Cary, NC – This week was mostly ceremonial since several meetings were cancelled.
Monday – School Robotics
Monday I met with the First Lego League Robotics team about issues related to the environment. They created a plan and a model for Carpenter Park to include items like solar power, rain barrels for water, and trees to shade for play structures. It is so very encouraging to have youth at this age focusing on ideas that will make their community better. This type of engagement is what makes our community great. Thanks to the youth for visiting and sharing their ideas. They plan to meet with our Parks Director next.
Almost all my meetings scheduled during the week were cancelled for one reason or another.
Friday – State Legislature
Friday the North Carolina Metro Mayors met to go over actions in the legislature. Here is a summary of that meeting from the Executive Director:
Brief OPENING remarks – The General Assembly adjourned just in time for trick or treat – with special sessions scheduled for November 13 and January 14. The legislature will focus on a potential redrawing of the congressional maps when they return on November 13 (may also include natural disaster recovery programs). More items will be eligible for consideration during the January session.
Legislative Schedule Overview
The long session officially ended yesterday.
- The legislature will return on November 13 with the main focus on Congressional redistricting. They could also consider conference reports, appointments, and confirmations. There is also still the potential for a Senate veto override on the budget.
- Other than the possible Congressional redistricting we anticipate a quick adjournment.
- The legislature will again convene on January 14. More items are eligible for consideration during this time including conference reports, veto overrides, appropriations bills, and legislation addressing access to health care.
- The so-called Short Session will begin in earnest in the spring of 2020.
- Even though the legislature adjourned without passing a traditional budget, Sen. Berger issued a press release stating that 98.5 percent of the original budget items passed by way of “mini budgets.”
- NC DOT Shortfall
- No legislation was debated to address the current NC DOT shortfall before adjournment yesterday. Rep. Torbett introduced a bill to provide additional funds to NC DOT, but it was not heard in Committee.
- We expect discussion on this issue to be ongoing and there is potential for the January session to take up legislative proposals related to NC DOT funding.
- The State Treasurer issued a statement yesterday about the shortfall, describing it as a case of fiscal mismanagement and even called for current Transportation Secretary to be fired over the issue. Governor Cooper’s spokesperson says that the Governor is “not inclined” to do that. It is worth noting that DOT Secretary Trogdon has been an extraordinarily strong partner to our local governments during his tenure – N&O Story: Treasurer- “Fire DOT Secretary”
- H1023 Storm Recovery Act of 2019
- This was a promising bill introduced by the House that ran out of time before adjournment.
- The bill included a special emphasis on developing programs and funding for resiliency, including regional and local assistance and plans for recovery and resilience for local governments.
- H1023 passed the House unanimously, but the Senate addressed the disaster recovery effort through a different bill – H200.
- The Senate leadership indicated that they were interested in the working on this important topic soon – just ran out of time to work through the House proposal.
- We expect both chambers to continue discussion on how to direct disaster recovery funding and anticipate this to be a topic addressed in the upcoming special sessions.
- See a news report here – N&O on Storm Recovery Act
S578 includes Film Grants – a two-part bill also proposes a reduction to the franchise tax). Section 2(a) of the bill modifies the film grant program by reducing the minimum expense requirements for feature-length films and television by half of the current threshold amount – designed to make NC more attractive to film/TV productions.
The first section of the bill reduces the franchise tax on businesses by 30%.
The House discussed decoupling the tax cut from the film grant improvements, but did not move forward, choosing to keep the two pieces in the same bill. This was a blow to the bill since the Governor has indicated he is strongly opposed to the franchise tax cut – increasing the likelihood he would veto the entire bill that has both the tax cut and the Film Grants improvements.
The bill received final approval from both chambers this week and has been sent to the Governor for his review and possible veto.
Saturday – Cary’s Greenways
Saturday I had the honor and privilege of attending the Hum Sub Youth Awards Luncheon. I was joined by council member Robinson, Morrisville council members Rao and Johnson. These youth were recognized for excellence in community service, leadership, research, academics, music, art, and sports. I along with a few others provided remarks before awards were handed out. Then we posed for pictures before the luncheon.
Later Saturday I joined council member Robinson and George for a celebration of 40 years of greenways held at Annie Jones park. About three dozen people were in attendance. We gathered at Annie Jones park and walked about a half-mile to the site of the first greenway. Here is an excerpt from my remarks:
“… A little bit of history on the Greenway System:
Many of you may know about Ms. Linda Setliff, who reached out to Town Council in the 1970s with a concern about the Cary High School track team who did not have a safe place to run. Little did she know that her request was the seed that blossomed into the extensive greenway system that thousands of runners now enjoy. The Town’s first greenway was completed in 1979 named the Tarbert-Gatehouse Greenway, which we will walk along shortly.
Throughout the 40-year history of the system, Cary has partnered with the development community as well as bordering municipalities and counties to work together to plan, design and construct. Now, the Triangle region has approximately 320 miles of greenways and Cary has contributed greatly to this network, with 80 – 90 miles being in Cary. We have the second highest number of greenways. Our master Greenway Plan will ultimately include over 200 miles of trails and we build about an average of 2 miles per year. …”
Remarks were also made by council member George who has lived in the immediate area for decades. The original greenway was designed and planned by former town employee Chuck Smith who has built many incredible things in the area after working for the town. After remarks council members took pictures with Mr. Smith by the new public art to mark the greenway. The new art is called “Properties of Light” and is a new stone sculpture created by artists Carl and Ethan Peverall. The art weighs over 2,000 pounds and marks Cary’s 1st greenway in the same way that historically cairns were used by Scottish and Native Americans who used stones to mark special sites.
Saturday evening I joined Cary’s new band director Eric Grush in welcoming the crowd to see the night session of the 61st Cary Band Day competition. I have had the pleasure of attending Cary Band Day competitions every year since I have been mayor.
Sunday – Cary Regional Library
Sunday was an historic day in the town of Cary as we cut the ribbon on the new Cary Regional library and the 600-space parking deck. There were several hundred people in attendance including the media. All Cary council members were in attendance as well as several state legislators, Wake County Commissioners, school board members, and Wake County library staff members. After remarks from about half a dozen dignitaries we moved in front of the library to cut the ribbon. Jessica Holmes from the county commissioners cut the ribbon with the big scissors while the rest of the dignitaries used small scissors. Then about 50 children gathered and cut a second ribbon. It was a beautiful day in many ways as we realize another integral piece of the downtown vision.
Town Manager’s Report
The town manager’s report for this week included:
Swift Water Training
Ten members of the Cary Fire Department completed the North Carolina Technical Rescuer Swift Water Rescue certification. The class included a mock deployment to Rockfish Park in Weldon. The members conducted day and night operations and utilized the department’s tent system to spend the night to simulate deployment conditions. They also focused on pre-planning Cary’s water risks in normal and storm conditions and hosted partners in the class from Morrisville to bolster regional capabilities.
A Creative Solution
When a drainage issue causes a handicap ramp to be rendered useless after a rain event or freezing temperatures, the obvious answer is to fix the problem using usual stormwater improvement techniques. Costly to design and construct as well as disruptive to the travelling public, the standard retrofit practice would nonetheless have fixed the problem. Instead, stormwater staff found a creative remedy by collaborating with transportation staff and used the existing 2019 street resurfacing contract to regrade and repave a limited portion of the street. This strategy enabled water to flow naturally over the street surface to an existing storm drain instead of requiring the street and adjacent property to be excavated, utility lines to be relocated, and more stormwater infrastructure to be installed – and taking months to complete. With the alternative approach, the retrofit was completed in the right-of-way without disrupting the traveling public, within a day’s time, and with significant cost savings to the Town.
The new traffic signal at the intersection of Davis Drive and Airport Blvd intersection is activated and fully operational. The metal pole signal was funded by developer requirements. The traffic signal has a protected green arrow and a permitted flashing yellow arrow for motorists and a new pedestrian crossing on the Airport Blvd side. The traffic-monitoring camera provides video for the Traffic Management Center, CaryTV, traffic website, 911 center, 311 and the Fire Department.
On October 25, Cary hosted the 2020 Census Government Subcommittee meeting at Cary Town Hall. Attendees included Mayor Cawley from Morrisville, planners from several Wake County municipalities and Cary staff members Debra Grannan, Erin Puckett and Carla Witherington. The team identified tools for educating others on the value and importance of census participation and discussed opportunities for reaching hard to count communities. “Getting the word out,” will take an on-going, group effort. Visit the Census 2020 page on Wake County’s website for more information.
Operation Medicine Drop
As part of the DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration) National Take Back Day on Saturday, the Police Department collected 228.6 pounds of discarded prescriptions and other medications. With the 478.8 pounds collected in the permanent Town Hall collection box since April, a total of 707.4 pounds were delivered to the NCSBI for destruction. These take back events are designed to reduce theft and abuse of unused or expired prescriptions. Police partnered with Wake Technical College’s Pharmacy Tech program.
Report to General Assembly
In accordance with S.L. 2019-144, Cary, and the other nine North Carolina cities with populations greater than 90,000, submitted a report on its affordable housing activities to the General Assembly’s Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on General Government and the Fiscal Research Division. The reports included information on all programs, subsidies, and activities these communities utilize to support affordable housing. The NC Housing Coalition just released a summary of the activities reported by the ten municipalities.
On Thursday, October 31, NCDOT, NCTA and a Cary staff walked the Morrisville Parkway Extension and NC 540 Exchange Project with the contractor to identify any remaining items that need to be addressed prior to opening the street extension to the traveling public. Only minor items were found, and the Extension is expected to open next week. The Interchange will open later due to the NC Toll Authority deciding to relocate the tolling infrastructure, consistent with a larger initiative along the entire corridor.
State Transit Funding Restored
S.L. 2019-231, the recently approved transportation funding bill. includes an $8.5 million restoration of State Maintenance Assistance Program (SMAP) funding, bringing the statewide assistance for public transit back to FY 2017 levels. In FY 2017, Cary received about $317,000 in SMAP funding but received about half that amount in FY2018 and FY 2019. The restored funding will be available in FY 2020. The bill also provided for recurring funding for Powell bill and funding for airports.
Firefighters Engage the Community
The crew of Engine 8 was honored to participate as the grand marshal of the Copperleaf community’s costume parade.
At Laurel Park Elementary School’s Trunk or Treat, Firefighter Justin Chamblee posed with King Kong after reminding students to “Be Safe and Be Seen” by carrying glow sticks or flashlights to help them see and be seen by drivers when Trick-or-Treating.
Police Youth Academy
Sgt. Wyatt Crabtree and several other police officers had the pleasure of graduating 32 teens from the second class of the Cary Police Youth Academy. For five weeks, these teens from Cary and neighboring cities learned about laws of arrest, search and seizure, traffic stops, the crime lab (CCBI), tactical operations and K9. Teens from all walks of life formed new friendships and learned more about their community.
Implementation of the Emergency Services IP Network (ESInet) and associated Hosted Call Handling Service was a huge success. The collaboration between 911, IT, AT@T, and Motorola allowed for a seamless installation of various hardware and software for a successful completion of this project at the main call center in the Police Department.
This migration to ESInet and hosted call handling service replaces the outdated legacy system and provides the capability of supporting growing demands such Text to 9-1-1 and, after the carriers upgrade their systems, the ability to retrieve photo and videos. The hosted solution upgrades the phone equipment that is architected without a single point of failure, utilizing a fully integrated Internet Protocol (IP) soft-switch that incorporates automatic server switchover with no loss of calls. This redundancy will ensure that all emergency calls get immediate attention. Upon completion of upgrades to the main site, upgrades were undertaken on the backup call center.
Firefighter Safety Research
Cary Fire has partnered with NCSU’s Department of Textile Engineering, Hoods for Heroes and FEMA to assist researchers in firefighter safety. The effects of this research will have an impact on firefighter health and safety for firefighters across the country.
Officer Ken Collins partners with residents and management staff at the Tryon Place Apartment Community, becoming involved in community affairs and tailoring services to the unique characteristics and needs of Tryon Place. Community Manager Marsha Nobles said, “We are so grateful for our partnership with Project Phoenix and Cary PD. They do an amazing job and we always look forward to seeing Officer Collins at our community.”
Associates from Humana Insurance’s Regency Park office visited Fire Station 3 to donate homemade fleece blankets to Cary’s fire and police departments to be used to assist individuals in our community in crisis or in need. Thanks to the volunteers who took the time to create these beautiful and comforting blankets.
A citizen called Fire Admin to express her extreme appreciation for Station 4’s C-shift crew (Capt. Michael Thompson, Don Cowan, Dalton West, and Michael Idol). They helped her get up and down her stairs to go to and return from doctors’ appointments Tuesday. She described the crew as wonderful, sweet, laughing, and encouraging and said she can’t say enough good things about them. Thanks to the Station 4 C-shift crew for providing another example of The Cary Way – Working Together to Change Lives Through Exceptional Service.
Advisory Board Meetings
Mon, 11/4, 5:15pm
Town Hall Conf Room 11130
Mon, 11/4, 6pm
Town Hall Conf Room 10035
Mon, 11/4, 6:30pm
Town Hall Council Chambers
Emails From Citizens
Emails from staff this week included a picture of the youth baseball team sponsored by some of the council members. I am proud to do what I can to support youth and recreation in Cary.
An email from a citizen wanted me to mention the great accomplishments of the Carolina Courage. They defeated the Chicago Red Stars 4-0 in Cary’s Sahlen Stadium in front of a record crowd of 10,227 to win their second consecutive NWSL Championship, and the team’s third in four years. In addition, they have had three straight NWSL Shields. To say their success is unparalleled is an understatement. Congratulations to our North Carolina Courage!
A reporter asked about the new and old library sites. Here is staff’s answer to their questions:
“… To answer your first question, I’d like to provide you with a link to a post we just published this morning on our Downtown Cary website about the history of the library. This will help answer your specific question as well as provide a little more information about the history of the library, how it moved locations over the years and also some old photos. Our website is www.downtowncarync.org and the specific link is https://downtowncarync.org/2019/10/31/surprising-origins-hidden-history-of-the-cary-library/. Please feel free to link or make mention of this site/story in your piece for WRAL.
To answer what happens to the old library site… The Town owns this property and we plan to redevelop the site. We will have a Request for Proposals (RFP) to solicit potential developers that will be published sometime in early 2020. Between now and then, Wake County will maintain control of the site through the end of November. In December the Town will begin the process of asbestos remediation prior to demolition. We do not anticipate any demolition of the old library to begin until January/February of 2020. We do plan to keep the parking lot in place that’s behind the Old Library and will continue to use as public parking until the site is completely redeveloped. …”
Other emails from citizens included:
- A concern about downtown pedestrian safety.
- A question about my last blog’s comment on Searstone.
- A concern about a water leak issue (staff has worked with the homeowner and they are very happy)
- A concern about the public hearing that was cancelled for a rezoning proposal (Citizens have the ability to speak at any council meeting regardless of whether there is a public hearing or not.)
- A concern that stormwater from the new library and deck is not being handled. (All developments are required to mitigate stormwater runoff to a 5-year storm event. Council has already started the process to change this to a 100-year storm event. The library and the deck’s runoff will be captured in the second phase of the park)
Next week’s activities include a podcast interview, a council employee evaluation, the Dorcas breakfast, a council quarterly meeting, an event for the 50th anniversary of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, and the Parkside Town Commons Tree lighting.
Get In Touch
Well, that is all for this week. My next post will be on Sunday, November 10th. 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. Photos courtesy of Harold Weinbrecht.