Cary, NC – This was my first week back after a week of vacation.
Monday I contacted each council member to learn of concerns or questions they had about Thursday’s upcoming agenda. The two items of most interest were the Wellington rezoning for a dentist office and the Highway 55 rezoning for a grocery store.
Later Monday I met virtually with management, other staff, and the Mayor Pro-Tem to go over the agenda items. Our meeting lasted about fifteen minutes.
My last meeting Monday was with the town manager where we mostly talked about the upcoming municipal elections and redistricting.
Tuesday – Wynston Ridge
Tuesday I met virtually with the homeowners in Wynston Ridge to give an update of what is going on around them and new developments within the town. My topics included the future of Holly Springs Road, the Fenton, the old mall site, downtown developments, and the downtown park. My talk lasted about ten minutes.
Thursday Council Meeting
Thursday the council held its first regularly scheduled meeting of June. The agenda included four consent items, five public hearings, and two discussion items. Several residents spoke against the rezoning proposal for the dentist office at the corner of the Wellington subdivision.
Under discussion the council unanimously approved conveying a canine to Holly Springs. The handler retired and the dog had more years of service.
The council also approved a budget requests for the downtown park. Construction materials have increased of significantly and have resulted in additional costs. The funds will come mostly from the last bond referendum funding. Without the additional funding the council would have to cut what components of the park. There was no interest in council on making the park less than what was designed. We are committed in creating one of the most iconic parks in the region, state, and nation.
The meeting concluded after a closed session with a time of about two hours.
Friday – NC Metro Mayors
Friday I participated in a meeting of the North Carolina Metro Mayors. The following is a summary from the Executive Director:
SPECIAL GUEST – Sam Berger, Director of Strategic Operations and Policy
White House COVID-19 Response Team
- President Biden selected June as the National Month of Action for Vaccines. The White House is trying to motivate as many people as possible to get vaccinated before July 4th.
- This initiative is targeting people with real or perceived access issues and young adults.
- The White House is encouraging local officials to assist them by participating in 6 major initiatives:
- Hosting a Pop-Up Vaccination Clinic
- Encourage local employer vaccination incentives
- Make public transportation to vaccination locations free
- Encourage your local colleges to participate in the College Challenge
- Canvass and go door to door
- Share resources and messages through social media and PSAs.
- Attached to the notes is a NATIONAL MONTH OF ACTION Handout with more details.
American Rescue Plan
- There is no new guidance or breaking news related to the American Rescue Plan.
- We are working to set up peer- to-peer zoom sessions on Thursdays at 3PM for cities to share planning and implementation efforts of ARP funds. Information will be sent out to everyone, but please send Beau ([email protected] ) the contact name and email of a senior staff member that will be participating in these meetings.
INFRASTRUCTURE BILL (American Jobs Plan)
- President Biden’s negotiations with Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R- West Virginia) on behalf of the Senate Republican caucus reached an impasse, so the Administration President Biden is attempting to reach some agreement with a smaller group of Republican Senators.
- There may be an opportunity for cities in North Carolina to advocate for the need for transportation investments and look for ways to help push this bill forward.
General Assembly – General Update
- House and Senate leadership announced an agreement on the total spending number for the state’s biennial budget. General Fund spending for fiscal year 2021-22 will total a maximum of $25.7 billion (a 3.45% increase) and $26.7 billion for fiscal year 2022-23 (a 3.65% increase).
- Both sides have agreed that the proposal will replenish the state’s “Rainy Day Fund,” reduce taxes, and fund the State Capital and Infrastructure Fund. It will not include Medicaid expansion or a bond. The goal is to pass a comprehensive budget through the legislature by the end of July. Governor Cooper has not given any indication how he might respond, so we will have to wait to learn more over the coming two weeks as the budget details take shape.
- Due to the underlying budget negotiations, there has been some limited committee work. We expect the pace of legislation to pick up beginning next week.
Metro Mayors Coalition is represented on a special ad hoc commission (the TEN Commission) led by Senator Vickie Sawyer, looking at a ten-year transition to long term financing for transportation. Mayor Atkins (Mooresville) and Sen. Sawyer will share feedback during a future Metro Mayors update.
Local Revenues/Local Control
Revise Local Gov’t Redistricting/Census S722
- This bill passed unanimously on the House floor this week and has been sent back to the Senate for a concurrence vote.
- The House made changes to the bill that would move the city of Raleigh’s municipal election to even numbered years, make changes to non-partisan plurality, and delay the Charlotte-Mecklenburg and Lexington school board elections to 2022.
- Section 1.9 would give city council’s the option to move forward with at-large seat elections this year and postpone district-based elections until next year.
- The Senate planned to address local issues separately, so we expect this bill to go to conference.
- Warren Daniel (R-Caldwell) did extraordinary work on this bill and was receptive to working with our municipalities on this issue. Please consider sending Sen. Daniel a “Thank You” for his work on this bill.
Cities/Prohibited Service Agreements H831
- H831 would prohibit cities from entering into agreements with public water or sewer systems that condition the provision or extension of water or sewer services upon the annexation of the area to be served by the city or water or sewer service district.
- This bill would have a tremendously negative impact on future housing and commercial developments that require water/sewer services since cities would likely be reluctant to provide city water services to property outside a city boundary.
- After popping up unexpectedly, this bill passed through the Rules Committee on a party line vote. We believe the rapid response of city officials that lobbied members in only a few hours helped have this bill pulled from the House calendar and placed back in House Rules.
- Thank you for your quick response and action by reaching out to your members and Committee leadership. General Assembly Leadership noted that mayors were heard on this bill.
Public Safety – nothing to report from NCGA
Economic Development – nothing to report from NCGA
The meeting concluded in less than half an hour.
Town Manager’s Report
The following is the town manager’s report for the week:
Manager’s Message to Council
On Monday, Animal Services Supervisor Chuck Haggist presented to the Director’s Group for an informative discussion on animal services. This was a timely presentation due to recent dog attacks in the news and increased calls for wildlife assistance during the pandemic. It’s always a pleasure to learn more about the excellent services we provide to our citizens.
This week, Mayor Pro Tem Don Frantz announced the nominees and winner for Cary Elementary School’s Honor a Teacher Award. Congratulations to all of the award winners and nominees who demonstrated outstanding service to our community through their dedication and diligence during a stressful and unpredictable year.
Please note that there will not be a Council Weekly Report or Weekly Operational Report next week because of the Juneteenth holiday. My next message will be on Friday, June 25.
Stay safe and have a great weekend.
Downtown Park IoT Innovation Workshop
On Thursday, a Cary cross-departmental team attended the Downtown Park IoT Innovation Workshop at the Executive Briefing Center on SAS campus. The group was joined by several SAS team members as well as representatives from Microsoft and Semtech, Ltd. The goal of the workshop was to begin to lay the foundation for IoT and Smart technology integration into the Downtown Park. Cary staff gave an overview of the park plans and led a personas exercise to get an understanding of use cases for technology solutions, keeping service to our citizens as the highest priority. Semtech, Microsoft, and SAS shared concepts, resources, and past project examples for using IoT technologies in public sector spaces to connect citizens and communities across a regional area. The workshop served as a kick-off for visioning and the work will continue in the coming months.
SolSmart Silver Designation
Cary received notification of the SolSmart silver designation from ICMA this week. SolSmart is a program funded by the US Department of Energy for the purpose of encouraging and simplifying the process for solar installation. Cary undertook staff training, updated the solar permitting checklist, and provided clarification regarding solar being allowed throughout residential districts in town. This work is anticipated to further advance solar installations in Cary, resulting in reduced emissions.
Public Safety Update
At a press conference on Thursday, Governor Cooper announced a new incentive to encourage COVID-19 vaccinations across the state. The Your Shot at $1 Million campaign will automatically enter North Carolinians age 18 and older who have received at least one vaccine dose in four drawings to win $1 million; those 12 to 17 will be entered in four drawings to win a $125,000 college scholarship. Currently, 54 percent of adults in the state have been vaccinated with at least one dose. In Wake County, 69 percent of adults have received at least one dose. As vaccination efforts continue, Governor Cooper today extended the mask mandate for certain at-risk settings until the end of July, with a new executive order issued.
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.
- PRCR relaunched in-person environmental service learning via Cary’s Spruce Program. Spruce volunteerism includes opportunities for our community to engage in education while performing environmental service. This week, Daisy Girl Scouts wrapped up a multi-week project at Carpenter Park Community Garden where they planted veggies and learned the importance of pollinators for regional food security.
- On Monday, residents of Highland Terrace were overjoyed to see Project PHOENIX Officer Ken Collins as he visited for the first time in over a year due to the pandemic.
- The May 2021 Development Pulse Report is now available.
- Searstone Highview, 19001 Searstone Drive: Building permits have been submitted for two new building totally 153 independent apartment units and associated parking garage.
- Searstone Brittany Place Healthcare, 210 Walkerstone Drive: The building permit was submitted for a three-story addition to the existing healthcare building. The proposed addition will have 14 memory care units, 24 skilled nursing units, and 15 assisted living units.
- Triangle Aquatic Center Outdoor Pool, 275 Convention Drive: The building permit was approved for a new outdoor pool behind the current Triangle Aquatic Center. The project consists of a training pool, a pool deck with canopy, and a building with office space and restrooms.
- Existing Office Space Renovations: In the month of May, permits were approved for two existing companies to reduce their current offices spaces. At the same time, the remnant office spaces were leased and permitted for new tenants, meaning these spaces are not remaining vacant. Several other companies in Cary have received building permits for renovations and expansion of their existing office locations.
- On Monday, the Cary Zoning Board of Adjustment unanimously approved one request for a reasonable accommodation to allow the keep of two Nigerian Dwarf goats as emotional support animals and two variance cases for encroachments into the rear yard setback.
- Jones Franklin Road, starting at Southern Cross Avenue north to Dillard Drive, will be reduced to one lane in alternating directions as Cary works to complete construction associated with the interlocal agreement with the City of Raleigh for water system interconnection. Message boards notifying the public of upcoming traffic impacts were mobilized June 10 and will remain in place until work begins June 14. Motorists should expect delays or seek alternate routes between 9:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. daily for approximately four weeks as contractors work to install underground piping and valves in the area.
- Construction of this year’s annual water main replacement project is underway, with the first phase of the project taking place around the corner from town hall, along E Cedar St. A new water main will be installed along E Cedar St, and across the railroad tracks, eventually working its way behind Town Hall and connecting to the Field Street elevated water storage tank. This work will strengthen our water main network within our growing downtown area.
- The 2020 Water Resources Year In Review report is now available and tells the story of our interaction with this important natural resource. This year marks an important milestone in our smart city transformation as most of the data visualizations are from PowerBI, a data analytics software used to produce meaningful graphs and snapshots of our historical utility operations. This year’s report compares water usage against the effects of the pandemic, population increases, seasonal changes, and rainfall. Additionally, the report evaluates production and capacity at our water treatment facility as well as flows and capacity at our three water reclamation facilities, and much more.
Summer camps open on June 14, and we are excited to welcome 105 campers each week at two locations (Bond Park Community Center and Herb Young Community Center). Camps will serve approximately 375 youth throughout the summer. Camps provide a fun and safe environment for the participants and follow recommended NCDHHS protocols to ensure everyone is safe and healthy throughout the summer. Even though there are no off-site field trips this year, the campers will enjoy visiting instructors for art, performing arts, STEM, sports, outdoor recreation, and nature!
Smoke Detector Saturday
Fire, in partnership with the Office of the State Fire Marshal and Cary CERT, participated in Smoke Detector Saturday on June 5. Engine 9, Rescue 2, and Ladder 8, along with 10 of Fire’s newest recruits as well as Cary CERT members, canvassed 414 homes within Cary Mobile Estates and Chatham Estates as part of the Fire Department’s Community Risk Reduction initiatives. The team installed 122 smoke alarms in 86 homes; 16 of those homes didn’t have smoke alarms at all.
This week, staff visited two businesses that play a key role in how Cary diverts waste from the landfill. Cary’s collected yard waste is hauled to and processed into compost at McGill. All of Cary’s recyclables are sorted and baled for market at the Waste Management/Recycle America material recovery facility (MRF). Staying in regular contact with these partners keeps staff current on their processes and provides insights that help guide Cary’s services.
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:
- Stronger Together: Getting Back To Leadership Basics During And After The Pandemic, Forbes
- A Little More Remote Work Could Change Rush Hour a Lot, The New York Times
Emails from citizens this week included:
- A complaint about the Wellington rezoning proposal
- Cut-and-paste emails asking Cary to pass local LGBTQ ordinances (we have not been given that authority from the legislature)
- A complaint that we are not doing enough to encourage vaccinations
- A request for help with outdoor classroom at Green Hope Elementary
Next week’s activities include a Chamber Golf event, staff meetings, a virtual rap session with Board and Commission members, a meeting of the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization’s Executive Board, and a couple of days of vacation with family.
Get in Touch
Well, that is all for this week. My next post will be on Sunday, June 20th. 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 [email protected] and email personal comments to [email protected].
Harold Weinbrecht, Jr. is the Mayor of Cary. This column is adapted from his blog.