Harold’s Blog: American Rescue Plan, I-540 Construction and More

Cary, NC — This week was a lighter week than normal. Monday the town manager and I agreed to cancel this week’s one-on-one meeting. We will have an in-depth meeting next week.

Cary History Through the Eyes of Mayor Ritter’s Wife, Sally

Cary has been blessed to have many amazing leaders over the decades. As part of our 150th anniversary, we have asked people to share their stories about coming to and living in Cary. On Monday of this week, I received a story from Mrs. Harold Ritter about her husband who was Cary’s mayor from 1983 to 1987. Here is that story:

“During the years after Harold and I moved to Cary, the town experienced unprecedented growth and change. The establishment of the Research Triangle Park drew people from all over the country to Cary. Our friends were talking about losing the small-town character and appearance.

Harold studied Horticulture and Landscape Design at NC State and had taken courses which taught him the value of plants and planning. He could envision how both residential areas and commercial and civic areas would benefit from careful use of greenery and planning for growth.

In 1971 Harold was asked by Cary Garden Club to give a talk on Cary ‘s appearance at their meeting held at First Baptist Church. His topic was The Beautification of Cary. Unknown to him, Mayor Fred Bond was in the audience. Mayor Bond came to him after the meeting and asked him to chair the new Cary Appearance Commission.

The purpose of the commission was to develop strategies to improve the areas in and around Cary which would be attractive to visitors and citizens. Harold readily agreed.  He served on the Appearance Commission for two years seeking input from others about how Cary could carry out the Appearance Commission ‘s purpose.

Harold was very committed to working to plan Cary s growth.  He believed the small- town character could be kept while effectively managing growth using new ideas about town planning.

So, in 1973 he ran for an At-Large seat on the Town Council and was elected. Using the Council’s process Fred Bond was again voted by council members to be the Mayor and Harold was named Mayor Pro Tem.

During these years from 1973 to 1983 Harold worked diligently with Mayor Bond and council members to put in place the progressive policies which would guide future decisions.

Their work resulted in the following ordinances/services:

  • Implemented a comprehensive growth plan
  • Passed a junk car ordinance
  • Expanded recreational facilities
  • Built additional fire stations
  • Developed a new Greenway system
  • Created A Clean Community System to educate citizens on ways to control litter and reduce sanitation costs
  • Passed a landscape ordinance requiring all commercial buildings to be landscaped
  • Passed a sign ordinance to limit size and number of signs
  • Passed the tree ordinance to use shrubs and trees to create natural environments and preserve trees

These represent only a small description of the work of the council and a very professional staff which would assure Cary s future was one of planned growth.

After 10 years on the council as Mayor Pro Tem, Harold was elected Mayor in 1983. Under his leadership, the Town Council continued to work together with staff and citizen appointed groups to work for the betterment of Cary.

Mayor Ritter names these items as accomplishments during his time in office:

  • Led the Negotiations with Wake County which brought Wake Med to Cary
  • Secured the Town’s Purchase of the Paige Walker Hotel
  • Started the annual Christmas tree lighting
  • Leased Hemlock Bluffs to the town for 100 years for $1
  • Completed the Herb Young center
  • Started the Mayor s Award for Excellence for outstanding business projects
  • Secured an independent water supply which enabled continued development
  • Established Cary s Keep America Beautiful program
  • Created a Handicapped commission

And as Mayor he was instrumental in restoring items in the Time Capsule for the Bicentennial Year to be opened at this year ‘s 150-year celebration

After more than fifteen years in Cary s decision making process, Harold stepped down after one term as Mayor. The almost full-time job reduced time for family and leisure activities.

His love for fishing on the North Carolina coast at Emerald Isle became a reality. His love of his family and especially his two granddaughters, Ava and Erica, had expanded time. His love for the town is still strong.”

I am grateful that Mrs. Ritter shared their story with us. We are so fortunate to have had Mayor Ritter as a leader during Cary’s critical time of growth.

Metro Mayors, Governor Discuss Pandemic & Rescue Plan

Thursday I attended a North Carolina Metro Mayors event with Governor Cooper. He talked for 10 minutes and answered questions for another 20 minutes. Most of the topics were related to the American Rescue Plan and the Pandemic.

After Governor Cooper we heard from a representative of restaurants and hotels. They explained that while most of the economy is up the restaurants and hotels are still suffering and are accumulating large amounts of debt.

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

Federal Update

American Rescue Plan

  • There is nothing new to report, STILL waiting for Treasury Guidance.
  • There are two websites on the use of ARP funds that are very helpful from NCLM and NLC.

Infrastructure Bill/American Jobs Act is picking up steam in Congress.

  • Vice President Harris is visiting Greensboro and High Point to advocate for the American Jobs Act.
  • We are keeping a close eye on bill and will update you accordingly.

General Assembly

North Carolina State Legislative Office Building

General Update

  • The pace is starting to pick up at the legislature with committees meeting regularly and more and more bills being heard on the floor.
  • The Senate bill filing deadline was last week.  Over 700 bills were filed prior to the cutoff date.  There are some exceptions to that deadline including bills related to nominations or appointments, amendments to the North Carolina Constitution, redistricting, or election laws.
  • The House extended their bill filing deadlines to May 4 for non-appropriations and May 11 for public bills with appropriations or finance provisions.  So far nearly 600 bills have been filed in the House, but we expect that number to increase greatly over the next few weeks.
  • The crossover deadline is fast approaching and currently set for May 13.  That is the date by which a piece of legislation has to pass the chamber it originated in to remain eligible for the remainder of session.  Currently, there has not been indication that date will be extended, but if we hear differently we will let you know.
  • Appropriations and finance chairs continue to meet behind closed doors to pin down major budget framework numbers, but nothing has been made public yet.

Transportation

  • Metro Mayors Coalition is part of NCGO and NC Chamber efforts to advocate for modernized and more robust funding for transportation.
  • Legislative visits are being scheduled over the next 3-4 weeks.
  • Beau may reach out to specific MMC members to join some of those in-person meetings at the legislature.

Local Revenues/Local Control

Land Use Bills

S349, Increase Housing Opportunities – “Anti-zoning” bill

  • This bill would, essentially, eliminate single-family zoning statewide.  It would lock-in each municipality’s current zoning and not allow changes to be made unless your density was increased.  The bill would also eliminate conditional zoning.
  • We are making tremendous headway on advocating against this bill.
  • A number of cities have passed or are considering resolutions opposing the legislation. (Examples of Boone Resolution and Centralina COG Executive Board Resolution attached). If your city does pass a resolution, please send a copy to Beau.

H489, 2021 Building Code and Dev. Reg. Reform

  • This bill was introduced by Rep. Brody (R-Union) and makes changes to the laws that pertain to development regulation by local governments.
  • The bill contains provisions dealing with sedimentation programs that would limit the fees cities charge developers for local erosion control programs.
  • The Stormwater Association of NC submitted a letter to bill sponsors expressing their concerns over the bill.
  • In collaboration with DEQ, the Proposed Committee Substitute (PCS) presented in this week’s committee meeting fixed some of the major flaws with this legislation.
  • Brody has agreed to work through additional changes to try and address local government concerns expressed by NCLM.
  • We will continue to track the changes made to this bill and update you as it progresses.

H425 , Development Regulations/Multijurisdictional

  • This bill clarifies local government responsibility over a split jurisdiction and provides guidance to landowners.
  • It allows, in the absence of a mutual agreement, a landowner to designate which local government’s jurisdiction applies.
  • The PCS passed out of the House Local Government – Land Use, Planning and Development Committee this week and was referred to House Rules.

Public Safety

Special update on Fire Fighters Cancer Coverage – NCLM Legislative Counsel, Sarah Collins

H535, Firefighters Fighting Cancer Act of 2021

  • This is the bill that NCLM has been working with the State Firefighters Association on and the bill as filed tracks closely to NCLM efforts.
  • The bill sets up a supplemental insurance benefit program for all firefighters.  There is a $25K lump sum benefit and a $12K annual benefit for out-of-pocket medical expenses.
  • It does not expand existing line of duty death benefits.  Additionally, if a fire fighter receives the supplemental insurance benefit, they could not make a claim for workers comp.
  • One of the most important pieces is that this measure will be funded by the State, via a slight increase in the gross premium tax will be used to fund the benefit.
  • The State Firefighters Association is currently working with fiscal staff to determine the final fiscal impact.
  • NCLM is drafting letters of support to the bill sponsors and General Assembly as a whole.
  • We encourage you to thank the primary House bill sponsors (Reps. Destin Hall, John Bell, Jason Saine, and John Hardister) and reach out to your local delegation about signing on as a co-sponsor.

S472, Expand Occup. Cancer Benefits/Firefighters

  • The Senate has filed a bill taking a different approach to this issue.  It does not match what was proposed by NCLM, the House bill is the much preferred version.
  • The bill would establish a trust in the Industrial Commission for firefighters to apply for reimbursement up to $25K.

Economic Development – nothing to report

The meeting concluded after 35 minutes.

Working Toward Completion of I-540 Project

Later Friday I listened in on a staff briefing regarding the completion of phase one of the I540 project. The section discussed was from Holly Springs to Highway 70.

There are 3 segments of that project that are underway which include interchanges at NC 55, Holly Springs Road, Bells Lake Road, Fayetteville Road, Old Stage Road, NC50/Benson Road, and US 70.

The cost of the construction contracts is $746.7 million. To find out more about this project go to http://ncdot.gov/complete540

Town Manager Report

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

Manager’s Message to Council

Yesterday, it was my pleasure to be joined by Public Safety Director Allan Cain, Chief Human Resources Officer Renee Poole, and Deputy Town Manager Russ Overton at a special All Hands meeting to revisit topics related to COVID-19.

We discussed our continued efforts to keep employees as safe as possible, including vaccination information, and I announced that employees currently working remotely will return to town facilities on June 1.

We look forward to talking in the coming weeks about potential dates for reopening facilities to the public and resuming in-person Council meetings.

Stay safe and have a great weekend.

Sean

Redistricting Update

Our Redistricting Team has determined that it is legal and logistically possible to examine, adjust as needed, and adopt new Council election district maps prior to the July 2021 candidate filing period for the October 2021 election.  How this would work and whether Council is desirous of proceeding will be discussed with you as part of the April 22nd work session, which immediately precedes the next Council meeting. More information is forthcoming.

Mount Zion Baptist Church

A building permit has been submitted for the demolition of the Mount Zion Baptist Church building, located at the northwest corner of North Academy Street and Chapel Hill Road. No development plans have been submitted for redevelopment of the property.

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.

  • On Tuesday, staff celebrated Cary’s Sesquicentennial with a game of trivia all about Cary. Staff who participated won prizes from the Cary150 merch store and other Cary150 swag.
  • Since opening picnic shelter reservations to the public in early March, 151 reservations have been      Cary   will   begin accepting   reservations   for   Sertoma Amphitheatre on April 19. For additional information or to request the amphitheater or a shelter, visit http://www.townofcary.org/shelters.
  • Composting education and outreach are playing a key role in Cary’s Earth Month activities this April. Earth Month programs are designed to provide citizens with the knowledge, tools, and supplies needed to create and utilize compost in their own lawns and gardens. So far this month, staff has taught 52 households how to backyard compost, 50 households how to grow a spring garden, and sold a record number of home compost bins (317) and rain barrels (302).
  • The spring My Tree, Our Tree giveaway concluded this week. Thanks to a OneCary effort, 300 trees are growing in Cary yards and commemorating Cary’s sesquicentennial year.
  • During Tuesday’s Transportation Working Group meeting, staff presented on National Bike Month (May), National Trails Day (June 5), and a proposed program for Activating Cary Greenways. It was shared that Cary is piloting a year-long partnership with Love to Ride, a bike engagement and education platform for virtual events, bike safety tips, competition, and prizes. Regarding greenways, ideas were shared as to how additional community benefit could be derived by positioning our greenways to entice visitors to Cary and tapping into the $28 billion outdoor recreation industry in North Carolina. Members discussed ideas for utilizing available bike metrics to encourage cycling activities, as well as provided suggestions for accentuating, enhancing, and creating identity for Cary Greenways.
  • As part of Cary’s street improvements program, an upgraded signal configuration was installed at the intersection of High House Road and Carpenter Upchurch Road. The signal was installed in conjunction with a new landscaped median and other pedestrian improvements. The upgrade includes flashing yellow arrows on the Carpenter Upchurch approach, which will improve pedestrian safety when a turning vehicle conflicts with a pedestrian crossing.

Rogers Building Demo Work

The Rogers Building Mixed-Use Project located on the northwest corner of E. Chatham Street and N. Walker Street has almost completed its first phase of demolition work. The demo work includes the buildings at 149 and 159 E. Chatham Street and miscellaneous concrete sidewalk and foundations around each building. The Town is also coordinating the demolition of its building at 109 N. Walker Street. The remaining parking lot areas including 109 N. Walker Street will be demolished as part of the overall Rogers Building project that will begin at a later date and contingent on an approved development agreement. In addition, the demo work at 109 N. Walker Street is being coordinated with the building owner at 160 E. Cedar to support its fit-up work for its new tenant.

National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week

Cary’s 911 staff and Emergency Communications Center serves as the primary public safety answering point for Morrisville Police and Fire, as well as the Apex Fire Department. In 2020, Cary’s telecommunicators answered more than70,000911 calls and 141,000 administrative calls. We appreciate our dedicated public safety call takers and dispatchers for working behind the scenes to connect critical emergency services to our community and surrounding areas. This week was also recognized as National Animal Control Officer Appreciation Week. Thank you to Cary’s compassionate and dedicated Animal Services Officers for helping our pets and their families throughout our community.

First Annual Spring Plant Sale

In partnership with Cary, Good Hope Farm Partnership Project held their first annual Spring Plant Sale this April. This event provided the community with the opportunity to purchase high-quality vegetable plant starters at affordable prices for their home gardens. Participants gained access to online information regarding home gardening and funds received will support food safety efforts and agriculture education in the region. Seventy-five citizens participated with an additional 25 clients from Dorcas Ministries Food Pantry who will receive tomato plants as an effort to support families experiencing food insecurity. The event was a successful way to connect our community to local food and support Cary’s over-arching environmental goals during the pandemic.

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 included:

  • A great story from the wife of former Mayor Ritter
  • A request to move the Ivey-Ellington House to the former library site (While the planning for the old library site has not been determined, I don’t believe moving the house to this site is a good idea for several reasons)
  • A complaint about the condition of High House Road from Maynard to Old Apex (This is a state road and we have complained to NCDOT. Their information says they will pave this section later this spring)
  • A complaint that developers are cutting down trees when they build
  • A request for a tobacco-free community (This would require legislative authority)
  • Several cut-and-paste emails about inclusion and equality (We have and continue to practice this)
  • A request to recognize Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
  • Several complaints from students about the White Oak Greenway incident not being a hate crime. In addition, suggesting we should redirect money from our police department to social services.
  • A thank you for the good aesthetics at the First Christian Church Historic Cemetery

Next week’s activities include staff meetings, a meeting of the Wake County Mayors Association, a meeting of the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization’s Executive Board, a work session on parking and office space, 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, April 25th.  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. Rogers Building Demo photo by Ashley Kairis, others from Town of Cary staff.

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