Harold’s Blog: August 31, 2020

Cary, NC — This week consisted only of a couple of meetings.

Tuesday – A Meeting on Climate Change

Tuesday I joined council member Smith in a meeting with three citizens on Climate Change. We discussed some of the things the town is doing including the review of the Environmental Advisory Board’s recommendations. They believed we should act in a more urgent matter. We agreed to keep working together and discussing issues.

Friday – Mayors talk COVID, Policies and Funding

Friday I participated in a meeting of the North Carolina Metro Mayors. Here is the Executive Director’s summary of that meeting:

COVID Update – Governor’s Office

  • Governor Cooper rolled out a program to assist with rental and utility payments.
  • Most of the guidance on the $175M is still being developed (and waiting on US HUD to release the funds). One exception is non-entitlement community funds – see below.
  • $28M of HUD CDBG-CV funds are available beginning next week – for non-entitlement communities (<50,000) should receive guidance of these funds soon (will be emailed to MMC eligible cities under separate cover)
  • Governor Cooper has not signaled what changes will be made (if any) for the restrictions under “Phase 2.5,” which ends on September 11.

General State Legislative UPDATE

Quick Overview for September 2nd

  • The General Assembly returns on September 2nd at noon and is expected to adjourn Sine Die (no plan to return) on Thursday September 3rd.
  • According to SJR870, the topics discussed will be limited to bills that appropriate federal funds (an estimated $540 or more of Federal CARES to still needed to be appropriated), plus bills that provide for action on appointments by the General Assembly, and bills that provide for action on gubernatorial nominations or appointments.
  • North Carolina has collected $457M more than expected in taxes this FY. The General Assembly has announced that it has no intention of spending this money until next year.

Transportation – Continued Budget Crisis

  • The North Carolina Department of Transportation has reduced project planning and consolidated their project spending in order to stabilize their revenue.
  • The General Assembly had previously set aside $300M from Federal CARES Act for DOT based on the hope Congress grant greater flexibility for the use of the funds as revenue replacement. Since Congress has not done that, it is likely that the General Assembly will be distribute the $300M for uses other than DOT.
  • Transit System monies (SMAP) were zeroed out this year due to the significantly higher amount of Federal FTA transit COVID relief funds, that more than replaced SMAP state funds.
  • Remind your delegation that it is important to restore state transit/SMAP funding next year.

Public Safety

Speaker Moore’s Task Force on Justice, Law Enforcement, and Community Relations

Governor’s NC Task Force for Racial Equity and Criminal Justice

  • Speaker Moore and Governor Cooper have each created Task forces centered around finding solutions for inequality and injustices that occur in our state.
  • Mayor Mitch Colvin (Fayetteville) is a member of Governor Cooper’s Task Force.

Economic Development

Foreclosure Prev./Rental and utility Assistance H1200 – help individuals with overdue mortgages, rent and utilities (original proposal was $200m) – see the attached handout developed by a broad coalition of partners supporting this legislation.

  • This legislation continues to have some momentum behind it going into next week’s session.
  • Governor Cooper’s Executive Action to help with rent and utilities (using HUD and other funds) announced on Monday may reduce excitement in the General Assembly for this.  The Senate Leadership had never indicated interest, while in the House it has bipartisan support and Republican leadership has publicly supported the bill.
  • Continue mentioning this to your local delegation as a need for the cities.

Local Revenues/ Local Control

  • Local Sales Tax Collections, especially in rural areas, have exceeded expectations.
  • This has been largely attributed to an increase in unemployment benefits and the one-time $1200 payment from the Federal Government, both of which have expired (smaller increase in UIC expected to be available for a few weeks).

Federal Funding Update

  • There has been no further action in Congress, but there is a continued conversation on another round of federal aid, likely at the end of September.
  • Keep talking to your Congressional delegation about the need for additional aid directly to municipalities.
  • Metro Mayors did not receive a reply from Senator Tillis or Burr to our July 27 letter.

Special Discussion on How Cities are Handling Halloween Activities

  • Discussion – there appear to be two large issues at hand: large events and neighborhood events and activities.
  • Very Large Events – how to handle large community events – both formal and informal.
  • Neighborhood events and door-to-door – how to communicate on safe practices for trick-or-treating or trunk-or-treating.

Each of the mayors agreed that it would be wise to wait until the end of September for more information from NC DHHS and our local health departments before charting a path for a safer Halloween. The NC DHHS Secretary suggests waiting for more research and study, using updated data, before charting a path forward on the popular festivities and practices associated with Halloween.

We will schedule a zoom meeting on September 25 to hear from experts and use more current data for Halloween planning discussions amongst our cities.

Town Manager’s Report

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

Manager’s Message to Council

Yesterday I had the pleasure of hosting an All Hands with staff and was joined by co-host Cultural Arts Manager William Lewis. I provided an update from the quarterly Council meeting and answered questions that were submitted in advance. During the Webex session I made the formal announcement that with trends continuing to go in the wrong direction, employees should continue to work in the same way they are today through February 28, 2021. This announcement was combined with my thought on shifting from a short-term to a long-term mindset.

In other weekly news, Assistant Planning Director Debra Grannan who leads our Census initiative arranged for a Census sign distribution push, which will begin this weekend and continue next week. There will be 1,500 additional signs placed throughout Cary. You will begin to see these signs placed in the Department of Transportation Right-of-Way and at Town facilities. In addition to the sign placement effort, our Project Phoenix officers continue to go door-to-door encouraging residents to fill out the survey. Thank you to Council Member Ya Liu for encouraging us to ramp up our marketing of the Census in hopes of boosting our response rate.

Enjoy your weekend and stay safe,

Sean

Property Located at Earnest Jones Road

Earlier in the week, I announced the purchase of property located at Earnest Jones Road and committed to providing additional information in the weekly report.

After a year’s effort, the Town of Cary in August 2020 purchased 217.07 acres of former farmland along Earnest Jones Road in Chatham County. Cary plans to eventually use the land for recreational activities and open space preservation.

The site consists of woodlands, agricultural fields, a portion of Indian and Turtle creeks. It is located along Earnest Jones Road, between Yates Store Road and Mount Pisgah Church Road in Chatham County. The site also abuts a Town-owned site on New Hope Church Road and is close to the American Tobacco Trail.

The property was owned by Donna Kay Roach, James Ray Robertson, and Joe Ervin Robertson. David Ferrell of Chatham East, LLC represented the sellers and brought the opportunity to the Town of Cary. The land sale and assignment fee for the acquisition totaled $13,619,174.80.

The purchase was made possible by the voter-approved 2019 Shaping Cary’s Tomorrow Bond Referendum. For more information on future use visit the project webpage.

Homicide Investigation

On the afternoon of Thursday, August 27, Cary Police officers responded to a report of shots fired in the Somerset community in western Cary. Officers located a man with gunshot wounds in the vicinity of the community pool on Connemara Drive. Unfortunately, the victim had succumbed to his injuries. This event marks Cary’s first homicide of 2020.

While we mourn collectively with the community at this loss, I have confidence in our police department and its leadership.  Their full attention is being applied to this case and every investigative lead is being pursued. We appreciate the Council’s support and will provide updates when we are able to throughout this ongoing investigation.

Emergency Operations Center (EOC) Weekly Report

Click here for the EOC/COVID-19 weekly update. If you have any questions, please let me know. Notes from the update include:

  • A total of 13 PD compliance calls were reported between 8/20 and 8/26 with two 2 related to masks. There were also five 311 COVID cases from 8/20 to 8/26.
  • Cases in Cary: 1,191, up 132 from 1,059, or 12.5%, since Aug. 21 (as of 8/27at 4:30 PM)
  • Although Cary has the second-highest population among the municipalities, Cary now has the fewest per capita COVID-19 cases — 6.93 per 1,000 residents.

Operational Framework & Update

This week in the weekly operational framework team email from Deputy Town Manager Russ Overton, staff was encouraged to tune into Sean’s Virtual All Hands. Staff was also asked to consider participating in a professional learning opportunity developed by the Organizational Development Team for employees to learn about COVID-19 and other societal forces to improve the organization and the lives of of Cary residents.

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

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

  • Cary’s Hometown Spirit Award nomination period opened on August 26 and will remain open through September 23. If you know of someone deserving in the community, we encourage you to nominate them! The nomination form, criteria, and details can be found at townofcary.org/spirit.
  • This week wraps up our first full month of virtual advisory boards and commission meetings. Feedback was overwhelming positive with many members appreciating that the Town had taken on the new way of conducting meetings to allow their work to continue and members to interact with each other. The number of public viewers was different for each meeting.
  • Staff and Wake County Board of Elections staff will be conducting site visits to our two early voting locations, Herb Young Community Center and Senior Center, during the week of September 14.
  • The Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) Assessment project is underway, and interviews are going well. The interview groups have excellent participation and attitudes with energy and enthusiasm for change.
  • Construction of two traffic signals in western Cary commenced this week with field meetings between Cary staff and contractor LMJ. The two locations are McCrimmon Pkwy at Highcroft Dr and Green Hope School Rd at Green Level Church Rd. The McCrimmon Pkwy at Highcroft Dr traffic signal will feature fiber optic communication, CCTV installation, and pedestrian signals to help accommodate the high number of students who cross there traveling to Panther Creek High School. Staff is hopeful to have the installation completed prior to Wake County Public Schools allowing students back into physical classrooms.
  • Earlier this month, Minimum Housing Officer Darrell Parnell worked with the property owners of 914 E. Chatham St., 110 Nowell Creek Ct., and 120 Nowell Creek Ct. to voluntarily demo three houses that had deteriorated beyond repair.
  • The Bond Park Comfort Station #2 project is completed and has received Certificate of Occupancy. The project included the addition of two accessible family bathrooms and replaced the original, 30-year-oldplumbing fixtures with commercial type fixtures. Additional scope of work included replacement of all asphalt sidewalks with new concrete sidewalks. Specific areas were regraded to improve stormwater conditions and accessibility to the facility.
  • The Chapel Hill Road Steering Committee held their second meeting this week. The group reviewed responses to the Needs & Priorities Survey, which has had over 700 participants to date. The survey will remain open for public input until September 21. The Town’s consultants, Stantec and Alta, also presented a Neighborhood Gap Analysis and facilitated discussion on ways to improve pedestrian access from the corridor to downtown Cary and nearby elementary schools. In the next month, we’ll begin meeting with focus groups and hold a project symposium (virtual public meeting) from 5:30-7:00 p.m. on Wednesday, September 30th.
  • On Friday, July 31 Cary Senior Center staff began making Senior Check-In Calls with the purpose of connecting and engaging our senior population. In two weeks, a total of 928 calls were made. Call duration lasted from 3-5 minutes with some of the longer calls reaching 20-45 minutes. There have been 20 voicemails left on the Senior Center main line, thanking the town for this initiative. The recipients have been greatly appreciative and have shared their experiences during this time. The most common questions asked have been; “When is the Senior Center reopening”, “When the Senior Center reopens, will it be safe?” and “What virtual program options do you have?”

Divine 9 for Social Justice Event

On Saturday, August 22, the Police Department welcomed members of the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity to Town Hall Campus. The fraternity’s Cary Chapter, Xi Mu Mu, partnered with Noble Aspirations Foundation to host the “Divine 9 for Social Justice -A Service Over Self Movement” event in Downtown Cary. The event was highlighted by guest speakers from the Divine 9 as well as a march from Town Hall to the Downtown fountain.

The purpose of the event was to bring awareness to social justice initiatives and the disparities that minorities face when interacting with the police.

The group’s organizer, Michael Wright invited Captain Robert Carey to serve as one of the guest speakers and to offer remarks about the Town’s initiatives in support of the 8 Can’t Wait campaign.

Hampton Valley Way Near Farmington Woods Elementary Pilot Project

Cary Police Department reached out to Transportation & Facilities to discuss safety issues where vehicles are crossing the yellow centerline in the northbound direction creating conflicts with opposing southbound traffic. In the past this created a need for constant police surveillance to deter this type of behavior during morning drop-off and afternoon pick-up at Farmington Woods Elementary.

Through adaptive collaboration, Police, Transportation and Public Works partnered together to create a pilot project to test the effectiveness of traffic calming delineators installed in the middle of the existing yellow centerline, affixed to the road. These devices are approximately 30 inches long and 3.5 inches high and will provide a reminder to drivers to not cross the centerline. Also, additional traffic signs will be installed as another visual reminder.

Bike Cary Survey 2.0

Husband and wife Stephan and Pamela Yannoni take a Friday afternoon ride along the Black Creek Greenway.

The new Bike Cary website launch in May inviting public comment on a strategic bike design guide brought in over 1,200 survey responses from Cary citizens. We heard from the community that they identified as frequent bike riders; with 91% of respondents telling us they ride their bike at least daily or weekly.

Exercise and fun were listed as the two primary reasons for riding, followed by work and shopping. Several of the hurdles reported to riding more frequently included traffic and not enough bike facilities. This week, the second phase of the community survey is being released.

The focus for this round of questions is learning about individual rider experiences. The survey specifically asks residents to identify the places they want to visit by bike, and to understand where they may experience gaps or barriers preventing them from doing so. With this additional information, we can begin to identify specific locations and improvements that may allow citizens to choose bike trips over car trips and provide the greatest impact for the community.

The bike pilot program will allow us to test bike facility installations at several of these identified locations and use community feedback to refine facilities prior to permanent installation. The survey will be available through September; social media and Cary publications will be used to reach out to the community.

Annual Wastewater Report

This week, Cary’s 2019-2020 Annual Wastewater Report was released electronically to citizens and wastewater utility customers. The annual report is created to keep citizens and customers informed of programs related to the operation, maintenance, and performance of the Town’s wastewater collection and treatment systems. The annual report is also a regulatory requirement of the Town’s state issued wastewater collection system and water reclamation facility permits.

The 2019/2020 Annual Wastewater Report is located on the Town’s website as well as in hard copy form. We are pleased to report that during the 2019-2020 reporting period, there were no permit compliance violations at any of our three water reclamation facilities which treated and conveyed more than 6.8 billion gallons of wastewater for the year. Our wastewater treatment facilities continued to provide high quality treated wastewater for returning to our receiving streams as well as for beneficial reuse as reclaimed water.

Let’s Talk Virtual Gatherings

Connection and social interaction area necessity for all of us, but especially for our friends who have disabilities. Laura Morton and Judy Newsome are enjoying finding creative ways to keep our Specialized Recreation group engaged. Last week, our group joined virtually to eat ice cream, play trivia and chat with friends.

These virtual social gatherings are part of our “Let’s Talk” series that are offered through Webex meetings. We meet for an hour and focus on different topics/activities. We offer more than one session throughout the week so that we can accommodate everyone who is interested in participating and to make our time more manageable since we all enjoy talking.

This is a time for learning, having fun and connecting with our friends. Our families are extremely appreciative.

Additional Information of Interest

We found the following articles to be particularly interesting this week and wanted to share with you for your reading pleasure:

How to Make Rational Decisions in the Face of Uncertainty, Harvard Business Review
Preparing Your Mind for Uncertain Times, The Atlantic

Cary Wins Award for Water

This week it was announced that Cary received the Smart Cities award for water. Here was what was said about Cary for this award:

“Public and private partners are working together on a regional basis to create vendor-agnostic architecture guidelines, common data sets, and recommendations for responsible use of their city data.

The partners felt that regional water level monitoring was the best initial use case because heavy rain events impact all communities; their effects are not contained within political boundaries, and these communities are in the process of exploring and/or installing technology that provides real-time data associated with these events.

This real-time vendor-agnostic data sharing architecture model improves regional and statewide situational awareness, reduces property loss, improve safety and mobility, allows for more proactive response, reducing the amount of time required to respond to a stormwater emergency, enhances data-driven mitigation and infrastructure decisions, and improves prediction.”

Thanks to all the great men and women who have contributed to making our water system the best in North America.

Cary is looking for nominations for the Town’s 2020 Hometown Spirit Award! The annual award recognizes a citizen who enhances the quality of life in Cary by preserving, promoting, and carrying out positive and quantifiable small-town community values and traits. Cary citizens can submit nominations from August 26 to September 23, 2020. Make your nomination today.

Concerns, Complaints and a Thank You

Emails from citizens this week include:

  • Concerns about a traffic paving project in Picardy Pointe
  • A complaint about closed Athletic Facilities
  • A request for a greenway between Preston Village Way and Stephens Drive
  • A complaint about repaving and fiber optic installation in the Excaliber subdivision
  • A concern about pedestrian safety at the Cary Parkway and Silverridge crosswalk
  • A thank you to all the essential workers especially those involved in collecting trash, recyclables, and yard waste
  • A concern from fitness operators that gyms are still closed
  • A concern that the downtown park pond will be in the shape of a phallic symbol
  • A complaint that an HOA will not allow solar panels (the town can’t override these types of homeowner rules)
  • A concern that protests around the nation will cause me to not support the police (Absolutely ridiculous! I support our chief and department 100%!)

Next week’s activities will include staff meetings, a virtual meeting on food waste, a virtual meeting of the Economic Development Committee and a briefing on the Triangle Bikeway proposal.

Get in Touch

Well, that is all for this week. My next post will be on Sunday, September 6th. 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. Images from Town of Cary, Ashley Kairis and the Governor’s public Facebook.

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1 reply
  1. George McDowell
    George McDowell says:

    This is from The Onion, isn’t it?

    ““Public and private partners are working together on a regional basis to create vendor-agnostic architecture guidelines, common data sets, and recommendations for responsible use of their city data.

    The partners felt that regional water level monitoring was the best initial use case because heavy rain events impact all communities; their effects are not contained within political boundaries, and these communities are in the process of exploring and/or installing technology that provides real-time data associated with these events.

    This real-time vendor-agnostic data sharing architecture model improves regional and statewide situational awareness, reduces property loss, improve safety and mobility, allows for more proactive response, reducing the amount of time required to respond to a stormwater emergency, enhances data-driven mitigation and infrastructure decisions, and improves prediction.”

    Reply

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