Cary, NC – This week’s activities included a trip to Charleston and the lifting of Cary’s Mask Mandate.
Charleston Intercity Trip
Monday I traveled to Charleston for the Cary Chamber Intercity visit which was originally scheduled for the spring of 2020. Council members Smith and Robinson also joined me on the trip along with the town manager, several staff members, and many business leaders.
Monday through Wednesday were filled with presentations about Charleston and the many similarities we have with them. In addition, we heard many interesting historical facts about Charleston.
Monday evening I had the pleasure to meet Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg who has been mayor since 2016. He was very kind, gracious, and personable. Charleston has a strong mayor form of government which means he not only sets policy but handles the town’s operational issues as well. North Carolina municipalities have a council-manager form of government in which managers operate the municipality. Mayor Tecklenburg’s talk included the challenges they were facing such as flooding related to climate change, affordable housing, and economic development. I presented him a small gift from Cary.
Tuesday started with former Charleston Mayor Joseph Riley who was Charleston’s mayor for 40 years. He talked about the transformation of Charleston from “just old” to an historic destination. Some of his information was surprising. For example, over half of African Americans that came to the United States came through the port of Charleston. To recognize this significance, Charleston is building an African American Museum. Mayor Riley also mentioned Charleston main crop for many years was rice. This ended when several hurricanes in one year wiped out the entire crop. One of the main takeaways from Mayor Riley’s talk was his insistence that everything be focused on excellence. His focus on excellence affirmed what we are trying to achieve in Cary. After his talk I presented him with a small gift.
Tuesday morning included presentations on “The Future of Livable Cities” and “Bus Rapid Transit”. Interestingly, Charleston is about where we on BRT. Like us, they should be up and running around 2027. That conversation included planning challenges, the types of bus transit, the types of bus stops, and the potential of transit-oriented development.
Tuesday afternoon we heard from Charleston staff and developers of large multi-million-dollar projects and how a public-private partnership worked to get these done. Some of these projects were so large that the developers had $4 million invested before it was even approved. Our group from Cary included several key developers who had plenty of questions about those projects.
Wednesday’s presentation from the Charleston chamber addressed a lot of what they do to brand their town. Afterwards, everyone headed home. I am grateful to the Cary Chamber for hosting this event. As usual, there was a lot of valuable information and discussion for all in attendance. These types of visits are where ideas for Cary are born.
End of the COVID Mask Mandate in Cary
While in Charleston on Tuesday I gathered with the town management staff to make a decision on the mask mandate. We had been collecting data and consulting with public health professionals for days. As a result, I decided to end the State of Emergency and the mask mandate on October 29th at midnight. The following are some of the points we discussed and considered:
- Municipal Covid-19 case rates through October 29th:
- Apex: 147.0 rate
- Cary: 78.2 rate
- Fuquay-Varina: 207.8 rate
- Garner: 112.0 rate
- Holly Springs: 129.0 rate
- Knightdale: 256.2 rate
- Morrisville: 64.7 rate
- Raleigh: 124.2 rate
- Rolesville: 160.3 rate
- Wake Forest: 285.0 rate
- Wendell: 533.7 rate
- Zebulon: 740.2 rate
- Case rates for Cary and the county are rapidly declining.
- The definition we were given for transmission rates is the percent positive of those being tested plus the case rates. Based on county data, the percent positive is less than 5%. The case rate for Cary is 78.2 (see above) and with a percent positive of 5% that would give Cary a transmission rate of 83.2. The definition of widespread transmission is greater than 100. As a result, Cary and Morrisville are not under the definition of widespread transmission.
- There has been a 39% decrease in cases since October 17th and a 60% decrease in deaths.
- Hospitalizations have steadily declined, and public health professionals stated the capacity of ICU beds and ventilators are in great shape.
- Vaccinations of 5- to 12-year-olds are about a week away.
- I believe Cary citizens are responsible enough and smart enough to know when wearing a mask is appropriate. It is because of our citizens willingness to do the right thing and help protect each other that our rates are moving down quicker than almost all of the county.
- I don’t like to impose restrictions. And I only want to keep them in place any longer than absolutely necessary.
Ultimately, I made the decision to end the mask mandate based on the data that showed Cary was doing very well compared to the rest of the county.
I want to be clear that I am not declaring victory over the pandemic and the pandemic is not over. However, we do have reason for optimism. The path to declaring victory over the pandemic is by vaccination. I urge everyone who has not been vaccinated to please do so. Children between the ages between 5 and 12 should have vaccinations available this week. Please get your children vaccinated.
Thursday morning, I taped a message for citizens and the media as to why we were ending the mandate. You can find that message here. I also signed the proclamation ending the State of Emergency after the taping which can be found here. The news release, with all COVID information can be found here.
Restoration of Historic Cemetery
Friday I participated in a meeting of the North Carolina Metro Mayors. Our guest speaker was Attorney General Josh Stein. The meeting lasted about 40 minutes.
Saturday I attended the ribbon cutting at the First Christian Church cemetery. Reverend Brickhouse, a representative from the Page-Walker, and I provided comments. The following is an excerpt from the remarks that I spoke from:
“…The restoration of this cemetery was important and necessary. We are grateful for all the groups who came together to make the preservation happen. Cemeteries are a sacred and special place in our community, especially when they belong to Cary’s oldest African American Church. And this cemetery is a local historic landmark. Cemeteries are not only where our loved ones are buried but are real and symbolic reminders of our history. Seeing the work done to preserve the history of this sacred place makes me confident that it will be here for future generations to visit. …”
Afterwards representatives from the First Christian Church, the Page-Walker, and the council cut the ribbon. I spent time talking with members of the church and walking around the cemetery looking at the headstones including a wooden headstone. The cemetery is estimated to have 262 burials with some as early as 1891 including former slaves. It is also the final resting place for many of Cary’s prominent African American citizens like Alfred Arrington. If you would like to visit the sacred and historic place it is located at 100 Cornwall Road.
Band Day in Cary
Later Saturday I provided a welcome to the second half of the 62nd Cary Band Day competition. Not only is the town celebrating 150 years this year, but the Cary Band is celebrating its 100th anniversary. After my welcome we were treated to the Star-Spangled Banner by the Cary Alumni Band who didn’t miss a note.
Town Manager’s Report
The town manager’s report for this week included:
I spent the majority of my week with several of you at the Chamber Mini-City Visit in Charleston. It was wonderful to see everyone again and have the chance to reconnect with Chamber members. We are so fortunate to have a great group of people who care so much about Cary.
During the mini-city visit, Council Member Robinson and Assistant Town Manager Shelley Curran joined officials from Charleston in a panel discussion about bus rapid transit. Visiting Charleston provided an opportunity for us to discuss Cary’s future transit potential.
Stay safe and enjoy some of the Halloween fun in downtown this weekend.
Public Safety Update
Eighty-eight percent of full-time town employees are fully vaccinated. There are four active cases with a total of one-hundred-sixty-seven since the beginning of the pandemic.
Crabtree Creek Sewer Rehab Project
Work begins next week to rehabilitate a 1.3-mile stretch of 48-inch sewer pipeline along the south shore of Lake Crabtree and the Crabtree Creek Greenway. This is the first phase of the $12 million sewer rehabilitation project along the Crabtree Creek and Black Creek Greenways. Over the next several weeks, contractors will build a temporary construction entrance off Evans Road, deliver materials, and install a temporary access road on the sewer line easement using ground protecting mats. The Crabtree Creek Greenway will be closed to the public from the winter of 2021/22 to the spring of 2022, and greenway traffic will be rerouted by posted detour maps and signs. After completing the first phase of the project in the spring of 2022, the Crabtree Creek Greenway will re-open and work will begin on the Black Creek Greenway. Click here for information regarding the status of the greenways.
Growing Cary’s Tree Canopy and Community Spirit
On Saturday, My Tree, Our Tree participants picked up nearly 600 native trees to add beauty to their yards and trees to Cary’s canopy. In anticipation of getting their tree, on Wednesday, more than 175 participants listened to Katie Rose Levin’s virtual Tree Talk series webinar, “Tips for Planting Trees.” Thanks to 30 staff members and over 25 volunteers from the Environmental Advisory Board, Green Hope High School, Cary Teen Council, citizens at large, three Rotary Clubs (Cary, Cary-MacGregor, Cary-Kildaire), and Council Member Jack Smith, the event ran smoothly and more Red Buds, Witch Hazels, Serviceberries, Sweetbay Magnolias, and Sugar Maples now adorn Cary landscapes.
Next Step in the NCSU Waste Technology Project
Staff facilitated an important next step in advancing the North Carolina State University (NCSU) waste technology grant project by coordinating and participating in a tour of the South Wake Landfill for the State team. Wake County staff led an in-depth tour of the site to enhance the NCSU researchers’ understanding of how the landfill works and gave an up-close look at the working face of the site. The discussion focused on the process trucks use to dump waste, the management of the materials and site, and the landfill gas-to-energy program. Knowing the journey trash takes from the curb to the landfill, and what happens at the landfill, is critical for the researchers to identify possible points in the process where innovative AI sorting technology could improve diversion of materials and how we use waste.
Nottingham Drive Unity in the Community Event
On Saturday, Project PHOENIX hosted the annual Nottingham Drive Unity in the Community event. The weather was perfect and everyone had a great time visiting with vendors and many community partners. Special thanks to Sigma Gamma Rho, Dorcas, Covenant Christian Church, El Centre Food Truck, Graceful Expressions, Lions Club, and staff for their invaluable and continued support.
National Prescription Drug Take Back Event
On Saturday, in partnership with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the Police Department took part in this year’s national Prescription Drug Take Back event. The event took place at Town Hall and Wegmans located on Davis Drive. A combined total 406.15 pounds of unused prescription drugs were collected. These events help curb the misuse of prescriptions and prevent drug addiction and overdoses.
Mummy and Son Ball
As part of the Howlin’ Good Halloween activities, the Mummy & Son Ball took place on Tuesday at Bond Park’s Kiwanis shelter. Over 50 moms and their sons participated in games, a costume contest, danced the Monster Mash, and roasted marshmallow ghost peeps to make a tasty s’more treat. Eighteen Teen Council members were on hand to assist with all activities during the event.
Hybrid Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources Advisory Board
Monday, Nov. 1
Hybrid Information Services Advisory Board
Monday, Nov. 1
Tuesday, Nov. 2
Hybrid Senior Advisory Board
Wednesday, Nov. 3
Emails from Citizens included:
- Dozens of “Thank You” emails from those opposed to mask mandates
- Dozens of complaints for lifting the mask mandate including “Thank you for not recognize children as people.”, “Enjoy the time before the next surge.”, “My family will be spending our money in Durham, Raleigh, and Morrisville.”, “Thank you for not caring about community spread and the very real risk to my child.”, “Thank you for making our lives exponentially harder.”, “That we have pandered to anti-maskers proves how pathetic our society has become.”, “Your decision … puts my children needlessly at risk.”, “I hope with my whole being that my son’s school doesn’t follow your recklessness during the ongoing pandemic.”, “isn’t it essentially overruled by the governor’s statewide mask mandate?” (BTW, there is no statewide mandate. That is the reason counties and municipalities had to implement them in the first place)
- A complaint about the Reedy Creek Road widening project.
- A request to pass LGBTQ ordinances. (We already protect them, and we do not have that explicit authority from the legislature which is required)
- A complaint about affordable housing.
- A request for more pickle-ball courts
Next week’s activities include staff meetings, a Cary Chamber event, Cary 101 graduation, and a North Carolina Metro Mayors meeting.
Well, that is all for this week. My next post will be on Sunday, November 7th. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
From the blog of Cary Mayor Harold Weinbrecht. Images from Town of Cary.
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