Chatham commissioners appoint George Lucier to CCCC Board of Trustees

Pittsboro, NC – In the May 18 Chatham County commissioners’ meeting chairman Jim Crawford stated that there was another opening on the CCCC Board of Trustees. Two people have put their names into consideration; Larry Hicks and George Lucier.

George Lucier

George Lucier

Commissioner Karen Howard made a motion to appoint George Lucier. Vice Chairman Mike Cross made a motion to appoint Larry Hicks.

A motion was made by Commissioner Karen Howard, seconded by Commissioner Diana Hales, that George Lucier be appointed to the CCCC Board of Trustees. The
motion carried by the following vote: Aye: 3 – Chairman Crawford, Commissioner Hales and Commissioner Howard No: 2 – Vice Chair Cross and Commissioner Petty

Liberal abuse of power and rudeness during July 20 Chatham Commissioners meeting

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Pittsboro, NC- The July 20 meeting of the Chatham County board of commissioners was another lesson in disrespect and disdain, and as usual the interesting moments weren’t on the agenda.

S.T. Wooten Asphalt Plant

S.T. Wooten is a supplier of ready mix concrete and asphalt.

Commissioner Diana Hales wants to use the power of her office to force a long-time business out of the county. Just before the end of the meeting Hales asked: “Is there any rationale that would allow the county to disallow ST Wooten to operate? I’m asking”.  “Could we send a letter to DOT requesting that the State buy asphalt from sources other than ST Wooten?  Umm I’m just asking”. The other commissioners didn’t say anything, but the county manager stated “from the standpoint of staff; we’ve never been asked to interfere with commerce before”.

With county commissioners willing to entertain such an idea, I might look elsewhere if I was considering opening a business in Chatham (on say a megasite near Siler City).

Also during the last ten minutes of the meeting a citizen stood to speak. He was frustrated with the county about the number of times an inspector needed to visit and the number of fees that have to be paid for a building project. In his frustration, he vented about the “liberal left”. Howard, Crawford, and Cross were offended by those comments and argued with him. Howard and Cross were so offended they began packing up and leaving while he was speaking and before the meeting adjourned; showing complete disdain toward the citizen. It’s difficult to explain to those who didn’t see it firsthand but I encourage you to watch the last few minutes of the meeting video. If you do, notice the difference in how those three handled the situation and the classy way Commissioner Petty did. I don’t remember Karen Howard having a problem when her supporters attended and repeatedly called the former commissioners right wing tea baggers and racists.

Finally, during all of this, a prominent member of the democratic party executive committee was sitting in the back of the room with both feet propped up on the back the bench. Chairman Crawford needs to tell his friends that the courthouse is not the property of the democratic party. If we want to maintain that beautiful facility they cannot treat it like their own living room and the furniture like some old coffee table.

Why don’t liberal commissioners Hales & Howard have time for a written agenda or public notice?

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Pittsboro, NC – In reading the agenda for the June 15 Chatham County Board of Commissioners meeting you couldn’t have known the significant items that were to be approved.  Even if you don’t care about these specific items, you should notice how underhanded these new commissioners are. Not only are they cramming most items on the consent agenda, they don’t bother putting important issues on the agenda at all! Hales and Howard are hiding their schemes from us AND other commissioners.

Liberal Chatham commissioners Jim Crawford, Diana Hales and Karen Howard

Liberal Chatham commissioners Jim Crawford, Diana Hales and Karen Howard

Let’s start with the smaller item. After approving the budget, Karen Howard asked for $30,000 more for the Chatham Arts Council. Walter Petty stated that it was improper to act on the request without a presentation with details about how the money would be used. Howard arrogantly stated “it is acceptable for us to do this at this stage of the game” . Commissioner Mike Cross then said,  “It is legally acceptable but I’m not so sure it is acceptable to the public. This is very unusual”

Petty tried to reason with Karen Howard. Adding, “whether it has merit or not is beside the point” . . . “This is not the way you do a budget” . . ..”We make every department justify every dollar we give them. You don’t just write a blank check.” Ignoring reason, the motion passed 3-2 with Karen Howard, Diana Hales and Jim Crawford voting in favor.

Speaking of blank checks, the majority voted to become litigants in a lawsuit against the state of North Carolina. Some clean water organization and three individuals have sued the State. Diana Hales and Karen Howard felt strongly that Chatham should join as a plaintive. Other commissioners were blindsided by this move and tried to get more information. Petty said “Just so I have this right, we would be the only government joining three individuals to sue the state.” Hales proudly said “yes.”

Petty tried to determine what liability the county would have by joining. Hales, demonstrating her vast knowledge of the law, said “as I understand it, it’s just filing a piece of paper and paying $200.  The Chatham County attorney jumped in to correct her saying, “Once you get involved in litigation, you are in litigation. You really can’t predict what it will cost you or what the outcome will be. I think you need to be aware of that.”

“I don’t think we should be a part of this. We have no idea what this would cost us,” said Cross. Ignoring all reason and legal advice, Diana Hales, Karen Howard and Jim Crawford voted to join the lawsuit and put the county on the hook for an undetermined amount of money with no input from the public.

Chatham Commissioners approve pending agreement with Duke Energy on coal ash

Pittsboro, NC –  Even though the state has already granted permits for Charah to move ahead with coal ash disposal at the Brickhaven mine in Moncure, Chatham County has reached an agreement with Duke Energy that will provide substantial funds to help monitor site safety and will limit the amount of ash deposited there. The agreement must be signed by both parties to be final.

Duke Energy Coal Ash

(Photo: Duke Energy)

“The agreement we voted on is certainly not everything we sought, because actions by the State of North Carolina prevent us from denying the site and have minimized our leverage. Even so, we have secured several important requirements that will help protect the safety and health of the community and natural resources,” said County Commissioner Chairman Jim Crawford.

Crawford said it was a challenge to negotiate key points when the NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) recently announced that it had already granted key coal ash disposal permits to Duke Energy. “This did not deter our efforts. With the help of our legal counsel, we were able to achieve several key goals.”

Crawford explained that the 2014 Coal Ash Management Act passed by the General Assembly ensured that local governments had no option to deny lined repositories and also limited local regulation of them.  “Anything we did that was perceived as precluding the disposal of coal ash would be struck down,  but we could bind Duke to testing and compensation for the risks our county has taken on for the state.”

The agreement would mean that Chatham County can still hold legally accountable two key parties: Charah Inc., the contractor managing coal ash transport and disposal, and Green Meadows LLC, the property owner.

As part of the arrangement, Chatham County will receive $18 million ($1.50 per ton of coal ash received by the Brickhaven site).  An initial payment of $6 million must be paid within 10 days after the first coal ash is placed at the site.  Subsequent payments will be made annually.

“This will give the county funding to monitor and keep track of various environmental risks associated with lined repositories of coal ash in and around the Brickhaven site,” said County Commissioner Vice Chairman Mike Cross, who lives in Moncure. “We will not hesitate to sound an alarm when it needs to be sounded. The safety of residents, businesses and natural resources in that area is paramount.”

In addition, Duke Energy would pay Chatham County $114,193 per year for five years to help make up for property tax revenue losses due to the closure of the Cape Fear Plant. The Moncure Fire Department also was impacted by lost fire tax revenue, so Duke Energy will pay an additional $300,000 to help pay off the department’s debt service for equipment and facilities.

The agreement would mean that Duke Energy agrees to cap the total amount of coal ash in Brickhaven at 12 million tons and would not allow coal ash from outside the state to be stored there.

The agreement would address issues related to the now-closed Cape Fear Plant. Duke Energy must work with Chatham County on future plans to more safely contain the coal ash already stored in ponds at the plant, which could include moving some to the Brickhaven site. Duke Energy also can’t send any other coal ash from other plants to this plant site.

Several specific safety and health measures were included in the pending agreement:

*         Delivery and Deposit Records:  Chatham County will be able to petition with reasonable notice to obtain the records from Duke Energy to determine how much ash has been deposited and dates of delivery. Duke also must maintain delivery logs as required by law and make them available to the county on request.

*         Permit Violations:  Duke Energy would be required to notify Chatham County if there are any permit violations issued by DENR related to the Brickhaven operations and must do so within 10 days.

*         Local Regulations:  Any local regulations generally applicable to all developments would be applicable to the Brickhaven site, including provisions related to setbacks, buffers, stormwater and lighting.  Chatham County already has issued a notice of violation to the site owner for preliminary clearing for the rail spur track at the site without first submitting a required erosion and sediment control plan.

*         Ash & Groundwater Sampling:  Chatham County could request and receive from Charah the results of sampling tests for the Brickhaven site performed BEFORE any coal ash is deposited.  This includes baseline sampling and ongoing subsequent sampling of ash and groundwater.

*         County Sampling:  With notice, Chatham County also could conduct its own split sample tests on a quarterly basis at groundwater wells on the site. The county also will use funding from the agreement to set up its own monitoring systems around the site.

Duke Energy will continue to support Chatham’s economic development, including the ongoing assistance of its industrial Site Readiness Program.  The company also commits to helping Chatham municipalities update downtown power lines and to promoting solar energy throughout the county.

Take a deep breath and remain calm

For me, it was a reckoning day. I thought I had seen and heard everything during my service on the BOC, but now, I reckon I had not! I do have a real distaste for being blind-sided by my peers! No reason for it. As the Board majority planned to cut the budget review process, I would have thought it appropriate to advise the minority members in advance of such action. But that is apparently the nature of Chatham politics.   Related: Mike Cross' Weblog