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Chapel Hill looks to tackle needs of town departments

One of the Chapel Hill Town Council’s priorities for this year is to begin planning for the construction of recreation and capital projects, said Jason Damweber, assistant to the Town Manager.

“We need to replace a few fire stations, we need to build a parks and rec administration building and build a new police station,” Damweber said. “We also need to deal with parks and greenways, town hall renovations and major infrastructure improvements.”

Planning for some of those bigger projects may begin soon, since the town recently received $1.7 million from selling property that once housed the old Chapel Hill Public Library.

“To me, it seems like a one-time sale should go into a one-time cost, or at least a capital cost,” said Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt. “It’s been one of those areas that we have identified that town sales might be directed towards.”

While these capital needs are not new for the town, they are at the point where they can be discussed more seriously.

“Those conversations have constantly been ongoing, but we may be nearing a point where the town has a capacity to address those needs,” said Lt. Joshua Mecimore from the Chapel Hill Police Department.

Damweber said the fire station, the parks and recreation building and the police station were three big issues.

“The police building has electrical issues, plumbing issues, issues with space,” Mecimore said. “The department has outgrown the building. We utilize substations throughout the town, but that’s difficult because we have to rent or lease properties. But that’s also difficult because sometimes the leases run out.”

Kleinschmidt said the police station and parks and recreation building need improvements.

“The station itself is a very poorly designed building, you wouldn’t build a building like that today,” Kleinschmidt said. “The same is true for the parks and rec building.”

Parks and Recreation Director Jim Orr said the department faces the same challenges the police building does.

“It’s too small, not enough space for the number of staff we have,” Orr said. “We are looking at not just additional space for the staff but also additional programing space, space for storage. Those are the issues that we’re dealing with on a day to day basis.”

These projects are being discussed throughout Chapel Hill.

“The parks and rec building is not the only need as far as use of funds go,” Orr said. “We are at the preliminary start of the conversation of the needs, and we are moving forward together with the other departments to address them.”

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