Harold’s Blog: COVID-19 Impact in Cary, Statewide Guidelines and More

Cary, NC — This was another week filled with tele-meetings and conference calls as we all get used to the new normal due to COVID-19.

Monday – COVID-19 Will Impact Millions of Cary Budget Dollars

Monday I had a tele-meeting with the town manager. We talked about potential actions to battle COVID-19. Currently, no new actions are necessary, and data is showing that social distancing is working. We also talked about the impact this pandemic will have on the upcoming budget. The impact on Cary will be in the millions. What does that mean? It probably means many projects will be delayed. However, key projects, including the downtown park phase II, will continue. Add to that the upcoming recession and the next budget, which begins on July 1st, will be a major challenge.

Monday evening I joined all Wake County mayors in a tele-meeting. One major discussion was whether to allow drive-in Easter service. While a few mayors were in favor of this, most of them were opposed. Later in the week, Apex issued an amendment to allow this type of Easter service. Another discussion was on the Wake County Stay-At-Home order.

All Wake County municipalities are currently participating in the Wake County Stay-At-Home order which expires April 16. This order was issued before the state’s Stay-At-Home order and has a few differences which is causing some confusion. I fully expect Wake County to extend their order once it expires. But I doubt all Wake County municipalities will participate in the extension. Some will probably use the state’s Stay-At-Home order to have a more consistent message.

Tuesday – Stores to be Issued Stricter Guidelines Statewide

Tuesday the Governor’s office announced that they will be issuing stricter guidelines for stores. They also talked about the need to follow guidelines until at least the end of May.

Wednesday – Press Conference from Governor Cooper

Wednesday’s press conference by the Governor focused on the hot spot of cases in an Orange County nursing home.

Thursday – Potential Stay at Home Order Extensions

Thursday’s press conference by the Governor announced an executive order which would put restrictions on nursing homes and retail stores limiting visitors and patrons.

Thursday evening I participated in a meeting of the Wake County Mayors Association. As on Monday, much of the conversation was on whether municipalities should go with the Wake County Stay-At-Home order when it is extended next week or the state’s order. Our conversation was less than 30 minutes.

Friday – Interviewed by a Cary Ambassador

Friday I was interviewed by a Cary Ambassador for the New Neighbor Project which was created by Raleigh Convergence. Questions included how I became involved in local government, what advice I would give to those interested in volunteering or local government, and how residents can learn more and get involved. The interview lasted about twenty minutes.

Town Manager’s Report

The town manager, Sean Stegall’s report for the week included:

Manager’s Message to Council

We are all thankful that tomorrow is a Town holiday to provide some much-needed time for our staff to relax and rejuvenate. This extra time off comes at a time when we need to prepare our minds and bodies for the challenges that lie ahead for our community.

In an email to staff on Monday I praised them for their adaptability to the pandemic but provided one clear and simple directive – their focus must be on staying healthy through this emergency phase of the crisis. The health of our employees both physically and emotionally will be crucial in leading our community during this challenging time in history. I was able to reinforce this directive during a virtual department directors meeting on Monday when I asked each participant to state one word that described their mood of the day. The moods provided ranged from refreshed, proud, grateful, hopeful, and numb to name a few. This exercise was a great reminder that our emotions change from day to day depending on stressors in our personal or professional environments. I will continue checking in with the department directors, staff, and of course each of you to assure our team is as mentally and physically healthy as possible during this historical time.

Adding back my one-on-one time with each of you has been refreshing and I appreciate the various perspectives you share with me during our conversations. The support you provide us is immensely helpful in generating ideas and solutions for next steps on our emergency response journey.


Operational Framework & Update

This week’s key message and FAQs from Deputy Town Manager Russ Overton emphasized the importance of staying connected with colleagues and where to find resources about COVID-19.

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.

Departmental Updates

Included below is a summary-level overview of the operational activities continuing to take place during this health emergency.

  • Ted has been working closely with the chamber to look for ways to support our local businesses impacted by the pandemic.
  • PRCR staff continue to process refunds. Totals this week include, 49 reservations cancelled, $4,500 refunded, and an additional $10,500 transferred to a later time. Additionally, 400 registrations were cancelled for a total of $24,000.
  • The Police Department’s Peer Team has started work developing a weekly webinar series on Stress Management so officers can remain engaged through technology.
  • Inspections & Permits staff continue to work on providing essential services. Building inspectors are averaging 203 inspections per day this week. Building permit application submittals continue to be steady; meanwhile, development plans and DRC pre-apps may be starting to trend down.
  • We hit a Fenton development milestone this week: phase one of the development plan is now ready for signatures and the last step in the approval process should occur next week. This approval allows the development to continue into the next phase, which includes infrastructure work. Staff will focus next on finalizing building permits and architectural review.
  • To date, Cary has a 57.2% response rate to the 2020 Census. Our goal is 82% participation.
  • Since the “stay at home” order, we have seen an incredible increase in the volume of yard waste. We are currently operating eight trucks with a “one person per vehicle” model. Staff within other PW divisions have volunteered to work solid waste routes during this “one person per vehicle” model as many of our collectors do not have driver’s licenses.
  • A new traffic signal is operational at McCrimmon Parkways and Airport Boulevard as part of the NCDOT project to extend McCrimmon Parkway in Morrisville. This section of McCrimmon Parkways extension also includes bike lanes and a dedicated bike detection at the signal, which is a first for Cary’s advanced traffic management system. With this signal, Cary now manages 212 signals as part of daily operations and maintenance.
  • Shortly prior to the pandemic, work began on the Bond Park restroom renovation. Work is continuing on this project during the week by the contractor and staff is going on-site on the weekends to inspect the progress while maintaining social distancing guidelines.
  • The annual water main replacement project was completed this week. Over the past year, we proactively replaced over 15,000 feet of water lines in portions of Greenwood Forest, Oakwood Heights, Walnut Hills, and along Walker Street in downtown. Replacing aging water mains proactively helps to maintain confidence in our water system and avoid any unexpected interruptions.

Woke Wednesday’s with Tru

Continuing with the tradition of our monthly employee rap sessions, during the pandemic Tru Pettigrew will be sharing a weekly video message. This video series, called “Woke Wednesday’s With Tru” allows our employees to continue conversations and learning about diversity and inclusion topics. The series will explore the concept of unconscious bias.

Additional Information of Interest

I believe distributing articles is valuable for sharing knowledge and emphasizing we are not alone. Over the past three years, Cary has developed an amazing tradition of book clubs to connect with each other and learn new concepts. During this time book club connections can be fulfilling, and my hope is that staff use these noteworthy articles to jump-start book club conversations.

Leadership in a (Permanent) Crisis, Harvard Business Review 

Get in Touch

I have received several emails this week, most of which were complaining about others. I also received the following which I think is very interesting as well:

“I’ve seen a lot of nasty posts in regards to people making “non-essential” trips. Do you ever think that guy buying a gallon of paint knows he must keep busy because idle hands in the past has caused him to relapse and pick up that case of beer? So he’s using this time to do home improvements, something that keeps his mind busy while feeling a sense of accomplishment, trying to avoid painful triggers while possibly alone? Or maybe that lady buying bags of soil and seeds, hasn’t struggled with depression and suicide? How do you know that planting and watching something beautiful grow during this time of darkness, isn’t essential to her and holding on to what little hope she might still have? We need to remember that it is impossible to know just by looking at a situation from “our” small lens what someone is truly going through or where their mental health is at. Everyone handles chaos and healing through different means, and I know we are all on edge but please stop being so judgmental of others.”

Wow! I couldn’t have said it better. We need to understand that while all of us are fighting this physical enemy, there are mental, emotional, and spiritual needs that are extremely important to many including me. So please don’t judge us and remember to be kind to one another. Social distancing is working. So practice it! And wash your hands!

Since April 1st the Wake County infection rate seems to be leveling off. The daily increases through April 11 are: 26, 26, 22, 11, 22, 29, 12, 23, 19, 29. While this is a bit of good news that social distancing is working, it doesn’t mean it will eliminate the virus or that things should go back to the way they were before. Now more than ever we need to continue to practice all guidelines including social distancing. I predict that normality will return once there is a vaccine or a quick way to determine who is infected so that they can be isolated.

For Christians, this week was Holy Week. And for other religions, this was a special time as well. If faith is a part of your life, then I would urge you to let it shine in all you that you do. Reach out to others to let them know you are thinking about them. Help someone if you can. And above all, be kind!

Well, that is all for this week. My next post will be on Sunday, April 19th. 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 [email protected] and email personal comments to [email protected].

From the blog of Cary Mayor Harold Weinbrecht. Gov. Cooper press conference photo courtesy of Gov. Cooper’s public Facebook Page, Harold Weinbrecht photo by Ashley Kairis.

3 replies
  1. Brent
    Brent says:

    With “millions” at stake, I’m having a hard time understanding how the downtown park is more important than public health.

  2. Barry Shafer
    Barry Shafer says:

    I wonder if you have SARS-CoV-2 (novel coronavirus) statistics for just the Town of Cary residents. I would love to see the number of cases, deaths and trends in the town. Can these numbers be shared over the coming weeks? Thank you so much.

  3. Len NIeman
    Len NIeman says:

    One side effect of the ‘Stay at home’ orders is many parents have not been getting their children vaccinated. In particular against measles. There have been estimates that up to 100 million children world wide will contract measles, with a high number of deaths resulting, when social distancing rules are lifted. In particular, among working parents children when they go back to school, or are left in daycare.

    So if at all possible, in spite of what’s currently going on, parents should try and make sure their children get the vaccinations available against other diseases.

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