Harold’s Blog: Unemployment, Federal Aid, Developments and More

Cary, NC — This week included staff, committee and statewide meetings.

Wind Ensemble Honors Cary’s 150th

Monday I received an email from the Triangle Wind Ensemble about a music video they wanted to share celebrating the Sesquicentennial. The video, called “Soaring”, shows off expansive views of Cary set to beautiful music.

Members of the ensemble recorded parts independently and the final virtual performance was elegantly assembled and professionally edited. The Triangle Wind Ensemble began 22 years ago, founded by Cary townspeople and other talented musicians. We are so thankful and blessed for the talent and love of Cary they show, even during this pandemic.

Cary’s New Logo & Tagline in the Works

Monday afternoon I met virtually with someone about one of Cary’s historical houses. Their desire is to work with the town to find a way for the town to manage future preservation.

Later in the day, I met with the town manager and the chief strategy officer to talk about Cary’s branding campaign. This was made a lower priority when COVID-19 hit last year. We are now moving forward with the information provided by consultants.

Soon the Economic Development Committee will be presented with logo and tagline suggestions for their recommendation to the council.

Cary Unemployment Numbers Better than County, State & Country

Wednesday I chaired a virtual meeting of the Economic Development Committee. This was the first time this committee has met since the beginning of the pandemic. The agenda included three items.

The first item was an update on the branding campaign which will be discussed in detail at an upcoming meeting. The second was the downtown update. The town’s Economic Development Director provided an update and stated that there are ten active projects in the downtown area. He suggested viewing the State of Cary address for more details.

In our last discussion item, a Quarterly update was provided by the Vice President of the Chamber’s Economic Development. Some of the notable items included:

  • Thirty businesses recently visited
  • Pipeline has $47 million of investment with 900 jobs
  • Four active projects
  • Class A office is seeing interest and activity
  • Wake Tech is doing a new apprenticeship program
  • The unemployment rate is now 4.3% in Cary, 5.9% in Wake County, 6.2% in North Carolina, and 6.7% in the United States

The meeting concluded with an announcement that the intercity visit to Charleston that was scheduled in the spring of 2020 will now be from October 25th through October 27th this year.

TV Interviews & An Oath of Office

Thursday I met a national TV crew taping a segment for ABC in downtown Cary. They were getting input from people walking down the street about new business ideas. The program will be aired sometime in April.

Since the COVID-19 shutdowns, I have avoided in-person meetings like this. However, this one was outside, everyone was masked, and I was socially distanced from the crew.

After meeting the TV crew, I went to town hall to give the oath of office to Mary Williams-Stover who was re-appointed to the Governor’s Advisory Council on Historically Underutilized Businesses. Ms. Williams-Stover has been working to increase equity and support for women and minority-owned businesses in North Carolina for years.

This ceremony was held outside of town hall since town hall is closed. We were both masked and kept socially distant until after administering the oath when we did an elbow bump. Find out more about upcoming programs for businesses interested in Historically Underutilized Businesses.

Speaking at Holly Springs’ Staff-Council Retreat

Friday morning I was honored to be a part of a panel in Holly Springs’ annual staff-council retreat. The panel also included a professor who teaches at the School of Government and a member of the Wake Forest town council.

We all talked about development decision-making best practices and answered questions. My comments focused on the importance of communication and trust between the council and its citizens, and between the council, the manager and staff.

I was on the call for about two hours.

NC Metro Mayors Meeting Recap

The North Carolina Metro Mayors also met on Friday morning. Here is a summary from the executive director:

COVID Update

NCGA –  S36 – COVID Relief Modifications

  • The bill received bipartisan support from the legislature this week and has been sent to the Governor.  Below are the highlights of the bill:
    • Many of the provisions are technical in nature and extend deadlines for the spending of many COVID funds that were allocated last year and adjust reporting requirement dates.
    • Funding from the most recent federal COVID relief bill for:
      • School reopening needs – $1.6 billion to DPI
      • Efforts to support vaccine distribution – $95 million to DHHS
      • Emergency rental assistance – $546.6 million to Office of Recovery and Resiliency and Office of State Budget and Management
    • We expect at least two more COVID-related funding bills to emerge at the state level in the coming weeks.

US Congress

  • Congress is getting close to finding a path on another COVID aid package.  President Biden’s plan is $1.9 trillion and includes over $300 billion for state and local government.
  • There have been efforts (including Sen. Tillis) for a bi-partisan package.  That still remains questionable at this point.
  • Budget reconciliation is also an option.  While the mechanics of reconciliation are streamlined vote-wise, it is complicated procedurally.
  • USCM has suggested MMC send Congressional leadership a state-wide letter of support for federal local aid.  Time is of the essence for this letter.  Beau will be drafting and circulating a letter this weekend.  Be on the lookout – signatures will be needed by close of business Monday, February 8.

Transportation

 

  • The letter to Governor Cooper to restore Transit/SMAP dollars in his proposed budget is finalized and circulating now.  Signature is due on Monday (2/8) from mayors.
  • The Governor is the first step in the state budget process as he sends his recommendations to the General Assembly.
  • As the budget process progresses, we will also send a letter to the General Assembly.  We hope to have broad support from local chambers of commerce, NCLM, and potentially county commissioners.
  • On Thursday, Governor Cooper released COVID-19 relief budget recommendations.  (The Governor’s full biennial budget recommendations will be released later in the session).
  • Included was $258 million for highway infrastructure and $65 million for airports.  The money for airports would not replace or supplant Airport Improvement Program funds, this money would be in addition to those funds.

Public Safety – no legislative action

Economic Development – no legislative action

Local Revenues/Local Control – no legislative action

Upcoming Metro Mayor Events

Dates TBD – Likely during regular Friday 10 AM sessions:

  • NC DOT Secretary Eric Boyette – Intro and discussion
  • Briefing on Census delay and impact on 2021 Local Election w/NCLM Chief Legislative Counsel

Other Items to Note

  • Firefighter cancer coverage – several advocates including Legislative Counsel for NCLM have been working with the State Treasurer to talk about private, presumptive coverage.  This topic will be on upcoming agendas for status update.
  • Duke IRP Letter – This item is being managed by Zach Ambrose. The deadline for signing the letter is the last week in February.

Town Manager’s Report

The town manager’s report for this week includes the following:

Manager’s Message to Council

I think you’re up-to-date on all of the major and timely items, so there is no substantive update today. I look forward to seeing each of you on Thursday at the Council Meeting.

Stay safe and have a great weekend.

Sean

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.

  • To continue progress towards the electronic PTF process, the second round of Naviline security changes for the Payroll/Personnel module will be made on February8 and 9.
  • Human Resources (HR) was selected by UNC-Chapel Hill Master of Public Administration (MPA) program students to study revamping Cary’s employee recognition offerings as part of their spring 2021 human resources coursework. HR met with this four-person team and provided them a synopsis of our current programs along with numerous resources from research already aggregated by HR’s Operations Division. In the spring, following their review, findings and recommendations, the HR Operations Division will provide a detailed report.
  • The January 2021 Development Pulse Report is now available.

Highlights from the Development Pulse Report:

  • Several Cary Parks, Recreation, and Cultural Resources projects were permitted or approved in the month of January. Those projects included building permits for a new dog park shelter at Godbold Park, Downtown Park Office Fit up, and development plans were also approved for the Carpenter Park pickleball addition and the Dunham Park tennis court renovations.
  • Former Cary Mini Mart—602 West Chatham Street—The building permit has been approved for the demolition of the former Cary Mini Mart located at the West Chatham Street roundabout.
  • Eagles Convenience Store, NC Hwy 55 -Building permits are currently under review for a new Eagles Convenience Store located along NC Hwy 55 near Morrisville Carpenter Road. The building will contain the convenience store and a second tenant space still to be identified. The development plan for the building was approved in April 2019 and grading began in February 2020.
  • Harris Teeter Fueling Center -1100 Harrison Avenue—The CO was issued for the fueling center at the Harrison Pointe Harris Teeter in January.
  • Scratch Kitchen and Taproom, 160 Cedar Street. The building permit is under review to convert the former Postmasters into Scratch Kitchen and Taproom. The project will expand the restaurant into an adjacent tenant space for total gross square feet of 3,525.

More Departmental Updates

  • The consultants for the Downtown Parking Study, Walker Consultants, visited downtown Cary this week to take inventory of the existing parking in the Downtown study area. They are also learning what development projects are being planned in order to better understand future demands. A public survey is being finalized to be launched in mid-February for six weeks.
  • Planning and Development Services conducted a virtual training session for several sign contractors to improve their understanding of Cary’s permit processes.
  • Since 2015, Cary has hosted a Share & Care event in February. The purpose of this event is to offer a place where persons with disabilities, their family members and care providers can learn about resources that our community has to offer. Although there is no in-person Share & Care event this year, it is important to continue to promote these wonderful community resources available for persons with disabilities, and those caring for them. Please be sure to visit our 2021 Share & Care webpage and encourage others to check it out as well!
  • A new sidewalk is being constructed along Ederlee Drive from Richelieu Drive, which is now 75% complete. This project site completes a sidewalk gap which will provide pedestrian connectivity between Cary neighborhoods and Penny Road Elementary School.
  • In preparation for possible wintery mix last weekend, Public Works brined main thoroughfares on Friday. It took 12 hours, 6 tons of salt, and 20,000 gallons of brine to complete this task.
  • Utilities completed another phase of the annual water main replacement project this week after installing new water mains at Griffis Street and Burtrose neighborhood, consisting of Pond Street, Rose Street, and Gordon Street.
  • For over fifteen years, AARP has provided free tax aid service to the community. This year, the service is hosted at Herb Young Community Center, by appointment only, beginning February 8 through April 14 on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. AARP Foundation Tax-Aide provides in-person and remote tax assistance to anyone, with a special focus on taxpayers who are 50 or older or who have low to moderate income. Walk-up assistance will not be provided this year. Appointments may be scheduled, beginning Monday, February 1, by calling the reservations lines:
    • Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 10 a.m.-4 p.m., call (919) 764-0242.
    • Tuesday and Thursday from 10 a.m. -3 p.m., call (919) 335-3152.
  • The 2020 Asset Management Annual Report is complete and provides a dashboard view of the current state of Cary’s linear assets. The report identifies key performance targets such as number of line breaks, sewer spills, and miles of pipe replaced and correlates it to our ability to achieve/prevent them over time.

Council’s Tree Funding Initiatives

This winter, more than 300 trees are being planted in parks, a cemetery, and facilities across our community. As the first tiny leaves of spring emerge, new trees will be growing in Dorothy, Heater and Carpenter Parks, at the North Cary Water Reclamation Facility, and in the Cary First Christian Cemetery.

We hope you get a chance to see all of Cary’s new leafy residents! This week, a next generation of trees was planted at Dorothy and Heater Parks. Between the two sites, 76 native trees, including River Birch, Redbud, Dogwood, Magnolias, Silverbell, Sycamore, Nuttall Oak, Bald Cypress, and Red Buckeye will foster Cary’s tree canopy, and provide wildlife habitats and aesthetic beauty, and contribute to our environmental health.

Another tree planting initiative that kicked off recently is the “My Tree, Our Tree” tree giveaway and a host of tree health, care, and maintenance projects. Here’s more about this program.

Mask Up, Cary!

You may have already seen the signs in our parks, at our facilities, and on the web -Mask Up, Cary! is in full swing. This multimedia campaign, which encompasses social media, TV, streaming video, digital advertising, and printed signs along greenways, in parks, at facilities, and at local businesses, encourages a weary public to remember their masks and keep them up when they are out and about as we all work to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Mask Up, Cary! debuted the first TV commercial (watch it here), featuring Council Member Robinson and Mayor Weinbrecht among others, last week. The continued rollout includes signs in and around Cary parks, greenways, and facilities.

Messaging on social media and the website continues, and materials for local businesses to encourage citizens to Mask Up, Cary! will be available in the coming weeks. This critical work is a real team effort and is being executed across several departments and outside partners including the Cary Chamber of Commerce. More information is available at townofcary.org/maskup. Remember to Mask Up, Cary!

Live Burn and it’s Benefits

Fire held a training burn on Tuesday at a donated house on Twyla Road. It not only afforded an invaluable opportunity for fire personnel to practice their firefighting skills, but it also allowed the department’s fire investigators to hone their investigation skills.

On top of that, Fire is partnering with Underwriters Laboratories (UL) to conduct a study to determine how clean fire gear gets after it is laundered according to department guidelines and manufacturer recommendations. The research, which aims for carcinogen reduction, will benefit departments nationwide.

Biosolids Annual Report

Cary’s wastewater treatment plants utilize thermal biosolids drying at the South Cary and Western Wake Regional Water Reclamation Facilities (WRF). Cary produces EPA-certified, Class A exceptional biosolids by recycling valuable nutrients from the wastewater for beneficial reuse as a fertilizer and soil amendment.

In 2020, the North and South Cary WRF together produced 3,500 dry tons of biosolids and Western Wake Regional WRF produced 2,395 dry tons of biosolids. The high-quality dried biosolids, known as Enviro-Gems are marketed to a vendor for use in agribusiness.

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 included:

  • A request to not make vaccines mandatory (We do not have that authority. I would urge everyone to vaccinate when they can.)
  • A complaint about the proposal for senior family homes at a density of two units an acre on Lilly Atkins
  • A complaint that we changed a street address in downtown (this does not happen without a public hearing and a study, so this is misinformation)
  • A thank you from Cary First Christian Church for supporting the restoration of the cemetery on Cornwall Road.

Next week’s activities include staff meetings, a regularly scheduled council meeting, a meeting of the North Carolina Metro Mayors, and a taping of a smaller version of my State of Cary Address.

Well, that is all for this week. My next post will be on Sunday, February 14th.  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, Hal Goodtree and Ashley Kairis.

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