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The Daily Tar Heel

Facilitating waste

In hiring a facilitator to manage discussion of renaming Airport Road, the Town Council has wasted even more valuable time and resources.

As you read this, the town of Chapel Hill slowly plods along with its debate over whether to change the name of Airport Road to honor Martin Luther King Jr.

The 17-person committee has two full-day meetings coming up in two short weeks, but the recently released meeting schedule already has left some committee members reconsidering their participation.

To help the committee stay on track, the town hired a professional facilitator to run the meetings, though the contract has not been finalized. The services provided by this group, Open Source Leadership Strategies Inc., will cost the town about $15,000, Assistant Town Manager Bruce Heflin told The Daily Tar Heel.

Last spring, officials estimated that switching road signage to accommodate any change would cost $16,000 - but it's costing the town nearly as much to secure a facilitator to manage discussion of the change. This does not even include the potential thousands of dollars the address change will cost residents and businesses.

In a memorandum, Chapel Hill Mayor Kevin Foy told the council members, "The cost is justified because of the difficulty and time required for the work and the potential long term value of a good work process and product."

The town decided that outside consultants were needed after prolonged haggling over an issue that emerged in January. Interminable delays and extensive bureaucratic meandering over the renaming seem to be completely unique to Chapel Hill. Recently, Carrboro swiftly renamed its Hillsborough Road Neighborhood Park in honor of King.

Carrboro did not take months to make a decision. Carrboro did not have to assemble a committee. And Carrboro did not then argue over the selection of a facilitator that the town would pay to tell committee members to meet on a workday.

As things stand, the committee should have a report before the council by early December, should we be so lucky that events proceed without delay.

If the mayor or any council members are reading this, do us all a favor and get your act together.

At this point, any decision is better than none.

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