Cary, NC — This was a busy week for me with meetings, presentations, and interviews.
Monday: COVID Interview & Meeting with Liu, Stegall
Monday started with a taped interview of my thoughts on COVID. There were about a dozen questions on impacts, reactions, moving forward, etc. Additional interviews were held with management staff and each of the council members. It will be shown at our next quarterly meeting.
Monday evening I joined council member Ya Liu in my one-on-one meeting with the town manager. Topics included redistricting, news about Apple coming to RTP, Cary municipal elections, the downtown park, branding, the diversity task force, and the manager’s involvement in the assessment of candidates for the Apex town manager.
Our meeting lasted about 30 minutes.
Tuesday: Legislative Talks on Roads, Rail and Affordable Housing
Tuesday the council held a virtual legislative event with the Wake County delegation.
Attending from the North Carolina legislature were Representative Gale Adcock, Representative Cynthia Ball, Senator Sydney Batch, Representative Allison Dahle, Representative Julie von Heafen, and Representative Robert Reives.
The meeting was broadcast from the Digital P studio in Cary where I was co-host along with Danna Widmar and Morgan Mansa. I provided opening remarks along with Danna highlighting our legislative agenda. Then each legislature gave their priorities for the session.
In the Q&A portion, we mostly talked about road issues, commuter rail, and affordable housing. Since this was a social event, we closed with a toast to our continued long-term partnership. The meeting lasted a little over an hour.
Wednesday: Cary’s Branding Campaign Makes Headway
Wednesday morning I joined town clerk, Ginny Johnson, in a presentation to the Cary Chamber Eye Opener about Cary150 and associated celebrations. I provided the opening and a little history while Ginny talked about events planned throughout the year. The entire presentation time was less than 30 minutes.
Wednesday evening the Economic Development Committee held a virtual meeting to review logos and associated taglines as part of our branding campaign. Committee members were also joined by the ISAB (Information Services Advisory Board).
Feedback was provided to the consultants. They will present options to the committee again in a few weeks. The committee will then choose options to present to the council and the public. I anticipate that will happen sometime in the summer.
Town Attorney Interviews Underway
Thursday the council met in a closed session as part of the process of interviewing candidates for town attorney. The Thursday closed session lasted about two hours and the Saturday session lasted about four hours.
NC Metro Mayors Recap
Friday I participated in a meeting of the North Carolina Metro Mayors. The following is a summary of that meeting from the Executive Director:
General Assembly – General Update
- The General Assembly is heating up and the overall activity is increasing with lots of legislation moving quickly.
- The crossover date is fast approaching (May 13). Crossover is the date by which a bill must pass its chamber of origin in order to remain eligible for the remainder of the session. Exceptions include local bills and bills with finance and appropriations provisions.
- The budget will start in the Senate first this year and we expect to see something released from that chamber within the next two weeks. In terms of the budget, it is worth noting that aside from having to craft something the Governor would approve, the chambers have to reach an agreement with each other first. At this point in time, we are hearing the House and Senate are very far apart on the overall spending level, so the path to a traditional comprehensive state budget is going to be challenging.
- The main items we will be watching for MMC in the budget include:
- Restoration of transit (SMAP) funding
- Restoration of Powell Bill funding
- Commercial airport funding
- The money supporting local and regional public transportation was zeroed out last year, but we are hopeful there will be a full restoration this year. A full restoration was proposed in the Governor’s budget and we continue to have conversations on the importance of the funding with House and Senate leadership.
Nothing new to report
Nothing new to report (celebrate Apple!)
Local Revenues/Local Control
Property Owners Rights/Tree Ordinances H496
- This is a perennial issue. The bill has been calendared for the House Local Government – Land Use, Planning and Development Committee next Thursday (5/6). This legislation would, in effect, repeal any local tree ordinance that wasn’t already specifically authorized by state legislation or state local act. There are approximately 200 over city/county tree ordinances and only 38 are covered by state legislation…
- NCLM sent out an action alert on this issue. The NCLM Action Alert is attached to these notes (a pdf document).
- We encourage you to contact your House members to voice your concerns on this bill.
Modify Builders Inventory Tax Exclusion H273
- This bill would exclude from property taxation for up to three years, any increase in value of residential real property attributable to new townhouse construction while still held for sale by a builder.
- It received a favorable report from the House Finance Committee this week and will likely be heard in House Rules early next week.
Protect City Employees from Retaliation H7
- This bill would require city councils to adopt an ordinance encouraging 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. It extends protection to an employee who intends to report improper conduct. A number of cities have effective personnel protections in place and it is believed this legislation would infringe on the well-established and carefully crafted personnel practices in our cities.
- The bill has been scheduled for a committee hearing twice but has been removed both times.
- NCLM has been working diligently to oppose this legislation.
Enhance Local Govt Transparency S473
- S473 was developed with the State Auditor and State Treasurer’s Office and appears to have a lot of support amongst legislators at this point.
- This bill would:
- Make it a class H felony for public officers and employees who personally benefit financially from their public position.
- Allow counties and municipalities to garnish government wages from a local officials if that individual owes money for any county or municipal services.
- Strengthen conflict of interest laws for local officials in dealing with public contracts.
- Empower the Local Government Commission to ensure transparency in annual audits of local governments.
- The bill passed the Senate Judiciary Committee with unanimous support this week and has been referred to Senate Rules.
- Council members in Durham have raised concerns that this bill could prevent city officials from serving on local non-profit boards. We are looking int this further.
Firefighters Cancer Act H535
- This bill was heard in House Health this week and had support of everyone in committee.
- It will be heard in the House Appropriations Committee next.
- We encourage you to continue to support this bill as it moves forward.
Authorize Use of Blue Lights on Fire Apparatus S374
- This bill would authorize the use of blue lights on the rear of publicly owned fire apparatus vehicles. The blue lights would only be allowed to be used while the fire truck was in park.
- The North Carolina Firefighters Association is in support of the bill. The Sheriffs Association and the NC Chief of Police Association are opposed to this bill. We just want you to be aware that the firefighters and law enforcement are in dispute on this issue.
OPIOID Settlement – FYI only (litigation led by NCACC, NCDOJ and 8 cities)
- This is simply an FYI – regarding a national lawsuit against manufacturers and distributors of opioids. NC has been involved through the NC Assoc of County Commissioners and NC DOJ. NCACC and NC DOJ are planning a press release today with an update on the progress of NC’s role in the national litigation.
- In NC, there are 76 counties and 8 cities that chose to be a party to the litigation. The NC litigants, led by NC DOJ and NCACC are sharing an MOA for the litigants and other relevant local governments to sign.
- The MOA outlines the allocation and process for funds from the settlement in NC.
- The majority of the funds would go to counties as the primary human service providers 76 counties in NC were parties to the suit), but, as per the national settlement negotiations, cities of 75,000 or greater would be allocated money from the settlement.
- We will keep you updated on the process.
In response to a question on Census impacted Municipal Elections:
- At this time, there is no statewide legislation that has been crafted to address the municipal elections issue due to the delay in the Census data.
- Jacksonville City Council plans on formally voting on a resolution asking for a local bill to address the issue.
- We believe this could also help move the process along towards what may be a statewide bill to address the issue for the 40+ municipalities that have 2021 elections are impacted by the delay in detailed census data.
The meeting concluded after about 20 minutes.
Town Manger’s Report
The town manager, Sean Stegall’s report for this week includes the following:
Manager’s Message to Council
This week, I had a very productive meeting with the EDC Branding Subcommittee. Members of the subcommittee provided invaluable feedback that is leading to our continued refinements of logos and taglines, which we are still on track to bring to you this summer for approval.
Stay safe and enjoy your weekend.
Temple Rajagopuram Project
This week, staff visited the construction of the Sri Venkateswara Temple’s new Rajagopuram, and they were joined by the Temple’s leadership team.
The Rajagopuram is expected to be complete in October 2021 and will be 87 ft. tall. It is exciting to see this iconic structure being added to Cary’s community, and we look forward to continuing our relationship with the Temple.
Public Safety Update
During Wednesday’s press briefing, Governor Cooper announced that at 5 p.m. today, masks are no longer required to be worn outdoors in North Carolina. This decision follows new CDC guidance that finds low risk of COVID-19 spread outdoors except in certain crowded settings.
Masks are still required indoors until two-thirds of North Carolinians are at least partially vaccinated. Currently about half of all adults in the state have received at least one dose and 39 percent are fully vaccinated.
The changes to the mask mandate are part of a new executive order that also increases mass gathering limits to 100 people indoors and 200 people outdoors. Executive Order 209 will be in effect through June 1. You can read the governor’s press release here.
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.
- Legal is bidding farewell to several law students who “externed” with the mover the last few months. Externs are law students who work for Cary in exchange for class credit. This semester marked the first time Legal hosted three externs, including its first extern from an out-of-state law school. This latest batch worked on a variety of projects, including helping Planning staff with the major 160D update of the LDO, performing research related to public records, social media, and pending legislation among other topics, and working on several other assignments.
- Senior Advisory Board Staff Liaisons Brett Moraes and Kris Carmichael, Council Liaison Ed Yerha, and Chair Barry Mitsch worked collaboratively to prepare the agenda for the first Senior Advisory Board meeting. This agenda can be found through the agendas & minutes portal on our website.
- The building permit has been issued to demolish the Jordan Building at 145 West Chatham Street. This property will be part of a joint redevelopment project with Northwoods Jordan Building, LLC, Cary First Baptist Church, and Town of Cary. The project consisting of a multi-family building, office, and retail space; a parking deck and associated public infrastructure including sidewalks, driveways, and surface parking; and stormwater collection and detention facilities.
- The NC Recreation and Park Association’s State-Wide Athletic Committee (SWAC) partnered with Mission Control to offer the first-ever North Carolina State Esports State Championship. Seventy-two gamers representing seven parks and recreation departments, towns, cities, and counties from across the state competed for the title of 2021 NC Esports State Champion and prizes. Cary sent winning teams and players from previously hosted tournaments to represent us at the state-wide event. Of the six tournament games, the Cary Esports team brought home gold in four matches and bronze in another. The Cary Esports program continues to grow as we are currently serving 124 gamers in monthly tournaments.
- NCAA Women’s and Men’s Soccer Tournament started this week with 84 teams playing at 9 venues around the state. Matches are scheduled from Wilmington to Matthews as teams vie for the National Championship. WakeMed Soccer Park began hosting games on Wednesday and will host a total of 40 matches including all of the 3rd and 4th round games as well as the semi and finals in Sahlen’ s Stadium. Limited tickets will be available for the 8 semis/finals games. All games will be streamed on NCAA.com.
- April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. On April 28, Police Detectives wore their denim to honor the victims and survivors of sexual assault violence. To learn more about Denim Day, visit https://www.denimdayinfo.org/why-denim.
- On April 24, Utilities participated in the Town of Morrisville’s Green Day, an Earth Day inspired recycling event. Cary provides water and wastewater utility services in Morrisville and citizens are encouraged to help prevent clogged pipes and sewer spills by, “Turning F.O.G. into Fuel by recycling Fats, Oils, and Grease.” This event provided a convenient opportunity to drop-off F.O.G. and over 80 gallons were collected for recycling into an environmentally friendly biofuel.
- Staff continue to make progress with evaluation of the solar facility at South Cary Water Reclamation Facility. The current owner, Cypress Creek Renewables, (CCR), is midway through a 20-yearlease of Town property. At this time, we have met with Cypress Creek Renewables to discuss a path forward for the acquisition of the solar facility by Cary. We have secured the services of solar consultant, Pisgah Energy, to help us review the current condition of the facility, the remaining life cycle, and to support Cary in developing a market valuation for the facility. We have also submitted a request to CCR to obtain all records, construction drawings, and supporting documentation needed for the evaluation. Upon reviewing the records and reports, we plan to conduct a site inspection, and formulate a market assessment to determine how to structure a purchase offer.
Cary Virtual Legislative Event
On Tuesday, Mayor Weinbrecht, Danna Widmar, and Cary Town Council hosted Cary’s first Virtual Legislative Event.
This convening provided an opportunity to learn about the priorities of Cary’s legislative officials and explored how we can mutually support important issues at the General Assembly. The evening closed with a virtual collective toast to celebrate the progress to come in this legislative session.
Spring Daze Arts Market
Starting May 1, Cary will celebrate North Carolina artists at the Spring Daze Arts Market Series on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Situated in the heart of downtown Cary, these markets will feature 20-25 North Carolina based artists and everything downtown Cary has to offer.
The markets will take place the first four Saturdays of May —1st, 8th, 15th and 22nd and will continue ushering in the Town’s 150th anniversary.
Cheers to 150!
Mayor Pro Tem Don Frantz joined Cary staff members and representatives from the Cary Chamber of Commerce, Bond Brothers Beer Company, Fortnight Brewing Company, and Raleigh Brewing Company to cheers a new beer that the three Cary breweries brewed in collaboration to celebrate Cary’s Sesquicentennial.
Cary Parkway Pilsner, which is a New Zealand Style Pilsner, is on tap at Bond Brothers Home and Eastside locations, Raleigh Brewing Arboretum location, and Terminal B at Fortnight Brewing.
Earth Day 2021 was successfully adapted to safely and effectively interact with our citizens via online programs, giveaways, and virtual engagement opportunities.
Via One Cary program development and execution, the month-long celebration resulted in over 300 citizens attending six virtual programs on subjects such as composting, gardening, water quality, tree-care, backyard chickens, and the chance for Q&A with four staff environmental experts.
Earth Month activities were advertised using a multi-faceted marketing campaign that also encouraged citizens to order rain barrels and backyard compost bins, pickup their free native trees, and purchase vegetable starts for their home gardens.
And, in celebration of Cary’s birthday, 150 Celebrate Earth Day kits were distributed to our community members that included tools and supplies to help folks save water, reduce household waste, support pollinators, and more!
May is National Bike Month, and a perfect time to grab your bike, get outside, and see Cary from a new perspective…on two wheels!
For Bike Month, community outreach and virtual engagement is as important as ever. This year we are partnering with the Love to Ride bike engagement and encouragement platform. With Love to Ride, anyone can join to challenge friends or join a team for healthy competition with prizes and awards.
The site also offers bike maintenance tips and education courses, to get you moving safely. Visit Bike Cary for links to all of our “events,” tips, surveys and many other ways to get involved with Bike Month this May.
Reedy Creek Moves into Phase 2
The Reedy Creek Road project has shifted into Phase 2. The contractor as completed most of the work in Phase 1 along the east side of Reedy Creek Road apart from a few locations with utility conflicts currently being resolved.
This has allowed the contractor to complete the intermediate asphalt work in Phase 1 and shift traffic onto the new section along the east side. Cary citizens can now expect to see the same level of work being performed along the west side of Reedy Creek Road as the contractor installs storm drainage, curb & gutter, sidewalk, and other related infrastructure items. Motorist should stay alert watching for signs and possible related lane closures.
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:
Mask On or Off? Life Is Getting Back to Normal, and We’re Rusty, New York Times
Don’t Wait for Herd Immunity, The Atlantic
Emails from citizens this week include:
- A request for the town to do more to encourage people to get vaccines
- Information about an outdoor classroom project at Green Hope Elementary
- A request to create ordinances against Pitbulls (we do not have authority to single out a breed of dog)
- A question of whether or not we are planning a July 4th celebration (I don’t believe that has been determined but I would anticipate we would have a celebration even if it is limited)
Next week’s activities include a taping of the Cary Chamber’s Excellence awards, staff meetings, meetings on the town attorney position, and a meeting of the North Carolina Metro Mayors.
Well, that is all for this week. My next post will be on Sunday, May 9th. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
From the blog of Cary Mayor Harold Weinbrecht. Images from Town of Cary.
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