Cary, NC — This week things began to settle down as most people got used to the new norm of being in isolation.
Monday – No April Town Council Meeting
Monday I received a call from Congressman David Price who was making his rounds calling the mayors of the cities he represents. We talked about the Stay at Home order, the federal stimulus, and other matters related to the COVID-19 pandemic. He assured me that he would help Cary citizens get answers they need about the stimulus package or other matters. Congressman Price has been a big help to Cary over the years especially when it comes to bringing federal dollars back to Cary. I anticipate he will play a big role in getting our region’s economy back on its feet.
Monday night the Wake Mayors held a tele-meeting to get an update from each other. The biggest discussion point was about holding town meetings especially since this is budget season. Some mayors believed that it is required to have a meeting once a month. That is not true according to General Statute 160-A-81.1. which says:
“The council shall provide at least one period for public comment per month at a regular meeting of the council. The council may adopt reasonable rules governing the conduct of the public comment period, including, but not limited to, rules (i) fixing the maximum time allotted to each speaker, (ii) providing for the designation of spokesmen for groups of persons supporting or opposing the same positions, (iii) providing for the selection of delegates from groups of persons supporting or opposing the same positions when the number of persons wishing to attend the hearing exceeds the capacity of the hall, and (iv) providing for the maintenance of order and decorum in the conduct of the hearing. The council is not required to provide a public comment period under this section if no regular meeting is held during the month. (2005-170, s. 3.)”
Currently, Cary has no items that require a meeting in April. As a result, our next meetings are scheduled to be in May.
Tuesday – Conference Call with Gov. Roy Cooper
I participated in a conference call with the Governor on Tuesday where he announced that no utilities can be cut off from residents unable to pay their bills. This was an important step that was necessary to help us get through this tough time.
Wednesday – National Census Day
Wednesday I electronically signed a proclamation for National Census Day since it was National Census Day. The Census is important because it will determine congressional representation, help us get our share of federal funding dollars, and provide data that will impact decisions in our community for the next decade. Currently, less than 50% of Cary residents have filled out the census. So please fill out the census.
Later I watched a news conference from the Governor’s office. The message was that the virus was continuing to spread. They also mentioned that people should not call emergency numbers to complain about others not following guidelines. (There is a lot of that going on)
COVID-19 Update in Cary
On the nightly COVID-19 update the council received on Wednesday this information was included:
Cary’s EOC work today focused on assisting Wake County’s EOC on locating sites for field hospitals. Although no decisions have been made on hospital locations, we know this topic has emerged on social media, and we want you to have comprehensive information on this issue.
As we have learned from many cities across the country, our public health officials anticipate a surge in COVID 19 diagnosed patients which will constrain local hospital bed capacity. Presently, this surge in COVID 19 cases in North Carolina is predicted to peak during the last week of April (healthdata.org; retrieved April 1, 2020).
To meet demand, Wake County public health officials, working through the Wake EOC, have identified at least two locations (Raleigh Convention Center and Dillard’s/Cary Towne Center) that appear to satisfy the criteria needed for a field hospital. As we have seen in other parts of the nation, the public health strategy is to relocate non-COVID (non-contagious) patients from hospitals to these field hospitals and reallocate hospital beds to COVID 19 (critical and contagious) patients.
We understand that Wake’s first choice is the Raleigh Convention Center and Dillard’s is the second preference. Dillard’s is also reserved for potential overflow capacity. To our knowledge, public health officials have made no decision on either facility; nor do we know their timeframe for deciding.
Let’s hope they don’t have to use either of these facilities.
Thursday – Mayors Talk Stay at Home Order Compliance
Thursday evening I participated in a tele-meeting of the Wake County Mayors. We spent about half an hour talking about compliance with county and state stay at home orders. Some municipalities have closed parks.
Friday – Governor Urges: Stay at Home
Friday the Governor gave a briefing on the state and spread of COVID-19. They were once again urging everyone to stay at home as much as possible. They spoke of how some people were having gatherings and how this is harmful.
Town Manager Report
The town manager, Sean Stegall’s report for this week includes:
Manager’s Message to Council
It is hard to believe we are three weeks into the emergency response to COVID-19. Unprecedented times call for a temporary update to the Council Weekly Report to symbolize that our focus has shifted from our typical daily operations to the health and well-being of our residents and staff.
Emergency situations have the potential to bring people together. My hope is that through the values we have established over the last three years our employees feel grounded, supported, and loved.
Messages I have received from some staff members indicate they appreciate the support we have provided them during this difficult time, and I will continue to find ways to encourage them. The support I pass along to them is an extension of the support I receive daily from each Council Member.
This week I spent the majority of my time working with our state and regional partners on a unified pandemic response plan. When I was not communicating with our partners I was working with the business community, and writing. The crisis is affecting everyone which provides an opportunity for each of us to connect with our staff, residents, partners, and businesses.
Thank you for your continued support. Continue to take care of each other.
Operational Framework & Update
Deputy Town Manager Russ Overton and the Operational Framework Team distributed a message to staff on Tuesday that outlined key messages and FAQs. This week’s messages focused on tracking work and supervisors establishing expectations. The Operational Framework Team shared with me that non-emergency staff are settling into their new routines and adjusting well.
The weekly operational report brings a close to the week’s activities outside of the Emergency Command Center (EOC). Please take a moment to review the weekly operational report:
Included below is a summary-level overview of the operational activities continuing to take place during this health emergency.
- Ginny participated in three webinars about electronic meetings and public participation through the International Institute of Municipal Clerks, NC Clerks with School of Government Trey Allan, and Metro Mayors with School of Government Frayda Bluestein and Shannon Tufts. Trends are emerging across the state and it’s been helpful to learn what other municipalities are considering.
- The Hillcrest Cemetery refresh continues with work on Friday completing the Ground Penetrating Radar analysis.
- Cary has received several donations of PPEs from the community. These are so appreciated and are being coordinated through Kevin Annis, Designated Infection Control Officer with the Town EOC to ensure they meet proper standards before distribution to officers.
- Cary PD and IT reached out to Verizon to confirm that Cary first responders were being given priority service on the Verizon network.
- Rezoning, Development Plan Review, Building & Infrastructure Inspections remain steady. The Development Pulse report will be sent to Council separately by Scot Berry.
- This week there was continued progress on both Fenton and Cary Towne Center. Staff representing Cary’s Fenton steering and architectural committees met with the Fenton design team to review site themes, hardscape, and design. Staff also met with Turnbridge properties regarding the Cary Towne Center Redevelopment.
- To date, Cary has a 47 percent response rate to the 2020 Census. This is one of the highest in the state!
- The Cary Convenience Center will be closed on Monday, April 6 for planned maintenance work.
- Public Works crews will begin a limited roadside program with minimized crew configurations in accordance with a “1 person, 1 vehicle” COVID-19 structure to maintain Cary’s medians.
- Simple Recycling, the third-party vendor for textile recycling, has notified us that all textile recycling programs are on a temporary freeze. We anticipate hearing back from them regarding our contract when they resume regular operations.
- Stormwater projects continue: Two Creeks construction project is in the final phase with completion anticipated in mid-April; and the Bayoak Drive project (at Joel Court) is currently under construction.
- Utility operations proceeded normally with staff continuing to monitor key supplies and inputs needed for treatment operations. All treatment facilities are maintaining adequate chemical and supply inventories.
- In addition to maintaining communication with developers about new and ongoing projects, Ted Boyd participated in webinars this week related to the economic impact of COVID-19. The Heart of Cary webinar featured Mayor Pro Tem Don Frantz.
- This week, our PRCR Department canceled 142 public reservations which resulted in $6,000 refunded and $110,000 transferred to later in the year. Additionally, 1,400 registrations were canceled resulting in $50,000 total refunded to registrants.
Coworkers In the News
Ted Boyd’s two girls decorated ‘Thank You’ signs for Cary’s solid waste workers.
WRAL spotlight shone on Cary’s yard waste collectors as their essential work maintains a little bit of normalcy for our citizens.
One-Stop-Shop for Cary Businesses
The Cary Chamber, in coordination with Ted Boyd, completed a “one stop shop” of resources for businesses impacted by the pandemic. This information is linked directly to the Town’s COVID-10 website and will be updated as information becomes available.
Water Resources Year in Review
This 2019 report provides an overview of important water and wastewater trends and provides an overview of infrastructure upgrades, water demand analysis, wastewater capacity, and consumer water use patterns. The data and analysis from this report are essential to planning and identifying areas of improvement to make our utility services more efficient. Special thanks to Water Resources Engineer, Sarah Braman for tracking and analyzing the many thousands of data points required to make this report possible.
Biobot Analytics Tracking COVID-19
Like the approach used in tracking opiates in wastewater, Biobot Analytics is developing a new approach to track and provide data on COVID-19 in community wastewater systems. Currently, Biobot has approximately 60 wastewater utilities participating in the program. North Cary Water Reclamation Facility and South Cary Water Reclamation Facility, which treat wastewater exclusively from Cary’s utility service area are both participating. Our first round of sampling will occur on Friday (4/2), with results being available by the middle of next week. Both facilities will collect a 24-hour composite of their influent wastewater weekly for the next 6 weeks to detect and monitor for COVID-19.
The Town collaborated with NCDOT and Epic Games to make pedestrian improvements around the Epic Games campus, including adding pavement markings along Dillard Drive. As a milestone in the Town’s drone program, drones were used to survey the site at the completion of the work. This process was faster and safer as staff could complete the work without entering the busy roadway and reduced days of field work into a few hours.
Cary is in the final leg of coordination with NCDOT Turnpike Authority to ensure greenway, bicycle and pedestrian accommodations and enhancements are included in the design for the Southeast Extension. The future Camp Branch Greenway and Optimist Farm Greenway are planned to cross the NC-540 corridor. The latest design drawings for the Camp Branch Greenway include a bridge on NC-540 over the greenway. Optimist Farm Greenway has been realigned to cross NC-540 with Bells Lake Road as a buffered street-side trail. Other roadway crossings include Pierce Olive Road and Westlake Road, which will include space for sidewalks and bike lanes.
CSX Crossings Complete, Additional Repairs Needed
As of Friday, March 27, CSX is complete with railroad crossing work in Cary, Apex and Morrisville. However, CSX and Norfolk Southern did not replace pavement markings that were damaged or removed as part of their work including pavement edge lines, centerlines and stop bars. While all are NCDOT maintained streets (Kit Creek Road, Salem Church Road, Waldo Rood Blvd), we have been in coordination to help correct the problem.
Right of Way Critical Infrastructure Coordination With Utilities
On March 17, Bryan Hayes and Amir Nezarati emailed utility contacts requesting they cease work in Cary right-of-way by Friday, March 20. This notice applied only to installation of new facilities in Cary right-of-way. The notice didn’t impact the repair or maintenance of existing facilities. This was done to reduce the impact to Cary citizens and help us all pause to adapt to this new reality with the COVID-19 virus. Bryan Hayes has stayed in contact with the utility companies over the past two weeks. Several weeks after the initial notice and with Governor Cooper’s Executive Order 124, we recognize that adjustments will need to be made. As we move forward, we are working with utility companies to ensure that their most critical issues have a path to resolution and our critical infrastructure is protected. In practice this means staff is looking at these ona case by case basis and working with the utility companies. The goal is to keep a positive working relationship with our utility partners in way that protects critical infrastructure and reduces the impact on the citizens of Cary. Any questions or concerns, please contact Bryan Hayes at Bryan.Hayes@townofcary.org.
Additional Information of Interest
I’ve found the following articles to be particularly helpful in my mindset this week and wanted to share with you for your reading pleasure:
What Your Coworkers Need Right Now is Compassion, Harvard Business Review
William Helmreich, Sociologist and a Walker in the City, Dies at 74, The New York Times
For the latest Wake County information on COVID-19 see https://covid19.wakegov.com/. For the latest projections see https://covid19.healthdata.org/projections.
Get in Touch
I have been avoiding posting emails from citizens the last couple of weeks since people are under stress much more than normal. However, I continue to get emails from citizens complaining about other citizens not following guidelines. I have even witnessed citizens walking around looking for citizens violating social distancing orders. A few thoughts come to mind:
- Be kind to each other
- Following social distancing at all times
- Stay at home unless you are buying groceries, seeing the doctor, exercising, etc, and even then, follow social distancing
- And if you feel you must complain about someone call 311 NOT 911
Next week’s activities are all via phone. They include meetings with the town manager, staff, and the Wake County mayors. I assume there will be a few updates from the Governor as well. Take care and be safe!
Well, that is all for this week. My next post will be on Sunday, April 12th. Although I have Facebook and Twitter accounts those are not the best means of communication with me. Please send all Town of Cary questions or comments to Harold.Weinbrecht@townofcary.org and email personal comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.