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Time to put Chatham County government on a budgetary diet

By Tom Glendinning
Posted Saturday, July 10, 2010

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Pittsboro, NC - While walking this morning, I circled the courthouse, Dunlap Building, Recreation Department, and Public Works, the purpose of an Obesity Director (OD) became clear. If I exercise to keep in shape and lose weight, maybe the OD can recommend how Chatham government can lose weight. Or, possibly, the OD can quit thereby saving approximately $ 70,000 per year in the budget and serve as a good example for the other positions created by our fearless leaders. When I served in the military, the Officer of the Day commanded respect. Here the OD holds a non-defensible position.

A study of schools that have instituted obesity programs found that the programs had no effect on the problem. The article written by Sara Avery, June 28, 2010 in the News & Observer is titled "Schools make no headway in fight against fat," written about a New England Journal of Medicine three year study of forty two schools across the US.

Salaries of new positions will cost approximately $500,000

Passing the Recreation Department, I saw a poster in the front window which declared "One Stroke Matt." I though about it for a few laps. Forgive the off color humor. Matt, like the other quadriplegic handicapped, is a man with no arms and legs who is on the floor at the door. In the case of the poster, he has had a stroke and may not survive. Of course, it probably is a matt for exercise meant to reduce repeat strokes.

I talked with a department head who cut expenses by twenty percent in one year’s budget, while others increased theirs. Exemplary when our budgets and spending are growing too fast to track. It was done by cutting unnecessary purchases, buying locally and regarding the budget as the property of the citizens and neighbors in Chatham County. She knows how much people are suffering and respects their right to hold on to what little they have left since fall, 2008. There are a few such departments.

Certain departments have frozen positions, unable to be filled by hiring until the freeze is lifted by the commissioners. Yet, at least five new positions have been created by our illustrious county commissioners costing much more than the frozen positions:

  • Erosion Control Officer
  • Zoning Compliance Officer
  • Environmental Review Office
  • Transportation Director
  • "Uber" department director
  • Lead Paint Inspector
  • Obesity Director

Salaries will cost approximately $ 500,000, including benefits, but not including office staff, equipment, vehicles, supplies, support and expenses. These costs could total close to one million dollars, while positions in existing departments go wanting.

At the Clerk of Court office, I searched for a notice of "No Trespass" which I posted in their department and on their bulletin board decades ago. That served as an official notice for people considering rambling or hunting in the woods on other people’s property. After a fruitless search, I was told that the practice had ceased. Whether it was departmental, county or state policy, I do not know. What that omission means is that the burden of proof of trespass is on the shoulders of the property owner and would take weeks or months to resolve in the event of an incident. I was told that a certified letter would have to be sent to the party suspected of trespass for any further action to occur. This foretold many mornings and evenings guarding my property.

Previously, the first notice stood as record in the courthouse and the responsibility rested with the person desiring access. Now, it holds the same status as someone breaking and entering your home, leaving you, the landowner, to justify your actions in court, with little precedent to come to your defense.

I have posted "No Trespassing" signs before. They last about a week or more. They should be posted where a reasonable (and competent) person would look for such signs. Defense by a liar, "Oh, I didn’t see the sign."

What that means in terms of county regulation is the following:

If the "appearance police," environmental review officer, erosion control officer or waste inspector comes to your property, he has the right to trespass, gain evidence and cause any trouble or expense he feels fit to levy. The same holds for an intrusive neighbor, one who does not respect private property. If someone wants to complain about your drainage, they can enter your property, take pictures, and complain to the planning board, environmental review board, or environmental health department. This would cause an official action to be brought, in today’s legal and political climate, rather than a friendly conversation between neighbors.

The monthly review of county business by your roving reporter.

"Fir Flatha" is Gaelic and stand for the performance or treatment by public officials to which we have become accustomed. I have a T-shirt and cap with that phrase embroidered. I am sure that it will not rise to be a national movement. I hope that it will raise some awareness of how we are being treated today. I remember when we were respected and honored by commissioners and state representatives. I also remember when our delegation to Washington listened to us and acted in our interests.

I trust that some sanity and common sense will permeate the courthouse sooner rather than later. I also trust that this same courtesy afforded citizens of a decent government will rise up into state and federal legislatures. At present, I see no relief. More spending. More mismanagement. More disregard for individual rights.

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Time to put Chatham County government on a budgetary diet
Does Chatham Commissioner Sally Kost need an Obesity Director to tell her how to eat and exercise? Do we?