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Burlington tackles flooding, child care, baseball concerns

Times-News - 2/6/2020

Feb. 5--The Burlington City Council tackled a number of big issues during its work session and regular meeting Monday and Tuesday -- flooding, childcare programming and saving Minor League baseball.

Overbrook Terrace

Water Resources Director Bob Patterson addressed the council once again during the work session Monday, Feb. 3, about potential solutions for the flooding on Overbrook Terrace and near City Park. This time, Patterson proposed a plan that would require removing two residents' homes to build a large bio-retention basin, in addition to piping improvements.

Last fall, Diana Lester, an Overbook Terrace resident, approached the council during public comments pleading for help. Her home was repeatedly flooded and damaged, and her family's health was deteriorating as a result.

In November, the council heard a number of proposals from Water Resources Director Bob Patterson on how the flooding issues could be resolved. In December, Patterson went before the council again to discuss a number of ways these projects could be funded through a revamped stormwater fee system. No plans were solidified, so the topic was brought back for discussion during this month's City Council work session.

After working with Chad Huffine and The L.E.A.D.S. Group, Patterson recommended constructing a large bio-retention basin on the current 201 and 203 Overbrook Terrace properties, which is designed to fill up during heavy rains then reabsorb the water within 24 to 48 hours.

"We would still have to make new piping improvements," Patterson added.

The project is estimated to cost about $300,000, not including removal of the homes.

Pros of the project are water quality improvements, more space to build a stormwater control model, and some alleviation of flooding in City Park. Cons focus on high cost.

"The question is, is it going to solve our problems?" Mayor Pro Tem Kathy Hykes asked. "We just have to hope."

No formal action was taken after Patterson's presentation.

Fairchild Community Center

Tensions were raised Monday when the future of childcare programming at the Fairchild Community Center came up in the council's work session.

City staff announced last year that Exploration Station, the current childcare program at Fairchild, would shut down at the end of May 2020. Parents have been fighting back ever since, trying to save the low-cost childcare option, despite firm response from the city saying that is not an option.

Assistant Manager Rachel Kelly and Recreation and Parks Director Tony Laws spoke to the council Monday explaining that low attendance, staffing concerns and an $80,000-per-year loss led to the decision to shut down the program.

As a compromise to the parents, city staff wants to lease out the childcare portion of the Fairchild Community Center to a third-party childcare vendor, and Kelly and Laws were seeking council approval for that Monday night. According to them, a few daycare providers had already expressed interest.

Council members questioned whether the space could be used to benefit another existing recreation program, to which Laws said no.

A number of parents in attendance expressed disappointment and even proposed a staffing schedule that would show a profit for the city. Kelly responded to the parent-made schedule, saying it was an "ideal world" schedule and budget that does not factor in all of the associated costs, and does not accommodate employees who are not available exactly when needed as shown in that draft.

Tensions rose during the nearly 40-minute discussion, but city staff stood by their decision.

At the end of the conversation, Sonye Randolph, the city's Community Development Administrator, brought up that the use of block grant funds to renovate the center into a childcare space in 2011 -- 2012 means that, in perpetuity, the space must benefit low- to moderate-income families in the jurisdiction as established when the funds were granted. This means the city could adjust the Request for Proposals and put language in a contract with a third-party vendor to force the implementation of income and residency restrictions.

Kelly said Wednesday that city staff was setting up meetings with U.S. Housing and Urban Development representatives to clarify the block grant funding requirements and make sure everyone is in compliance before moving ahead with the RFP process.

"We just want to make sure we're in compliance going forward," she said.

Mayor Ian Baltutis encouraged city staff to adjust the RFP to meet the CDBG funding requirements. More discussion will follow if or when any contracts are brought before council.

Minor League Baseball

After City Manager Hardin Watkins encouraged the council to draft a resolution supporting the Burlington Royals during one of last month's City Council meetings, city staff has taken quick action writing one up.

The resolution, which shows support for the Royals and 41 other Minor League Baseball teams on the chopping block ahead of the 2021 season, was approved during the regular council meeting Tuesday night.

"During contract negotiations between Major and Minor League Baseball, ... Major League Baseball put forward a contraction proposal to eliminate 42 teams," Watkins said Tuesday night. "It certainly came as a surprise."

The local resolution is part of a grander effort to gather political backing at all levels for Minor League Baseball, in the hopes of preventing the cutbacks.

Coaches Jeremy Krist and Michael Falk also spoke before the council.

"I've been here with the team 35 years. We think its an important part of the city," Krist said. "Quite frankly, we don't understand why Major League Baseball is doing this. The Kansas City Royals want to stay in Burlington. We love it here."

"We're hopeful, with this pressure the administration is helping us with, that there will be good baseball here for many years to come," he added.

Other business

The City Council also:

--Heard a presentation on the upcoming Maple Avenue Corridor Façade Improvement program funded by CDBG funds;

--Recognized the Williams High School men's soccer team, the first in the Alamance-Burlington School System to make it to, and win, a 3A state championship;

--Approved two budget amendments affecting the Police Department and the J.D. Mackintosh Water Treatment Plant; and

--Approved temporary street closures in March for the fifth annual St. Paddy's Day Bash and Taste of Alamance.

Elizabeth Pattman can be reached at (336) 506-3078, or at epattman@thetimesnews.com. Follow Elizabeth on Twitter: @EPattmanTN

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