Orange County

Chapel Hill Town Council to see what a difference a day makes

Chapel Hill’s Town Council – from top left, Nancy Oates, George Cianciolo, Jessica Anderson, Michael Parker, Maria Palmer, and from bottom left, Ed Harrison, Mayor Pam Hemminger, Donna Bell and Sally Greene – will try Wednesday night meetings for two months this fall.
Chapel Hill’s Town Council – from top left, Nancy Oates, George Cianciolo, Jessica Anderson, Michael Parker, Maria Palmer, and from bottom left, Ed Harrison, Mayor Pam Hemminger, Donna Bell and Sally Greene – will try Wednesday night meetings for two months this fall. Contributed

The Town Council’s Monday night meetings are moving to Wednesdays as part of a two-month test this fall.

The council voted 7-1 Monday to back the plan, which would give members and residents more time to review the next week’s agenda and ask question, and give staff more time to find the answers. The change, if made permanent, also will avoid conflicts with federal holidays that fall on Mondays, they said.

The council, which will continue to meet at 7 p.m., will review the effects of the pilot program in November and decide whether to make it permanent or resume Monday meetings. The council has held Monday meetings since at least 1952; work sessions already are held on the second Wednesday of every month.

The change will require some town advisory boards to change their meetings, which are now held on Wednesdays, including the Board of Adjustment, Community Policing Advisory Committee, Chapel Hill Cultural Arts Commission, Cemeteries Advisory Board, and the Parks, Greenways and Recreation Commission. Those boards could move their meetings to another day or meet in a different location.

The move also will affect local churches, for which Wednesday is a busy night, and other actively involved residents, Council member Maria Palmer said. Palmer, who opposed the move, said she was surprised the council had not sought community feedback first.

“There is a lot of confusion from people, and nobody heard about it,” she said. “I just wish we had some input from the community.”

They understand the concerns, other members said, but the benefits may be worth it.

Residents with scheduling conflicts likely are rare, council member George Cianciolo said, and council meetings are available online the next day. The public will have time to respond to the change this fall, he added.

Council member Jessica Anderson pointed out parents and other community members are inconvenienced by the council schedule now. Her problem, she said, is assuming only Christian residents are involved in local issues.

“I value my Christian neighbors, and I want them here as much as anybody else, but I don’t think it’s more important that they’re here than parents or Muslims or anybody else,” she said. “We have to think about how we make our choices and how we do our business.”

Tammy Grubb: 919-829-8926, @TammyGrubb

Your turn

Let the Town Council know what you think about the change to Wednesday night meetings at mayorandcouncil@townofchapelhill.org. Or call 919-968-2714.

Parental leave

Chapel Hill town employees will join the ranks of public workers who get six weeks off with pay for the birth or adoption of a child.

The Town Council approved the new policy Monday for part- and full-time employees with at least one year of town service. The Durham City Council also approved a paid parental leave policy Monday that provides city employees with 12 weeks. Both policies take effect July 1.

Chapel Hill will allow employees to use the time during the 12 weeks of unpaid leave guaranteed under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993. If both parents work for the town, both could take leave. The policy does not cover the adoption of stepchildren or a partner’s children.

Paid time off is becoming a key benefit offered by local governments as they compete with private employers to hire and retain the best workers, officials said.

Orange County also added six weeks of paid leave for employees this year. Hillsborough, along with Morrisville, Wake County, Cary and Rolesville, already offers six weeks. Durham County provides 12 weeks of paid leave.

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