Harold’s Blog: Mask Extension, Columbus Monument Removed and More

Cary, NC — Since I declared a State of Emergency in March for the COVID-19 pandemic, face-to-face meetings have been rare and only with staff. And face-to-face meetings with the public have been stopped.

This means all ceremonial duties have stopped as well. July is a slow time of year for staff meetings and council meetings. As a result, for the first time in my twelve and a half years as mayor, I had no meetings this week.

I received a legislative update from Kilpatrick and Townsend which included the following:

Two-Day Session

This week, the legislature returned briefly to hold several veto override votes and consider a few other pieces of largely non-controversial legislation. Both chambers concluded their work on Wednesday afternoon. The legislature is not expected to return to consider any more bills until September 2.

Veto Override Attempts

A total of five veto override votes were taken on Wednesday (two in the Senate and three in the House). A three-fifths majority vote of the members present is required to override a veto.

The Senate attempted to override S105, which would have required the Governor to seek the concurrence of the Council of State before issuing a statewide emergency declaration beyond 30 days, and S599, which would reopen skating rinks and bowling alleys. Both of the measures failed with a vote of 26-21.

The House attempted to override H652 (2nd Amendment Protection Act), H686 (Freedom to Celebrate the Fourth of July), and H806 (Open Exercise and Fitness Facilities). All three vetoes were sustained.

Mask Extension/ABC Permit Payments

Shoppers head into a Cary grocery store wearing face masks.

The two main pieces of legislation that passed during the legislature’s return were S232 and S226.

S232 would make it legal for masks to be worn for public health purposes indefinitely. This was necessary due to the uncertainty of how long the pandemic will last and current law allowing masks to be worn in public is set to expire on August 1.

In addition to the mask provision, S232 includes language that would repeal the controversial public records provision that was included in S168 that was vetoed by the Governor. The bill passed both chambers and has been sent to the Governor.

The legislature also passed S226, Delay Certain ABC Permit Renewal Payments. In an effort to help bars that have been shuttered since the onset of the pandemic, S226 would delay the payment deadline for an ABC permit renewal until 90 days after the Executive Order allowing bars to operate again is rescinded.

It would also allow those ABC permittees that have already paid a permit renewal fee to request a refund of the fee. The bill is now pending approval from the Governor.

The following is the weekly update from the town manager:

Town Manager’s Report

Knights Request Columbus’ Return

I hope you each had a nice July 4th holiday with your families. This week we received a request from the Knights of Columbus to return the Christopher Columbus monument located in Bond Park that was gifted to the Town back in the early 1990’s. Recently the monument was defaced, and, after much consideration, we decided to return the gift to the Knights of Columbus.

Today our Public Works crews removed the monument from Bond Park grounds. The monument will be in storage until the Knights of Columbus identify a new home, not located on Town property. I am extremely appreciative to the Knights for reaching out to us.

Stay cool this weekend,

Sean

Operational Framework & Update

The Department Directors have been given an abundance of masks to outfit and protect our employees in the COOP+ groups. Employees that are in need of protective equipment have been instructed to reach out to their department directors.

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.

Departmental Updates

This Pre-COVID-19 photo shows TOC staff and council members gathering for their annual retreat.

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

  • The Clerk’s Office and R&D met to discuss the continuation of adding board members into Salesforce and automating other tasks such as tracking terms and generating rosters.
  • The closing on the Academy Park transactions occurred this week, which was a fulfillment of the Council approved Downtown Development Project Agreement for a mixed-use development wrapping the Downtown Parking Deck. Construction equipment began moving onto the site this week and work on the erosion control and stormwater devices will begin next week.
  • First Bank opened in the Cooper Building, adjacent to Town Hall.
  • There are 340 building permits in the queue for routing and review. In June we averaged 22 building permit applications per day. Since July 1, we are averaging 34 applications per day.
  • There are 31 development plans currently under review. The DRC is averaging 4 pre-application conferences per week. Highlights from DRC include: All Fenton plans and permits linked to the June 25th deadline in the reported Wegmans lease were approved last week. We have 3 Fenton Development Plans, 5 Building Permits and a Plat that are currently being reviewed by staff. Meanwhile, the Fenton rezoning went to Public Hearing last Thursday and was referred to P&Z for a recommendation. Staff worked closely with the Belk’s Parking Lot applicant to reach consensus on several key issues to help accelerate the approval process.
  • The first virtual Neighborhood Meeting for Rezoning Cases is scheduled for next week -July 15th. We will start with one case, Twin Lakes PDD Amendment, and target early August for additional meetings.
  • The Development Pulse report for June is now available.
  • Cary homeowners, or their escrow agents, will soon receive property tax bills on their homes as both Wake and Chatham counties will be mailing these documents in July. These statements detail both the municipal and the county property taxes due on January 5, 2021. The bills will reflect Cary’s property tax rate of $0.35 per $100 of assessed valuation and the respective county rate which is $0.60 for Wake and $0.67 for Chatham. The Wake County rate is $0.1207 cents lower than the prior year. Chatham County’s $0.67 rate did not change. Chatham County is scheduled to go through the reassessment process as of January 1, 2021.
  • Congratulations to Sramana Guilford who was elected to serve on the Carolina Recycling Association (CRA) Board of Directors. Srijana is also Vice-Chair to the CRA’s Education and Outreach Committee. Cary has been a long-standing member of the CRA and we’re proud to share her expertise in the regional efforts to conserve resources by advancing recycling and waste reduction throughout the Carolinas.
  • The Capital Area and Durham Chapel-Hill Carrboro Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs) are seeking the public’s input to help develop the 2050 Metropolitan Transportation Plan (MTP) for the Triangle region. Please fill out this survey to voice your transportation priorities and share it with others. Cary regularly coordinates with CAMPO to relay the Town’s priorities as outlined in Imagine Cary. For more information on the MTP process go to CAMPO’S website.
  • 311 worked to address the growing wait times in the 311 telephone lines. The volume of calls and requests submitted via email and web has increased over the past two months, adding nearly four minutes to the average wait time on any given day (~6 minutes in June). Staff from across the organization—Finance, PRCR, PW, OD, Legal, TMO—have volunteered to help and we expect to have at least 10 additional call takers onboard as early as next Monday.
  • Sewer Rehabilitation work is underway on the third phase of the overall project –rehabilitation of the Upper Swift Creek Interceptor from SW Maynard Road to SW Cary Parkway, including 8,000 feet of 15 through 20-inch sewer lines and approximately 36 manholes.
  • The South Cary Water Reclamation Facility has implemented process enhancements to recover more phosphorus for beneficial reuse and provide even greater phosphorus removal as part of the treatment process.

Crabtree Signs

Interpretive signs were installed yesterday along the Crabtree Creek Greenway at Lake Crabtree. The signs educate trail users about the lake, wetland habitats, and the importance of riparian buffers for filtering stormwater run-off.

Two railing signs were installed on the boardwalk across the Black Creek arm of the lake and the stormwater sign was installed below MetLife. Thanks to all who contributed their expertise, advice, and attention to this project.

Dynamic Left-Turn Intersection Update

Transportation and Facilities met with RTA and NCDOT to discuss the operations of the first-in-the-nation DLTi at Tryon Rd and Cary Pkwy. To help encourage drivers to keep in the appropriate lane when turning left, a solid line was added to the intersection similar to the treatment performed at Cary Pkwy and High House Rd intersection.

With this latest addition, the pilot team feels comfortable commencing a compliance study. This will be performed this month. The results will help determine any additional needs prior to a final analysis on the operational effectiveness that will occur once traffic volumes return to pre-COVID levels.

Pedestrian Bridge Update

The prep work on the Town Hall pedestrian bridge was completed Monday with the containment curtains installed. Scaffolding assembly and some blasting got underway Monday. There was some noise generated by the compressors and dust collection equipment, but being one of the few COVID blessings, there were few people on campus to hear it.

Additional Information of Interest

I’ve found the following articles to be particularly interesting this week and wanted to share with you for your reading/viewing pleasure:

Latest N.C. Economic Outlook Amid Coronavirus Pandemic, Spectrum News
Keeping COVID-19 outside of summer camps is a nearly impossible challenge, NBC News

Get in Touch

Emails this week included the following:

  • Several emails to allow masks to be voluntary (This is a state mandated requirement which we have no authority to override. Even if we did I very seriously doubt we would consider not requiring masks at this time.)
  • Notification that a couple from out of state got engaged at the Cary fountain (how cool is that!)
  • Complaints about restaurant workers not wearing masks and to make it mandatory (It is state mandated – I recommend not eating where servers are not wearing masks)
  • Comments about Juneteenth.
  • A request for a youth climate control group
  • Concerns about the Columbus monument in bond park being vandalized
  • Questions about the removal of the Christopher Columbus monument in Bond Park. (Knights of Columbus now have it in possession)
  • A request to get involved in government (School of Government is a great place to start)
  • A complaint about loitering at the transit center
  • A request not to allow facial recognition software (We have no plans to use this technology)
  • A request to recognize a postal carrier who noticed that an elderly couple was not picking up their mail. Authorities were notified and the couple was found incapacitated. Due to the actions of the postal carrier their lives were saved. (Thank God for the angels among us! We are working on something for this individual.)
  • And finally… a thank you card from management and directors at the Town of Cary.

This pandemic has been tough on many of us. I am so touched that the town’s staff took the time to reach out to me and say thank-you. It means so much when you are dealing with negativity day in and day out. I am so very blessed to have such caring individuals to work with. Cary is such a special place and we have SO MANY amazing people working in our government. I am honored to be a part of this great team.

Next week’s activities include staff meetings and a meeting of the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization’s Executive Board,

Well, that is all for this week. My next post will be on Sunday, July 19th.  Although I have Facebook and Twitter accounts those are not the best means of communicating with me. Please send all Town of Cary questions or comments to Harold.Weinbrecht@townofcary.org and email personal comments to augustanat@mindspring.com.


From the blog of Cary Mayor Harold Weinbrecht. Shoppers with masks photo by Ashley Kairis, annual retreat and intersection photos courtesy of the Town of Cary, statue photo by Jon Graczyk.

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1 reply
  1. Len NIeman
    Len NIeman says:

    As a long time user of the Cary Pkwy – Tryon Rd intersection my feeling is the “Dynamic Left Turn” there is a solution to a nonexistent problem. In fact it’s creating it’s own problems when people in the left lane on Tryon Rd have to shift lanes on Cary Pkwy to enter Wellington Park Shopping Center. They often come into conflict with ‘right on red’ drivers coming from the oppposite side of Tryon Rd, who expect people in the opposite left lane to travel into the left lane on Cary Pkwy after the turn.

    I pointed this out to NCDOT, and suggested swapping the red ‘X’ and regular lights, to the right hand left turn lane would be the ‘normal’ lane. The response was this would mess up ‘signt lines’ somehow, which was never a problem for people turning onto Cary Pkwy from either side of Tryon Rd before this ‘Dynamic Turn’ was installed.

    So I still think this was a ‘solution in search of a problem’, whether it actually existed or not.

    Reply

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