Chapel Hill spends $3M more on Rosemary parking deck

Policies and procedures of advisory boards to be overhauled


The Town of Chapel Hill will spend another $3 million on the Rosemary Street Parking Deck. The funding was approved by Town Council at its March 6 meeting, alongside other matters.

“This is to cover the remaining costs for completing the deck due to materials cost escalation and so forth,” said deputy town manager Mary Jane Nirdlinger. “We started working on this project during a global pandemic as the cost of materials and labor began to rise. We’ve continued to operate in a really unprecedented environment with global disruptions to the construction industry, changes in the cost of the labor market and general cost inflation.”

According to director of business management Amy Oland, the additional spending will be temporarily funded through debt service and the town is currently investigating installment financing options. The additional costs will also delay the revenue generation of the facility.

“The positive annual cash flow may be pushed, with the additional borrowing, up to fiscal year 2030, due to the additional amount we need to borrow, the rising interest rates and the delayed opening,” Oland said. “That would mean a total cumulative positive cash flow would be some time in fiscal year 2033.”‌

“I know we’re all frustrated by the challenges, delays and cost overruns associated with this project,” Anderson said. “It is an important part of our East Rosemary renovation and innovation hub endeavors.”

The council also heard a presentation on a new framework for the town’s numerous advisory boards following a review and assessment of the current system of boards and commissioners.

A team of town staff was put together last year to assess the boards and answer questions for the council around cost-to-benefit, the role of the boards, whether any can be consolidated or done away with, and how to ensure that the town’s population is properly represented.

The main findings included that meetings were too long and the hours staff spent in pre- and post-meeting work was considerable, translating to a cost of around $10,000 per month, explained Susan Brown, executive director of strategic communications and marketing for the town.

The staff panel’s recommendation is to implement a new set of best practices, including a uniform naming policy, a defined charge as policy advice to Council, increases in membership to seven per board, consistent membership practices and terms of office, defined roles for chair, vice chair and liaison, consistent agenda structure and content, guidelines to meet only while council is in session from September through June, having at least four meetings per council session and to have Board 101 training including on diversity, equity and inclusion or DEI.

A series of “equitable” practices were also recommended including recruitment efforts towards under-represented populations; changing applications to learn more about skills, interests and lived experiences; coming up with more objective ways to evaluate applicants and make appointment recommendations; and an annual calendar for recruitment, selection, appointment and training.

The council felt they needed more discussion on the matter before making a final decision.

“We have done some amazing things in trying to address equity issues and representation on our boards,” said council member Paris Miller-Foushee. “Despite those efforts, we have not seen the needle really move, and so investing in a structure that is not serving a value that we have and trying to fix it is an issue.”

"We need to be very clear.” said council member Camille Berry. “For us not to have clarity for that long and beyond is criminal to everyone who participates. We are abusing their time, especially the staff.”

The Town of Chapel Hill Council will next meet March 20.