ORANGE COUNTY – County commissioners meet Tuesday to discuss the next steps in narrowing down a site for a southern branch of the Orange County Library.
The board has identified three possible sites in Carrboro, but county staffers say two are not feasible.
A property on Hillsborough Road next to the Martin Luther King Jr.Park would only work if Carrboro Aldermen agree to a land swap to place the library at the entrance to the park, but town leaders have indicated this is not what they have in mind for the property.
A second site adjacent to the cemetery on Fidelity Street could require blasting to move large deposits of underground rock. This would drive up the price of the project and runs the risk of disturbing nearby burial plots.
However, the idea of placing a branch library inside a proposed mixed-use development on Brewer Lane is gaining traction among town and county officials.
Commissioners will discuss which locations to drop from consideration before proceeding to the next phase of evaluation, which could cost $15,000 per site.
The board meets at 7:00 p.m. at the Central Orange Senior Center in Hillsborough.
HILLSBOROUGH- Orange County Commissioners on Tuesday signaled they may be willing to shift the focus of a proposed $100 million bond referendum.
In a prior discussion, the board talked about getting voter approval to finance a new jail, and a fifth middle school for the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools system. Those two projects alone total $73 million.
But school board members from both the Chapel Hill-Carrboro and Orange County districts say aging schools are badly in need of repair, and fixing those could cost as much as $230 million.
Commissioner Mark Dorosin said he’d like some guarantee from district officials that renovating older schools would increase student capacity, delaying the need for new buildings.
“I think if we’re going to put any money into the renovation of these older schools, which is much needed, I think we should demand that any renovation increase capacity, whether it’s in the middle school or the elementary school,” said Dorosin. “Whatever those plans are, that money should have as an additional benefit that it is going to push out the next elementary school, the next middle school, the next high school, whatever it is.”
If voters approve a $100 million dollar bond package, Assistant County Manager Clarence Grier told the board that could mean raising the tax rate by 4.18 cents for the next 20 years to cover the $6.7 million annual debt payments.
In order to get the referendum on the ballot for the November 2014 election, the school boards and commissioners must come up with a list of priorities by early June.
Chapel Hill-Carrboro administrators have already completed a detailed assessment of the district’s older buildings, while Orange County school officials have a study underway. County Commissioners will discuss the timing of the possible bond package at a meeting later this fall.http://chapelboro.com/news/local-government/bocc-eyes-older-schools-for-bond-referendum/
Photo Courtesy: Gourmet.com
CHAPEL HILL – A top-selling Japanese candy company announced plans Tuesday to build a new facility in Mebane, creating 90 new jobs and investing $48 million over the next three years.
Barry Jacobs, Chair of the Orange County Commissioners, says it is a sweet deal for the area in more ways than one.
“It will not only give a boost in becoming a large employer in Orange County, but we hope it will also help to stimulate other companies that would like to locate and identify with a quality, international company,” Jacobs says.
Morinaga and Company, the top-selling candy manufacturer in Japan, was founded in 1899 in Tokyo. It produces a wide variety of confectioneries, including chocolates, cookies, and frozen desserts. Its products became available in the U.S. five years ago.
The company’s subsidiary operations in Mebane will consist of blending syrup, sugar, flavorings and other ingredients to produce soft candy, the Associated Press reports. The site, set to open mid-2015 in the Buckhorn Economic Development District, is the firm’s first American manufacturing enterprise.
The Orange County Economic Development Department, led by director Steve Brantley, fronted the efforts to recruit the manufacturer. To land the project, Orange County survived five rounds of visits from Morinaga consultants since the county first tried to attract the company in February 2012.
“We beat out 18 sites in approximately 12 North Carolina counties,” Brantley says ”Other places outside the state that has been considered seriously included Toronto, Canada, Richmond, Philadelphia, Atlanta, and even Portland, Oregon.”
Brantley says Morinaga ultimately choose the Mebane site, near the Tanger Outlet mall, because of interstate visibility, a high confidence in the area’s work force, and the presence of UNC and Durham Tech, which will handle the critical training for the company.
Contingencies before the project can be finalized and construction begun include road accessibility, a supply of electricity and natural gas, and water and sewer extensions. Those improvements are planned to be funded by city, county and state performance grants.
Several other factors, Jacobs explains, played a key in making the project possible, including the rezoning of the district.
“Two years ago, the county made decisions to rezone it, and last year, the County Commissioners made decisions to rezone it, hoping that we would land a corporate client and it worked,” Jacobs says.
The 120,000 square-foot facility will offer health and retirement benefits for Morinaga employees. These jobs will be created over three years, offering competitive salaries, averaging more than $38,000 a year, according to a statement issued by Orange County.
“We’re trying in several different ways to use areas that we have previously zoned for economic development to provide more jobs and keep our non-residential tax base growing,” Jacobs says.
Jacobs also cites the use of the quarter-cent sales tax for funding economic development incentives.
“We owe a debt of gratitude to the voters who voted for the quarter-cent sales tax a few years back because half of that quarter-cent goes toward economic development,” Jacobs says. “The largest percentage goes to providing infrastructure, in this case water and sewer, for our economic development district.”
Jacobs says the company will be in the top ten employers for the County.http://chapelboro.com/news/japanese-candy-co-to-open-operations-in-oc/
ORANGE COUNTY – Chair of the Orange County Board of Commissioners, Barry Jacobs, and fellow commissioner, Penny Rich, said the news of County Manager Frank Clifton’s resignation did not come as a surprise. Both were candid when they said that there had been disagreements between Clifton and the Board.
“If we are fighting with our manager to get things done, that’s not a good environment to work in,” Rich said.
Clifton , in an email to the Board Thursday morning, said he would step down on September 29 of this year. He indicated he would continue to attend regularly scheduled meetings and work sessions.
“As County Manager, I recognize not all my recommendations and/or actions were viewed in a positive light by everyone. That is not unexpected. Doing the public’s business is not without criticism, ” Clifton said in his letter of resignation.
Rich said her main disagreement with Clifton was over the recycling program. The county was forced to look for a new funding model after a recent North Carolina Supreme Court ruling prohibited some of the fees that fund curbside pick-up service. She said Clifton wanted to introduce franchise agreements, but the board voted in April to take that option off the table.
“When it came time to face up to citizens, it was very uncomfortable. I felt we were being led down the wrong path in that area. I think there were a number of decisions like that which didn’t carry out Orange County values as well as our citizens expected,” Rich said.
The Board also faced tough budget decisions this year, with pressure to help the Chapel Hill Carrboro City Schools make up funds for its steep budget shortfalls. In the end, Commissioners approved a $187 million dollar spending plan this month which increased school funding by $102 dollars per pupil and raised the Chapel Hill-Carrboro special district tax by two cents to help open the new Northside Elementary. For the fifth year in a row, the budget did not include a countywide property tax rate increase.
“I actually thought this was one of the smoother budget processes I’ve been a part of in my 15 years as a Commissioner,” Jacobs said.
Jacobs said though there were disagreements along the way, Clifton made a positive impact during his time as County Manager.
“He helped to lead us through a difficult fiscal time. He was brought in right as the economy was crashing. When knew we were going to have to batten down the hatches. He and his staff did a very good job of helping us get our financial house in order,” Jacobs said.
Jacobs said the differences of opinion gave the Board an opportunity to take a fresh look at their own views.
“We didn’t always agree with what the conclusion should be but it is always good to have your assumptions challenged,” Jacobs said.
Jacobs said the Board hadn’t planned to meet until September, but that will likely change. The next step is to come up with a process that the commissioners agree on to find Clifton’s replacement. The Board will then reach out to search firms to facilitate that process.
“When you start searching for a new manager, you weigh out what the citizen’s values are and what is most important right now. We need to be very careful in understanding what those values are and how that relates to who runs our county,” Rich said.
Rich said it was known this that position would be Clifton’s last before retirement. He was not available for comment Thursday.
Clifton’s Resignation Letter Sent to BoCC:
June 27, 2013
Chair-Commissioner Jacobs, Vice Chair- Commissioner McKee, Commissioners Pelissier, Rich, Dorosin, Price and Gordon – CC: John Roberts-County Attorney and Donna Baker-Clerk to the Board
Soon, I celebrate another anniversary of my 39th birthday. My wife and I have decided to pursue challenges and opportunities that allow us to achieve goals we value together. Hence, per my employment agreement (90-day written notice) I advise of my intent to resign as Orange County Manager effective September 29th, 2013 and register for retirement from NCLGRS thereafter.
As County Manager, I recognize not all my recommendations and/or actions were viewed in a positive light by everyone. That is not unexpected. Doing the public’s business is not without criticism. The intent always focused on the best interest of the whole County and its future. Together we faced difficult issues, with actions leading to successful outcomes. Not every decision pleased everyone. That is the nature of the activities in which we engage.
I will attend regularly scheduled meetings and work sessions of the Board through the end of September continuing to assist the Board as required during the remaining months of my tenure. I appreciate the opportunity to have served as Orange County Manager the past four years. It has been an interesting and a unique experience.
Public service (elected or appointed) is both a privilege and challenge that comes with substantial personal responsibilities to all that choose to participate. Private lives become too public. Innermost thoughts become targets for disagreement. Many may oppose a course of action, but only those serving roles as public leaders are held accountable for final outcomes. Anyone may offer solutions, but in the end a limited few are challenged with responsibility for the ultimate decisions.
When County Commissioners make decisions it is County Staff’s responsibility to make those decisions work. You need to recognize and appreciate the true foundation for successful Orange County programs, services and community outreach comes from staff that on a daily basis serve the needs of the residents of Orange County faithfully, with integrity and a personal commitment to meeting the needs of others. I hold the highest respect for County Staff’s ability to face every challenge in a professional and successful manner. They are highly qualified and dedicated individuals. The County Staff make things work for Orange County and its Citizens.
I appreciate the opportunity to have known each of you individually. Although we cannot always agree, I do think we forged outcomes that will last beyond our stay in the public light. That is something to value as a memento of our time together. My best wishes to Orange County and its Citizens always.
Frank W. Clifton, Jr.
Orange County Managerhttp://chapelboro.com/news/local-government/oc-commissioners-on-cliftons-resignation-decision/
CHAPEL HILL- Orange County Commissioners received the first draft of the Orange County Library’s three-year strategic plan on Tuesday, and although the project involved 800 contributors and took nearly a year to complete, some on the board said it’s not what the county needs to move forward.
“When are there going to be specific action items to implement these objectives?” asked Mark Dorosin. “This is a very lovely report and presentation, but it’s a very zoomed-out view.”
The study was paid for by a grant from the state.
It surveyed residents and library staffers about what services they value in the Orange County Library. Access to books, internet connectivity and youth activities ranked as top priorities. Respondents also said they want to see greater cooperation between the county library system and the Chapel Hill Public Library.
Orange County Library Director Lucinda Munger said she’s already collaborating with the new director of the Chapel Hill Public Library on how to better work together.
“We don’t know exactly what [that is] going to be, but that’s part of the 21st century library that we’ve all talked about and wondered about, a greater cooperation between libraries in a similar area,” said Munger. “Libraries, no matter what they are or how well-funded they are, can’t really stand alone anymore.”
The draft strategic plan did not address the Southern Branch Library currently being discussed by county commissioners and Carrboro Aldermen.
The aldermen recently added four possible sites to the county’s list of potential locations, and indicated that a site on Brewer Lane in the planned Butler mixed-use development is favored by town leaders.
When it comes to strategic planning, Board Chair Barry Jacobs said county leaders need more details from library staff.
“This is like the foundation,” said Jacobs. “But we have some decisions to make that are pretty specific and we’d like to do them in the next fiscal year.”
Munger told the board that the draft plan was only designed to set broad goals for the library system. She said she would return with a specific action plan for consideration in late September, along with an analysis of the potential branch locations.http://chapelboro.com/news/local-government/county-commissioners-call-library-plan-too-vague/
Anthony Chow, an assistant professor at UNC-Greensboro, will present the results of a seven month study examining how and where the county’s library system should grow.
The board will also discuss the need for a new county jail facility, and look at local programs that offer alternatives to incarceration.
The board meets Tuesday at 7:00 p.m. at the Southern Human Services Center on Homestead Road.
ORANGE COUNTY – County commissioners will try to balance budget priorities at a work session Thursday.
The county is looking to finance several large construction projects in the next five years, without bumping up against its debt ceiling. To do so, county staffers are recommending that the board move ahead with the Culbreth science wing expansion next year but delay construction of the Southern Branch Library until 2017.
Rising costs for health care and retiree benefits, as well as EMS upgrades and increased funding requests from the schools top the list of budget concerns for the 2013-2014 fiscal year. Those total an additional $15 million in spending and would require a ten-cent property tax rate increase to fully fund them all.
County commissioners will hash out the details when the board meets at 7:00 p.m. in the Southern Human Services Center on Homestead Road.
ORANGE COUNTY – County commissioners will discuss when to schedule the next property tax revaluation when the board meets Tuesday.
The board voted last year to delay a scheduled revaluation, based on the advice of the Tax Administrator. He said the slump in home sales meant there was not enough data to get an accurate estimate of property values.
The revaluation was pushed back to 2015, but commissioners could decide to wait another two years to allow staff to gather more data.
The board will also review plan to renovate the Whitted Building into a public meeting space to be shared by Hillsborough, the board of commissioners and the Orange County school board. If approved, the renovations would cost about $1.5 million.
The board of commissioners meets at 7:00 p.m. at the Department of Social Services in Hillsborough.