Harold Weinbrecht

Harold’s Blog: Town Council Retreat and Reports

Cary, NC – This week the focus was on the council/staff working retreat. Other than that there wasn’t much going on.

Monday and Tuesday – Planning for the Week

Monday I met with the manager for our weekly one-on-one. We went over the agenda for the retreat. I was also given the Quarter 2 summary.

Tuesday I had dinner with a couple of council members to discuss a variety of items.

Thursday – Start of Work Retreat

Thursday the council headed to the coast for the annual council/staff working retreat. We arrived around 6 PM and gathered for dinner. Since the dinner included a majority of council it was a public meeting and the public was notified earlier in the week. Even though this was a public meeting the council was not allowed to talk about any town business and as always that rule was strictly followed.


Friday – Town of Cary Work Retreat

Friday before beginning work a group of us did a run on the beach at 7 AM which had about half a dozen participants out of 30 attendees. The working part of the retreat began Friday morning at 9 AM. Our conference room was big enough to have plenty of seating, access to audio-video, and plenty of snacks. As it is with every retreat there is a table setting with your personal favorite snacks at your seat. Mine included everything from a tomato to snickers. Our first day was spent looking at things from a high level or the “balcony” as we called it.

Harold Weinbrecht

The morning session, “bridging the gap between politics and the profession”, was presented by Dr. Nalbandian from Kansas University who holds a doctorate in philosophy. He is an expert in human resources management and specializes in politics and administration in local government. In addition to his academic work, he served eight years on the Lawrence, Kansas City Council including two terms as mayor. From this experience he has a perspective from both the council and staff sides of local government. In his presentation he affirmed many of the things Cary is already doing. That is the council addresses difficult policy problems, builds capacity to work effectively together, and has a productive relationship with staff. He stated that the role of governing body is community building and talked about political values:

“Political values influence public policy development as opposed to the lives of the individuals who make policy. The primary political value in our culture is responsiveness of government officials to public wants and needs. The value of responsiveness is reflected in demands for representation, efficiency, individual rights, and social equity.”

The session included case studies which allowed council members to understand how staff is involved in an issue and allowed staff to understand how council is involved in an issue. The result of this understanding and collaboration is a more efficient and productive team. Dr. Nalbandian did say Cary was unique in many ways including how the council works together and how council works with staff.

Harold Weinbrecht

John Nalbandian from Kansas University

The afternoon session was spent reflecting on the past year of change including challenges and successes. It started with a 20 minute video made up of retreat participants answering several questions including:

  • What are some of the things that surprised you last year?
  • Have you seen a change in organizational communication or collaboration?
  • What have you learned about yourself?
  • Talk about a situation where you or your group struggled with change.

The video was created and taped several weeks before the retreat. It created a lot of dialog and conversation which lasted a couple of hours. Interjected in the discussion were points made by Dr. Nalbandian earlier in the day.

The second day was spent on more specific topics. It started with second quarter results. Some notable items from the second quarter included:

  • Refinancing will save about $10 million in utility interest savings.
  • Capital project spending included 56% for streets, 14% for parks, 10% for water, 9% for sewer, 6% for general government, 4% for fire, and about 1% for downtown.
  • Several transportation, park, and greenway projects are underway.

Council approved a financial housekeeping motion which included:

  • Recognizing general obligation bond proceeds for the general fund and utility fund.
  • Recognizing revenue bond proceeds
  • And authorizing these new proceeds for the repayment of existing dept in the same respective funds and amounts.

Council also approved a motion regarding transit which included:

  • Reducing expenditures in the Transit Fund in the amount of $49,000.
  • Increasing authorized expenditures for the same amount in the General Fund operations functions
  • Authorizing the related necessary interfund transfers.

The next session was on growing pains related to Imagine Cary and the Planning and Zoning Board. Council asked staff to look into the pros and cons of making several adjustments which included:

  • Currently changes, by a developer, after a public triggers a second public hearing at the Planning and Zoning Board. Consider having the second public hearing at council instead.
  • Consider several options to help the Planning and Zoning Board recommend a citizen’s perspective to council. This may include eliminating their vote on the recommendation and instead having their recommendation provided.
  • Consider whether or not the ETJ member should be involved in actions within corporate limits and instead only have them involved in ETJ matters.

The growing pains session also included feedback on staff reports with the Cary Community Plan as part of the recommendation.

Harold Weinbrecht

Our last major topic at the retreat was stormwater. Stormwater issues are growing exponentially across the country. In Cary it is estimated that 5% of our residents experience flooding due to storms. In addition, Cary has many people experiencing flooding due to the fact that their home is in a flood plain. Fixing stormwater issues usually causes millions of dollars and lots of times those fixes are temporary. As a result we have decided to take a strategic approach. We started by creating a group of experts and stakeholders including expert Dr. Hunt from NC State and several floodplain residents. The group has met several times and it was decided that a pilot program to model impacts on stormwater should be studied in the Walnut Creek basin. Once the model is calibrated it can be used in basins all over Cary. It is our hope that this approach will allow us to create the best stormwater program in the country. We also want to include citizens in the process. We believe this approach will be successful. In fact Dr. Hunt stated that removing just an inch from stormwater would make us famous.

In the meantime, while this pilot program is ongoing, the council took action to add to the maintenance of stormwater pipes. Staff reported that although it had four jet-vac trucks with cameras for sewer issues (costing over $600,000 apiece) that it had none for stormwater. So council approved the purchase of an additional jet-vac truck with cameras just for stormwater to help keep pipes clean. I believe this is a good first step. BTW, staff showed a picture of one clog. When cleared the clog included 3 basketballs, 2 footballs, a baseball bat, and a tree trunk. Wow!

Our retreat ended Saturday afternoon after final comments were made by the manager, Dr. Nalbandian, and council members.

Emails from Citizens

Emails this week included the following:

  • Complaints about the gas station proposal at Kildaire and Penny Roads.
  • A complaint about junk vehicles.
  • A request for more bus service.
  • A complaint about the alarm going off at Shearon Harris nuclear plant (I believe this is the responsibility of the NRC – Nuclear Regulatory Commission)

Next week’s activities include staff meetings and a public meeting on a water pressure shift.

Get In Touch

Well, that is all for this week. My next post will be on Sunday, February 18th.  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. Photos by Harold Weinbrecht.