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Chapel Hill trash options outlined

A solid waste transfer station jointly operated with Carrboro and a pay-as-you-throw system were among a consultant’s recommendations Monday night to the Town Council.

Bob Dick, vice president of SCS Engineers, outlined 18 immediate, short-term and long-term steps for handling the town’s solid waste when the Orange County Landfill closes July 1.

Chapel Hill could begin shipping its waste to Durham in April or May at $42.50 per ton, or it could sign a three-year contract with Waste Industries at $41 per ton, Dick said. To make the transition to shipping its waste, the town also should spend $380,000 this year and $341,000 in 2014 on new compactor trucks, employees, fuel and a routing study, he said.

Dick recommended the town continue working with Orange County to handle its recycling, yard waste and white goods. He also suggested asking Carrboro about sharing the cost to build a waste transfer station beside the Town Operations Center on Millhouse Road.

The study does not recommend outsourcing commercial or residential trash pickup or building a new landfill.

Transit series, Point Counterpoint columns continue in today's Chapel Hill News

Voting is under way on Orange County's half-cent sales tax for transit. Today's Chapel Hill News features Part 3 in staff writer Tammy Grubb's 5-part series on the transit plan, which includes a 17 mile rail line between Chapel Hill and Durham, bus rapid transit on MLK Boulevard, and an AMTRAK train station in Hillsborough. 

We also continue our point/counterpoint series that began Sunday. In today's edition Bonnie Hauser, president of Orange County Voice, and Thomas Campanella, a UNC planning professor, weigh in against and for the tax, respectively.  Here are excerpts.

Hauser: Triangle Transit's plan was originally developed for the Triangle region, but Wake County and RTP are not participating. Durham supports the plan – which provides light rail through their downtown and targeted development areas. Orange County’s plan completes Durham’s rail line but ignores changing demographics, accelerating growth in Chatham and Mebane, and emerging transit corridors along 15-501, Carolina North, and in the county. I’m voting against the tax because I believe we need a better plan – one that provides flexible and reliable transit system that fits the area’s changing density and commuter priorities, and motivates citizens to leave our cars at home. (Read Hauser's whole essay here.)

Campanella: his November we have an opportunity to build a new train station and get Orange County back on track. The half-cent sales tax public transit referendum, if passed, would provide funds to develop a new Amtrak depot in Hillsborough – a facility that would benefit all Orange residents, especially those in the northern part of the county. The new depot, located just off Churton Street a stone’s throw from downtown, would be a regional transit hub, served by the 420 bus from Chapel Hill. ... The railroad is a rich vein that runs through our county; we need only tap it. A vote in favor of public transit on November 6 is a vote to plug Orange County back into the nation’s rail grid. It’s about time. (Read Campanella's whole essay here.)

What do you think of the transit plan? Please send your letters (up to 300 words) to editor@newsobserver.com by 5 p.m. today to help get them all published by Election Day.  Thanks.

Read more here: http://blogs.newsobserver.com/orangechat/home#storylink=cpy

Transit "Point/Counterpoint" series begins in the Chapel Hill News

Voting has begun on Orange County's half-cent sales tax for a future light rail and expanded bus service. Sunday saw Part 2 in staff writer Tammy Grubb's 5-part series looking at the transit plan, which includes a 17 mile rail line between Chapel Hill and Durham, bus rapid transit on MLK Boulevard, and an AMTRAK train station in Hillsborough. 

We have also begun running letters and guest columns on the transit plan, including a point/counterpoint series that began Sunday. Orange County Commissioners Bernadette Pelissier and Earl McKee weighed in for and against the referendum. Here are excerpts.

Pelissier: "Some feel that the plan is not perfect. Some say we only need buses. We already have buses that are not on time because of traffic congestion. Some say we will still have congestion. The transit plan is not meant to solve all our congestion problems. Some feel that we do not need light rail between Orange County and Durham County. Yet, the majority of Orange County citizens who leave Orange County for work go to Durham County and vice-versa. Some feel that light rail costs too much. What about the cost of new roads? How can buses operate efficiently within congested roadways?" (Read full essay here.)

McKee: "The proposed light rail system is a regional system in name only. A Chapel Hill to Durham light rail connection provides limited service on one leg of the Triangle Region and no service to other Triangle communities or the RDU Airport without multiple bus transfers where bus service already exists. ... We need to invest our transit funds to build a truly regional bus system reaching most of our population centers and our outlying communities. For a fraction of the cost of light rail, we can increase bus hours, reduce wait times, add new routes and expand bus service into other communities with growing commuter populations. These actions taken together will increase ridership and create a truly regional transportation system without placing an undue burden on the taxpaying public." (Read full essay here.)

What do you think of the transit plan. Please send your letters (up to 300 words) to editor@newsobserver.com by 5 p.m. Wednesday to help get them all published by Election Day.  Thanks.

Orange County deputies investigate shooting

Orange County sheriff’s deputies are investigating a shooting Tuesday evening in northern Hillsborough.

Deputies do not believe the shooting was random, a spokesman said. The male victim was treated at Duke University Hospital for a non-life-threatening gunshot wound to his side and released, deputies reported.

According to reports, the man was sitting in a gray Honda around 6:54 p.m. outside the BP station at the corner of N.C. 86 and U.S. 70 when someone shot him. The man ran into the store, and the clerk called 911, deputies reported.

Fire chiefs dispute EMS study conclusion

Contrary to a consultant’s report, Orange County’s fire chiefs say there is room for Emergency Services ambulances at rural fire departments.

Chapel Hill Fire Chief Dan Jones said several valid points came out of a $28,000, two-part draft study of EMS and 911 Center capabilities and needs. But there are other points with which he, as an experienced firefighter and chief, takes serious issue, he said.

A major problem in the past has been stationing ambulances at fire departments based on a “gentleman’s agreement,” he said. There were no expectations and no contracts, so there also was no agreement about who pays when something breaks.

“I think it’s completely unreasonable for this county to build nine EMS stations across the county when you could easily add bays to stations,” Jones said. “The key is to set expectations early and put it all in writing.”

Consultant Steve Allen, of Solutions for Local Government, told the commissioners in August that it could cost the county more than $15.6 million over the next 10 years to modernize EMS operations and the 911 Call Center, from adding more employees to buying more ambulances and building dedicated EMS stations.

Allen and an EMS workgroup are receiving public comment and will make revisions before the commissioners consider the final report.

Orange County to seek creative jail options

A new work group might come up with creative alternatives to jail time for some local inmates, Orange County Commissioner Barry Jacobs suggested Tuesday.

The county commissioners will discuss forming a group, similar to the recent Orange County Emergency Services Work Group,  at a future meeting.

The work group should “harness the energies and creativity" of judges, the district attorney, public defenders and other criminal justice officials, Jacobs said.

The Council of State also agreed Tuesday to let the county lease seven to eight acres at $1 for 50 years at the state's Orange Correctional Center on Old N.C. 86.

The county plans to build a 250-bed jail for roughly $30 million to replace the existing jail, built across from the downtown courthouse in 1925.

The current jail holds 129 inmates and does not have designated space for female inmates. Jail officials said it has age-related plumbing and maintenance issues.

Chief District Court Judge Joe Buckner told the commissioners in September that a new jail could help local courts function more efficiently, while giving court officials and inmates a place to meet and talk about cases and plea bargains. It also would relieve years of overcrowding.

Alternative sentencing options could include home detention, special services for homeless repeat offenders, and increased use of the county’s drug and community resource courts, Jacobs said.

A library for all the people

What’s in a name?

Apparently, much confusion about where Orange County wants to put a new library.

Before voting last week on the final criteria for siting a Southwestern Branch Library, county officials announced a name change.

The library will be called the Southern Branch Library instead, Library Director Lucinda Munger said.

“We wanted to reflect the area that this library will serve, making sure it is an inclusive place that serves the needs of the entire community,” she said.

County planner Michael Harvey said calling it the Southwestern Branch Library could lead residents to believe it would be built to serve only that area.

So county planners divided the county into four quadrants. Then they plotted a diagonal line through the middle. The result was a location near Orange Grove and Dairyland roads in the Bingham Township.

Meanwhile, library planning is slowly moving ahead. Carrboro officials have been looking at seven or eight possible sites with space for a one-story library with parking, at least 20,000 square feet and future expansion space, and accessibility by foot, bicycle and bus.

The county has budgeted roughly $6 million to $7 million for land and construction.

Orange County EMS upgrade critical

It will take years, money and people to modernize Orange County’s emergency services.

A two-part, $28,000 study says implementing the draft EMS/911 assessment over the next 10 years could cost more than $15.6 million in capital, one-time and operating costs.

“This has festered for number of years. It didn’t happen overnight,” consultant Steve Allen, of Solutions for Local Government, told the county commissioners Thursday.

The county system is 20 years old, and the population is aging and growing; 911 calls could number about 15,000 by 2032, he said.

Allen and the county’s EMS services workgroup identified 19 short- and long-term steps to improve response times, technology, staffing, data, training and planning.

The study identifies four main issues: ambulance availability, response times, and EMS and 911 facilities and staffing.

Public comment will be included in the revised report.

Look for a story in Sunday’s Chapel Hill News. The study can be found online at www.co.orange.nc.us/OCCLERKS/agenmenu.asp. Click on the Aug. 30 meeting link.

If you have questions or comments, contact Assistant County Manager Michael Talbert at 919-245-2308; mtalbert@co.orange.nc.us; or at 200 S. Cameron St., Hillsborough, NC 27278.

Orange County OK, but some falling behind

Orange County residents are healthier, wealthier and wiser than most of the state, but pay a larger local tax burden and have a growing number of families in need.

Those were some of the facts presented to more than 160 business and community leaders Tuesday at the fifth annual State of the Community breakfast. The Triangle Community Foundation, the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Chamber of Commerce and community partners hosted the Friday Center event.

A story about the event will appear in Sunday’s Chapel Hill News.

Chamber President Aaron Nelson said Orange County needs to increase its 13.2 percent commercial tax base and create local jobs, which will help families on the losing end of a growing income gap.

“We’ve got a bunch of (developments) coming that will help, where we can grow local jobs, increase local spending and take care on the social services side to make sure that everybody has the services they need,” he said.

The event covered the gamut of life in Orange County, from individual and environmental health to teen pregnancy, education and the local economy.

Click the link below for a closer look at the State of the Community slideshow.

Task force meeting comes down to dollars

A task force finalized its draft report Wednesday on water, sewer and community center issues in the Rogers Road community.

The report outlined a $5.8 million sewer infrastructure plan but advised waiting until local governments decide how to pay.

The report also proposed moving and renovating the historic Hogan-Rogers house for a community center or building a new center to replace one that closed Aug. 11. That could cost $450,000 to $740,500, depending on the final plan.

Chapel Hill Town Council members suggested the county pick up the cost, since town residents pay county taxes and otherwise would be charged twice.

That prompted county commissioners to suggest an equitable solution might be that the county picks up the cost but also reviews how sales tax revenues are allocated.

“Sometimes the county feels that everything is always thrown to the county, and yet on the tax distribution, we don’t get any credit for the fact that it is actually to the advantage of the towns and not the county,” Commissioners Chairwoman Bernadette Pelissier said.

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