Northwest Observer

OAK RIDGE town council


OAK RIDGE – Mayor Ann Schneider called the regular monthly meeting in Town Hall to order, with Mayor Pro Tem Jim Kinneman and council members George McClellan, Martha Pittman and Spencer Sullivan present.

Oak Ridge resident Patti Dmuchowski offered the invocation, which was followed by the Pledge of Allegiance.


Canine Capers gifts. Canine Capers Committee member Annette Joyce presented checks in the amount of $629.60 to five animal rescue groups – SPCA of the Triad, Susie’s Hope, Red Dog Farm, Ruff Love Rescue and North Star Bloodhounds. The checks represented proceeds from the eighth annual Canine Capers event held in Oak Ridge Town Park on April 30.


Sheriff’s Office. Detective Sgt. R.D. Seals reported the sheriff’s District 1 office responded to 192 calls in Oak Ridge in June. Thefts from vehicles in area parks remain a problem, with break-ins recently reported at the Cascades Preserve in Oak Ridge and Triad Park in Kernersville. No thefts were reported last month at Oak Ridge Town Park, according to Seals.

The sheriff’s office distributed photos of three suspects involved in two of the incidents that occurred locally (the photos can be found on the Northwest Observer’s Facebook page).

Detectives are seeking information about the breaking and entering of a vehicle in northwestern Guilford County on June 25 in which financial cards were stolen. Later the same day, two suspects reportedly attempted to use the cards to make purchases at a store on Skeet Club Road in High Point.

Detectives are also seeking to identify a white male who was involved in a shoplifting incident in Oak Ridge on June 25.

The sheriff’s department is asking for anyone with information about the incidents to call Crime Stoppers at (336) 373-1000.

Oak Ridge Fire Department. Firefighter Chris Golds reported the department handled 51 fire-related calls and 48 EMS-related calls in June; firefighters obtained 417 hours of training.

On a safety note, Golds encouraged people to drink plenty of water to stay hydrated during hot weather.


Financial items

Council voted 5 to 0 to approve four financial items with a single vote:

Establish a restricted fund to support the town’s Conserving Oak Ridge through Easements (CORE) grant program. The council also allocated $20,000 for the new program.

Match funds totaling $4,560 raised by the Special Events Committee in the quarter ended June 30 for development of the Veterans Honor Green.

Match another $19,112.87 in funds raised by the committee for the veterans’ site in the fiscal year that ended June 30. That amount exceeded the $34,000 in matching funds budgeted by the council last year. As a result, the council agreed to pay last year’s unmet match during the new fiscal year.

The two above matches, which total $23,672.87, bring the veterans memorial restricted fund to $123,844.74, Town Clerk Sandra Smith told the council in a July 1 memo. The project is estimated to cost $194,000.

Un-restrict $2,900 in the town’s historic heritage grants fund and move the money to the general fund. The money covered three expenses approved by the Historic Preservation Commission last fiscal year, which were: $700 for restoring a retaining wall at the Old Mill of Guilford on N.C. 68; $2,000 to shore up the foundation of the H.C. Gardner house on N.C. 150; and a $200 honorarium to preservation experts on the grants review panel.

Bandera Farms easement

Council voted 5 to 0 to approve a permanent deed of conservation easement on Bandera Farms Park, replacing a temporary deed in place since Piedmont Land Conservancy (PLC) acquired the property in December 2020.

As a condition of Oak Ridge’s contribution of $41,250 toward the purchase of the 115-acre tract on Bunch Road and Interstate 73, the council required that it be granted a permanent interest in the property.

Earlier this month, the council approved the permanent deed as PLC prepared to transfer ownership of the property to the town of Summerfield, where the land is located.

The permanent deed gives Oak Ridge and PLC the ability to enforce conservation easement provisions. That, in turn, “will assure the Bandera Farms property is used in accordance with the town’s investment and will remain an open space preserve with equestrian and hiking trails” with limited infrastructure supporting these uses, Town Manager Bill Bruce told the council in a July 1 memo.

Board reappointments

Council voted 5 to 0 to reappoint John Browning and Mike Kimel to the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board.

Unsealing of minutes

Council voted 5 to 0 to unseal closed session minutes of council meetings on July 1 and July 22, 2021.

Code enforcement. Town Attorney Michael Thomas updated the council on legal efforts requiring property owner Ricky Wayne Jones to bring his property at 8346 and 8364 West Harrell Road into compliance with town ordinances.

Last October, the council authorized Thomas to start legal proceedings against Jones for storing unlicensed vehicles on his two parcels totaling nearly 30 acres. While “there have been assertions from the owner that he is removing non-conforming material from the site,” Thomas said, the steps haven’t brought the property into compliance with town regulations.

Civil penalties total $500 per tract of land per day, or $1,000 a day for Jones’ two parcels, according to Town Manager Bill Bruce. Penalties began accumulating last August, pushing the total over $300,000, he said.

Civil penalties are intended “to get people’s attention and to get them to do something,” Thomas said. “Our object is to get enforcement of our development ordinance standards first.”

Council members have expressed a reluctance to impose civil penalties against Jones.

“We are trying to make it very, very clear: this is not a way for us to generate revenue,” Mayor Pro Tem Kinneman said.

If Jones were required to pay civil penalties, 90% would go to the Guilford County Board of Education, with the town keeping 10% to cover legal and administrative costs, according to Thomas.

Water study. Bruce reviewed a report by consultant Wooten Co. proposing ways for Oak Ridge to run water lines to aid firefighters and eventually supply homeowners with drinking water. (See related article on front cover.)

One option would rely upon groundwater to fill above-ground tanks in various locations around town. Lines from the tanks would connect to fire hydrants, according to the study.

The second option would bring water to Oak Ridge from Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Utilities. A line would run along N.C. 150 from Kerners­ville to an elevated water tank behind the Oak Ridge Fire Department on Linville Road, the study said. From there, it would be distributed along primary corridors in town.

Heritage Farm Park update. Bruce said that after earlier drilling for a sufficient source of water proved unsuccessful, a contractor has located water at Heritage Farm Park that’s probably adequate to supply bathrooms and irrigation for athletic fields.

“We finally hit a location with a productive flow,” the town manager said.

A 24-hour water drawdown test by Guilford County environmental health regulators will determine whether the groundwater at the park site produces a sustainable flow and doesn’t negatively impact neighboring wells, according to Bruce.

If the town is cleared to use the well, he said, staff will proceed to finalize park construction drawings. As inflation has pushed construction costs higher, the council will revisit borrowing options to help pay for development of the park.

The council appropriated $3.66 million for the park in the budget for the fiscal year that started July 1.

Surplus equipment

Council voted 5 to 0 to declare as surplus two pieces of equipment – a Gravely 472 zero-turn mower and a Toro SandPro 3040 field groomer. The machines are scheduled for replacement by the Parks and Recreation Department.

Website upgrade. Town Clerk Sandra Smith unveiled Oak Ridge’s upgraded website, saying the aim of the new design is to make information “a lot more logical and a lot easier to find.” She urged users to contact town staff to report any glitches and provide feedback about the new website.

A series of photographs of Oak Ridge historic landmarks, popular destinations and scenic views roll across the homepage. Icons and drop-down menus direct users to information such as the calendar of upcoming events and council and staff contacts.

Photographs also highlight links to Music in the Park and other events, town news, strategic planning and other initiatives.

During public comments later in the meeting, Randy Collins said he was impressed by the new website. Viewing it “made me proud to be a citizen of Oak Ridge,” he said.


Music in the Park alcohol policy

Council voted 5 to 0 to approve a policy to allow consumption of beer and wine at four Music in the Park concerts next summer. (See News Briefs in this issue.)

Among various restrictions, the policy requires that vendors of alcoholic beverages provide town staff with verification of their state alcohol sales permits. It also requires the town hire at least one off-duty sheriff’s deputy to enforce park regulations and “specifically to watch for unruly behavior.”

New sound system

Council voted 5 to 0 to approve a $16,809 contract with Greensboro-based Audio & Light Inc. to update the sound system in the council chambers.

The upgrades are designed to enhance the quality of communications during council and other meetings at Town Hall. Council members have occasionally complained about their inability to hear others speaking since the 2020 expenditure of $16,275 to buy a system for recording and livestreaming public meetings in Town Hall.


Council voted 5 to 0 to approve a budget adjustment recommended by finance officer Sam Anders in the amount of $1,948 to bring the town’s spending plan into balance as of June 30, the end of last fiscal year.


Mountains-to-Sea Trail Committee. Council member Martha Pittman reported that Bill and Pam Lemmons donated money to pay for new informational signs at the Linville Road and Goodwill Church Road parking lots, as well as directional signs along the MST.

Conservation Easement Committee. Chair Stephanie Farrell reported the committee finalized a letter to introduce property owners to the town’s CORE (Conserving Oak Ridge through Easements) initiative.

The committee is contacting people who may want to seek open-space easements for their historic structures and property.

Special Events Committee. Chair Patti Dmuchowski reported sales of engraved pavers for the Veterans Honor Green are “going very well,” as part of raising funds for the veterans’ site in Heritage Park.

The committee has begun planning for Oak Ridge’s 25th anniversary next year, Dmuchowski said.

Parks and Recreation Advisory Board. Co-chair John Browning reported the parks and recreation staff has added a second pickleball court in the Town Park parking lot. Hours for play have also been expanded to accommodate the sport’s growing popularity in Oak Ridge. Through mid-August, the pickleball courts are open Monday through Friday, from dawn to dusk, Browning said.

Oak Ridge Youth Association. Randy Collins, ORYA’s community relations director, reported the group has organized self-defense classes for high school girls on Sunday afternoons during July. The classes are being held at Mustang Fitness/CrossFit Oak Ridge on Linville Road from 4-5:30 p.m.


Sam Anders said he purchased historic property at N.C. 150 and Linville Road, where he plans to construct an office building. (See related article on p. 14.)

“This is a major move for me,” said Anders, who owns an accounting practice in addition to serving as Oak Ridge’s finance officer and assistant fire chief. “This is a major project that I’m undertaking – me, my employees (and) my family.”


Sullivan said he is “amazed by the generosity of our citizens” in support of activities and projects such as Canine Capers, the Veterans Honor Green and the Mobile Makeover of trailer classrooms at Northwest Guilford High School.

Pittman thanked people who attended the meeting and “for participating in your local government.” She said she also appreciates hearing from residents who express their viewpoints.

Kinneman said he realized the council “raised your taxes” by maintaining the current property tax rate of 8 cents per $100 valuation at the same time that the county’s reappraisal of property increased values for many residents.

The councilman also reiterated his concerns about the council’s appropriation of $455,000 for the renovation of the historic Redmon house.

“My main concern is the cost versus the benefit,” Kinneman said. While supporting the expenditure of taxpayers’ dollars to restore the exterior of the house, he said he “has concerns whether or not it’s really going to get used that much” for community events.

“Thank you, Dr. Fear,” McClellan said to Kinneman after he concluded his remarks. “We did not increase the tax rate. We have amongst the lowest tax rates in North Carolina. Let’s kinda put this in perspective.”

McClellan then introduced Summerfield Town Council member Janelle Robinson, who was in attendance.

Schneider said Oak Ridge’s property taxes account for about 9% of the overall tax bill for Guilford County residents. “We are a very low-tax town,” she said, adding that higher taxes in Oak Ridge reflect “the increased value of our homes in this inflationary period.”


The council went into a closed session to consider raising the town manager’s annual salary and reconvened to vote on the increase.

Council voted 5 to 0 to increase Town Manager Bill Bruce’s annual salary by 7.4% to $98,000.

Bruce’s performance was praised by council members.

“We are very fortunate to have you as our town manager,” Schneider said. “Your performance has been nothing short of superb over the last year. You are incredibly valuable to what we are doing here in Oak Ridge.”

With no further business, the meeting was adjourned at 9:07 p.m.

OAK RIDGE town council

OAK RIDGE town council

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