Harold’s Blog: USA Baseball, Cary Developments & More

Cary, NC — Monday was Labor Day, so my activities started on Tuesday.

Tuesday – Meetings, Bonds & Council Prep

Tuesday I contacted council members to hear of questions or concerns about the upcoming agenda. Most of the comments were about the proposed rezoning for a dentist’s office in Wellington.

Later Tuesday I met with Mayor Pro-Tem Frantz, management, and staff to go over the agenda items. We discussed information that needed to be in the presentations for the Wellington and Towerview rezoning proposals. Our meeting lasted about thirty minutes.

My final meeting Tuesday was to sign municipal bonds that were part of the Cary Community Bonds passed in 2019. The official bonds and other documents required signatures from the Mayor, Town Manager, and Town Attorney. The process took less than 15 minutes.

Wednesday – Podcast Interview

Wednesday I participated in a podcast interview for “Cary On”. It was the first of a series of interviews about what is going on in Cary.

We talked about the Eastern Gateway and the Fenton, downtown, and other areas of interest. The interview lasted about thirty minutes.

Thursday Work Session: Finances & Rebranding Cary

Thursday the council held a work session that included a financial update, a Black Creek Greenway Sewer Rehab project update, and a branding update.

Cary Gets $17.32 Million in Federal Funds

In the financial update the Finance Director reported that Cary will be receiving $17.32 million in ARPA (American Rescue Plan Act) funding. Wake County will be receiving $216 million, and North Carolina $5.4 billion.

The allocation was based on population, HUD monies, and several other factors. The more urban the municipality, the more money allocated. ARPA funding is different from CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) funding in that it is more for a long term, one-time need whereas CARES was for short term and immediate needs.

Council passed the motion to receive the funds. Staff will present recommendations to council at a future meeting. All funds must be spent by December 31, 2026. Some of the allowed uses include:

  • Support families, small businesses, and hardest hit industries
  • Invest in water, sewer, stormwater and/or broadband
  • Enhanced compensation for front line workers
  • Contain COVID and address other urgent public health needs
  • Maintain service levels impacted by revenue loss

In the financial report, it was also stated that Cary has now sold $125 million of the $225 million in bonds approved in the 2019 referendum. One of the top three bond rating agencies, Moody’s, said, “If there was a rating higher than AAA then Cary would get it.”

Needless to say, our finances are in a great position. Interest rates are also great. With our bond rating, the money for the downtown park was at an interest rate of 1.45% instead of the projected 4%.

Staff reported that the Black Creek Greenway Sewer Rahab Project is on schedule. To get the latest updates go to https://carygreenway.com.

Branding Update

In the branding update, the council was presented several logos and the tagline “Live Inspired.” One of our main purposes for embarking on this branding campaign was to help with Cary’s effort to recruit international business. The council unanimously agreed to accept the tagline of “live inspired.”

Many logos were previously vetted by staff, the Economic Development Committee, and a subcommittee of the Information Services Advisory Board. Being that logos are like art, it will be difficult to get everyone in agreement on a logo. The output from those groups was three logos that were presented. The council decided to review an additional set of logos at our next work session.

The work session concluded after about an hour and a half.

Council Meeting Recap

The first regularly scheduled council meeting of the month had four consent items, one public hearing, and three discussion items.

Town Vaccination Rate

The town manager’s report at the beginning of the meeting included an update on COVID infections within town staff. He also reported that Cary citizens have a vaccination rate of 68% instead of 80% as previously reported. This mistake was due to an error by the state and county.

Cary Tennis Park Improvements

Under discussion, Council unanimously approved a transfer of funds for the Cary Tennis Park Phase II lighting and bleacher improvements project. This was leftover money from the Penny Road Park project. Council also approved the Towerview Court rezoning near James Jackson and Cary Parkway. The dissenting vote stated that it was too dense.

Unanimous Denial of Wellington Park Rezoning

The Wellington Park rezoning had received a lot of comments over the last few weeks. I expected a divided vote on this proposal. Surprisingly, the council voted to unanimously deny it. Council members stated that they believed the current use, a daycare, would be better for the neighborhood and that it was possible build a daycare on the site even though it is less than an acre. The fact that it has been for sale for about a year was also a factor. The council meeting concluded after about two and a half hours.

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:

Federal Update

  • On Thursday, President Biden announced an update to the Vaccinating the Unvaccinated portion of the White House COVID Action Plan.
  • Employers with 100 employees or more (including local governments) will be required to ensure that employees are either vaccinated or tested weekly. Employers will also be required to provide time off for employees to get vaccinated.
  • The US Department of Labor has been directed to create vaccine regulations and release guidance to employers.
  • President Biden also announced that all 2 million federal employees will be required to be vaccinated or apply for a medical or religious exemption.

General Assembly

General Update

  • It was another quiet week for municipal issues.
  • There are reports of progress in State Budget negotiations as we hear that behind closed doors the leadership from both chambers has come to an agreement on a tax-cut package.  However, the House and Senate remain far apart on some major funding items such as the amount of money in the savings reserve and supplemental funds for DOT.
  • Budget Subcommittee work is beginning to move forward and is set to continue next week.  NOW IS THE TIME TO make sure you have been talking to your legislative delegation about the SIX POLICY PROVISIONS that take away local authority that appeared in the HOUSE VERSION of the BUDGET (we have discussed these provisions over last three weeks).  **See the attached letter from NCLM President Karen Alexander.
  • Redistricting is underway and public hearings are being held across the state.
  • Another major piece of outstanding legislation is the energy bill (H951).

Public Safety

Criminal Justice Reform S300 – Special Guest Presenter– Leo John, NCLM Legislative Counsel

Decriminalization of certain ordinances

  • This portion of the bill removes the current presumption that all local ordinances may be enforced criminally and states “only if the city specifies such in the ordinance.”
  • City councils may need to take action to retain authority by December 1, 2021.

Creating policies, databases and follow up plans

  • This bill also develops and maintains a statewide database for use by law enforcement agencies that tracks all disciplinary actions and decertification of law enforcement officers in North Carolina. The three databases are: the critical incident database, the early warning system database, and the duty to intervene and excessive use of force database.
  • The goal of these databases would be to ensure agencies are retaining and using the data to investigate recurring issues with their officers.

Other provisions of interest: background checks, psychological screenings, body cam recording release changes

  • All applicants for law enforcement positions will now be required to provide fingerprints and submit for SBI background checks.
  • Applicants will also have to undergo a psychological screening examination, that includes an in-person or face-to-face clinical interview conducted by a licensed psychologist.
  • A provision in the bill outlines the immediate disclosure of body-worn camera footage to an individual or their representative and requires Law Enforcement Agencies to petition the court for body-worn camera footage to be sealed. Current law places the burden on the family to petition for the footage to be released.

Please feel free to reach out to Leo directly if you have specific questions at ljohn@nclm.org  or 919-522-5138.  NCLM is working on a guidance document, which we will share.

Local Control/Local Revenues

ABC Omnibus Legislation H890

  • There are two sections of the bill that pertain specifically to cities.
  • Section 20 (pg. 15) allows local governments to designate “social districts.” Social districts would be a defined outdoor area for the consumption of alcoholic beverages sold by a permittee during specified times (festivals, etc.).
  • Section 21 (pg. 17) would permanently allow local governments to adopt an ordinance authorizing ABC permittees to utilize an area that is not part of the permittee’s licensed premises for the outdoor possession and consumption of alcoholic beverages sold by the permittee under certain requirements.
  • The complete bill summary can be found here.
  • The bill passed the Senate this week with strong, bi-partisan support and the House voted to concur.  It has now been sent to the Governor, who we expect will sign the bill.

The meeting lasted about 40 minutes.

Town Manager Report

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

Sean’s Message

How is it possible that tomorrow will mark 20 years? In some ways, it seems like yesterday.
On 9/11/01, I was leading one of my earliest Department Director meetings when the first plane hit the Twin Towers.

An aide to the police chief came running into the conference room and told us to turn on the TV. Very quickly the budget discussion took a back seat to trying to comprehend what we were watching together.

As the hours passed and the horror compounded, I’ll never forget the impact on our Fire Chief as he scrambled to figure out how he could help while the rest of us focused on ensuring their wasn’t an imminent attack on Chicago or, by proxy, Elgin, IL. Those fears were cemented with the sounds of F-16s being scrambled overhead from the nearby Great Lakes naval station.

In the days that followed, my mood – and those of so many others – was best described as an even greater appreciation for firefighters in particular. Ever since that day, when asked about the cost of fire departments given the low incidence of fires, I have often remarked that we pay firefighters not for what they do, but, rather, for what they are willing to do.

As each of us thinks back to and projects forward from 9/11, please join me in gratitude for all who were and are willing to offer the greatest sacrifice so that the rest of us may enjoy our tomorrows.

Sean

Public Safety Update

Cary full time employees now have a 70% vaccination rate. Currently there are 16 active cases with town employees.

Development Pulse Report

The August 2021 Development Pulse Report is now available. Summary:

  • Lee & Associates, 100 Walnut Street: The building permit has been submitted for Lee & Associates’ new mixed-use building at the corner of Walnut Street and Kildaire Farm Road. The building will be 19,700 sq. ft. with a mix of office and retail uses. The development plan is currently under review.
  • Fenton Retail Tenants, 300 Fenton Gateway Drive: Multiple building permits are under review for retail tenants at Fenton. Tenants include Arhaus, Athleta, Free People, Pottery Barn, Sephora, and Williams Sonoma.
  • USA Baseball Office & Training Complex Improvements, 280 Brooks Park Lane: The building permit has been submitted for the new USA Baseball office and training building. The 45,000 sq. ft. building will include staff offices, classrooms, restrooms, storage spaces, full-size baseball infield, pitching/batting lanes, and individual training spaces.
  • Long Beverage Warehouse Addition, 10500 World Trade Boulevard: The building permit has been approved for a warehouse addition at Long Beverage. The new 63,000 sq. ft. warehouse space will include a new automated storage and retrieval system as well as a receiving area.

Fenton Meter Installation Begins

The first two water meters were installed this week by our construction crews for Phase I of Fenton.

These meters are part of Cary’s Aquastar Meter Program which provides high quality, accurate, and reliable metering services that are comprehensive, sustainable, and provide exceptional data.

Annual “Schools In, Speeds Out” Campaign Concludes

The annual “Schools In, Speeds Out” campaign conducted by the Police Department concluded on Friday, September 3. The campaign began on Monday, August 23 and ran for the first two weeks of classes for the traditional calendar schools in Cary.

During the campaign, the Traffic Safety Team (TST) was joined by members of the Patrol Division to monitor various school zones with the goal of educating drivers to prevent speeding and other dangerous actions in school zones.

Officers were able to dedicate their time to monitor 22 school zones, conduct 142 traffic stops, and issued 42 citations for various violations including speeding in a school zone, illegal passing, red light violations, and careless and reckless driving.

Annual Farm to Fork Event

Tickets are on sale now for the annual Farm to Fork dinner and celebration at Good Hope Farm. Held in collaboration with our non-profit partners, this fundraiser event invites our community to enjoy an evening of dining and dancing down on the farm under the stars!

This “high-class hoedown” event ticket includes a farm fresh gourmet meal, locally brewed beer and cider, entertainment by a surprise musical guest, and a signature gift. All profits from this event go to support the work of Good Hope Farm in creating food security and agriculture education in the region. Event information and ticket sales can be found here.

2021 USA Baseball Season

USA Baseball wrapped up their 15th season (June-Labor Day) at the National Training Complex. The season consisted of 14 USA Baseball events, highlighted by the first Major League Draft Combine and the USA Baseball Olympic Team training prior to heading to Tokyo, leading to a Silver Medal.

Town staff are now preparing for the fall season, which consists of town recreational league play and weekend college showcases, which offers a local and regional presence at the venue.

Annual ADA Curb Ramp Audit

In January 2020, Cary completed a Curb Ramp Inventory as part its ADA Transition Plan. At that time, there were 500 miles of Cary-maintained streets with 6,610 curb ramps. Prior to completing the Curb Ramp Inventory, Cary proactively repaired nearly 800 curb ramps as part of its annual Street Improvements Program .

Curb ramp assessments are included in the annual pavement condition survey and are repaired or replaced, if needed, in advance of street resurfacing. Since January 2020, we have added 513 ADA compliant curb ramps to our inventory.

Of those, 162 were brought into compliance through Capital Improvement Projects and 351 were added through association with new development projects. For more on ADA Improvement projects click here.

Upcoming Meetings

Hybrid Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources Advisory Board
Monday, Sept. 13 at 5:15 PM

Hybrid Information Services Advisory Board
Monday, Sept. 13 at 6 PM

Zoning Board of Adjustment
Monday, Sept. 13 at 6:30 PM

Hybrid Environmental Advisory Board
Tuesday, Sept. 14 at 6 PM

Hybrid Public Art Advisory Board
Tuesday, Sept. 14 at 6:15 PM

Hybrid Cary150 Task Force
Tuesday, Sept. 14 at 6:15 PM

Mayor’s Mailbox

Emails from citizens this week included:

  • Criticisms about the mask mandate
  • Requests to oppose all vaccinations (um… NO!)
  • Requests to do something about climate change (been doing that)
  • Complaints about cell phone towers causing cancer
  • Opposition to the Wellington Park rezoning
  • A complaint about handicap parking
  • Concerns about downtown sidewalks
  • A thank you for work done in Farmington Woods Drive at Hampton Valley
  • A complaint about firefighter communications on a potential gas leak
  • A request to offer town employees incentives to get vaccinated (been doing that)
  • A request NOT to offer town employees incentives to get vaccinated
  • A request to support our LGBTQ community (been doing that)
  • A complaint that some council members were not masked at a recent work session (Council members were eating and took their masks off to eat as they talked. In the future, I will remember to remind them to keep their masks on will not eating.)

Next week’s activities include staff meetings, the Atlantic Tire Tennis Championships, the Chamber of Commerce Annual Banquet, JM Thompson’s 100th Anniversary celebration, a meeting of the North Carolina Metro Mayors, and Public Safety Day in downtown.

Well, that is all for this week. My next post will be on Sunday, September 19th.  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 Harold.Weinbrecht@townofcary.org and email personal comments to augustanat@mindspring.com.


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

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2 replies
  1. Mark Neill
    Mark Neill says:

    Needless to say, our finances are in a great position. Interest rates are also great. With our bond rating, the money for the downtown park was at an interest rate of 1.45% instead of the projected 4%.

    And this is why the “pay as the work is done, debt is always bad” crowd is wrong, for large capital projects like this.

    Selling the bonds to pay for it all at once means the total cost is now 101.4% of planned (we’ll ignore market changes from day to day, they’d affect things either way), and we pay it off over a number of years.

    Had the town opted to build the park in phases, over those several years, paying for it with tax revenues received that year and budgeted for the park, just inflation costs over the next 5-10 years would have been significantly more than 1.4%. Doing it this way very likely saved millions of dollars.

    Reply
  2. George McDowell
    George McDowell says:

    After the tragedy of the terrortist attacks of September 11, 2001 began to sink in, Bartlett’s Tree Experts considered ways in which the horrific loss we suffered could be memorialized. Their scientists determined that the Swamp White Oak tree was native to the area of NewYork City, to the area surrounding the Pentagon, and to the environment around Shanksville, Pennsylvania, where passengers and crew forced Flight 93 down before it could become a targeted weapon.

    Bartlett’s staff collected Swamp White Oak acorns from these three areas, and raised them up. When they were of size, they were planted as part of the 9/11 Memorial, where they surround and guard the voids marking where the Twin Towers stood.

    Acorns from the Memorial trees are collected each year, and from them seedlings are generated. Nathan Cenis, the Bartlett’s representative for the Triangle, offered the Cary Tree Archive a young tree grown from one of these acorns.

    Town of Cary Fire Chief Mike Cooper and members of his department will plant Mr. Cenis’s donation at noon on Saturday, September 25. All are invited to witness the planting.

    Parking and acess to the Cary Tree Archive are shown here: https://www.carytreearchive.org/access.php

    Reply

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