Our Chatham is a collaboration between Chatham County residents and students at UNC’s School of Media and Journalism. You ask the questions. We do the reporting and post the answers. Submit your question and subscribe to our newsletter to get the answers sent straight to your inbox.
The first season of the new podcast series by Chatham News + Record and Our Chatham, the “ChatCast,” comes out today. You can find it online or through various streaming services.
In Chatham County, mental health isn’t typically a dinner table topic. But the creators of the ChatCast are hoping to change that to deal with an issue that is so vital to Chatham County and beyond, as data suggests mental illness – as well as suicide – are only getting more prevalent. News + Record Reporter Zachary Horner and Our Chatham Reporter Adrianne Cleven have interviewed more than 30 people in and around Chatham County — including educators, mental health professionals, teenagers and parents — to provide insight on the topic. The first season of the podcast, “Age of Anxiety,” discusses mental health topics throughout the county of Chatham.
“Strong, resilient and progressive” were the main takeaways of the 2019 State of the County report presented by the Chatham County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday. The report covers fiscal year 2018-19, starting July 1, 2018 and ending June 30, 2019. It includes updates on countywide initiatives such as encouraging economic development, climate protection efforts and achievements within the Chatham Comprehensive Plan, the county said in a press release. “The state of Chatham County is one of strength, resiliency and promise as it continues to experience rapid growth while embracing the many traditions that make our county so special,” said Chatham County Board of Commissioners Chair Mike Dasher. “We are making great strides in achieving our collaborative goals and cultivating opportunities so people can work and raise their families for generations to come.”
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Chatham County is North Carolina’s fourth fastest-growing county, with a growth rate of 2.7 percent.
On Friday, something big is happening to make way for something little. The site for Tiny Homes Village, a community of affordable tiny homes for those with mental health challenges, will begin its groundbreaking. The site will be located on the grounds of The Farm at Penny Lane in northern Chatham County. The village aims to include 15 tiny homes at around 400 square feet each to provide housing opportunities for those on a fixed income, veterans or residents with health issues. Surrounding the houses will be a clubhouse for classes and other activities.
The future of the Confederate monument in downtown Pittsboro remains uncertain following months of protests, lawsuits and a temporary restraining order.
But it has it also affected those who live and work in the area. Since the Chatham County Board of Commissioners voted 4-1 in favor of the monument’s removal in August, the statue, which has sat outside the Chatham County Historic Courthouse since 1907, has been the subject of heated debate. Many have gathered downtown to protest both for and against the statue’s removal. Social media has been a catalyst for these protests, with groups organizing via Facebook and Twitter. Some pro-Confederate groups have even posted clips of their demonstrations on TikTok.
News travels fast online — so some participants are outsiders who travel to Pittsboro on the weekends to protest.
Patricia Parker grows food for a living. But still, she knows what it’s like to be food insecure.
The entirety of Parker’s income comes from the farm she owns in Chatham County growing things such as fruits and vegetables. Like many others, she has a limited amount of money to spend on food, and she relies on the cheap prices at stores like Aldi and Lidl to stay within budget.
But those prices are also hurting her business, since the low prices mean less profit and income for Parker. “It’s a very conflicting experience for me,” Parker said. “It’s a terrible sort of catch-22.”
Parker is one of many community members who attended the Newsmakers Forum on Hunger at Chatham Community Library last Friday.
The panel, hosted by Carolina Public Press, sought to spark discussion about food insecurity in rural Chatham.
The environment is on Chatham County’s mind. With the months-long saga of Pittsboro’s tainted drinking water still unfolding, attention by county officials and local groups to environmental health is heightened. Various county leaders, from planning and development to transportation, are collaborating on the issue of environmental protection and climate change, which has been in discussion for several years now. The creation of the county’s Climate Change Advisory Committee in 2015 has been one major step toward solving Chatham’s biggest environmental challenges, of which several county commissioners have said vehicle emissions is one. Commute times contribute emissions
Commute times in Chatham County average almost 30 minutes, and average car ownership per household is two vehicles.
With protests again expected Saturday in Pittsboro over the removal – or existence – of the Confederate monument downtown, we thought it important to give context to the issue with some history from the former mayor of the town, Randy Voller, with a video. Voller, who also runs the Chatham County Line, knows the arguments for removing it. For some, it’s a symbol of the slavery that so scarred North Carolina and much of the South and country, and the racism that still shows itself today through white-power movements. The pro-statue side would say it has nothing to do with race or slavery because the Civil War was more about taxation, states rights and the agricultural economy. The monument’s place is there, they say, at the foot of the historic courthouse in Pittsboro.
The contaminants in the Haw River are a serious issue. The Town of Pittsboro is the only municipality in the Haw River watershed to draw its drinking water from the river.
By the nature of the river’s proximity to other cities like Greensboro and Burlington, industrial pollutants are a major red flag for environmental groups and regulatory agencies.
On Wednesday, state officials and researchers from several universities in the Triangle hosted a public meeting sponsored by the Haw River Assembly to discuss the safety of Pittsboro’s drinking water.
Researchers found contaminants, called perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), and 1,4-dioxane in the Haw River, among other water sources. PFAS are a type of unregulated chemical that slip by in water treatment processes and can cause health problems.
The industrial-based chemical, 1,4-dioxane, has been found in Pittsboro’s water and is a likely carcinogen. In Pittsboro, the East Burlington treatment plant seems to be the main source of PFAS, according to a tweet from an N.C. Policy Watch source.
“Why are we discharging any of these chemicals into the drinking water in the first place?” asked Dr. Detlef Knappe, a professor at North Carolina State University and scientist, at the Wednesday meeting.
Elaine Chiosso, executive director of the Haw River Assembly, said that through Duke University and Dr. Heather Stapleton, an environmental chemist, volunteers from Pittsboro can opt to take blood tests to assess levels of PFAs in their body.
This testing is part of a larger study examining sources of these chemicals and their health effects.
Additionally, according to the News + Record, the town will pay $261,268 for six to seven months of water testing.Typical water treatment systems don’t effectively remove the chemicals in Pittsboro because they dissolve in water, according to North Carolina Health News. Advanced water treatment systems are required for that kind of filtration. Just this week, the Department of Environmental Quality announced Shamrock Environmental Corporation is responsible for the 1,4 dioxane discharge into its Greensboro treatment plant.
This week’s question comes from Stephanie Bass. She’s got one that we’re sure is on a lot of your minds: what are the important decisions yet to be made about Chatham Park, along with who makes them and when? If you’ve just moved to town – or have been walking around with earmuffs on for the past few years – here’s the scoop: Chatham Park is a pending mixed-use development in the Town of Pittsboro. At full buildout, which is expected to take 35 to 40 years, it’s projected to spread over more than 7,000 acres.
Thomas D’Alesandro has a history of strategizing planned developments in the vein of Chatham Park: he’s worked on four of the largest master-planned communities in the country, including Las Vegas’ “Summerlin” and “The Woodlands” in Texas. He thinks there’s value to planning a multi-use community this far out to combat, among other things, the traditional and often erratic growth that can jeopardize the look of such a historic town through traditional suburban sprawl.
But is it just emblematic of the larger divide nationally? By Molly Weisner and Paige Masten
The Confederate monument on the steps of the Pittsboro courthouse is coming down. But the questions that have been suspended in midair are more complicated ones: when, and why? In late September, Mike Dasher, chairman of the Chatham County Board of Commissioners, sent a letter to Barbara Pugh, president of the Winnie Davis Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, saying the county would consider a request for extended time to present a plan for removal. Tuesday was the deadline for the UDC to submit a plan for relocation, but the day came and went with no plan submitted.