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TO E E FR

E M O DH O O AG

The Rant y l h t Mon JUNE 2019

SANFORD, NORTH CAROLINA

4 y a l P o t e c a l AP UNTY O C E E L R O EAN F M D L U O C X COMPLE S T R O P S W WHAT A NE


2 | June 2019

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Opening soon in our new location next to Fairview Dairy Bar

513 Wicker St. | www.vinelandandhickory.com | (919) 935-1047 Vineland & Hickory


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The Rant y l h t on M June 2019 | Sanford, North Carolina A product of LPH Media, LLC Vol. 1 | Issue 3

Editorial Gordon Anderson | gordon@rantnc.com Billy Liggett | billy@rantnc.com Jonathan Owens | jonathan@rantnc.com Advertising Brandon Allred | brandon@rantnc.com 919.605.1479 Contributors Eddie Albert, Tom Lester, Pat Buttram, Arnold Ziffel Eva Gabor, Frank Cady, Alvy Moore, Mary Grace Canfield, Hank Patterson, Barbara Pepper and Sid Melton

Website: www.rantnc.com Social Media: Facebook: facebook.com/therant905 Twitter: @therant905 Instagram: Perhaps, but not likely any time soon

ABOUT THE COVER Photographer Brooke Wolfe Rouse spent an afternoon at the Deep River Northview Optimist Ballpark last month capturing images of a few tee ball and machine-pitch games for our June cover story. DRNV has one of the nicer ballparks in the county, but isn't built for the massive tournaments that many neighboring cities and counties can host (an issue our main feature takes a deep dive into this month). Our cover boys are Brayden and Connor Perry. STORY: PAGE 12

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 prosecution. Printed by SunBelt Press in Dunn, North Carolina. Copyright 2019, LPH Media LLC, all rights reserved.

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4 | June 2019

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Welcome Lisa Hall, PA-C Board-certified Internal Medicine Physician Assistant Central Carolina Internal Medicine Associates 1139 Carthage St. Sanford, NC 27330

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6 | June 2019

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Downtown Alive! a glimpse of our downtown's potential

W

alk, Don't Run is one of my favorite songs ever. This instrumental was written in the 50s as kind of a lazy, soft jazz tune, and while the absolute best version of the song (don't argue with me) appeared on the 1965 Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass album Going Places, it was probably made most famous in 1960 by the Ventures — who sped it up and applied their patented surf rock sound, creating what Rolling Stone eventually called one of the greatest guitar songs ever written. So as I stood on Steele Street one Thursday last month and watched a band called Rolling Dynamite belt out their take on one of my all time jams, I was pretty dang stoked. A surf rock band, playing “Walk, Don't Run,” in Sanford! The performance came during the inaugural edition of Downtown Sanford's “Downtown Alive!” summer concert series, the successor to the old Function at the

“Function at the Junction shows were fine, but moving these concerts to downtown's main drag has ... drastically improved their every aspect.” Junction shows which had been held on Thursday nights at Depot Park during the summer months. The Function at the Junction shows were fine, but moving these concerts to downtown's main drag has, if you ask me (and I realize nobody did, but I'm the columnist, so I'm telling you anyway), drastically improved their every aspect. I, for one, loved walking around Steele Street as it was closed off (like a smaller version of April's Downtown Streetfest & Fireworks), bumping into friends and acquaintances, considering whether I was going to get dinner from one of the visiting food trucks or one of downtown's brick and mortar restaurants, and wheth-

er I was going to grab a locally-brewed beer or something from Local Joe's or the Smoke & Barrel. It was what downtowns are supposed to be, and what Sanford obviously knew it could be when it decided to undertake the work of the streetscape project that gave ours a whole new look a few years ago. It's the kind of event that should draw people not only from Sanford, but also from other nearby communities to check out downtown, enjoy some music, and hopefully leave a few bucks with the merchants who work downtown every day. The crowd at that first concert could have been bigger (although if you'd picked up that crowd and put it at Depot Park, it

How can i grow my business?

would have looked a lot like one of those old Function at the Junction concerts), and I expect that it will be just that when the third Thursday of June rolls around. Admittedly, the headliner for the next event — “Appalachian funk rockers Dr. Bacon” — sounds a little less like my personal cup of tea than surf rock, it doesn't matter. If I want more stuff like this in my town, I'm going to support it when it happens. And hey, I might be surprised. Anyway, that next concert is set for Thursday, June 20 (details elsewhere in this publication). Walk, or run, but go. o Gordon Anderson had 15 number-one hits in the 1970s, but magnanimously relinquished all publishing rights and royalties to already wealthy record executives out of a sense of fairness. He was inducted into the North Carolina Beetle Collecting Hall of Fame in 1985.

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8 | June 2019

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DOWNTOWN SANFORD

DSI director to step down Downtown Sanford Inc. Executive Director Jennifer St. Clair will step down from her post on June 6, the organization announced in late May.

LOCAL MATTERS

“Leaving this role is not easy,” St. Clair said in a statement issued May 20. “It wasn’t long, days maybe, after my family moved here in 2007 and I began working at the Chamber of Commerce that I learned of Downtown Sanford, Inc. From that very first mention, this became my dream. And then it became my reality in 2015.”

CITY OF SANFORD

Council forming opioid committee The Sanford City Council is accepting applications from city residents to serve on a council-appointed committee that will seek ways to combat the opioid epidemic. City Councilman Chas Post told The Rant that the city's new Opioid Abuse Ccommission will be made up of members from the law enforcement, education and treatment fields, as well as members of the general public. The commission will be directed to identify volunteers for a task force — similar to the city's successful S3 Housing Connect program, which addresses homelessness in the area — as well as to locate and apply for grants to combat the opioid epidemic. A lawsuit that the Lee County government recently filed against several opioid manufacturers and distributors indicates that levels of the drugs' usage locally are abnormally high. The suit states that opiate-related deaths more than doubled between 2008 and 2016 when compared to the previous nine-year period, and that in 2016 there were approximately 129.6 opioid prescriptions per 100 people in the area, more than twice the national average. While Post was involved with the establishment of an opioid task force at the county level in 2017 and 2018, he said this effort was meant to give the city more of a direct hand in combating the problem in various ways. “We need people to identify and apply for grants, we need people who are willing to lobby the legislature for different laws, and we need people who are going to work to help bring treatment options here,” he said. “Lack of affordable treatment options is one of the biggest problems facing our community as it relates to the opioid epidemic.”

LEE COUNTY SCHOOLS

DSI noted several of St. Clair's achievements, including the launch of events and promotions such as the Downtown Sanford StreetFest, the Downtown Alive! summer concert series, the expansion of the Depot Park Tree & Train Lighting and Function at the Junction concerts, achieving National Main Street America accreditation for four consecutive years, and winning North Carolina Main Street awards for the Buggy Company, the Streetscape Project, and the Mural Trail.

Two Lee Senior High School seniors were suspended and denied the right to walk at the school’s upcoming graduation ceremony after a “senior prank” gone wrong.

“We are extremely grateful to Jennifer for her leadership over the past four years which has helped transform Downtown Sanford into the thriving and vibrant core of our community,” said DSI Board Chairperson Sharon Spence. “As we move forward with our search process, we are committed to finding a new executive director who shares the same vision, innovation, and passion Jennifer brought to Downtown so that we can to continue to build on our successes.”

Fast-food chicken fans rejoice, because Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen will build a new location in the parking lot of the old KMart building, Nick Brown, co-owner of D&N Development in Raleigh, told The Sanford Herald in May. Ollie's Bargain Outlet and Planet Fitness have also announced their intentions to occupy the former department store, which closed its doors in January 2018. Photo courtesy of Popeyes

LCHS seniors barred from graduation after rat prank

According to multiple sources, the two seniors (the school has not released their names) let loose at least two pet rats and some crickets in a campus building through an open window after school hours. The rats caused some commotion the following day, but the real trouble came when a school custodian was bitten and injured while trying to retrieve one of the rats. In addition to their suspension and banishment from the commencement ceremony, the students will also reportedly be responsible for any medical bills as a result of the bite. Lee County Schools issued a statement

confirming the details of the prank, but otherwise declining to comment on any punishment: “In the early hours of Wednesday [May 22] morning, students entered a building on the Lee County High School campus and released two rats in an apparent prank, which resulted in a maintenance staff member being bitten. "As a general matter, our principals are authorized under Board policy and the Code of Conduct to employ a broad range of consequences for student behavior, which may include the loss of privileges or opportunities to participate in school events. "However, in compliance with state law and out of respect for the students and their families, we are unable to comment on any specific disciplinary decisions in this situation.”

The organization plans to conduct a search for a replacement “over the next few months.” St. Clair said in the statement that being trusted with the job for four years was “the highest honor for me.” “I have the utmost respect and appreciation for each staff member, board member, volunteer, Downtown business owner, property owner and visitor. Leaving them is not easy,” she said. “I’m so proud of the work we have done and the progress we have made. There is so much more work to do, though, and I hope I can be part of it in some way in the future.” (Full disclosure: St. Clair is married to Rant co-owner Billy Liggett. He was not involved in the writing of this article.)


rantnc.com

The Rant Monthly | 9


10 | June 2019

@therant905

Lunch shaming is real, and we must fight it

I

’m still embarrassed when I think about it. And it’s tough to put this on paper.

OPINIONS

Pave the way for the hemp highway

T

en years ago, when the staff you see producing this publication was all writing for Sanford's local newspaper, it would have been career suicide for us to adorn the Page 1A cover with a photo of a field of cannabis and declare it the future of North Carolina agriculture. Perhaps "suicide" is a strong word ... but it certainly would have been met with controversy. Maybe even a few cancellations. But here we are in 2019, and the feedback from our May edition on the state's "budding" industrial hemp industry has been overwhelmingly positive. With its thousands of uses and the rise in popularity of anything with the letters CBD in it, there really is potential in hemp — and our hard-working tobacco farmers who have been strugglig with tariffs and the decades-long decline in tobacco use are primed to turn this industry around. Our state lawmakers seem to be moving in the right direction on this issue, too (take a picture, this isn't something we say a lot lately). Thanks to the recently introduced Farm Act of 2019, the state is in a position to offer support for the many farmers — hundreds by the month — looking to get licensed so they can enter the hemp industry. More than most states, North Carolina is positioned to become a leader in this industry, as much of the equipment used to grow and harvest tobacco can be used to grow and harvest hemp. Most importantly, public perception of cannabis has shifted considerably in the last decade. It was public perception of cannabis (the illegal kind) in the 1950s and 60s that all but killed the hemp industry — something that will go down in history as a mistake considering the crop's environmental impact and multiple uses. We hope the state continues to enact laws that make it easier for farmer to grow and sell hemp. For many, it's going to save the family farm. It's a much-needed boost to our state's economy, and the future is only looking bright.

But I was in the seventh grade when my first girlfriend — let’s call her Amy — invited me to her brother’s birthday party. I didn’t get invited to too many parties. Thirty years later, I remember very little about the party itself. Or Amy, for that matter. But I remember the ride home. I remember the sudden surge of anxiety when her parents told me my parents couldn’t pick me up that day, and that they’d agreed to take me home instead. To my home. A mobile home, about 15 miles away in the rural-est of rural East Texas. Amy’s home was a modest split-level brick ranch home. They had a pool and a fenced-in backyard. A paved driveway. My house had none of this. I sweated the entire 15 miles, because I was embarrassed to have Amy see where I live. And I hate that today. My mom worked multiple jobs, was a single parent of three young children. Worked her tail off to provide us with that home — with clothes and food and bikes and video games. We never went without. Yet, I was still embarrassed. When we got there, I told Amy’s parents the house next door — my grandparents’ house — was mine. It was also brick. Had a gated fence. Wasn’t a blue mobile home. I got out of their van and walked toward that house and waved back at them as they drove away. When they were out of sight, I went home. I wish I could go back to that kid and tell him that neither Amy nor Amy’s mom cared

FDA's current system for testing THC levels is insufficient At this time, the FDA requires a simple THC and CBD test to verify satisfactory levels. This is quite insufficient, and they realize this, so they are working on creating safe standards. In the meantime, some products are for sale with only a THC/CBD test. This is not responsible testing. Responsible testing includes a full profile certificate of analysis, COA, which includes the mandatory THC/

“If there's anything our local district can do to make that one hour of important social time less awkward or embarrassing, let's do it.” at all about my house. That it was perhaps my sense of humor that got her to notice me in the first place and my personality that kept her interested.

And these thoughts of not feeling as adequate as their peers or this embarrassment, these thoughts can weigh on a young mind in ways that most of us have forgotten.

Not that I would have listened. Those things matter to most of us at that age — we focus more on what we lack than what we’re fortunate to have. Adolescence is hard enough. It’s worse when you feel like everybody else is a step above you and, even worse, looking down on you.

But I haven’t forgotten. I hate that I was embarrassed with Amy and her mom, but I’m done beating myself up about it. Instead, if there’s anything I can do to make others feel comfortable in their skin — comfortable with whatever hand God has dealt them and their families — I want to do it. That begins by telling our local commissioners and school board members that lunch shaming is real, and if there’s anything our local school district can do to make that one hour of important social time less awkward or less stressful, let’s do it. No special lunches. No special tickets. No stigma.

I share this story because of the “lunch shaming” debate that’s been in the headlines over the past few months. Around the country, students — from elementary to high school — are sharing stories of being denied lunches at school because of unpaid debts. Some are instead given cold sandwiches — the districts may as well write “poor” in big red letters on their foreheads. Our own county commissioner Kirk Smith made the news a few years back when he opined that children who couldn’t afford school lunches be given peanut butter and jelly sandwiches instead. When the public outcry for his statements reached its crescendo, Smith doubled down and suggested the students were lucky to get even that — tone deaf to the bigger picture. Tone deaf to the idea that what we think is logical now is a foreign concept in the mind of a child, or a teen.

CBD, plus terpenes, and potentially harmful substances — pesticides, residuals, heavy metals, mycotoxins, mold and pathogens. It is not wise to buy any hemp product without full profile COA. Hemp is an accumulator, and because many tobacco farms are on old farm land that has been contaminated with fuels and chemicals, full profile testing is imperative. If a product’s producer refuses to provide full profile COA, skip it. There are safe products out there.

And let’s keep telling our kids about our own experiences. And let’s show them that we made it, and their “status” in middle school and high school doesn’t define the person they are or are going to be. Appreciate who you are and what you have. Maybe this is advice for all of us. o Billy Liggett is co-founder of The Rant. To learn more about lunch shaming and what our local governments can do to curb it, look up Zachary B. Wolf’s CNN article on the subject from May 12.

I review these products and drive standards. My recommendations have been sent to the state attorney. CBD-Girl-Next-Door.com has a Welcome List with safe hemp products. It also has reviews of products found in stores here in Sanford. Stephanie Sellers Have an opinion on hemp, the Prince Down Town or this month's cover story on whether or not Sanford needs a new youth sports complex? Send us your thoughts at billy@rantnc.com or comment online to be included in our next issue.


The Rant Monthly | 11

rantnc.com RESPONSE | THE RAT PRANK Editor's Note: In May, two Lee County High School seniorss were suspended and barred to walk in their commencement ceremony after their "senior prank" — letting two rats loose in the school — led to some commotion and a custodian suffering a bit to his hand while trying to gather the rodents. The district's actions led to an online petition, signed by more than 2,500 people, asking the district to let the boys walk the state in June. It also led to a lot of online chatter on our website. The following are some of your opinions:

____________

If it were my child, I wouldn’t allow him/ her to walk, regardless of the situation with the school’s consequence. I’m frankly glad that they’re being held accountable and that the school/county is holding firm with the consequence. The timing is what it is — 10 days is 10 days — and their academic credentials will be what they are, whether or not they physically walk across a stage for what amounts to ceremony. It’s about accountability and the ramifications following an action, and one day perhaps the kiddos will have learned a lesson from this. Jennifer Stuart McFadden

____________ They broke in to the building, right? Someone got hurt. I think their punishment is totally fair considering their act was worthy of criminal charges. Maybe they’ll think twice before doing something like this, and maybe other kids will use this incident as a cautionary tale.

is a bit extreme. I'm not really sure how they pick and choose the punishments, but they seem a bit extreme. I get it the guy got bit. I bet it hurt, and I agree the kids should pay for the medical bills. But not walking? Silly and not a justifiable punishment for a small offense, in my opinion. Kelley Carbery Dubois

____________ I'm kinda thinking there should be some accountability, but not walking at graduation is a bit extreme. It's not just the students who are being punished its the parents also. More serious offensives have been done, and they walked. On the other hand, there are consequences for thier actions, and unfortunately this is one they will remember for life. Fay Jewell Ewing

____________ A 10-day suspension means no student activities for 10 days, right? The students should have thought that through befgore they pulled that prank. It just so happens that graduation is within that 10-day period. Sorry kids, but there are consequences for your actions. Sabrina Perry Fry

____________ Perhaps some community service helping the custodian would be better than not walking. Tiare Paxson Williams

Danielle Kathleen

YOUR RANT

____________ This is a bit much. I like the idea of them helping the custodian and doing some community service. They are taking away something they can never get back. And the parents who spent 13 years getting them to this point won’t see their kids walk. Calm it down, LCHS. Trying to make an example out of them won’t do anything. If a teenager wants to do something, they’re probably going to do it. Heather Taylor

____________ I saw the video of the rats running down the hall (my daughter is a junior ) and it was pretty comical. I feel the “banishment” of not walking

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If we’re anything, we’re pretty good listeners. Each month, we’ll reserve this space in our little publication for your opinions on anything and everything. All we ask is that you keep it clean, don’t get personal with your fellow citizens and keep it short. Also, no fake names (include your a phone number with each letter so we can confirm it’s really you and not your ex-husband). The Rant reserves the right to edit whatever you send for grammar and length — we will NOT, however, add our own subliminal messages to your finely crafted words. Email us (addresses on Page 3) or send a message to our Facebook page. We’ll do our best to get you in the next Rant Monthly.

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12 | June 2019

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The Rant Monthly | 13

rantnc.com

COVER STORY

A PLACE TO PLAY

Local voters may get to decide if a multi-million dollar sports complex is worth it in 2020 Story by Gordon Anderson and Jonathan Owens | Photography by Brooke Wolfe Rouse

O

n a recent Saturday, Mike Santucci and his family packed up their SUV and headed to Wake Forest to watch his son Michael’s Carolina Stars youth baseball team could play in a travel baseball tournament.

For the next two days, between watching Michael, 13, play ball, the family filled their car with gas, paid for a hotel room, and spent money on meals at restaurants. This has been a ritual for the Santucci family for the last four years. And they're just one of dozens of families in Lee County — and hundreds more across the state — who make these trips as many as 20 times each year. With them goes thousands of dollars that likely won’t ever find their way back to Lee County. Instead, their money goes to hotels and restaurants and sporting goods stores and gas stations in Raleigh or Fayetteville or Rocky Mount. And all of the sales tax they pay goes into the coffers of Wake or Nash or Cumberland counties, giving leaders there a revenue stream Lee County just doesn't have. “We go to eat as a team, easily 25 to 30 people,” the elder Santucci explained. “And we always see a couple of other teams in the restaurant as well. In a small town like Sanford, that would be a whole night’s revenue for a restaurant.” As the popularity of travel youth sports — particularly baseball, softball and soccer — has increased, cities and counties across North Carolina and elsewhere have

capitalized, building sports complexes to host these tournaments. In turn, they've acted as economic catalysts in a variety of ways. Youth sports tourism, as it is known, is now a $9 billion industry according to HBO’s “Real Sports,” which profiled Rocky Mount and its complex in 2017. Families are no longer taking vacations to the beach or to an amusement park — instead they're spending their off-time on what an industry buzz now describes as “tourna-cations.” Meanwhile, regardless of the sport, Lee County simply has not been able to get in on the action. While baseball isn't completely under-served from a facilities standpoint, the community does lack a centralized location suitable for hosting multiple games at once, and when it comes to soccer — arguably one of the fastest-growing youth sports around — there isn't a single regulation field in the county. But Lee County may be ready to come off the bench and get into the youth sports tourism game itself. With each passing day, it appears more and more likely that the Lee County Board of Commissioners will place an estimated $25 million bond initiative on the 2020 ballot asking voters to decide whether to fund a multifield sports complex here in Sanford. It's a big question with big implications for the county's future, but for many it's an idea for which the time seems just right.


14 | June 2019

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ooo

current form. Initially, the proposal was to put the fields at O.T. Sloan Park on Bragg Street, which proved unworkable for a number of reasons.

When Chet Mann ran for mayor of Sanford in 2013, he did so on a multi-point plan to make the city “open for business.” Six years later, many of the bullet points Mann said he hoped would help revitalize the local economy, and, more specifically, create an environment that he labeled “Destination Sanford” — completing the downtown streetscape project, leveraging our abundance of water and sewer capacity as an asset for growth, creating a tourism authority, pushing a series of public art installations as an attraction, and restructuring the working relationship between the business community and local government's economic development efforts into a public-private partnership known as the Sanford Area Growth Alliance (SAGA) — have been achieved. But one notable goal remains to be realized: “Create a 21st century multi-purpose sports complex,” is one of the few bullet points left in Mann's 2013 campaign agenda that hasn't been crossed off.. “Develop multiple soccer, baseball, softball fields and volleyball courts,” the document continues. “This initiative will lead to further

A recent feasibility study found that 98 percent of Lee County residents with children playing youth sports strongly or somewhat agreed that recreation played a large role in economic development.

economic development by bringing hundreds of visitors to Sanford to stay overnight in our hotels, (eating in our) restaurants and (visiting our) convention center.”

towns we'd go to, and sometimes we'd be playing in games against people from our own town. We were eating meals in those places, getting gas.”

“We've seen these facilities all over the state, just from our experience with our own kids in youth sports,” Mann said. “We've spent hundreds of dollars staying in hotels in other

The path from that early vision of a youth sports complex as a draw for local tourism has been winding and long — an idea that's gone through a few iterations before arriving at its

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But in 2015, after identifying a plot of land at the intersection of Broadway Road and the U.S. 421 Bypass whose owner is willing to work with local leaders, Mann approached county government and floated splitting the cost of a feasibility study. And what that study showed was striking: 98 percent of people with children playing youth sports strongly or somewhat agreed that recreation played a large role in economic development (as well as 93 percent of the general public), but that residents had a low opinion of the community's existing playing facilities. The study also estimated an annual $2 million in recurring economic activity if such a complex was built. The study also resulted in a conceptual rendering which showed as many as eight rectangular fields for soccer, football or even lacrosse, and up to five baseball diamonds. While it's only conceptual at this time and could take varying forms following the passage of the proposed bond, it's easy to imagine the area in question — currently a wooded lot between the 421 bypass and the Core Mark


The Rant Monthly | 15

rantnc.com facility on Broadway Road — and see the immediate potential not just for recreation but for further commercial development in the surrounding area. “The road is being widened there, so there is some synergy to set it up for economic development as well as for recreation,” said Mann. “There's even the possibility of putting a road behind that property that would lead to the area around (Lowes Home Improvement), which would obviously lead to a lot of possibilities.” Some communities designate one field in their sports complexes for a true stadium that can house a collegiate summer league team, or even a minor league or semi-professional team, which is a distinct possibility if voters approve the 2020 bond (more on that soon). And with existing pro teams in Holly Springs, Fayetteville, Durham, and even Buies Creek for a brief time, the demand for higher-level sports entertainment in the region is more than evident. ooo Tim Blodgett moved to Sanford in 2011 and pretty quickly thereafter became involved in youth soccer. Having served in the U.S. Marine Corps and earning a master's degree in parks and recreation, he says he only really knows two things — “the Marine Corps and youth sports.” “I realized there was a huge under-served population in this community,” he said. “We have thousands of kids, and we don't provide a lot for them to do. And then we complain

Parks in the Carolinas9 CARY

Cary boasts at least four large sports venues that can accommodate both baseball and soccer, and hosts thousands of athletes each week.

Burlington

Rocky Mount

Durham

Chapel Hill

Tarboro

Raleigh Apex

Wilson

Cary Holly Springs Goldsboro

SANFORD Carthage

ROCKY MOUNT

The city is counting on youth sports tourism to help ease a major economic downturn in recent decades and has made a huge investment. The Rocky Mount Baseball Complex includes a total of 11 baseball/softball fields and eight soccer fields. It hosts the state’s biggest travel tournaments for all age levels.

Fayetteville

CARTHAGE

Located just down US 15-501 in Carthage, Hillcrest Park offers four baseball/softball/soccer fields. Moore County is planning an expansion of the park to include indoor basketball courts and a splash pad.

WILSON

The J. Burt Gillette Soccer Complex opened in 2005 and features eight regulation size artificial turf soccer fields. It added a baseball complex in 2009 with three premier baseball/softball fields along with a championship stadium.

HOLLY SPRINGS

Ting Park hosted more than 275,000 visitors in its first year in 2016 with 16 soccer fields, 12 tennis courts and a baseball stadium that is home to the Holly Springs Salamanders of the Coastal Plain League.


16 | June 2019

@therant905

when they're in the streets. It's frustrating.”

Libraries, schools also looking to 2020 bond election

Blodgett has been able to channel that frustration, though, into action. Today, in addition to being president of Lee County's nascent semi-pro San Lee Football Club, he's also the director of coaching for the Sanford Area Soccer League, which serves about 750 kids in Lee County — all of whom have to play at the Lions Club Fairgrounds.

In addition to a bond referendum for a multi-million dollar million sports complex, voters in 2020 could also to face a second — but no less important — question about the future of Lee County's public library, Central Carolina Community College's student library, and the campus of Lee Early College.

“The whole point of the San Lee FC was getting kids to understand that there's something to strive for and build to and reach toward,” he said, explaining that he pretty immediately saw success with that initiative when nearly 800 people attended San Lee's first game held at Southern Lee High School's football field. “That alone shows you how much love there is for the game in this community.”

The Lee County Board of Commissioners is considering a bond referendum which would fund the construction of two new buildings on Sanford's Central Carolina Community College campus. One would be home to libraries for the both the public and the CCCC student body, and another would be a classroom building — connected to the libraries — for students at Lee Early College.

But San Lee had to relocate the following year to East Lee Middle School's much smaller fields, and Blodgett now has his team playing on an astroturf field in the Jonesboro area that authorities have indicated to him needs significant upgrades if it's going to remain open. In both cases — those of San Lee FC, and of SASL — the lack of regulation soccer fields presents a huge challenge. SASL is at a disadvantage in hosting tournaments against other travel teams, and San Lee is in a sort of limbo without permanent facilities which can draw paying fans ($5 game tickets are one of the team's only revenue sources, and without a professional stadium — something that could potentially be a part of the proposed complex — fans become more difficult to attract). “It can be discouraging to the kids,” said Blodgett. “And think about that from the perspective of a semi-professional player. It's a huge thing.” Blodgett is a member of a roughly 30-member steering Mayor Mann established to guide the process of getting a sports complex on the ballot and then persuading voters to support it. He said from his perspective, the support is absolutely there for such a project. “From my involvement with youth athletics, one of the biggest complaints we get is the field conditions,” he said. “And that limits how much growth we can get. I'm optimistic about it, and I would think all those youth sports parents are supportive too.” Blodgett appears to be correct in his assessment. While a small number of citizens have questioned the project (when The Rant posted

The cost of the bond, like the sports complex bond, is currently estimated at around $25 million, although that could change as finances are worked out, according to County Manager John Crumpton. The final decision on whether to place both bonds on the ballot for 2020 will likely be made in January.

A recent feasability study for a new sports complex produced the above conceptual illustration of what a complex — located on Broadway Road near the U.S. 421 Bypass — could look like. 1) Eight rectangular fields for soccer (six grass, two artificial turf) 2) Diamond fields complex for baseball 3) Hotel 4) Commercial Building 5) Destination playground 6) Roadside pavilion with horseshoe pits, disc golf and sand volleyball 7) Pavilion 8) Concession and restroom 9) Sand volleyball 10) Retention pond 11) Maintenance building 12) Walking trails 13) Nature trails 14) Pedestrian bridge

a much shorter story on this subject online in February, there were a handful of “the youth of our community deserve this type of investment” comments for every “it won't benefit me”), any type of organized opposition has been difficult to come by. “I haven't heard any negativity. Any folks who are negative about this aren't coming to me, or to our meetings,” Mann concurred. “Our job on this committee will be to really educate the citizenry about all of the great aspects of this so they can fully understand the benefits it will bring.”

ooo A mural in downtown Sanford pays tribute to the town’s rich tradition of baseball, and it’s not just a pretty sign on a wall or a nod to a bygone era. Like many small towns in North Carolina, baseball has been king here for decades. The area’s two high schools — Lee County and Southern Lee — perennially field playoff-contending teams, with the former owning two state championships. Finding players or teams in Sanford is not hard. And being situated almost directly in the center of the state, Sanford’s an easy drive from the Triad, Triangle, Fayetteville and even

The library bond is unique because it addresses three separate needs at once. Lee Early College opened in the late 2000s and has been the county's highest-performing high school for a number of years, despite being housed in trailer pods toward the back of CCCC's Sanford campus. As for the county's public library, currently located on Hawkins Avenue in downtown Sanford, Crumpton said the building was constructed in the 1970s “at a time when architecture was more about architecture and less about functionality.” “It's probably the least efficient building we have in terms of square footage,” Crumpton said. “It's outdated, and even if the bond doesn't pass, we're going to have to go in there and do something anyway.” Finally, the student library at CCCC's Sanford campus is undersized, particularly thanks to growth on campus. “The county and the college are both in positions where we need new library facilities,” Crumpton said.


The Rant Monthly | 17

rantnc.com Charlotte. It seems like the perfect place for a tournament. The problem is that there just aren’t many fields to play on, especially large regulation fields big enough for the older kids. The fields that exist locally are sprinkled throughout the county under a variety of ownership situations (some public, some private), rather than being grouped together in a central location the way many travel ball tournament directors and parents prefer. While Tramway Road Park — the county's most recent baseball construction, nestled between Southern Lee High School and San Lee Middle School — boasts four pristine fields, walkways, a two-story concession stand, and a playground, the configuration of the fields there has yet to attract a large number of tournaments or other events. Two of the softball fields there can be used by smaller kids such as those in the Lee County Parks and Recreation summer leagues.

The middle school field is smaller than fullsize, though, and not suitable for kids older than 13. And priority at the high school field mainly goes to Southern Lee athletes. Brad Watson is in charge of youth baseball scheduling in the Triangle area for USSSA, one of the major travel ball sanctioning bodies in the area along with Top Gun Sports, NC Game On and others. He said he schedules tournaments in Sanford when possible because the location is so great. “I love Tramway Road Park’s design and how well it’s kept up,” said Watson. “But the problem is there are only three fields there that are usable, and there are eight or ten complexes within an hour of there that are much larger.” A new complex like the one Lee County is considering would be a game changer, Watson said. “Sanford is a perfect location,” he said. “It’s a great area for us to draw 40 or so teams on a weekend.”

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18 | June 2019

@therant905 “There's this misconception that these fields are just for travel ball. Sure, they want to be able to host tournaments, but they need practice fields and fields to play their regular seasons on,” he said. “And a facility like this doesn't pay for itself. The county pays the debt service, and you try to break even on the operations. So it's more of a service for the teams that play on it throughout the year, and then at tournament time it's a boon to the retail sector.”

ooo For all of the potential benefits of this project, “how are we going to pay for it” is a valid question. But it's one that city and county leaders are eager to address by pointing to rapid expansion in the local tax base in recent years. Both entities have announced budgets for the upcoming fiscal year which cut their respective property tax rates by 2 cents. “The bond referendum will ask citizens to decide whether they want to use this growth in our tax base to reinvest in the community, or do something else,” said County Manager John Crumpton, who is guiding the county Board of Commissioners through the process of investigating all of the financial ramifications and then placing the question on the ballot (see this story's sidebar for information about a second bond question voters will likely be asked in 2020). “The financial plan will be presented to the commissioners in the fall, and then in January, the process of putting the question on the ballot will begin.” Although the commissioners will be putting the question before voters, the county

Still, everyone involved is confident that not only will voters in Lee County see the benefit of getting behind a large-scale sports complex, but also that doing so will help make Sanford a destination for others.

The 2020 bond referendum will ask voters if they want to use the county's growth in its tax base to "reinvest in the community," according to County Manager John Crumpton.

as an entity can't get involved in persuasion efforts one way or the other. That's where the steering committee established by Mann will come into play. “The fall will be a big time,” Crumpton said.

“These groups will really have to get out there in the public and generate support for it.” Crumpton also said it would be a mistake to think of the complex proposal only as a vehicle for revenue-generating tournaments.

“Right now our hotels in town are full from Monday through Thursday because of people here on business, and they're empty on the weekends,” Mann said. “If we can create a situation where our hotels are full on weekends, that's more occupancy tax revenue — tax that people who live here aren't paying — and that means more festivals and attractions and investments in things like our downtown. That's how you draw people in.”


The Rant Monthly | 19

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20 | June 2019

THE BIRDMAN

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@therant905

Dunrovin Country Store on U.S. 1 in Vass has undergone many changes in the last seven years, none bigger than the large tropical bird aviary and rescue center built by Patrick Milcendeau By Billy Liggett VASS — It was shortly after Patrick Milcendeau built the side porch at Dunrovin Country Store — a place where kids and grown ups alike could take the milkshake or candy they just bought inside and enjoy it outdoors — when he realized just how close everything was to a very busy (and very fast) U.S. 1 highway. It was too close. With that in mind, Milcendeau decided his store needed something in the back — away from the passing cars — where kids could run around and be entertained. Perhaps even learn a thing or two in the process.

Dunrovin Country Store on U.S. 1 in Vass has been around since the 1950s, but has undergone major renovations and added a tropical bird aviary in the last seven years under the ownership of Patrick and Jo Milcendeau.

That’s how the idea of his tropical bird sanctuary was born. Two years later, Dunrovin’s aviary is an oasis of lush tropical plants, statues and giant cages housing more than 80 rescued

birds — parrots, macaws, toucans, cockatoos and more. Guests can spend up to an hour getting up close to the birds and interacting with them while steel drum music permeates from hidden speakers throughout. The aviary is free, there to attract guests, but also as a labor of love for Milcendeau, a tropical bird enthusiast who once raised blue and gold macaws. “It’s an attraction for the kids, first and foremost,” he says. “But we’ve discovered in the last two years that it’s not just for kids. We probably get more adults back here than kids nowadays.” The aviary has made Dunrovin — located roughly 20 minutes south of Sanford — more of a destination than a curiosity. The store’s been around for nearly 70 years, but it was struggling and in need of new life when Patrick


The Rant Monthly | 21

rantnc.com and his wife Jo bought it and took over the dayto-day operations in 2012. Married just a year earlier, Patrick had spent 45 years in the restaurant business in the Northeast and eventually as owner of Country Kitchen House of Pancakes in Carthage. Jo was a retired elementary school teacher.

doing these birds a tremendous favor. They’re interacting with them and entertaining them. I love seeing that.” The aviary is becoming a popular draw, Milcendeau says. Most of his visitors over the past two years came for the store and then discovered the birds — more and more, people are coming for the birds and then checking out the store. But whether 200 people or 20 people visit him on a given day, Milcendeau says he’s living the dream.

Their decision to buy Dunrovin goes all the way back to Patrick’s childhood, he says. “When I was a kid in Massachusetts, my brother and I were about 12 and 14, and every Sunday, our parents would take us to this little country store in the western part of the state,” he says. “It was very tiny, and I remember it had the old-fashioned sausages and all of this candy. I loved that place — such good memories — and it’s always been in my head. I told my wife that someday, when I retired, I was going to have my own little country store. That was going to be my big achievement.” Inside, Dunrovin is home to just about every item you’d expect to find in a country store — think the entrance of a Cracker Barrel times a million. Their most popular items are their Amish foods, their 26 flavors of fudge and 24 flavors of ice cream, their novelty gifts and natural home remedies.

Dunrovin Country Store is home to more than 80 rescued tropical birds, from parrots to macaws, toucans (pictured above) to cockatoos. See many more photos of the aviary and country store at our website, rantnc.com.

But it’s the birds that set Dunrovin apart from just about any similar stop. Open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. seven days a week, most of Milcendeau’s time and energy is now spent taking care of the aviary and, more importantly, taking care of the birds. Many come in after years of neglect, and some have been abused. He shares the story of one bird that spent four years as

a “pet,” kept in a woman’s bathroom with no windows. Others were used for breeding or were unwanted. “We don’t take in sick birds, out of the safety of the others,” he says. “And once we get them, we never rehome them. When they’re here, they’re here to stay. And what I tell everybody is that all of these people who stop by are

“I employ seven or eight people, and I feel like I’m contributing by providing local jobs. But the truth is, this whole operation has nothing to do with money,” he says. “I’ve spent my whole like being too busy — I didn’t really get to see my kids or my grandkids grow up. And with this, I wanted to do something for the kids. We have schools that bring buses here; we have church groups visit; and we even have birthday parties and family celebrations here. I was in the restaurant business for 48 years, and I was never able to do these things for my family. “This is my way of finally giving back.”


22 | June 2019

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Alpaca's specialty the pride of Peru SPONSORED CONTENT

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n Peru, explains Ranbir Bakhshi, “pollo a la brasa” is essentially the national dish.

“Everywhere you go in Peru, every restaurant has its own version of pollo a la brasa,” said Bakhshi, who attended culinary school after getting out of the military and has spent time in Peru exploring all the flavors the country offers. “Every different restaurant has its own seasonings and sides. Each one has their own house marinade. But you're always going to have things like cumin and black pepper that give it a distinct, smoky flavor. And it's always – always – done on a rotisserie.” For the last decade-plus, Bakhshi – who is of mixed Salvadoran and Indian heritage but discovered Peruvian cuisine as a kid via his stepfather's family – has been involved in bringing that flavor to North Carolina, first in Durham and Raleigh, and for the last three-plus years, in Sanford. Alpaca Peruvian Charcoal Chicken opened at 813 S. Horner Blvd. in February 2016 and is one of the company's six fast-casual establishments in the Triangle area. Visitors will find Alpaca's charcoal chicken sold in portions like “quarter dark” ($7.49) or “quarter white” ($7.99) or even “half chicken” for $9.49 for those who are particularly hungry. If you're looking to feed the whole family, a whole chicken with two large sides goes for $18.99. In all cases, you're getting a succulent piece of bird with crispy, rich skin and juicy, delicate meat. Bakhshi says the depth of flavors is a result of a process involving marinades, spices, and the all-important charcoal fire rotisserie. “As the rotisserie turns, the juices come out of the chicken, and some drip off onto the fire and create smoke that goes back into the

chicken, and some of them just keep rolling over the chicken, which keeps it juicy,” he said. “You can put liquid smoke in there to try to get that smoke flavor, but it's just not going to be the same.” Alpaca's rotisserie in Sanford was custom-built and can handle nearly 30 chickens at one time. Bakhshi said his staff begins cooking around 9 a.m. in time to open for lunch at 11. Every hour or so, new birds go on the fire, and the process continues until around 8 or 8:30 in the evening. “We take a lot of pride in what we do,” he said. “We hope that bringing our culture here

can help unify the community — you see all walks of life in our restaurant and people of different races and ethnicities, all eating together.” In addition to its pollo a la brasa, Alpaca offers other Peruvian staples like lomo saltado (strips of steak with tomatoes and onions served over french fries, $11.95), arroz chaufa (Peruvian-style fried rice with choice of meat, $8.99) and more. Beyond that, the menu offers chances to explore other cultures ranging from Mexican (tacos, tortas and flautas are all available) to places in the Caribbean (many of the sides like black beans, steamed yucca and plantains are staples in places like the Domini-

can Republic and Puerto Rico). “We try to keep a simple menu and just do a couple things, and do them really well,” he said. “We have a mix of cultures on our menu, but the main thing is we try to offer the freshest food we can. And I think people can really taste the difference.” Alpaca's Sanford location is at 813 S. Horner Blvd. and can be reached at (919) 777-0226. The store is open daily from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. In addition to being open for dine in and carry out, Alpaca offers a range of catering options for special events. For more information, visit www. alpacachicken.com.


24 | June 2019

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JAZZ WITH A LATIN FLAIR

Heart of Carolina Jazz's 'Kenton and Bernstein' show will be 'like traveling to another country' can learn how to play with them.”

By Gordon Anderson

Gelb said attendees can expect a show “that's like traveling to another country.”

As a student of the genre, Gregg Gelb is well aware of the myriad forms jazz music can take, ranging from contemporary works performed by a trio or quartet to world-inspired suites staged by big bands and everything in between. It's the latter that Gelb, an adjunct music instructor at Central Carolina Community College, will bring to the Temple Theatre on June 8 when his Heart of Carolina Jazz Orchestra and guest musicians Andy Kleindienst (bass), Stephen Anderson (piano), Ramon Ortiz (percussion), and Pako Santiago (percussion) are set to perform West Side/Latin Side: Kenton and Bernstein on Fire. “For me, having the Latin beat in jazz is so much fun,” Gelb said. “There's a groove and an energy you get from it that's accessible and enticing. There's something about the way the whole world comes into this music.”

“You're going to be exposed to the beats of all these places, and you don't get a chance to see a big band do this kind of thing very often,” he said. Gelb, a saxophonist and the band's leader, also said the music has plenty of room for improvisation by the band's various members. Tickets to West Side/Latin Side: Kenton and Bernstein on Fire are available for $20 for general admission ($10 for students) at templeshows.com.

In addition to the music of Stan Kenton and Leonard Bernstein, the 20-piece big band and their guest musicians will perform Chico O'Farrill's “Afro-Cuban Jazz Suite,” a piece Gelb said he's particularly looking forward to exploring. “This is a wonderful piece of music that I've

wanted to perform for a long time, but the Heart of Carolina Jazz Orchestra really needed to have these guest artists involved to be able to pull it off,” he said. “The Latin rhythms are complex, and it takes a lot of knowledge to have learned them. They are Cuban and African and Latin American, so you need people who are very well-versed, and then a band that

“There's such a great balance between what is written and what is improvised, and that's the beauty of jazz,” he said. “We look for that perfect blend of spontaneity and preparation.” The Heart of Carolina Jazz Orchestra will present West Side/Latin Side: Kenton and Bernstein on Fire at 7:30 p.m on June 8 at the Temple Theatre. Tickets are $20 for general admission, $15 for Heart of Carolina Jazz Society Members, and $10 for students with ID and are available at www.templeshows.com.


The Rant Monthly | 25

rantnc.com HEART OF CAROLINA JAZZ ORCHESTRA “WEST SIDE/LATIN SIDE: KENTON & BERNSTEIN” June 8 | Temple Theatre | 7:30 p.m. | $20 (adult) $10 (student)

CALENDAR OF EVENTS Want to include your upcoming events in our monthly community calendar, email gordon@rantnc.com and let us know the event, the date, the time, the location and any other pertinent information you want to include. Get even more noticed by including a high-resolution photo. BORN AGAIN HEATHENS June 7 | Hugger Mugger Brewing Company | 9 - 10:30 p.m. (Free) Celtic-inspired punk rock at its finest and funnest.

Gregg Gelb, the recipient of 2018’s Raleigh Arts Commission Medal of Arts, leads the Heart of Carolina Jazz Orchestra in a show highlighting the music of Stan Kenton and Leonard Bernstein and their use of Latin-based rhythms. Featuring Latin percussionists Ramon Ortiz and Pako Santiago and guest musicians Andy Kleindienst (bass) and Stephen Anderson (piano). BAD MOON RISING & BRICK CITY KO June 13 | Camelback Brewing Company | 6 p.m. (Free) Sanford locals will play a “parking lot party” at the brewery on Spring Lane — bring a lawn chair and your dancing shoes. The Deep River Park Association will cook a pig.

CHAIRMEN OF THE BOARD June 12 | Mann Center | 7 - 10:30 p.m. | $10 - $15 (tickets at www.manncenternc.org) Beach music legends Chairmen of the Board — who reached national stardom in the early 1970s with their hit, "Give Me Just a Little More Time" — will perform at the Mann Center Auditorium in the first event of the 2019 Arts & Vine Summer Concert Series.

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@therant905 COREY LEUTJEN & THE TRAVELIN’ BLUES BAND June 21 | Smoke & Barrel | 8:30-11 p.m. (Free) From nearby Asheboro, Cory channels influences ranging from Robert Cray, Eric Clapton, B.B. King, and T-Bone Walker into a blues and blues-influenced rock show.

CALENDAR OF EVENTS SOUTHERN VOICE ACOUSTIC June 15 | Camelback Brewing Company | 7 - 9:30 p.m. (Free) Sanford-based country rock band performing songs from today’s top artists will appear in a stripped-down, acoustic format. YEAR OF OCTOBER June 21 | Hugger Mugger Brewing Company | 8 - 9:30 p.m. (Free) Nashville-based rock with a soulful, fuzzy sound, dirty riffs, dark grooves, and deep, powerful vocals.

SCHOOLHOUSE ROCK LIVE JR. June 28 & 29 | Temple Theatre | Ticket and time info at www.templeshows.com An advanced Temple Youth Conservatory for 8 to 12 year olds presents a stage show based on the Emmy-award winning education cartoon series featuring favorite songs such as “Just a Bill,” “Lolly, Lolly, Lolly,” and “Conjunction Junction.” DR. BACON | DOWNTOWN ALIVE! June 16 | Steele Street | 7-9 p.m. Appalachian funk rockers perform in the second Downtown Alive! concert.

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28 | June 2019

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Downtown Alive! seeks to create 'energetic, fun' atmosphere

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n outdoor stage, shaded by the surrounding buildings. Beer vendors, artists and food trucks lining the street under tents. Nearby businesses opening their doors to walk-in traffic. Music providing not only the source of entertainment, but the background noise as well as visitors walk around and socialize with friends and family. This is the vision of Downtown Alive!, Downtown Sanford Inc.’s new summer concert series launched in May, replacing the long-standing Function at the Junction, held at nearby Depot Park. Whereas Function was a weekly concert at the stage and grassy area near the railroad tracks and former train depot downtown, Downtown Alive! Is a monthly series — held the third Thursday of each month through October — held on a blocked-off portion of Steele Street, allowing for easier access to much of Downtown Sanford’s businesses.

“I think the very night of the first StreetFest, I had downtown merchants asking to do it again and more often,” St. Clair says. “Obviously, multiple events of that level just aren't possible, but a monthly concert series certainly is. This is a great way to get that festival vibe people are craving more often.”

Appalachian funk rockers Dr. Bacon will perform at the next Downtown Alive! in downtown Sanford on June 20. Photo: Facebook

The idea was born from the success of downtown’s recent annual StreetFest celebrations, which brought in out-oftown and local bands to perform on Steele Street throughout the day, leading

up to a nighttime fireworks display. While Downtown Alive! doesn’t have the draw of fireworks, it is hoping to match the atmosphere concert-goers have experienced at StreetFest, according to Downtown Sanford Inc. Director Jennifer St. Clair.

The new series kicked off on May 16 with surf rockers Rollin’ Dynamite, and the next concert is slated for June 20 with Appalachian funk rockers Dr. Bacon (complete schedule can be found on Page 27 of this publication). Jeff Towson, owner of Smoke & Barrel on Steele Street and event co-organizer, says DSI is trying to bring in bands that can “create an energetic and fun atmosphere that crowds can engage with.” “I think Sanford is in the midst of a culture change in how people view our downtown,” Towson says. “It’s moving away from the mostly ‘dead after 5 p.m.’

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rantnc.com downtown to more of a gathering place where people have a variety of entertainment options. This is something that has been slowly building over the years and is now gaining even more momentum. I think the greater goal here is a diverse and vibrant downtown that we can all enjoy and be proud of.” St. Clair said in weighing any event DSI take on, they look at the impact, reach and potential gain for downtown’s economy. While Function at the Junction was “very near and dear to our hearts,” she says downtown’s needs had outgrown that event. “We wanted to take the next step by hosting an event that would bring more awareness of our amazing downtown businesses, put more people downtown during the event and have plenty of room to grow,” she says. “With Downtown Alive!, we are putting the crowd directly on the street where our shops and restaurants are. We are creating an environment that is more likely to attract new visitors. And we have an entire block to work toward

filling up with attendees.” She said she hopes those who loved Function at the Junction and were sad to see it go will give the new event a chance. “I already knew the music would be fantastic because we have someone [Towson] who is excellent at finding talent,” St. Clair says. “Here's what I didn't know and what really got me excited for the future of Downtown Alive! — people were interacting. Instead of just setting up their lawn chairs and staying in one spot the whole time, there was movement, chatter, catching up, laughing, sharing a drink or food. Instead of folks leaving having enjoyed some good music, they left having enjoyed friendship and joy.” "I think moving the series to Steele Street. gives the event the opportunity to accommodate more people," Towson adds, "with more of those people able to easily experience and see all that our downtown has to offer, without losing the family atmosphere we all want."

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30 | June 2019

PHOTOS BY BILLY LIGGETT

@therant905

TOTAL LOSS

'Old country school' that meant so much to generations of western Harnett County students destroyed by a massive fire on May 5

MAMERS — It once served as not only western Harnett County’s main school, but also the community gathering spot. For 87-year-old Ruth Cox, the Old Boone Trail school in Mamers holds special memories — “a good ol’ country school filled with good ol’ country people,” she recalls today.

Photos by Billy LIggett

She, like many in the western Harnett County community, was devastated to hear of fire that gutted the nearly century-old school back on May 5. The structure, which had stood dormant for the past several years, was declared a “total loss” by firefighters. All that remains is the charred brick facade and thousands of

square feet of twisted metal and burned wood. Cox attended the school in 1938 as a first-grader, but moved with her family after a year before coming back as a fifth-grader — a stranger in a familiar place. She recalls a teacher, Ms. Alegra Hogan Patterson, who made an impact on her that year. “She saw that I was new and didn’t have many friends, and she took me in as her own child,” says Cox, who would graduate from the high school seven years later. “I have so many wonderful memories of that place,” she says. “II was there just the


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rantnc.com other day taking pictures of it [before it is demolished]. I remembered that most of us used to walk there every day … we’re all sad to see it go.” "It's devastating to see it gone like this. It was such a beautiful, wonderful place," Janice Burtner, 64, told ABC11 shortly after the fire. "It's been here as long as I've been alive, which is a long time. It's just always been a part of the community, it was a gathering place. You come for the Halloween carnival, the basketball games.” Built in 1928, the school served Harnett County for 82 years before the new Boone Trail Elementary School opened in 2010. In 2017, the county used the gymnasium (not seriously damaged by the fire) as a community center and library. A new playground sits in front of the community center, and the county has built new baseball fields on the site. Harnett County officials were debating renovating the historic structure with assistant by Preservation North Carolina — or demolishing it altogether — before the fire. Harnett County Parks Director Carl

Davis told The Rant in 2018 that future plans for the Boone Trail site included a new walking trail, park shelter and potential outdoor basketball courts. Other ideas included a botanical garden or “whatever the community feels it needs from a community park.” Harnett County officials have yet to determine a cause for the fire. In a statement on May 5, officials said fire crews were able to keep the flames from spreading into the community center space but called the rest of the building a "total loss." They urged the public to "stay away" from the structure, which is at risk of collapsing and poses a significant safety risk. Boone Trail High School owned one piece of national history — in 1964, it was on the winning side of the longest high school basketball game ever played. Boone Trail beat Angier, 54-52, at Campbell University's Carter Gymnasium in the county championship game that went into 13 overtimes. The game is still recorgnized as the record holder by the Guineess Book of World Records.

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32 | June 2019

@therant905 EDUCATION

Lee Christian lawsuit aimed at alleged illegally run school board, new daycare center NEWS YOU CAN REUSE GOVERNMENT

Sanford, Lee County budgets to decrease tax rates Both Lee County and Sanford city government have proposed 2-cent property tax decreases for the upcoming fiscal year. Under the budget proposed by Sanford City Manager Hal Hegwer on May 28, the city’s property tax rate would go from 62 cents to 60 cents per $100 of valuation, while Lee County Manager John Crumpton’s budget proposal calls for a rate of 77.5 cents per $100, down from 79.5 cents. Additionally, the city’s proposed budget would mean property owners in the city’s downtown municipal service district pay a rate of 9.2 cents per $100 of valuation, down from the current rate of 11 cents. The property tax decreases should come as welcome news following the 2019 revaluation, which showed property values increasing nearly across the board at varying rates. There are some fee increases in the city’s budget proposal, however. The proposal calls for an increase of $45 in the city’s sanitation fee ($270 total), and three percent increases in water and sewer rates. Sources tell the Rant the water and sewer fee increases would mean an increase of 70 to 80 cents per month (per service) for the average customer. Both budget proposals — the city’s calling for $56.4 million in total spending and the county’s calling for just over $77 million — would give their respective employees a 2 percent cost of living pay increase. Neither budget has been adopted yet. The city held a budget workshop for May 28, and the county held a similar meeting on May 13. State law requires cities and counties to adopt budgets prior to July 1.

An illegally-constituted board of directors making financial decisions without appropriate input and support from the membership — namely the construction of a new daycare facility and the hiring of new administrators for the 2019-20 school year — could “jeopardize” the fiscal future of Lee Christian School, a group of parents has alleged in a lawsuit against the private organization. “It’s been years and years since there was a meeting of the members,” said April Stone, one of the parents listed on the lawsuit as a plaintiff. “Nobody even remembers a time when there were meetings.” The lawsuit, filed on April 29, alleges that Stone and several other parents — Joel Johnson, Curtis and Amy Holden, and Tyson and Chelsea McKoy — have on multiple occasions requested LCS’ current board of directors provide information about the daycare’s construction and copies of the organization’s current bylaws. An attachment to the lawsuit shows a letter from Lee Christian’s counsel stating simply that “the Board … believes it is composed appropriately and legally.” The lawsuit additionally claims that the construction of the daycare center — estimated to cost around $2 million — “was instituted at a time when Lee Christian School, Inc. was running a deficit and without the school having financing in place to pay for the project.” “These Plaintiffs are also informed and believe that those designated as directors failed to undertake any formal analysis or feasibility study as to the demand for daycare services, potential enrollment and the ability of Lee Christian School, Inc. to pay for such structure and operation, thus jeopardizing the K-12 school operated by Lee Christian,” the lawsuit reads. “Such conduct was not undertaken with the care an ordinarily prudent person in a like position would exercise under similar circumstances.” The lawsuit closes by demanding that the board produce its bylaws and Articles of Incorporation, as well as a complete membership list dating to the school’s 1994

founding, minutes of board and membership meetings, and financial documents pertaining to the daycare’s construction. It also requests that a restraining order and injunction be filed “to prohibit the current Board of Directors from taking any further action on behalf of or relating to Lee Christian School, Inc. until such time as a properly constituted board is seated,” and that a hearing be held in Lee County Superior Court on May 20. An attorney representing the plaintiffs asked for a continuance that day, and it was granted. It's unclear when the next hearing will be held. ooo Stone, the first parent named in the lawsuit, said her son has attended Lee Christian for the last two years because she and her husband believed his special needs — including autism, dyslexia, and more — would be better addressed in that environment (she also has a daughter who attends the school). And on that front, she’s been pleased, telling the Rant that her son has made significant progress that she doesn’t think would have been possible in another setting. But she also said she’s seen a drastic reduction in the number of kids attending the school in recent years, which has made her fear for the school’s financial future. “Right now there are only 150-some students re-enrolled for next year, and there are 322 students right now,” Stone said. “There were 470 or 480 kids there a few years ago. We absolutely love our school and just want for it to be the best it can. Not just for our kids, but for everyone.” Still, Stone described the current culture among the school’s membership right now as one of “rumors,” and said she hopes the hearing will give other parents the confidence to come forward with issues they’re having. “We need people to come (to the court hearing) and let us know if they’re having problems too,” she said. ooo The earliest version of the lawsuit names William Heppding, Lee Christian’s regis-

tered agent, as a defendant. An attempt at serving Heppding, though, was unsuccessful according to court paperwork because he is “deceased and no other registered agent” has been named. Bruce MacInnes, a pastor at Turner’s Chapel in Sanford, is the current chairman of Lee Christian’s Board of Directors, and is named as a defendant in an amended version of the suit along with his fellow directors and LCS Headmaster Don Payne. MacInnes declined to comment directly about the litigation, saying that he hasn’t been served with the lawsuit. He said he’d heard “rumors” and that “we haven’t done anything that’s in violation of the bylaws.” MacInnes did say that his understanding was that “board members have always been selected by other board members for the school’s 25-year history,” and that there were amendments made to the bylaws in 2017. He said he believed the provision listed in the lawsuit about members electing directors to two-year terms was meant to apply to when the school was first starting in 1994. A letter from MacInnes to the school’s membership dated Feb. 27 and obtained by the Rant indicates that he and the board were at least aware of some parents’ concerns. The letter references “recent misunderstandings” and “information being disseminated that is not factual.” It goes on to say that “the cash reserves of the school are strong and adequate for our future needs” and that “the Board of Directors is currently working on a detailed financial plan to keep LCS on solid financial footing going into the future.” “Once we have a more detailed plan for the future, we will call an all school meeting to share it with everyone and entertain pertinent questions,” the letter reads. “In the meantime, we would ask that if you hear someone sharing something that is not true, please inform them of the truth, and let them know that they can always ask us any questions they have about school policy and finances.”


The Rant Monthly | 33

rantnc.com

County to landfill petitioner: resubmit plans for the project A landowner who has proposed a construction debris landfill along the Deep River in northern Lee County must resubmit his site plan to planning officials if he wants to continue seeking a special use permit for the project, the county Board of Adjustment decided in May. Lee County landowner Bobby Branch — who fought a similar landfill proposal in the same area in 2003 — had submitted plans for a several-hundred acre construction debris landfill along North Plank Road to local planning staff in December and was in the process of seeking a special use permit from the county Board of Adjustment. But the application hit an early roadblock in the form of neighboring landowners who protested in March that they hadn’t had enough time to review the plans and asked for the hearing to be delayed. A follow-up hearing in April drew a capacity crowd and went nearly four hours before being continued again to mid-May. That’s when, ac-

cording to Lee County planner Amy McNeill, Branch’s team told the board it was looking to scale back the project. That led the board to decide that he would have to submit new plans. “The revised design decreased the overall footprint of the project and the maximum height,” McNeill said. “And the board said that the changes were significant enough that he would need to re-submit his application.” It's unclear whether Branch intends to submit — or has already submitted — new plans for the landfill project. The Board of Adjustment is the county-appointed quasi-judicial board which will eventually determine if Branch is issued a special use permit for the project, although that would not be the final step in the process — the county Board of Commissioners would still be required to issue a franchise to the developers, a legislative process in which the commissioners have far more discretion than the adjustment board.

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34 | June 2019

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NEWS YOU CAN REUSE Mathis tabbed to serve on state Board of Transportation North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper will appoint Sanford small business owner Lisa Mathis to the N.C. Board of Transportation, multiple sources have confirmed to the Rant.

The Board of Transportation consists of 19 members from across the state who “make decisions about transportation priorities,” according to its website. Mathis, a Democrat who ran in 2018 against Republican state Rep. John Sauls for the District 51 seat in the North Carolina House of Representatives, will represent Division 8, which encompasses Lee, Harnett, Chatham, Moore, Montgomery, Richmond, Hoke, and Scotland counties. The seat is currently held by Patrick Molamphey of Richmond County, who was appointed by former Governor Pat McCrory in 2015. The position is relatively sought after, as it gives communities an opportunity to voice their specific transportation issues and needs at the state level. Lee County has not had a board member for at least 40 years.

Former commissioners' chairwoman Shook dies Linda Shook, a former Lee County commissioner who served as the board’s chairwoman from 2010 to 2013, died at her home in Nevada last month after suffering a brain hemorrhage. A member of Shook’s family posted the news on her personal Facebook page following her death: “On the evening of Sunday, May 19, my mom peacefully and beautifully entered into her next journey,” read the post. “She was surrounded with love from her family and friends. We prayed. We shared stories. We shared texts and emails that were coming in. We laughed. We cried. And selfishly, we all wish we had one more day, one more memory and just a little more time, but it simply wasn’t meant to be. Instead, we cherish the time we had and we continue to be thankful for all the wonderful things she offered this world and the people she touched.” Shook, an Iowa native, became active in local politics in the early 2000s, and was first elected to the county’s District 3 seat on the Board of Commissioners in 2006. After winning re-election in the Republican wave of 2010, she became the board’s chairwoman.

THURSDAY

JUNE 20 6:00 PM START

She resigned in 2013 after deciding to move to Nevada to be closer to her daughter. A celebration of life service is being planned in Sanford for Saturday, June 29.

LCHS grad, UNCC professor survives shooting in his class The anthropology professor whose classroom was the scene of a deadly shooting at UNC Charlotte on April 30 that killed two of his students and injured four others wrote a lengthy blog post on his experience on May 2. Adam P. Johnson — a graduate of Lee County High School and an adjunct professor of anthropology at UNC Charlotte for four years — was leading team presentations in the Woodford A. Kennedy Building at 5:40 p.m. Tuesday when 22-year-old Trystan Terrell began shooting a pistol at students. In his blog post, Johnson described the classroom (pictured) and the moments leading up to the shooting. He wrote: The first presentation is a video on static versus dynamic universe. It is quite good, using a lot of data and contextualizing it in a cultural context. We get about seven minutes into the video and without warning, earsplitting bangs ring throughout the room, off the

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rantnc.com glass walls, creating a terrible reverberation. Johnson said the shooter was a former student of his who dropped out in January (he refuses to name the student in his blog post). When the shots were fired, Johnson said students “in great confusion” began to run. One student later told him he thought it was part of the presentation and sounded like firecrackers. Although he didn’t name him in his post, Johnson said he witnessed student Riley Howell tackle the shooter, adding that his actions likely saved several lives. In his post, Johnson called Howell a “hero.” Johnson, meanwhile, ushered students out of his classroom, according to his post, and picked up one student who fell on the way out. He and several students exited into the building’s foyer, then ran into the courtyard, surrounded by

classrooms and office buildings. They yelled out “active shooter” as they ran — eventually reaching the anthropology department and locking themselves into an office before calling 911. He wrote that it took about four minutes (feeling like four hours) before police arrived. He wrote: Many of the students were able to quickly evacuate the room, but not all. Through discussions with victims, survivors, I was able to get an idea of what happened. Before opening fire, the shooter said nothing, did not indicate that they were going to shoot; simply raised the gun and started to fire. It was all over in a matter of second. One student tackled the shooter and undoubtedly saved more lives. They are an absolute hero. The shooter emptied the magazine, laid the gun down, and sat on the ground. One victim asked the shooter to stop shooting and they said “I’m done.”

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YouthBuild graduates will enter workforce trained, well-paid For some youth, failure to complete high school signals an end to their educational journey. For those entering YouthBuild, their journey is just igniting. In February, Central Carolina Community College (CCCC) was awarded a $1.1 million grant from the Department of Labor to educate, empower, and employ individuals ages 16-24 over the next three years. Those eligible for the program must reside in Sanford or Siler City, have separated from high school prior to graduation, and have an interest in earning their GED while pursuing a career in a high-demand field. YouthBuild participants work concurrently to complete their GED and earn an industry-recognized credential in construction, HVAC, or nursing. While enrolled in the program, participants benefit from a partnership with Habitat for Humanity, seeing the

immediate results of hard work by participating in the construction of low-income housing within their own community. Along with GED and career pathway instruction, participants are eligible for numerous support services including case management, counseling, leadership training, funding for transportation and child care, stipends, and one year of followup support after being connected to either a college degree program or immediate gainful employment. "CCCC is dedicated to student access and removing barriers to enrollment and progression,” says Brian Merritt, CCCC vice president, Learning & Workforce Development. “YouthBuild will provide at-risk youth with the intentional support they need to access and persist with high school equivalency diploma while also building the skills and college credits to graduate from in-demand

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James Thomas (left) is assistant director and Lindsay Tipton is director of the YouthBuild program at Central Carolina Community College. To learn more, visit cccc.edu/youthbuild

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and/or industry-recognized credentials. Of those placed, 73 percent retained their placement for at least six months. Lindsay Tipton, Director of the YouthBuild program at CCCC, looks forward to seeing similar results locally. “We know there are students out there who, when presented with the right opportunities coupled with the proper supports, have skills, talents, and gifts that would be of great benefit to our community. YouthBuild surely serves the student, but in the long run, the community as a whole thrives when our youth and young adults are contributing in such a meaningful way.”

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Profile for The Rant

The Rant Monthly | June 2019  

The June 2019 edition of The Rant Monthly, a product of LPH Media LLC in Sanford, North Carolina.

The Rant Monthly | June 2019  

The June 2019 edition of The Rant Monthly, a product of LPH Media LLC in Sanford, North Carolina.

Profile for rantnc
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