Harold’s Blog: Priorities for 2021, New Jobs in Cary and More

Cary, NC — This week included my State of Cary address and the last regularly scheduled council meeting of the month.

Students of Enloe High Present Food Waste Tracking App

Monday I attempted to contact each of the council members to hear their questions and concerns about Thursday’s agenda. There were questions about the Lilly Atkins rezoning proposal and the candidate filing fee discussion item.

Monday afternoon I participated in a zoom call with three students from Enloe High School who showed me their presentation of an application that can track food waste. They targeted this app for food pantries but it is flexible enough to be modified to meet other needs. It was an impressive application and I encouraged them to contact Dorcas Ministries and others in Cary.

Later in the day I remotely met with managers, division heads, and the Mayor Pro-Tem to go over the agenda. We discussed the Lilly Atkins rezoning proposal and the candidate filing fee. Our meeting lasted about 15 minutes. My weekly one-on-one with the town manager was canceled since we didn’t have any new information to share.

PennyMac to Bring Jobs, Fulfillment Center to Cary

Tuesday the town was notified of the intention of PennyMac Financial Services to bring jobs to Cary:

“The Cary Chamber of Commerce is pleased to announce that PennyMac Financial Services, Inc. will become a new corporate citizen for the Town of Cary in the coming months. Based on the company’s expansion plans, they will be operating a Mortgage Fulfillment Center in Cary, that will include their business functions of loan processing, underwriting, and funding operations for the organization. PennyMac expects to hire and employ 322 associates as they ramp up their operations in 2021.

“We are excited to welcome PennyMac Financial Services, Inc into our community and corporate family in Cary, and look forward to assisting them as they make their transition,” said Mark Lawson, Vice President of Economic Development for the Cary Chamber of Commerce.

“We are pleased that PennyMac Financial Services, Inc. recognized the benefits of our community, bringing an expansion that is certainly a testament to the talent in our market, aligned with our state’s low tax structure and the high quality of life the citizens of Cary experience every day. We are greatly appreciative of the commitment and investment PennyMac is making into the Town of Cary.”

The North Carolina Department of Commerce led the state’s efforts to support PennyMac’s decision to locate to North Carolina. The company is offering an array of new jobs including brokers, consumer experts, customer contact staff, IT, underwriters, and managerial staff.

The average annual salary for all new positions is $64,567 creating a potential payroll impact of more than $20.7 million per year. Wake County’s overall average annual wage is $63,966.PennyMac’s expansion will be facilitated, in part, by a Job Development Investment Grant (JDIG) approved by the state’s Economic Investment Committee earlier today.

Over the course of the 12-year term of the grant, the project is estimated to grow the state’s economy by more than $813 million. Using a formula that takes into account the new tax revenues generated by the 322 new jobs, the JDIG agreement authorizes the potential reimbursement to the company of up to $1,914,750 spread over 12 years. The Cary Council will need to approve our portion of the incentives at a future council meeting.

2021 State of Cary Address

Wednesday I gave my annual “State of Cary” address at the Chamber of Commerce. Because of the pandemic, there were only four people in the room. I was told there were 275 attendees on the zoom call. You can watch the full recording of my address.

In the address I reviewed 2020, talked about ongoing and upcoming projects, and how our resilience will get us through this pandemic.

Thursday I did an interview with ABC11 on Cary’s 150th anniversary. You can see that report on their website.

Council Meeting & Cary’s 150th Birthday

Thursday night the council held its last regularly scheduled meeting of January. The agenda included three consent items, four public hearings, and one discussion item. At the beginning of the meeting, we recognized Sammie Garris who retired from Cary’s Public Works after 44 years of service. We will recognize him in person with an award later in the year when public attendance is allowed.

Councilmember Ed Yerha opened the meeting with a historical moment in recognition of Cary’s 150th anniversary. You can see January’s historical moment and find out more about our 150th anniversary, information, and events at the Cary 150th website.

The public hearing that created the most citizen input was the proposal for senior housing on two units an acre for a maximum of 76 units on Lilly Atkins Road. Speakers complained that it was too dense, it would harm the environment, and create traffic. Council will vote on this in a few months.

The discussion item on candidate filing fees was taken off the agenda until all council members could be present. Our meeting concluded after about an hour and twenty minutes.

Metro Mayors Discuss 2021 Priorities

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

A Presentation by Chapel Hill Mayor Hemminger on DUKE Energy IRP

“COVID Update

  • Governor’s recent Extension of EOs through at least Feb. 28
  • NCGA – COVID package next week – will be technical only through September
  • The package should be non-controversial and include a realignment of the appropriations from last year
  • A separate COVID bill will likely emerge from the NCGA in the coming weeks regarding most recent federal funding
  • All activity at the state level is going to be contingent upon the action at the federal level
  • The Congressional path is unclear at the moment for new aid
  • We will keep you updated as COVID relief at both the state and federal level progress

Transportation

  • Request Governor to restore Transit/SMAP funding in his proposed budget
  • A letter will be sent shortly for Mayors to sign onto as well as Transportation Appropriations Chairs

No Action Items

  • Public Safety – no legislative action
  • Economic Development – no legislative action
  • Local Revenues/Local Control – no legislative action

General State Legislative Preview

Kilpatrick Townsend Team – led by Ches McDowell and Nelson Freeman

Legislative Priorities for 2021

Budget

NC has not passed a full budget in two terms.  Typically, the General Assembly goes through a budgeting process that includes all issue areas of the state budget (one, large deal).  Due to disagreement with the Governor’s office, “mini” budgets or budgets related to specific issue areas have been passed instead with bi-partisan support.

Leadership will attempt to achieve a large deal this session but will likely pivot to issue areas if need be.

Redistricting

Due to the 2020 census, redistricting will take place this year.  Complications of receiving and auditing the data means that states are expected to receive the information much later than usual (potentially August or September).

NCLM is part of a workgroup with legislative staff on how redistricting and the impact of delayed census data will affect municipalities and elections.  Beau will keep you updated as information is gathered.

NC is more than likely going to pick up one additional Congressional seat that will likely be around the Charlotte area.  There is a possibility NC could pick up two seats.

COVID Legislation

One of the biggest issues related to COVID will be surrounding education.  What type of assessments or data can be used to determine students’ learning loss as a result of the pandemic. Additionally, how to get students back into the classroom safely.

State level COVID legislation will also be determined by the actions occurring at the federal level.  In addition to “typical” COVID funding measures there may be topics such as a federal transitional infrastructure package.  How do we augment economic recovery post-COVID?

DOT Stabilization

There will be discussions related to the gas tax and what can be done to continually generate revenue for DOT.
Recommendations from the NC First Commission will come into play.

Overview of Committee Assignments

  • On the House side, there are quite a few Democrats that have been appointed as Vice Chairs indicating that there will be a more bi-partisan approach at the committee level.
  • There is a new House Transportation Chair, Rep. Brenden Jones (R-Columbus, Robeson).  He has a great understanding how maintaining good roads helps economic development across the state.
  • House Local Government Committee – New this year, the committee has been broken up into two different elements.  One committee will focus specifically on Land Use, Planning, and Development.  This committee is chaired by Rep. Mark Brody (R-Union).
  • All committee chairs play a critical role in the legislative process and it important to reach out to establish and maintain a relationship.

Bill Filing Deadline

Local bills must be submitted to bill drafting by the following dates:Senate – Thursday, February 24 by 4 PM
House – Wednesday, March 3 by 4 PM.”

The meeting concluded after half an hour.

Celebrating Samie Garris’ 44 Years Serving Cary

Friday afternoon I had the joy and pleasure of speaking with Sammie Garris who is retiring from Cary’s Public Works after 44 years. He is the longest-serving Cary employee ever and is loved by many who had the opportunity to know him. We will miss him and wish him the best in his retirement years.

Town Manager Report

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

Manager’s Message to Council

For me, the Mayor’s State of Cary address presented to the Cary Chamber of Commerce members on Wednesday evoked feelings of pride and optimism.

I’m incredibly proud of Council, staff, and the community for demonstrating resilience and flexibility during a historically life-changing year.

I thank all of Council for your continued trust and support and look forward to the year ahead.

Stay safe and have a great weekend.

Sean

Public Safety Update

Here’s the Public Safety update from Public Safety Director Allan Cain. If you have any questions, please let me know:

  • Total Cases in Cary are 5,620, as of January 28th
  • This is up 336 or 6.4% from January 21st
  • Cary continues to maintain the fewest per capita COVID-19 cases,32.70per 1,000 residents

Demand for vaccine continues to exceed supply. The state is working to build a better way for people to get information.

The website Find My Vaccine Group, walks people through a few questions to help them figure out when they will be eligible for vaccination and sign up to be notified when it’s their turn.

Dominion Energy Update

In February, Dominion Energy North Carolina (DENC) will start the final phase of the Wake to Chatham County System Enhancement project. The pipeline is anticipated to be complete and in service by fall 2021.

This project will help DENC upgrade their natural gas system in compliance with regulations as they meet the growing needs of customers in the Triangle region. Here’s additional project information.

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.

  • Council Member Ed Yerha kicked off the sesquicentennial anniversary year for Cary by presenting the first of monthly History Moments at Thursday’s Council meeting. Be sure to check out the newly launched cary150.org and participate in the Share Your Story virtual scrapbook.
  • New member orientations were held virtually for the newest members of the Cultural Arts Committee: Ian Koff and Maria Munoz-Blanco.
  • The chairs from each of Cary’s seven boards and commissions presented their 2020-2021 Work Plan Highlights virtually in an effort to keep Council and their fellow boards and commissions aware of the work being done by our volunteer advisory boards.
  • On January 20, the Public Art Advisory Board unanimously approved a subcommittee report establishing a recognition program for exceptional public art by private developers that choose to include art in their Cary projects. You can read the full report.
  • The Project Epic Trek (PET) information hub is live on CNET. Now, everyone can receive up-to-date information about Cary’s initiative to replace our Naviline system with a new Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) platform. This replacement is a major undertaking impacting operational business processes throughout the organization.
  • This week, Human Resources notified staff of recent implemented IRS modified criteria for the Flexible Spending Accounts for 2020 and 2021, which allows more flexibility with our 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 plans. Employees who are interested in making a change or who have questions, should email the Total Employee Health team.
  • Human Resources (HR) officially launched an HR Paperless email address for submitting all documents, forms and papers that were otherwise mailed and sent interoffice in hard copy form.
  • Fire received its fifth accreditation from the Commission on Fire Accreditation International (CFAI) at a virtual commission hearing on Thursday. A team of peer reviewers performed a virtual site visit in December during which they verified and validated the department’s self-assessment manual, community risk assessment and standard of cover, and strategic plan. The Cary Fire Department was first accredited in 1999, and the accreditation cycle lasts five years.
  • 311 now has a new option to better serve the community-if a Citizen Advocate can’t answer the phone within a few minutes, the caller can opt to enter their phone number, hang-up, and receive a call back when an Advocate is available.
  • On Thursday, the Diavolo Disc Golf Course at New Hope Park was recognized as the # 7 Course in the World by one of the preeminent disc golf review sites. You can read the full review.
  • The inaugural Major League Baseball (MLB) Draft Combine will be held at the USA Baseball National Training Complex from June 20-28. This event will feature the top high school and college baseball prospects from around the nation, as identified by Major League Baseball Clubs for the 2021 MLB Draft (July 11-13).
  • On Thursday, NCFC/NC Courage owner, Steve Malik, announced that three-time Grand Slam tennis champion Naomi Osaka of Japan invested in the North Carolina Courage to become a partial team owner.
  • Cary’s current web-based Bike/Hike app will switch to the Triangle Greenspace webpage and mobile app on January 29. Users of the Bike/Hike app will be directed to an intermediary page that gives a brief explanation of the change and provides links to the Triangle Greenspace app. This new app will provide a larger benefit to the community by offering regional coverage while maintaining the ease of use to which our citizens are accustomed.
  • The development plan for Bee Safe Storage at Campbell Road and Tryon Rd is approved.
  • Rezoning request 19-REZ-32, Cary Park SF-13 PDD Amendment, a request to convert 10 acres of open space to residential lots, was withdrawn administratively due to inactivity. Any future rezoning proposals for this property must wait 12 months from this date.
  • Now that the alignment for the Western BRT route between downtown Raleigh and downtown Cary has been established, the City of Raleigh is ready to move forward with initial design activities. This includes early survey work for properties along the corridor to determine if any features may conflict with the project and to determine if any easements will be necessary. Raleigh sent a survey notification letter to approximately 114 property owners along the portion of the corridor that is in Cary. Surveyors are expected to begin work in the next few weeks. For more information, please visit RaleighNC.gov/BRT or email Kelly.Blazey@townofcary.org.
  • With the rapid and widespread adoption of the Cary Collects mobile app, ReCollect chose to highlight Cary as a success story. The story lives on their website and is being shared across their social media as a resource to other municipalities interested in learning how digital tools can enhance effective service communications and recycling education while reducing costs and increasing insight into a community’s waste stream.
  • Cary was notified this week by the Army Corps of Engineers that they will be temporarily lowering the elevation of Jordan Lake by 2-ft as part of their dam repair project. No process modifications are anticipated at the water treatment facility and citizens will not experience any change in water service as a result of this project.

My Tree, Our Tree

In concert with Cary’s 150th celebration, Cary is launching a new and exciting tree distribution program, “My Tree, Our Tree!” This is an opportunity for citizens to foster Cary’s tree canopy and support environmental health by planting a free, native tree in the safety of their own yard.

Registered participants will learn the latest tree planting tips and receive additional materials to help them properly plant a tree of their own.

Recognizing the important role trees have played in Cary’s past, present, and future, participants will receive a commemorative 150th tree peg, and are encouraged to share a picture of their planted tree on social media using #MyTreeOurTree, as well as add it to our new community tree counter. Registration opens February 21.

Pantry Patrol App

On Monday, Cary high school students met with Mayor Weinbrecht and staff to discuss a new app they’ve created to track food pantry waste. Pantry Patrol will enable local food pantries to collect data on why food has become waste in the hopes to curb future waste at the food pantry. The Mayor and staff provided recommendations regarding data collection, maintenance, and privacy and are connecting the students with Cary-based pantries including Dorcas Ministries to see if this resource could be locally utilized once the app is completed.

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:

Lessons from the U.S.’s Rocky Vaccine Rollout, Harvard Business Review

Johnson & Johnson’s Vaccine Offers Strong Protection but Fuels Concern About Variants, The New York Times

Mayor’s Mailbox

Emails from citizens this week included:

  • Complaints and opposition the Lilly Atkins rezoning proposal
  • A request to have vaccination drive throughs in Cary
  • Citizens recognizing Sammie Garris’ years of service
  • Accolades for my State of Cary address
  • A complaint about car noise in the Cary downtown garage

Next week’s activities include staff meetings, virtual meetings with citizens, a virtual meeting of the Economic Development Committee, a panel discussion at Holly Springs annual retreat, and a meeting of the North Carolina Metro Mayors.

Well, that is all for this week. My next post will be on Sunday, February 7th.  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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