CHAPEL HILL- Even with one member absent, eight Chapel Hill Town Council members had to squeeze in tight to fit on the platform that usually seats seven county commissioners.

Council gets cozy

As the council met Monday night for the first time since Town Hall flooded this summer, Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt asked for the indulgence of the audience, council and staff in making the transition to temporary quarters at the Southern Human Services Center.

“The first floor of Town Hall was severely affected by the flood of June 30,” said Kleinschmidt. “If you head to Town Hall, we won’t let you into the first floor.”

Garrett Davis, a town employee, recorded this video at Town Hall during the June 30 storm that drenched Chapel Hill.

In addition to the flooding at Town Hall, 18 of the 26 units at the Airport Gardens public housing complex on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard were also damaged during the record rains.

Since then, families from Airport Gardens have been living at hotels. Town Manager Roger Stancil said right now the main focus is to help displaced residents get their lives back to normal.

“Our number one priority is to get our residents back into their homes. They’ve been living in hotel rooms and uncertain circumstances,” said Stancil. “So our number one priority is to get them settled back in their homes and the rest of it we can make do.”

He said the displaced families can expect to return home by the end of the month.

Repairs to Town Hall could last six months to a year, as officials take this opportunity to upgrade some of the town’s office and meeting space. Meanwhile, the town’s business management office has temporarily moved to University Square on Franklin Street.

The total cost for repairs and upgrades won’t be known until the work is complete, but initial estimates suggest it could be as much as $1.1 million.

The council on Monday approved a budget amendment to begin paying for the renovations. $412,000 will come out of the town’s general fund, while $236,000 will come out of the housing fund.

While insurance will cover about half a million dollars worth of repairs, Stancil said the town is liable for the mold damage in Town Hall and Airport Gardens.

“That’s not covered by the insurance, so that cost is something we need to cover and obviously something we need to take care of,” said Stancil. “Just like with our own personal insurance, insurance doesn’t cover everything.”

However, neither insurance nor the money allocated Monday will cover the cost of mitigation to make sure the flooding doesn’t reoccur.

Stancil says officials from the Public Works Department are assessing what needs to be done and they will return to the council will recommendations and a budget request in a couple of months.

“The second part of this, which is underway, is a review of what the causes were for the damage and then to recommend improvements we might make to try to keep this from happening to us again,” said Stancil.

In the meantime, the town council will just have to get cozy in its new home on Homestead Road for the foreseeable future.