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Pickleball? Bathrooms? Chapel Hill Town Council discusses how to use ARPA funds

Chapel Hill Town Hall pictured on Saturday, March 6th, 2021.

Chapel Hill residents shared with the Chapel Hill Town Council what they wanted to see more funding for – public restrooms and pickleball.

Amy Oland, the business management director for the Town, presented different Community Partner projects that could be funded with money received through the American Rescue Plan Act.

ARPA, passed by the U.S. Congress in 2021, was created to provide relief to those impacted by the pandemic.

The Town Council was presented with an ordinance written as an amendment to Chapel Hill's ARPA Fund. Oland said the Town is looking for possible ways to spend the remaining funds.

She said different projects were analyzed by consultants to determine which needed the most funding. 

“We believe that this list provides a great variety of projects that help a wide range of those in our community that were most negatively affected by the pandemic,” Oland said.

The Town is looking into adding further public bathroom options such as porta-potties, which are cheaper to implement than bathrooms, which need staffing. Town Council member Camille Berry said the Town is in need of more private bathroom options.

Town Council member Michael Parker said sanitary centers are necessary for people experiencing homelessness to have a place to wash. 

“I think that they were affected by COVID,” Berry said. “So I think that that is actually a very good use for these ARPA dollars. It’s not something I want to put off and wait until we would get another budget.”

Several community members came before the council to advocate for funding for a pickleball complex, including UNC women’s soccer head coach Anson Dorrance.

Dorrance said he immediately fell in love with the sport. He said the democratic and community-oriented setup of pickleball created a positive space.

He said it is an easy sport to pick up and an accessible activity for all.

“I absolutely love it,” Dorrance said. “I love everything about it.”

Sandy Douglass, a member of the Chapel Hill Pickleball Steering Committee, said there are over 2000 players in Chapel Hill, and the addition of a pickleball complex could annually bring in an estimated $100,000 in revenue.

She said that a recent fundraiser, Pickle4Paws Pickleball Tournament, raised over $5,000, and every week the group adds about 30 new players.

Phillip Fleischmann, Town of Chapel Hill Parks & Recreation director, said Chapel Hill Pickleball submitted a proposal requesting a $400,000 match from the Town. He said the remaining money would come from a private capital campaign.

Fleischmann said public-private partnerships are a good way to address needs within the park system.

He said he thinks the demand for pickleball is really exploding in the park system and in the area. 

Chapel Hill Town Council member Tai Huynh said he thinks pickleball is great, but questioned if the complex would correctly use ARPA funding. He said pickleball does not relate to people who are being impacted most by COVID-19.

Adam Searing, a member of the Council, said he is worried that the Town will be unable to move forward if it focuses on too many projects at once. 

Chapel Hill Mayor Pro Tempore Karen Stegman said the Town has been discussing the implementation of bathrooms downtown for years. 

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She added she would like to work on the pickleball project, but she is worried the project has had the opportunity to “jump the line."

The Town Council voted unanimously to approve the ordinance progressing the process of allocating the funds. 

Town Council member Paris Miller-Foushee was excused from the vote due to her participation in the governing part of a recipient organization.


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