Harold’s Blog: SV Temple Groundbreaking & Masking Update
Cary, NC — This week included several events associated with the SAS Championships.
Discussing COVID Metrics & Development
Monday I met virtually with the town manager for our weekly one-on-one. We talked about several topics including the mask mandate, the staff vaccination rate, the tennis center, the Fenton, and the future sale of the South Hills mall.
We agreed the COVID-19 measurements are headed in the right direction and decided to meet with all data, including data from hospitals, on October 25th, to discuss whether to extend the mask mandate. Some good news on the pandemic is that our staff is now over 85% vaccinated. We believe that might rank us in the top ten in the country for municipalities our size.
We discussed the future of the tennis center and the expansions that will allow us to host more events. The next upgrade to the tennis center will include an upgrade in lighting to meet the standards required for night play. This should allow us to easily hold professional and other tournaments, like the ACC, at night.
We also spent time talking about the Eastern Gateway. The Fenton is on schedule and should be opening in April. The South Hills mall should be sold, and the new owners announced in the next couple of weeks. We look forward to working with the new owners on an iconic development.
SAS Championship Events Tuesday-Friday
Tuesday I joined several staff members in the SAS Championship pairings party. This tournament helps showcase Cary and allows conversations with business leaders who are visiting Cary.
Wednesday I participated in the first day of the SAS Pro-Am. My group included the town manager, the chamber president, and a friend of mine. Our pro was Carlos Franco who we played with several years ago. We had a blast and played decent but not enough to contend.
Thursday was the second day of the SAS Pro-Am and we played with David Frost. We had a great conversation with him about his wine business which btw, is sold in Trader Joe’s. Again, we had a lot of fun but were not in contention.
Friday I taped a welcome message for the golf channel. This is always fun for me, and I have now done it for 14 years.
NC Metro Mayors Meeting Recap
Later Friday the North Carolina Metro Mayors met to discuss the happenings at the legislature. Here is a summary from the Executive Director:
Nothing new to report since last week. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill that the Metro Mayors have advocated for is now tied to the larger “human infrastructure” Reconciliation Bill. Action is expected at the end of October. Democratic Caucus in House of Reps is currently working through.
General Assembly Update
Behind the scenes negotiations between Governor Cooper and the leaders in both chambers continue – we hear that the six policy provisions restricting local governments are still in the negotiations.
- It was another quiet week at the General Assembly. No committee work or floor votes were conducted this week. House and Senate leaders continue to focus on budget negotiations behind closed doors. At this point, no budget provisions have been made public as the House, Senate, and Governor continue to try to reach an agreement.
- House and Senate Redistricting Committee rooms also remained open each day this week for legislators to draw maps for the House, Senate, and Congressional Districts. The committee rooms and map drawing stations are livestreamed on the General Assembly website for the public to watch.
- Governor Cooper signed a major piece of energy legislation, H951, on Wednesday making it Session Law 2021-165. The final product is a bipartisan compromise that seeks to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from public utilities by 70 percent by the year 2030.
Introduction by Mayor Miles Atkins, Mooresville
Today’s special guest Senator Vickie Sawyer.
- A bipartisan effort is needed when working with transportation issues. The NC TEN Commission was created by the Senate Transportation Committee for this purpose: to allow Democrats and Republicans to begin working through these complex, often politically charged, issues together.
- Various groups (including groups as diverse as the Southern Environmental Law Center and Duke Energy) and individuals from across the state were invited to begin brainstorming on ways to fund transportation as a replacement for the NC gas tax. The participants from NC Chamber of Commerce, NC Metro Mayors, Retail Merchants Association, Amazon, Uber, NC Automobile Dealers Assoc., and many others.
- Through lots of hard work and compromise, the commission was able to come up with four areas of consensus (increases in registration fees, delivery fees and car sales tax increase). Unfortunately, none of these items are expected to be included in the budget this year.
- The small, bipartisan breakout groups proved to be very beneficial when talking through these complex issues. The Senator said that if we can take politics out of transportation, it’s helpful for both parties in the end.
- Transportation items in the current, proposed budget included issues such as: general road maintenance, increases in litter control, and pavement preservation.
- The Senator pointed out that if your city has needs for any small transportation projects in your area, please reach out to your Senate or House member. Funding for special projects can be requested from contingency funds.
Beau Mills: What are some of the greatest opportunities to fill the gas tax gap? And what can the coalition to do to help?
Sen. Vickie Sawyer: There are several other options we are exploring: registration fees for a variety of vehicles, not just electric, delivery service fees, as well as Uber driver taxes and fees. We also need to be looking at sales tax on transportation goods and services. The NC TEN Commission has helped get the ball rolling, but there are many more than solutions that need attention, such use of tolling, and other often controversial and heavily politically weighted issues. Mayors can help support this important dialogue by being engaged and staying informed. North Carolina is being asked to fund transportation in a new way, so it is going take lots of learning and education on everyone’s part.
Mayor Washam: Can you provide any feedback on the gridlock in Mooresville and Cornelius? Are there any shorter-term solutions?
Sen. Vickie Sawyer: We know that DOT Right of Way acquisition has been an issue. We are working diligently to fix those issues, simplify the process. Utilities and utility movement have also been issues. We encourage mayors to continue talking to their division engineers about low-cost solutions, like adding turn lanes. Please also stay engaged with your Senate or House member so they are aware of these issues.
Upcoming Public Safety special guest during our 10 AM Update on Friday, October 29 – Attorney General Josh Stein
The meeting lasted approximately 30 minutes.
Friday I was notified that former Rolesville Mayor Frank Eagles passed away. He was a great fighter for his community, and I was honored to know and serve with him. He will be missed. My thoughts and prayers are with the Rolesville community and Frank’s family.
Groundbreaking for New Hall at Sri Venkateswara Temple
Sunday morning I participated in the groundbreaking ceremony for the SV Temple wedding hall as a guest speaker. Other speakers at the event included NC Secretary of State Elaine Marshall, NC Senator Jay Chaudhuri, and several board members. In attendance were NC House member Gale Adcock, Morrisville Mayor TJ Cawley, and several Morrisville council members. The following are an excerpt from my remarks:
“… We have been honored to have the SV Temple in our community since 2009. It not only meets the needs of the South Asian community in the Triangle, but it is a symbol of our diversity that we embrace and celebrate. We are excited to see the temple’s continued growth with today’s groundbreaking of the Srivaru (sri-va-ru) Wedding and Religious Hall.
We are also excited to see the growth of our continued partnership between the Town of Cary and Sri Venkateswara (ven·ka·tuh·swaw·ruh) Temple community. Recently we had the opportunity to work together on the purchase of the Nancy Jones House, and we hope to have the opportunity to work together on many more projects in the future.
The completion of the seven-story tower will be a unique part of our community and be seen as people pass by. Standing as one of the tallest structures in Cary, this landmark will also be a beacon for diversity and inclusion in a world full of division and hate.
Congratulations on this milestone occasion and thank you again for allowing me to be a part of this historic event. I look forward to returning for the opening ceremonies.”
The groundbreaking ceremony lasted about 30 minutes.
Later Sunday I attended the final round of the SAS Championship Golf tournament. The tournament had its first playoff in its 21-year history with Lee Jansen taking the trophy. What a great tournament and what a great event for Cary.
Town Manager Report
The town manager, Sean Stegall’s report for this week included:
This is the week we get to share Cary with the world thru the SAS Championship, and it’s been incredible so far! I’ve really enjoyed my time with the mayor, staff and our business leaders, and I look forward to this weekend when all of our employees and their families get to enjoy the tournament.
That experience is made possible through the hard work of so many, especially Ted Boyd who does an amazing job leading on all aspects of the event for us.
Also, I want to recognize Kerry Harville, Karen Mills, and Brittany Strickland on this year’s Executive Women’s Day, especially on supporting this year’s theme by including many of the women who will be taking our organization into the future.
I am so proud to serve as Cary’s Town Manager and work with this great team and Town Council!
Public Safety Update
With Toni Dezomits’ promotion to Public Safety Director becoming effective this coming Tuesday, Russ Overton reminded and updated our Police Department via this email. We’re all very proud of Toni and look forward to what she’ll do in her new role. Her new office is on the second floor in the Town Manager’s Office.
Currently there are 12 active cases among town employees bringing the total case count to 165 since the beginning of the pandemic.
Elected Official Housing Build Day
This Friday, Cary welcomed state and federal elected officials for a housing group build day. In partnership with Habitat for Humanity of Wake County, Hannah Place will include seven single family homes, funded in part by Cary town funds and our Community Development Block Grant Program. Council Member Lori Bush was the keynote speaker for the event, highlighting the importance of high-quality housing for all Cary residents. Want to learn more about these homes? Stop by the site this weekend from 12 – 5 p.m. for a tour through the Triangle Parade of Homes event. Registration is required.
The maps and other data that Council requested at the Sept. 23 work session are now available. On Nov. 9, Council will adopt new Council District election boundaries as a result of the 2020 US Census. Citizens are invited to comment on two proposed map options by calling 311 (919-469-4000) or via email to [email protected] . Citizens may also comment directly to the Council at the Oct. 21 regular Town Council meeting. All comments will be shared with Council prior to their Nov. 9 vote to select one of the two maps.
Wake BRT Extension Study
The Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (CAMPO) is conducting a major investment study (MIS) that will identify and evaluate rapid bus routing options and select preferred solutions for rapid bus extensions to both of the planned Wake Bus Rapid Transit (BRT): Western and Southern Corridors. The study team is asking members of the community to provide feedback on the transit priorities to include in the Western and Southern Corridor Areas. There are several ways to get involved – visit WakeBRTExtensionsStudy.com for more information.
Cary Diwali 2021
Cary and Hum Sub Inc. welcomed 5,000 visitors to Koka Booth Amphitheatre for Cary Diwali on October 9. In a program themed, “Vihaan-New Beginnings” the focus was the victory of light over darkness and our community’s emergence after the darkest days of the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite hours of rain before the event, there was music, dance, delicious foods, bright costumes, handicraft vendors, and fireworks for attendees to enjoy.
Certificate of Appropriateness Public Hearing Update
Cary’s Historic Preservation Commission (HPC) unanimously approved 21-COA-03 at a quasi-judicial public hearing on Wednesday. This Certificate of Appropriateness request was for the Hillcrest Cemetery Greenway Extension, and the approved modifications consist of extending the Higgins Greenway along the southern boundary of the historic 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.
Advisory Board Orientation
On Oct. 11, staff members Danna Widmar, Matt Pentz, and Julie Clifton hosted a new member orientation as part of the onboarding process for the 17 new members to Cary’s Council-appointed advisory boards. New members heard from staff on a variety of topics including the One Cary culture, Leadership on the Line, the Imagine Cary Community Plan, policies relating to board member work, public records, meeting information, and much more.
Panel Discussion with UNC School of Government
On Tuesday, Chief Toni Dezomits participated in a panel discussion for the North Carolina Justice Academy, hosted by UNC School of Government. The topic of the panel discussion was “Working Successfully Across Departments and Divisions.” Fellow panelists included Chief Thompson of Winston Salem, Assistant Town Manager Brandon Zumeda of Morrisville, and Deputy City Manager Eddie Smith of Kannapolis.
JLOW and Haw River Trail Meeting
Last week several staff members attended the first in-person meeting of Jordan Lake One Water (JLOW) Association after two years of virtual working group meetings. These efforts have culminated in a One Water Vision for Jordan Lake which will guide collaborative efforts with the state as it reapproaches the Jordan Rules regulations. In addition to active involvement in this process, Cary has also taken a leadership role by proactively investing in Watershed Protection funding. This week Cary met with the Haw River Trail steering committee to discuss Cary’s approach and commitment to watershed protection.
Led and Copper Testing Update
Cary recently completed its 2021 Lead and Copper Study. This study is required by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) every three years and involves collecting and analyzing water samples from 60 homes across Cary. Having completed the 2021 study, we are pleased to report that all 60 samples reported non-detects for lead and remain in full compliance with EPA’s Lead and Copper Rules. These results reinforce Cary’s proactive stance as we prepare for the new Lead and Copper Rules, which become effective in fall of 2024.
Thursday, Oct. 21 at 6:30 PM
Virtual Neighborhood Rezoning Meeting
Wednesday, Nov. 3 at 6:30 PM
Last week I posted comments from a group of people who do not approve of the mask mandates. It was pointed out to me by one of them that my labeling of that group as “anti-vaxers” was offensive, divisive, insensitive, and name-calling. That was certainly not the intention of posting those comments. I apologize for my insensitivity and from now on refer to those who make those comments as “those who are opposed to masks”.
On a related note, I received requests to lift the mask mandate because infection rates are at 5% (not verified). I continue to watch the covid measurements daily at https://covid19.ncdhhs.gov/dashboard. The infections, hospitalizations, capacity of ICUs, and use of ventilators are all trending in the right direction.
Vaccination rates continue to be slow. Positivity rates are a product of who and how many are being tested. While that is a helpful measurement in recognizing trends, it shouldn’t be the determining factor in how to proceed in a pandemic. Communications with local hospitals have also provided positive data. But they, like me, stress the need to remain vigilant.
If the numbers continue to drop, I am hoping to end the mask mandate by the end of the month. BTW, the county’s mandate is through the end of the month unless extended.
Emails from citizens this week included:
- Complaints from those who are opposed to masks
- Complaints from those who are opposed to vaccines
- Complaints about the noise from the Ziggy Marley concert a couple of weeks ago
- A complaint about the Glenaire construction site
- A complaint about a proposed rezoning for 55 single-family homes
- A complaint about not having bridge and “other enjoyable activities” at the senior center
- A complaint about disability parking at an event
- A complaint about construction violations at the Brickyard development
Next week’s activities include a housing update meeting, staff agenda meeting, a meeting with the town manager, a meeting with the Wake County Mayors Association, a meeting of the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization’s Executive Board, the last regularly scheduled town council meeting of October, a proclamation presentation to Cary Olympians, and a meeting of the North Carolina Metro Mayors.
Well, that is all for this week. My next post will be on Sunday, October 24th. 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].
From the blog of Cary Mayor Harold Weinbrecht. Images from Town of Cary.
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Who paid for the SAS golf outing?
Paid for the outing…that took place almost in our backyards?