Americans have sat back way too long in complacency. But then we get upset if there isn’t an instant fix for a new problem.

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Mary Ashburn ________________ Masks are generally ineffective. Nobody is wearing the same one, they all fit differently, and they leak. All viruses are spread by aerosol particles that go right through these masks or bypass them altogether. There is a reason why the military won’t let soldiers wear a beard. Their gas masks can’t seal. Even in the air filter world, a HEPA filter is only a HEPA filter in application if it is sealed; whereby all the air goes through the filter. If wearing a mask makes you feel good, do it. It shouldn’t be required of everyone. Steve Schneider ________________ Has anyone asked the students how they feel? Susan Laudate ________________ There is no science that even suggests paper/cloth masks are mildly effective in stopping viral transmission. This school board is pro-feelings and anti-science. Also anti-freedom. Alan Rummel

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including The Rant Monthly is published monthly by LPH Media LLC, 3096 South Horner Boulevard in Sanford, North Carolina. The Rant was founded as a weekly radio program in 2008 by Gordon Anderson, Billy Liggett and Jonathan Owens. After their program was unceremoniously banished from the airwaves by a petty local state representative, The Rant regrouped and became a web site specializing in local news in 2014. Today, The Rant Monthly has a circulation of 3,500 printed copies, and our website draws more than 1 million views yearly. Wear a mask and get the vaccine.

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14 | October 2021

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COVER STORY

SAN LEE FUTBOL CLUB

FÚTBOL IS LIFE

Sanford’s semi-professional soccer team — featuring players from all over the world — is keeping the sport alive locally, both at the adult and the youth levels By Billy Liggett

F

or Hugo Kemppainen, it’s a stepping stone to a potential professional career in the sport. For Giancarlo Soprano, it’s an opportunity to return to the game he loves and become a mentor to younger players. For Miguel Aguirre, it’s about playing in his hometown and helping build a program he’s been with from the start. And for former Ecuador national team player and coach Alfredo Encalada, it’s a chance to pass on a wealth of knowledge to not only the current generation of soccer players, but future generations in Sanford’s growing youth academy as well. SanLee Futbol Club represents something different and something important to the 25-plus players, coaches and staff who dedicate a good chunk of their lives to it — for nearly all of them, it’s a “side gig” to their 50-hour work weeks or full-time school schedules. There’s an overarching “underdog” quality to the program, from its home games on a small private high school’s pitch to its underfunded (yet remarkably effective) practice facilities in the Kendale area.

As a whole, SanLee Futbol Club is quality, competitive semi-professional soccer. And according to Tim Blodgett, general manager and owner/founder of the San Lee Soccer Academy, it’s a hidden gem in the Lee County sports scene. When San Lee joined the United Premier Soccer League in 2018, he laid out his goal of not only building a strong adult program, but growing the sport at the youth levels as well.

Hugo Kemppainen, a 21-year-old from Finland who played collegiately for Methodist University, sees San Lee FC as a stepping stone to a professional career in the sport. Photo: Julie Dutchess


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rantnc.com “Soccer is loved by so many here locally; youth and adults deserve to experience the sport to its fullest,” he said in 2018. “We’re focusing on structure and professionalism here in Sanford … setting up players for the best opportunity to play soccer on the biggest stages, regardless of their backgrounds or social upbringing.” PASSION PROJECT Tim Blodgett was set to take his high school soccer success in Connecticut and display it at the next level, having accepted a scholarship at the University of Rhode Island. The attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, changed his plans. Blodgett enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps after high school in 2002 and would go on to become a staff sergeant, serving four combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. He found time between deployments to play for the Corps’ soccer team, and after his service, he tried out for — and made — the U.S. National Team’s 7-on-7 squad, which took him around the world playing against some of the best players in the sport.

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He found his way to North Carolina via his wife Jen, a Sanford native, and coached soccer at Grace Christian Academy. In 2017, he created San Lee Futbol Club as a way to grow the sport in Sanford and provide an outlet for former high school players who didn’t have the opportunity to play at the collegiate level. “We had a lot of talented kids, and I thought this would give them an opportunity to keep playing at a high level and possibly one day move on to something bigger and better,” Blodgett says. “We started as part of the Triangle Adult Soccer Association, and we had a lot of success in that league.” Sponsors for the new team were few, and just about all of the start-up funds came from Blodgett’s own pocket. In addition to uniforms, travel and other expenses, Blodgett began renting an indoor practice facility in the Kendale area and would later rent a few acres near Kendale Plaza for outdoor facilities. Those areas are still used today by not only San Lee FC, but hundreds of teens, pre-teens and young players who take part in Sanford Area Soccer League’s (SASL) Academy program.

Photo: San Lee Futbol Club

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@therant905 Blodgett’s vision got noticed quickly. Just one year after its inception, San Lee FC was picked up by the United Premier Soccer League, a decade-old league that today is home to seven regional conferences and more than 300 teams throughout the country. As a member of the Southeast Conference, Mid-Atlantic Premier Division, San Lee plays against teams from Charlotte, Charleston, Myrtle Beach, and Columbia (South Carolina), to name a few. USPL is the nation’s largest and fastest-growing pro development league and is producing players who go on to Major League Soccer clubs or club teams outside of the U.S. Last spring, San Lee finished seventh in its 10-team division (3-4-3 record). This year, they’re off to a slow start at 0-3-1, but for now, the record is far less important than the mission and the future of the program.

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Just two years ago, he was in China helping develop the sport for the Chinese Soccer Federation — a job that came to an abrupt end with the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Today, Encalada can be found on the practice fields in Kendale most weeknights, giving one-on-one coaching sessions to San Lee players or showing kids on the 10-under and 8-under Academy teams proper kicking techniques or where to line up in front of the net.

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The assistant coach to San Lee FC head coach Andres Encalada (his son) is the former head coach of the Ecuador National Team, a former player on the Ecuador National Team who played in the America’s Cup in 1983, a former television commentator for the sport and a longtime professor at the Ecuadorian Football Federation. Encalada first played professionally at the age of 12, making for 52-plus years of experience at the highest levels of the sport.

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General Manager and San Lee Futbol Club founder Tim Blodgett greets a fan at a 2019 team event at Hugger Mugger Brewing. “Soccer is loved by many people here locally; youth and adults deserve to experience the sport to the fullest,” he said when the team joined the UPSL in 2018. “Players can receive the best training and opportunities in this sport without taking out loans in order to do so.”

“I’m not trying to make a bunch of professional soccer players here,” Blodgett says. “The goal is to try to use soccer as a platform to reach people. For me, it’s a platform to teach them about characteristics they can take with them for the rest of their lives. Hard work. Teamwork. Regardless of your background or your social upbringing.”

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“The talent level is good here; they’re just lacking a little in the fundamentals. But that has to do with the country we’re in. The U.S. has so many other sports, versus South America, where soccer is everything. It’s the exit to be successful — the sport every single poor kid dreams of.” — Alfredo Encalada, former Ecuador National coach and current San Lee assistant for the opportunity to keep teaching the game he loves to a group of young men hungry to learn more. “The talent level is good here; they’re just lacking a little in the fundamentals,” Encalada says through his translator and player, Giancarlo Soprano. “But that has to do with the country we’re in. The U.S. has so many other sports, versus Ecuador and South America, where soccer is everything. It’s the exit to be successful — the sport every single poor kid dreams of.” Encalada and his son are the “soul” of the

team, Soprano says, and their experience and willingness to teach is invaluable to the players, young and old, on the San Lee squad. “They say Sanford feels like home now,” he says. “It’s magical, because a lot of players here are from their part of the world and know their culture. It’s become the perfect spot for them.” Sanford’s become a perfect spot for Soprano, as well. Born in Venezuela, Soprano played for his country’s Junior 15 and Youth 17 national teams and the Primera División,

Venezuela’s top flight professional league. He played his way to the United States and was captain of the men’s soccer team at Trinity Lutheran College in Washington and eventually trained with the Seattle Sounders of the MLS. He left the sport in 2017 to pursue a career in accounting for Deloitte in New York City, and he moved to North Carolina in 2020 to start his own firm, Soprano, Luster & Associates, based in Raleigh. While his career has taken off, Soprano’s love of soccer has never wavered. San Lee’s Hugo Kemppainen approached him over the summer and asked him to come try out for the team in Sanford. “I hadn’t competed in a while — I left when I was still pretty young — and little by little, it lit this fire in me and reminded me a lot of when I was playing professionally and pursuing this as a career,” says Soprano, now 27. “I was missing something in life, and this was it. I want to get back into it as much as I can.” Soprano’s not the oldest on the squad —

Alfredo Encalada (top, during a recent SASL youth academy practice and above during his playing days with Deportivo Quinto in Ecuador) is the assistant head coach to his son, Andres, for San Lee Futbol Club. The Encaladas bring decades of playing and coaching experience to the local team, which competes in the United Premier Soccer League.


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@therant905 that honor goes to 36-year-old goalkeeper Honorio Serrano — but he’s become a mentor to younger players like Kemppainen, a 21-year-old from Finland who sees San Lee FC not as a return to the sport, but instead as a possible stepping stone to a professional career. Kemppainen graduated high school in Apex and played for two seasons at Methodist University in Fayetteville. He returned to his native Finland in 2020 and played for a third tier professional team before returning to the U.S. this year. In Sanford, Kemppainen is getting valuable training with the Encalada father-son duo, and earlier this year, he traveled with them to Ecuador to train. “Honestly, this is the best coaching I’ve ever had — even after playing in Finland and Ecuador,” he says. “I think these coaches are amazing, and I’ve learned so

much from them and from Tim [Blodgett]. They’ve been so confident in me since the first day, and I feel like they want to help me succeed.” Kemppainen says he wants to take his training and the attention to fundamentals and return to Europe and crack a professional league there. “Even at the highest levels, some players are missing those fundamentals,” he says. “I’m becoming a better player here, and I’d like to see where it takes me.” Operations Manager Julie Dutchess has seen all types of players come and go during her time with San Lee FC and before that with the SASL Sabres, the adult league that preceded the current one. “We’ve had players who work full time — roofers, construction workers, nuclear engineers and mechanical engineers — and this team is like a pastime for them,” says

Giancarlo Soprano played professionally in Venezuela and Seattle before leaving the sport for a successful career in accounting. After moving to Raleigh recently, Soprano rekindled his love for the game by playing for San Lee FC. Photo: Julie Dutchess


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Dutchess. “Then we’ve had college guys who have played for us in their offseasons. Or guys who want to keep playing [professionally]. Guys who play for us then coach our youth programs in their spare time. We’ve had everything here.”

his passion made him the perfect spokesman when a bond issue went before voters in 2020 for a multi-million-dollar sports complex, which — if it goes according to plan — will house several well-built and well-kept soccer fields for players of all ages. Similar complexes can be found in Wilson, Apex and Holly Springs, towns that have enjoyed economic boosts thanks to visiting teams eating at their restaurants and staying in their hotels. Aguirre spoke on behalf of San Lee FC at city and county meetings, and he and the rest of the soccer community were thrilled when the measure passed last November.

Like the players, Dutchess’ involvement with San Lee FC is the result of a lifelong relationship with the sport. She played, her husband was a goalkeeper in college, and her son just graduated from Averett University in Virginia, where he played four seasons as goalkeeper before returning this fall as an assistant coach. She’s here because of her love of the game. That, she and the players have in common. “I mean, they come out here three days a week and they give up their weekends because they love it,” she says. “And I love to see them succeed.” FOR THE FUTURE Miguel Aguirre grew up in Sanford and honed his skills in the city’s youth leagues and eventually at Southern Lee High

In addition to coaching San Lee FC, Andres Encalada also coaches several SASL and Academy youth programs in Sanford. Photo by Billy Liggett School, where he graduated in 2011. He’d tried a few pro tryouts here and there after high school, but eventually he dedicated his time to his career — today he’s an engineer at Caterpillar, one of Sanford’s biggest employers — and to his family’s restaurant business.

He rekindled his love of soccer when he learned about San Lee FC. Going pro isn’t his intent — he just loves the game, and one day he would like to coach younger players when he can no longer keep up on the field. His Sanford roots, his involvement and

“Our local industries are growing, and more people are coming to Sanford,” Aguirre said. “In order to keep up with the growth, we have to offer something like a sports complex. Some of the cities we’ve played in, we’ve seen nice fields. We’ve seen what it can do [economically].” Despite the overwhelming vote last year, little has been done to get the ball rolling on the complex, which is planned for Broadway Road near the U.S. 421 Bypass. In July of this year, commissioners approved the

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rantnc.com purchase of that land, but final contracts and agreements are still pending. It could be a while before the first goal is scored on brand new fields. It’s a frustrating process for Blodgett, whose SASL and San Lee FC groups were among the few sports organizations in Sanford to fund the campaign to pass the bond last November. SASL teams currently play on fields in the Deep River area and at the Lions Club Fairgrounds, and San Lee FC’s home games are played at Grace Christian Academy on fields far below the quality of others in their league. “We’re grateful to the Lions Club and everyone who supports youth soccer, but we do run into scheduling issues all the time,” Blodgett says. “I’ve tried so hard and our goal all along has been to unify soccer here and not make it about one demographic over another — there’s a huge demand for soccer here, and I’m having a hard time understanding why there’s not more emphasis given to this sport.” Blodgett points to high costs for renting fields run by Lee County Schools (costs other sports aren’t asked to pay) and to

local government dragging its feet on the complex — in addition to several other negative experiences with local officials — that have led him to this point. He asks [for this story] that a big deal isn’t made of it, but his frustration is evident. He’s put a lot of time (and money) into soccer, and he’s yet to see the support he’s hoped for. But the positives far outweigh the negatives. San Lee FC is a group of hard-working young men who share his love of the game. The Academy levels (from ages 8 and up) are experiencing full rosters, and several of those teams are often absolutely drilling teams from other towns who boast higher budgets and better facilities. Soccer in Sanford will get there, Blodgett believes. It just takes time. “I love the game. I’m passionate about the game. I love interacting with the kids,” he says. “I think the easy part is coaching. And being out there. Truthfully, I hate the business side of it, just because I’m very passionate about it. I love seeing the kids compete, and I love seeing them develop. I love seeing them enjoying it. And that’s the biggest thing — as long as the kids are enjoying it.”

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@therant905 CAROLINA INDIE FEST

Indie Fest just the start of something big in Sanford

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t one point on Saturday, Sept. 18, as Traverse City, Michigan’s The Accidentals played the Wicker Street main stage at Carolina Indie Fest, I turned and looked 300 or so feet back toward the intersection with Steele Street. The whole space was crawling with people, all of them intently watching as a band from way out of town, a band signed to Sony Masterworks Records, absolutely crushed about an hour long set of high energy music. Right here in little old Sanford! So, yeah Carolina Indie Fest was pretty awesome. Sights like the one I opened this column with have become a little easier to believe in recent years, with the Downtown StreetFest and Fireworks events, a recovering-from-COVID-but-still-impressive little live music scene centered around our new breweries, the Thursday night summer concerts in Depot Park, and more. But this was far and away the most impressive thing I’ve seen downtown with regards to live music — and I can’t tell you how many conversations I had during the course of the festival with friends and strangers alike that all came to the same conclusion. Wendy Bryan with the Sanford Tourism

Development Authority told me when the numbers came back, about 6,000 people came out for the free two day event, and 60 percent of them came from here in town. That’s impressive — and really just a starting point. We found out before the festival was even halfway over that Indie on Air Records, the festival’s organizer, has committed to making the event an annual one. If we can draw 6,000 people downtown for a first year event, there’s no reason we can’t draw twice that next year or even three times that number the year after that. And it’s not just this event. Indie on Air has already announced an even bigger festival, to be held at Gross Farms II just over the Lee-Harnett County line near Broadway, in the spring (we’re hoping to cover the leadup to that like we did with Carolina Indie Fest, so keep your eyes peeled for more details). Towns with music scenes have to build them, and that’s what’s happening right now. I think you’re going to see more live music, both locally and from out of town, going forward. And if you can’t find something to love about that, well then I don’t know what to tell you. o Gordon Anderson filled in on bass for Sha Na Na at the 1969 Woodstock Music and Art Fair and so knows a thing or two about music festivals. Contact him at gordon@rantnc.com.


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Photographer Ben Brown shot the performances of Nitro Nitra, The Accidentals, Jennie Angel and Paleface on Day 1 of Carolina Indie Fest.


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LOCAL GOVERNMENT

TENSION LOOMS AS CITY, COUNTY TALK REDISTRICTING Political requests, last-minute proposals toss wrenches in drawing up new electoral boundaries

cantly different, and I was expecting to see something like that,” Carver said. “In the conversation with the chairman that had to do with some different options for, shall we say, District 2, and how you are actually defining the district. It could be that I was just out of the loop or something and missed the fact that we were going to ask for those, but they are not here tonight.”

By Richard Sullins

Smith, Republican, was absent from the meeting.

Sanford and Lee County’s elected leaders both had contentious discussions over the redistricting of their electoral boundaries in September.

Democratic Commissioner Cameron Sharpe asked “Don, can you assure us that these maps were drawn up by using population alone and not on political consideration or affiliation?”

In the county’s case, discussion among commissioners on Sept. 20 became tense when concerns arose that political affiliation and voter participation may have been considered in drawing the maps. After Lee County GIS Strategic Services Director Don Kovasckitz reviewed the process the county will have to follow, County Attorney Whitney Parrish outlined the rules the board will have to follow in drawing maps that will be presented to the public at a hearing on Oct. 4. Five maps were reviewed by commissioners at their meeting on September 20, but Republican Commissioner Bill Carver seemed confused that a sixth map that he had been led to believe would be presented was not among those included in Kovasckitz’s presentation. Commissioners viewed four possible versions of district boundaries on Sept. 8. Some time after that, a fifth map was added that creates district boundaries more closely balanced by the number of residents. The proposed maps, along with the current version, can be found on the county’s website. “I wish that (Board Chairman Kirk Smith) was here tonight. I was under the impression that we had some options that were signifi-

“They were drawn correctly not using any political or voter data,” Kovascitz replied. “But I’ve got to bring it up, that we did have an attorney consult on these plans, and they did ask, ‘did we consider any partisan or election data?’ So, while we were creating these plans, no. But subsequent to creating Plan E, once we had all those plans, we were asked to pull voter registration data. So, subsequent to these plans, I have considered voter data as I considered voter registration data.” Commissioner Robert Reives, a Democrat, asked “first, let me find out, is that OK?” “It wasn’t considered in drawing the districts,” Parrish replied. “It’s public record. There’s nothing wrong with just pulling the data and having that available. But when drawing the maps, it was not a consideration, so I think that is sufficient. If it had been used in drawing the maps, I think that would be a different story. When the maps were drawn, it was only looking at the population numbers and there was no consideration of voter registration information and there was no consideration of partisanship data.” Carver asked, “How about the number of people who voted in the area?” and Parrish replied, “No, sir.” Kovasckitz explained that his office is hesitant to look at anything other

than total population in drawing maps because existing case law says only population may be considered. Reives then stated “I didn’t come to this meeting to figure out how to violate the law. I came here to review the appropriate information as it relates to redistricting. I’m not going to waste my time sitting here arguing

“When the lawyers constantly tell you what you can and cannot do, and should not do, and you keep looking for a way around that, I consider that a waste of my good time.” — Commissioner Robert Reives to Republicans seeking data such as voter registration information for new electoral maps about trying to figure out how we get around the law.” Carver responded “that’s not my goal, trying to figure out how to violate the law. My purpose is trying to use the law to have as much flexibility as I can while we are making recommendations on the apportionment.” “When the lawyers constantly tell you what you can and cannot do, and should not do, and you keep looking for a way around that, I consider that a waste of my good time,” Reives responded. After further discussion that seemed to move the matter no closer to resolution, Commissioner Andre Knecht moved to present Plans A and E at a public hearing on Oct. 4 and the motion passed unanimously. The Rant reported in mid-September, based on emails obtained in a public information request, that Smith had requested the “political breakdown” of each of the district proposals, a move that could have opened the door to a partisan gerrymandering lawsuit.

Smith provided an email several days later that was not included in the batch released last week showing that he’d since decided his request “is certainly a legal conundrum, and as such I will retract the request to redrawing new districts, based on my previous parameters.” Meanwhile, the city’s discussion on the same topic became tense as well a day later, although for a different reason. The primary bone of contention for the city council was the late appearance of a fourth map proposal, labeled Plan D, on the council’s agenda just a few days prior to the meeting. Plan D was reportedly developed at the request of Ward 4 Councilman Byron Buckels. Earlier in September, the council had been given three plans to consider. Ward 1 Councilman Sam Gaskins began the public hearing portion of the meeting by announcing his support for Plan A because of its easily identifiable boundaries along major thoroughfares, its compactness, and clear compliance with the Voting Rights Act of 1965. He also took issue with Plan D. “I have a problem with an elected official becoming involved, especially with a lack of transparency, because it was not done in a meeting out publicly, and the opportunity has been there to say, we need an additional plan,” Gaskins said. “So, I have a real serious concern about how it appears that we all of a sudden come up with a new plan. I don’t believe elected officials should be involved in doing these things outside our scope of responsibility and inside a public meeting.” Buckels later told The Rant he met with Kovasckitz after the September 7 meeting to learn how the maps were drawn up and share his concerns about population growth coming to the city and where that growth was projected to be. Buckels told The Rant the “majority of the growth based on approved and housing units in review, according to our planning depart-


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rantnc.com ment at the current time, indicates Ward 5 (2,113 units) showed the highest project numbers, followed by Ward 2 (1,382 units), Ward 3 (1,027 units), Ward 1 (680 units), and Ward 4 (335 units).” Buckels said in an email to The Rant that he didn’t understand Gaskins’ issues with sending the materials to members of the council at the last minute. “Plan D was included in our city council agenda when it was sent out to the council on September 17,” he wrote. “However, there was a comparison chart of Plan A and Plan D that the council received on the day of the meeting.” Ward 3 Councilman J.D. Williams said “as for Plan D, tonight is my first time seeing any of it. I did have a phone conversation with one of the staff members about the new plan and was told that if I had any questions about the new plan, we’d get together. But that didn’t happen.” Ward 2 Councilman Charles Taylor said Plan D was an attempt to plunder minority voters from his ward. “This plan is an advertisement for Ward 4,” he said. “We don’t know what’s going to grow the least until they are completed. I see – I got this late Friday afternoon without any real notification – that my area, which [includes] Weatherspoon Street, a very defined area, six blocks of my area was poached, and I lost arguably my minority area in my Ward, and I lost some of that area. And that’s a very key upsetting thing for me because I represent those people as much as I represent anybody else in my ward.” Taylor’s comments did not sit well with Buckels, who was shaking his head as Taylor reached the end of his statement. As discussion turned to the merits of the plans themselves, Taylor expressed his preference for Plan C, one of the two plans that the council decided to present to the public at its September 7 meeting, although he said he would support Plan A. “I like the definite lines. That’s the reason I support Plan A. I do prefer Plan C, personally, because I like the block style and it’s easier for people to shave off population on all four sides of a block than it is to do a long strip,” he said. But an opinion from a Raleigh-based legal firm specializing in government relations dated Sept. 17 and given to the council at the meeting said Plan C contained potential

violations of the Voting Rights Act because it would have under-populated the African American population of Ward 3 at 24.6 percent, compared to more than 30 percent in each of the remaining three plans. Plan C was then eliminated from further consideration at the suggestion of Ward 5 Councilwoman Rebecca Wyhof Salmon. Buckels again made a pitch for his Plan D. “It’s about population, trying to make it as close to the deviation of zero as we can,” he said. “That’s what it’s about. All this other stuff about votes and gerrymandering, honestly, I didn’t expect that to come from either one of y’all. I thought we would have some really good conversation just about what it is.” Mayor Chet Mann sought to bring closure to the discussion by saying that members of the council had spoken passionately about their feelings but that no one had done so with intent to harm or injure another member. “We’re all just trying to do the right thing,” he said. “I think the council preferred, but didn’t demand, solid boundary lines, because we’ve never had one. That’s a fair thing. Byron [Buckels] is just fighting for his ward and I think his intentions are fairly noble here. I don’t think he’s trying to gerrymander or anything. I think he’s just fighting for his ward. Whether we agree with that or feel like that’s fair, it’s okay. This is a public hearing. Let’s just keep it that way because we’ve done too much good work up to this point.” Gaskins offered a motion to move forward with Plan A and present it to the public at the final public hearing. Five members voted in favor of the motion, with members Williams and Buckels choosing not to vote. In response to a question from Taylor, Mann said that a non to vote was considered a “yes” vote, making the decision unanimous. Despite the the debate within the council over its past two meetings on redistricting, not a single member of the public came to speak on any of the plans that were proposed. Buckels said he wasn’t surprised. “I wasn’t disappointed by the fact that no one showed up, but I do wish that the public would get more involved in these types of processes because it really affects them too,” he said. o Richard Sullins covers local government for The Rant Monthly. Contact him at richard@rantnc.com.

SMITH SOUGHT, DECIDED AGAINST USING OUTSIDE LAW FIRM FOR COUNTY REDISTRICTING Lee County Board of Commissioners Chairman Kirk Smith solicited — and ultimately decided against using — the services of an outside law firm and redistricting expert for the re-drawing of the county’s electoral maps, publicly released emails show. The Rant in September made two public records requests for emails involving redistricting – required of the board every ten years following the decennial U.S. Census. The first batch released showed that Smith had subsequently asked for the “political breakdown” of each proposed district. The request was notable because courts in North Carolina have ruled that partisan political data shouldn’t be considered when drawing electoral maps, and rules adopted by the North Carolina General Assembly for the drawing of its own districts also forbid its use. A second batch of emails show that Smith, a member of the board’s Republican majority, went a step further on Sept. 10, saying in an email to other members of the board that he wanted districts drawn “based on the number of ‘Registered Voters,’ use major thoroughfares as boundaries, east-west and north-south. Keep Carolina Trace intact in either District Two or Three. Provide a political profile of each proposed district based on registered Democrats, Republicans, and Unaffiliated voters.” But Smith later rescinded this request on Sept. 13, after County Attorney Whitney Parrish sent the commissioners a legal memo explaining multiple reasons “it seems likely a court would determine these factors unlawful and unconstitutional under (the) North Carolina Constitution.” Earlier on the same day, Smith received an engagement letter via email from Craig Schauer, an attorney with Brooks Pierce, a law firm with offices in Raleigh and Greensboro, offering to create and present “no more than three map configurations” for a fee of $18,000. That fee would have been split evenly between the firm for legal services and Peter A. Morrison & Associates for what the letter described as “Expert Map Services.” Smith said via email after the second

batch of emails was released that he and At-Large Commissioner Bill Carver – who Smith said had learned of Harnett County’s use of the Brooks Pierce firm for redistricting – “determined that the $18,000 cost was a non-starter.” Smith further wrote that he rescinded his request because of the “timely advice regarding the parameters I had initially requested.” “The County Attorney’s analysis and summary put things in a legal light that I was not fully aware,” Smith wrote to The Rant. Prior to Smith rescinding his request for new maps drawn using the criteria Parrish wrote would be “unlawful and unconstitutional,” the emails showed relatively broad support for the request from his fellow Republicans. “I am confirming support for this request. This data is relative and important in the process of redistricting,” District 4 Commissioner Arianna Lavallee wrote in an email to County Manager John Crumpton on Sept. 13. “Just heard from (Carver) and (he) approves receiving this information,” Crumpton wrote to Smith on the same day. “I just need to know that all four Republicans are on board with this request and I will start (staff) on the breakdown.” But an earlier email from Crumpton showed reluctance on the part of county staff to grant the request for political data, largely for the same reasons Parrish cited. “If the majority wishes to pass a map based on the criteria you have listed and any group of minorities feel they are impacted by this decision we will need to hire outside counsel to represent the Board in the case of a lawsuit. This is a partisan issue now since partisan data will be used to draw the districts which is what the lawsuit against the Legislature was all about. Having our attorneys present the Board in a 100 percent partisan issue is inappropriate,” he wrote. “I want to also caution the Board that going down this road will bring a lot of publicity to Lee County that will impact our economic development efforts.” — by Gordon Anderson


30 | October 2021

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ARTS STREETFEST CONCERT & FIREWORKS OCT. 9 After a year off due to COVID, the Downtown Sanford StreetFest and Fireworks event will return for its fourth iteration on Saturday, Oct. 9. In addition to food trucks, vendors and fireworks, a main stage with three acts — locals Bad Moon Rising, who cover Creedence Clearwater Revival and other classic rock hits will play from 2 to 3:30 p.m., the Blackwater Band playing Top 40, blues, funk, and country plays from 4 to 6 p.m. and Triangle-based 90s cover band 120 Minutes will play from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. — will be set up on Steele Street near the Wicker Street intersection. The fireworks show begins approximately 8:30 p.m. The festival, sponsored by Downtown Sanford Inc. and the Sanford Tourism Development Authority, kicks off at 1 p.m.

BOO & BREW SET FOR DOWNTOWN IN OCTOBER Downtown Sanford’s “Boo & Brew” event, a seven stop restaurant and brewery tour, will take place the final three weekends in October. The self-guided tour begins this year at The Chocolate Cellar, 110 Carthage Street in downtown Sanford, where guests will receive a tour map and a tour gift. From there, attendants can download an interactive ghost story using the Otocast app, and dine and drink their way through several downtown destinations Guests can begin the tour at any time; the first stop is open until 8 p.m. and the final stops are open until 11 p.m. Boo & Brew will take place Oct. 14-16, Oct. 21-28, and Oct. 28-30.

CAROLINA TRACE

FABRICATED EXPRESSION Artist who specializes in fabric paintings to be featured in Pinehurst, Sanford By Charles Petty Barbara Berman is truly an artist — from oil and watercolor, to pen and ink, quilting, and craft making, she can seemingly do it all. But Berman, who’s lived in Lee County’s Carolina Trace community for almost 20 years, has managed to create an art form of her own — fabric painting. After retirement from a career in commercial interior design, Berman wanted to continue her ventures into the world of art, and opened a booth at the Shops of Steele Street in downtown Sanford. There, she created backpacks and purses and did craft shows throughout the region. After her time at Shops of Steele Street, she continued to delve into the world of art and helped to teach others through classes held at Carolina Trace. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Berman set out to make fabric face coverings for nurses at Central Carolina Hospital. As work progressed, she found herself with plenty of leftover fabric, giving her an idea — using it to create paintings. “I wanted to try something different, so I gathered up the leftover fabric and went to work creating something original,” she said. Fabric art painting is a special medium of artistic expression, and so far Berman is aware of little or no other work quite like hers. By pasting cloth via glue onto boards with backgrounds, it shifts form into faces, landscapes, and other unique images that

Barbara Berman will featured Oct. 16 in Pinehurst and Oct. 16-23 in Sanford. Submitted photos captivate the eye. “The key to fabric art is that the background needs to go in first, not last,” she said. “And to think big.” Berman, a member of Sanford’s Brush and Palette Club, finds inspiration in pictures of the famous, landscapes, and even advertisements and portraits of friends and family. Her work includes the likes of Marilyn Monroe, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, gardens, koi ponds and more. Berman’s husband Fred enjoys seeing her use her artistic ability to better the community and bring light into people’s lives. “She is an artistic explosion,” he said. “She can look at most anything and ask ‘how can I

make art of this?’ She always needs an outlet to express herself and she finds it through art.” Her work is set to be featured in a craft show on Oct. 16 in the Village of Pinehurst. The show is part of the Holly Arts & Crafts Festival, as well as at another show hosted by Sanford’s Brush and Palette Club that will run from Oct. 16 through Oct. 23 at the Bob E. Hales Center in downtown Sanford. Now Berman has started making fabric art of people in the community, as well as portraits of family homesteads via commission. For more information or to get in touch, visit Berman’s website at www.craftibarb.net.


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32 | October 2021

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LEE COUNTY EMS TRANSITION

FIRSTHEALTH BEGINS EMS SERVICE nas. “It is an honor and privilege for FirstHealth to serve the Lee County community. I’m grateful to the citizens of Lee County and the Board of Commissioners for their continued support.”

From Staff Reports

FirstHealth Emergency Medical Services began serving the residents in Lee County needing immediate medical attention at midnight on Oct. 1. In a press release sent on Sept. 28, the county announced there would be no disruption of services during the transition, and residents will not need to do anything differently when calling 9-1-1 for assistance. Residents will be taken to the nearest medical facility, which, in most cases, will continue to be Central Carolina Hospital. “As we begin this transition in EMS services, the County is grateful for the 24 years of medical services provided by Central Carolina Hospital staff,” Lee County Commissioner Chairman Kirk Smith said. “I trust that FirstHealth of the Carolinas will continue to provide the professional service to the residents of our county.”

Lee County commissioners voted 5-2 in August to select FirstHealth of the Carolinas to take over EMS services for the county — Central Carolina Hospital EMS had held the contract since the 1990s.

FirstHealth Regional EMS provides 24/7 coverage 365 days a year of 911 emergency medical services for Chatham, Montgomery, Richmond and now Lee counties. With 45 ambulances and more than 150 employees, the FirstHealth Regional EMS System is one of the largest ambulance systems in North Carolina, covering more than 3,200 square miles.

“Our first patient transport, more than 25 years ago, has led to a long-standing history of providing exceptional ambulance services in multiple counties,” said Mickey Foster, chief executive officer for FirstHealth of the Caroli-

The system, including Critical Care Transport and Regional Medical Transport, responded to more than 26,000 calls with more than 22,595 patient transports and over 1,100,000 miles traveled over the last 12

months, according to the county.

Paramedic Tim Simmons has been named the director for FirstHealth Lee EMS. Simmons was previously the director of FirstHealth Chatham EMS serving in that role since February 2017. CAROLINA TRACE FD TO PROVIDE HOME FOR FIRST HEALTH AMBULANCE The Carolina Trace Fire Department announced a partnership with FirstHealth of the Carolinas that will “mean decreased response times and better patient care in emergency situations,” according to Chief Chris Meyers. One of FirstHealth’s four ambulances that will be serving Lee County will be housed at the Carolina Trace Fire Department 24 hours a day, as part of an approach to place units in strategic positions around the county, to improve response times.

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rantnc.com ENTERTAINMENT

Wampus Cat Fest looks to build on Indie Fest success With one successful multi-stage music event under their belt, the organizers at Indie On Air Records have not only announced that the Carolina Indie Fest will definitely be an annual event, they’ve added a second, even bigger festival to the mix.

grow into a nationally recognized festival much like Firefly. We are now searching for partners to make that happen. “

Wampus Cat Music Fest will be held May 13-15 at Gross Farms II, just over the Lee-Harnett county line near Broadway. Organizers promise 90 or more acts, including some national headliners, as well as “sub-headliners” as well as a variety of independent artists.

“Wampus Cat Music Fest will become the signature event of the region. Sanford will benefit economically most directly. It fits directly in line with our company vision and internal growth plans,” Popka continued.

“John and Tina Gross approached Indie on Air about the viability of this project and the development of their vision. Indie on Air is bringing that vision to life,” said Jeff Popka, CEO of Indie on Air Records. “We believe Wampus Cat Music Fest has the ability to

There will be camping on 190 acres, food vendors and more. More details will be announced in the coming weeks and months.

“Wampus Cat is Carolina Indie Fest on steroids. CIF’s success proves that the region itself is poised to grow as a music and the arts destination. Thereby, enhancing the ‘quality of life’ within the community.”


34 | October 2021

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TOWN OF BROADWAY

CAPSULE, QUILT FEATURE TOWN’S HISTORY By Richard Sullins The town of Broadway on Oct. 16 will unearth a time capsule that was buried 51 years ago, and Commissioner Teresa Dew Kelly informed the town council at its meeting on Sept. 27 that a second historic artifact is being made available for the public to view soon. A quilt prepared by the Retirement Living Class of Broadway Methodist Church in honor of Leon and Evelyn Gaster’s 10 years of service to the Broadway Golden Age Club was presented to the couple in February 1982. It

depicts scenes from the town’s history in years gone by, including the Broadway Drug Store, Archie Campbell’s store, the Broadway Post Office, and most notably, the Broadway Junk Band members. Gaster served as President of the Broadway Golden Age Club from 1972 to 1982.

The quilt has been sealed in a container for several years and someone recently called Kelly to inquire whether the town had any means of displaying the quilt so that people could see the history that it depicts. Padded textiles have been used for hundreds

of years around the world as bed coverings, but it was the English and Dutch settlers who came to America in the late 1600s that popularized the creation of quilts and caused them to flourish through events known as “quilting bees.” Many of these contained the histories of their communities and are known today as “mistress-pieces”.

Mayor Don Andrews suggested that the building that formerly housed the Tiny Tots Daycare could be an option for the quilt’s display after repairs to the structure are completed. The building presently has moisture resistance issues and repairs will soon be made to its ceiling and floor. The council has held discussions in the past about renovating the building for purposes that would include the preservation of local history and heritage, but pressing needs of the moment have always taken precedence, resulting in the shelving of those plans. Andrews said that displaying the quilt

could become an integral part of next year’s Broadway Our Way Festival, scheduled for April 16, 2022. The town is already planning another historic event that will mark its 150th anniversary. In 1970, a time capsule was buried beneath the town’s water tank in celebration of its centennial celebration, with plans that it would be dug up and opened in 2020. The purpose was so that some of the children who were living at the time of its initial burial would have their interest in the town rekindled and inspire their own children to see that the town and its heritage were perpetuated. Newspaper accounts from the period indicate that the capsule contains a copy of a book published in 1970 as part of the centennial celebration and entitled “Broadway, North Carolina,” the Fall Edition of McCall’s Pattern Book, favorite recipes of the time collected from the wives of the nation’s governors, 1970 Census reports from Broadway and Lee

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rantnc.com County, a local newspaper, articles by five local ministers and several children from Broadway Elementary School, a report card from the school, and even a picture of a canceled check. A newspaper was also placed in the container, but accounts differ on what edition it was. Andrews told the council that “the capsule has definitely been located, we are confident that it’s what we are looking for, and we can’t wait until it’s unearthed to see the history that it has preserved for these past 50 years.” COMMISSIONER PASSES AWAY The Sept. 27 meeting began with a moment of silence in memory and honor of the contributions of Town Commissioner Janet Harrington, who passed away on September 24. Harrington had served two terms as a commissioner and previously was on the town’s planning board. She was instrumental in starting the Broadway Our Way Festival and was last present at the Council’s meeting on Aug. 23. Lee County Commission Chairman Kirk Smith, who attended the meeting, said that Harrington took him aside after his election as county commissioner and told him that he

needed to attend the Broadway Town Council’s meetings. “It wasn’t a problem for me,” he said. “I was already planning to be there. But she felt that it was important to have a county commissioner present to hear the town’s concerns. So do I, and partly because of her admonition, I am here tonight.” A memorial service for Harrington is planned for October 17 at Mt. Pisgah Presbyterian Church in Broadway. TOWN POLICE CHIEF RETIRING Town commissioners were also informed that Police Chief Todd Hinnant will retire at the end of the year. Hinnant has been Broadway’s police chief since 2006, and started his career with the department. He also served for a time with the Lee County Sheriff’s Office, and his career in law enforcement ran more than 30 years. “Over the past 15 years, Todd has been instrumental in modernizing the police department,” Andrews said in a statement. “Chief Hinnant has become an asset for the Broadway Community and he will be missed.”

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36 | October 2021

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20TH ANNIVERSARY OF 9/11

A FIREFIGHTER AND FRIEND REMEMBERED

Sanford man looks back 20 years later on friend who died saving others on September 11 By Billy Liggett

up at Will’s house to shoot hoops on a regular basis.

Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared on rantnc.com on Sept. 11, 2021, to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the attacks.

Will would leave for the Army after high school, and the two friends drifted apart, as many do. Will was in Florida on Sept. 11, 2001, listening to Howard Stern on the radio when he first learned of the attacks on the World Trade Center in his home state that morning. Like Stern correctly suggested early on in that broadcast, Will felt like his country was being attacked.

Will Sikinger met Andrew Jordan in the third grade in New York. Andrew’s mother was the den leader for their Cub Scouts group, and he would one day take over Will’s paper route when the two were freshmen at West Islip High School, and the two would meet

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rantnc.com It would be another month before Will learned about his high school friend. Andrew Jordan joined Ladder Company 132 in Brooklyn after high school and helped fight some of the most intense blazes the company had ever seen. On Sept. 11, 2001, he was dispatched to the World Trade Center to fight the massive fire and save trapped civilians. His body was never recovered, but his fire engine was found under the wreckage of the north bridge on West Street. He left behind three young children and a wife, who was carrying their fourth child. “I always think of Andrew when I think of 9-11,” says Will Sikinger, now a Sanford resident. “His body was never found, and I think about how hard that must be for his family, even to this day. He just disappeared two hours after saying good bye to his family. He never met his youngest son.” From New York Newsday, 2001: His wife, Lisa Jordan, said her husband was a dedicated family man. He had taken their son Andrew Jr., 9, to Mets and Yankees games and had built a small baseball park in their backyard to encourage his son’s love of the game. Jordan

often wrestled with their son Matthew, 6. He and his daughter, Kelsey, shared a love for Tootsie Rolls, his wife said. “Kelsey remembers that her daddy always brought her Tootsie Rolls,” she said. The couple’s youngest son, Sean, was born on Sept. 26. Will’s own son was 18 months old on Sept. 11, 2001. “I remember that evening looking at him and thinking about how his world would be so different from mine,” he said. When Will learned of Andrew’s death, it hit him hard. “He was from this amazing large Irish family, and I knew it just devastated them,” he said. “I found out that his wife was very pregnant with their fourth child and that son never met his father. I realized the pain I felt for my own kid growing up in a world gone mad was not quite as bad as it was for so many families.” Will says he’ll never forget his friend, and he thinks about him every Sept. 11. “He will always be the good guy shooting hoops in my driveway when we were young and life seemed easier.”

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38 | October 2021 PATRIOTIC EMPLOYER

@therant905 BRIEFS CCH CHILDBIRTH CLASSES Central Carolina Hospital announced in late September the continuation of childbirth education classes, which had been paused due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Powered online through Birthly, patients are now able to access a larger variety of classes through a virtual platform. Expectant parents can register to sign up for the classes that provide the opportunity to connect through a live video feed with certified and experienced childbirth educators. The educator provides live and interactive teaching with dedicated time for the patient to ask questions.

Raleigh Exec Jetport Director Bob Heuts was honored Sept. 24 as a “Patriotic Employer” by the Office of the United States Secretary of Defense. The citation honors Heuts for “contributing to national security and protecting liberty and freedom by supporting employee participation in America’s National Guard and Reserve Force.” Heuts was nominated by Raleigh Exec Line Service Technician Doug Maina.

“This is a wonderful, new way to bring back childbirth classes for our patients,” said Neila Hernandez, MSN, FNP, WHNP-BC, Director of OB Services at CCH. “We are so excited our patients have expanded access to new topics, all from the safety and comfort of their own home.” To register for childbirth education classes, please visit www.mybirthly.com/centralcarolinahosp. For any questions about Central Carolina Hospital’s Childbirth Education program, please contact info@mybirthly.com.

DOGWOOD BANK CELEBRATES NEW SANFORD LOCATION Dogwood State Bank officially celebrated the opening of its sixth North Carolina branch in Sanford in September with a ribbon-cutting ceremony, attended by several business leaders and members of the community. Dogwood is a state-chartered community bank headquartered in Raleigh. The Sanford branch is a result of a $28 million capital allocation intended to accelerate the building of new offices throughout North Carolina. “We are excited to be expanding our footprint to serve the Sanford community,” said Stewart Forbes, market executive of the Sanford branch. “Dogwood is a great option for customers looking for the advanced products and resources that you would expect from a national bank, with the additional personal attention that only a local bank can provide.” Other North Carolina locations for Dogwood include Raleigh, Wilmington, Charlotte, Morehead City and Greenville.

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Profile for The Rant

The Rant Monthly | October 2021  

The October 2021 edition of The Rant Monthly, a publication of LPH Media LLC in Sanford, North Carolina.

The Rant Monthly | October 2021  

The October 2021 edition of The Rant Monthly, a publication of LPH Media LLC in Sanford, North Carolina.

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