Your guide to the 2020 primary elections

The North Carolina primary elections are coming up on March 3, and it promises to be quite a battle across the board. Nearly every office is on the ballot this year. In addition to president, U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives, voters will choose candidates for governor, major state offices and the N.C. General Assembly. Locally, Chatham residents can vote for candidates for the Chatham County Board of Commissioners. How can I vote?

Officials: Chatham’s newest high school on target, meeting budget

As Chatham prepares for the opening of its newest high school, district and construction officials state that all is on schedule for an August 2021 opening and will come within the roughly $62 million budget. On Dec. 24, the Seaforth High School project was 59% complete with a final completion date of April 6, 2021, according to documents shared at the Chatham County Board of Education’s annual mid-year retreat. Seaforth, which will be located at 444 Seaforth Road near Jordan Lake, will phase in students when it opens in the fall of 2021. In its first year, the school will serve only freshman and sophomores.

Here’s what we know about evidence of logging in Jordan Lake protected nature area

Photos show evidence of logging at the Bush Creek Marshes Registered Heritage Area near the intersection of Big Woods and Jack Bennett roads in Chatham County. Chatham resident George Pauly first noticed logging at Bush Creek in 2016. Pauly contacted the North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources shortly after he spotted a bulldozer clearing the area. 

Established in 2014, Bush Creek Marshes RHA is one of many natural heritage areas around Jordan Lake. RHA’s are voluntary agreements between landowners and the Natural Heritage Program that protect outstanding examples of natural diversity occurring in the state. 

Click here to see the full amendment to the memorandum of understanding between the state and the United States Army Corps of Engineers. 

The Bush Creek area, which spans of 166 acres of forest, open water and marsh, is home to a variety of wildlife — most notably the bald eagle. The federally protected species is known to be present along the forested margin of the protected area. 

Photo by Paige Masten/Our Chatham

The agreement clearly states that the natural forest communities should be allowed to mature into old-growth. 

So why were these trees cut down? 

In an email exchange with Pauly in September of 2016, North Carolina Natural Heritage Program director Misty Buchanan said the “6.8 acre timber harvest as planned is an approved use of the Registered Heritage Area.” Pauly gave Our Chatham access to the emails. 

In July of 2017, Pauly contacted Brooke Massa, land conservation biologist for the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission.

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.

‘More than just a tick bite’: Tick-borne allergy on the rise in Chatham

For decades, Sheila Beaudry suffered from a mysterious ailment with no real cure or remedy. It wasn’t until 2013 that she discovered she had a tick-borne illness. Alpha-gal syndrome — known informally as the “red-meat allergy” — is triggered by mammalian meat and other mammal products. It is believed to be transmitted by the lone star tick, the most common tick to North Carolina. Sheila Beaudry

Beaudry is hardly alone in suffering with this allergy; Chatham County is known as a hotspot for alpha-gal and other tick-borne illnesses.

‘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.