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Chatham County’s governing body, including its board of commissioners, annually approve what’s called a Capital Improvements Plan, or CIP, featuring all projects, planned and potential, that would cost more than $100,000.
CIPs are usually a good look into a county’s thoughts and plans for the future and also shows where improvements need to be made in facilities and valuable resources. They’re also places to get a first glimpse of important projects yet to come.
For example, Chatham Grove Elementary School, which is scheduled for completion before the next school year, first appeared in the FY 2013-2019 CIP as “New Northeast Elementary School.” The plan said the site should be made up of 15-20 acres of land along with U.S. Hwy. 15-501 corridor between Pittsboro and Fearrington. The site moved a bit — it’s across the street from Briar Chapel, just beyond Fearrington — but the need was seen and the conversation begun.
This year’s CIP states clearly that it is “a plan which is updated annually during the budget process and may be modified at any time to reflect changing conditions” and “a systematic way of anticipating, planning and budgeting for major projects.” The plan also reflects some of the county’s major capital expense focuses, specifically schools, public safety and parks.
Ahead of the November 18 public hearing in front of the Chatham County Board of Commissioners, we’re looking at seven projects you need to know about that will shape the county’s immediate and long-term future. We’re sharing them in chronological order of projected completion date. Some dates are specific, while others are only slated for a certain fiscal year.
Central Carolina Community College Health Sciences Building (Projected Completion: November 2019) — Chapel Hill
CCCC is expanding its footprint in Chatham County with the completion of this project, which will house several health-related curriculums for community college students as well as a voting site for northeast Chatham and, potentially, a 10,000-square-foot library. Construction is nearly done on the $13,052,677 project with opening slated for January 2020. Operating costs are projected for $2,283,270 over the next seven years.
Chatham Grove Elementary School (Summer 2020) — Chapel Hill
With a growing population particularly in the northeastern part of Chatham County, the county’s elementary schools in the area will soon be overstuffed, so Chatham Grove was approved. It’s nearing completion in the aforementioned location across from Briar Chapel on Andrews Store Road. The projected cost for construction is $33,109,621, with an estimated operating cost (also included in the CIP) of $10,579,526 over the seven-year span of the CIP.
Emergency Communications Radio System Upgrade (FY 2021)
The county has already received more than $2 million in grant money from the state for this project, which will improve an aging radio system for county public safety agencies. The county already owns property for three tower sites. Over this year and next year, the county is projecting spending $18,247,811 on implementation and equipment purchasing with $2.4 million in operating costs over the next seven years.
Briar Chapel Park Improvements (FY 2021) — Chapel Hill
Chatham County continues its investments in the fastest-growing portion of the county with improvements at Briar Chapel Park. The development was required to build a park as part of its conditional use permit. A new playground, picnic shelter, trail and sidewalk are currently under construction at the park, while lighting for the soccer field and a restroom with parking and storage are projected to be built in the next fiscal year. These improvements join prior work to cost the county $2,125,500, with a $994,891 operating cost over the next seven years.
Seaforth High School (Summer 2021) — Pittsboro
Also currently under construction, Seaforth is planned to help alleviate future overcrowding at Northwood High School and, like Chatham Grove, house students from Chatham Park and the surrounding areas that don’t go to Northwood. The Chatham County Board of Education is currently in the beginning stages of determining attendence zones. The projected construction cost for the school is $74,831,148 with $14,963,822 of operating costs over the next seven years.
New Sheriff’s Office (Unscheduled/Future)
The CIP states that the current building, located at 295 West St. in Pittsboro, is “no longer an adequate space for Sheriff’s Office employees.” The recommended solution proposed is a new building in the space in front of the county’s Detention Facility on Renaissance Drive off of U.S. Hwy. 64 to the west of Pittsboro. As this project is just an idea at this point, there is no cost estimate. But the CIP states this new building would “provide room for future growth and consolidate the office in a single location.”
CCCC Career & Technical Education Building (Unscheduled/Future)
Another future project is a new building for the Chatham Main Campus in Pittsboro designed to, according to the CIP, “meet needs for skilled trade fields in the service area.” Specifically, the plan says CCCC’s new Electrical Systems Technology program is housed in the Sustainable Building, “which was not designed to meet the needs of this program.” The CIP adds that college staff is doing “additional research to determine the programming mix for this building.” Fortunately for everyone, land is available on CCCC’s Pittsboro campus to accommodate the project.
A full copy of the CIP is available at all three branches of the Chatham County Public Library system as well as online at https://www.chathamnc.org/government/county-budget/capital-improvement-budgets-cip.
Reporter Zachary Horner can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter at @ZachHornerCNR.