Chatham County Board of Commissioners Meeting Notes — Nov. 5, 2018

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Title of meeting: Chatham County Board of Commissioners
Date: Nov. 5, 2018
Start Time: 6:05 p.m.
Number of people in attendance (not including officials): 5 (including Ari)
The Scene: Quiet and subdued. Very dark for 6 p.m. Lighting is a moody orange. Held in second floor courtroom.
Public Comment: No one signed up to comment and no one spoke.
The Debate: None tonight, only the CIP presentation.
Next Steps: Public input on Nov. 19
Work session on Nov. 27
Revised plan Dec. 17

Summary:

Four of the five members of Chatham County Board of Commissioners gathered in the second floor courtroom of the Chatham County Courthouse in downtown Pittsboro to hear a presentation of the capital improvements plan for 2020 through 2026 from interim county manager Dan LaMontagne.

The meeting, which started at 6:05 p.m. and lasted only 30 minutes, consisted mainly of the plan presentation. In the presentation, LaMontagne laid out the various projects they wished to be funded in the coming years including improvements to the emergency communication radio system, the emergency operations center, Chatham Grove Elementary School, Seaforth High School, the Central Services building and the animal shelter. The plan also included resurfacing for the tracks at all three high schools, a second generator for the Chatham County detention center and discussion of improvements to the Chatham County Agriculture and Conference Center and the County Complex master plan as well as investments in broadband technology for the area.

Many of the estimates for the capital projects had increased by several hundreds of thousands of dollars. LaMontagne said the increase was due to higher contracting and construction prices. Commissioners Mike Dasher, Diana Hales, Karen Howard and Walter Petty said little during the presentation except to comment on the price increases.

A session for public input on the plan is set to take place on November 19, with a work session on for the plan following the next week on November 27. The board hopes to improve a revised plan by December 17 for implementation into the budget in January.

Big takeaways

  • Everything costs more now
      1. Emergency Comm radio system upgrade and Emergency Op Center expansion
        1. An additional 1.5 cents of revenue need to be added to the debt model LaMontagne said.
      2. Chatham Grove Elem.
        1. $3,791,698 over budget
      3. Seaforth HS
        1. $9,376,058 over budget
      4. Central Services Building,
        1. $5,028,177 over budget
        2. roughly $11 mil total,
        3. It “almost doubled”  Chair Hales said.
      5. Animal Shelter
        1. $971,574 over budget
      6. 3 HS track resurfacing
        1. $474,480 over budget
      7. CC Detention Center 2nd generator
        1. $627,739 over budget
      8. County complex master plan
      9. Chatham County Agriculture and Conference Center Phase II expansion
      10. Technology
        1. To expand county network/broadband
      11. Why does everything cost more?
        1. Interim County Manager Dan LaMontagne cited increase in:
          1. material costs,
          2. tariffs,
          3. recycling markets
          4. and “so many things.”
        2. “It’s been hitting us for… it’s been over a year now. We’ve been seeing construction costs really go through the roof. For everything. It’s bad. It’s getting pretty tough.” LaMontagne said.
        3. “Also just contractors don’t want to do the work. They’re to busy. There are fewer contractors out there and they do it for a premium.” LaMontagne said.
          1. “‘If they can do this school, they can do another one somewhere else, like in Wake County.’ In Wake County they are building them hand over fist so why are they going to do ours? Only if we pay them this much, you know? They’d rather stay at home where they can build a cookie-cutter school (and those are a lot easier) than coming here and doing them. So that’s a premium and we are just finding that for a lot of things. A lot of the mid-size project we are really getting hit on that.” LaMontagne said.
  • Chatham Park will bring big changes
      1. 1600 more students due to the development.
        1. 1900 more total estimated
      2. New elementary school planned for the area
  • Impact fees are under threat, and they are a big deal
    1. Last year impact fees were repealed in Orange County by the NCGA. At the same time another bill was proposed to repeal them in cities and counties statewide, including in Chatham County, but it was amended to merely study impact fees.
    2. Impact fees are used to fund capital improvements for schools in Chatham.
    3. “We’re very worried. It’s an additional three cents on the tax rate if we lose that. It’s pretty significant.” LaMontagne said.
      1. “We haven’t gone up on our rates… Ever.”  LaMontagne said.
    4. “We were included briefly and then we were taken out of it thank goodness and we did quite a bit of lobbying to avoid that. We are not real interested in the magnifying glass being on our back frankly.” LaMontagne said.
      1. “A lot of our commissioners and a lot of our past commissioners actually lobbying for us. We had Republicans and Democrats in downtown Raleigh going down the hall saying ‘hey’ We had some sheets to hand out to ‘em saying here’s what an impact fee is to us, you know this is huge.” LaMontagne said.
    5. If school improvements aren’t funded by impact fees, Chatham will have to rely on the state to fund schools. The state hasn’t fully funded schools in “decades.” LaMontagne said.
      1. The state considers Chatham County schools to be a “tier 3” system meaning they consider it to be pretty wealthy, so it doesn’t give as much money. But certain parts of the county, particularly Siler City, are much poorer, LaMontagne said.
        1. LaMontagne said he is trying to get the state to change them to a lower tier so they can get more funding.

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