Cary, NC — This week included two State of Cary addresses.
Cary Task Force Reimagines Police Use-of-Force
Monday started with a virtual introductory meeting with Cary’s Marketing President of Truist Bank (formerly BB&T). In addition to getting to know each other, we talked about Cary and its future. I look forward to working with Truist in the future.
Later Monday I met with the town manager for our weekly one-on-one. Topics included the Quarterly meeting on March 11th, the potential of an annual retreat in the second half of the year, the Fenton project, the mall site and Epic Games, the Center (recreational center scheduled for the mall), and our branding efforts. Our meeting was brief.
Monday evening I talked with members of our internal task force created when I signed the Obama Pledge which is now called the Reimaging Police Pledge. The task force, of seven staff members from several departments, has been meeting weekly.
Their mission has been an in-depth analysis of use-of-force policies and gathering information about this topic. They intend to present their findings to police watch commanders, SROs, etc soon. Afterward, they will transition to engaging the public.
It is important to note that their focus has been on technical solutions and then policy changes. Some municipalities may have gone through the motions with a pledge to make people feel good but that is not the Cary way. We will look for real solutions to addressing any problems we may find.
Two State of Cary Addresses in One Day
Tuesday I presented the State of Cary address twice. In giving these addresses I always talk from the slides, so all presentations are slightly different. I also try to focus my message to the audience.
In the morning I traveled to town hall and the council chambers to deliver a virtual address to the Town of Cary staff. There were approximately 300 staff members tuned in. It was important for me that my message let them know what an incredible job they have done during this pandemic.
Despite having to transition to virtual overnight, they continued to provide excellent service throughout the pandemic while enduring great hardship and putting their lives at risk. All for the service of others. God bless them all!
My second address was to the good folks at Searstone. I am not sure of how many tuned in but I believe there were a few dozen. This was delivered from my office at home, which was a first.
The main message to get across in this presentation was that with their help we will persevere the largest health crisis in generations, and that they live in a community that is providing excellent services and is doing much better than most communities.
Cary Chamber Event Discusses Cary Development
Wednesday I participated virtual in the Cary Chamber’s Economic Development meeting. There were about 150 people viewing. Ted Boyd, the town’s Director of Economic Development, was the featured speaker. In his presentation, he talked about projects around town, gave updates, and provided current pictures.
The Fenton project’s phase one is well underway and will have eight buildings, four jewel boxes, and two parking decks. Epic, which will be on the old Cary Towne Mall site, will start the entitlement process in the spring, begin demo in the fall, and present a development plan.
Some of the other projects included Glenaire on Kildaire, Brier Creek Industrial near RDU, Duke Health on the north side of Green Level West, and several downtown projects. The meeting concluded after about 45 minutes.
Wednesday evening I chaired a meeting of Cary’s Economic Development Commission. In the first part of the meeting, the Chamber’s Vice President of Economic Development provided an update on business in the area. He noted the PennyMac announcement which will bring 900 employees and a $47 million dollar investment.
He stated that there is a lot of interest from businesses in the life sciences, health care, and IT to relocate to the area. In the second part of the meeting Ted Boyd gave a brief presentation about the several projects especially in the Eastern Gateway. Our final part of the meeting was the proposed logos from our branding campaign.
These were very preliminary. Out of the four logos presented to the Economic Development committee members, and members of the ISAB, only two received positive comments. That feedback will be provided to the consultant and the logos will come back to the committee in April for additional review and comment.
Weekly Recap of NC Metro Mayors Meeting
Friday I participated in a meeting of the North Carolina Metro Mayors. Here is a summary of that meeting from the Executive Director:
Update on US Congress – latest on COVID Budget Reconciliation Bill
- The US Senate is expected to vote on the Budget Reconciliation Bill before the end of the weekend. The only change made to the bill shifted $10 Billion from local funding available to states for the purpose of broadband expansion.
- This bill will also include $30 billion for public transportation. North Carolina urban transit systems would be allocated $200M under the current language, we do NOT have a further breakdown of these funds yet.
State COVID-19 Response & Relief H196
- $1.7 billion package that distributes the most recent federal funds and makes some other policy changes related to the pandemic. (All federal funds, any state funding will be addressed in budget bill).
- $600M was appropriated for COVID testing, contact tracing, and other COVID related needs and another $390M was allocated for K-12 and higher education to help with school reopening efforts.
- A section of the bill related to the administration of new rental assistance funding for counties that is administered by the Office of Recovery and Resiliency (NCORR). The bill allocates funding per county to all 100 counties according to proportion of population at or below 80% of the poverty level. This is different than what NCORR had proposed which allowed larger localities with direct allocations to manage their own funds – so there has been some concern expressed that this will slow down the process for pushing those funds out.
- The bill was fast-tracked through the legislature this week and passed unanimously in both chambers. It has been sent to the Governor for approval.
Joint Transportation Committee – Debt Affordability Study
- The Debt Affordability Advisory Committee, chaired by State Treasurer Dale Folwell, advised the Joint Transportation Appropriations Committee that without additional revenue sources, there is no debt capacity available for the Department of Transportation through at least 2029.
- State law mandates that the amounts used for transportation-related debt support shall not exceed 6% of the State’s transportation revenues. Any additional bond would place the Department of Transportation over the 6% threshold.
- As the state continues to look at changes to the revenue profile of the Department of Transportation, there could be a reassessment of the debt capacity.
Protect City Employees from Retaliation – H7
- This bill would require city councils to adopt an ordinance to encourage city employees to report illegal or improper conduct to their supervisors or other appropriate authorities and to protect that employee from workplace retaliation based upon that reporting.
- We expect changes to be made and more work to be done on this bill before it reaches its final form.
- This bill is opposed by the Sheriff’s Association. NCLM is opposed to this bill in its current form.
- We will be monitoring the changes and activity on this bill closely. Let us know if your local delegation reaches out to you in regards to this bill.
City Police License Plate Readers Authorized – H165
- H165 was introduced at the request of the Department of Transportation. It will be heard in House Transportation next week.
- A provision in this bill would allow for local or state law enforcement the ability to place license-plate readers at existing right-of-ways.
- Update: Since our call, the Bill Sponsor has stated that this provision will be removed from the bill.
Economic Development – nothing of note
Local Revenues/Local Control
Asheville Local Option Sales Tax for Transit – SB179
- Existing statutes allow for a ¼ cent referendum for sales tax for transit for counties.
- This bill seeks to allow cities to take up their own referendum for a ¼ cent sales tax.
- The Department of Revenue still is not sure they can provide the data or information on a city-wide basis as necessary for this.
Firefighter Cancer Coverage – update on a state-wide proposal to provide financial protection for firefighters who are diagnosed with cancer – briefing led by Sarah Collins, NCLM Legislative and Regulatory Counsel
- A number of interested parties have worked together on this to develop a statewide proposal.
- Firefighters would be provided two main benefits – Lump Sum and Disability Benefit.
- The Lump sum would pay out $25,000 to Firefighters at a Stage 3/Stage 4 Diagnosis or pay out $6,250 to Firefighters that received a Stage1/Stage 2 diagnosis. This lump sum would be paid regardless of what your personal insurance company provides.
- The Disability Benefit would pay out the firefighter’s normal monthly salary (Up to $5,000 a month for full time firefighters or $1,500 a month for volunteers) for a three-year duration. The Disability Benefit can be applied on top of the Lump Sum.
- Cost to the state would be approximately $7-8M/year.
- We are hoping to see this bill filed soon and will let you know when it is introduced.
Town Manager’s Report
This week’s report from the town manager included the following:
Manager’s Message to Council
I would like to extend a special thanks to Mayor Weinbrecht for taking time out of his schedule to present the State of Cary to staff on Tuesday. Staff enjoyed having the opportunity to submit questions in advance and hearing the Mayor recap past accomplishments and expand on his vision for Cary in 2021.
I look forward to seeing each of you at our upcoming Council Quarterly meeting on March 11. We will update you on several topics including but not limited to: Chapter 8 – Environmental; Parks and Recreation Reopening Plan; Downtown Park; Cary 150th.
Stay safe and have a great weekend.
Public Safety Update
As you know, many Town staff were eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine this week. I am pleased to report we have seen significant interest by colleagues across many departments and pleasantly, a generous show of support by some of our community partners. Dr. Mary MacKenzie from Primary Medical Care on Cornerstone Drive has offered 130 doses to our police officers who can reserve specific times for the shot and another 100 doses next week if needed. Also, WakeMed is holding 100 first doses for our Public Works staff for this Sunday. Wake County Public Health surprised us with an offer of more than 40 Pfizer doses late yesterday afternoon from supplies not used at the PNC Arena. As a result, many 9-1-1, police officers and other emergency operations staff received their first dose at Town Hall. We are very grateful to our community for these vaccination opportunities and will share more about them as they evolve.
Weekly Operational Report
The weekly operational report brings a close to the week’s organizational activities. Please take a moment to review the weekly operational report.
Included below is a summary-level overview of the operational activities continuing to take place during this health emergency.
- Preparations for the relocation of the historic Nancy Jones House began this week. These preparations include removing two later additions, minor asbestos abatement, tree removal, and clearing of the future site. Additional work will continue until the day of the relocation.
- This week, the US Senate is considering the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act after the House passed the measure early Saturday morning by a vote of 219-212. The new Senate language makes several changes to the House-passed version of the bill, particularly to the $350 billion Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds. Direct aid for local governments would be cut by $10 billion to support a new Coronavirus Capital Projects Fund, for which only states, territories, and tribes are eligible. To accommodate the new Capital Projects Fund, the amount for cities/towns with populations over 50,000 would be cut to $42.07 billion (from $45.57 billion in the House bill). Updated allocation tables detailing the amounts each local government is expected to receive will be released in the coming weeks.
- Effective, this week, iPayables, a system that allows automation of invoice processing through electronic purchase order matching, is going live. Next week, letters will be mailed to over 550 active vendors with information about access to a vendor portal where vendors can electronically submit invoices and view invoice payment status.
- On Tuesday, Tru Pettigrew facilitated our first Rap Session with Cary’s Teen Council on Navigating Difficult Times. Over 40 teens participated in the lively discussion.
- The Spruce Volunteer Litter Reduction Tool Kit lending program relaunched on March 1. In addition to recent media stories regarding increased litter along highways, staff experienced an increase in citizen inquires requesting litter sweep project opportunities. In response, PRCR relaunched adapted volunteer litter cleanup opportunities with social distancing guidelines and limited group sizes. Click here for more information.
- Applause! Cary Youth Theatre was selected from among 11 organizations to receive the 2021 Sara Spencer Child Drama Award from the Southeastern Theatre Conference. This award recognizes organizations providing dynamic, engaging theatre enrichment programs at the community, state, regional or national level.
- The February 2021 Development Pulse Report is now available. Highlights from the report include:
- North Harrison Hotel, 1623 North Harrison Avenue-The development plan for a new seven story dual-branded hotel has been approved. The construction of the hotel will implement the North Harrison Hotels PDP, rezoning case 16-REZ-15, approved on November 15, 2018.
- Cary Academy, 1500 North Harrison Avenue -The building permit to renovate the Cary Academy Upper School Building has been approved. The renovation includes installing a sprinkler system to the existing building, reconfiguring walls and providing all new finishes.
- Cary Brewhouse, 320 East Durham Road-The building permit was approved to convert the former Jordan Lake Brewery to a new brewery in partnership with the existing Cotton House Brewery. Interior renovations include moving and renovating the bar and adding lighting.
- Former Jellybeans Skate Center, 1120 Buck Jones Road – The permit to demolish the interior of the former Jellybeans has been approved. The building is being converted into a new school opening in July 2021.
- The Cary Zoning Board of Adjustment heard two cases at their March 1 meeting. The first case was a request for a reasonable accommodation to allow for a resident to keep two Cayuga ducks as emotional support animals. The request passed unanimously. The second case was for a new Chase Bank with an ATM drive-through at the corner of Kildaire Farm Road and Tryon Road. The Board voted unanimously to approve the development plan with the drive-through. The final item of business was the Board’s approval of the resolution for the Benson Timber civil penalty appeal.
- The Crossroads Interconnection Project kicked off this week. The project features an emergency interconnection between Cary and the City of Raleigh’s water systems. While the interconnection will be located off Jones Franklin Road-on Cary owned land inside Raleigh, work this week started along Holly Springs Road where additional infrastructure must first be installed. This work near Rosenwyn Lane should be finished early next week. The overall project is estimated to be complete in Spring 2022.
Cary Teen Council Partners with The Carying Place
As COVID-19 impacts our community and non-profit organizations, Cary Teen Council members continue to innovate and think of new ways to support their community in lieu of in-person volunteer experiences. In partnering with The Carying Place, a longtime partner of the council, throughout February members were able to provide donations to those who are currently homeless or cannot afford necessary supplies.
Town Hall Generator Delivered
Emergency power is one step closer to Town Hall. This week Pro-Line Procurement Services LLC delivered the 750-Kilowatt emergency standby generator. It is currently being stored offsite until the area next to the Herb Young Community Center is ready for installation.
In the meantime, work continues with Urban Forestry Manager Katie Rose Levin to provide the appropriate screening for the generator. The Generac generator has a natural gas driven engine and consists of an acoustic enclosure to attenuate noise.
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:
- How Employers Can Reduce Vaccine Hesitancy, Harvard Business Review
- The Pandemic’s Future Hangs in Suspense, The Atlantic
Reopening Facilities, Programs in Cary
This week staff provided information on the opening of town facilities. It is a plan based on the information we know now and while much of the current COVID-related information is largely positive, circumstances can change, thereby causing some adjustments to the plan.
PRCR is also creating a COVID-related safety plans to insure participants and staff are kept safe. So, participants and staff should expect a firm expectation to comply with all elements of those safety plans. Here is the tentative schedule:
- Sk8 Cary reopens on modified schedule
- Virtual programming continues
- Alternative Sports Activities begin
- Virtual programming continues
- Track Out Camp available
- Track Out Camp available
- Park Shelter Reservations resume, registration required, limited hours
- In-Person outdoor programming resumes on a limited, registration only basis
- Alternative Sports Activities continue
- Koka Booth reopens for small group exercise classes, art classes, rentals and other programming
- Modified Spring Daze is held beginning the last Saturday in April
- Nature and Outdoor Education programs for Specialized Recreation resume in April
- Practice begins for traditional but modified Outdoor Sports leagues.
- Virtual programming continues.
- Modified Spring Daze continues.
- Spraypad opens mid-May at Jack Smith Park.
- In-Person outdoor programming resumes on a limited, registration only basis.
- Koka Booth small group exercise classes, art classes, rentals and other programming continues.
- Nature and Outdoor Education programs for Specialized Recreation continues.
- Camps reopen; limited locations, hours, capacity; masks and other COVID protocols required; see website.
- League play begins for traditional but modified Outdoor Sports leagues.
- Virtual programming continues.
- NC Symphony returns to Koka Booth w/ limited capacity, pod seating, and timed entry.
- Downtown events resume with modification.
- Modified Fourth of July Celebration at Koka Booth.
- National touring acts, both musical and comedy, return to Koka Booth but to smaller capacity.
- July 24 – Cary’s 150th “Day to Remember” Celebration downtown.
- 27 & 28 -Modified Lazy Daze Arts & Crafts Festival on Town Hall Campus.
Free Health Fair
The following information was passed on to me this week about a free health Fair:
“Everyone will get the following tests: completer blood count, comprehensive metabolic panel, Cholesterol panel, Thyroid-stimulating hormone, and Hemoglobin a1c checked. These tests typically cost $310.00 at LabCorp. The patient will pay $20 only at the time of registration.
Please click on this link to register for virtual health fair 2021.
TAHTS Health Fair Committee”
This is a fantastic free health service that has been provided by the Triangle Area Hindu Temples for many years. This is a great opportunity for everyone to get a free in-depth health check.
Addressing Complaint of Cary’s Growth
I received an email complaining about Cary’s growth this week. Unfortunately, this group created a misleading survey which many people signed. It is a shame that this type of misleading information continues to thrive in our community. Here is the truth about growth in Cary:
The fact is that Cary has grown at 2% for the last 12 years. It is important to understand that every property owner in North Carolina has the right to develop their property including property owners in Cary.
We do not have authority to stop development and we do not have authority to stop growth nor should we. We do have the responsibility to provide services. I believe we provide excellent services better than any community in the state.
What is important about growth is that necessary services keep pace with growth. Cary has enough water/sewer capacity for us to continue at our current growth pace for about a decade before another expansion is needed. Cary has proactively prepared for new fire stations and continues to plan for future fire stations.
Our response time is less than 5 minutes, and our department has the highest national rating possible. We continue to support and grow our police department which has kept us as on of the safest communities in the nation for decades. In addition, the council has never denied police or fire funding requests.
Cary has proactively paved neighborhood streets before they become issues. Keep in mind that major roads are maintained by NCDOT and they have much lower standards. That is why you see potholes on some major thoroughfares.
Our parks system is nationally recognized and was even ranked the #1 park system in the country a couple of years ago. We have about 80 miles of greenways that will allow you to travel for miles on one greenway, such as from Umstead Park to the American Tobacco Trail.
With the recent passing of the Cary Community Bonds we will be adding new parks and greenway trails including two parks this year. I believe Cary is growing at a pace where we can, and do, provide excellent services.
I received several other emails from citizens this week:
- A request for a letter of recommendation (I usually do this for people I know. Unfortunately, I can’t do it for people I don’t know since it would be disingenuous)
Thanks for attending a virtual meeting from a business leader.
- A request for new lights for pickleball courts at Carpenter Park which is being expanded (Staff stated that lights are not included as part of the expansion’s budget. Projects are reassessed annually based on needs)
- A complaint that the proposed transportation hub will shutdown the Neighborhood Bar (The transportation hub is years away. The site was chosen from several sites after much data and deliberation)
- A complaint that new downtown developments are not considering pedestrians (That is not true. They are considered in every project across town.)
- A question about Cary’s recycling (We continue to look for ways to expand our collected materials but finding takers, that we have to pay, is extremely difficult)
- A complaint about drag racing on Davis Drive (Police are looking into this)
- A complaint that the Mask Up campaign is a waste of money and that it should be spent opening up ball fields instead (I strongly disagree. Science shows wearing masks works! PLEASE wear masks. We are in the home stretch of beating this pandemic.)
- A request to help Cat Angels Pet Adoption find a home (If you have a space please let them know)
- A request to rent a picnic shelter (We will allow online renting soon!)
- A request for internships (HR handles internship requests)
- A request for information about animal bite incidents because they believe there has been a rash of them lately (Police will provide the information)
- A request to fight for menstrual equality in the school system (Please contact WCPSS)
- A condemnation from an anonymous pastor with quotes like: “I don’t want the enemy to bring disgrace and shame to your name because of your evil deeds and love for money…”. This was followed by several quotes from the Bible.
Wow, hate from a pastor! I have absolutely no idea what they are referring to, but it did bring to mind these Bible verses from Matthew 7:1-2: “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” A message I always gave to my students when I taught Sunday School was that prayer can solve all. If ever there was a time to pray…
Next week’s activities include staff meetings, a meeting with Triangle 411 podcast, the council-staff quarterly meeting, and a meeting of the North Carolina Metro Mayors.
Well, that is all for this week. My next post will be on Sunday, March 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.organd email personal comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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