ORANGE COUNTY: After more than a year’s worth of work, the Rogers Road Task Force had its final meeting this week and decided to recommend two options for providing sewer service for the area. Though initial steps have been taken, it seems residents will have to keep waiting for actual results.
Carrboro Alderman and task force member, Michelle Johnson, told Aaron Keck on the WCHL Morning News Thursday that she was happy that some progress has been made, but hoped that more would have been accomplished by now.
“I’m saying it is frustrating for me, and then I think about the people who live in Rogers Road,” Johnson said. “They must be way more frustrated than I am with this.”
Johnson said the task force agreed to give preference to one sewer plan that will cost about $5.8 million and will serve 86 properties. The alternative plan will cost $3.7 million, providing sewer service for 67 properties in the historic area of Rogers Road.
The $5.8 option, the original Sewer Concept Plan presented by OWASA in 2012, will provide service to the entire Historic Rogers Road Neighborhood, but is contingent upon the Town of Chapel Hill taking in that section of Rogers Road as an ETJ, an option still to be determined.
The task force also recommended a cost-sharing plan for the sewer system and also for building the Community Center for the neighborhood, which is set to break ground within the next three months. The plan calls for Chapel Hill to pay 43 percent; Orange County 43 percent; and Carrboro 14 percent.
“It really depends on how much the county allocates and how much Chapel Hill allocates, because Carrboro has voted on an allocation and included it in our budget,” Johnson said.
The task force, made up of representatives from the Carrboro Board of Alderman, the Chapel Hill Town Council, the Orange County Board of Commissioners, and representatives of the Rogers Eubanks Neighborhood Association (RENA), faced another roadblock recently. In July, the Environmental Protection Agency declared it had jurisdiction to launch a federal investigation into allegations that the County Planning Department and OWASA discriminated against the largely African-American community by failing to provide water and sewer service to Rogers Road. This sparked concern that the county would have to halt all plans until the investigation was completed.
County representatives on the task force, Penny Rich and Renee Price, were able to vote on some of the recommendations at Wednesday’s meeting, according to Assistant County Manager Michael Talbert, who has been advising the group in the drafting of sewer plans. Talbert said the county won’t be able to make any final decisions or allocate funds while the EPA investigation is on-going.
“We’ve been advised by council to put the sewer plan on hold at this point with no action and now contemplative action by our board until we here back from the EPA in terms of the results of our investigation,” Talbert explained.
Talbert said the county hasn’t been given a time line for the investigation.
He said that the CountyCommissioners, though, can accept the drafted report from the task force and are set to discuss it on September 17. Carrboro and Chapel Hill will also discuss it in upcoming meetings.
“On November 21st, at the Assembly of Government’s meeting, we can hopefully all talk about what happened on the task force and hopefully take some action that evening,” Johnson said.
Another issue addressed was how to fund the hook-ups from the water meters to the homes. Johnson said some of the residents can’t afford it, so federal grants may be necessary.