County delays Rogers Road discussion

tgrubb@newsobserver.comSeptember 23, 2013 

Mark Dorosin, Orange County commissioner

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— Last-minute contract changes and unexpected costs forced the Orange County commissioners to delay a planned review of the new Rogers Road community center last week.

The county had planned to spend $650,000 to build the center on land donated by Habitat for Humanity, but the bids came in at $1.3 million to $1.6 million, county staff said.

Staff members, including attorney John Roberts, will talk with the Rogers-Eubanks Neighborhood Association (RENA), its attorneys and the architect designing the center before seeking new bids.

The commissioners will discuss the contract again Oct. 1.

Also, the commissioners reviewed a $5.8 million plan for providing 86 properties in the Rogers Road community with sewer service. County officials have delayed any decisions until an Environmental Protection Agency investigation of complaints filed in 2007 and 2011 is completed.

The water and sewer plan is intended to help mitigate the damage to the community from living with the Orange County Landfill for 40 years. The commissioners will discuss the plan with their counterparts in Carrboro and Chapel Hill at an Assembly of Governments meeting Nov. 21.

The board rejected Commissioner Mark Dorosin’s request to approve a statement that the county is committed to funding water and sewer service to all residents, including the connections to their homes. Dorosin represented RENA in the EPA case before being elected to the board of commissioners last year.

“There is a perception in the community that the towns are more committed to this than the county,” he said. “It’s imperative that we send a clear signal to the residents of the Rogers Road community, Chapel Hill and the community at large that we are committed to seeing this through.”

The Carrboro Board of Aldermen also discussed the draft report last week and how much money the town could commit to the project. Carrboro previously pledged $900,000 toward the cost of the sewer system and community center.

“Nine hundred thousand was thought to be slightly higher than 14 percent of $5.8 million,” Mayor Mark Chilton said.

Alderman Sammy Slade, who along with Alderwoman Michelle Johnson represented Carrboro on the Historic Rogers Road Neighborhood Task Force, said he would support any amount that is 14 percent of the cost. Other task force members included two representatives each from the commissioners, Chapel Hill Town Council and RENA.

If the costs come in under budget, the town should find a way to recoup the extra money, possibly from developers moving in to use the sewer lines, Alderwoman and sole mayoral candidate Lydia Lavelle said.

“The community center, and the new school, and the new park, and closing the landfill will change that area,” Alderwoman Jacquelyn Gist said. “We all know that development follows water and, particularly, follows sewer.”

Rogers Road residents say Chapel Hill Mayor Howard Lee promised them a community center and city services when the county landfill was sited in 1972.

Jonathan Howes, mayor of Chapel Hill from 1987 to 1991, said it was not a controversial siting, as best he could recall, when land on the south side of Eubanks Road was acquired for a later addition to the landfill. The neighbors against raised the issue of broken promises in the mid-1990s.

“I’m sure that if you lived in the Rogers Road neighborhood, these things would have been on your mind, and they should have been, because they’ve borne the brunt of the landfill presence for the whole community for all that time,” Howes said.

Grubb: 919-932-8746

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