Cary, NC — This week included the first regularly scheduled council meeting of the month.
Monday – Council Meeting Prep & Wake County Mayors Meeting
Monday I attempted to contact all council members for questions or comments about the agenda for the upcoming meeting on Thursday. Most of the comments were on a multi-family density rezoning proposal on Carpenter Fire Station Road.
Later Monday Mayor Pro-Tem Frantz and I met with staff to go over Thursday’s agenda. We spent time talking about the budget public hearing and the council proposal for a task force.
My one-on-one meeting with the town manager also focused on the budget and the task force.
Monday night I participated in a meeting of the Wake County Mayors Association. We decided that our next meeting, which is the scheduled monthly meeting, would be held in person using social distancing. Two mayors will participate in that meeting virtually.
Thursday – Town Council Meets, Creates New Task Force
Thursday the council held their first regularly scheduled meeting of the month. The agenda included two consent items, four public hearings, and one discussion item. The public hearing on the Carpenter Fire Station Road rezoning proposal included one speaker via the phone.
He represented the adjoining neighborhood and listed complaints including too much density. He and his neighbors asked for several conditions on the developer’s proposal. Unfortunately, the town cannot require conditions of the developer, but they could be voluntarily offered. We will see what the developer does during the process.
Under discussion, the council unanimously agreed to create a diversity task force. As was mentioned in our comments, this was not created to make people feel good but for real change. As a result, an outside consultant will be hired, and I will be the liaison to the task force. This fits in with the mayor’s pledge I took last week. Our meeting concluded after about an hour and a half.
Friday – Metro Mayors Meeting Recap
Friday I participated in the North Carolina Metro Mayors meeting. The following is the summary from the Executive Director:
Update on Executive Orders from the Governor’s Office
- Current EO’s designed to mitigate health impact of COVID-19 remain in place.
- The staff in the Governor’s office are concerned about the growth of positive COVID cases. In particular, Secretary Cohen is concerned about the increase in hospitalizations in our state and the ability to manage a possible surge in ICU cases.
- Increasing COVID-19 positives tests, positive rates and hospitalizations, are raising concerns for NC. There have been some questions about the planned move to Phase 3 and the Governor’s staff say that they will looking at that beginning next week.
- The Governor’s office is also still contemplating Phase “2.5” which could potentially reopen bars and/or gyms much like the legislature is currently pushing through bills such as H594.
- A press conference will be held this afternoon at 2:00. The press conference can be streamed here.
General State Legislative Update
Overview and Schedule
- This has been a very focused session with most issues moving quickly as a result of pre-negotiations between the chambers. There has not been a lot of conversations surrounding issues that directly impact cities.
- One of the items that has consumed a lot of the legislature’s time is legislation that would roll back the Governor’s Executive Order and allow gyms and bars to reopen. (More details on these bills are found in the Economic Development section below).
- This week, the legislature also passed a bi-partisan elections bill (H1169). It has been sent to the Governor.
- We expect legislative committees to begin shutting down in the next week to ten days and the legislature to adjourn by June 25.
Speaker Moore Task Force
- Speaker Moore has announced the creation of a new bipartisan Task Force on Justice, Law Enforcement, and Community Relations.
- The Task Force will begin meeting after the legislative session has concluded.
- Co-Chairs of the Task Force are: Rep. John Szoka (R-Cumberland), Rep. Kristin Baker (R-Cabarrus), and Rep. Howard Hunter (D – Hertford).
- There will be no large standard state budget this year. Instead the legislature is passing “mini” budgets dealing with individual funding items.
- Some of the mini budgets considered this week include:
- S818, Compensation of Certain School Employees – This bill would provide teachers, instructional support personnel, and assistant principals with salary increases based on years of experience. It would provide $350 bonuses to teachers and instructional support personnel and also encourage the Governor to provide an across-the-board bonus of $600 for teachers, instructional support personnel, and noncertified personnel from the discretionary education funds Governor Cooper received from the CARES Act.
- S808, Medicaid Funding Act – This bill would appropriate the funds needed for the long planned Medicaid transformation process that would move the state Medicaid from fee for service to managed care. It directs the transformation process to begin by July 1, 2021. Additionally, it directs DHHS to continue the relocation from the Dorothea Dix campus to a suitable location in Wake County.
- S803, Capital Appropriation – Repairs & Renovations – This bill transfers $119 million from the General Fund to the State Capital and Infrastructure Fund for repairs and renovations projects. 40 percent would be allocated for UNC projects and the remaining 60 percent for state agencies.
Nothing new to report legislatively.
- There is $300M set aside by the state legislature in a reserve fund for NC DOT from the federal CARES Act. This money can only be used if granted flexibility by Congress. If flexibility is granted that will hopefully prevent cuts from certain areas such as SMAP and Powell Bill funding.
NC First Step Act H511
- This bill would give judges more flexibility from minimum and maximum drug trafficking sentences, and it allow people serving time on certain drug trafficking crimes to petition for a reduced sentence.
- This bill received a lot of work in the Senate during last year’s session. The House Rules Committee moved the bill out of the committee to the floor this week for a non-concurrence vote so that a conference committee can work out the differences.
- It appears there is interest in having this passed before the legislature adjourns.
The Second Chance Act S562
- This is a popular bi-partisan bill with great support from a variety of organizations.
- The bill would make various revisions to the expunction laws, helping people overcome the stigma and employment challenges associated with mistakes they made as young adults.
- The bill passed unanimously in the House this week and has been sent to the Senate for a concurrence vote.
Temp Open Gyms/Health Clubs/Fitness Centers H594
- This bill would allow gyms, health clubs, and fitness centers to reopen at 50 percent capacity.
- The bill was amended to include the provisions from H536 that dealt with the reopening of bars and increased outdoor seating capacity for restaurants (H536 was vetoed by Governor Cooper last Friday).
- The bill would also allow the Governor and the Secretary of HHS to close establishments under public health authority with the majority approval of the Council of State.
- The bill passed the House and Senate and has been sent to the Governor. He has nine days remaining to take action.
- There were four House Democrats that voted for the bill (seven Democratic votes would be needed in order to override a veto from the Governor).
- This issue could potentially be addressed by the Governor if a Phase 2.5 is implemented.
Workforce Housing Loan Program H1208
- The bill includes a $20M appropriation from the General Fund for Workforce Housing Loan Program.
- The bill passed unanimously in the Senate this week and has been sent to the Governor.
Foreclosure Prev. Grants/Rental & Utility Asst. H1200
- The bill includes a total of $200M appropriated from the federal CARES Act funds.
- $100M for foreclosure assistance program for traditional home mortgage
- $100M rental and utility payment assistance
- $20M of the $100M Rental Assistance funds to be used by the Housing Finance Agency to administer utility assistance grant fund. The money would go directly to utilities (up to $1,800 per household) on behalf of specifically qualified individuals.
- Citizens would be eligible for both grants, up to $6,000, if they meet certain income thresholds.
- It is scheduled to be heard next Tuesday in the House Appropriations Committee.
- Please review the bill. Beau will be in contact about a potential letter of support to legislators.
Local Revenues/ Local Control
Waste Water Public Enterprise Reform H1087
- The bill establishes a process for identifying distressed public water and wastewater systems.
- It appropriates $9M to establish the Viable Utility Fund within DEQ to be used for assisting public water and wastewater systems to become self-sustaining.
- This provision was included in last year’s budget and regulatory reform bills. While this bill specifically focuses on more distressed water systems, it is worth noting that discussions on regionalization of systems is stemming from this legislation.
- The bill passed unanimously in the House this week and has been sent to the Senate.
Federal Funding Update
Update on Congressional Funding for Local Govts
- The U.S. House sent a $3T package to the Senate. This is just a starting point for negotiations. The Senate is now saying they are not going to take the issue up until after the July 4 break.
- This is troublesome as time is of the essence and we need flexibility for the existing federal funds as well as additional funding specifically for local governments.
- Please speak with your Congressional delegation about the needs for additional funding and increased flexibility of current federal funds.
Existing Funds for Local Governments– NCLM/NCACC/Metro Mayors Statement
- A joint letter from NCLM, NCACC, and MMC has been sent to the General Assembly about existing funds for local governments.
- Treasury guidance is suggesting that state legislatures divide up federal money and give 45% to local governments.
- Right now, the NC legislature has only given 4% of available federal funds, and that was given to counties, not municipalities. (There is an additional 4% in reserves only made available by the GA – IF Congress grants flexibility for the federal CRF funding).
- In response, Sen. Berger has said that local governments in NC do not have the same operational and fiscal responsibilities, as locals do in other states – so 45% for one state does not translate well in NC.
Town Manager Report
The town manager, Sean Stegall’s report for this week included:
Manager’s Message to Council
Virtual All Hands
On Tuesday, June 9, I held a virtual All Hands meeting and over 450 employees participated in the meeting. The topic of this week’s conversation was the recommended FY2021 budget. After my high-level overview of the recommendation I answered questions that were pre-submitted by staff and asked live during the meeting. As always it was a pleasure connecting with our dedicated employees.
Out of Office
On another note, I will be on vacation next week relaxing at the beach. Deputy Town Manager Russ Overton will be handling the day-to-day operations of the town while I am away. As with any other day feel free to reach out to Russ or Susan if they can be of any assistance to you.
Enjoy your week and I will see you when I return.
Operational Framework & Update
The Department Directors continue to work on departmental risk assessments and evaluate services provided to our residents and business partners. As a result, the operational framework team’s key messages centered around the All Hands meeting and the Council meeting that was held last night.
The weekly operational report brings a close to the week’s activities outside of the Emergency Operations 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.
- There are 33 development plans that are currently under review. Of note, staff held an internal discussion to review the second submittal for the Belk renovations at Cary Towne Center.
- There are 284 building permits being routed and reviewed. Since June 1, we have approved 112 building permits. These numbers are consistent with pre-covid submittals.
- Inspections staff visited the Islamic Activity Center to clarify the work shown on their submitted plans that was different from a written narrative of the work. Jeph Allen will receive weekly updates to ensure communication channels are open.
- This week the EAB met to socialize and test technology for the planned virtual meeting in August. Most EAB members were able to join the social. Planning and Zoning Board scheduled their “social” virtual meeting on June 22.
- A new company, Circle Graphics, signed a long-term lease on approximately 153,000 sq ft of industrial space in Cary. Circle Graphics produces large format digital graphics and is based out of Longmont, Colorado.
- The Town is in the final stages of preparing documents to close on the Town’s property per terms of the Academy Park Development Agreement.
- Ted participated in various Chamber events this week to converse with Cary business leaders.
- Stormwater met with representatives of the Williamsburg Commons neighborhood to discuss the Swift Creek Watershed. The meeting included citizens who attended the 2018 retreat and were excited to hear about progress made on Walnut Creek, as well as hear updates on Swift Creek. Staff will continue conversations with Williamsburg Commons residents as work in the Swift Creek watershed continues.
- The Town of Apex kicked-off an affordable housing study with HR&A and requested Morgan Mansa’s participation in the steering committee to share experiences related to Cary’s housing study process as well as look for partnership opportunities.
- A rapid flashing beacon to be located on Walnut Street at the crosswalk to Cary High School is in the design phase. Staff is beginning surveys, utility locates, and design. This work is being prioritized so construction may be complete prior to the first day of the upcoming traditional school year.
- Construction of the Reedy Creek Road widening project began this week. Safety is a top priority and the project team has worked to modify construction operations and procedures with the contractor due to COVID-19. Clearing operations and installation of erosion control measures are moving forward, in addition to continued utility conflict coordination.
Continuation of Utility Disconnections Suspension
Starting next week, Cary utility customers will be receiving a letter accompanying their bills informing them of the continued suspension of all disconnections for non-payment and late payment changes. The letter encourages the monitoring of account balances and consumption using our online tools, DigiPay and Aquastar. Also, customers who normally pay bills in-person or using our dedicated drop boxes are asked to use other available options such as DigiPay, pay-by-phone, or mail to pay bills in a safe manner.
Mayor Commits to Obama Foundation’s Mayoral Pledge
At the Council work session on June 4, Mayor Weinbrecht announced his commitment to the Obama Foundation’s Mayoral Pledge that asks Mayors to review police policies around use of force. This Pledge, under the umbrella of the My Brother’s Keeper Alliance is asking mayors to commit to the following:
- Review police use of force policies
- Engage your community by including a diverse range of input, experiences, and stories in your review.
- Report the findings of your review to your community and seek feedback.
- Reform your community’s police use of force policies.
Creation of Human Relations, Inclusion & Diversity Task Force
At the Council meeting last night, Council asked staff to assist on a process to create a citizen advisory task force focused on human relations, inclusion and diversity. Specifically, the Council asked for a proposed scope, timeline and objectives for the task force. Sean agreed to respond to Council with options and noted the desire to include a highly skilled consultant who has experience both with this topic and local governments to ensure actionable, practical ideas come forward.
Simple Recycling Stops Operations
We were notified this week by Simple Recycling that, due to COVID-19, they have materially changed their business and are not able to countersign our pending contract. Contract negotiations had already been paused, at Simple Recycling’s request, during the pandemic. Sadly, Simple Recycling told us they have been challenged to ensure the continuity of their programs in our region and at the national level. Because of this, they will not be launching a curbside textile recycling program in Cary. Staff is disappointed by this decision. Over the coming months, our Interdepartmental Recycling Team and Public Works will explore other options and gather information to share with Town Council.
Federal Legislation Update
The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee released the text of the Investing in a New Vision for the Environment and Surface Transportation (INVEST) in America Act. They’re accepting stakeholder feedback on the legislation, leading up to a markup of the bill on June 17. The bill provides $494 billion over five years –approximately $189 billion more than the current authorizing legislation (i.e. the FAST Act –at $305 billion). In addition to the bill text, there’s a 10-page summary, 2-page fact sheet and 38-page section-by-section summary.
Various Transit Updates
There are various updates related to transit and GoCary this week:
- Resuming Normal Schedules–due to increasing ridership, and in coordination with our regional partners, GoCary Fixed Route service is planning to return to normal levels beginning on June27. GoTriangle has also asked GoCary resume service for Route 300 on June 28.
- Wake Transit Plan–The City of Raleigh, as part of the Wake Transit plan, released a five-minute video, which outlines the approach to the first BRT Corridor: New Bern Avenue. This is a good preview of the types of features that will be evaluated over the next couple of years on the Western Corridor connecting Raleigh and Cary.
- Bus Shelter Upgrades–this week, bus shelters were upgraded to include improved solar lighting, which has resulted in significantly improved night lighting that emphasizes the glass etching. The solar installations provide clean energy to power the lights, which are extremely high-quality LEDs that provide natural lighting with true colors that reduces eye-strain. GoCary Bus Shelters are the first in the United States to have this lighting installed.
Progress Continues on Academy Street
Watermain replacement work continues along Academy Street in front of Town Hall. Moffat Pipe, our contractor, is working northward from the railroad tracks to Chapel Hill Road. Work near Chapel Hill Road intersection has been slow due to various conflicts including two water mains, a sewer main, a gas line, storm drainpipes and Town fiber. The north end of Academy Street remains closed to traffic in both directions. Town Hall is accessible from the south along Academy Street via Ambassador Loop. Traffic to Town Hall from the north should continue to use Chapel Hill Rd/E Durham Rd/Wilkinson Ave.
Additional Information of Interest
I’ve found the following information extremely helpful this week and wanted to share with your for your reading pleasure:
Get in Touch
Emails from citizens this week included:
- A complaint about the attorney general
- Complaints that we should defund police
- Requests not to defund the police
- A request for me to state whether I support Cary Police (I SUPPORT OUR CARY POLICE CHIEF AND DEPARTMENT!!!)
- Complaints about not having 8cantwait guidelines (please read my blog last week, our police department is already doing these things)
- Complaints about me not doing my duty as an elected official because of racism across the country
- Several statements that our law enforcement is in ruins
- Complaints about being involved in last week’s protests (“you should be ashamed”, “you are disgusting”, “what is wrong with you people”, etc)
- Requests to have the police chief resign
- Statements of support for the police and police chief
- A complaint about the Cary Tennis Park not being open (it opens this week)
- A complaint about not opening Cary ballfields
- Complaints that 5G technology is causing cancer among other problems and that we should not allow 5G technology (the state controls permitting)
- Complaints about sign vandalism at town playgrounds (playgrounds remain closed despite closed signs be vandalized)
- Request for an additional bus stop in Cary Park
- A complaint about the budget proposal
Next week’s activities include a Mayors Association meeting in person (following social distancing rules), a meeting of the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization’s Executive Board, and a meeting of the North Carolina Metro Mayors.
Nasty Criticism and Name Calling
I, along with other public servants, police, and town officials, have been called a lot of names this week with the nicest being liar and hypocrite (most I can’t print). In my 16 ½ years as an elected official this has been the peak of nastiness. I have seen ugliness that I did not even imagine existed in this town I love and cherish. We are better than this! We are Cary! It is OK to complain and disagree but making personal comments are un-Cary-like. While I am certainly used to it others are not. Please be Safe, be KIND, and BE CARY!
Well, that is all for this week. My next post will be on Sunday, June 21st. Although I have Facebook and Twitter accounts those are not the best means of communications 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.