Cary, NC — This week the council was supposed to present their legislative agenda to the Wake legislative delegation, but due to weather concerns, couldn’t.
Discussing Council & CAMPO Meeting
Monday started with a quick one-on-one meeting with the town manager. We talked about topics in the quarterly meeting from the week before and about a potential staff-council retreat later in the year.
Wednesday I participated in a virtual meeting of the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization’s Executive Board. The meeting included public hearings for an update to the Wake County Transit Plan and an amendment to the Fiscal years 2020-2029 Transportation Improvement Program.
Regular agenda items included the draft fiscal year 2022 Wake Transit Work Plan and a CAMPO projects and programs funding update. There were no decisions made by the Executive Board since all items were information only.
NC Metro Mayors Recap
Thursday the council was forced to cancel their scheduled meeting with the Wake legislative delegation due to the threat of stormy weather and tornadoes. Fortunately for Cary, that weather did not happen.
Friday I participated virtually in a meeting of the North Carolina Metro Mayors. Here is a summary of that meeting from the Executive Director:
The General Assembly remains relatively quiet. The legislature is still in a slow start-up mode with bills being filed. Appropriations committees are still receiving educational sessions from staff and agencies. Bill filing deadlines for the House and Senate are attached.
American Rescue Plan – Tuesday, March 23
- The event will include a panel session with management staff from Gastonia and Winston-Salem.
- The key to use of the allocated funds will be the guidance from the Dept of Treasury –
- Please e-mail your ideas on using the ARP funds to Beau so they can be consolidated for federal officials to consider as guidance is drafted.
State use of ARP funds
- NC will receive $5.2B and, in addition, it is estimated that the State of NC will have more than $5B in its OWN SURPLUS funds before Tax Day hits.
- There are a lot of questions with ARP funding as far as the state goes. One hot topic of discission is the federal bill’s references to states NOT USING the ARP funds as an offset for any tax cuts.
- The state legislature is waiting on federal guidelines to determine what the guidance will be regarding state tax reductions/deductions.
- Types of state tax policy that could be affected include – possible increase in standard deduction, incentives for affordable housing, allowing PPP loans to be deducted by the state.
- The bottom line is there are still a lot of unknowns and the state will be waiting on guidance from the Treasury.
Tax Filing Deadline Change
- NCDOR has announced it will extend the April 15 tax filing and payment deadline to May 17 to mirror the IRS announcement this week.
- This extension applies to individual income tax returns.
- Legislation will need to be passed at the state level, but it appears House and Senate leadership support the extension.
- The State Auditor Beth Wood gave a presentation to a Joint Transportation Committee about missteps in a how NCDOT handles INTERNAL AUDITS, saying the work being done at NCDOT does not meet professional standards. She did NOT suggest there is any actual fraud or violations of law, just identified weakness in the internal oversight functions.
- The DOT audit directed by H77 from last year addressing overspending issues at DOT should be coming in the next 30 days. We will continue to monitor information related to the Department.
City of Wilmington
- This effort began about two years ago and has garnered great support from many different levels of government and communities from the Eastern region of the state.
- There have been 62 Mayors and County Commission Chairs that have been active in the group.
- The Alliance has landed on six priorities. There seems to be a real opportunity around flood resiliency this legislative session at both the state and federal level.
- A decision has been made to formalize the group. The Coalition wants to be supportive of the Alliance’s effort.
- This alliance is a great example of closing the urban/rural divide and bringing communities together under a common goal.
Criminal Justice Reform SB300
- Sen Danny Britt, Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, is the lead sponsor for S300.
- This is an expansive bill. Three highlights of the bill are:
- It would require law enforcement agencies to report disciplinary action and some incidents of officers using force to a new database.
- It would make “Engaging in a riot” a Class H felony, instead of a Class 1 misdemeanor.
- Violations of local ordinances, such as a noise or parking ordinance, would no longer be misdemeanors, rather they would be considered an infraction with a maximum fine of $50.
- This is not expected to be the final version of this bill. Sen. Britt has stated the current bill should not be “read as gospel” and it is expected to be revised. Part of the reason for filing was to begin conversations with the state’s various law enforcement and prosecutorial organizations.
- We will continue to monitor this issue as it evolves – no advocacy action needed – yet, but do share this bill with senior public safety staff in your city.
Nothing to report.
Local Revenues/Local Control
Nothing to report.
The meeting concluded after 30 minutes.
Candlelit Vigil in Cary Brings Awareness to Asian Hate Crimes
Saturday a vigil was organized by council member Ya to bring awareness of Asian hate crimes which has dramatically increased during the last year.
Due to my COVID-19 restrictions of not attending gatherings until 2 weeks after I am fully vaccinated, I was unable to attend. Here is an excerpt from what I sent to council member Ya:
“… I can’t tell you how much my heart aches for you and all the Asian-Americans after the recent violence in Atlanta and around other places in the nation. … please know that I care and feel for you and all our Asian-American citizens. You are all valued, respected, and loved in Cary. We will not tolerate discrimination or violence of any kind and that you can depend on. Please send my love and admiration to all those that attend the vigil tonight. Let them know that through love we can defeat the evil monster of racism. And that the Town of Cary stands with them.”
Town Manager’s Report
The town manager, Sean Stegall’s report for this week included:
Manager’s Message to Council
Tomorrow, March 20 is moving day! The historic Nancy Jones House will be relocated from 9391 Chapel Hill Rd. to 9321 Chapel Hill Rd. The house will be placed on cribbing at the new site until the foundation is complete. I would like to give special thanks to Historic Preservation Planner Gillian White and numerous other employees from across the organization who have worked incredibly hard to preserve such an important part of Cary’s history.
Stay safe and have a great weekend.
Maynard Road Parcel
This letter to David Ellis, Wake County Manager, offering to purchase two acres of property directly adjacent to Town-owned land on Maynard Road. As previously discussed with the Council, this project allows for the development of affordable transit-orientated housing on this corridor, which the Council would be asked to formally consider at a later date. Thank you to Councilmember Lori Bush who has shepherded this project for the past several years. If you have any questions, please contact Lori, Danna Widmar, or me. Thank you.
Transportation Working Group
Cary’s new Transportation Working Group held its kick-off meeting on Tuesday, March 16. The meeting focused on sharing why the group was formed, introductions of staff and participants, and a discussion on potential topics for future meetings. The group is working to confirm a monthly meeting date as it embarks on its mission to support enhanced mobility in Cary.
In August 2020, Carl M. Warren assumed the role of President and CEO of the North Carolina Railroad Company (NCRR). On March 12, Director of Transportation and Facilities Jerry Jensen and Transit Manager Kelly Blazey held a virtual meeting to introduce Cary to Mr. Warren and Donald Advent, Vice President of Engineering with NCRR. Over the hour-long meeting, staff discussed several prominent transit projects Cary is working with regional partners that include the Downtown Multi-Modal Transit Facility, Bus Rapid Transit, and Commuter Rail. The group agreed to meet regularly to discuss common interests.
Public Safety Update
As a follow-up to the public safety presentation during the Quarterly, NCDHHS has updated the COVID County Alert report. Wake County and Chatham County are now yellow, indicating significant community spread. The Wake County rating is based on a case rate of 234 per 100,000 population, percent positive test rate of 4.5%, and low hospital impacts. The case rate is similar to what was reported during the Quarterly, but testing percent positives and hospital impacts are lower, thereby changing the color status. Chatham County’s color code did not change. The March 18th report summarizes statewide county data and offers recommended guidance for individuals, businesses and community organizations, and public officials.
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.
- This week, staff received notice that the Division of Environmental Assistance and Customer Service (DEACS), within NC DEQ, has preliminarily awarded Cary’s 2021 Community Waste Reduction and Recycling Grant proposal for a total of $13,500 in state funding. DEACS is now initiating the approval process for the final award. Funding will be used to develop Cary’s first pilot residential food waste recycling drop-off site, providing residents an alternative service for disposing of these materials and turning it into compost. Staff will bring the award to Council for approval and acceptance to launch this new offering within the Town’s solid waste services.
- In-person outdoor programming returned on Wednesday with a Wildflowers Nature Hike at Hemlock Bluffs Nature Preserve. In-person programming continues in March with additional hikes and the return of the Junior Olympic Archery Development program. Fitness and other shelter-based programs begin the week of April 5.
- Registration for youth baseball/softball leagues will take place March 15 through April 4. Practices will begin in early May and games will take place from late May through late July. Click here for more information.
- In response to ongoing cyberattacks against government organizations, Cary is rolling out multi-factor authentication to protect our systems. This solution helps prevent attackers from gaining access to accounts by alerting users when an attempt is made to access their account, allowing them the ability to block access.
- To respond to frequent public records requests for outstanding checks (excluding utility refund checks) and performance bond information, the data is now available on the Town’s Open Data Portal. The information will be updated by the 9th of each month.
- On March12, Officer Dustin Preston, police motorcycle officer and Bike Safe NC Coordinator, assisted the North Carolina State Highway Patrol (NCSHP)with a Bike Safe NC class at the NCSHP office on NE Maynard Road.
- As part of a wastewater pump station improvement project, a 100-kWsound attenuated emergency generator was installed at the Hollybrook Pump Station. Also, a sewage grinder was recently installed at the Glenmitt Pump Station, which shreds sanitary wipes and other debris that enters the pump station into smaller pieces to help prevent pump clogging.
This week, Cary celebrated Sunshine Week, a national initiative designed to open dialogue about the importance of open government and freedom of information. This includes the public’s right to attend meetings and access documents deemed a “public record”. Staff outreach included educational games and interactions on Chatter such as bingo, trivia, a word search, and sharing photos of what makes their life brighter. Members of our boards and commissions were also invited to play an educational game of Sunshine Bingo.
No Tree Left Behind
Using a contactless process, citizens picked up their reserved tree through the My Tree, Our Tree program at the Operations Center last Saturday. A total of 150 sycamore, silverbell, and sweet bay magnolias now have a new home in Cary.
Crossroads Interconnection Project
A major milestone in the Crossroads Interconnection Project was completed this week. Contractors working for Cary removed a failing valve located in Tryon Road. The valve previously provided separation between Cary and Raleigh’s water systems. Eliminating this connection point where no meter existed helps pave the way for a fully functional water system interconnection located on Jones Franklin Road scheduled to be completed in spring 2022.
Crossroads Junction Project
NCDOT informed Cary that preliminary engineering work on the Crossroads Junction project (I-5701 & I-5703) has restarted after being on hold approximately a year. These two projects will improve safety and traffic flow along I-40 and through the highway-to-highway interchange (see project map).
Due to their proximity, both projects are being designed and built-in conjunction. Staff will continue to work with NCDOT as this project will have significant impact on the street network around the Crossroads area. To meet Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) standards and improve safety along the highways, the US 1/64 eastbound Walnut Street ramps are proposed to be relocated to Piney Plains Road and the on-ramp from the Crossroads mall to US 1/64 eastbound will be removed. NCDOT is producing a traffic analysis to understand the impacts to the local streets. Staff is awaiting the completion of this analysis.
I-5701 project: This project will widen I-40 from 6-lanes to 8-lanes from the I-440/U.S. 1/U.S. 64 interchange to Lake Wheeler Road (S.R. 1370). New auxiliary lanes will also be constructed.
I-5703 project: This project will reconstruct the existing highway-to-highway interchange. Nearby ramps may also be impacted due to their proximity and the need to meet federal safety standards.
Click here for more information.
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:
- Tiny Town, Big Decision: What Are We Willing to Pay to Fight the Rising Sea?, The New York Times
- Some Long Covid Patients Feel Much Better After Getting the Vaccine, The New York Times
Supplemental Information Provided to Council
Quarterly Meeting Follow-up from Assistant Finance Director Kimberly Branch
During the Covid period from March 2020 through February 2021, Oasis has assisted 124 households with utility payments totaling $33,371, and currently, there are 719 accounts that are under payment plans.
Emails from citizens this week included the following:
- Cut and Paste complaints against legislation that would protect LGBTQ citizens
- A request to pass an ordinance to protect LGBTQ citizens (We do not have authority to create ordinances to protect LGBTQ citizens. It is my hope that the legislative majority would find morality and do the right thing.)
- A complaint about an abandoned property on Ellynn Drive.
- A question about reserving park shelters
- A request to prevent construction from clearing trees (Property owners have the protected right to develop their property and we have no authority to stop that – nor should we. In almost every construction project, trees will be removed. We have permanently preserved over 30% of Cary’s ultimate buildout as open space. We have a champion tree ordinance and some of the strongest buffer ordinances in the state. We continue to plant trees and work on initiatives to plant more. Our newly hired Urban Forester is working full-time on finding ways to increase the trees in our community)
- Invitation to a groundbreaking (I am not doing in-person gatherings until two weeks after I am fully vaccinated. Then I will do small, masked events. Right now, that looks to be starting in late April.)
- Complaints about violence against Asians (I stated above that discrimination and violence will not be tolerated in Cary)
- Thanks for working on crosswalks in downtown
- A request to revisit gun ordinances in Cary (Gun laws are mandated by the state and not municipalities)
- A letter explaining how Vitamin D can help with protection against COVID-19
Next week’s activities include a taping for Cary150, staff meetings, a taping for Fenton marketing, a regularly scheduled council 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 28th. 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 [email protected] and email personal comments to [email protected].
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