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My two cents, for what it's worth

By Rita Marley-McKenzie
Posted Sunday, February 1, 2009

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Siler City, NC - Though I'm not going to offer an opinion on the "liquor by the drink" debate, I do want to add a comment. The conversation has now turned to "tax revenues" for the county. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the western part of the county, we are steadily losing our industries. Our chicken plants have or are closing, Moore's Machine Shop relocated to Lee County, our textile plants have left, and the list goes on. These industries provided a steady revenue to Chatham County that we can no longer depend upon. Without these industries paying taxes and providing jobs, the burden is now on our shoulders.

Over 1,000 jobs were lost in Chatham this past summer with the closing of chicken processing plants. There are several houses on every street in Siler City for sale. People have moved away to find new work. Those left here are struggling to find new jobs and pay bills. The people in these jobs may or may not be high school graduates who have only worked in factories their whole lives. What are their prospects for future employment? Many of them were close to retirement age. What is to become of them now? Getting re-trained in something new is one thing, but what's happening in the meantime? How are they going to eat and keep a roof over their heads? Many of them are 2nd, 3rd, 4th, even 5th generation Chathamites. They are losing family land that they were born and raised on. For those that have moved around most of their lives, it may be hard to understand. But, for those who have strong roots in one place, community and family means everything. For them, moving is NOT an option.

Residents of Siler City now have a $10 "FEE" added to our water bills each month on top of the increased "amount per gallon" we pay just to increase revenues lost during the drought. We were told it would be lifted once revenues increased, but then, Townsends & Pilgrim's Pride (Gold Kist) closed plants and Joan's Fabrics (C&A) & Anne McCrory (Kellwood) are now gone. They'll never have enough revenues flowing in without large industries to retract this "FEE". Our water bill has literally doubled since the fee was enacted and per gallon cost increased.

We need some type of businesses to come to Chatham to offset the rising taxes and fees we are paying. The western side of Chatham is mostly rural and poor. They've run out of options and need immediate help. Chatham County needs tax revenues to keep things running. If they can't get it from business and industry, they look to the residents to fill in the gaps. The people in Western Chatham just can't afford any more.

Perhaps our County Leaders should be looking for new ways to attract new business and industry as well as tourism to generate funds. We as citizens need to be hyper-aware of the challenges our whole county faces and be more open to finding innovative ways to strengthen our local economy.

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My two cents, for what it's worth

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