Chapel Hill News

Chatham County planning bigger animal shelter

A dog waits in a cage at the Chatham County animal shelter.
A dog waits in a cage at the Chatham County animal shelter. N&O FILE PHOTO

PITTSBORO The Chatham County manager’s proposed seven-year Capital Improvements Plan (CIP) for 2016-22 includes revisions to projects already in the CIP and newly funded projects, including an expansion and renovation of the Animal Shelter and several school projects.

Residents can provide feedback at a public hearing at 6 p.m. Monday, Dec. 1, in the Historic Courthouse in Pittsboro. Copies of the proposed CIP are available on the county website ( using the Quick Links box on the homepage. Printed copies are available in the three county libraries.

The CIP is adopted annually to provide a long-term plan for funding capital needs, such as facilities, equipment and other projects costing at least $100,000. The CIP considers both capital and operating costs and is the county's major planning tool for projects. The CIP is an important factor in the county’s high bond ratings.

In 2006, the county began setting aside funds in a capital reserve, which has allowed the county to issue debt for a number of county facilities when interest rates have been at historic lows and construction costs dropped during the economic downturn.

The proposed CIP includes all of the school projects that were in last year’s adopted CIP, but one was revised and a few new projects were added. A major change suggested by the Board of Education is to delay the Northeast High School one year and revise it to be a placeholder for an unspecified “new school.”

“This change reflects two factors. First, we do not have a site identified for a new high school. Second, the Chatham Park development near Pittsboro will impact the need for new schools, but it is unclear at this time which type of school will be needed first,” said Assistant County Manager Renee Paschal, who leads the development of the proposed CIP.

School projects added to the proposed CIP for the first time include:

1. Six mobile classrooms will help address student growth at Northwood High and Siler City Elementary between FY 2016 and FY 2017. The savings in several school roof projects partly cover the cost estimated at $372,000.

2. Locker room renovations at Jordan-Matthews, Chatham Central, JS Waters and Moncure were included as funded projects to begin in FY 2020. Total estimated cost is $729,080.

3. Replacement of the heating and air conditioning system in the Northwood Auditorium in FY 2016 at an estimated cost of $165,000

The proposed CIP includes several new future school projects that are not yet funded:

1. A major expansion of Northwood High School beyond adding a few mobile classrooms

2. A new School System Central Office building

3. An item called News Schools that combines the future expansion of Chatham Middle and Northeast Elementary into a placeholder school(s) to meet student growth needs

A major non-school project added to the CIP as a funded project slated to open in FY 2020 is a major expansion and renovation of the Animal Shelter at an estimated cost of $4.7 million. The shelter is severely overcrowded, which has led to several challenging issues:

1. Key staff are forced to have tiny offices in the waiting area

2. The current setup can contribute to disease transmission and safety issues for staff

3. More adoptable animals are euthanized due to lack of kennel space

4. Shelter visitors have no space to view only adoptable animals and no place to visit with potential adoptees

5. The shelter lacks an indoor space away from other animals for euthanization

6. The small “kitchen” currently serves too many purposes, including treatment of animals, laundry, utilities, storage and clean up

The project will include a new building to provide 40 kennels for dogs and 42 cat housing units. It will provide sufficient staff office space and spaces for treatment, food preparation, laundry and other needs. It will provide a safe place for the loading and unloading of animals and special places for feral cats, quarantines and the holding of dangerous animals.

Another new project would transition the Solid Waste & Recycling collection centers to single stream recycling, which means that residents using the Collection Centers would no longer have to sort their recyclable items into nine different bins. This would help relieve overcrowding and length of visits at several of the busier Collection Centers.

While the cost would be $538,322, the project is expected to save annual costs by eliminating the need for a new Northeast Collection Center in the CIP and reducing waste disposal costs. The new system will be implemented in FY 2016.

In the area of public safety, the CIP includes the FY 2015 implementation of a 911 Next Generation project, which will allow residents to contact 911 Communications using texts and video from smart phones. This requires both new hardware and software at a cost of $192,038 that will be paid using 911 fund revenues.

Several projects already in the CIP have proposed revisions:

1. Thanks to the $1.38 million bond premium, the budget for the Agriculture & Conference Center is increased to finish some key elements, including fully finishing four breakout rooms.

2. The proposed CIP removes a small addition to the Emergency Operations Center currently in the funded list and replaces it with a more substantial addition as a future project that will be funded when cost estimates are completed and revenues are identified. This will provide much-needed space for dispatchers and emergency planning and operations.

3. The replacement of the county government’s telephone system has been moved up to begin in FY 2016. The county currently has six separate phone systems that do not work well together and experience periodic outages. The project would replace them with a software-based system at a cost of $555,393.

Several non-school projects besides the Emergency Operations Center expansion appear for the first time as future projects not yet funded. This means they will be funded on a priority basis in the future as funds become available:

1. A Health Sciences Building for Central Carolina Community College (CCCC)

2. Roof replacement of one of the main buildings on the Pittsboro campus of CCCC

3. Weatherproofing of the Administration Building on the campus of CCCC in Pittsboro

4. Client management and reporting software for the Department of Social Services to provide an integrated system that is easier to maintain and upgrade

5. County matching funds for four-foot bikes lanes to be added to sections of Mt. Carmel Church Road and Manns Chapel Road

6. The extension of county fiber from Pittsboro to Siler City instead of relying on leased fiber that sometimes experiences slow network speeds