Board of Commissioners Meeting Summary
The Hillsborough Board of Commissioners met Monday, June 29. Following is a brief summary of noteworthy actions. It does not include all actions taken at the meeting and should not be viewed as official minutes. The meeting took place virtually with online conferencing software and is available for view on the town’s YouTube channel.
The board adopted the town’s budget for Fiscal Year 2020-21 with no increases to the property tax rate, stormwater fees, or water and sewer rates. More information will be available in a news release on the budget. The new fiscal year starts July 1 and runs through June 30, 2021.
Reimagining public safety
The board added “reimagining public safety” as a standard agenda item for work sessions to continue deep discussion on the topic and to receive updates on steps to eliminate systemic racism in the town organization. The steps are outlined in a resolution adopted June 8 that also denounces the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The town board typically meets twice a month, with a work session on the fourth Monday of the month. Meetings start at 7 p.m. and currently are attended virtually.
The board also received an update from Hillsborough Police Chief Duane Hampton in which he proposed a two-part approach to reimagining public safety: forming a community work group and conducting an internal review of the Police Department’s policies, procedures and training to include exploring alternative ways to deliver service. Mayor Jenn Weaver plans to take the lead in developing the community task force.
Hampton also discussed activity thus far on the steps outlined June 8. In addition to staff discussions, actions taken include:
- Joining the Orange County Committee on Race, Policing, the Justice System and Community Investment, which was established by Orange County District Attorney Jim Woodall and Orange County Sheriff Charles Blackwood.
- Starting research on police review boards and issues raised by the town board and wider community, including discussing police review boards with the Police Chiefs Advisory Committee of the North Carolina League of Municipalities. Hampton serves on the panel and noted no one knew of similar small towns with review boards that could be used as models.
- Meeting with and hearing from individuals. The chief noted many of the people who have raised issues appear to be from outside the town limits.
- Viewing several webinars and presentations on issues of law enforcement and people of color.
- Participating in a meeting of local NAACP branches in which they proposed a six-point agenda for transforming law enforcement.
Hampton said the Police Department’s ability to dig deeply into data is limited, but conclusions and assumptions thus far are:
- People of color have disproportionate contacts with law enforcement in stops, citations, arrests, use of force and incarceration.
- The actions and character of individual law enforcement officers across the country have caused a national discussion about confidence in law enforcement, but the Hillsborough agency had significant public support and confidence prior to March. Hampton reviewed results from the 2019 community survey in which 92% of respondents reported feeling Hillsborough was safe or very safe and 91% were satisfied or very satisfied with police services. In comparison, the average nationwide was 66% and 67%, respectively, with a similar average for towns with a population under 30,000 (67% and 70%, respectively).
- Hillsborough police already practice many of the procedural changes being recommended for law enforcement and have held public forums, produced annual reports and provided information to the board that covers many of the concerns expressed.
The board approved a resolution designating Juneteenth as an official town holiday and urging state and federal legislators to sponsor legislation for official state and federal observance as well. Juneteenth is also known as Freedom Day, Jubilee Day, Liberation Day, and Emancipation Day. It celebrates the emancipation of those who had been enslaved in the United States, commemorating June 19, 1865, when slaves still held in human bondage were freed in Galveston, Texas. The holiday will be added to the nine holidays the town already observes with paid time off for employees. The others are New Year’s Day, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Good Friday, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Veterans Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas.
To support the right to vote and to make voting easier, the board approved allowing town employees to request up to two hours of paid time off to vote in each primary and general election.
The board received an update from Planning Director Margaret Hauth on preliminary analysis of a study to connect Eno Mountain Road with N.C. 86. Two roundabouts at the intersections of Orange Grove Road with Eno Mountain Road and Mayo Street would handle traffic congestion more effectively, have fewer impacts to neighboring properties, and score better in the state’s prioritization methodology than realigning Eno Mountain Road. The cost also would be less. Planning staff plan to update the funding request with the North Carolina Department of Transportation to request the two roundabouts instead of the road realignment. The final analysis is expected to be shared with the board in August.
The board also discussed a need for a policy or ordinance regarding the naming of streets. The Hillsborough Code of Ordinances currently only requires coordination with Orange County Emergency Services to avoid duplication of names. It was determined that Planning Department staff would draft an ordinance outlining the process for the board’s review at a future meeting. A request from residents on Thomas Ruffin Street to rename the street can be pursued once the process is established.
It was also determined that the developer for the Collins Ridge neighborhood in central Hillsborough could record its requested name of Gold Hill Way on plats for the extension of Orange Grove Street through the site. The board will determine later whether to rename the existing portion of the street under the proposed ordinance.