“The story of Rogers Road is not a new one. It is one that has been played and replayed throughout the state of North Carolina and across the country, involving different people and places. It is a story of local politics and community organizing, land-use decisions and their consequences, of the impact each of our actions has had on others whom we have never met and may never seek to find.”
-Emily Eidenier Pearce
As most know by now the folks living in the Rogers Road Community have been advocating for both the landfill to close for forty years and they have asked for specific issue to be resolved including providing water and sewer to remediate some of the impacts that the landfill has had on their community. You might also know that the landfill will close at the end of this month. And while the landfill closure has been a long time coming, the folks of Rogers Road's request for water and sewer has remained unmet. We have had work groups, task forces, and meetings with residents and the Rogers Road Neighborhood Association, and still the challenge of how to provide water and sewer remains.
On February 21st, 2012 the Board of County Commissioners agreed to create another task force, the Rogers Road Task Force, to look at funding sources for a Community Center and sewer improvements. The first meeting of the task force was held on April 30, 2012. The task force will end in July and are tasked with providing a final report at the Assembly of Governments meeting in September. And now, on June 12th, 2013 we will continue to discuss how to provide water and sewer to this community. Time is running out.
Some steps have been taken including the municipal managers and attorneys meeting to figure out a legal way that each municipality can contribute to both the community center and sewer improvements. The task force has one more meeting scheduled on July 17th and the municipal boards will go on summer break at the end of June. And, the landfill will close on June 30th.
So, why does this matter? While a community center has been taken on by the county with intent from each municipality and an allocation from Carrboro to participate in contributing to the center, once the landfill closes incentive and motivation to provide anything other than a community center decreases. And if in a year representatives have failed to bring back pertinent information to their respective boards and to follow up with the task force to move us forward on our charge, once summer break occurs, if there isn't a commitment from Chapel Hill and a specific allocation from the County, then my fear is that sewer won't happen for the folks of Rogers Road.
5.8 million dollars is the estimate for sewer improvements for the Historic Rogers Road community. At this point in time the Carrboro Board of Aldermen is the only municipality who has made a commitment and allocated money in their proposed budget for sewer. Of the 86 parcels in the community 31 are in Carrboro and 55 are in the unincorporated area. The unincorporated area is in a Joint Planning district between the County and Chapel Hill. For Chapel Hill to participate in contributing to the sewer improvements legally they could create an ETJ with a resolution from the County or they could Annex. As we all know saying the word annexation rings all sorts of alarm bells and to be clear the ETJ tool is a much easier process and could be accomplished much more quickly than annexation. If Chapel Hill chooses to follow through on the ETJ the land that is in the ETJ is developable. Chapel Hill could recoup costs for the water and sewer from developers who choose to build on the land.
5.8 million dollars divided by 86 parcels is $67,441. What this comes down to is whether or not each parcel and each person is worth the $67,441 it will take to provide sewer to them. Is the suffering that has come from the environmental racism that people in the Rogers Road community have experienced for forty years worth $67,441? I believe that it is worth much more and there is actually no way to repay the harm that has been caused. The least that the task force can do today is make a specific recommendation that representatives will take back to their respective boards and encourage or urge their boards to make a firm commitment to contribute to the sewer improvement before they break for summer.
What can you do?
If you are interested, and I hope you are, you can join us today at 4:00pm for the Rogers Road Task Force Meeting. It will be held at the Solid Waste Building on Eubanks Road.
You can contact your County Commissioners to ask them to follow through on making an allocation towards the sewer improvements for Rogers Road in their June 18th meeting.
You can go to the June 18th meeting.
You can contact the Chapel Hill Town Council members and ask them to follow through on making an allocation towards sewer improvements for the Rogers Road community on June 24th.
You can attend their meeting on June 24th and speak.
We all have the opportunity to do the right thing or say we want to do the right thing and then do nothing. I'm hoping we follow through on at least two of the requests the Rogers Road Community has made, the water and sewer, and the community center. And I recognize that the County has already followed up on one request which is to close the landfill but that has taken forty years.