During the Orange County Board of County Commissioners meeting on Tuesday, the Board heard updates about Orange Water and Sewer Authority and assistance programs for low-income families, as well as changes to public meeting rules for new developments.
Here are some of the highlights.
- The BOCC began the meeting with a proclamation read by Commissioner Jean Hamilton declaring February as Black History Month.
- OWASA Board member Jody Eimers presented the organization's annual update. She said OWASA had resumed standard collection practices as of June 1, 2022.
- If a customer's bill is 60 days past due, the customer will now face service disconnection due to the expiration of the COVID-19 pandemic state of emergency, Eimers said.
- OWASA had reached out to customers with bills 60 days past due before this change and had used American Rescue Plan Act funding to relieve water bill payment debt for some of its customers.
- OWASA Board member Ray DuBose said OWASA has been making progress in energy management. The organization added four solar arrays, which offset one-fourth of the electricity used to pump water to Jones Ferry Road from Cane Creek Reservoir. They were installed using the Orange County Community Climate Action Grant Program.
- “OWASA also had a goal to reduce our purchase of electricity by a total of 35 percent from the 2010 baseline," Dubose said. "By the end of calendar year 2022, preliminary calculations indicate we met that goal even before the newest solar array was officially online.”
- OWASA will implement a change in drinking water treatment starting March 1, which occurs once a year, and may lead to a slight difference in the taste of water.
- Cy Stober, Orange County's planning and inspections director, introduced an amendment to the ordinance about neighborhood information meeting requirements. The OC BOCC approved the amendment.
- The new amendment requires 14 days notice before the neighborhood meeting and places the responsibility to schedule the meeting on the applicant, rather than the County.
- Additionally, the applicant must submit a written report and recording of the meeting. The amendment's rationale was to avoid giving the impression that the County endorses the project and to give the applicant the burden of scheduling the meetings.
- “This often — as recent history can attest to — gives the public the impression that the Orange County staff is endorsing the project,” Stober said.
- The BOCC approved a budget amendment to account for a $1.2 million grant to the Criminal Justice Resource Department to fund police-mental health collaboration for diversion programs. The programs will be overseen by a clinical coordinator based at the resource department, who will be trained in mental health first aid.
- The coordinator will work alongside a team that includes a clinician and social workers at all police departments in Orange County.
- The clinician will perform initial assessments and therapy for individuals involved in diversion programs, which aim to provide support and resources for individuals with mental health conditions who may have otherwise entered the criminal justice system.
- During the meeting, Fenhagen said 50 to 75 percent of people entering the Orange County Detention Center have a self-reported mental health condition, making the new program a crucial addition to the County's resources.
- “That is a great leap forward from where we are at right now,” Commissioner Earl McKee said in his comment supporting this measure.
- The OC BOCC will hold a joint meeting with the boards of education of Orange County Schools and Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools on March 9 at 7 p.m.
- The Board's next business meeting will be on March 7 at the Whitted Building in Hillsborough.