An alert local resident brought to the attention of the City of Mebane last week a disturbing depiction on a Duke Energy transformer of a racist phrase. Although the graffiti wasn’t deemed to be new - it was actually something that happened years ago - Mebane town officials moved quickly to remove the disturbing image.
The local resident, who works at the Jabil facility along Corporate Park Drive in Mebane, brought the racially-charged graffiti to the attention of local leaders on the morning of Monday, July 20.
“Dear Council , Mayor and other Elected Officials - I wanted to bring to your attention there is racial graffiti engraved on a transformer box on Corporate Park Drive near the old Ford Facility that reads “(racial epithet “N Words”) Must Die,” read the resident’s initial email the morning of Monday, July 20. “This is very disturbing and unsettling to me as US citizen and person who works every day in this area. I am hoping bringing this to your attention will encourage you get someone come out and remove the graffiti.”
The email was met with a rapid response by town officials and members of the City Council. Within a few minutes of the initial email, City Council member Tim Bradley - out of town at the time - requested Assistant City Manager Chris Rollins follow up with the resident, while Mayor Ed Hooks indicated within the first half-hour that staff would take measure of the situation.
“We will look into this. Thanks,” Mayor Hooks stated to the resident.
Later that day, Rollins indicated that he had personally witnessed the graffiti, and had taken efforts to get it removed quickly.
“I went out and saw the graffiti,” Rollins said in an email to the resident and other local officials. “The graffiti appears to have been done years ago and repainted but looks like with age the paint has faded the graffiti it is coming through the paint again. I was very disturbed to see this and can assure you we will follow up with Duke Energy to make assure this is resolved very quickly. I called one of our Duke Energy representatives and have emailed him and several others and requested Duke to repaint the transformer as soon as possible or at least cover the graffiti with primer in the next 24 hours.”
The following day - Tuesday, July 21 - Rollins indicated that Duke Energy had someone go by the location and spray paint over the offensive remark.
“It helps, but it is not ideal,” Rollins explained. “They (Duke Energy) have a transformer painting crew scheduled to repaint it.”
City Council members Everette Greene and Sean Ewing heaped praise on Rollins for his quick attention to the matter, and quick resolution.
“Good job Chris,” said Greene. “Hard to get Duke to move quickly but apparently you did.”
“Our Assistant City Manager Chris Rollins did a phenomenal job pushing Duke to urgently address the issue within 24 hours. He did just a great job making sure that Duke Power, moved them to address,” Ewing added.
The local resident and Jabil employees were also satisfied with Mebane’s rapid response.
“Thanks everyone for taking this matter serious and putting temporary measures in place,” the resident stated. “I drove by the transformer (later in the week) and you can clearly see the box was painted to hide the graffiti. What I noticed is the paint doesn’t cover up the graffiti, probably because it was craved into the transformer box. Duke Energy needs to consider replacing the panel with new panel. Thanks again and our employees at Jabil appreciate how City of Mebane proactively addressed our concerns.”
Ewing acknowledged that while the painting over the offensive message is a positive start, a work order is in place for a more permanent solution.
“Everything is within Duke. That’s all Duke stuff, whether it be an easement, or safety issues, covering it or putting something in front of it. Obviously you don’t want things going into the ground near high voltage. So everything was on Duke,” added Ewing. ““There’s a work order for a long-term fix. I’m very thankful that Chris Rollins did such a good job in working with Duke Power in a timely fashion.”