2021 Year in Review
JANUARY—Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett joined our BOCC meeting as we recognized her for her leadership in developing the vaccine against the deadly COVID19 virus. Kizzy grew up in Cedar Grove, attended Orange County Schools, and became a key researcher for Moderna. We presented her with a proclamation designating Jan. 20 as Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett Day. Since then, she is now at Harvard University and has been on the cover of TIME Magazine.
Meanwhile, we enjoyed a virtual celebration of the grand opening of the new IFC Commons at 110 West Main Street in Carrboro. Staff and volunteers continue to counter the adverse effects of poverty through Community House, HomeStart, Housing Support, Community Market, community Kitchen, Emergency Financial Assistance, REAL Transformation, and Activate! IFC.
FEBRUARY—Savannah Clay, Quinton Harper and Present Day on Main were the recipients of the 31st Annual Pauli Murray Awards. Joining us for the celebration were: internationally renowned poet Nikki Giovanni, NC Poet Laureate Jaki Shelton Green, and local poet Alani Rouse.
Six projects received funding through the Orange County Community Climate Action Grant program. The BOCC awarded $478,657 to the following: Solar Panels on Affordable Habitat Homes, Water Heater Replacement, Cane Creek Reservoir 352.4kW DC Solar Array, Tree Planting Program, Solar Powered Electric Vehicle Charging Station, and Cedar Falls Park Multipurpose Field LED Light Conversion.
MARCH—"Big Night In for the Arts” brought music, theater and visual arts into our living rooms. The event was a fundraiser co-sponsored by United Arts, Chatham Arts Council, Durham Arts Council, and our own Orange County Arts Commission to assist arts programming, initiatives for equity in the arts, and arts relief efforts. Celebrities included: Ariana DeBose, Tony-nominated actress/singer/dancer and Raleigh native; Branford Marsalis, three-time Grammy-award winner and internationally renowned saxophonist based in Durham; country music star Scotty McCreery from Garner in Wake County; Mandolin Orange, a nationally acclaimed folk music duo from Orange County; and Mike Wiley, a nationally acclaimed actor and playwright based in Chatham County.
Elsewhere, Orange County Public Transportation (OCPT) announced the launch of Orange County MOD (Mobility On Demand), an innovative pilot program to provide flexible and dynamic transportation service within the Hillsborough service area. The Orange County MOD program costs $5 per trip and is available on Fridays from 5pm to 9pm and Saturdays from 9 am to 5pm.
APRIL—All adults, age 16 and older, became eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccination, and as of April 12, almost 40 percent of people living in Orange County had received at least one dose of a vaccine. We had one of the highest rates in the state.
The Tax Administration Office completed the revaluation of real property, and the results caused much concern and consternation. While the process was conducted according to NC state statute, some long-term residents saw property values double in just a few years, creating financial burdens. Delores Bailey, George Barrett, Kathy Atwater, Beverly Scarlett and I met with Nancy Freeman, Chad Phillips and Roger Gunn of the Orange County Tax Assessors Office to discuss and plan a strategy. The Longtime Homeowner Assistance Program is now in effect.
MAY—The BOCC approved a proclamation designating May 2021 as Freedom Riders Month in Orange County. On May 4, 1961, 13 Black and white civil rights advocates boarded a Greyhound bus in Washington, D.C., bound for New Orleans. Riding side by side on interstate highways through the Jim Crow South, they sought to test the 1960 U.S. Supreme Court decision that segregation of interstate transportation facilities was unconstitutional. From May to December 1961, over 400 women and men courageously challenged segregation, despite the danger refuting white supremacy presented at the time.
The Orange County Veterans Memorial at Chapel Hill Planning Committee hosted the annual Memorial Day Service at the Veterans Memorial site on Homestead Road. Our guest speaker was Nick Palmisciano, CEO of Diesel Jack Media, Founder of Ranger Up, Former United States Army Captain, and Ranger. This was our first service without our beloved Major Everett "Bud" Hampton, a decorated United States Marine and World War II veteran who died in early May at age 98. Bud served on our committee and had been an integral part of the planning and fundraising for the memorial.
JUNE—The BOCC approved the Fiscal Year 2021-2022 Operating Budget of $279.2 million, of which 45.9% was allocated to education and .5% to Durham Technical Community College (Orange County Campus). We also approved the manager’s Capital Investment Plan at $54 million for FY 2021-2022. After achieving this yearly milestone, the BOCC took a summer break.
June also was a month for graduations. We congratulated our students, teachers, school staff, administrators and parents/guardians who overcame the challenges of attending virtual classes and later wearing masks throughout the school days and finished the academic year. In addition, nine men graduated from the Orange County Sheriff’s Office Basic Law Enforcement Training (BLET), in partnership with Durham Tech Community College: David Fuller, Connor Stough, Logan Coats, Braxton Ragan, Nicholas Di Benedetto, Pablo Chavez, Tavion McCauley, Paul Bullock and Desmire Walton.
JULY—Our Orange County Broadband Task Force along with the N.C. Broadband Infrastructure Office held virtual meetings for companies interested in providing and improving internet service in rural areas. The BOCC designated $5 million of its initial American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) Local Recovery Funds to help advance our efforts in delivering broadband and internet access to every household and business.
It was hot! Average high at 89 degrees, and average low at 68 degrees (Chapel Hill).
AUGUST—The Bonnie B. Davis Environmental & Agricultural Center, located at Orange County’s new Northern Campus, became the first building in Orange County to be named in honor of an African-American woman. Family and community members shared memories about Mrs. Davis, after which we cut the ribbon and opened the doors. Thanks to Ivelisse Colon for spearheading the naming of this building.
SEPTEMBER—We remembered the tragedy of 9-11, twenty years ago.
OCTOBER—The Orange County Arts Commission hosted the Grand Opening of the Eno Arts Mill in Hillsborough and provided an evening of arts, culture, fun and fancy. The opening previewed Eno Arts Mill studio artists, featuring painters, textile artists, clothing designers, mixed media artists and more.
The Historic Hillsborough Commission launched the yearlong Bicentennial Celebration of the Historic Burwell School. Meanwhile, in Carrboro, EmPOWERment celebrated its 25th anniversary of providing homes for low-wealth households and employment for our youth.
NOVEMBER— Governor Roy Cooper and NCDHHS Secretary Mandy Cohen visited Chapel Hill Pediatrics and Adolescents, P.A., to highlight and promote the news that children ages 5 to 11 can now be vaccinated against COVID-19. That same day, Orange County began its rollout of vaccines for children.
We had a larger than expected in-person turnout for the annual Veterans Day program, hosted by the Orange County Veterans Memorial Planning Committee, and with Sheriff Charles Blackwood as the featured speaker. Phase II of the construction of the memorial is complete. Anyone who would like to purchase a paver in honor of or in memory of a veteran may do so at any time at the memorial website.
DECEMBER—Orange County officially became a member organization of Alliance Health, having disengaged fom Cardinal Innovations. Alliance Health is now our Local Management Entity/Managed Care Organization (LME/MCO) and responsible for managing mental health, traumatic brain injury, substance use and intellectual/developmental disability services for individuals who are insured by Medicaid or who have no health insurance.
Emergency Management Division Chief Sarah Pickhardt was awarded Orange County Emergency Services Employee of the Year, at the 2021 Salute to Community Heroes, hosted by The Chamber for a Greater Chapel Hill-Carrboro. She was recognized for her outstanding service to the people of Orange County during this ongoing COVID pandemic.
2021 is now the past. Wishing all a Fabulous 2022.