Harold’s Blog: September 21, 2020

Cary, NC — Activities were slow this week.

Cary Gets Safety Recognition & Celebrates a Birthday

Monday I was notified that Cary has been recognized as the Safest Driving City in North Carolina by Insurify which measured cities with the lowest share of residents with a prior traffic violation statewide. Insurify is an American insurance comparison shopping website headquartered in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Wednesday I had the honor of reading a proclamation honoring Joe Zaytoun’s 100th birthday.

The proclamation read:

Whereas, the longevity of life is a blessing for an individual and for a community which benefits from the knowledge, creativity, and experiences this individual brings to all;

Whereas, one hundred years ago, Joseph Ellis Zaytoun was born on September 14, 1920, in Kinston, NC;

Whereas, Joseph grew up in eastern North Carolina, graduated from the University of North Carolina, and to settle in the Research Triangle, but found his home in Cary for the last 50 years;

Whereas, Joseph has a respectable and admirable past career as a member of the Greatest Generation serving his country as a First Lieutenant in the U.S. Marine Corps with active duty in the South Pacific, Guam, Guadalcanal, and China during WWII

Whereas, Joseph undoubtedly compiled tremendous wisdom throughout his experiences and was able to share that wisdom with others through his role in as a business and community leader,  including being the co-founder and owner of Capital National Bank, founder, and owner of Zaytoun & Associates Inc, a member of Tryon Palace Commission, and dedicated member of St. Andrew Roman Catholic Church.

Whereas, Joseph was a thriving business leader in North Carolina and the insurance industry as a whole, as demonstrated through his career of success, not only in business but also in life.

Whereas, Joseph is a true example of how giving back can be so impactful to others and our community through his participation in numerous civic and cultural organizations, including Director of the Cary Chamber of Commerce and Business Leader of the Year, member of the Rotary Club of Raleigh, and distinguish alumni of the UNC-Chapel Hill;

Whereas Joseph’s most significant accomplishments were not those found on a business resume, but in his personal life, including his marriage of 73 plus years to his wife, Thelma, and the four children they raised with the values of hard work, morality, dedication, and goodwill.

Now, therefore, so it proclaimed, that I, Harold Weinbrecht, Mayor of the Town of Cary and on behalf of the Town Council and all the citizens of Cary, honor Joseph E. Zaytoun for his long life and prosperity, and his dedication and love to our community.

Proclaimed September 14, 2020

I presented the proclamation at his home which was filmed and will be shown at the annual Cary Chamber Banquet.

State Funding Delays US 64 Improvements to 2029

Later in the day, I participated in a meeting of the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization’s Executive Board. The agenda included four consent items, one public hearing, and six discussion items. Most of the items were informational. Of interest to Cary were the delayed projects due to State Transportation funding problems. For example, the US64 improvements have now been delayed from construction beginning in 2025 until 2029. The meeting concluded after about an hour and a half.

Son-in-Law Returns from Deployment

Thursday was a big day for my family. My son-in-law returned home after being deployed for over a year. God bless him and all the soldiers who sacrifice so much so that we can be safe!

Town Manager’s Report

In a pre-COVID-19 meeting, Sean Stegall addresses the Cary Town Council.

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

Manager’s Message to Council

Fit & Able Productions

As previously communicated, this is to follow-up regarding Ms. Alisa Wright Colopy’s September 14 e-mail.

Ms. Colopy’s company, Fit & Able Productions, has several cause runs scheduled for October. These events utilize Cary’s greenway system to avoid using streets and improve runner safety. The first event, Cary Greenway Tour Event, is scheduled for October 3 and has been a partnership between Cary and Fit & Able that utilizes Black Creek and White Oak Greenways.

Last year was the first year for the event and there were about 350 participants, with proceeds from the event supporting Cary’s Play It Forward Scholarship Fund. According to Ms. Colopy there are over 200 now registered for this year’s event.

With the Governor’s directive of no more than 50 for outdoor mass gatherings, and with Cary’s facilities and programs formally closed, we have requested that she manage the initial race virtually.

Fit & Able will be hosting a second event, the Amberly Charity Run, scheduled for October 31. There are expected to be fewer runners at this event. With the race occurring in late October, this will allow staff to work with Ms. Colopy to organize the race in such a manner to insure it meets the Governor’s directive.

Also, in recognition of the difficulty Cary’s remaining closure has had on Fit & Able events, we will provide a $5,000 sponsorship toward the Amberly Race.

It is my understanding that Ms. Colopy is appreciative of our sponsorship and understands the need for our partnership and the initial event to be modified per COVID-19 concerns.

Thanks to Parks, Recreation, and Cultural Resources Director Doug McRainey and his team for being creative in helping resolve this matter.  If you have any questions, please let me know.


Public Safety Update

We have received several inquiries regarding Halloween. While the Town does not regulate Halloween, staff believes there are important messages for citizens who are undecided or who want to participate this year. The Governor’s COVID-19 Task Force has indicated they will produce some guidance and Public Safety Director Allan Cain will share that information next week. After hearing the Task Force’s recommendations, we will develop our Halloween guidance and share in the September 25 Council Weekly Report.

Cary’s Digital Transformation Spotlighted at BoxWorks

On Thursday, nearly 60 Cary staff virtually attended BoxWorks, the annual Box users conference featuring speakers from all industries sharing insights and ideas. Assistant Town Manager/Chief Innovation Officer Dan Ault led a session on government work in the cloud, and Research & Development teammates Danielle Mahoney and Carolyn Roman shared Cary’s digital transformation and adaptive culture in a session about streamlining work across apps. A special thanks to staff who seized the opportunity to learn from home and expand your knowledge to collectively help us better serve our citizens.

Virtual Engagement Opportunity for Bus Rapid Transit

A new virtual engagement webpage was set up for the Western Blvd. Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) corridor, which features several virtual engagement opportunities including background information, status updates on the project, and an overview of the land use capacity analysis, transit-oriented development, and urban design opportunities. There is a virtual Q&A session with the project team on September 30 at 7 p.m. If you would like to provide feedback there is a survey available through October 19.

Also part of the implementation process for the Wake Transit Plan, the City of Raleigh has a public survey underway to receive feedback on branding for BRT throughout the region. The Wake Transit Plan includes four major BRT routes in Raleigh, including the Western route that connects downtown Raleigh with downtown Cary. The branding survey is available until September 27th. Please take five minutes to let your voice be heard!

Operational Framework & Update

This week’s key message and FAQs from Deputy Town Manager Russ Overton was centered around professional development. For Cary to keep evolving, our employees must continue learning, growing, and progressing. Staff was provided a link to the BoxWorks Virtual Conference to watch our very own Dan Ault, Carolyn Roman, and Danielle Mahoney talk about how Box is a key part of our digital transformation and connected platform, and integral in efficiently serving our citizens.

A second resource that was shared was an updated training section on CNET that provides opportunities for self-guided/remote learning. There is no better time to brush up on our skills and knowledge than the present!

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.

  • By the time Hurricane Sally approached Cary, the rainfall accumulation only amounted to 2” in Cary. This is well below the 100-year storm amount of 7 ½” over 24 hours. Recent additional sensors placed in Cary allow staff to monitor rainfall amounts and stream levels in real time virtually, while limiting on-the-ground visual inspections to areas of concern.
  • The external auditors from Cherry Bekaert will begin their focused work on the FY 2020 audit next week.
  • Hillcrest Cemetery will be closed on September 22 for routine maintenance.
  • As September closes out another board year, this is the time we celebrate outgoing members and welcome new faces. Appreciation videos from Council for our Advisory Volunteers will be streamed on September 29, and volunteers are invited to tune in at 6 p.m.to watch the short clips.
  • The global pandemic forced us to re-imagine the annual BEYOND: The Cary Film Festival, so we pivoted to a digital extravaganza for the event from September 24-27. This year we are virtually featuring 30 short films, three workshops, and the prize-winning screenplay, Career Day. For details visit the BEYOND: The Cary Film Festival website.
  • The first round of focus groups met this week gathering input from users and stakeholders with a specific perspective for the Chapel Hill Road Mobility Study. The next round of focus groups will be held September 23 and will include representatives from development, neighborhoods, faith-based organizations and downtown business. In addition, there is a virtual project symposium on September 30 at 5:30 pm to identify common goals and priorities the project. Register for this virtual Project Symposium, and let’s re-imagine Chapel Hill Road together.
  • Construction on the Carpenter Fire Station Road Grade Separation is going vertical! 148 cubic yards of concrete (about 16 sixteen truck) were placed earlier this week to construct the vertical median pier that will support the new CSX Railroad Bridge.
  • Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced the allocation of the remaining $1.988 billion in CARES Act funding for the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program. Cary was awarded an additional $720,175, the tenth-largest allocation for any North Carolina locality! Staff is evaluating potential uses of the additional funding and will make recommendations that meet the funding restrictions.
  • Solid waste crews resumed curbside bulk collections, such as excess cardboard, bulky items, and appliances. This special service by request was suspended in March and is now seeing an average of twenty scheduled pickups a day. An adjustment to the services is that mattresses and box springs are no longer accepted as bulky waste but can still be dropped off for disposal at the Citizen’s Convenience Center.
  • Utilities staff will reach a milestone next week with the completion of our combined Source Water Resiliency and Response and Emergency Response Plans for the water system. The updated and final plans are required by America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018 and the revised NC Source Water Protection Rule. Updating our plans was a true OneCary effort, with a project team that included staff from multiple departments as well as our neighbors in Apex, Morrisville, and Chatham County.
  • Payment plan letters for delinquent utility accounts were finished this week following the COVID-19 delinquency waiver period. A total of $995K was past due on 2,058 accounts. An average account has $483 in delinquent charges, which when spread over twelve months will add about $40 per month to an account holder’s regular monthly bill.
  • This week Chief Dezomits took part in helping to identify the Town of Garner’s next Chief of Police by serving as an assessor for Developmental Associates assessment center and selection process.
  • Cary’s self-response rate for the 2020 Census has increased slightly this week to 78.9%. Local Census office reported challenges with getting information from renters in several Cary apartment complexes. Planning, Marketing & IT staff will work with Project Phoenix to coordinate a “Census Station” at two upcoming mask giveaway events. Federal Courts are determining when the count will end–September 30thor the original date of October 31.

Building a Bridge: Community and Law Enforcement Virtual Conference

On Tuesday evening, Captain Robert Carey participated as a panelist for the “Building a Bridge: Community and Law Enforcement” virtual conference. The event was sponsored by the Raleigh-Apex NAACP, hosted by Raleigh-Apex NAACP President, Gerald Givens, and moderated by Jessica Holmes, District 3, Wake County Commissioner.

Captain Carey was joined in conversation by neighboring law enforcement panelists from Apex, Holly Springs, Garner, Knightdale, Morrisville, Raleigh, the State Capitol, and the North Carolina State Highway Patrol.

Culvert Damage Near 703 Ellynn Drive

Town Manager’s Office staff identified a culvert near 703 Ellynn Drive that has been compromised due to material and age. Upon discovery, Billy Lee and Jan Patterson engaged an engineer to evaluate the location and spoke with immediate neighbors about the potential for road closure.

Yesterday, the location was reevaluated due to the pending storm event and out of an abundance of caution, a small section of Ellynn Drive was closed. Staff is also proceeding to contract for reconstruction of the crossing. If determined that the location will remain closed until it is reconstructed, staff will weigh all options to expediently get a contractor on the ground.

Due to the complexity of multiple types of pipe and conflicts with other utilities, some design work will be required before starting construction. It is anticipated the location could be reconstructed by the end of December. This location was identified as part of our Stormwater Condition Assessment Program. In August and September, Town Manager’s Office and Public Works staff began visual and CCTV examinations to identify culvert crossings within the Maynard loop that may be compromised due to material and age.

This is the next phase of proactive stormwater work beyond the Walnut Creek Pilot area. The Ellynn Drive location is part of the Swift Creek Watershed. Similar to the Walnut Creek Watershed Pilot area, modeling work has also been initiated within parts of the Swift Creek Watershed.

Crabtree-Hatcher Creek Greenway Now Open

The last link in Morrisville’s Crabtree-Hatcher Creek Greenways opened Friday (September 4) with completion of the trail under the new NC Railroad bridge next to NC 54.This connects Cary’s Crabtree Creek Greenway and the two segments Morrisville built in 2018 to create a scenically diverse trail extending approximately 4.5 miles from Black Creek Greenway at Lake Crabtree to Davis Drive near Morrisville Community Park.

Ambitious travelers can continue south on Davis Drive’s streetside trail to its junction with White Oak Creek Greenway. From there they can head east for a15.25-mile loop via White Oak (through Cary’s new trail tunnel at Davis Drive Park!) and Black Creek Greenways, or head west to the American Tobacco Trail and beyond. Parking locations near this new segment include the Old Reedy Creek Rd Trailhead, Cedar Fork District Park, and Morrisville Community Park.

Dynamic Left Turn Intersection

Recently, the Regional Transportation Alliance released a report, developed by an engineering consultant, on the initial impacts of the Dynamic Left Turn Intersection at Cary Pkwy and Tryon Rd. Based on the findings, the new timing method has already paid for itself in delay cost savings.

This is simply based on the ability to allow left-turn drivers to turn on a flashing yellow arrow rather than waiting to turn on a green arrow only. Current traffic volumes have not returned to pre-COVID levels, so a final analysis on the total impact can’t be provided at this time. The project construction cost was approximately $35,000 with the report noting cost savings to the public due to reduced delay is around $86,000 per year. Additionally, the report looked at compliance rates for the closed left-turn lane. Based on visual observations, a compliance rate of 83% is estimated.

This means 17% of drivers are still using the closed left-turn lane despite the signs and boards in use. Cary Police Department will be working the area ensure compliance rates. A final decision on the status of the project has not been rendered. NCDOT will consider the initial report findings now and consider a decision in the near future.

North Cary Water Reclamation Facility Aeration Improvement

Construction is actively underway on the NCWRF Aeration Improvements Project. Capital upgrades for the facility will enhance the facility’s aeration systems, replace outdated equipment, and improve operational flexibility.

This project invests in the future of NCWRF by modernizing the facility and setting the stage for a future rerating to 15-MGD when needed. This past week, our contractor, Crowder Construction Inc. completed a major concrete pour to form the foundation of the new blower building as shown.

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:

Mayor’s Mailibox

Emails from citizens this week included:

  • A complaint about not allowing the use of town facilities in the pandemic
  • A complaint about noise in downtown because “the deck would attract all kinds of people with what has to be illegally loud mufflers”
  • Several requests to deny a rezoning for multi-family at Cary Parkway and Evans Road
  • A complaint that the town manager’s portion of my blog was not clearly separated from my comments
  • A thank-you for declaring Historic Preservation month
  • A question about whether Halloween will be observed in Cary (see notes in town manager’s report)
  • A complaint that a proposed LDO Amendment would not allow cottages

Next week’s activities include staff meetings, a meeting of the Wake County Mayors Association, a Volunteer Appreciation taping, and the last regularly scheduled council meeting of the month.

Well, that is all for this week. My next post will be on Sunday, September 27th.  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 [email protected] and email personal comments to [email protected].

From the blog of Cary Mayor Harold Weinbrecht. Crabtree-Hatcher Creek Greenway photo by Vicki Scroggins-Johnson. Other photos by Town of Cary and Ashley Kairis. 

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2 replies
  1. Len NIeman
    Len NIeman says:

    Regarding the ‘Dynamic Left Turn’, “This means 17% of drivers are still using the closed left-turn lane despite the signs and boards in use.”

    From direct observation almost all of those people are either turning right into the Wellington Park Shopping Center or Thurston Drive to access the BP gas station. Having to shift to the right lane of Cary Pkwy after making the ‘dynamic left’ from Tryon Rd often brings them into conflict with ‘right on red’ drivers from the opposite direction of Tryon Rd, as well as drivers pulling out of the shopping center who thought they were going down the left lane of Cary Parkway.

    • Mark Neill
      Mark Neill says:

      I second this emotion…if the intent was to allow left turn on flashing yellow arrows, then I don’t understand the point of regularly closing one of the two left turn lanes, that can’t be used for anything but left turns only.

      It’s not like this intersection is similar to Edwards Mill at the arena, where traffic can be dynamically flowed across 5 lanes (normally 2 each way and a center) to allow for more lanes in or out during events…it’s always a left turn lane, whether it’s active at the time or not. Why not just make it always active?

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