Chatham’s new 2019 State of the County report, summarized

“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.

With the removal of Pittsboro’s Confederate monument in limbo, here’s what residents and businesses have to say

By Paige Masten and Molly Weisner

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.

‘There’s no face to hunger’: Community discusses food insecurity in Chatham

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.

How Chatham is joining forces to combat environmental issues

By Molly Weisner and Casey Mann

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.

Vote to remove Confederate monument brings relief, frustration to Chatham

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.

‘One Chatham’ hosts panel on nexus of poverty and education

Our Chatham, the Chatham News + Record and more than 50 community members and leaders gathered Wednesday night at Jordan-Matthews High School in Siler City for a nearly two-hour, and often passionate, conversation about poverty’s impact on education. 

Sponsored by Mountaire Farms and moderated by News + Record publisher Bill Horner III, the event featured five panelists who are involved with Chatham County Schools in various ways. The panel’s goal was to raise awareness within the community and brainstorm collaborative solutions to the educational struggles of students who grow up in poverty. 

Horner pointed out that more than one in five children in the United States live in poverty. Half of Chatham County’s 18 public schools are classified as Title I schools, meaning that they have a high percentage of low-income students. Title I schools are eligible to receive additional state funding to ensure that all students meet certain standards of achievement. 

Graphic artist Wendi Pillars sketches out the discussion during Wednesday’s One Chatham event/Charlotte Ririe

Panelist Chris Poston, executive director of elementary and middle grades for Chatham County Schools, said funds are delegated proportionally to Title I schools based on the number of free-and-reduced lunch students who attend the school. This funding is implemented schoolwide, so any student at a Title I school benefits from the additional investment in education. 

The panelists discussed at length the educational challenges for children living in poverty. 

Panelist Jazmin Mendoza Sosa, who grew up in poverty in Siler City, works for Chatham Communities in Schools, and she serves as the Student Support Specialist at Virginia Cross Elementary School.

Alert: Chatham board votes to take down Confederate statue

The Chatham County Board of Commissioners voted 4-1 Monday night to start the process of removing the Confederate statue in front of the historic courthouse in Pittsboro. The motion was introduced by Commissioner Jim Crawford, and it was seconded by Commissioner Karen Howard. As the Howard spoke, she was heckled by supporters of the statue, who called her and the others on the board “traitors to the county.”

Commissioner Diana Hales also spoke in favor of removing the statue, as did chair Mike Dasher. The vote passed 4-1, with Commissioner Andy Wilkie voting no. According to the motion, the United Daughters of the Confederacy have until Oct.

“One Chatham” community forum brings Chatham’s east and west together

For
a diverse community that spans over 700 square miles, Chatham
County residents seemed connected, communicative and ready to brainstorm
solutions at the “One Chatham” community forum held Wednesday in Pittsboro. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss issues of economic development, housing and disparity across the county. The Chatham News + Record partnered with Our Chatham to host the event, and a panel of five community leaders helped facilitate the conversation: Alyssa Byrd, Tami Schwerin, Stephanie Watkins-Cruz, Paul Cuadros and Susan Levy. Bill Horner III, publisher of the Chatham News + Record, served as the panel’s moderator. The panelists at One Chatham from left to right: Alyssa Byrd, Paul Cuadros, Susan Levy, Tami Schwerin, and Stephanie Watkins-Cruz.

Chicken plant opening shines spotlight on Chatham County’s affordable housing crisis

The eviction of more than two dozen families from a mobile home park near the new chicken plant  — and those families’ struggle to stay in Chatham County — points to a persistent housing issue. SILER CITY – Chatham County’s housing shortage is expected to be exacerbated by the influx of workers that have already started to arrive at the city’s new chicken plant, testing the county’s housing supply and the ability of officials to plan future development as more arrive. One of the first moves of chicken plant owner and operator Mountaire Farms in November 2017 was to evict 28 mostly Latino families, more than 100 people, from the nearby Johnson Mobile Home Park. Close to Mountaire’s new Siler City plant off U.S. 64, Mountaire bought the mobile home park as part of the plant’s expansion plans. As those families looked to find another place to live, the county’s affordable housing crisis came sharply into focus.