Notes from the Siler City Board of Commissioners meeting on April 1
A group of about 30 gathered in the small upstairs courtroom chatting happily in Spanish and English before the Siler City Board of Commissioners meeting began.
The meeting was called to order at 7:01 p.m. Commissioner Thomas “Chip” Price led the prayer, followed by the pledge of allegiance.
At the meeting, the board heard a presentation of the Building Integrated Communities plan, a collaboration between the town, UNC Global and the Latino Migration Project, which aims to help local governments understand the needs of the foreign-born community and develop strategies to meet their needs.
The presentation was given by Isa Godinez and Jorge Gutierrez.
The plan touched on eight key areas for improvement: communication, leadership, business and entrepreneurship, parks, housing, youth mental health, public transit and public safety/law enforcement.
In the presentation, Gutierrez called for Siler City to create a town communications specialist who could communicate the town’s message via social media and on the website in both Spanish and English, increase pay for bi-lingual employees and make Spanish proficiency a requirement for certain positions.
Gutierrez said they specifically focused on the youth mental health section after hearing comments from the community about youth struggling with depression and anxiety issues.
During the presentation, he called for greater access to mental health services.
When it came to addressing issues of public safety and law enforcement, Siler City Police Chief Miller said she had already taken proactive steps to address community concerns, including increasing the number of bi-lingual officers and offering pay incentives for speaking both Spanish and English, translating emergency alerts and implementing annual implicit bias training.
Miller also said the town would soon begin releasing traffic stop data publicly broken down by race, gender and ethnicity.
Town Manager Bryan Thompson said the board would review the plans recommendations during a later work session.
The board also heard a presentation about the Legal Fair 2019 hosted by the Hispanic Liaison. The fair will be Saturday from 11:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. at Jordan Matthews High School and will offer residents “18 tables” of attorneys to offer immigration and family legal advice, along with representatives from the Mexican and Guatemalan consulates. The fair will also allow residents to renew their DACA status for free, a service that normally costs $495.
Finally, the board heard a presentation from Grace Messinger, the Piedmont Conservation Council project director, about a series of properties on South Chatham Avenue and South Cedar Avenue which they nicknamed “Paper Alley Park.” The group hopes to ecologically restore the properties by chemically treating the overgrown kudzu infestation, demolishing the currently existing structures and allowing for better storm water infiltration to address flooding.
The board also approved a one-year extension for the Weaver-Kirkland conditional use permit. The permit outlines a 48-unit multi-family development, which Mayor Pro-Tempore Larry Cheek said was desperately needed.
The meeting ended for the remaining onlookers when the board went into closed session at roughly 8:18 p.m. to discuss a “personnel matter.”