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The Daily Tar Heel

Orange County Commissioners approve strategic plan, receive OWASA update

The OWASA building in Carrboro pictured on Friday, Aug. 19, 2022.

On Feb. 20, the Orange County Board of County Commissioners held a business meeting to discuss Black History Month, the countywide strategic plan for the 2024-25 fiscal year and the Orange Water and Sewer Authority’s annual update.

What's new?

  • During public comment, several residents raised concerns about the Water and Sewer Management, Planning and Boundary Agreement, which will establish water and sewer service boundaries and aid in future development of land south of Chapel Hill.
    • Chapel Hill’s current and planned stormwater regulations are insufficient, Orange County resident BJ Warshaw said. 
      • “As far as I can tell, current and planned restrictions do not take into account the increase in rain events we’re seeing today due to climate change,” he said.
      • Before the boundary is changed, Warshaw said he would like to see an environmental study to determine the impacts of water and sewer boundary changes and overall development in flood-prone areas.
    • Chapel Hill resident Morgan Womble said she is concerned about the downstream effects that the agreement will have on the southern Chapel Hill community. 
  • Shameka Fairbanks, director of the Orange County Office of Equity & Inclusion, introduced a Black History Month proclamation. This year’s theme is “African Americans and the Arts.”
    • “Black Americans worked and fought to improve their lives while facing down overt and systemic racism, as well as racial violence and terror,” Commissioner Anna Richards said. “Black Americans have and continue to contribute to the nation’s and our community’s social, economic, political, spiritual and mental prosperity."

What's changed?

  • OWASA board member Jody Eimers presented OWASA’s annual update.
    • OWASA's Care to Share customer bill assistance program collected $27,758 in donations, one of the highest amounts in the program’s history, Eimers said.
    • She said OWASA made an adjustment in December to help better monitor and reduce PFAS in water. They will begin to discuss more treatment processes later this month.
    • OWASA has made progress in assessing lead content in pipes across the county, OWASA board member Kim Piracci said. No lead in service lines has been found yet, and OWASA has confirmed that about 48 percent of private service lines do not contain lead.
  • Darlene Weaver, Orange County’s transportation planning manager, presented the county’s transit plan for the 2024-25 fiscal year. It is currently in the public engagement and hearing phase, but the board will vote on the plan in April.
    • Tax investments include Carrboro transit infrastructure, improving the Hillsborough train station and the North-South Bus Rapid Transit project.
    • Rachel Hawkins, president of the board of directors for the Friends of the Jerry M. Passmore Center, Inc., asked that the board pay close attention to how the transit tax is distributed.
    • She asked the board to ensure transit accessibility is equitable for those inside and outside of the Chapel Hill Transit service boundaries, as well as prioritize more funding for rural transport.
  • The board unanimously approved a countywide strategic plan through fiscal years 2028-29. 
    • Their approval was contingent on the creation of a subcommittee to establish performance measures.
      • Commissioner Jean Hamilton said it is important that the board spends more time checking the performance measures against the budget and their objectives.
        • “When we bring it out to the community, we can say this is what we’re doing and focus on what’s accountable and not be constantly switching around,” she said.

What's next?

The board’s next meeting will take place on March 7 in the Whitted Human Services Building in Hillsborough.


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