Chapel Hill goes to bat

Friday, July 20, 2018

Baseball and softball came out of left field to dominate discussion at the Chapel Hill Mayor and Board of Aldermen meeting held on Monday, July 9.

A large group of parents filled the meeting room and spilled out into the lobby of town hall in support of established a local baseball and softball league, to be based in Chapel Hill.

Andy Matlock, speaking for the parents group, said that they were already in the process of forming a non-profit organization for baseball and softball leagues in the town.

“We can run it,” he said, “We just don’t have anywhere to play.”

Parents expressed frustration with having to travel to Eagleville or Lewisburg when there were enough children to form a league in town.

By the parents estimate, some 120 players played outside of Chapel Hill during the past year.

Plans for a four field complex at the Depot Park site had been drawn up approximately 15 years ago.

Estimates then placed the cost of building the facility between $800,000 and $1 million, with lights being the largest expense.

At that time, a combination of a slowing economy and pressing sewer system needs in the town sidelined the project.

The current site plan for Depot Park would make placing four fields there difficult.

“You’d have to change basically everything that’s been done,” said Town Administrator Mark Graves.

Flooding issues on the back part of the Depot Park property would only make that area suitable for two fields instead of the four that would be required for practices, games, and possible tournaments.

The possibility of finding land elsewhere, an estimated 15 acres, was discussed. Current costs for a project such as this was estimated at roughly $2 million.

The board of aldermen committed to have an estimate for a four-field complex, independent of location, put together for consideration.

Aldermen approved a resolution changing the town’s personnel policy to allow emergency responders, mainly police officers in this case, to drive their town vehicles home within a 20 mile radius.

“It’s a significant benefit,” said Police Chief Andrew Kon. “It’s to be competitive.”

The issue has been raised before, with aldermen reluctant to reinstate the program due to abuses in the past when former employees were allowed to use town vehicles.

“Every time we turn around, we change it,” said Alderman Marion Joyce of the policy.

Alderman Dottie Morton voted against the change.

The board approved the addition of a mixed use overlay and a planned urban development category in order to expand the flexibility of the town’s planning commission when responding to developer’s requests.

Planning and zoning consultant Dr. Jim Lech told the board that the categories would allow additional opportunities for developers while also adding additional responsibilities on them for development that matches the town’s vision.

Aldermen voted unanimously to reject four bids received for the town’s sewer line extension project.

The town’s engineering consultants recommended rebidding the project due to a lack of competitive bids.

The budget for the project is $950,000 with the lowest bid coming in at $1.53 million and the highest at $2.24 million.

“I feel confident that we can do better,” said Graves.