Harold’s Blog: COVID Surge, Quarterly Meeting, Pop-Up Art and More

Cary, NC — This week included the last quarterly meeting of the year.

Wake County Mayors Discuss Surge in COVID Cases

Monday I attended a meeting of the Wake County Mayors Association held in Morrisville. In our discussion, we decided that our annual holiday dinner, which was converted to just mayors plus one, should be cancelled and instead hold a normal meeting.

Most of our discussion was centered around the pandemic and what local response should be. Most of the mayors believed it should not be the role of the local government to mandate masks but the role of the state.

We all seemed to be in agreement that education would be key in helping keep the surge down in our region. We also believed that the cases are surging and the worst is yet to come.

Our meeting lasted about 2 1/2 hours.

Cary Road Construction Projects May be Delayed

Wednesday I attended a meeting of the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization’s Executive Board. Most of the presentations were updates and very few decisions were made.

Projects planned that impact Cary include:

  • Aviation Parkway from I-40 to NC 54: Right of Way in 2029, Construction 2031
  • Crossroads Junction: Right of Way and Construction in 2026
  • Holly Springs Road Intersections: right of Way in 2029, Construction 2032
  • NE Maynard Road Railroad Grade Separation: Right of Way 2025, Construction 2028
  • Ten Ten Road: Right of Way 2025, Construction 2028
  • US 64: Right of Way 2026, Construction 2029

It is my belief that these projects will be delayed from the proposed dates.

Updates from Cary Town Council’s Quarterly Meeting

On Thursday, council and staff met for 4 1/2 hours in the last quarterly meeting of the year.

The purpose of the meeting was to get updates from the first fiscal quarter of 2021 and to make any necessary decisions and adjustments. Only the town council and a few staff members were in attendance and socially distant.

Everyone wore masks even when talking. Staff members came in the room only to present and then exited. The meeting was available on audio with eight members of the public tuning in remotely for most of the meeting. These are some of my notes from the topics discussed.

Public Safety

Cary Fire Chief, Mike Cooper.

  • Cary once again received an ISO 1 rating for its fire department. This was based on several factors including our 911 system, communications, and water supply. The rating will allow lower insurance premiums which will be significant savings for businesses and residents. Cary first received this rating in 2015.
  • There has only been one issue related to the election to date and that was at early voting.
  • COVID-19 is rapidly spreading throughout the state.
  • Wake County currently has one of the lowest infection rates in the state and Cary has the lowest infection rate in Wake County. The state is currently working on their vaccination plan which will be forthcoming.


  • FY 2020 came in $17 million under budget. Of that, $16 million will be added to the General Fund.
  • The utility fund was $20 million better than expected which will help avoid future debt and keep rates lower.
  • We have seen better than expected sales tax revenue with July up 11% over the same time last year and August up 1%.
  • Wake County is expected to disperse $2.7 million to Cary from the CARES Act. This is significant since many counties are keeping all the money for themselves. This money will be used to offset expenses directly due to COVID-19.
  • The General Fund now has $15 million of availability beyond our requirements.


  • Trends show more people continue to work from home. Some of that may be permanent. However, people are still looking for more office. Communities that are more suburban, like Cary, are becoming more attractive to corporations. E-Commerce is up resulting in strong retailers picking the best retail spots.
  • Cary’s Town Council has been accused of “approving everything”. Facts show that only 11% of developers choose to go forward with their proposals after meeting with staff. Staff helps applicants understand what the council and community expect in development.


  • One Walker footings are going in
  • Urban Place is clearing land
  • Fenton will be doing foundation work until the end of the year
  • Carolina Yards (old Cary Town Mall) will start demolition on February 1st
  • The Rogers building’s developer agreement is being reviewed
  • The Chatham-Harrison development has agreements signed
  • The Williams House development is doing a good job blending old and new
  • Chatham Walk is close to selling condos
  • Meridian East Chatham is beginning on Hunter Street. This street will eventually connect Chatham and Cedar
  • A parking study is being done on reductions that have been in many recent proposals
  • A study on downtown parking is at the point of data collection

Key Projects and Initiatives

  • The future Recreation Center at Carlina Yards is currently negotiating the price for 2.7 acres. Other contracts are also being negotiated. We are hoping to own the properties by June.
  • The Downtown Park will have construction drawings completed in December. Site planning begins in January with construction starting in the summer of 2021. Park completion is targeted for summer 2023.

Cary’s Environmental Future

Three keys:

  1. Excellence, Innovation, and Stewardship
  2. Uniquely Cary Approach
  3. Strategic Investment
  • Open Space: Data shows that 30% of Cary is already permanently preserved as town open space, HOA open space, buffers, and town parks. That is about 12,000 acres of some of the best land.
  • Recycling continues to be a challenge with many people still not participating. Currently about 50% of collections is diverted from the landfill to recycling. Getting someone to take our recycling continues to be difficult with very few buyers. China used to be the biggest buyer.
  • We will hire an Urban Forestry Manager.
  • Our tree campaign continues with planting in key town owned sites and potentially other sites. Staff will come forward with additional policy recommendations.
  • Green technologies: upgrade more town vehicles to be electrical or hybrid, look for solar opportunities at town hall and USA Baseball.


There are about 500 miles of Cary streets.

Currently Under Construction:

  • Carpenter Fire Station Rail Separation Project is about 60% complete
  • Reedy Creek Road widening is about 20% complete and is expected to be done by the summer of 2022
  • Intersection Improvements include High House & Jenks, Cary Parkway & Waldo Rood, Kildaire & Advent Court and Waldo Rood & MacArthur.

Currently Under Design:

There is approximately 25 miles of street resurfacing.

  • Carpenter Fire Station Road widening is about 80% designed with construction beginning in the spring and completion in the winter of 2022
  • The Louis Stephens Road sidewalk is about 90% designed with construction beginning in late spring

Current Studies:

  • Chapel Hill Road
  • Piney Plains Road
  • Bike Cary Plan
  • Legacy private streets

Higgins Greenway

Construction will begin in the fall of next year. We are currently in the process of easement acquisition.


This will be a paid holiday for town employees.

Transportation Task Force

After a robust debate, council decided to create a task force and reevaluate whether is should be a permanent advisory board sometime in the future.

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:

Manager’s Message to Council

The bulk of my week was spent preparing for yesterday’s quarterly meeting with you all. Thank you again for the time you spent with staff listening and providing guidance on several important topics.

As promised yesterday, the memo that Public Safety Director Allan Cain sent to Mayor Weinbrecht this week can be viewed here, and the article that Council Member Robinson referenced can be read here.

Staff has begun working on action items discussed yesterday and will bring back anything that needs formal approval at a later Council meeting.

I wish you all a safe and wonderful Thanksgiving. There will be no Council Weekly Report or Weekly Operational Report next week because of the holiday. My next message will be on Friday, December 4.


Public Safety Update

Click here for the Public Safety update from Public Safety Director Allan Cain. If you have any questions, please let me know.

In addition, yesterday during Allan’s presentation he said he would share the COVID-19 vaccination 4-phase framework, which can be reviewed here.

Operational Framework & Update

The weekly operational report brings a close to the week’s organizational activities. 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.

  • On Monday, the Wake County Board of Commissioners voted and approved the appointment of Jessica McClure to fill the ETJ seat of the Cary Planning and Zoning Board.
  • Finance expects to receive the auditor opinion on our FY 2020 financial statements this Friday. The auditors have indicated that the opinion will be unmodified or “clean” which means there are no material misstatements/errors within the financial statements.
  • Each November, our Specialized Recreation families participate in a program called “A Night of Giving & Service.” In the spirit of giving and love, we pay it forward as we support various organizations that are doing great work in our community. This year, we offered “A Time of Giving & Service” via our “Let’s Talk” virtual sessions. Laura Morton and Judy Newsome held various sessions to discuss the importance of essential workers while participants made thank you cards for our local essential workers.
  • A draft version of PLANWake, Wake County’s Updated Comprehensive Plan, has been released for public review.
  • A pre-application conference was held this week for property known as the Amberly C Store. The original approved development plan expired last fall so a new development plan is required prior to construction beginning. The plan proposes a convenience store and fuel station as well as a drive-through carwash. If the applicant chooses to move forward, the drive-through carwash will require a Quasi-Judicial Hearing with ZBOA. A timeframe for submittal was not provided at the conference. Staff is currently considering outreach options for the community engaged during the original development plan process.
  • A pre-construction meeting was held on Wednesday for the St. Paul Episcopal Church project. Proceeding the meeting, staff met with members of the church to discuss the development plan and building permit processes to gain an understanding of where the project stalled and how to communicate with each other and their contractors in the future. Next steps for the church will be to have their contactor install the tree protection fence and then the site fence in order to receive their building permit.
  • Cary is one of the twelve Wake municipalities to participate in Wake’s Technical Advisory Committee (TAC). Quarterly meetings focus on our interlocal agreement and solid waste management updates. Discussion at the November 18quarterly meeting touched on a proposed $3-6/ton landfill tip fee increase for FY23. Wake County currently has the third lowest tip fee in the state. There will be several discussions led by Wake County over the next year to determine the fee.
  • Cary is one of thousands of communities across the country to participate in America Recycles Day (ARD) events on or around November 15 each year. While the events around the initiative look different this year, the message is still the same -Recycle more and recycle right 365 days a year. Here’s more information about America Recycles Day.
  • Cary is exploring grant opportunities to offer food waste collection sites in our community. As part of many active composting conversations, we are aware of a new compostable collection project in Preston Village, an effort coordinated by citizens. We are meeting with the project lead to learn more about this exciting initiative and the challenges and success of bringing this service to her neighbors through Compost Now.
  • On Monday, Wake County Commissioners approved Cary’s request to name rooms of the Cary Regional Library after three notable folks from Cary’s history: Walter Hines Page, John Williams Meadows, & Ruth Cathey Fox. Next steps include finalizing the MOU for maintenance and working with HH Architecture to order and install the signage.

Academy Street Artwork Projects

Botanical Lights is a pop-up exhibition of glowing inflatables and tube lights that brighten up the evening sky. Artists Astrobotanicals and Julia Gartrell teamed up to curate this glowing installation that can be viewed both as a drive-by and walk-through experience at the old library site in downtown Cary through the end of November.

The inflatables are colorful towering structures — some reaching 20 ft high — and resemble flowers but not of this world, leaving viewers to their imaginations and sparking creativity.

The installation is a part of a larger series of light installations in downtown Cary called GLOW, which will feature several art pieces and innovative technology throughout the winter months. For more information, visit Galleries & Exhibitions.

Old North State Storytelling Festival

Following the success of the inaugural festival at The Cary Theater in 2019, the North Carolina Storytelling Guild and Cary are presenting the second Old North State Storytelling Festival.

This year’s event offers a series of recorded stories, initially available online for two weeks, November 6 to November 20, but due to popular demand the festival has been extended to November 29 so that families might enjoy it over the Thanksgiving holiday.

Shows are appropriate for all listeners, but new this year is a special family showcase with stories for young ones to enjoy together with their families. Tickets are available through the Old North State Storytelling Festival website.

Digitizing Records

Two OneCary projects to digitize staff’s personnel records and Personnel Transaction Forms (PTFs) are underway now!

Creating electronic workflows and storage will allow us to realize process efficiencies while making records more accessible to those who need them. Our success is the result of cross-departmental collaboration and a willingness to monitor, adapt, and learn as well as pivot and pace along the way.

Daily progress is being made and this week our contracted vendor, Advanced Imaging Systems, picked up 24 selected personnel files to begin some technical testing of digitally converting and filing personnel records.

In addition, staff is in the midst of testing various PTF transactions in our Naviline test environment and using this phase to develop training documentation. Continued testing is expected to continue through the remainder of 2020.

Touring the New MRF in Cary

On Wednesday, Town staff, in a socially distanced way, toured the new Recycle America Waste Management materials recovery facility (MRF) in Cary. This MRF located on Globe Road, is planned to be fully operational by January 2021.

This week, our staff also began bringing several loads to the new site as we work together to transition from their current MRF in Raleigh.

Turn Your F.O.G. Into Fuel

A slogan Cary has used for several years to promote Cary’s free and convenient curbside recycling program for used cooking oil.

Since 2009,Cary has offered citizens this disposal option for used cooking oil, which helps individuals be part of a community effort to both prevent pipe blockages and overflows, and convert used cooking oil into environmentally friendly biofuel.

The program was temporarily halted due to COVID-19 but was started again in September. Through this opportunity, Cary citizens recycle an average of over 1500 gallons of cooking oil per year. To participate in this initiative residents should collect skimmed, cooled oil in a plastic screw-top container and call 311 to schedule a curbside pick-up.

Cary works with Key Energy who recycles the oil into bio-fuel. To complete the circle, Cary’s diesel fuel vehicles operate on a biofuel/diesel blend.

Academy Street Repaving Project

This summer the annual water main replacement project kicked off efforts along North Academy Street, next to Town Hall. The new water main extending from Ambassador Loop to Chapel Hill Road is now in service.

Earlier this week as part of a collaborative effort amongst utilities and transportation engineering staff, the annual street improvements project completed the resurfacing of the entire width of this stretch along Academy Street, leaving it renewed both under and above ground for many years to come.

Awards & Recognitions

Cary was nominated by the Raleigh Internet of Things Organization (RIoT) and received the 2020 NC Technology Association’s Public Sector Project Award for the deployment of our stormwater IoT monitoring and alert solution, as well our regional and statewide data sharing efforts. The award presentation can be found here.

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 Signs Pledge Supporting Small Businesses

This week I signed a proclamation supporting our small businesses which are the backbone of our community. Due to the pandemic they need us now more than ever. Here is my proclamation:

“Proclamation Designating November 28, 2020 as Small Business SaturdayWhereas, Cary celebrates our local small businesses and the contributions they make to our local economy and community; according to the United States Small Business Administration, there are currently 28.8 million small businesses in the United States, they represent 99.7 percent of all businesses with employees in the United States, are responsible for 63 percent of net new jobs created over the past 20 plus years; and

Whereas, small businesses employ over 49 percent of all businesses with employees in the United States; and

Whereas, 89 percent of consumers in the United States agree that small businesses contribute positively to the local community by supplying jobs and generating tax revenue; and

Whereas, 87 percent of consumers in the United States agree that small businesses are critical to the overall economic health of the United States; and

Whereas, 93 percent of consumers in the United States agree that it is important for people to support the small businesses that they value in their community; and

Whereas, Cary supports our local businesses that create jobs, boost our local economy, and preserve our neighborhoods; and

Whereas, small businesses continue to support the community during the pandemic while facing adversity but creatively changing their business operations to serve the public safely and now more than ever small businesses need the support of the public; and

Whereas, advocacy groups as well as public and private organizations across the country have endorsed the Saturday after Thanksgiving as Small Business Saturday.

Now, therefore, be it resolved, I, Mayor Harold Weinbrecht, Jr. and the members of the Town Council hereby proclaim Saturday, November 28, 2020 as Small Business Saturday in the Town of Cary, NC and urge our residents and residents from other communities across the country to support small businesses and merchants on Small Business Saturday and throughout the year.”

Please support our small businesses in this holiday shopping season!

Mayor’s Mailbox

Emails from citizens this week included:

  • Complaints about climate change
  • Complaints about the proposed Dellinger rezoning
  • A complaint about the proposed Higgins Greenway
  • A question about a mobile home development opposite the Kildaire Crossing subdivision
  • Complaints that masks should be a choice
  • A thank you for pointing someone to staff in a church development
  • A request to have a tiered payment structure for garbage and recycling

Next week’s activities are very limited due to the Thanksgiving holiday. The schedule includes staff meetings and a tree lighting ceremony taping.

Well, that is all for this week. My next post will be on Sunday, November 29th.  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. Photos by Ashley Kairis, Hal Goodtree and Town of Cary staff.

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