Cary, NC – This was a busy week but typical for this time of year.
Monday – Town Advisory Board
Monday I contacted all council members but one to hear their concerns and questions on the upcoming agenda for Thursday’s regularly scheduled meeting. Since the agenda was short there were very few questions.
Monday afternoon I met with key staff members to go over the agenda. Our meeting was short and we believed the council meeting would be short as well.
Later Monday I joined council members at an advisory board mingle. This is where council members and other board members go around to a table for each of the town’s advisory boards and ask questions of that board. If you couldn’t think of a question then you could pick from a set of cards that had questions. To entice you there was an appetizer at each table. It was very nice talking to our advisory board members and hearing their thoughts on certain matters. We are blessed to have so many great volunteers in our town. BTW, the appetizers were great.
Tuesday – State of Cary
Tuesday I was notified that the State of Cary production video would be released on Wednesday. You can view the video here. They did a great job reducing my comments of about 35 minutes to a 10 minute segment. And they produced it in such a way that we can use it to promote Cary.
Wednesday – Downtown Park Model
Wednesday I attended a VR (virtual reality) session for the second phase of the downtown park held by the consultants from the Office of James Burnett. There were about a dozen 360 degree views of the park through the VR goggles. It gave me a great feel of how the park will look. I am confident this will be a signature park not only for Cary but for the region and state. There will be nothing like it. Its uniqueness will certainly draw people to our downtown. To get a quick few of what the park will look like watch https://vimeo.com/323326734/e254b9c1b4?fbclid=IwAR3ZLLxQUh3oKAgwDkK7B7czv-VgIIicq812w2XCdNdE2mpCvlCmYruUf_4.
Thursday – Town Council Meeting
Thursday the council held its first regularly scheduled meeting of the month. The agenda included five consent items, two public hearings, and one discussion item. While there were no speakers for the public hearings there were a couple of speakers in the Public Speaks Out portion of the meeting. Speakers spoke for and against the phase 2 plan for the downtown park which was the only discussion item.
During the discussion of the park’s master plan the council members took turns praising the plan, the town staff, and the consultants before giving unanimous approval. I believe this 2nd phase of the downtown park will be, as the staff report said, transformative. As I said earlier, there will be nothing like it in the region, state, or nation. It is my hope that citizens will support the park funding in the fall bond referendum. If that happens it is possible we could see it opened during our sesquicentennial celebration in 2021. Our council meeting concluded after about an hour.
Friday – North Carolina Mayors
Friday I participated in a meeting of the North Carolina Metro Mayors. Here is a summary of the meeting from the Executive Director:
Public Transportation – Metro cities survey on impacts of SMAP cuts – Beau (please respond by Thursday, March 21)
Historic Preservation Tax Credit – A long-time favorite program of the Metro Mayors Coalition, the NC Historic Preservation Rehab Tax Credits Program, which has spurred over $2.5 billion of private investment in our communities) is set to expire at the end of the year. Rep. Steve Ross (former Mayor of Burlington) will introduce a bill next week and hold a press conference with other House leaders, including Speaker Tim Moore. We expect his proposal to include a special 5% plus up for projects in counties that have been federally declared natural disasters. With strong leadership support in the House, we anticipate the extension will easily pass in the House, but it is likely to have a more complex path in a Senate that has traditionally been less enthused about tax credit programs. Metro Mayors will partner with like-minded advocates (including NCLM, Preservation NC and NC Downtown Development Association), including plans for a community-based push in support of the bill mid-April.
S20 Emergency Worker Protection Act – strengthens the penalties for assaults on emergency workers – including city police and firefighters as well EMT workers. This moved easily through the Senate with a unanimous vote. It has been referred to the House where its path is less clear.
H370 – Sheriff Cooperation with ICE – a bill was introduced late Thursday by House leaders (meaning it is likely to pass). The bill requires administrators (Sheriffs) of jails to cooperate with ICE, including determining the status of all detainees accused of a crime, and bars sheriffs from preventing federal immigration officials’ access to jails and detention facilities. There is also a section of the bill that restates and refines the framework for a citizen to seek declaratory and injunctive relief if they believe local law enforcement (sheriffs and police) are not enforcing state laws related to immigration. It imposes fines on local law enforcement for failure to honor such an injunction.
As one media outlet reported, “The issue came to a head recently in a number of metro counties, including Wake and Durham counties, where newly elected sheriffs have stepped away from cooperative agreements with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (WRAL.com).”
It does include a section that authorizes Sheriffs and Police Departments to adopt and publicize a policy that they cannot inquire about the immigration status of victims and witnesses.
The Sheriffs Association and Police Chiefs Association are carefully reviewing the legislation and we will continue to monitor what could be a politically complex and charged issue.
H144 – Hands Free NC for drivers – would ban the use audio and video on handheld telephones by drivers in North Carolina, allowing only the use of “hands free devices” by drivers (except for navigation). This is a popular legislative issue and seems likely to pass the NC House – the prognosis in the NC Senate is unclear at this juncture
Local Revenues/ Local Control
S214 Voter Photo ID Delayed – the General Assembly fast tracked a bill that will delay the implementation date for requiring identification to vote. In November 2018, North Carolina voters approved a ballot referendum to amend the North Carolina Constitution requiring voters to present photographic identification prior to voting in person. The constitutional amendment requires the General Assembly to enact general laws governing the requirement. Due to the upcoming special congressional elections, there was concern that rules for implementing the requirement would not be finalized in time. Voters will not be required to present identification at the polls until 2020. It was introduced on Monday, passed both chambers on Tuesday, and was signed by the Governor on Thursday. This means municipal elections being held this year will NOT require photo IDs.
H294 Partisan Elections Act – is a bill that does away with non-partisan elections for school boards and municipal elections beginning 2020. This bill is very UNLIKELY to pass, but we will monitor it.
The meeting concluded after about 20 minutes.
Saturday – Arbor Day
Saturday I participated in the Arbor Day celebration which was held in the downtown park. I was joined by Mayor Pro-Tem Bush, and council members Smith and Yerha. I provided remarks and Mayor Pro-Tem Bush read a proclamation. Here is an excerpt from my remarks:
“…Arbor Day is a wonderful opportunity to celebrate and engage with each other about the many ways we can live green in Cary. Along with protecting our urban forests, which is estimated couple of years ago to give us more than 40% tree canopy cover, we are also proud to provide a variety of opportunities for our citizens to lend a hand in preserving and protecting the environment with programs like Spruce, our litter reduction and beautification program. Over the past decade Spruce has worked with over 28,300 volunteers to collected 240,276 pounds of litter, spread more than 5,560 cubic yards of mulch, and planted over 1,073 trees and 15,763 flowers and vegetables.
Another great example of preserving and protecting is our Cary Garden for Wildlife Program in which we work with our citizens, and Town Staff, to create wildlife habitats in support of birds, bees, and butterflies in our community’s lawns and gardens. Our efforts led us to be designated as the 101st Certified Wildlife Community in the nation by the National Wildlife Federation in 2017. We are proud to continue this work by proclaiming 2019 as the Year of the Monarch Butterfly. Our staff and Spruce volunteers are planting milkweed and create Monarch habitat gardens all over town. And we encourage our citizens to get involved by planting milkweed in their own gardens and lawns. In fact, today you can visit the Cary It Green booth to enter to win your own Monarch Butterfly Garden habitat kit that includes native milkweed flower plants that are needed by Monarch’s to raise and feed their young.
Today, we are not only honoring trees that play a vital role in our environment, but also the many ways that we can make a difference for a greener tomorrow. Take advantage of the many environmental groups here today. Learn about the many important subjects like wetlands or the importance of buying from local farmers. …”
Afterwards, we posed for pictures with Guy Mendenhall who is our reigning hometown spirit award winner and, as part of the Arbor Day celebration, will have a tree planted in his honor at Bond Park.
Sunday – Tobacco Road Run
Sunday I ran in the 10th Tobacco Road half marathon which starts and finishes in Thomas Brooks Park. I did much better this year than last with a time of 1:55:00 which was seventh in my age category (first if you consider all the people in my age group in front of me were a year younger). We are so lucky to have a great race which attracts thousands of runners and have the proceeds going to charity. To date they have raised over one million dollars for charity. Thanks to the organizers and sponsors who put on this great race every year.
Town Manager’s Report
The town manager’s report for this week, sent on March 15th, included the following:
Islamic Relations Update
As you are aware, Jerry McCormick is leading a staff team effort to assess and grow Cary’s relationship with our Islamic Community. Our work in this area has taken on even greater importance given the overnight tragedy in New Zealand. We are in touch with mosque representatives and are sharing our support of them during this difficult time. At the time of this writing, we are planning to give a safety talk to worshipers Friday afternoon.
There will be a vigil tonight at 6:30 p.m.in the parking lot of the Cary Mosque located at 1076 W. Chatham St. It is open to all that would like to attend, including other faiths and the media.
White Oak Creek Greenway Connection Opens
Over 100 participants joined council members and staff and representatives from Apex, Wake County and the East Coast Greenway Alliance to celebrate the opening of the White Oak Creek Greenway connection. The new 1.8-mile section links Bond Park with the American Tobacco Trail and is part of the nearly 3,000-mile East Coast Greenway system.
State of Cary
The 2019 State of Cary is live on Cary’s YouTube Channel! This week we published the 2019 State of Cary address from Mayor Harold Weinbrecht to wide praise. In the first 24 hours, the video surpassed 1,000 views, quickly becoming the most watched State of Cary of all time. The Marketing & Communications team, in partnership with Digital P Media, re-imagined the State of Cary this year, using the 5th anniversary of the reopening of the Cary Theater as a jumping-off point for a unique feature on the State of the Town.
Cary Fire Company Serves in Atlantic Beach
The Cary Fire Department provided coverage to the Atlantic Beach Fire Department after a critical accident and untimely death of their Fire Chief. A four-person company provided fire and EMS coverage for a 24-hour period on Tuesday, March 12. The Fire Department responded to a request from the Office of State Fire Marshal who coordinated the coverage for the Atlantic Beach Fire Department. The Cary Company responded to several calls while on duty and helped maintain the station. They also dressed the trucks and stations for the memorial of the Chief. They were available for any issues that arose at the station and the community. Our thoughts and prayers are with Chief Snyder’s family, the Atlantic Beach Fire Department and the community. Everywhere the crew went while providing coverage, everyone talked about how good of a person Chief Snyder was and how involved he was in their community.
Nature Center Dedication
The Stevens Nature Center dedicated the first phase of the exhibit hall renovation on March 6. The renovation was made possible by a partnership with Cary and Friends of Hemlock Bluffs as several grants and generous private donations made this upgrade possible.
Weather and timing came together on Wednesday for the prescribed burn at Hemlock Bluffs. This prescribed burn is conducted by the NC Forest Service, NC State Parks and Cary each year between January and April, weather permitting. The burn reduces fuel to protect local neighborhoods from wildfire, improves wildlife habitat, and helps in the restoration of historical oak-hickory woodland communities.
GIS Assessment Project
On Tuesday and Wednesday, staff hosted two all-day engagements with G&H International as the kick-off to the Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Assessment Project. A small GIS working group of GIS spatial thinkers and subject matter experts from across the organization has been formed to assess the needs and work through use cases that leverage the benefits of an organization-wide GIS platform. The group developed two use cases on tracking the planning documentation life-cycle of infrastructure projects and stormwater investigations tied to the future 311 service.
Morrisville Parkway / Carpenter Upchurch Road Intersection Improvements
Traffic signal work recommenced on March 12th.
- The contractor is awaiting the delivery of the metal traffic signal poles which should be shipped to the project by the beginning of April.
- The contractor will need about 8 weeks, weather permitting, to finish the traffic signal work, and run the operational tests required by the railroad and NCDOT.
- The new traffic signal and opening the intersection to the full and final travel will be activated by before summer.
- The following items that require the contractor’s attention for substantial completion:
- Corrective milling and replacement of the final layer of asphalt.
- Remaining traffic signal work including steel fabricated poles
- Traffic signage
- Intelligent transportation system work (Fiber Optic/CCTV installation for traffic cameras)
- Power supply work by Duke Energy for new traffic signal
- Remaining signal tests
- Railroad preemption work and testing with NCDOT and CSX Railroad
- Final Pavement Markings
- Final Cleanup and Punch List Work
- Final inspection
- NCDOT acceptance of the improvements on the state-maintained roadway systems.
Employee Weight Loss Challenge
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 39% of Americans are considered obese and 32% are overweight. Not only is obesity one of the leading causes of death and disability, but those identified as overweight or obese are at a higher risk for diseases and chronic conditions such as Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, cancer, asthma and many more.
To help employees combat any struggles with weight and to introduce healthy lifestyle changes that promote sustainable weight loss, the Town of Cary offered our first Choose to Lose Weight Loss Challenge. This 8-week challenge included an initial and final weigh-in as well as a one-on-one session with an on-site nutritionist or health coach. Nearly 250 employees enrolled in the challenge and 60% completed the challenge. Employees from every Town department chose to participate. Of these participants, 81% improved Body Mass Index, 74% lost weight and 83% decreased the size of their waist circumference. One participant lost 30 pounds, and another saw a decrease in waist circumference of 8 inches. Together, the group lost a total of 700 pounds and 453 inches from their waist circumference.
To continue supporting our employees, on-site and virtual health coaching along with on-site nutritional counseling will continue to be offered. The “Maintain Don’t Gain” Challenge and Wellness Walks launch on Monday, March 18. We will also continue to explore programs and opportunities that support our employees.
Cheron Gilchrist, IT Project Manager, received a Competent Communicator Award from Toastmaster’s International for successfully completing their Communication Program. The program helps participants improve their public speaking and leadership skills in a club environment. To finish the program, participants must complete a series of rigorous assignments in public speaking and serve as club leaders.
Sue Wall and Heather Kinser attended the NC Permitting Personnel Association (NCPPA) Annual Conference February 25-26. This annual conference provides an opportunity for state permitting personnel to network and learn best practices. This year the NCPPA announced there is strong support from the NC Building Inspectors Association (NCBIA) to develop and promote a state certification for permit technicians. As the current President of NCPPA, Sue Wall was selected to participate in upcoming work sessions with colleagues from both NCPPA and NCBIA to develop and promote the curriculum. The curriculum will cover Law & Administration, Zoning Law and Ordinance Development as well as understanding blueprints and site plans and building and trades terminology. This proposed certification will help jurisdictions recognize and understand the value of permitting staff to the public, provide more consistent service from jurisdiction to jurisdiction and raise the professional service levels for permitting teams across the state. As a part of the Town of Cary, Sue is excited and proud to be a part of this endeavor to improve service levels throughout North Carolina.
Cary was represented by Shaun Mizell and Karl Keyes at the 63rd annual Carolina Association of Governmental Purchasers (CAGP) conference in Wilmington. CAGP supports public procurement professionals in North and South Carolina through a variety of educational and networking programs and opportunities. This year’s theme was “Superstars in the Procurement Profession,” and the event also celebrated March as North Carolina Procurement Month as declared by the Governor. Shaun was sworn in as Vice President of CAGP for 2019-2020. Prior to this appointment, he served on the Board of Directors for five years. He gave the welcome speech to first-time attendees and conducted a work session on contracts management and administration.
Karl Keyes served on the planning committee and provided subject matter expertise on surplus disposal. Cary’s forward-thinking approach using electronic auction sites and direct sales generated much interest. Over the last 10 years Cary has been one of the top surplus revenue generators in North Carolina.
Advisory Board Meetings
Mon, 3/18, 6pm
Town Hall, Conf Rm 11130
Tue, 3/19, 6pm
Town Hall, Conf Rm 10035
Thur, 3/21, 6pm
Town Hall, Conf Rm 11130
Emails From Citizens
Emails from citizens this week included:
- A complaint about names not being readable at the plane crash memorial in Western Wake (staff was notified).
- A complaint about Prestonwood’s soccer field parking lots not being paved (While this is a Cary park the operations, programming, and maintenance are leased to NCFC Youth Soccer Club. Staff will contact them and let them know of the need to upgrade the park).
- Kudos for the opening of the segment of the White Oak Greenway.
- Complaint about litter on Tryon at Ederlee (While this is a NCDOT road and their responsibility, Cary does have a litter reduction program called SPRUCE. I invited him to be a part of this program and staff notified NCDOT of the litter).
- Kudos for the downtown park master plan.
- A complaint about Cary’s vehicle tax (The funds generated by this tax are directed specifically to the maintenance of Town-owned streets and the construction of sidewalks. Many of Cary’s streets were built at the height of our growth in the late 1990s to mid-2000s and are requiring more maintenance as they age. Funds generated by the fee adjustment help us better support these increasing street maintenance needs. Dedicating another portion of these revenues to the Town’s sidewalk program allows the Town to better meet citizen expectations for sidewalk development, maintenance and connectivity.)
Next week’s activities include staff meetings, a Wake County Mayors Association meeting, a meeting of the water and sewer partners, a CAMPO (Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization) executive board meeting, a meeting with the Cary Community Foundation, a photo op with a Cary K-9 officer, a joint meeting of the Triangle J council of governments and the metropolitan planning organizations, and a meeting of the North Carolina Metro Mayors.
Get In Touch
Well, that is all for this week. My next post will be on Sunday, March 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 Harold.Weinbrecht@townofcary.org and email personal comments to email@example.com.
From the blog of Cary Mayor Harold Weinbrecht. Photos courtesy of Harold Weinbrecht.