PITTSBORO — The Chatham County Board of Commissioners met at the Historic Courthouse for its regular meeting Monday night, marking the second session back in the building since before COVID-19 restrictions forced the board to the Chatham County Agriculture and Conference Center for its meetings.
The move back to the courthouse also marked a move back to live-streaming via courthouse cameras, a system the county started using to broadcast its meetings in 2013.
Last spring, the board joined governing bodies across the country in moving online to meet public meeting requirements while also meeting public health guidelines and gathering limits meant to slow the spread of COVID-19. During the majority of the meetings hosted at the Agriculture and Conference Center, all attendees watched meetings via video platform GoToWebinar — either remotely or in overflow rooms at the Agriculture and Conference Center.
“This allowed staff to meet social distancing and public meeting guidelines set forth by the Governor as well as legislation approved by the N.C. General Assembly to allow for remote meetings during a state of emergency,” a Sunday email message from Chatham County said regarding the previous meeting logistics. “This meeting format proved quite difficult and was met with many complaints from remote participants.”
Months of poor online audio quality of board meetings culminated with glitches that hindered the May 17 public hearing on the county’s proposed budget. The email notice from the county said the commissioners made the decision in May — after Gov. Roy Cooper started lifting COVID-19 restrictions — to resume meetings at the Courthouse beginning June 21.
Audio at Monday’s meeting was markedly clearer than those streamed using GoToWebinar.
To watch board meetings, people can attend in person, or watch a live stream of meetings at https://chathamnc.legistar.com/Calendar.aspx, which can be viewed during the meeting or the following morning once the video is finalized. Before the meeting starts, the column labeled, “Video,” will read “Not available.” Once it begins, that column will say, “In Progress,” which you can click on to see the live-stream.
“The recording of the video will be uploaded to the same spot within 24 hours of the meeting adjourning,” the county’s email said. “The live streaming software is not able to show presentations on the screen for residents watching from home but instead shows the meeting chambers so that commissioners are seen and heard throughout the entire meeting.”
Presentations are accessible on the meeting agenda documents. Residents can click on specific sections of the agenda, listed under the video, to view certain parts of the meeting without watching the entire meeting.
Monday’s meeting was relatively short, featuring presentations from the Chatham County Family and Consumer Sciences Program and the 2019-2020 Chatham County Greenhouse Gas Inventory Results. The board also designated Commissioner Karen Howard as a voting delegate and Commissioner Mike Crawford as an alternate voting delegate to attend the NCACC 114th Annual Conference Business Session in New Hanover County on Aug. 14.
The Chatham County Family and Consumer Sciences Program is a partnership with N.C. State, housed under the Chatham County Cooperative Extension. Tara Gregory, extension agent, said she is working on home food preservation, building an advisory team and food safety programming and resources. Gregory said in the future, she hopes to partner with CORA and continue farmers market and SNAP efforts, as well as to continue offering trainings in home food preservation and food safety.
Commissioner Franklin Gomez Flores suggested Gregory also present to the county’s Board of Health, which Gregory said she’d look into.
Chatham Environmental Quality Director Kevin Lindley and Emily Apadula, environmental sustainability intern, then presented findings from the 2019-20 Chatham greenhouse gas inventory. Two previous inventories have been conducted, Lindley said, in 2010 and 2015.
“But unfortunately, the data sets that were available then, we had a hard time finding,” Lindley told the board. “I think this is the most comprehensive inventory that’s been done to date.”
Apadula presented the study’s results, starting with a definition of a greenhouse gas inventory: “A report consisting of GHG emission sources and the associated emissions quantified using standardized methods. This data can then be used by the community to understand and identify opportunities for action with the goal of reducing emissions.”
The study showed an increase in CO2 equivalent emissions from 2019 to 2020 in transportation (40.4% to 42.7%) and decreases in the following categories: commercial (9.2% to 8.8%), residential (20.2% to 19.5.%) and industrial (21.7% to 20.5%).
Apadula said greenhouse gas inventories are important tools in the fight against climate change, as they help keep track of progress.
Commissioners asked how they could use this data moving forward.
“I would focus locally, because as much as Chatham County is amazing, the state is usually what determines the larger energy grid,” Apadula said, “And so I would focus locally on what you can change, like the carbon sinks,” which are natural environments that absorb more carbon than they release.
Approximately 65% of the county (456 square miles) contained some form of carbon sink, the presentation said, most commonly forest areas. The commissioners proposed meeting again to further discuss potential policies the local government could enact to reduce emissions.
“Obviously the internal government is not this giant contributor to it, but I think on issues like this, it’s very easy to kind of put everything to the state and to the feds and to the UN and everybody else,” Chairperson Mike Dasher said, “and that there’s not anything we can do. I think we can set a really good example, and I guess I just I’d like to see us doing as much as we could internally.”
Reporter Hannah McClellan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @HannerMcClellan.
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