Harold’s Blog: Cary Diwali, Hospital Updates & Transit

Cary, NC — This was a week of events and a few meetings.

SAS Championship Media Day

Monday was SAS Championship media day. I participated in a round of golf with council member Jack Smith, future Cary Chamber President Mark Lawson, and Cary Chamber Board member David Booth.

I talked with the town manager on Monday in lieu of a meeting just to make sure we were in sync with information.

Cary-RTP Rapid Bus Extension

Wednesday I participated in the Community Stakeholder Virtual Session for Cary-RTP Rapid Bus Extension. The purpose of the meeting was for the consultants to get feedback about future rapid bus from the people representing the communities most impacted. There were more than 35 people on the call that provided several comments. Here is a summary of that meeting from the Wake Transit Program Manager:

“Thank you so much to those who participated in our community stakeholder input session yesterday afternoon. We very much appreciate the input you provided during the session, and we look forward to your continued input as we progress through the study process.

As mentioned at the end of yesterday’s session, we have launched Phase I of public engagement for the study. The period during which we will be requesting public input for Phase I through a survey will run through November 1st.

We get much better public participation results when our community stakeholders are active in pushing the message to participate through their own channels. To assist you with that, CAMPO’s public engagement planner has developed an online toolkit that provides all of the resources we have developed to drive public participation. Materials include:

  1. Study Website (provides access to a virtual open house)
  2. Paper Version of Survey
  3. Access to the Online Survey
  4. Flyers, Handouts, and Social Media Ads
  5. Press Release
  6. Display Boards Used for Virtual Open House

Online toolkit

We appreciate your help with this! If you take any actions to drive public participation in Phase I for the study, such as social media posting, posting to NextDoor, etc., please let us know so we can track the results of your efforts. Please let me know if you have any questions and thank you for what you do for your community and our region.

The meeting lasted about one and a half hours.

WakeMed Cary Hospital Update

Later Wednesday I received an update from WakeMed Cary hospital on COVID impacts. Here is an excerpt from that update:

“… The number of COVID patients in the WakeMed system is down well over 50% from our peak and is still falling. The caution: Delta is by no means the last variant of COVID we’ll face.

Vaccination remains our most powerful and most effective long-term tool to blunt waves like this in the future.

  • We peaked at 203 COVID patients at noon August 26th. That was 10% higher than the previous peak in January. Our current total inpatient COVID census is in the 90s.
  • Our lab positivity rate – a strong predictor of inpatient demand – is down from over 16% to under 8% for the first time in nearly three months. As long as it keeps falling, we expect to continue seeing a gradual decline in our inpatient COVID census.
  • Critical care, as expected, experienced a later peak. That hit the first week of September when we had nearly 60 ICU patients and stretched our ICU resources to previously unexplored limits.
  • ICU demand is finally falling as well, but the next few weeks will bring more heartbreaking stories of unvaccinated, otherwise relatively healthy people in their 30s-50s dying in the ICU after weeks-long battles.

Delta has been awful for our community. It has been even more devastating in communities that didn’t reach vaccination rates of close to 100% for their oldest and highest risk members. We are thankful that Wake County achieved that level.

Monoclonal Antibody Treatment Expansion:

We are also thankful for the upcoming expansion of a COVID treatment called monoclonal antibody (mAb).  WakeMed began administering mAb infusions in December 2020 with great success.  Since then, WakeMed has provided 3,155 total infusions. For people who are at high risk for developing severe COVID-19 illness and have tested positive for the COVID-19 virus, the one-time mAb infusion treatment has been shown to help prevent acute illness and hospitalization by up to 70 percent. It is most effective if administered within 10 days of onset of COVID-19 symptoms.

This week, WakeMed is expanding the use of mAb treatment for high-risk patients with COVID-19. The increased access is part of a national “Crush COVID” initiative. WakeMed is the second health system in North Carolina to join the initiative. Working with the NC Department of Health and Human Services, the US Department of Health and Human Services and KPMG, WakeMed will open four infusion sites. …”

I am so grateful for all the doctors, nurses, and others in our healthcare community that have worked tirelessly in this pandemic. God bless them all!

Thursday staff provided information comparing Apex and Cary’s vaccination rates and infection rates at the request of Mayor Pro-Tem Frantz. The information, via heat maps, showed two sections of Cary with vaccination rates of less than 53% both in August and at the end of September. Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear that we improved much during that time. Apex had better vaccination rates with their lowest section of town having above 61%.

The COVID infections rates showed Cary’s infection rates between August and the end of September to be less than 400 per 100,000 for all areas of town. Apex infection rates appeared to get worse during that time with one area having 500 to 880 infections per 100,000.

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:

Special Guests for upcoming Friday Updates:

  • Oct 15, NC Senator Vickie Sawyer, Senate Transportation Co-Chair
  • Oct 29, Attorney General Josh Stein

Topics this week included:

Federal Update – Beau

Delayed vote in the US House on Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill, which is now paired with the larger Reconciliation Bill (originally a $3.5 trillion “human infrastructure” bill) – Democrats are currently targeting October 31 for both of these priority pieces of the Biden Administration legislative program.

  • Votes on these two massive bills could easily slip until later in the year.
  • The reconciliation/human infrastructure bill needs unanimous Democratic support in the Senate to pass (it includes a number of Democratic priorities like child-care subsidies, universal pre-K, free community college, climate change and more).  Negotiations on this tax and spend bill started out at $5 trillion, moved to $3.5 trillion and is now being pared back to $2 trillion.  Some moderate Democrats, including Sen. Manchin, are asking for a $1.5 trillion package.
  • Two other significant Congressional issues have been similarly conflated a bit – the CR and debt ceiling.
  • Without a budget in place, last week Congress narrowly averted a “government shutdown” by passing a continuing resolution (CR) that will keep the federal government open until December 3.
  • Then, in a surprise shift in strategy, 11 Senate Republicans agreed to a deal this week to lift the federal government’s debt ceiling by $468 billion, enough to avoid default until December 3.  A group of well-known business leaders had spoken out strongly against a possible default earlier in the week.

Many prognosticators theorize that all these issues will continue to be delayed and percolate until it all comes to a conclusion some time right before Christmas (nothing like a hard deadline with a plane ride home…).

General Assembly

General Update – Budget and General Update

Behind the scenes negotiations continue – we hear that the six policy provisions restricting local governments are still in the negotiations.

  • Budget negotiations between the Governor and the legislature continued this week.  Republican leadership received a counteroffer from Governor Cooper on Wednesday.  Specific details of the proposal remain confidential.
  • Governor Cooper has indicated he is still working to expand Medicaid and invest in sound basic education and teacher raises.  We expect House and Senate leadership to work on their response to the Governor over the weekend.
  • Please continue to advocate against the six policy provisions that take away local control on six important areas (including stormwater programs, short term rentals/AirBnB, and billboards).
  • H951, Energy Solutions for North Carolina, a major energy legislation and bipartisan compromise moved through the legislature this week.
  • The bill passed the Senate on Wednesday with a vote of 42-7.  The House voted to concur on Thursday with a vote of 90-20.  We anticipate the Governor to sign the measure soon after it reaches his desk.
  • The redistricting process officially began this week.  Legislators began drawing new maps for the state legislative and congressional districts.  The House and Senate Redistricting Committees met separately to address preliminary questions and outline the process moving forward
  • The Senate released 16 possible maps of different county groupings which would then be divided into anywhere from one to six seats depending on the population in each grouping. The House looked at 8 possible maps of different county groupings. Each chamber will use these maps as a starting point for the redistricting process.
  • All legislators and members of the public will have access to four map drawing terminals during the week. Terminals will be open Monday through Friday from 9:00 AM-5:00PM. Terminal availability may be extended to nights and weekends on an as needed basis.  The goal is to vote on the final maps in the next two weeks.

Transportation

Neighborhood Occupantless Vehicle H814 – Addison McDowell, NCLM Govt Affairs Liaison

Currently we have suggested language that would address local concerns in the bill:

  • Limit “occupantless” vehicles to roads with 35 mph speed limits or lower – current bill language allows them on 45 mph roads.
    We understand that Nuro’s occupantless vehicles top out at 25 mph, meaning that on 45 mph roads, the occupantless (web story on how Nuro it works) could cause traffic delays or problems. We are asking the bi limit the use to roads with 35mph or lower limits.
  • Ensures that on-street parking spots and bike lanes remain unblocked by these vehicles.
    Because the bill otherwise requires these vehicles to operate “as close as practicable” to the right-hand edge of a roadway, city officials requested an exception to be made in the law in cases of marked on-street parking spots and bike lanes, which should remain free of blockages by these vehicles.
  • Add a requirement that the vehicle operator be above age 16.
    The autonomous vehicle law that would otherwise apply does not specify an age of the remote human operator that is tasked with responding in the event of a vehicle crash. This requirement ensures that the operator is at least of the same minimum age and capability as a licensed N.C. driver.
  • Add language to ensure that the vehicle operator shows a law enforcement officer where to find registration and insurance information.
    We have been told that in Nuro’s vehicles, the registration and insurance information is located inside the vehicle, which is otherwise locked. City officials expressed concerns about quickly locating this information in the event of a crash, so this language assures that a remote human operator has a duty to point a responding law enforcement officer to that vital information.
  • Bring the insurance requirement in line with other autonomous commercial delivery vehicles authorized in N.C. statutes.
    The bill’s current insurance requirements are based on the minimums in law for non-commercial drivers ($30,000 for bodily injury/death to one person, $60,000 for bodily injury/death to more than one person, and $25,000 for injury to or destruction of property of others). However, N.C. law requires a higher level of insurance for other autonomous commercial delivery vehicles, such as the personal delivery devices authorized in G.S. 20-175.15. This language is modeled after that for personal delivery devices, which require a minimum coverage of $100,000 per claim. This level of coverage ensures that North Carolinians who suffer injury as a result of the operation of these devices for commercial purposes can be appropriately compensated for their losses.
  • Move the effective date back.
    As currently drafted, the effective date of Oct. 1, 2021, has already passed. This language moves the effective date ahead to December 1, 2021, which is a common effective date for other legislation.

Public Safety

Upcoming Public Safety special guest

NOTE: During our 10 AM Update on Friday, October 29 – Special Guest Attorney General Josh Stein

Criminal Justice Reform S300 – Municipal GuidanceEconomic Development – nothing new to report

Local Control/Local Revenues

Please continue to advocate with your state legislators to have the  six policy provisions restricting local governments in the House budget proposal.

The meeting concluded after about 35 minutes.

Attending 2021 Cary Diwali

From left: Morrisville council member Steve Rao, Morrisville council member Liz Johnson, Cary Mayor Harold Weinbrecht, Morrisville Mayor TJ Cawley, and Cary council member Ed Yerha.

Saturday I attended the 21st celebration of Diwali at Koka Booth Amphitheater. Despite having flooding rains earlier in the day, and drizzle throughout the afternoon and evening, there was a good crowd.

There were great performances, unique exhibits, delicious food and colorful costumes and decorations. In past years, Diwali’s evening performances were international acts. This year, due to COVID, they were local. The performances were centered around a love story in Cary, and it was fantastic!

We are so blessed to have such great talent in Cary. The evening was capped off with a fireworks display.

Town Manager’s Report

The town manager’s report for this week included the following:

Sean’s Message

I want to thank the Council for your continued strong support of professional development for staff. This week I received my Certificate in Leadership Excellence from Vanderbilt University (VU), a 4-program series that we’ve made available to many throughout the organization. In my final course, I was joined by Danna Widmar. Others who’ve benefited from VU include Danielle Mahoney, Matt Flynn, Scot Berry, Paul Webster, and Alex Jones. And it was through VU that we found coach Mark Robertson.

Additionally, Ginny Johnson recently graduated from the UNC School of Government Public Executive Leadership Academy. Congratulations, Ginny!

In appreciation,

Sean

Public Safety Update

I am very pleased with the response we received from staff that got us to an 84% vaccination rate. While the rate is good, we will continue to encourage those that are unvaccinated to get vaccinated with a 100% goal in mind. There are currently 8 active cases with a total of 163 cases with staff since the beginning of the pandemic.

Development Pulse Report

The September 2021 Development Pulse Report is now available.

Highlights

  • Pleasant Grove Church Road- The building permit has been submitted for the construction of a 120,000 sq.ft. manufacturing warehouse building at 3615 Pleasant Grove Church Road. The development plan is currently in its fourth round of review. The property associated with this development was recently annexed into Cary Town Limits from Durham County and rezoned to ORD-CU.
  • Bull City Cider- The building permit for Bull City Cider is currently under review. The new business will be the first-floor tenant in the William House development at 210 East Chatham Street. There will be 2,305 sq.ft. of indoor space with a bar and over 550 sq.ft. of outdoor patio.

October ZBOA Meeting

On Monday, the Cary Zoning Board of Adjustment (ZBOA) unanimously approved the resolution for the Lee & Associates variance to allow a 63.6% reduction in required off-street parking for a new office and retail building at 413 Kildaire Farm Road.

The board also reviewed the 2020-2021 Annual Report which highlighted a return to in-person meetings, reasonable accommodation cases, and reviewed the 22 cases heard by the board over the past term. The final action for the evening was the appointment of Janie Richardson as Vice Chair.

The November ZBOA meeting will be canceled, and the board will meet again on Dec. 6.

Certificate of Appropriateness Public Hearing

Cary’s Historic Preservation Commission will be conducting a quasi-judicial public hearing on October 13 for Certificate of Appropriateness (COA) case 21-COA-03 Hillcrest Cemetery Greenway Extension.

The COA request proposes modifications to the historic landmark known as Hillcrest Cemetery, located on property at 608 Page Street, 0 Page Street, and 610 Page Street.

The proposed modifications consist of constructing a new Cary greenway along the southern boundary of the landmark, including some new paved pathways, fences, plantings, bollards, retaining walls, and brick columns; the pathway will be approximately 430 feet long, including approximately 410 linear feet of existing pavement and 4,300 square feet in total area.

Hillcrest Cemetery Cleanup Day

A combination of citizens and staff volunteered to clean up Hillcrest Cemetery last Saturday.

Following a demonstration of proper cleaning techniques by Verville Interiors, LLC, volunteers cleaned an entire section of the cemetery during their time in Hillcrest. Clean up days are planned to occur biannually. Information on future clean up days will be posted on our website.

2021 Biennial Report Completed

When the Western Wake Regional Water Reclamation Facility (WWRWRF) was being permitted, Cary established an incredibly innovative regulatory solution known as the SCI Master Management Plan (SCIMMP) to manage potential impacts of growth.

Staff recently submitted its 2021 biennial report update, full of incredible accomplishments that highlight Cary’s environmental leadership.

Cary Highlighted at Annual BoxWorks Conference

At the BoxWorks Keynote Session, The Future of the Content Cloud, Senior Vice President and Chief Product Officer Diego Dugatkin highlighted Cary as an innovative and forward-thinking partner.

While highlighting the robustness of the Box Platform, Dugatkin called out Cary’s own bespoke Catalog of Project and Services that harnesses best of breed platforms to increase collaboration across our organization.

Morrisville Smart Shuttle Launches

The Morrisville Smart Shuttle, operated by GoCary, launched last Saturday. The Smart Shuttle provides free, on-demand transit service seven days a week throughout Morrisville, with connections to GoCary, GoTriangle and RTP.

Riders use a mobile app, similar to Uber or Lyft, to request a trip between 15 dedicated stops (nodes). The app can also be used to track the shuttle location when waiting for a pick-up or while on board. A federal mask mandate remains in effect for all drivers and passengers.

Upcoming Meetings

Hybrid Environmental Advisory Board

Tuesday, Oct. 12 at 6 PM

Hybrid Public Art Advisory Board
Wednesday, Oct. 13 at 6:15 PM

Historic Preservation Commission
Wednesday, Oct. 13 at 6:30 PM

Mayor’s Mailbox

Emails from citizens this week included:

  • MANY complaints about noise from the Ziggy Marley concert at the Booth Amphitheater. Comments included: “Someone should step down for allowing this.”, “What is being done to ensure this public nuisance isn’t repeated?”, “an act of aggression and violence”
  • Several emails from the anti-maskers. Comments included: “There is no getting rid of Covid. We can’t ignore everything else for just one virus.”, “heavy handed government mandates will change only one thing the future of voting patterns.”, “You have to turn this craziness off. No more mask silliness, man up to Wake Schools and get the mask off of the kids.”
  • A complaint about the town’s vaccination incentive program
  • Three complaints about “Biden’s Critical Race Theory”
  • A complaint about “open dumps” on greenway by Adams Elementary
  • A complaint about a sound issue in Bond Park

Next week’s activities include staff meetings, a housing update from staff, several events related to the SAS Championships, and a meeting of the North Carolina Metro Mayors.

Well, that is all for this week. My next post will be on Sunday, October 17th.  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.

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