In 2007, Pittsboro's elections focused on growth and development. But a development moratorium, which could be extended for another two years, has halted any major projects while the town tries to resolve its problems with its aging and archaic wastewater treatment plant.
But Pittsboro's water issues extend beyond sewer capacity. Many constituents express concern over violations in water quality and safety, and say the town must aggressively work to improve the quality of the town's drinking water.
The town is facing a $20,000 fine from the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources for water quality violations, particularly involving higher-than-allowable levels of total trihalomethanes.
"Some people who drink water containing trihalomethanes in excess of the MCL [Maximum Containment Level] over many years may experience problems with their liver, kidneys, or central nervous systems, and may have an increased risk of getting cancer," states the town's 2006 Annual Water Quality Report.
Other factors that could affect the town's growth include increasing school construction impact fees. A fee of $3,500 for single-family homes applies to new construction and is paid by the homeowner. However, if impact fees are based on the number of bedrooms, which is being considered, the costs could increase significantly. The fee also would include additions and improvements made to an existing home. A three-bedroom home would carry an impact fee of $8,000. A four-bedroom home would rack up a $14,000 impact fee.
We endorse Democratic incumbent Randy Voller. Voller, 40, owner of Voller Realty & Construction, recognizes the town must communicate with its western and northern neighbors and is dedicated to working closely with area municipal and county leaders to collaborate on planning and growth strategies.
This past term, Voller, with the assistance of the Town Board, tenaciously applied for federal funds and received stimulus money for additional police officers, training and equipment totaling more than $250,000. The town also received another $2.6 million for much-needed improvements at the wastewater treatment plant. Another possible revenue source is the tax on liquor-by-the-drink, which voters passed in a referendum this year.
Voller is working with the Chatham County Economic Development Corporation board on long-range strategies for job creation. "Ultimately, it is important to make Pittsboro and Chatham County a place where people want to live and work as opposed to have to live and work," Voller wrote in his Indy questionnaire.
Voller politicks in the best interest of the town. While we endorse him for a third term over Republican challenger William Crawford, we feel Voller should step outside of his comfort zone and focus on groups that don't add bling to his endorsements roll call. Some constituents feel that he is politicking for future political aspirations.
Crawford, 52, a manager at Apple Gold, Inc., and a political newcomer, brings no experience or fresh solutions to meet the town's needs, other than a slogan, "Pittsboro First." Crawford, a conservative, does not support tax increases and chose to enter the mayoral race after the town passed the Pittsboro Express transit service. "There is nothing I've seen that shows there was a pressing need for a bus route," Crawford writes in his Indy questionnaire. "Public transit is a wonderful idea, but I'm not inclined to use public money at a time like this for something so ambitious."
This term, two seats are open on the five-member board. Three people are running: Andrew Allden, Pamela Baldwin and Michael Fiocco.
We endorse Democratic incumbent and Mayor Pro Tem Pamela Baldwin, 52, a financial adviser with the UNC School of Dentistry, for a second term. Baldwin has consistently voted in favor of improving growth and well-managed development. The new wastewater treatment plant is the top priority for the town, in Baldwin's opinion. She writes in her Indy questionnaire, "Once the plant has been built it will be a process of planning growth within the town and county. Planned growth is key."
We recommend challenger Allden, 45, for the second seat. Allden, a Democrat, is a meet director and alumni-relations coordinator for UNC's track-and-field program. He is the first person to simultaneously serve on the Pittsboro Parks and Recreation and the Chatham County Recreation advisory boards. After four years of working on town and county recreation concerns, Allden believes he has a better understanding of how to reconcile the town's and the county's needs.
Allden also wants to explore short-term and long-range improvements to the drinking water quality and says economic growth is another core issue that directly ties into water.
"We have to work on making sure that Pittsboro has the infrastructure to attend and support the expansion of new industrial and commercial development," writes Allden in his Indy questionnaire. "It may be necessary to earmark a portion of the town's water and sewer capacity so that existing downtown buildings and businesses can be put into full use . . . The success of downtown is crucial to job growth within our town."
Fiocco, 46, a civil engineer and land developer, is new to politics. He is registered as unaffiliated. In his questionnaire, Fiocco didn't offer concrete solutions to the town's issues. Regarding economic growth, Fiocco stated in his Indy questionnaire: "New ventures are fraught with risk; especially at this time . . . I would work to have the town promote an environment wherein the town is perceived as a partner in development to attract smart, sustainable growth."
It's important that the town do more than be perceived as a partner in smart sustainable growth, and actually be that partner.