PITTSBORO — Chatham County Board of Commissioners got their first look Monday at the county’s 2024-2030 Capital Improvement Plan, which focuses on funding for school growth and improving wastewater infrastructure.
There are eight new projects planned under the proposed CIP including the construction of two new schools in Chatham Park, improvements of gymnasiums at K-8 schools and improvements to wastewater treatment plants. These eight projects have an estimated combined cost of $96.7 million between Fiscal Year 2024 and FY 2030.
Also on the list are renovations to the Chatham Agriculture & Conference Center in Pittsboro, which include the construction of new covered arenas, outdoor gathering spaces and stalls for potential equine and livestock events. The construction is estimated to cost $8.5 million.
The CIP presentation also included a potential future project of building Southern Village Elementary in Chatham Park. While there is not yet a cost estimate for the potential school Assistant County Manager Bryan Thompson, who presented the CIP, said the timeline for the school will likely be moved up based on current population projections for the area due to incoming growth.
Chatham Park’s Northern Village Elementary is already part of the CIP and is the largest single project with a total cost of $47.6 million. When Chatham Grove opened in August 2020, the project cost $33 million. Thompson said the difference is largely due to the financial incentive packages received for each project.
Many of these new projects will be debt-funded projects, while smaller projects not listed in the initial CIP presentation will likely be funded through a pay-as-you-go model.
One of the things helping ensure these CIP projects are successful is Chatham’s AAA bond rating, the highest rating possible. This means Chatham has a high degree of creditworthiness and low risk of default. This trustworthiness, coupled with the county interest rate of just over 1.7%, make Chatham officials confident in the feasibility of these projects.
The CIP will likely go through several more iterations before it is approved by commissioners. A public input session on the CIP will be held Nov. 21, a commissioner work session will be held Dec. 13 with the goal of adopting the CIP on Dec. 19. Questions about the CIP can be emailed to county staff including Bryan Thompson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Other business: annual committee reports
The board also heard annual fiscal year reports from several county committees including those addressing climate change, affordable housing, parks and recreation and libraries. The presentations outlined the goals of each committee, accomplishments over the past year, feedback for commissioners and challenges faced.
Several focused reports on bouncing back from the pandemic and looking to move forward in the coming year. For example, the Environmental Review Advisory Committee, led by Elaine Chiosso, struggled to reach a quorum at several of its meetings last year due to COVID-19 restrictions.
Others, however, like the Library Advisory Committee, said they were able to overcome pandemic slowdowns in pursuit of their goals. That committee, led by Lisa Padgett, saw a 140% increase in programming, a 267% increase in participation and the issuance of more than 2,000 new library cards. Padgett saids the library has focused on programming and bringing in people from diverse backgrounds to aid in growth efforts.
Padgett and Juana Soriano Gomez, another member of the committee, guided commissioners on Monday through one of their programs to illustrate new bilingual outreach program. They taught commissioners how to make paper turkeys using leaves and colored pencils.
Other presentations included reports from the Affordable Housing Advisory Committee, led by Richard Poole. He shared that Chatham has “fallen behind the 8-ball” when it comes to affordable housing. The committee defines affordable units as anything below 30% area median income (AMI). For 2022 the estimated AMI for Chatham County for a family of 4 is considered to be $95,500.
According to the committee, 2,325 affordable rental units are currently needed in the county. The figure is so large because the number of affordable housing units decreased by 126 units last year — largely related to decreasing naturally occurring affordable housing (which saw a drop of 84 units) and a loss of 42 housing vouchers.
“We need to plan for development to not exacerbate homelessness and affordable housing issues,” said Chairperson Howard after Poole’s presentation. “Areas around big developments provide an opportunity to meet the needs of the community, we have to make sure we keep them in mind as we grow.”
The next Chatham Board of Commissioners meeting is scheduled for 2 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 21, at the Chatham Agriculture & Conference Center in Pittsboro. For more information visit www.chathamcountync.gov