Hillsborough broadcast its State of the Town Address online on Monday night, with the mayor sharing messages of encouragement during a period unlike any other.
Monday’s address was Jenn Weaver’s first State of the Town as mayor, after being elected in November. Instead of many people gathering to hear her update, she gave it in an empty town hall room and spoke to them over Facebook Live.
Weaver talked about keeping an ‘expedition mindset’ while living through the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, pulling the term from past wilderness training. She described it as meaning residents should adaptable, focused and keeping everyone’s health in mind beyond just their own.
The mayor also stressed how the community staying together in its goals, even if not physically, will play a big role in Hillsborough enduring the outbreak.
“Fear is an entirely rational and reasonable reaction to the situation that we are in,” said Weaver. “The trick is to take note of that fear, acknowledge it, but not let it consume our whole state of being. We are surrounded by good people. Let’s take care of ourselves and each other…from at least 6 feet away.”
Weaver reiterated the town’s essential services, like water and sewer services, the police department and solid waste collection, are all continuing for residents. She said town staff has been working diligently to take consider all ways the town can continue to operate despite the coronavirus outbreak.
“All those town employees are thinking about how to continue these and other essential town functions through the duration of this event,” said the mayor. “I have every confidence that they will.”
While the town economy will likely suffer as restaurants and bars cannot serve dine-in customers and other businesses must temporarily close, Weaver said she is confident in the investments made over the years to maintain many elements of the town. Some of those she mentioned were the recent upgrades to the West Fork Eno Reservoir, good streets and many public spaces for residents to walk in while still social distancing.
As part of the address, the mayor answered questions submitted by residents online. She spoke about the town’s efforts to manage traffic, an element within the growing the community that garnered many submissions. Weaver pointed to traffic studies of Churton Street as being helpful to determine the best signal pattern. She also said proposed extensions on Orange Grove Road, while not approved by the board, have led to the hiring of a consultant for more options.
“It’s true none of the options for extending Orange Grove Road were deemed acceptable by the town board,” Weaver said. “The one that was the most enticing would’ve caused two of our biggest private employers to move. Being sure we kept those jobs here is feeling extra critical right now.”
Weaver closed her State of the Town by saying Hillsborough’s community continues to be strong. She reaffirmed her points about staying committed to the town’s success by overcoming both the challenges the town faces every day and the big challenge facing it right now.
“Let the way we conduct ourselves in this moment and see this thing through be an act of love for this town we love,” said Weaver. “I’ve got your back, the town commissioners have your back. Let’s all have each other’s back.”
The next Hillsborough Board of Commissioners meeting is scheduled for April 13. It’s unclear whether it will be held remotely, like the recent Carrboro Town Council or the Board of Orange County Commissioners meetings.