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May 2016

Commissioners Accept Sheriff Webster's Resignation

On May 16, 2016, the Chatham County Board of Commissioners accepted the resignation of Sheriff Richard H. Webster upon his retirement. Webster was first elected Sheriff in 2002.

In his letter to the commissioners, Webster said, "I leave this revered office with sadness, but with eager anticipation of the future ahead. Thank you to all the commissioners for your support and assistance. Best wishes as you face the challenges and joys of serving the citizens of Chatham County."

The Board of Commissioners will consider the appointment of Chief Deputy Mike Roberson as sheriff at an upcoming meeting.

-- Debra Henzey



My Visit to the Sharon Harris Nuclear Power Plant
by Gary Phillips

(Editor’s Note: Gary Phillips wrote this account in 1999, and it appeared in one of the earliest issues of Chatham Crossroads, which became Chatham County Line in 2002. He re-submitted it because of its relevance to contemporary questions about energy.)

In the unlikely event of an emergency at the plant, 81 pole-mounted sirens located in the 10-mile emergency planning zone (EPZ) around the plant would be activated to alert the public.

(All quotations from Harris Plant Safety Information pamphlet)

We came to Sharon Harris like tourists, dressed up, jolly – 3 Chatham County commissioners and our clerk, Sandra Lee, who was delighted to leave her office and have an excursion with "the boys."

Actually, it was my second visit to Sharon Harris. The first had been in the 1970’s, when I was smuggled in by a friend who ran one of the 20-30 electrical crews desperately trying to finish the plant. It was one of the most disorganized scenes I've ever witnessed, with several thousand workers crawling over the construction site like ants, no visible order and the atmosphere of a giant party. At one time during construction Sharon Harris employed more people than the entire population of Pittsboro.

Plan ahead! It is a good idea to drive your evacuation route now so that you are familiar with it.

We arrived in the middle of the day, driving for 20 minutes with the cooling tower in view, that nuclear icon made famous by Three Mile Island, its billowing plume of white steam rising upwards like an animated brush stroke, continuous, massive, indefatigable.

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Mountaire Farms opening new Siler City facility

Mountaire Farms is pleased to announce it has entered into an agreement to acquire the former Townsend processing plant and an adjoining property in Siler City on May 5. Work will begin immediately to renovate and update this facility into a modern state-of-the-art food plant. This expansion will add over 500 jobs and will provide a significant contribution to the local economy. In addition to the permanent full time positions, the renovation process will provide employment opportunities for a multitude of skilled contractors and fabricators.

According to Paul Downes, President and CEO, "Mountaire Farms has a long tradition of producing high quality poultry products for our domestic and international customers. The increasing demand for our products requires us to expand our production and we believe North Carolina is the perfect place for that growth. Mountaire has a deep rooted commitment to quality, service, and value and we look forward to growing our business in North Carolina and strengthening the ties we have with the local communities."

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Duke Energy among Top 3 in solar energy in the nation

Duke Energy is a national leader for the amount of solar energy connected to the grid for its retail customers. In the Top 10 utility solar lists compiled by the Smart Electric Power Alliance (SEPA), Duke Energy Progress (DEP) was ranked third among all utility companies for bringing on new solar capacity during 2015.

"Our customers are experiencing the benefits of Duke Energy's work to support the growth and expansion of solar generation in this region," said David Fountain, Duke Energy's North Carolina president. "We are proud to put more and more solar energy to work for our customers in a way that works for everyone."

DEP's 461 megawatts of owned and purchased capacity for customers in 2015 helped it climb to third in the nation after being fourth the previous year. Overall, North Carolina is fourth in the nation for installed solar capacity. You can view the rankings here.

"We saw record installations of solar in 2015 across the United States. Our Top 10 survey results detail the scale of this growth, and the active role an increasing number of utilities are playing in it," said Julia Hamm, SEPA’s President and CEO. "Consumers want solar, and their interest is driving change and innovation at utilities nationwide."

The rankings were announced in April at the organization’s Utility Solar Conference in Denver. The ninth annual survey includes figures from more than 300 utilities across the country. Since 2007, more than 1,000 projects representing more than 5,000 megawatts of generation have sought interconnection in Duke Energy’s North Carolina service territory. To support this growth, Duke Energy has added a Renewable Service Center, a customer call center designed to help with the high volume of residential solar-related interconnection requests. The company has also increased its engineering, support resources and construction crews for solar power.

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Land Becoming Home wins big grant

Triangle Community Foundation joins with United Way of Chatham County and Chatham County Government in announcing the winner of a new pilot grant focused on a collaborative approach to affordable housing challenges in Chatham County. Each sponsoring organization provided $10,000 to support the $30,000 grant.

A panel of volunteers from all three agencies selected a project called "Land Becoming Home" as the 2016-17 grant recipient. Land Becoming Home involves a collaboration of Rebuilding Together of the Triangle, Chatham Habitat for Humanity, and Chatham County Council on Aging.

"At Chatham Habitat, we get calls every day from people who own land in Chatham County but who cannot afford to repair their existing homes," said Anna Spears with Habitat for Humanity. "In some cases, this may mean no running water, extremely high utility bills and massive structural damage. The repair costs could be enormous or the home is simply not repairable."

For these families, staying on their land is of the utmost importance," Spears said. "Family members may be close by, or the land may be their only asset. People in these situations may have no alternatives."

Land Becoming Home focuses on this reality and tests a unique solution with two key elements:

· It will identify a low-income household on family-owned land where the home structure is beyond repair. Land ownership will help leverage a zero-interest loan to replace the failing home with an energy-efficient, low-cost tiny home (less than 800 square feet) that is less costly to operate and maintain. The tiny home will be sold to the owner through a zero-interest loan. Utility cost savings will help the owner cover the small mortgage involved.

· A second component involves a tour and other strategies to educate public officials and the community about substandard housing conditions in Chatham. Follow up discussions will focus on how people end up in such poor housing situations and the barriers that prevent them from leaving.

Habitat for Humanity will handle the loan financing, Rebuilding Together of the Triangle will manage the building project and the Council on Aging will provide follow-up wrap-around services and help identify potential homeowners in need. Many of the homeowners in these situations are age 60 and older and often come to Council on Aging for help. Land Becoming Home is a one-year pilot that gets underway July 1, 2016. The three partner agencies have a specific timeline to accomplish key steps. They will produce a final project report showing the outcomes.



Chatham Board of Health offers kudos


The Chatham County Board of Health is pleased to announce the recipients of its annual awards. Each year at its April meeting, the Board of Health recognizes an Employee of the Year, Supervisor of the Year, and Partner of the Year. This year, the honors were given to Jennifer Park and Anna Stormzand as Employees of the Year, Debbie Garrett as Supervisor of the Year, and Chatham Hospital as Community Health Partner of the Year.

Although the Employee of the Year is traditionally awarded to one staff member, the Board decided that two employees, Jennifer Park and Anna Stormzand, were worthy of the honor this year. In their time with the Chatham County Public Health Department, Jennifer and Anna boast numerous individual successes in addition to a major collaborative accomplishment this year: Chatham County’s Tobacco-free Grounds Policy. The two have been instrumental in the planning and implementation of the policy, as well as initiatives that help those looking to quit using tobacco. "Not only do they embody the characteristics of an outstanding employee on a day-to-day basis," the nomination read, "but in this past year Anna and Jennifer accomplished what could be considered one of the biggest undertakings in protecting the health of Chatham residents in recent years -- the passage of the county comprehensive smoking policy, which banned all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, on all county-owned and leased property."

At the ceremony, Board of Health Vice-Chair Wanda Fearrington also presented the Supervisor of the Year award to Debbie Garrett. Debbie, who was joined by many members of the clinic staff as she received the award, has dedicated her career to public health and is well-respected by many across the state. Her nomination referred to her as "a wonderful listener," and pointed out that she "handles every situation with patience and kindness, which empowers staff to do their very best each day. She embodies public health, public service, selflessness, and would be a very deserving Supervisor of the Year."

The final award of the evening, the Community Health Partner award, was presented to Chatham Hospital. Throughout its history, Chatham Hospital has served as an important public health partner in the county. Recently, the hospital has taken on an even greater role in seeking avenues beyond its walls to improve and foster health. This has resulted in tremendous opportunities for the health department and Chatham County as a whole, including grants from the Duke Endowment and Blue Cross Blue Shield NC to fund the Chatham Health Alliance. The health department and Chatham Hospital also conducted the 2014 Community Health Assessment as a collaborative effort.

The Chatham County Board of Health and health department would like to congratulate all award recipients and thank them for their service to public health in Chatham County.



Free computer classes at Library in Pittsboro

Chatham Community Library is offering a series of free computer classes in May and June. The names, dates and times of the classes are listed below. You can find a full description of the classes, including topics covered and prerequisites for attending, by visiting http://tinyurl.com/ComputerClassesCCL.

Using the Library's Online Catalog: May 9, Monday, 3– 4:30 p.m.
Drop-in Computer Assistance: May 11, Wednesday, 4 – 5 p.m.
Computer Basics, Part 1: May 18, Tuesday, 3 – 4:30 p.m.
Computer Basics, Part 2: May 25, Tuesday, 3 – 4:30 p.m.
Drop-in Computer Assistance: June 8, Wednesday, 4 – 5 p.m.
Internet Basics, Part 1: June 14, Tuesday, 3 – 4:30 p.m.
Internet Basics, Part 2: June 21, Tuesday, 3 – 4:30 p.m.
Zinio (digital magazines): June 30, Thursday, 3– 4:30 p.m.

The Drop-In Computer Assistance sessions (May 11 and June 8) do not require registration. For all other classes, space is limited and you must register in advance if you wish to attend. Register online at the link above. For more information, call 919.545.8086 or email reference@chathamlibraries.org. All classes take place in the computer lab at Chatham Community Library, 197 NC Hwy 87 N in Pittsboro, on the campus of Central Carolina Community College.

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