MCS LogoUnder pressure from their constituents to increase the salaries of North Carolina's school teachers, which currently rank near the bottom nationally, the Republican leadership in Raleigh has pledged to come up with raises for teachers in FY2015. Both Governor Pat McCrory and the NC Senate have produced budgets that do just that.

But the devil is always in the details, as Mike Griffin, Moore County Schools Director of Budget, explained to the Board of Education during their Monday, June 2 meeting.

"Any time there are initiatives funded in a budget, you always want to know where they are getting the funding to do that," Griffin told the Board.

Senate budget cuts MCS by $2.7 million

The budget approved by the NC Senate just after midnight on Saturday, May 31, could cost Moore County $2.7 million, Griffin said. That's more than the increase in local funding the school district sought from the county for FY2015. The district's total budget for FY2015 is $106 million; that includes anticipated state funding of $64 million, a total that does not include the Senate's newly-proposed cuts.

The Senate budget would save money primarily by doing away with teaching assistants in second and third grade classrooms. That would eliminate 65 teacher assistants in Moore County and cost the district $1.9 million in funding, Griffin said. In addition, 6.5 classroom teaching positions would be lost, increasing class sizes in grades two and three.

The Senate budget would completely defund MCS' drivers education program, a $230,000 cut that would likely shift the cost of driver training onto individual families.

Griffin pointed out that state funding for drivers ed had been cut from $280,000 to $230,000 in this year's budget, resulting in a $55 charge for each family taking advantage of the program. The elimination of state funding would raise the cost to $250 per student, Griffin said, or drivers ed "would become totally privatized."

Additional cuts in the Senate budget include $257,000 from the transportation budget and $45,000 to the central office.

"This is a dramatic, dramatic impact on our budget, if this goes forward," Griffin said.

The Senate's budget uses those cuts to provide an average eleven percent increase in teacher's pay, though that raise is contingent upon teachers agreeing to give up tenure.

Read more: NC Senate Budget Would Cost Moore County Schools $2.7 Million

Moore County LogoThere’s no tax increase in the FY2015 budget that Moore County Manager Wayne Vest proposed to the Board of Commissioners during their Tuesday, May 20 regular meeting.

If ultimately approved, the budget would hold the property tax rate at 46.5 cents per hundred dollars of valuation, where it has been since FY2010. On top of that, County property owners would continue to pay two cents per hundred for the county's Advanced Life Support levy, which funds Moore County EMS.

Fire district tax rates, which range from a low of four cents in Seven Lakes to a high of eleven cents in the Cranes Creek district, will also remain unchanged, with one exception. West End Fire and Rescue is seeking a one cent increase, from 5.9 cents to 6.9 cents, to pay for new equipment.

The total proposed budget, net of internal transfers between the various county funds, is $120.8 million, up $943,315 from last year's initial budget.

The county budget is made up of a number of funds, some of which do not depend on tax dollars to operate — for example, public utilities, which derives its revenue from the rates customers pay for water and sewer service.

Taxes go primarily to support the general fund, budgeted at $89.9 million, a $1.9 million increase over last year's budget. General fund expenditures include core government services like schools and law enforcement.

Commissioners praise manager, budget team

The commissioners were generous in their praise of Vest and the budget team.

"In the last six budgets," Commissioner Picerno said, "the property taxes in our county, paid buy our taxpayers, has either been reduced or maintained. This was no small feat. Many in America still say that this was one of the most difficult, and economic terms, that our country has ever faced."

Commissioner Jimmy Melton said that Vest's budget was "the best budget that I have seen in my time on the board."

Read more: No County Tax Increase Planned

Moore County LogoMoore County Commissioners Nick Picerno and Otis Ritter have been assigned the task of further refining a proposal for a new Fire Commission to oversee the county's fire, rescue and EMS organizations.

Public Safety Director Bryan Phillips presented the proposal, developed by the Public Safety Department in consultation with the Fire Chiefs Association, during the Board of Commissioners Tuesday, May 20 regular meeting. If enacted, it would create a commissioner-appointed board to replace the Emergency Services Advisory Committee [ESAC], which was disbanded earlier this year.

A recent comprehensive study conducted by the consulting firm VFIS recommended the creation of a fire commission as a step toward standardizing and unifying the county's fire and EMS services.

The role of the panel, as Phillips detailed it, is primarily to review and make recommendations to the commissioners in areas affecting fire, rescue, and EMS, including operating and capital budgets, volunteer retention and recruitment, fire protection system improvements, operational regulations and guidelines, and training standards.

Phillips proposed a commission with nine voting members, one alternate, and four non-voting members drawn from the Public Safety staff.

Five citizen members would be drawn from each of the county's commissioner districts, while four fire service members would be drawn from each of four fire service regions. The President of the Moore County Firefighter's Association would serve as an ex officio member, but also as an alternate if one of the fire service representatives is unable to attend a meeting.

The Public Safety Director, Fire Marshal, and E-911 manager would serve as non-voting members.

Phillips said the commission would help achieve some of the recommendations from the VFIS study, including:

• Standardization across districts, which helps improve interoperability and efficiency;

• Long range planning for equipment, apparatus and personnel; and

• A simplified budgeting process.

Read more: Commissioners Move Toward Creating Fire Commission

Moore County LogoTime is short for the developer of of a 1652-acre Planned Unit Development that, if built, would stretch from West End to Pinewild and from NC Highway 211 to NC Highway 73.

The zoning permit for Pine Forest — a proposed development that was to include 700 homes, 300 hotel rooms, two-golf courses, and a shopping village — is set to expire on September 6, thirty-six months after it was approved by the Moore County Board of Commissioners.

Planning Director Debra Ensminger provide the commissioners with an update on the project during their May 20 meeting.

"Along with the rezoning," Ensminger said, "a board order was executed that listed ordinance standards and additional conditions that must be followed during the development process. And I stand before you tonight to share that nothing of that order has been completed. We are just where we were on September 6, 2011, today, May 20, 2014.

"Some requirements have to be executed by September 6, 2014, or that permit goes away," Chairman Larry Caddell reiterated.

"There are a number of things that are in front of the developer between now and September," County Manager Vest explained.

Read more: Time Running Out for Pine Forest Development

Swimmer in Echo

Members of the Sandhill Sandsharks Swim Team will be swimming in Seven Lakes North's Lake Echo on Saturday, May 24 from 7:30 am to 10:00 am.

Among the swimmers expected at Saturday's swim are Olympian Alex Meyer and world champions Ashley Twichell and Chloe Sutton.

It's the second day of the team's annual Shark-A-Thon, which raises money for training equipment, awards, a banquet, and pool rental. The team will be swimming at the O'Neal Pool on Friday, May 23 from 4:15 pm to 7:30 pm.

Saturday's swim at Echo also serves as practice for the NC Open Water Swim Championships, which will be held at Lake Echo on June 6 & 7.

Folks who would like to support the team can make a flat donation or donate based on the distance covered by a particular swimmer.

For more information, visit the Sandsharks website.

Welcome Center

The 30-year-old Seven Lakes Welcome Center is getting a facelift.

A crew was at work on Tuesday using a crane to remove the high steep-pitched roof from the building on Lakeway Drive at the entrance to Seven Lakes West, with trusses standing by for a new, lower-pitched top covering.

Building owner James Kirkpatrick told The Times that he plans to brick the exterior, updating the building's appearance.

MOR Group, one of the successor companies to original Seven Lakes developer Longleaf Inc., had the structure built as a sales office in 1984. It has been used by a succession of developers and Realtors in the years since.

Kirkpatrick has plans for a two-story professional office building on the cleared lot beside the former Welcome Center. That project has received a special non-residential intensity allowance from the county and a sedimentation and erosion control permit from the state, which allowed for the clearing of the tract.

But, according to the county Planning Department, the project awaits approvals of a septic or wastewater plan before it can move forward. An initial plan to use two residential lots on the opposite side of Lakeway Drive for septic fields ran afoul of Seven Lakes West Landowners Association rules and Westside covenants.

Kirkpatrick's company owns Seven Lakes Plaza Shopping Center, as well as a large inventory of lots within Seven Lakes West.

Robert Grimesey

Dr. Robert P. Grimesey, Jr. will join Moore County Schools [MCS] as Superintendent on July 1. The Board of Education appointed Grimesey by unanimous acclamation during their Monday, May 12 meeting.

School Board Chair Kathy Farren said board members are "confident that he will lead Moore County Schools to an even higher level of achievement."

Grimesey's brief acceptance speech made it clear he had done his homework on MCS. He praised the digital learning initiative, the new master facilities plan, and the Growing to Greatness strategic plan that the board would approve later in the meeting, as well as noting the progress the district had made in improving student achievement.

Grimesey also noted the "economic and political challenges" the district faces, and the lack of significant salary increases for North Carolina teachers in the past six years.

"It may be reasonable for many of them to feel that their personal interests have been abandoned," he said.

Grimesey said he had "built something of a reputation" for helping school districts through troubled times.

From the Old Dominion to the Old North State

With thirty years experience as an educator in school districts across Virginia, Grimesey is currently Superintendent of Orange County Schools, a district northwest of Charlottesville, VA that serves more than 5,000 students. MCS has approximately 13,000 students.

Prior to his appointment to the superintendent's post in Orange County, he led the schools in Allegheny County, VA for eight years. Grimesey has taught social studies and coached football and wrestling at the high school level, served as principal and assistant principal, and even worked as a newspaper reporter and sportswriter.

A graduate of James Madison University, he received his doctorate from the University of Virginia's Curry School of Education.

Grimesey has been honored by his peers for his work as Superintendent on a number of occasions, receiving the 2012 Outstanding Superintendent Award from the Curry School of Education and the 2013 Directors Award from the Virginia Association of School Superintendents.

Speaking to the large group of MCS personnel who attended the school board meeting, Grimesey introduced his wife Carol, and explained that he has three children: a son in the US Air Force, a daughter teaching English at the American College of Sophia, Bulgaria, and a daughter attending Virginia Commonwealth University. He said he became aware of Moore County when his son was stationed at Fort Bragg.

Grimesey will start at a salary of $165,000 plus benefits, comparable compensation to his predecessor, current Superintendent Aaron Spence, who is departing for a position in the Virginia Beach City Schools.

Proving himself a good sport, after his more formal remarks, Grimesey donned in succession jerseys from each of Moore County's three high schools and posed for photographs with staff members from those schools.

Other business

In other business during their Monday, May 12 meeting, the Board of Education:

• Approved a $110 million Master Facilities plan that Superintendent Spence said includes ten school construction and renovation projects that will stretch over the next ten years.

• Approved Growing to Greatness 2.0, an substantial update of the strategic plan that will guide the district over the next three years.

• Reappointed George Little as one of the board's representatives on the Sandhills Community College Board of Trustees.

• Received a quarterly financial update from Chief Financial Officer Mike Griffin and learned that Griffin will become MCS's Director of Budget. Tina Edmonds will move up into the position of Chief Financial Officer.

• Celebrated the leadership of West Pine Middle School principal Candace Turk, who is retiring at the end of this school year.

• Honored twenty-five members of the MCS staff who attained Masters Degrees this year, as well as two who obtained their doctorates.

SLWLA Logo"Someone is going to buy the polka dot pig. It will happen," Director Dan Blue told the Seven Lakes West Landowners Association [SLWLA] Board during their Tuesday, May 6 regular meeting.

Blue presented the Board with a set of guidelines for yard decorations that had been crafted by the Architectural Review Committee [ARC].

"There has been a lot of conversation about this, ad nauseum," Blue said. "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. We have tried to give a series of guidelines without going into what is pretty or not."

The proposed rules, if added to the existing architectural standards, would regulate the size, placement, and number of yard decorations, but not the "content."

Amending the SLWLA Rules and Regulations requires an initial approval by the board, called the "first reading," followed by a thirty-day opportunity for public input, after which the rule may receive final approval on "second reading."

Blue emphasized that the new rules would apply only to decorations in the yard, not to decorations affixed to the home or placed on the porch or deck.

"The ARC spent a ton of time on this one," he added. 

Read more: Proposed Rules on Yard Art Raise Questions

SLWLA LogoAn unusual request to recombine four Westside lots sparked considerable debate during the Tuesday, May 6 meeting of the Seven Lakes West Landowners Association [SLWLA] Board of Directors.

Jack Lattin, a member of the Architectural Review Committee [ARC], told the Board that lot recombinations, by reducing the total number of lots in the community, effectively increase the costs borne by all other landowners.

The meeting agenda included two recombination requests. First up was the recombination of lots 6152 and 6151, which the board approved with little comment.

Former Director John Hoffmann asked whether the applicant was aware that the recombination is irrevocable. SLWLA rules state that recombinations cannot be undone, apparently relying on a provision of the Westside covenants that reserves the right to subdivide lots only to the developer — and only for lots that have not yet been sold by the developer.

"It was discussed," replied ARC Director Dan Blue.

Read more: Four Lot Recombination Sparks Debate

SLWLA LogoConstruction of new homes is picking up in Seven Lakes West, Director Dan Blue reported, during the Tuesday, May 6 meeting of the Seven Lakes West Landowners Association [SLWLA] Board of Directors.

Blue, who has responsibility for the Architectural Review Committee [ARC] said nine projects are currently underway and several more either await approval or almost ready to be submitted.

"Within thirty to sixty days," Blue said, "we will have fifteen or sixteen new homes going up."

Blue said that number includes both custom homes and developer projects, but all are prestigious designs in keeping with the architectural standards of the community, "not cookie cutter."


McDermott Resigns, Goodman Appointed Secretary

President Bruce Keyser reported that newly-appointed SLWLA Secretary Jim McDermott had resigned from the Board effective April 17, due to an unexpected significant increase in the time required by his consulting business.

Director Mandy Goodman will take over McDermott's post as Secretary and Communications Director, leaving a vacancy for a Lake & Dam Director. The board is seeking volunteers interested in filling that slot and serving out the two years left in McDermott's unexpired term of office. Interested members should contact the Nominating Committee.


Treasurer — Overdue Dues Growing

Treasurer Mercedes Herdrich told her fellow directors that she had good news and bad news to report.

The good news is that revenues through the month of March are tracking ahead of budget, while expenses are under budget, resulting in a positive variance of $91,000.

The bad news is that the association has just under $80,000 in overdue accounts, up from $74,800 in January.

"I hope to focus on management of this number in the next couple of months," Herdrich said. She noted that a $20 late payment fee begins this month, which should encourage some folks to pay up.

"It's not fair to those who pay their dues on time," she added.


Nature Trail Now Open

SLWLA Manager Jeanette Mendence reported that the nature trail at West Side Park is now open and thanked John Hoffmann and Dan Lambert for their work on that amenity.

She also thanked Greg Downer for his work getting pickle ball lines added to the tennis courts.

Boat stickers are available for pickup at the SLWLA office.

The Westside Pool opens May 24, a Newcomer's Reception is scheduled for May 27, and the first Johnson Point concert of the season, featuring the Fog Blues Band, will be held on June 6.


Board Receives Plenty of Public Input

President Keyser began the meeting by answering a question he said he is often asked: "Why is the board not more open to community input at board meetings?"

Keyser stressed that the monthly meetings are business meetings of the board, but noted that each meeting includes an opportunity for public input at the end of the meeting.

Board members "communicate with each other, with CAS, with our committees, and with our membership on a regular basis through social media, the website, and social activities," he said. The extensive committee structure ensures that issues and proposals have been thoroughly vetted before they appear on the agenda of a board meeting.

Keyser encouraged those who would like to play a more active role in governing the community to volunteer for a club or committee, or to run for a seat on the board.


Better Sticker Your Boat

Keyser reported that boat registrations are lagging behind last year. After May 1, those who haven't registered or affixed their stickers to boats in the water or boats and trailer in the storage yard are subject to a fine. Lake patrol volunteers will be checking for new stickers.

Boat patrol will begin weekend patrols on May 16 and continue them through Labor Day, Keyser said. Lake Buoys are in bad shape, he said. The Lake Committee will be exploring options for replacing them.


Other Business

In other business during the Tuesday, May 6 meeting of the SLWLA Board of Directors, they:

• Approved on second reading a modification to ARC standard 7.04.4 removing the requirement that the six feet of property behind a bulkhead be landscaped with something other than grass while expanding the existing prohibition of fertilizer use in that space to include pesticides, as well.

• Approved on first reading amendments to section 3.10 of the rules and regulations to add a second standard for the type of asphalt that should be used on Westside streets. The changes will take place only after the board approves them again on second reading.

• Appointed John Hoffmann and George Jenner to the Safety & Security Committee.

• Approved the first reading of a modification to Rule 5.8.6 making it clear that dogs off the owner's premises must be on a leash.

In Memory Of

  • Jane Scales Facey

     of Foxfire Village died on Tuesday, April 19 after a long battle with Alzheimer’s. A private...

  • Nancy P. Neilson

    formerly of Seven Lakes, died on Monday,  April 18. Nancy and her husband, Roger, retired from...

  • John E. Letter

    95, of Seven Lakes, died Monday, March 21, at his home, surrounded by family and friends. A...

  • Marilyn Rose Kemble Bearden

     84, formerly of Seven Lakes, died on March 8 in Greenville, SC. The family will receive friends on...

  • Vonadora Baker Stackhouse

    96, died on Wednesday, March 2, her wedding anniversary, at her home in Seven Lakes West. Services were...

  • James R. Nichols

    (Jim) of Seven Lakes died at his home on Monday, February 22.  A Celebration of his life will be...

  • Timothy William Bouchelle

    49, of West End died on Friday, February 19, 2016 at his residence.  A visitation will be held from...

  • John P. Carpenter

    75, of Seven Lakes North died Saturday, February 13 at FirstHealth Hospice House in Pinehurst. A...

  • Michael Jerome Loney

    87 of Seven Lakes West died Tuesday, February 9 at First Health Moore Regional Hospital in...

  • Glenda Mae (Marks) Tucker

    64 of Seven Lakes passed on Sunday February 7 at Moses H. Cone Memorial Hospital in Greensboro.  A...

  • Dr. William Harrell Johnson

    92 years old, of Seven Lakes West, died on Tuesday, February 2, at home.  A memorial service was...