Harold’s Blog: Epic Games at Cary Towne Center, Economic Forecast, U.S. Capitol Assault and More

Cary, NC — It has been a few weeks since I posted, and a lot has happened.

The holidays have come and gone as we said goodbye to the dumpster fire of a year, 2020. Our democracy was assaulted as thugs stormed the Capital building in Washington. And the pandemic is running rampant as infections and deaths are at an all-time high.

Epic Games Purchases Cary Towne Center Site

On January 3rd Epic Games announced that it will build its global headquarters on the 87-acre site of the Cary Towne Center mall. Epic Games is the leading interactive entertainment company and provider of 3D engine technology. They created and own Fortnite, one of the world’s largest games with over 350 million accounts and 2.5 billion friend connections. We are so proud that Epic has chosen Cary for their corporate headquarters.

Monday I did interviews with ABC11, WRAL, CBS17, and the News and Observer, on the Epic Games announcement. My message was that this is a big win for Cary. I believe Epic’s commitment to our community will do several things:

  • Bring specific programming talent, jobs, and similar businesses to our community
  • Help Cary get recognized on a global scale
  • Energize our Eastern Gateway helping businesses in Fenton and the struggling adjacent shopping centers that exist on two sides of the property
  • Become a great corporate citizen that will benefit our community for years to come having an impact similar to that of SAS Institute

Economist Gives Outlook for 2021 in Chamber Event

Wednesday, I participated in a Cary Chamber zoom call to hear the economic outlook from N.C. State Economist Michael Walden. Once again, I was very impressed with the amount of information and analysis. Some of the takeaways:

  • We are in a recession for the unique reason of COVID-19.
  • April was the worst month for job loss in the Triangle. Since then, we have recovered about 95% of our jobs.
  • We have been outperforming the state and nation in total employment since September.
  • Barber shops, salons, fitness, restaurants, hotels and travel continue to suffer.
  • Most of the jobs lost were low paying jobs.
  • North Carolina is in better shape than most states for GDP growth.
  • The triangle is doing better than the state and nation with an unemployment rate of 5.7%. We won’t get back to the pre-pandemic unemployment rate of 3.8% for several years.
  • By being forced to do most everything virtually, we have advanced technology many years. Post-pandemic workplaces will not be like pre-pandemic in many businesses.
  • We are fortunate to live in an area that is more recession-proof than other areas of the state and nation.

Moving Forward After the US Capitol Building Assault

Wednesday afternoon I watched in disbelief as a mob assaulted the U.S. Capital.

While I could talk for days about my feelings on this and who should be held accountable, I would instead like to make a few statements about moving forward. As a people, we must stop demonizing people that don’t think or look like we do and should instead look for similarities rather than differences.

We must stop believing what we see on social media as the truth. We must respect each other and understand that we are all different and unique. And that is a good thing! Finally, it is only through respect and understanding that we will reach our potential as a society.

Mask Up, Cary!

Thursday I did a taping for MaskUp Cary to promote wearing masks. PLEASE wear masks whenever you are in public. This IS our new norm for at least several more months.

Town Manager’s Report

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

Manager’s Message to Council

The beginning of a new year typically brings a newfound sense of optimism and hope for me. But the tragic events this past week at and inside of our nation’s Capital are making that incredibly challenging today as I write.

I want you to know that while we all continue to ensure Town business continues, we do so with an eye focused on the state of our democracy, the state of our country. We can’t be the people you expect us to be without being affected by these events. As I know each of you well, I suspect you cannot, either.

While we stand united in the foundation of the American Constitution and the incredible work of our founding fathers, our democracy protects our ideals and beliefs; allowing us to co-exist in a free nation. Transition is upon us and together we uphold the facts we know to be true.

The Weekly Report doesn’t allow for a meaningful dialogue, but I felt that it was important to call out, to name what’s happening to us, and to say that paying attention to what’s going on isn’t just okay – it’s important to who we are as public servants.

Sean

NCLM Advocacy Goals

I’m looking forward to discussing the North Carolina League of Municipalities (NCLM) Advocacy Goals at our work session next week. Council will have the opportunity to select ten of the proposed goals and Jennifer Robinson, as our NCLM delegate, will cast the Council’s vote on priorities. Feedback from this discussion will also inform Cary’s Legislative Agenda, which will be brought to Council next month.

Downtown Park Progress Update

In addition to the building permit being approved to construct the Downtown Park Office on the lower level of the Cary Regional Library, the infrastructure development plan for the Downtown Cary Park was approved this week. This plan allows for initial grading and below-ground utility work to commence on the park. Plans for the project can be viewed via our electronic review portal by searching Downtown Cary Park.

Public Safety Update

We continue to deal with a pandemic, which North Carolina saw its largest number of cases just this week. Public Safety Director Allan Cain shared an update following Governor Cooper’s COVID-19 task force press briefing on Wednesday. There are no other updates to report at this time.

Operational Framework & Update

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

  • Each year on January 1, employees who have reached a new age bracket may see a change to their voluntary life insurance premium. Staff adjusted rates for employees and reached out to each person impacted – adjustment will be reflected on the January 8 paycheck. An annual voluntary audit was also conducted to ensure accuracy in rates.
  • This week, HR launched its 2021 Paper Trail project with the objective of converting all internal paperwork into digital documentation and then storing all files electronically.
  • On December 30, the 1.17-acre lot that had been proposed as the relocation site for the Nancy Jones House was conveyed to the Town of Cary. This allows for the relocation process to move forward, including finalizing contracts, site preparation, and scheduling the date of the house move, which is anticipated to occur in the spring.
  • The North Carolina Women’s Affordable Housing Network (NCWAHN) has elected Morgan Mansa as Board Chair of the organization. NCWAHN is a statewide organization that connects women from all sectors of the housing industry through professional development, data sharing, and financial partnerships. This is a great opportunity to learn about housing best practices in North Carolina and elevate the work and model we have created in Cary.
  • A kickoff meeting was held for the Town Hall Campus Solar Feasibility Study. Over the next several months, Pisgah Energy will evaluate the feasibility for solar panels on the rooftops of Town Hall Buildings A, B, C, D, the Herb Young Community Center and adjacent parking structure, the non-historic portion of the Page-Walker building, and the Fire Administration building. The study includes an analysis of existing energy use, a site investigation and preliminary structural assessment, estimated potential for carbon reduction, 30-year lifecycle cost analysis, and a budgetary estimate. The final study report is expected in March.
  • The December 2020 Development Pulse Report is available.
  • Juliet Andes was elected to chair CAMPO’s Technical Coordinating Committee (TCC)for a 3rd term. The TCC is comprised of staff from 30 local jurisdictions and transportation agencies who provide general review, guidance and coordination of comprehensive transportation planning process in the Capital Urban Area.
  • As part of our ongoing collaboration with The Reserve neighborhood, a community survey was developed to receive comments and concerns about traffic calming on Edgemore Avenue. We received over 2,100 responses by more than 137 concerned neighbors. Staff is currently reviewing the responses and will reach back out to the community to discuss the results.
  • On January 6, members of the police department’s command staff were able to attend a live webinar hosted by the International Association of Chief’s of Police (IACP). This webinar was a “Conversation with Dr. Anthony Fauci” who discussed the importance of the vaccinations and provided strategies and insights on how officers should be vaccinated. He further emphasized the importance of continuing to wear masks and following exposure procedures post-vaccination.
  • The Environmental Protection Agency announced its Lead and Copper Rule revisions. While Cary has always remained in compliance with previous provisions, there are many new requirements such as the development of a lead service line inventory for the entire system which includes identifying the pipe material on the property owner’s side of the meter. Other changes include a 24-hour notification requirement if lead is found above a certain level and a requirement to test schools and childcare facilities. Utility staff has been expecting the release of the new rules and has been coordinating with industry leaders. Over the next few months utility staff will study the 409-pagedocument and begin preparing to meet the 2024 compliance date.
  • Recent sewer line inspections revealed a section of 8-inchsewer line on Edinburgh South Drive that required an expedited repair due to a partial line collapse. Given the depth of the sewer line and other surrounding utilities, North American Pipeline Management Incorporated was hired to replace two sections of pipeline totaling 50 feet.
  • Pump station and pipeline improvement project are now complete on Nelson Road and Pleasant Grove Church Road near the RDU International Airport. Just prior to the Christmas holiday, Moffat Pipe Incorporated replaced air release valves and concrete manhole structures on buried discharge pipe and replaced aging pipes and valves in the pump station. A new pipe connection was also installed at the pump station to allow the use of a temporary portable pump as a backup in emergency situations.

Cary’s LAPP Grants Recommended for Funding

This week CAMPO staff recommended two Cary projects receive $5.88 Million in LAPP grants to the Technical Coordinating Committee (TCC).

  • NW Cary Parkway Pedestrian Bridge: Build a pedestrian bridge over the Black Creek on the north side of Cary Parkway.
  • Carpenter Fire Station Road Widening: Construction funding to widen approximately 1 mile of Carpenter Fire Station (CFS) Road from NC 55 to Cameron Pond Dr. Note: Cary previously received a LAPP grant for this project’s right-of-way phase.

The recommended grants will be presented to CAMPO’s Executive Board later this month for their review, and then both groups will vote on the LAPP grants in February.

Trivia Tuesday Goes Virtual

Trivia Tuesday is one of many virtual programs offered by PRCR. Unlike the formal registration process, individuals show up virtually at the designated time and participate as they would if they were going out to enjoy trivia night at a restaurant, brewery, or bar. During the kick-off, 57 participants joined in competing to be the fastest to answer questions correctly. This marked the most successful night of trivia so far. In October, the average attendance was 12 with total participation of 50 for the four nights combined. Trivia Tuesdays occur every Tuesday at 7:30pm.

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 Mailbox

Emails from citizens this week and previous weeks included:

  • Dozens of emails asking the council to stop the fencing in Umstead park by the RDUAA. (We are not the decision-makers and we have advocated for our citizens)
  • A complaint about “car gunning noises” coming from the downtown parking deck
  • A request to send every citizen a plasticized card on recycling
  • A request to allow spectators at the WakeMed Soccer Park for XC athletic events
  • A complaint about the Cary Towne Center being sold (We are not the property owners and have no authority to stop a sale)
  • Cut and paste emails from social media demanding all Covid-19 restrictions be removed (We don’t have authority and that would be as reckless and dangerous as drinking and driving)
  • A request to use the Cary Senior Center as a vaccination hub (we are requesting that and other locations in Cary be used)
  • A request that all vaccinations should be voluntary (I think it is voluntary, but I will certainly take the vaccination)
  • A complaint that some council members are flagging emails from email campaigns as junk
  • A complaint about the loss of trees
  • Requests to condemn white supremacy and restrict gun rights (I always have and always will condemn white supremacy. Gun restrictions must come from the state and federal governments. We don’t have that authority)
  • A request to stop growth (We have grown at 2% for over 12 years. We do not have the authority to stop growth nor should we. Every property owner should have the right to build on their property. BTW, this area/region will double in population within the next 25 to 30 years)

Next week will be one of the busiest weeks I have had in quite some time. Activities include a virtual meeting with Congressional leader Deborah Ross, several staff meetings, a meeting with Jim and Ann Goodnight, a work session on NCLM goals, and the first regularly scheduled council meeting of the year.

Well, that is all for this week. My next post will be on Sunday, January 17th.  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 augustanat@mindspring.com.


From the blog of Cary Mayor Harold Weinbrecht. Images from Town of Cary.

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2 replies
  1. Brent
    Brent says:

    Mr. Mayor:

    Agreed that Epic Games redeveloping Cary Towne Center is a good thing.

    Agreed about moving forward as a nation.

    Agreed that Cary needs to mask up.

    Why would a card that encourages recycling be plasticized? Plastic is a big part of the problem.

    Vaccinations are voluntary, although employers can require them.

    White supremacy must always be condemned.

    Cary could encourage the state to pass common-sense gun laws.

    Thanks for all you do and for sharing via your blog.

    Reply
  2. George McDowell
    George McDowell says:

    Dear Mr. Mayor,

    I respectfully suggest, in order to avoid the Tragedy of the Commons, that property owners have the right to build on their property ONLY as long as they are held to the reciprocal obligation to keep pollution that their activities cause at net zero.

    When A chops down a mature tree, B through Z must plant other trees to make up for the loss of pollution extraction and oxygen production. If they don’t, air pollution increases.

    Tomorrow’s [Jan. 13] air quality in Cary is predicted [by the NC Division of Air Quality] to be “moderate pollution,” 60 ppm particle pollution. This is the 2.5 micron pollution that is harmful to all lungs, not just those of the very young and very old. Thursday’s prediction is also for “moderate pollution” [60 ppm]. Friday’s is for 55 ppm, also moderate pollution. And the population increase that you predict means in stark terms that there are five more cars a day, every day, 365 days a year, added to Cary’s roads, each spewing 4.6 metric tons of carbon dioxide every year.

    I’m an old man and this isn’t really my problem. Younger generations will have to deal with it. In the last two years, there have only been five days when the NC DAQ has advised me and all Wake County residents to stay indoors because the air outside was “Unhealthy for . . . active adults.” I fear that for coming generations, there will be many more of those days, and am saddened that this will be my generation’s legacy to them.

    ~George McDowell

    Reply

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