Pittsboro commissioners, Water Quality Task Force discuss next steps after August chemical discharge

Correction: A previous version of the story incorrectly stated that the Town of Pittsboro filed a notice of intent to sue Shamrock Environmental for a spill of 1,4 Dioxane. This is inaccurate. The Southern Environmental Law Center issued an intent to sue the City of Burlington for a PFAS spill from their wastewater treatment plant. Also, Emily Sutton’s title is Haw Riverkeeper not riverkeeper. We regret these errors. 

Before their regular meeting last Monday, the Pittsboro Board of Commissioners discussed a spill of a likely carcinogenic chemical into Pittsboro’s water supply with the Water Quality Task Force. 

1,4 Dioxane is classified by the National Toxicology Program as “reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen” but is not regulated under the Clean Water Act, the commissioners said.

Pittsboro commissioners move forward on new $16.5 million town hall

(The above rendering is courteously of Hobbs Architects and the Town of Pittsboro.)

Pittsboro’s Board of Commissioners advanced a plan this week for a new town government facility, estimated to cost more than $16.5 million. 

The new town hall would be a three-story building, would serve as the board commissioners’ new meeting chamber and would house the Board of Elections and Health Department Administration for the next 10 years. It will be located on West Salisbury Street in downtown Pittsboro. 

The facility will also contain a two-story parking deck, costing the town more than $2.8 million. At one point, Commissioner Michael Fiocco balked at the cost of the deck, saying it would cost the town more than $24,000 per space. The plan, which was presented by Chevon File and Taylor Hobbs of Hobbs Architects, passed unanimously after roughly 30 minutes of discussion. 

Hobbs and File told commissioners that the project may start receiving bids as early as July, and that construction is scheduled to start in August of this year. It is estimated to take 15 months to complete. 

The construction will also require a large section of Salisbury Street to be torn up and repaved to build a new sewer line and storm-water extension.

Amid outcry, Chatham Commissioners vote to begin statue removal process

After months of public and private debate, Chatham County’s Board of Commissioners voted late Monday to rid Pittsboro of its Confederate monument that stood at the foot of the historic courthouse as a point of honor for some and bitterness for others in the mostly rural, but growing county. The board voted 4-1 to rescind the 1907 order allowing the Confederate statue to stand in front of the courthouse downtown. This gives United Daughters of the Confederacy until Oct. 1 to communicate to the Board their plans for the statue. 

Otherwise it will be considered a public trespass on government property on Nov. 1 and removed. 

The motion to rescind the order was introduced by Commissioner Jim Crawford, and it was seconded by Commissioner Karen Howard.

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.

Curious Chatham: How will our infrastructure support Chatham Park?

By Ari Sen and Adrianne Cleven

(This story has been updated to reflect further comment from the town). This week’s featured question comes from Ann Herndon, who wonders “How will our infrastructure support Chatham Park?” 

Good question, Ann, particularly after a recent town meeting suggested sewer lines were quite weak in many spots. 

Infrastructure can refer to a lot of different systems, including everything from wastewater treatment and sewers to roads and storm drains, Pittsboro Town Manager Bryan Gruesbeck said. 

And the massive scale of the Chatham Park development will affect each of those aspects of infrastructure. Some 650 single-family homes and townhouses will be offered in just the first phase of the project, ultimately building up roughly 22,000 residential units over a 40-year period.  

The total cost of the project is expected to be roughly $15 billion. 

And with final buildout, the project is expected to boost the county’s population by 60,000 residents. They’ll all live on land serviced by the water and sewer services of the Town of Pittsboro.

Pittsboro commissioners name historic park, examine sewer system in late-July meeting

The meeting kicked off at 7:04 p.m. with the Pledge of Allegiance, which was led by a group of Girl Scouts from Troop 1006. The girls were later honored by the Board for their “skip the straw” campaign, which encourages local residents to stop using drinking straws or bring their own reusable straws. Town Manager Bryan Gruesbeck then announced to the board that the water treatment facility had won the North Carolina Area-Wide Optimization Award for the fifth consecutive year, and that the plant was exceeding its turbidity goals. Gruesbeck also announced plans to replace a 2-inch water line with a 12-inch water line for the downtown roundabout. Commissioner Michael Fiocco said the project “will vastly improve our distribution system.” Mayor Cindy Perry then addressed the fallen trees near Powell Place off of Highway 64, calling it an “absolute slaughter.” Perry called for the Board to examine a freestanding tree protection order.The Board then heard a presentation from Town Engineer Elizabeth Goodson and Bryan Odom, vice president and director of Water Resources for WK Dickson about the town’s sewer lines and manholes. The two presented a map of the various assets in the town’s sewer system along with some data. Here are some numbers:756 manholes32 miles of sewer collection system 187 manholes examined for storm water ingress $2.50/ft to install cameras to monitor the sewerOdom said he worked with town staff to develop a “criticality score” which ranks the likelihood and consequence of a sewer failure, which the town then mapped using GIS software.

Curious Chatham: How will Chatham Park impact home prices?

A lot of you have been asking about Chatham Park. We hear you. 

This week’s question comes from Jo Ann Beal. She asks “What are the pros and cons of Chatham Park as related to other Chatham County property values/appreciation in the next five years?”  

In terms of home prices, the news seems to be good. 

According to data from Zillow, the online real estate database company, home prices are expected to rise by 2.9 percent in the next year, from the current median of over $293,000 to more than $301,000. 

Linda Jacobs, a 29-year real estate agent for Advantage Commercial in Pittsboro, is optimistic about home prices. 

“Chatham Park is going to cause the real estate values to just absolutely jump big time in Chatham County,” she said. 

One way that Chatham’s home prices may increase is if the demand for these homes remains higher than the supply. Jacobs said Chatham Park will provide the community some homes priced between $300,000 and $425,000 – which are currently in high demand – as well as lower- and higher-priced options. 

“There’s just not enough of it to supply the demand,” Jacobs said. “When you get something that you can list for that range, before 24 hours is up, you will have a laptop full of offers that you have to comb through with your seller.”

Despite the positive numbers and outlook, some residents, like Moncure resident Brian Moore, still remain skeptical of the development. 

“For us, [Chatham Park] does nothing good,” Moore said via text message.

Pittsboro BOC examines budget, Chatham Park buffers in long meeting

The meeting began at 7:03 p.m. and kicked off with Mayor Cindy Perry pointing out Evan Crouch, an Eagle scout candidate who hopes to eliminate plastic bags from local grocery stories. Two minutes later, the board approved the consent agenda and moved on to a public hearing for a proposed concrete plant, which would be built near Potterstone Village.Edward Fowler, Lisa Meeker and Charlie Cox, all Potterstone residents, spoke to the commissioners about concerns over noise, dust and potential health risks generated by the plant. Later, during Citizen Public Expressions, Fowler criticized members of town staff, at one point saying, “This isn’t about saving face, Jeff Jones,” referring to the county’s planning director. Jones said earlier, in response to a question from Commissioner John Bonitz, that it was not the staff’s job to ask why the particular site was chosen for that location.The commissioners also heard a proposal from Kevin Cox from Capital Ready Mix, a concrete supplier in Chatham, to allow the proposed concrete trucks to load at their existing facility.After nearly 45 minutes of public speeches, the commissioners moved on to commissioner and manager updates, which dealt with road widenings, sidewalks and crosswalks, and affordable housing. After the updates, the commissioners launched into an incredibly technical discussion of Chatham Park’s Planned District Development. The discussion, which largely focused on various different types of buffers, featured several times of silence when commissioners read their materials or formulated their thoughts, ending at after almost an hour. After a comparatively short discussion of a property rezoning for 196 N. Hillsboro St, which commissioner Farrell refused to support because of his belief that the street should stay residential, the commissioners called for a five-minute break, which lasted for almost 12 minutes. After more than two hours, the board finally moved on to a discussion of Town Manager Bryan Gruesbeck’s proposed budget for the next fiscal year. The budget would add funding for one position each in engineering, planning and police; allocates $2,500 for affordable housing; increases the fire department budget by almost $5,000; and budgets $66,300 for a generator for the existing town hall structure.

Class-action suit over opioids in works by Chatham County

A class-action lawsuit being prepared for Chatham County is likely to ask for millions of dollars in damages, according to Casey Hilliard, a county health policy analyst. 

Hilliard, who helped with determining a figure using publicly available research, declined to give a more specific amount. Still unknown are the targets of the lawsuit, but unlike some other similar lawsuits, Chatham’s will name both manufacturers and distributors of the substance. Gary Whitaker, a Winston-Salem based attorney, part of a team representing Chatham, declined to name any of the parties they intended to sue. But he did say the list of manufactures was “fixed,” whereas the list of distributors was based upon who was operating in the area at the time. 

The Board of Commissioners voted unanimously to give the green light to pursue the suit during their May 20 meeting. 

“Rather than stand on the sidelines, we are seizing the opportunity to lead a class-action fight against the opioid crisis as we combat the personal devastation we see right here in our community,” BOC chairman Mike Dasher said in a news release. County spokesperson Debra Henzey said the suit is an attempt to recoup some of the costs of dealing with problem. 

“(The opioid problem) affects the court system, it affects social services, it affects mental health services, which provides substance abuse treatment,” she said.