Harold’s Blog: Public Safety, Meetings & Planting Trees

Cary, NC — This week the council held a work session and its last regularly scheduled meeting of September.

Starting the Week with Meetings

Monday I attempted to contact each council member to hear of any concerns or questions they may have had about the agenda. There were no questions or concerns about the agenda and only comments about work session topics.

Later Monday I met with staff to go over the agenda. We mostly talked about reading the proclamation for former council member Michael Joyce. Our meeting was brief.

Next, I met with the town manager for our weekly one-on-one. We talked about COVID-19 enforcement, vaccination rates, and trends we saw with hospitalizations and infections. Other topics included the location of the future Sports Complex and the sale of the South Hills Mall.

Monday night I joined a meeting of the Mayors Association in Garner. Mayors attending included Cary, Fuquay Varina, Garner, Morrisville, Rolesville, Wake Forest, and Wendell. Most of our discussion was on mask mandates and how it was appropriate for some communities and not for others. Our meeting lasted over two and a half hours.

Tuesday I joined council member Smith in a meeting with a Dorcas Ministries representative about an affordable housing project. We discussed concerns and funding partners. Our meeting lasted about thirty minutes.

Talking Transit & Multi-Modal

Thursday morning I joined council member Robinson in a meeting with a representative for the North Carolina Railroad and a representative from GoTriangle. We talked about the various impacts of rail in Cary.

Topics included the new multi-modal station and the location of Cedar Street in the railroad right-of-way. Our meeting lasted about an hour.

Work Session Covers Housing, Logos & Redistricting

Thursday afternoon the council held a work session on housing, branding, and redistricting maps.

Staff presented new information about Cary’s housing plan which included:

  • Added environmental priorities
  • Increased connection between transit and housing
  • Special populations: seniors and persons with disabilities
  • Middle-income and homeownership
  • Housing in Cary being a priority at all income levels.

The purpose of the housing plan is to come to a consensus on housing goals and needs, build off the Imagine Cary Community Plan, and create recommendations for achievable goals. The housing plan includes three main goals:

  1. Community of choice by ensuring high quality and diverse new housing
  2. All Cary residents can enjoy the full benefit of Cary’s high quality of life
  3. Pursue regional and nonprofit partnerships to meet housing needs

The branding update includes several logos from staff. The council stated that there was no wow factor with any of the logos. Staff noted that the direction given to consultants was to be safe with the logos. The council gave the staff and consultants direction to come back with a set of logos that are not as safe. This will probably be presented to the council at the mini-retreat in November.

The council’s last topic was redistricting. This past summer the council redrew and approved the districts to be in line with the rule that states district populations must be within 5% of each other. The census data showed that there needed to be some minor tweaking of those new maps to meet the 5% rule. Two maps were presented with the majority of the council favoring option 1. The council decided to present both options at a public hearing on October 21 before making a decision at a council meeting on November 9th.

Council Meeting Recap

The council held its last regularly scheduled meeting of the month Thursday evening. The meeting started with the council remembering former council member Michael Joyce who, along with his wife, passed away recently from COVID. I read a proclamation honoring his life and service to Cary.

The agenda included a history moment from council member Yerha, Public Speaks Out, and five consent items. The history moment focused on businesses in Cary. To find out more visit https://www.cary150.org/history-moments/ .

Public Speaks Out had one speaker, a candidate for Cary Town council, who was pitching a WakeOne mantra that all municipalities should give one penny of their tax rate to affordable housing. IMHO, throwing money at a complex problem without clearly defining the problem and the solutions is very bad policy. I encourage everyone to learn what Cary is already doing for affordable housing instead of assuming the worse.

Please remember that Cary is one of the greatest communities in the nation for a reason. Our staff and council are always working on solutions to complex issues. The best solutions usually come from careful planning and consideration.

After a closed session the council came back into open session and passed a resolution approving a Memorandum of Agreement between the state of North Carolina and local governments on proceeds relating to the settlement of Opioid litigation. I was contacted by the North Carolina Attorney General on Friday to confirm Cary’s participation.

Local Mayors Discuss Legislature Updates

Friday the North Carolina Metro Mayors met to discuss happenings at the legislature. Here is a summary of that meeting from the Executive Director:

Federal Update

Update on Infrastructure Bill

  • Speaker Pelosi announced that a vote on the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill will be taken on Monday. There are still some outstanding disagreements between moderates and progressives that could jeopardize passage of the bill.
  • Congress is also dealing with the $3.5T Reconciliation Bill, a debt limit default and potential government shutdown. The next three weeks will be critical.
  • Please reach out to your Congressional Democratic Members and remind them that mayors are very supportive of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill planned for a vote on Monday.

Afghan Refugees – Scott Phillips, North Carolina State Refugee Coordinator, NC DHHS

  • There are approximately 60,000 Afghan Evacuees at military bases across the nation. They will be processed and sent to resettlement sites. North Carolina is home to 10 resettlement sites and has been approved to receive 1,169 refugees (4th largest contingent in the US).
  • The US Department of Homeland Security has prepared a very informative fact sheet and website to provide as much information as they can on this process.
  • The cities of Asheville, Charlotte, Greensboro, Durham, New Bern and Raleigh will be the primary resettlement cities, but there could be wider distribution of evacuees due to housing issues.
  • The North Carolina State Refugee Office, part of NCDHHS, works in collaboration with a wide array of partners and stakeholders to provide services to refugees that support their health, safety, and well-being.
  • The resettlement agencies note that key concerns are housing, medical services and transportation. Municipalities can play a major role in helping to facilitate a coordination of efforts.
  • If you are interested in being a part of this operation, please reach out to Scott and he can connect you to local agencies.  He can be contacted by phone or e-mail at 919-527-6303 or scottphillips@dhhs.nc.gov

General Assembly

General Update – Budget and General Update

Discussions may shift from one between the two chambers to one that also includes the Governor.

  • The House and Senate had hoped to send a compromise budget to Governor Cooper this week, but there are still some outstanding differences between the two chambers.
  • Based on comments from Senate President Pro Tempore Berger earlier this week, the House and Senate Conference Chairs will bring the remaining budget items that have not been agreed upon to himself and House Speaker Moore (“the corner offices”).
  • Negotiations between leadership on these outstanding issues will continue over the weekend, with the goal of having a House and Senate agreement by early next week.  The legislature will then send the compromise to Governor Cooper confidentially.
  • The Senate will not be in for votes next week, but the goal is to have a budget finalized by mid-October.
  • The re-districting process continues as public hearings are held across the state. The General Assembly is aiming to have a final map ready for submission around the end of October.
  • A memorial service was held for Mayor Chuck Allen in Goldsboro this week. USAF servicemembers in flight uniforms, former colleagues, and individuals from across the state gathered to pay their final respects.  The NC House also paid tribute to Mayor Allen during a floor session this week.

Transportation

Reminder that NCDOT Secretary Eric Boyette will join our regular Friday Update next week (Friday, October 1)

Update on the State Transportation Improvement Program

  • A recent WRAL News Report states that “the state Department of Transportation planned billions of dollars more in road construction for the next decade than it can afford, according to recently reworked cost estimates.”
  • Local officials are concerned that many road projects could get bumped off North Carolina’s long-range plans as a result.
  • Please continue to be engaged with your MPOs and TACs regarding this issue. Metro mayors and NCLM are represented on the NCDOT Prioritization Workgroup, but it is critical that city leaders be fully engaged in MPO-level discussions.

Neighborhood Occupantless Vehicle H814 – Addison McDowell, NCLM

  • Legislation that would allow occupantless, fully autonomous delivery vehicles to operate on city streets was passed through the Senate Transportation Committee on Tuesday.
  • Bill is focused on the operation of autonomous slow-moving vehicles designed to deliver food and other goods to residents (Domino’s Pizza has run TV ads featuring this).
  • Bill currently fails to address concerns that cities have raised with industry representatives, and we are seeking changes to fix the missing pieces from this bill.
  • Does not address traffic flow, bike lanes, law enforcement interactions in the event of a violation or accident, and low liability insurance requirements.
  • Bill now awaits a hearing in the Senate Rules Committee before a floor vote.

Public Safety, Economic Development & Local Control/Revenues – nothing new to report

  • Budget will be sent to Governor Cooper before it is released to the public. We will continue to monitor the six policy provisions that infringe on critical local control in our cities (limits on stormwater, short term rentals, billboards, trees, etc).

The meeting concluded after about half an hour.

Planting at the Cary Tree Archive

Saturday I participated in a tree planting at the Cary Tree Archive. Six of the seven council members were participating, as well as staff, firefighters, police, and other volunteers.

Together we planted native trees in an HOA common space. This will help clean our air, our water, and battle climate change.

The Tree Archive includes over 200 trees, a Longleaf Pine Savanah, a fruit and nut orchard, and a pollinator garden. We are so blessed to have this Tree Archive and all the volunteers that have worked so hard to create this special place. If you would like to get involved with the Tree Archive, go to https://carytreearchive.org.

Town Manager Report

The town manager’s report for this week included:

Sean’s Message

The first week of fall has been a busy one for Council, staff, and me. Each new season brings new perspectives on what lies ahead and if this week is any indication, we are in for a productive and engaging fall.

On Tuesday, I held an All-Hands meeting, and Assistant Director of 311, Carolyn Roman, joined me as we updated staff on the latest regarding COVID-19 and the Vaccine Incentive Program. As I mentioned last night in the work session, on Wednesday I had the opportunity to speak with the entire Development Review Committee about interpreting the Land Development Ordinance (LDO) and their role as regulators and facilitators.

In other news, Council Member Ed Yerha and Town Clerk Virginia Johnson did an excellent job presenting at the Cary Chamber Eye Opener. They are doing an extraordinary job encouraging others to celebrate Cary’s exciting history as we continue to celebrate 150 years.

See you all on Thursday evening for the Cary/Morrisville Meeting.

Sean

Public Safety Update

Seventy four percent of Cary’s full-time employees have been vaccinated. There are thirteen active cases and a total of one hundred and fifty-eight total employees have been infected with COVID.

Legislation Passes to Remove the Duplicate Beer and Wine Fees in Cary

This month, the General Assembly enacted legislation that removes duplicative fees for beer and wine licenses in Cary. This initiative started with the Finance Department’s assessment of Cary’s fee practices to see what was not adding value to the organization. Beer and wine licensing generated minimal revenue, collected duplicative data with the State, and was an administrative burden for Cary and local businesses. Cary’s government affairs team worked tirelessly this session to ensure passage of the legislation. This is a win not only for Cary but for the entire business community. Read more about this legislation in House Bill 890 (Part IV).

Carpenter Village Sidewalk Repair

A multi-departmental team is working with the Carpenter Village HOA to create safe walking conditions by addressing damaged sidewalks throughout the neighborhood. In most cases, the sidewalks are raised and cracked due to the growth of tree roots below the surface. Residents were torn between repairing the sidewalks and preserving the trees, so staff worked to identify solutions that would allow these conflicting amenities to coexist. The first repair was completed this week using a bridging technique. This method involved elevating the sidewalk with a gradual incline, allowing room for the tree roots to remain settled underneath. Nearby homeowners and the HOA expressed their appreciation for this initial repair and look forward to seeing similar improvements in other areas throughout the neighborhood.

Hillcrest Cemetery Cleanup Day

In partnership with Verville Interiors, LLC, Cary is hosting a clean-up day in Hillcrest Cemetery on October 2 from 9-11:30 a.m. Proper cleaning methods will be demonstrated by Verville Interiors, LLC and volunteers will perform light cleaning of headstones/markers and litter cleanup. Cary’s Spruce Program has graciously provided the supplies for this event. Limited volunteer spots available, so sign up today!

Public Safety Day

Public Safety Day brings together local agencies, activities, attractions, and vendors to help promote awareness, safety, and neighborhood unity. This year, over 20 public safety departments from throughout the region lined Academy St. with their vehicles and equipment. Event attendees enjoyed the displays, engaging with officers, and cheering along during the annual Cary Police vs. Cary Fire fitness competition.

Hometown Spirit Award

The Hometown Spirit Award nomination period closed last night. Twelve citizens were nominated this year for the honor, and the winner will be announced at the November 9 Council meeting.

Tree Talk Series Takes Root

This week Cary launched the inaugural Tree Talk Series with the first of four seasonal webinars. Urban Forestry Manager Katie Rose Levin skillfully presented “Tree Planting Tips,” sharing important instructions to help participants successfully install trees. The webinar series is a new offering in Cary’s suite of urban forestry outreach and education initiatives that supports citizen interest in the community’s environmental health.

FY 2022 Adopted Budget

The FY 2022 adopted operating, capital and budget in brief documents are now available on Cary’s website. A limited number of printed copies will be distributed in mid-October.

Fire Station Certified Healthy

Fire partnered with UL for a pilot project to study the air quality in Station 4, resulting in it being the first fire station to earn the UL Verified Healthy Building distinction. UL conducted on-site visits and performance testing, as well as reviewed related documentation to verify that the building air meets rigorous standards in a program embraced by many Fortune 500 companies. These objective, science-based standards are aligned with industry-recognized, third-party organizations such as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), the World Health Organization (WHO) and the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE), among others. All laboratory testing and analysis methodologies are informed by the EPA Compendium of Methods, ASTM D5197 and TO-17 for air sampling, and EPA methods. UL introduced the program to meet the rapidly growing demand for buildings that prioritize occupant health and wellness.

Reclaimed Water Master Plan Update

Cary utilizes up to 1 million gallons of reclaimed water each day during the summer. This environmentally friendly resource reduces discharges to streams, lessens the amount of drinking water on lawns, and reduces the water demand on the Cary/Apex Water Treatment Facility. The reclaimed water system is guided by a master plan which is periodically updated to ensure that future infrastructure is aligned with current demand and growth forecasts. Recently the latest update was completed and reflects revised reclaimed water demands as well as adjustments to the service area per Policy Statement 132.

Applause! And Dorcas Ministries Partnership

Applause! hosted the first “Speak Out!” class on September 14. “Speak Out!” is an outreach program created as an out-of-the-box way to serve the community. The program was requested as public-speaking class for adults that could also provide connections and friendships after a year of isolation. “Speak Out” uses improv, scene work, and breathing and voice exercises to help participants gain confidence when speaking out around others and builds connection in a laid-back environment.

Adidas XC Challenge Cross Country Meet

The adidas XC Challenge Cross Country Meet returned to WakeMed Soccer Park last week. The annual event, sponsored by North Carolina State University Cross County, brings approximately 2,000 runners to Cary. The two-day event spotlights collegiate races on Friday, while Saturday is devoted to high school runners. 306 college athletes and 1,951 high school runners completed the challenging course this year.

Upcoming Meetings

Planning and Zoning Board Meeting
Monday, September 27 at 6:30 PM

Hybrid Greenway Committee Meeting
Thursday, September 30 at 6 PM

Mayor’s Mailbox

Emails from citizens this week included:

  • A complaint about masks and vaccines
  • A request for recognition of a beloved preacher who passed recently
  • A complaint about Cary Christian not requiring masks for students
  • A sidewalk connection request for Birkhaven in Lochmere
  • A complaint about a water fountain at the Middle Creek tennis courts
  • A complaint about the Board of Adjustment’s decision on parking reduction
  • A request to know a council member district representative
  • Three cut and paste letters asking the town to spend one penny of its tax rate (about two million) on affordable housing (as I mentioned before, throwing money at a complex issue without completely defining the issue you are trying to solve, and the solutions you are planning to use with the taxpayer dollars, is irresponsible)

Activities for next week include staff meetings, meeting about future professional tennis tournaments, a Cary-Morrisville join meeting, the Annual Advisory Board Volunteer Event, a meeting of the North Carolina Metro Mayors, and the Good Hope Farm’s to Fork Event.

Well, that is all for this week. My next post will be on Sunday, October 3rd.  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 by Ashley Kairis and the Town of Cary.

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1 reply
  1. Amanda Murphy
    Amanda Murphy says:

    Dear Mayor,
    Your recollection of my comment at Public Speaks Out is incorrect. What I stated was that, “Local municipalities surrounding Cary have been making efforts towards a solution, including a penny tax in Apex that is a dedicated fund for affordable housing in their community.” In your statement that I was pitching a ONE Wake mantra, you are miscommunicating to the public. I stated a fact, that municipalities surrounding Cary are taking action for housing affordability.

    I would ask that Cary Town Council do the same. I have researched at length what Cary is already doing for housing affordability, believe our town is capable of much more, and am excited to see the progress you plan to make moving forward with the new housing study coming out this fall.

    Thanks,
    Amanda Murphy
    Candidate for Cary Town Council District C

    Reply

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