Harold’s Blog: This Week Cary Turns 150 & Koka Booth Amphitheatre Reopens

Cary, NC — This week the council held its last regularly scheduled meeting of the month.

Fenton Discussion & Council Prep

The team behind Fenton at the groundbreaking event on November 12, 2020.

Monday I contacted each council member to hear of questions or concerns about Thursday’s meeting agenda items. There were comments and questions about the Lewey Drive rezoning proposal and the Carpenter Fire Station Road rezoning proposal.

Later Monday I met virtually with management, directors, and Mayor Pro-Tem Frantz to go over the agenda items. Our meeting lasted about 15 minutes.

My final meeting of the day was my weekly one-on-one with Town Manager, Sean Stegall. Our meeting was brief, and we mostly discussed the Fenton project.

Cary’s 150th Anniversary Date Approaching

Wednesday afternoon I taped a marketing video for the Fenton. This was a Q&A about the Triangle area and Cary. The questions focused on why people should open a business and move here.

Later Wednesday I taped a video with ABC11 who is helping the town promote our 150th anniversary. This video, in an interview format, was to promote our 150th-anniversary date of April 3rd and the virtual celebration at 8 PM on that day. I used the following information in answering the interview questions:

“Cary turns 150 years old in 2021, the official date is April 3rd. An easy way to remember the Town’s birthday day is 4 – 3 – 2 – 1. It is the fourth month, third day, two one – 21st year.

Many people do not know but the area where Cary stands today was originally inhabited by the Tuscarora Native Americans. Then additional settlers found their way to this area which would come to be known as incorporated with the name of Cary in 1871.

Through the visionary leadership of our founder, Frank Page and others, our town has grown from a bustling railroad stop between Raleigh and Durham to a diverse, connected community of over 170,000 residents.

The planning of the Cary150 celebration year started in 2018 with a council appointed task force to create a year of memories by coordinating and prioritizing celebration initiatives. The theme of year, created by the task force, was to honor Cary’s past, engages citizens in the present and excites people about the future. Participants will see those themes in the activities and initiatives planned for the year.

Many of plans had to shift, like other activities in our community, due to COVID. The plans for the early part of the year have been shifted to a virtual format, and we hope we are able to gather late 2021 to celebrate.

Even though we plan to celebrate all year long, April 3rd is the official date. We will celebrate our Town’s anniversary, virtually of course, through a release of a showcase video highlighting our past and everything we love about our community.

Next we will be joined by ABC11’s Steve Daniels and Tisha Powell as they welcome everyone to a commemorate performance by Chatham Rabbits and Hiss Golden Messenger. I hope you all join the festivities at 8 p.m. on the Town of Cary’s Facebook and YouTube channels.

Also, during the week of April 3, we will be encouraging residents to participate in wishing Cary Happy Birthday by posting your video and be on the lookout for surprises in our parks and greenways on how to win free Cary150 merchandise.

Our original plan was to have a big celebration event in April to commemorate the year, but due to COVID we had to delay in-person gatherings. And, with everyone’s health and safety in mind, we wanted to plan a celebration where people feel safe to gather in small numbers. For July, we will be having two celebration weekends starting on July 24 that will feature an art projection show on the Cary Arts Center.

Think about the experience you may have seen at Disney World with the project on the castle, we are bringing that same experience to Downtown Cary. More details about other happenings that day will be posted on our website and announced throughout social channels. I hope everyone finds time during those two weeks to visit us in downtown Cary and experience this amazing show.

To close this celebration year, we are looking forward to hosting a Masquerade Gala on November 13 at the Embassy Suites. It will be a black-tie event where we can gather to celebrate Cary’s past, present, and future through a gala that will provide everything from dinner to dancing. We are excited to have Good Shot Judy participating as the Gala’s entertainment.

The ticket sales and sponsorships of the event will benefit two Town Associated Nonprofits:

  • Play It Forward (a scholarship program that awards funding to our citizens who may not have the financial means to participate in the Town’s programming)
  • Oasis (a program to help those going through financial hardship with their utility bill)

We are excited about the event and the funding we will raise for these two great programs.

Cary celebrating its birthday all year long. On our website, http://cary150.org, we have listed many ways that you can get involved today.

Our virtual scrapbook is a collection of citizens’ favorite places in Cary, reasons why they moved to Cary, and wishes for Cary’s future generations. We are collecting these stories through our Share Your Story feature of our website. These stories will be preserved in our Time Capsule that we will be putting together later in the year. Go on our website and include your story today!

In honor of the celebration year, walking and driving tours are available on our website to allow everyone to discover Cary at your own pace. These tours were created in partnership with the Friends of Page Walker. These tours are designed to guide you through areas of Cary that you may not visit or know the history of the road names and buildings. Tours are available on our website and will be released throughout the year.”

That interviewing process took about 15 to 20 minutes.

Council Meeting Hosts 3 Public Hearings, 1 Discussion

Thursday the council held its last regularly scheduled meeting of the month. The meeting started with a historic moment presented by council member Yerha. He gave a fascinating history lesson on the mayors of Cary up through Koka Booth. Then he and the council presented me with a plaque that had the following inscribed on it:

“In Celebration of Cary’s Sesquicentennial Year Cary recognizes Harold Weinbrecht, Jr. as the longest-serving Mayor in our Town’s history Presented March 25, 2021.”

I was surprised, to say the least, and I am truly honored to be the mayor of such a great town with such great people.

The agenda included 14 consent items, 3 public hearings, and 1 discussion item. The public hearing on the Lewey Drive rezoning proposal to allow townhomes drew about half a dozen call-in speakers and 25 written comments against the proposal. This proposal will now go to the Planning and Zoning Board for their review and recommendation.

The discussion item to allow 300 apartments at the corner of Carpenter Fire Station Road and Highway 55 appeared to be headed for denial. A motion to table the item to allow the applicant to make changes was passed unanimously.

The applicant had originally asked that the item be voted on at this council meeting since his option on the land was expiring. I am not sure if or when this proposal will come back to council. After a closed session, the council adjourned. The total meeting time was about two hours.

Weekly NC Metro Mayors Recap

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

Legislative Activity (Generally)

  • Things remain relatively quiet in the General Assembly in terms of major legislation moving, however there is a lot of work going on behind the scenes with Appropriations and Finance Chairs meeting regularly.
  • One explanation for the relative quiet is that state leaders have been in a bit of a holding pattern waiting for the significant funding (and the rules for spending it) for the state in the American Rescue Plan.  Additionally, previous rounds of federal funds and the disruption to work related to COVID, there is a backlog of items from 2020, so bill drafting staff teams in the General Assembly are incredibly backed up.
  • Bill filing deadlines in the House have been pushed back.  The local bill filing date has been moved to April 8 and the public and non-appropriations bill filing deadline has been moved to May 4.  Senate bill drafting deadlines have already passed.

Governor Cooper released his Budget Recommendations

  • The proposal was presented to the Joint Appropriations Committee this week.
  • This signals the first step of the budget process and we expect a schedule from legislators to emerge in the next couple of weeks.
  • We also expect Governor Cooper to make recommendations for the American Rescue Plan.  We anticipate an emphasis on infrastructure investments.

Federal Update

American Rescue Plan

  • Currently in a holding pattern waiting for guidance from Treasury.
  • NCLM ARP session had nearly 600 participants. The NCLM ARP website will be regularly updated.  Metro Mayors will add information to this site as well.
  • We will continue to track the guidance that emerges and share as quickly as possible.

Earmarks

  • For the first time since 2011, U.S. House members are working on earmarks.
  • Each House member may have up to have 10 earmarks.
  • Earmarks (NLC article here) are due to the respective committees from each House member at the end of April, so talk to your U.S. House Members ASAP if you are interested – EARMARKS are limited to LOCAL GOVERNMENTS and non-profits.

Federal Infrastructure Bill

  • There is continued discussion about a massive infrastructure bill.
  • It is unclear at this point what approach will be taken – either with the reconciliation process or with a bi-partisan approach.
  • Please talk to your Public Works Department and continue to think about transportation and other infrastructure needs – especially “shovel-ready” projects (often good candidates for earmarks as well)

NC General Assembly Transportation

Governor’s Transportation budget

  • INCLUDES full restoration of urban and rural transit ($32 million for urban SMAP funding)
  • This has been a priority for MMC.  The transportation budget picture has rebounded so we are hopeful to stay the course through the legislative process for these transit funds.
  • We will continue to discuss the importance of this funding with legislators.

Commuter Rail Study Bill H343

  • This bill was introduced this week by Rep. Alston from Durham with democratic co-sponsors and Republican consultation.
  • This is an important priority for Metro Mayors and can also help raise the level of discussion around multi-modal transportation.
  • The bill was discussed with Republican members prior to introduction so we are hopeful there is a good opportunity for it to move forward with bipartisan support.
  • We will continue to track this issue.

Public Safety

Nothing new to report

Economic Development

Affordable Housing Study Bill H232

  • This bill would direct the Legislative Research Commission to study affordable housing in the state.
  • The bill has bi-partisan support and received a favorable report from the House Commerce Committee this week.  It has been referred to the House Rules Committee.

Local Revenues/Local Control

Regulatory Reform Bill – H366 (Outdoor Advertising Provision)

  • Section 11 of the bill would disapprove three DOT agency rules that were recently approved.
  • These rules regulate the zoning, use, and repair of outdoor advertising signs.
  • It is our understanding that if these rules are disapproved, it would put the previous rules back in place, which are said to be fine, since cities were OK with the previous rules.

Municipal Elections

  • It appears clear that state level legislative will be required for the 42 municipal jurisdictions that have to redistrict before they hold elections.
  • Municipal advocates are working together to ensure elections are only delayed for those cities that are impacted by the census delay (the cities with district specific elections).
  • There is still a need for continued education efforts around this topic and we will continue to monitor as legislative solutions emerge.
  • Please talk to your City Council and legislative members if you are impacted.  Many folks prefer that there be one statewide bill to address the issue of census impacted municipal elections.

Comments from Mayor Vaughan

There is a lot of local discussion around the following bills:

  • S101 – ICE Cooperation Bill
  • H358 – Save Women’s Sports Act (same language has been introduced in multiple states across the country)

Please reach out to Beau or Mayor Vaughan with feedback on these two issues.

The meeting concluded after 25 minutes.

Town Manager’s Report

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

Manager’s message to council

Last night during the Cary150 History Moment we learned all about our past Mayors, and recognized Mayor Harold Weinbrecht on his accomplishment of being the longest-serving Mayor in Cary’s history.

Congratulations Mayor, we are all fortunate to have you representing Cary each and every day. Please note that there will not be a Council Weekly Report or Weekly Operational Report next week because of the holiday. My next message will be on Friday, April 9.

Stay safe and have a nice weekend.

Sean

Koka Booth Amphitheatre Reopening

With COVID-19 practices and protocols in place, the Koka Booth Amphitheatre will reopen to the public on April 1. As seen in the above image staff has been busy preparing the facility. For more information about events and seating click here.

Public Safety Update

North Carolina is receiving more vaccines every week and increasing the local capabilities to administer it. As a result, on Thursday, Governor Cooper announcedthe state is accelerating the vaccination registration dates for the remainder of Groups 4 and Group 5.

Wake County residents can register for the vaccine here and follow this link to see Chatham County vaccine providers.

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.

Departmental Updates

Included below is a summary-level overview of the operational activities continuing to take place during this health emergency.

  • The Nancy Jones House was successfully relocated on March 20. The house will remain on cribbing at the new site until the foundation work is complete. Following the completion of the foundation, a post-move assessment will be completed to maintain the house’s National Register of Historic Places designation and the rehabilitation process will begin; this process will include asbestos removal, siding repair, replacement of damaged structural elements, etc.
  • The Senior Advisory Board recruitment window closed on March 21. The recruitment brought in 49 applications, which are currently under review by Council Liaison Ed Yerha.
  • On April 3, Cary will celebrate our Town’s 150th anniversary. Join us virtually as we explore our past, highlight Cary’s best, and showcase everything we love about our community. This will be followed by a virtual performance from Chatham Rabbits and Hiss Golden Messenger to commemorate the day. Tune in on YouTube or Facebook Live at 8 p.m. to join the festivities!
  • To celebrate Cary’s sesquicentennial, birthday cards with stickers will be placed throughout Cary’s parks from March 29 through April 2. Individuals who find a sticker are encouraged to snap a photo with the sticker, share the picture on social media, and use #Cary150 & #HappyBirthdayCary.
  • This week calls to the PRCR main telephone line began routing through 311. Calls to PRCR facilities are not part of this change. This marks the first time our 311 Citizen Advocates will be taking Parks related calls directly, along with current PRCR staff, and is just the beginning of our effort to integrate PRCR into the list of services supported by 311.
  • A public hearing sign has been posted on Cary owned property at 204 South Academy St. The hearing notice is for the April 5 Zoning Board of Adjustment meeting where the board will hold a quasi-judicial hearing for Cary First Baptist Church Special Use request. The First Baptist Church is anticipated to be enlarged by the addition of two parcels of land located at 143 West Chatham St. (0.03 acres) and 204 South Academy St. (0.28 acres) that it desires to use for parking. These parcels are zoned Town Center, High Intensity Mixed Use or HMXD, which requires a special use permit to allow the requested use for religious assembly. An associated sketch plan will also be reviewed by the Cary Zoning Board of Adjustment.
  • Three new surge tanks were brought online at the Cary-Apex Water Treatment Facility. This was the final component of a larger project to protect the water system pipes from surges that result when the pumps are turned on and off to move water into the system. These new tanks will increase the resiliency of our water system by protecting the water lines in all three pressure zones from damage that can be caused by high surge pressures.
  • The Trinity Road Pump Station was tested this week to prepare for transferring water to the City of Raleigh starting on March 29. Utilizing the Supervisory Control And Data Acquisition (SCADA) system, operators located at the Cary-Apex Water Treatment Facility were able to modulate flow into Raleigh, ultimately reaching a rate of 2 million gallons per day for a brief time. Since Cary’s source water is in the Haw River Basin and Raleigh’s service area and wastewater facilities are in the Neuse River Basin, Raleigh requested and received permission from NCDEQ for the emergency transfer between basins. The transfer next week is necessary for Raleigh to make repairs to a large water transmission main in their system.
  • There is notable interest this year for bulk reclaimed water use. With warming temperatures and a desire for citizens and contractors to start spring landscaping projects, reclaimed water staff have conducted 10 bulk reclaimed water training events. The required one-time training, primarily for landscape and irrigation contractors informs users about reclaimed water and its proper use.

Restoring Infrastructure & Building Trust

Much to the satisfaction of staff and citizens alike, the emergency culvert replacement project at Ellynn Drive was completed this week.

Just as a hurricane loomed in the forecast for mid-September, staff identified the failing culvert on Ellynn Drive was causing the road above it to sink. The situation had the potential to create serious public safety issues and cause extensive infrastructure damage.

Staff immediately closed the road and reached out to contractors and the on-call consultant. Recognizing the potential for serious safety concerns, they immediately secured the area, and ultimately finished the restoration in record time—six months.

Gap Closed in Water Distribution Network

Contractors working for Cary completed work to close a gap in Cary’s water distribution system on Tryon Road, paving the way for the Crossroads Emergency Interconnect Project to move forward.

Staff from Cary’s Utilities and Public Works Departments worked with City of Raleigh staff to support contractors installing a small section of 16-inch water line located in Tryon Road.

This work also improves operational flexibility in Cary’s water distribution network near the boundary of Cary’s Central and Southern Pressure Zones.

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:

Supplemental Information Provided to Council

No items were requested this week.

Mayor’s Mailbox

Emails from citizens this week include:

  • A request to have a public swimming pool in Cary.
  • A request to have a homeless shelter in Cary (Cary has private organizations that help with this. The public organization is with the county who we fund through our taxes)
  • Complaints about crimes against Asians and about the jogger incident in Cary (All Cary citizens are valued and treasured. We embrace and celebrate our diversity. Our Asian population is our largest minority population, and we are proud of that. We will not, and have not, ever tolerated discrimination, racism, or violence of any kind.)
  • Several requests to approve 300 apartments at Carpenter Fire Station Road and Highway 55.
  • A complaint about tree removal in downtown.

Next week’s activities include a virtual meeting with Congress member Deborah Ross, a meeting of the North Carolina Metro Mayors, my second COVID-19 vaccination shot, and the celebration of Cary’s 150th anniversary on Saturday, April 3rd at 8 PM.

Well, that is all for this week. My next post will be on Sunday, April 4th.  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.organd email personal comments to augustanat@mindspring.com.


From the blog of Cary Mayor Harold Weinbrecht. Images from Town of Cary.

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2 replies
  1. Chuck Cowherd
    Chuck Cowherd says:

    When will Cary potholes become a priority? They are growing in size and depth while the city works on parks, parks and bike lanes.

    Reply

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