Cary, NC — This week had more ceremonial-type activities than I have had since March of 2020.
Municipal Election Postponed to March
Monday I met virtually with the town manager. Our discussion included several topics including elections. We decided to stop our efforts for a local bill to allow our elections to be held this year as normal. Instead, Cary municipal elections will be held in March 2022.
Other topics of discussion included the branding logo, diversity, the future Recreation Center, and the sale and redevelopment of South Hills mall.
Fundraiser for Gale Adcock
Wednesday I gave an updated version of the State of Cary address to the Templeton Senior community. There were several dozen in attendance. My talk lasted about twenty minutes and I spent about ten minutes answering questions. It was a very pleasant visit and I hope I am invited back in the future.
Wednesday evening I was a featured speaker at a fundraiser for North Carolina Representative Gale Adcock. She is a good friend and the former Mayor Pro-Tem of Cary. The event was held at the beautiful home of Ralph Ashworth who is known by so many people in the Cary community.
It was an honor to talk about Gale’s talents and character and all she has contributed to Cary and the state. We are so blessed to have someone like her representing us.
Throwing the First Pitch for USA Baseball
Sunday I had the honor and privilege of throwing out the first pitch at the USA Baseball training center for a game between the USA Baseball Olympic team and the national USA Collegiate team. I threw the first pitch to an Olympian from Apex. Then I was joined by Mike Scioscia, the coach, for a picture.
The USA Collegiate team is made up of Freshmen and Sophomores from various colleges around the country. The USA Olympic team will be heading to Tokyo on Wednesday morning following three exhibition games with the USA Collegiate team. The last exhibition will be at 1 PM on Tuesday at the USA Baseball National training center in Cary.
NC Metro Mayors Meeting Recap
Friday I participated in a meeting of the North Carolina Metro Mayors. Here is the summary from the Executive Director:
- A major bipartisan infrastructure bill continues to gain steam in the US Senate.
- 20 of our NC Metro Mayors have signed onto the US Mayors Letter supporting the legislation. (NC has the third most Mayors nationally signing on to the letter, which is an indication of how important this is to our cities).
- Both our US Senators (Burr and Tillis) are part of the group of 20 bipartisan Senators working on the effort (11 Republicans and 9 Democrats).
- We will continue to find opportunities for Mayors to weigh in on this important federal legislation.
- There is a companion $3.5T reconciliation bill that is beginning to take shape following behind the bipartisan infrastructure bill. This would include a number of “soft” infrastructure priorities, such as childcare, Medicare and Medicaid expansion, free community college and more. Emanating from the Senate Budget Committee and its Chairman Bernie Sanders, it would utilize the Democratic-only legislative vehicle – the reconciliation process, a rare and complex process that means it does not require the 60-vote margin that other legislation must have in the evenly divided 50-50 US Senate.
- Details on neither have been finalized, with the details expected soon for the bipartisan bill for transportation, water and sewer and broadband.
American Rescue Plan
Update from Chris Nida, NCLM Research Director and ARP Lead
- Funding from the ARP has been coming straight to metropolitan cities from the US Treasury – approximately 26 cities in NC.
- The guidance issued by Treasury is still considered interim guidance at this point. The deadline for public comment is today, July 16.
- NLC is submitting comments that include clarity and potential changes to the “revenue loss formula,” which cities can use to set-aside ARP funds for flexible uses rather than the much more prescriptive and
- NCLM is submitting comments related to the required reporting deadlines for metropolitan cities. Dept of Treasury guidance requires a recovery plan performance report and interim spending report from larger cities by August 31. Due to the amount of data collection involved and the uncertainty of the General Assembly’s decision for the State ARP money, NCLM is requesting to move the deadline to October 31 or at least giving cities the opportunity to request an extension for the filing (the NCLM comments were submitted today to US Treasury – attached to this email).
- NCLM’s dedicated ARP website with great resources and links can be found here.
- Beginning next Thursday, there will be weekly staff level meetings for Metro Mayor city staff to share their work on ARP with each other.
The legislature is continuing to have many short work weeks with not a lot of major legislation moving.
- The budget process is delayed, and it will likely be August before the House version of State Budget is released. Once the House passes their version of the budget, the conference process will begin between the House and the Senate.
- We expect the conference process to be lengthy as it is likely the two chambers will have very different spending plans. (The top line numbers will likely be the same but spent on very different priorities).
- We also anticipate the Governor’s Office to be included in the conversations which has not been a common practice over the last few years. Given the possibility of the Governor being involved in the process, many speculate that the Governor may not actually veto the bill once it emerges from the three-party process (Senate-House-Governor).
- The legislature also must take up redistricting this session. Census data is expected to come in September, so we anticipate this session to stretch late into the year.
Modernize Energy Generation, H951
- A massive energy bill was released by the House in June following 8-10 months of negotiations with various stakeholders.
- The bill targets a 63% reduction of carbon emissions by 2030, based on 2005 carbon numbers. The bill would retire five of the state’s subcritical coal fired generating facilities by December 31, 2030 – with natural gas supplanting coal in at least 3 of those plants.
- H951 passed the House this week with five Republicans voting in opposition and two Democrats voting in favor – a margin that would NOT be able to overturn a veto form Governor Cooper.
- We do not anticipate the Senate to begin substantive work on this bill until August.
- Governor Cooper has announced that he does not support the bill in its current form.
NCDOT Project Delays Update
- Currently, NCDOT has $1 billion in the in their operations reserves. However, they are at the peak of construction season and are drawing money down quickly.
- Three things have impacted their ability to complete projects – Inflation on commodities, increased real estate prices impacting Right-Of-Way acquisitions, and chronic problems with the project estimates – al combining for a MAJOR CHALLENGE to the funding needed to ADD additional projects to the committed projects in State Transportation Improvement Plan.
- Due to their recent issues, NCDOT Division Engineers have utilized a “value engineering” process to find ways to reduce costs on projects, but major changes in design should done in collaboration with local MPO’s and local leaders.
- This is a developing issue – you should consult with your MPO to see what impact it has on your local priorities. We will continue to engage with state, regional and local leaders and will report more as our partners at DOT move forward.
Criminal Justice Reform S300 – Leo John, NCLM Legislative Counsel
- This is a large omnibus bill that makes various changes to the Criminal Code and increases law enforcement standardization and oversight. Some of these changes include:
- Increasing hiring standards for criminal justice officers by means of required background checks and psychological screening examinations
- Creating an early warning system that would keep track of any instances that included use of force, the discharge of a firearm, a vehicle collision, and a citizen complaint
- Creating and requiring the state to implement a statewide database for law enforcement discipline data; and
- Requiring a first appearance for a defendant in custody for a misdemeanor
- The bill passed the Senate unanimously and was considered and passed in the House Judiciary 2 Committee this week.
- The House removed the controversial anti-riot provisions and stepped back from the bipartisan agreement in the Senate version on body cameras. It now relies on a judge to determine what should and should not be released to the public – rather than the Senate version’s presumption that the family of someone killed would have access to footage unless law enforcement prevails on a judge to withhold it. The House version now automatically moves the decision-making process to a judge.
- It passed the House Judiciary 2 Committee and has been referred to the House Rules Committee.
Economic Development – nothing new to report
Local Control/Local Revenues – nothing new to report
Town Manager Report
The town manager, Sean Stegall’s report for this week includes the following:
Manager’s Message to Council
On Monday evening, Assistant Town Manager Danna Widmar and I had the pleasure of cultivating relationships with several accomplished environmental professionals.
We attended a social in Cary hosted by the North Carolina Association of Environmental Professionals (NCAEP). We had a lot of fun and were very impressed by the passion and interests of the many young professionals who attended.
I’m looking forward to attending the Chamber’s Annual Planning Conference and seeing each of you at next week’s Council meeting, which will be the first one of 2021 that will be open to the public.
Stay safe and have a great weekend.
The State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) staff visited Cary on Wednesday to evaluate the potential future locations for Ivey-Ellington.
Council Member Ed Yerha, along with Historic Preservation Planner Gillian White and Assistant Town Manager Danna Widmar, joined representatives from Cary’s Historic Preservation Commission and the Friends of the Page-Walker to discuss the pros and cons of alternative locations on Academy Street and Harrison Avenue.
As a result of the excellent discussion and insights, an additional study to evaluate the Academy Street location and the existing downtown district will be undertaken. The discussion focused on aspects of the new location that will ensure the long-term use and sustainability of this important Cary structure.
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.
- Mayor Weinbrecht provided an updated State of Cary presentation to residents at the Templeton of Cary. After the presentation, he greeted many of the residents and answered questions.
- New in 2021, Environmental Outreach staff launched a teen leadership opportunity for ongoing environmental service learning at the Carpenter Park Community Garden. Interested teens applied and committed to regular garden care and maintenance as well as hands-on education about composting, food security, and native ecosystem repair. Their work will support overarching Town environmental goals as well as serve as a steppingstone in their individual paths towards higher education in environmental science.
- Staff submitted the Powell Bill package to NCDOT this week. Between June 30, 2020, and July 1, 2021, Cary added 3.06 miles of streets to our transportation system for a new total of 503.57 miles. We will receive our first (of two) Powell Bill allocations in September. Last year Cary was allocated approximately$3.8M.
Stadium Pitch Maintenance
In the world of soccer, the best soccer pitches (fields) are flat, and we are fortunate to have one of the best in Cary at the WakeMed Soccer Park. A tremendous amount of work goes into the maintenance of this world-renowned pitch, and this past week the pitch underwent a small “operation” to make certain it stays the best.
The facility management team, with an assist from the operations team, removed the old grass from the pitch and installed new bermudagrass sod. The new sod is extremely heat tolerant and will perform better in the summer.
The renovation process involved removing and disposing two inches off the top of the field, adding 700 tons of sand back to the field, laser grading the pitch to a tolerance of +/-¼ of an inch over a 50 feet span (meaning the field elevation cannot be higher or lower than ¼ of an in over a 50 feet section of field), and installing the 98,000 square feet of bermudagrass sod that has been growing specifically for Cary for the past 18 months.
The technical expertise in Cary’s team allowed us to do most of this project in-house, saving over $50,000.
Record Low Sewer Spills
Cary operates its sewer system with the goal of meeting and exceeding all permit requirements and preventing sewer overflows. With a pipeline network of just under 1,000 miles, occasional wastewater back-ups and spills can occur.
Cary regularly maintains and inspects the sewer system and is staffed and equipped to rapidly respond to problems, make repairs, and cleanup any spills should they occur. Last year, (fiscal year 2021), there were only five reportable overflows totaling 2,245 gallons that escaped the system and entered streams in our community.
The spills represent only a slight fraction of the 7.2 billion gallons of wastewater that flowed through the sewer system and is the lowest number and volume of spills in Cary’s recorded history.
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:
- Delta Variant Widens Gulf Between ‘Two Americas’: Vaccinated and Unvaccinated, The New York Times
- COVID-19’s Effects on Kids Are Even Stranger Than We Thought, The Atlantic
Emails from citizens this week include:
- A complaint about a proposed rezoning on Morrisville Carpenter Road for 5 single-family homes and 90 townhomes
- Complaints about a proposed rezoning at the entrance to the Wellington subdivision for an office, business, or professional building that includes a wellness center
- A request to co-sponsor legislative bills for various drugs (We don’t have that authority. Only legislators have that authority)
- A complaint about the need for a light at Cary Parkway and Norwell Boulevard. (Only NCDOT has the authority to approve traffic signals. We can provide them data but it is their decision.)
- A complaint that Cary isn’t doing enough for climate change and the environment (I would invite you to visit our website and search “environment”)
Next week’s activities include staff meetings, a meeting about the branding logo, the Cary Chamber Planning Conference, our first in-person regularly scheduled council meeting of the year, the Wake County Mayors Association Outing at the Mudcats in Zebulon and the Atlantic Tire Championships.
Well, that is all for this week. My next post will be on Sunday, July 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
From the blog of Cary Mayor Harold Weinbrecht. Images from the Town of Cary.
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