Moore County Sheriff's Officers apprehended two fugitives in a wooded area near Seven Lakes West Thursday afternoon, with an assist from a North Carolina Highway Patrol helicopter.
    Officers had warrants for the arrest of Christopher Edward Puckett, 27, and Kristie Jean Kimball, 31, both of 105 Christopher Lane, for felony larceny, breaking and entering, and possession of stolen property. Christopher Lane borders the southern edge of the tree farm that lies across NC Highway 211 from West End Elementary School.
    Builder Dwayne Parsons alerted police on Tuesday, September 21 that an air compressor and associated tools had been taken from a home under construction on Carthage Road, apparently the previous day.
    Detectives already had in hand a report that Puckett, who was recently arrested in connection with a string of West End larcenies, had just sold a compressor and tools of a similar description.
    Late Tuesday night, when Parsons returned to check on the building site, he allegedly saw Puckett drive up in a silver Kia Rio; try the door; and, finding it locked, enter through a window. According to police reports, Parsons shouted at a Puckett to get out of the house and then attempted to shoot the front tire of the car, in order to disable it.
    Puckett jumped into the backseat of the car, and the vehicle fled the scene, while Parsons fired several other shots at the vehicle in an attempt to prevent it from leaving. Parsons told officers that he shot low because his intent was not to hurt anyone.
    Puckett also faces kidnapping charges, because he allegedly forced his 87-year-old grandmother, Eunice Puckett, to accompany him to the scene Tuesday night, when the shooting occurred.
    Captain Richard Talbert told The Times it is unlikely that Parsons will face charges related to firing his weapon, though the Sheriff's office will need to review the incident before making any formal determination.
   

    The Moore County Board of Commissioners voted Monday night to award a $27.2 million contract for the construction of a new public safety building and detention center in downtown Carthage, after months of sometimes rancorous public opposition and debate.
Image    Monday night's meeting included over two hours of comments from citizens both in favor of and opposed to the new detention center. Longtime opponents from downtown Carthage, who have consistently raised concerns about the size and safety of the facility, were joined by critics of more recent vintage from Pinehurst and Southern Pines, who were focused on the cost of the facility and county's plan to borrow more than $41.4 million without voter approval to pay for it.
    Those who spoke in favor of the project included former members and chairmen of the County Board of Commissioners, the Carthage Mayor and members of the town council, prominent members of the county's Republican Party, and Sheriff's department employees who actually work in the current detention center.

 

Read more: Commissioners award $27.2 million contract for jail, public safety building

    Local attorney -- and longtime Westsider -- Mike Gorenflo is urging the Seven Lakes West Landowners Association [SLWLA] Board of Directors to slow down its decision on permanently closing Longleaf Drive across the Lake Auman Dam -- and he's encouraging other Westsiders to do the same.
Image   Gorenflo has invited folks to meet at his office this afternoon, Tuesday, September 21, at 6:00 pm, to discuss the issue. He's drafted a letter asking the Board to declare the closing of the dam road a "material matter," which would trigger a 60-day public comment period before the decision is finalized.
    Several members of the Board -- including Adam Wimberly, Ed Silberhorn, Karen Milligan, and Joe Sikes -- argued during the Board's Tuesday, September 14 Work Session that the road closing should be made a material matter. But the Board ultimately voted 6-to-2 to follow the recommendation of its Dam Committee and permanently close the road, contingent on a ratifying vote at its September 28 evening work session.
    The Committee's rationale for the closure turned less on engineering or technical issues than on fear of future liability, should the dam ever fail. Dam Engineer Dr. Dan Marks recommended the road remain closed, and state engineers indicated the Association "may wish to consider" taking its engineer's advice. That advice represents a sword hanging over the collective head of the community, committee member Paul Kirst said, making it impossible to reopen the road without incurring crippling liability should the dam ever fail and cause property damage or loss of life.
    That interpretation is all wet, Gorenflo told The Times.
    If the Association hires an appropriately qualified engineer to design a road over the dam, obtains the necessary state approvals, and builds the road as designed, it will incur no more liability, should the dam fail, than it currently has, Gorenflo said.
    Noting in his letter to the Board that the decision to close or reopen the road touches every aspect of community life, from budgeting to security and recreation, Gorenflo argues that the membership deserves a greater opportunity for input before the Board's September 14 decision is made final.
    "I do not purport to know the wants of the majority of the community," he writes, "but feel that this issue clearly warrants an opportunity for the majority to make themselves clearly known."
    The office of Gorenflo, Bierbaum, and Campbell is off North Trade Street in the Seven Lakes Business Village, directly across from the former Carolina Golf Association office.
   

    No more dam road.
    That will be the verdict if the Seven Lakes West Landowners Association [SLWLA] Board of Directors ratifies in two weeks a 6-to-2 decision to permanently close Longleaf Drive over the Lake Auman dam.
Image    The Board voted to accept the recommendation of its Dam Committee during its Tuesday, September 14, Work Session. Several directors, including Secretary Karen Milligan and Treasurer Joe Sikes, argued that the dam road closure should be deemed a matter of significant interest to the community, which would have triggered a 60-day public comment period before the decision was made final. But, when President Ron Shepard called for the question on his motion to permanently close the road, only Milligan and Sikes voted in the negative. [Director John Hoffmann was not present at the meeting.]
    Paul Kirst presented the Dam Committee's recommendation, which, perhaps surprisingly, rested principally on concerns about the liability the community would face in the case of a dam failure. [Download a copy of the presentation and recommendations here. ]
    SLWLA Dam Engineer Dr. Dan Marks, who designed the dam remediation completed in the Spring of 2009, has recommended against reopening the road, Kirst explained. In the Final Approval to Impound — the official North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources [NCDENR] document approving the repairs to the dam — state engineers stated: "Though we do not consider road closure a requirement for continued operation of this dam, you as the dam owner may wish to consider the design engineer's recommendation in this matter."
    "We have a sword hanging over our head right here," Kirst said.
    Should the road be opened and the high hazard dam fail, causing property damage and/or loss of life at the twenty-one homes that lie in the flood plain below, "whoever is going to sue us is going to say, 'You were put on notice.' We would be held liable and it would be so overpowering," Kirst said.
    "I don't care to stay around here and hold the bag for something like that," he added.

 

Read more: Board votes to close Lake Auman Dam Road permanently

    The US Postal Service has thrown a monkey wrench in Westside plans for a new mail house to replace the aging structure that sits in the middle of the Lakeway Drive Mall.
Image    For years, the Seven Lakes West Landowners Association [SLWLA] Board, the Long Range Planning Committee, and a host of volunteers, including the indefatigable Gus Danielson, have labored to win for the community the option of having home mail delivery.
    After repeated refusals from various levels of the vast postal service bureaucracy, the Association received a final "no" from the office of the Postmaster General earlier this year. The Board asked the Long Range Planning Committee to look at the options, and, during the Board's August 26 Work Session, President Ron Shepard presented the committee's recommendation: to build one or more new mail houses, at a cost ranging from $200 to $335 per member.
    Those cost estimates included architects' fees, permits, site preparation, parking, lighting, land acquisition (for a second or third mail house), and the structures themselves.
    What they did not include was mailboxes, because the Mail Delivery Planning Committee was relying on a commitment from the US Postal Service to supply the boxes.
    "I have in my hand a letter that should be entitled 'Post Office Reneges,'" Bud Sales told the Board of Directors, as he prepared to formally present the committee's recommendation during the Board’s September 14 Work Session. Dated August 23, the letter states; "Recent investigations reveal the current structure that houses the mailroom to be sound and accommodates the homeowners [sic]. With that noted, there is no business rationale for the USPS to endure costs for the construction and remodeling of Seven Lakes West entrance [sic]."
    "We have no way of knowing what those post boxes are going to cost," Sales said, though he later indicated that USPS approved boxes are available from a number of vendors. The amount of space required for those boxes, however, will depend on their size, as will the cost of the building or buildings that house them. The recent letter from the Postal Service, as a result, rendered the committee's cost estimates obsolete.

 

Read more: USPS 'reneges' on commitment to supply Westside mailboxes

    If it's approved at the Open Meeting later this month, a $31,000 paving contract to repair a damaged section of Firetree Lane near Echo Dam will be the Seven Lakes Landowners Association's [SLLA] first tangible step towards major repaving — a massive project that has dominated financial discussions and decision-making for years.
Image    One of four high priority repairs identified, the roadway near Echo Dam was cleared for work earlier this year when it was classified non-jurisdictional by the NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources.
    Using plans drafted by Southsider Mike Cummins, a retired civil engineer, three bids were solicited, resulting in one proposal.
    “It is a very good figure,” Community Manager Alina Cochran told the SLLA Board at their Work Session on Monday, September 13.
    Treasurer Denny Galford agreed, noting that original estimates suggested the work could cost $80,000. He said the proposal was reviewed by both Cummins and another Southside resident, Tom Clark, who is employed by the State of Virginia as a road construction supervisor.
    “This is not our practice -- to accept one proposal -- but three bids were requested," Galford said. "Mike [Cummins] will provide surveying for the project and Tom Clark was very complimentary of his drawings. He said they are the reason we have a very detailed breakdown on bidding.”
    “I feel comfortable that even with only one bid, we’ve confirmed it is reasonable; and I recommend we approve it and move forward with this repair,” he concluded.
    Frustrated by the slow overall pace of the repaving projects, the Board briefly considering scheduling a Special Open Meeting which would allow for a more timely vote on the proposal; however, at the urging of Director Kent Droppers, a decision on the contract was tabled until the Wednesday, September 29 Open Meeting.
    “We won’t lose that much time by waiting until the meeting to vote. Let’s bring it out for discussion and avoid any issues that we’re trying to ramrod it through,” Droppers said.

 

Read more: SLLA Board Ready to Approve First Road Repair Project

    It may be true that "a rose is a rose is a rose."
Image    But it evidently does not follow that "a jail is jail is a jail" -- at least not according to a cost analysis of five recent detention center projects in North Carolina. The task of pulling together the data fell to Assistant County Manager Ken Larking, who noted before diving into his presentation during the Tuesday, September 7 meeting of the Moore County Board of Commissioners that this was his first major presentation to the Board.
    Critics of the planned Moore County detention center say it is too expensive, and point to a cost per bed that is nearly twice what Harnett County paid for its new jail. Defenders of the Moore County project say the price is fair, and point out that it's actually cheaper, per square foot, than the Harnett County facility. Both appear to be right, at least in part.
    Sheriff Lane Carter says the difference in cost comes down to what the building was designed to do and whether it was designed with an eye to the future.
    The Board of Commissioners are expected to take public input on the proposed public safety facility and detention center and vote on awarding the construction contract for the project during their regular September 20 meeting.
Read more: Board Debates Cost of New Jail, Timing of Decision

    Correcting an longstanding oversight, the Moore County Board of Commissioners has approved a revised contract with the Seven Lakes Volunteer Fire Department [SLVFD] recognizing that the department has been providing medium duty rescue services in its district since the 1980s.
Image    Fire Marshal Ken Skipper explained during the Tuesday, September 7 meeting of the Moore COunty Board of Commissioners that a 2009 review of contracts with fire departments and rescue squads across the county had revealed that the county had no contract with any entity to provide rescue service within the Seven Lakes Fire District, even though the Seven Lakes VFD had been providing that service since the mid-1980s.
    The county last year established new countywide standards for the provision of those services, Skipper said, and SLVFD had to acquire additional equipment and implement additional training in order to meet those standards, which it completed over the past year. During that interim, the county had contracted with West End Fire and Rescue [WEFR] to formally cover rescue duties in the Seven Lakes Fire District.
    Now that SLVFD meets all county requirements, Skipper said, the rescue contract can be moved from West End to the Seven Lakes department. He noted in his report to the Board that the new contract would cost the county $1,500 per year in equipment maintenance costs, but added that, in the long run, the county would save money.
    Currently, when there is an auto accident in the Seven Lakes Fire District, the 9-1-1 center dispatches Seven Lakes EMS, Moore County EMS, SLVFD, and WEFR. Under the new contract, West End Fire and Rescue would only be called if needed as backup for an accident that involves a confirmed entrapment.
    "They meet the standards," Skipper said of SLVFD, adding that they had worked hard over the past year to meet the county's new rescue requirements. "All they need is a new contract."
    The Board of Commissioners approved the new contract unanimously.

 

Read more: County Approves New Contract with Seven Lakes VFD

    There was a good turnout for the first meeting between the Greater Seven Lakes Community Council [GSLCC] and the Moore County Board of Commissioners, and plenty of questions.
Image    The Seven Lakes debate about incorporation simmered constantly just below the surface, but never really broke through. What did break through, somewhat surprisingly, in a forum devoted to Seven Lakes issues, was the Commissioners' internal debate about how to fund a new jail and public safety complex in downtown Carthage.
    The GSLCC hosted the Commissioners in the West Side Park Community Center before a crowd of about 100 -- a sizable turnout for a summer afternoon meeting that the Council never really advertised as being open to the public. Along with all five Commissioners, county staff on hand included the county manager, assistant manager, attorney, public utilities director, assistant planning director, and clerk, along with Sheriff Lane Carter.
    The meeting's agenda was set by a list of questions the council posed to the county, grouped into five areas: water, planning and zoning, security, incorporation, and the bond issue to fund the new public safety complex and detention center planned for downtown Carthage. We've broken the conversation about the last of those items out into a separate story, which you can read here .
    County staff used PowerPoint slides to support their presentations; you can download a copy of those slides here .
    
Incorporation
    Though it has been the hottest topic in Seven Lakes this Summer, incorporation was the issue the Board of Commissioners dealt with most quickly.
    County Attorney Misty Leland had prepared an incorporation primer with detailed information on the  process and the relevant state statutes that was available for meeting attendees to take away from the meeting [Download a copy here ].
    "Incorporation is a question that Seven Lakes needs to answer for itself," Chairman Tim Lea said. Lea was the only member of the Board to address the issue.
    "We will be glad to work with you on any direction you want to go in."
    A member of the audience asked whether, if Seven Lakes incorporated and had its own police force, it would also need its own judge and jail.
    "They all come to Carthage," Sheriff Carer replied, explaining that, in North Carolina, the state provides the judges and the county provides the jails.

 

Read more: County, Seven Lakes Council Have First Meeting

    No one seems to know why the Moore County Board of Commissioners wound up debating the wisdom of a jail bond referendum in front of a Seven Lakes crowd on hand to witness the first meeting between the Commissioners and the Greater Seven Lakes Community Council [GSLCC].
Image    But the debate provided the major fireworks in the Thursday, August 26 meeting, as Chairman Tim Lea questioned not only the method of funding the project but also suggested the county may be about to pay a substantially higher cost per jail bed than was recently paid for similar projects in other counties.
    
Morgan: 'Big debts crammed down our throats'
    Lea, along with Commissioner Cindy Morgan, has voted twice in recent weeks to put the $50 million debt before the voters in a referendum. In each case, a majority that included Larry Caddell, Jimmy Melton, and Nick Picerno have turned away that idea in favor of funding the project through the issuance of limited obligation bonds. These bonds are secured -- like a mortgage -- by the property itself, and do not require voter approval.
    "I'm the person who put the motion on the table," Commissioner Morgan said. "I did it because I had people talking to me asking why we would do this without asking the people to vote on it, because, ultimately, you do pay for it. . . . It makes really me sad to think that we sit here in Moore County and have the same kinds of behaviors happening at the Moore County level that we see in Washington DC, where we see these big debts being crammed down our throats and we don't have an opportunity to have our say."
    Lea said he had no question about the need for a new jail: "When you net all the conversation out, there is no question that we need a new detention center. The question is whether we are going to let the people vote on it."
    He recounted a recent conversation with former Board of Commissioners Chairman Michael Holden, who told Lea that the largest amount the Board had ever borrowed without voter approval was $9.9 million, for a new middle school.
    "At some point, you've got to give back control of this country to the people," Lea said.
    Noting growing deficits at both the federal and state levels -- and projected state cutbacks in next year's funding for schools -- Lea said: "We can go ahead and fund this project without increasing your  taxes, but if this Board decides or if you decide that we are going to build a new school -- a new high school, a new middle school, or anything else -- based on the numbers that are on the table, we potentially are going to have to raise your taxes."
    "We've got more red ink coming at us next year than this county has ever, in its history, dealt with."

     "Does this mean the two of you [Lea and Morgan] would vote against this if we had a referendum in November?" Seven Lakes business owner Darrell Marks asked. "That you would not support a new jail?"
    "No, I would vote for it," Lea replied.
    "The issue is that the people who are going to pay for this should have a voice in this," he added.

 

Read more: Jail Funding Debate Comes to Seven Lakes

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...