Harold’s Blog: Second Quarter Finances, Parking Studies and More

Cary, NC — This week included the first council meeting of the month.

Council Prep and Changes at Fenton

Mayor Weinbrecht in a pre-COVID-19 meeting of the Cary Town Council.

Monday I contacted council members to learn of any questions or concerns about Thursday’s regular meeting agenda. The only comments were about the election filing fee which was up for discussion.

Later Monday I virtually met with staff and Mayor Pro-Tem Frantz to go over the agenda. Since there was only one public hearing and one discussion item, our meeting was very quick.

My final meeting Monday was with the manager and the Chief Strategy Officer to get an update on the Fenton project. While the project continues to change/evolve, as all large projects do, it is still on track to be one of the most amazing developments in Cary’s history.

Town Council Approves $65K Grant

Thursday the council met for the first regularly scheduled meeting of February. The agenda had three consent items, one public hearing, and one discussion item. Council members Robinson and Smith provided the ceremonial opening in which they honored “two Cary icons,” Bob Henshaw and Ed Woolner, who recently passed.

I issued a proclamation and a letter to honor each of these gentlemen which were read by council member Robinson. We are all blessed for all the good they did for Cary. May they both rest in peace.

Our public hearing was on the PennyMac Economic Development Incentive grant. PennyMac Financial Services, Inc (“PennyMac”) was approved for a Job Development Investment Grant (JDIG) by the North Carolina Department of Commerce on the condition it establishes a mortgage fulfillment production center in Cary, makes a $4.3 million capital investment, creates 322 jobs with an average salary of $64,567, and has participation from local government.

To complete the incentive, Cary unanimously approved a $65,000 grant to be paid at the end of 5 years if the full $4.3 million capital investment has been made and all 322 jobs are created.

Our discussion item was the campaign filing fee. State law allows municipalities to set the candidate filing fee for each of their elected seats. During the winter of 2021, the Boards of Elections for both Wake and Chatham Counties requested Cary to submit its filing fees for the Council Members’ seats on the ballot for the October 5, 2021 election.

The council unanimously agreed to a fee of 1% of the seat’s salary, which is similar to neighboring municipalities. That comes to a little over $100 for each seat. Our meeting concluded after a little over 30 minutes.

Updates from NC Metro Mayors

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

COVID Update

  • NCGA –  S36 – COVID Relief Modifications
    • This bill was signed by Governor Cooper on Wednesday (2/10).
    • The bill includes emergency rental assistance – $546.6 million (to NC from Congress).
    • We expect the next round of COVID legislation from the NCGA to emerge in the next couple of weeks.  The timing and tempo of this could be based on actions at the federal level.
  • US Congress
    • Bi-partisan negotiations for a package have stalled.  The budget reconciliation process has begun with a number of House committees working on the bill.
  • Update on NC Metro Mayors Letter to Congress
    • Letter was sent this week asking Congress for local governments to DIRECT and FLEXIBLE fiscal aid, not through the state appropriations.
    • It is important to begin thinking about what your city/town would be doing with the funding such as resuming delayed capital projects or programs to help struggling small businesses.

General Assembly Focus

  • S37, In-Person Learning Choice for Families (School reopening bill)
    • This has been the main topic of discussion for the past couple of weeks.  The bill moved through the Senate last week and the House this week.
    • The bill would require local boards of education to provide the option of in-person instruction for K-12 students for the remainder of the 2020-2021 school year. School districts would be required to offer Plan A (daily in-person instruction) for students with an individualized education program and offer Plan A or Plan B (hybrid of in-person attendance and remote) to all other students.  Parents still have the option to elect for their child to participate in remote instruction.
    • Due to some changes made in the House, the bill is currently in the conference committee process.  We expect both chambers to hold a concurrence vote on Monday night.
  • Legislative Activity
    • The legislature is still very much in “start-up” mode.  An unusually low number of bills have been filed so far and have largely been local bills, individual funding requests, or placeholder bills.
    • Consensus Revenue Forecast was released yesterday and indicated a substantial net increase in revenue for the current fiscal year.  Postponed payment and filing deadlines for many tax types shifted an estimated $1.08B in tax collections from FY 2019-20 to FY 2020-21.  Consumer spending has also been robust, so sales tax is up over 8% in gross receipts – overall collecting $4.1 billion more than budgeted.

Transportation

  • The letter to Governor Cooper to RESTORE Transit/SMAP funding has been transmitted.
    • Beau received quick feedback from DOT and the Governor’s staff.  The letter was appreciated was acknowledged and there seems to be a good chance for SMAP being included in the Governor’s budget proposal to the General Assembly.
    • It is important to remember that the Governor’s proposal is just the first step in the budget process.  It will be key to reach out to Legislative Transportation Chairs and other legislative members to support this important item.
  • NC Chamber of Commerce Meeting and Destination 2030
    • One of the top priorities of the Chamber is going to be solving the long-term financing challenge facing transportation as gas tax begins to dwindle (hybrid and electric vehicles use less gas and pay less tax).
    • There is not a specific solution at this point, but Chamber officials say it is important to educate members on the need for additional financing options.
  • NC FIRST Commission – Transportation
    • The Commission Co-Chair, former Raleigh Mayor Nancy McFarlane is giving a presentation to the City of Wilmington related to transportation financing.  If other city councils are interested in receiving a presentation, please let Beau know and he will be happy to help facilitate.  It is important to continue the education on the challenges the current transportation finance system faces.
  • Public Safety – no legislative action
  • Economic Development – no legislative action

Local Revenues/Local Control

  • NC DOT Billboard Rules at Rules Review Commission (RRC)Some cities/towns may be getting some pressure from local advocates against billboards.
  • The rules as presented do not really change the way billboards are managed in local communities.
  • Attached are the RRC comments from the Deputy City Attorney of Durham.

Filming the Brief State of Cary 2021 Address

Saturday I taped the short version of the State of Cary Address. It was about 1/3 the size of the original address. The taping consisted of three on-camera parts and several voice-over parts. A few cameras were used at different angles with different backgrounds. As a result, there were several takes for each part.

I assume the finished product will be about five minutes long. The entire taping time was about an hour and a half.

Town Manager’s Report

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

Manager’s Message to Council

I enjoyed meeting and catching up with each of you this week leading up to Thursday’s Council meeting. I communicated all of my updates in last night’s report. Staff and I look forward to the Mayor’s State of Cary presentation next Thursday, February 18.

Stay safe and have a great weekend.

Sean

Parking Study Updates

In partnership with our consulting team, Walker Consultants, we continue to collect data and analyze parking demand across Cary.

As part of the downtown strategic parking and mobility plan project, a survey has been developed and posted to the project webpage to gauge public opinion regarding the downtown parking experience. In the meantime, our consultants are documenting their observations following their visit last week.

In addition to the downtown strategic parking study, the multi-family parking study continues to evolve. Staff is currently reviewing a draft report written by the consultant team after observing parking occupancy at twelve multi-family residential developments in Cary. We anticipate receiving a completed report in the spring.

Public Safety Update

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

We have seen several notable improvements related to the pandemic situation in Cary, Wake County, and the state. Total cases in Cary are 6,377, up 212 from 6,165, or 3.4% since February 4th. Although Cary has the second highest population among the municipalities, Cary has been maintaining the fewest per capita COVID-19 cases, which, as of 4 p.m. on February 4 was 37.11 per 1,000 residents.

Since February 4, an additional 284 cases and 6 additional deaths were reported within Cary’s four primary zip codes. We have attributed significant short-term increases in the zip code death totals to delayed reporting from the state. For many weeks, 18 deaths had been reported within these zip codes which lead to under-reporting the actual number.

In addition, given the zip code and municipality jurisdictional overlap used by the U.S. Postal Service that exists in some adjacent areas, we also believe deaths reported here underrepresent the actual deaths of Cary residents.

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.

  • From October to December, Cary employees lit up downtown with Chinese Lanterns, finalized construction plans for the much-anticipated Downtown Park, retained Cary’s Class I ISO rating, and much more. Read about what happened during Q3 of FY 2021in the most recent Quarterly Report
  • Downtown Park construction preparations continue with the release of the first of a series of newsletter type communications. This first newsletter highlighted plans for construction fencing locations, land preparation, tree canopy changes, and impacts to Phase I of the Downtown Park. A mailing was conducted to the immediate neighbors of the Park; the Park’s project webpage on the Town’s website was updated; and social media posts went out on all Town of Cary channels. These communications will continue at regular intervals during the construction phase of the Park leading up to opening day.
  • In conjunction with Black History Month, Cary is offering a new African American History Driving Tour. This tour is one of many tours that will be published throughout the year as we celebrate Cary’s Sesquicentennial.
  • A virtual community meeting will be held on February 18 at 6:30 p.m.to share updates on the Morrisville Carpenter Road Realignment Project and to get citizen input on associated street renaming in the vicinity. Citizens may register to attend the meeting here.
  • The Cary Police Department has launched online reporting. With the intent of providing convenience and greater ease of use, this new feature enables citizens to report certain types of non-emergency incidents online through the Police to Citizen portal (P2C). Examples of non-emergency crimes would be larceny, vandalism/damage to property, and lost property. After the citizen completes their submission, they will receive a confirmation email to notify their report has been received as well as an email updating report status.
  • On February 9, Officer Fox visited students and staff of Genesis Christian Preschool to pass out stickers and say a quick hello. Due to the pandemic, the school has not been allowed to visit anywhere off their campus, so they improvised and planned a visit from the Cary Police Department.
  • Contractors (LMJ) installed the crosswalk lines for a brick crossing on S. Academy at Charlie Gaddy Ln. This will help delineate the crossing as a crosswalk and allow for safer pedestrian crossing. Additionally, LMJ installed the double yellow centerline on Mayton View Lane, and no parking signs have been installed along the road. This will help with Mayton Inn’s request to have better delivery services and trash pickup without being blocked in by vehicles parking around the driveway.
  • On February 15, annual reclaimed water holiday activities will begin and last for 10 days. The reclaimed water holiday is scheduled each year in February to offer dedicated time to shut the system down for maintenance and repair of the reclaimed water distribution systems in north, south, and western Cary.
  • The Holt Road to Davis Drive Water Line Project is complete. The new 24-inch water main traverses the line between Cary and Apex and builds resiliency by closing a 1-mile gap between existing water mains.

MLK Dreamfest Food Drive Update

The MLK Dreamfest Food Drive was a month-long campaign executed in collaboration with the Good Hope Farm non-profit partners to support Dorcas Ministries in their hunger relief efforts. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the need for temporary food assistance for families and individuals in crisis has tripled.

Staff reimagined the traditional Day of Service event to meet our goals of providing safe and meaningful service relating to food security support. Throughout the month of January, registered participants hosted “contactless” donation stations.

To ensure success, staff provided participants with E-Kits that included safety instructions, marketing copy/logos, printable signage, drop-off instructions, tips for getting the word out, and a list of needed food items from Dorcas. Fifty-five participants including families, churches, and businesses collected over 2,880 pounds of food to help feed an estimated 400 community members.

White Oak Creek Greenway

Last fall, work begin to re-deck two wood boardwalks totaling 1,772 linear feet. Composite decking material was used to reduce future maintenance on the two boardwalks. The White Oak Creek Greenway is fully open again, just in time for the warmer spring weather and the longer daylight.

Strengthening Partnerships Through ASPIRE

Town staff Rachel Baranski and Sam Trogdon were selected to participate in the ASPIRE Collaborative Learning Institute (CLI)hosted by the UNC School of Public Health. The ASPIRE CLI is a 6-month program that trains participants to use systems thinking tools to address Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs).

Systems thinking is a way of helping people view systems more broadly to identify overall structures and patterns. The CLI includes teams from Oregon, Ohio, and across North Carolina. The Wake County ASPIRE team, with members from City of Raleigh, Kaleidoscope Project, and InterAct of Wake County, will build community, promote equal access to programs and services, and increase community resilience through education and engagement.

We are strengthening our partnership with City of Raleigh Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources to enhance service and program delivery in Wake County. We are building partnerships with community nonprofits who provide resources to people experiencing home insecurity, domestic violence, food insecurity, parenting challenges, and other stressful situations for a collaborative approach toward building resilience.

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:

Research: We’re Losing Touch with Our Networks, Harvard Business Review
We Asked 175 Pediatric Disease Experts if It Was Safe Enough to Open School, The New York Times

Second Quarter of FY 2021 in Cary

The full report for FY 2021 Q2 (October – December 2020) was released this week. Here are a few notable items from that report:

  • Net financial results for Q2 are consistent with prior year’s 2nd quarter
  • Sales tax is 13% of revenue and is 7% over Q2 from last year
  • Permits and Fees decreased 4%
  • Sales and Services decreased 22%
  • Non-operating revenues decreased 36% from Q2 last year
  • General Fund expenditures increased by 14%
  • Utility revenues decreased 9% over Q2 from last year
  • Cary currently has 490 capital projects
  • FY 2021 includes $1 million for unforeseen program needs
  • Year-to-date variable rate debt service is $250,000 under budget
  • This quarter Cary issued 15 non-residential permits for 495,564 square feet of offices, retail, and a fuel station
  • 51 development plans approved in Q2 up from 49 in Q1
  • Cary’s population at the end of 2020 was 172,221
  • Cary’s connected vehicle project should be completed in 2022
  • Higgins Greenway phase III should be bid by year’s end
  • The fire department began receiving vaccines in December

Much of the information in the report that I did not list was covered in my State of Cary address.

Mayor’s Mailbox

Emails from citizens this week included:

  • A request to vaccinate teachers now (I agree but we have no authority in this area)
  • A request for a recommendation letter

Next week’s activities include staff meetings, a meeting of the Wake County Mayors Association, a Triangle Community Coalition coffee chat, a meeting of the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization’s Executive Board, a presentation of the State of Cary to the town staff, a meeting of the North Carolina Metro Mayors, and opening remarks for the Future of Black History event.

Well, that is all for this week. My next post will be on Sunday, February 21st.  Although I have Facebook and Twitter accounts those are not the best means of communication 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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1 reply
  1. Jim Alexander
    Jim Alexander says:

    Great job on the White Oak Creek Greenway boardwalks! It looks like it should last a long time. This greenway and the whole greenway system are such great assets. It is awesome to see them taken care of so well.

    Reply

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