• Sunday, June 28th, 2015

harold2011_small2This week was busy with long nights.

Monday started with the Official Grand Opening and ribbon cutting of the MetLife Global Technology Campus in Weston. They currently employ about 1500 people with an average salary of well over $100,000 annually. Their buildings have room for expansion to about 2400 employees. MetLife is ahead of their hiring schedule that was contractually mandated so hopefully they will fill up the rest of those buildings soon. It is great to have MetLife as a corporate citizen and I look forward to their partnership with the town.

Later Monday I attempted to call council members to hear their questions and concerns about Thursday’s regularly scheduled meeting agenda items. I was only able to contact council member Yerha. Later in the day I met with town management, administration, legal, and public information to go over the agenda. That meeting lasted about 30 minutes.

Monday night the council went into closed session for about four hours. The purpose was to hear from our direct reports: the Town Manager, Town Attorney, and the Town Clerk. Afterwards the council wrote up evaluations and decided on merit pay. Council will provide feedback to the direct reports on July 2nd or July 9th.

Tuesday I joined staff members and consultants in hosting an Imagine Cary Business Roundtable discussion at the Chamber of Commerce. There were about two dozen business leaders in attendance. This roundtable discussion is an integral part of the community’s ongoing planning process which will culminate this winter with the development of a new comprehensive plan for Cary. For the first time in the town’s history this new plan will establish our community’s economic development vision and policies, developed and designed in coordination with planning for related topics such as future land uses, housing, redevelopment and transportation. This effort aims to ensure Cary remains an attractive place for successful businesses and a talented work force. This discussion with our business leaders focused on recommended goals and policies. The session went very well with great participation and feedback. The roundtable discussion lasted about an hour and a half.

Wednesday I participated in a meeting with the Economic Development Committee. Notable items that came from that meeting included:
• There continues to be a lot of interest from businesses to locate in Cary
• MetLife officially cut the ribbon on its two buildings.
• Downtown continues to see activity even with Academy Street under construction.
• Cary’s unemployment rate was 3.4% down from 3.6%. Wake County is 4.2%, North Carolina 5.2%, and the nation 5.3%.
• Available land for large office is quickly disappearing. Future large office projects may require redevelopment of existing sites.
The meeting concluded after about half an hour.

Wednesday night I gave welcoming comments at the Hindu Society of North Carolina for Swami Mukundananda. Here is an excerpt from my comments:

“…I am a fitness nut. I’m either running or playing tennis or both every day.
Yet, so much of being fit is about exercising the mind and spirit. In a world of instant gratification and “more, more, more” mentality, it’s never been so important to take a pause and reflect. Reflect on the good surrounding us. Reflect on our place in our community. Embrace quiet. And while I strive to incorporate this into my fitness routine, I am humbled to be here tonight with a world-renowned teacher of spirituality, yoga and meditation who is the epitome of humility and divine love. …”

Afterwards I stayed for the religious part of the session which lasted a little over two hours. That consisted of stories from their scriptures and explanations of what it means to your daily life. Needless to say, it was quite an experience and one that I will remember a long time.

Thursday started with a brief gathering of Troop 131 from Apex and Cary who were at town hall to watch the council meeting. I explained the agenda to them and then answered questions. We talked for about twenty minutes. I was glad to see young people involved in local government.

Thursday night the council met over four and a half hours at our regularly scheduled council meeting. There were eight public hearings, three discussion items, and a closed session. Two public hearings that drew most speakers were a rezoning request at Chapel Hill Road and Lake Drive, and rezoning request at Westhigh South. Both of these proposals have protest petitions and will require a lot of effort to get them passed. In the discussion portion of the meeting council approved the fiscal year 2016 budget of $295 million and includes a two cent tax increase from the 2012 voter approved bonds. Despite the increase Cary will remain with Wake County’s lowest tax rate. In other decisions the council decided to send the Dellinger proposal near Crossroads back to the Planning and Zoning Board since it has changed drastically from their last review. After the council completed the agenda it went into closed session. Once returning from closed session the council approved a motion to do an internal and external search for a new town manager since our current town manager is retiring. Staff will bring back information about the cost and process at a future council meeting.

Friday I participated in a meeting with the NC Metro Mayors with about two dozen mayors and representatives from other municipalities. Most of our discussion focused on the sales tax changes being considered by the NC Legislature and how it will impact municipalities.

Emails this week included a notification from Google fiber that construction in this region will begin in the coming weeks. Once construction is completed Google will have laid enough fiber to reach London and back. Here are some of their answers to frequently asked questions:
• It looks like you’re starting construction in my area. Does that mean we’ll be the first to get Fiber?
Not necessarily. We’ll be doing construction all across the metro area in the coming months, but we don’t yet have a schedule for when and where we’ll be able to offer service first.
• When will you start signups for Google Fiber?
It’s still too early to say. We have a lot of construction work to do first! We’ll make an announcement as soon as we have an update about timing. The best way to stay in-the-loop is to sign up for more information on our website, google.com/fiber.
• Are you hiring?
We have a handful of Google jobs, which you can find on our website: google.com/jobs. We also rely on many contractors to bring Google Fiber to a city, and some of those companies may be hiring. You can find some of those partners listed on our website, at fiber.google.com/careers/
• What happens if there are construction issues in my area?
We’re going to work hard to keep disruption to a minimum. Our crews will work quickly, and when they’re done, they’ll return the construction area to the condition they found it in, whether that means patching any holes we had to dig, repaving streets or even planting new grass seeds when needed. If any issues come up, we’ll also have a hotline available so you can get in touch with us 24/7.
• How long will you be constructing in my neighborhood/city?
The amount of time it takes to bring fiber to a particular area varies greatly based on the size of the area, whether we’re doing aerial or underground work, the local soil type, and even the weather conditions. We don’t have a specific timeframe to share just yet, but we’ll try to build as quickly and efficiently as we can, and will keep residents updated along the way.
Look for door hangers which will let you know that construction is about to begin on your street.

In other emails the Homebuilders Association provided a report about building permits. Notable items include:
• Cary had the most new single family permits in Wake County followed closely by Raleigh
• Single family permits in Cary dropped 33% during the last twelve months
• Single family permits have increased 2% in Wake County over the last twelve months
The homebuilders supply this report once a month.

Emails from citizens included a concern about trees, a concern about a proposed Comprehensive Plan Amendment in the Crossroads area, a request for assistance in getting a job, a request to remove an access to a public greenway, a concern about the Google fiber installation, criticism about not having a public aquatics center, and criticism about not expanding CTran.

Next week is a holiday week with most people getting Friday off to celebrate the 4th of July holiday. Most government offices, including Cary, will also be closed. My schedule will include meetings, welcoming remarks, and a quasi-judicial hearing.

Well, that is all for this week. My next post will be on Sunday, July 5th. 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.

• Sunday, June 21st, 2015

harold2011_small2This week was filled with significant events.

Monday I met with Ben Shivar, the town manager, for our weekly meeting. This meeting was different from all the rest of our one-on-one meetings. At this meeting he told me that he was retiring at the end of September. This was quite a shock. It will be difficult for the town to replace such a remarkable person. Mr. Shivar had nothing but praises for the council and the town staff and his reasons were purely personal. During his time as town manager Mr. Shivar has created a strong relationship between the council, staff, and chamber. As a result the town has the highest quality of life with the lowest tax rate and attracts employers from all over the world. His influence is in most of the successes Cary citizens enjoy today. We will miss him very much. I believe retirement announcements may become more common as we baby boomer’s age out of the work force. It is happening in companies all around the nation including at my job at SAS.

After meeting with the town manager I met with an individual and his attorney about a development on Chapel Hill road. Many of his issues and questions can be handled by staff and the NC DOT. Our meeting lasted about 30 minutes.

Later Monday night I attended the monthly meeting of the Wake County Mayors Association. Mayors from Apex, Garner, Knightdale, Rolesville, Wake Forest, and Zebulon were also in attendance. First we heard a presentation from President and CEO Donald Gentzig about the local hospitals and their involvement in the community. Afterwards we heard a presentation from Rose Williams who is the director of Governmental Affairs for the North Carolina League of Municipalities. She gave us an update on legislation currently being considered by the NC General Assembly and how it negatively impacts municipalities. Our meeting adjourned after about two hours.

Tuesday the council held its third and final work session on the budget. This work session focused on how to fund Open Data. Council removed a parking standards study, reduced supplies, reduced contract services, removed a pilot program for asphalt recycling, removed planning for an online communications tool, and cut 2 attendees to the ICMS conference. The council also agreed to a 37 cents tax rate which will keep us the lowest tax rate in Wake County. Our meeting lasted about half an hour before we went into closed session. Council will vote on the budget at our June 25th meeting. In the closed session the town manager notified the council of his intention to retire. I am not allowed to talk about anything else that happened in closed session.

Wednesday I attended the June meeting of the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organizations Executive Board. Our agenda was mostly updates and presentations from the staff and votes on non-controversial items. The meeting lasted one hour. To review the entire agenda see https://campo.legistar.com/Calendar.aspx.

Thursday started with an announcement from the Governor’s office that Proto Labs will be expanding in Cary and creating 170 new jobs over the next five years. The company plans to invest in excess of $25 million in the Cary over the same period. Another great win for the Cary and more good jobs within our town limits. We continue to be one of the most attractive places in the region, state, and nation to live, work and play.

Thursday’s first meeting was with the owner of Cary’s minor league basketball team called the Cary Invasion. We talked about the town’s current and future financial commitment. The Cary Invasion will start their seventh year this year and continues to be at the top of the league. This year some of the games might be on ESPN360. The Invasion basketball team has been and will continue to be a good ambassador for the town of Cary.

Later Thursday I met with owner representatives for the Cary Town mall. They presented a concept of their future vision for the site. We talked about town processes and how difficult they were for infill developments like old malls and shopping centers. There may be a future rezoning of the mall to allow redevelopment to include residential and office.

Thursday night I had the opportunity to enjoy the Weird Al Yankovic concert at the Booth Amphitheater. The King of Parody was spectacular even after all these years. The show included most of his songs in medleys or costume. What a great show and I am glad it was in Cary.

Friday I was honored to be a presenter at Career Day which was held at Highcroft Elementary. I talked with three different groups of fourth and fifth graders about my duties and responsibilities. My talk also included needed skill sets and interpersonal skills to be successful in a leadership role. I was there a little over an hour.

Saturday I attended the Triangle Hindu Temples and Triangle Physicians Society free Health Fair. This health fair was open to the public and was a comprehensive health fair that covered about every medical need you can imagine. I toured the booths and met with physicians, volunteers, and vendors. I also made remarks to those in attendance.

Emails this week included a concern about trees, a concern about a proposed land use amendment, and a request for help with unemployment.

Next week will include several long nights. There will be the annual performance review of the direct reports to council who are the town manager, town attorney, and town clerk. In addition, there will be a long council meeting on Thursday. Other events include the ribbon cutting for MetLife’s new buildings and a roundtable discussion with business leaders as part of Imagine Cary.

Well, that is all for this week. My next post will be on Sunday, June 21st. 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.

• Sunday, June 14th, 2015

harold2011_small2It has been a couple of weeks since my last post due to a two week vacation.

Unfortunately, my vacation was cut short by the death of my friend Alok Sharma. Alok was committed to serving his community. Not only did he serve on the Committee for the Future but was involved in many other activities such as creating scholarships for children and raising money for cancer. I will miss him not only as a community leader but as a friend. Rest in peace Alok.

Saturday, June 6th I attended a walk to commemorate greenways in Cary. We walked around the Tryon Lake which is part of the Speight Branch Greenway. It is also the sight of a future park.

Sunday I attended the Panther Creek High School graduation. About 600 seniors received their diplomas in about 50 minutes. That was impressive.

Monday it was back to work and back to normal duties as mayor. Since it was a regularly schedule council meeting week, I attempted to contact all council members to hear their concerns about the upcoming agenda. I was able to contact all members but Robinson and Frantz. Most of the questions and concerns had to do with the proposed changes to the downtown park. Later in the day I met with management, legal, administration, and public information to go over the agenda items. Our meeting lasted about half an hour.

Later Monday I met with the town manager over a few items none of which were critical. One item we talked about could be very exciting news later this year if it pans out.

My last meeting of the day was my quarterly meeting with the town attorney. We talked about several items including the Interbasin Transfer case and the progress on hiring the town’s third attorney.

Tuesday I had the joy and pleasure of attending the graduation ceremony for Cary High School or as they refer to it THE Cary High School. I was joined on stage by several school board members, Superintendent Merrill, and council member Frantz. Close to 500 graduates walked across the stage. As usual it was a great ceremony. Congratulations to the Class of 2015.

Wednesday I met with an individual interested in running for office in a Wake County municipality. I provided information about what it takes to run for office and be in office. Our meeting lasted a little less than an hour.

Thursday the council held their second work session on the budget. The work session began with the announcement by the town manager that sales tax on electricity was $1.9 high than expected. This additional revenue was $153,000 short of making up for the previously proposed 1 cent increase to make up for revenue lost with the elimination of the Privilege License Tax. As a result of the additional revenue the town manager’s proposed budget will only have a 2 cents increase to pay for the voter approved 2012. If the budget is approved with this recommendation the town will have a rate of 37 cents per $100 of property value keeping us at the lowest tax rate in Wake County. The council unanimously supported this recommendation to be added to the proposed budget.

The next part of the work session was to review items brought up at the capital budget work session. The majority of council decided to eliminate about $820,000 from the proposed sidewalk projects and put those funds toward the intersection improvements at Carpenter Upchurch and Morrisville Parkway. After next year’s improvements the sidewalk backlog will be about $40 million.

The last item of the work session was on the operating budget. The items discussed included adding crossing guards at additional elementary schools and middle schools, whether or not to spend $60,000 on Open Data, and dozens of items reviewed at an October work session. Council decided that crossing guards at additional elementary schools and middle schools should be evaluated as part of next year’s budget. In addition, council decided to look at options to cut operations by $60,000 to fund Open Data. That will be decided at the June 16th budget work session. Our budget work session concluded after about 2 hours. Council will vote on the budget at our June 25th meeting.

Thursday night the council held a regularly scheduled council meeting. There were 3 public hearings and 4 discussion items. The council approved the rezoning request on Wakena Road to allow 3.1 units an acre for 14 acres. As part of the approval the applicant agreed not to submit any plans until late next year. This would mean that the first homes would be built in late 2017. That will allow time for elementary and high schools to be built. In addition, other developments in the area will improve the roads.

Council also agreed on changes to the bid for the downtown park. That is, council decided that brick should be used for walls instead of concrete panels which will save about $600,000. The remainder of the difference with the lowest bid will be around $500,000 which will be funded out of the pay as you go capital reserve which currently has a balance of about $40 million. This reserve is designated for special projects that will have a significant impact on the town.

The last item discussed at the council meeting was whether or not to provide public parking on a town owned property located on Cedar Street. The estimated worst case scenario has the cost at $20,000 per space which includes tearing down the existing structure and creating parking spaces. The best case scenario would have that cost at about $10,000 per space. This parking is strategically located close to the new brewery, the new office building being built, and the Cary Theater. After much discussion the council approved the proposal with a 5 to 1 vote. The meeting concluded after about an hour and a half.

Friday I participated in a meeting of the NC Metro Mayors. The purpose was to discuss current legislative items and the impact it would have on municipalities. The main part of the discussion focused on the sales tax redistribution currently being considered which could have a huge impact on some municipalities such as Durham. The meeting lasted about 45 minutes.

Saturday started with a big political fundraiser that included a couple hundred people. These types of events will become more numerous as fall approaches.

Saturday night I attended the 15th year celebration of the Amphitheater. I was joined by former mayors Booth and Lang. The evening began with a reception that included dozens of people who were part of getting the amphitheater built and getting the symphony to call it their summer home. After the reception the former mayors and the President of the Symphony joined me in making comments on the stage before the symphony began its show. It’s hard to believe that it has been fifteen years.

Sunday I attended a few matches of the North America Caribbean Rugby Association. I was able to see the U.S. men’s and women’s play. It was a joy to watch and I actually started figuring out most of the rules. It reminded me of backyard tackle football as I was growing up. These guys and gals were big and fast and hit each other like they do in American football but without pads. It was great to have this event in Cary and I hope we can attract future events.

Emails from citizens this week included a complaint about the golf course ordinance, a complaint about the proposed budget, a complaint about a neighbor’s yard filled with junk, and a question about the town’s ordinance on pyrotechnics.

Next week’s activities will include a meeting of the Wake County mayors, a budget work session, a meeting of the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization, and a speaking event at Highcroft Elementary.

Well, that is all for this week. My next post will be on Sunday, June 21st. 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.

• Friday, May 22nd, 2015

harold2011_small2This was the last week before a big family vacation.

Monday I attempted to call all council members to hear concerns or questions about Thursday’s agenda for the regularly scheduled council meeting. I was able to contact all council members except Robinson. Most of council comments were on the High Meadow Drive road improvements, the Cary Tennis Park renovations, and the SK8 Park Master plan. Later in the day I went over the agenda with management, directors, public information, legal, and administration. Our meeting lasted less than 30 minutes.

Tuesday I had the pleasure of playing the Augusta National Golf Course as a thank you for volunteering for the Masters Golf tournament. I am not a good golfer so I looked for one or two holes to brag about. My big story for this year was that I birdied the infamous number 12 at Amen corner.

Tuesday night the council held the first work session on the budget. This work session was about capital projects. For the most part council followed staff recommendations but asked staff to come back with funding information for the Carpenter Upchurch and Morrisville Parkway intersection with the railroad. The estimated price for that upgrade will be over a million dollars. Council member Robinson suggested taking money from the sidewalks allocation. I am not sure the majority of council would support that.

Wednesday I attended the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization’s Executive Board meeting as the vice chairman. Decisions included recommending an amendment to the Transportation Improvement Program, and providing a letter of support for Fuquay for TIGER (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) 2015 discretionary grants.

Thursday the council held a regularly scheduled council meeting. There were seven public hearings, five discussion items and a closed session. The meeting lasted about two and a half hours. Public speakers spoke on budget items and the skate park master plan. Council decisions included tabling the High Meadow Drive improvements to get input from nearby residents, replacement of Crescent Green bridges, appropriating money for Cary Tennis Park renovations, and approving the skate park master plan that will include a “vert” ramp.

Emails from citizens this week included comments about the new golf course noise ordinance, concerns about car thefts in a subdivision, comments about a traffic signal at McCrimmon and Lake Grove, and support for the town manager’s proposed budget.

I will be on vacation the next two weeks and will be back in town ready for work on June 7th.

Well, that is all for this week. Due to my vacation the next post will be on Sunday, June 14th. 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.

• Sunday, May 17th, 2015

harold2011_small2This week was a typical week in the mayor’s office.

Monday I participated in the Cary Chamber’s Honor a Teacher program. Twenty-seven teachers from schools that teach in Cary’s Western Wake area were recognized. The Honor a Teacher program strives to help our school system meet the challenge to recognize and retain some of the best classroom teachers. All teachers and guests in attendance were treated to a nice meal and then one teacher from each school received a plaque and a $1000 check. Cary businesses including the Town of Cary were sponsors. At the beginning of the program I joined the chamber president and board chairman in giving welcoming remarks. Later in the program I joined Mayor Pro-Tem Smith and council member Yerha in presenting Cary’s recognition.

Tuesday I gave the State of the Town address approximately 50 to 75 residents of Searstone. This address was an update from the original State of the Town address given in January. Afterwards I answered questions from the audience that mostly focused on roads and property around the Searstone area. The residents were very kind and great hosts. I enjoyed my visit and hope to be invited back in the future.

Wednesday the town manager and I met for our weekly one on one. We talked about several issues including downtown parking, the budget, and a future capital project. Our meeting lasted about 40 minutes.

Thursday started with an interview by WTVD on the Privilege License Tax bill that eliminated $1.5 million in revenue for the Town of Cary. We discussed the impact of that legislative action and the proposed 1 cent tax increase to make up the difference.

Thursday night the council held a quasi-judicial hearing to decide whether or not to allow a school use in the Cary Church of God building. The school will take up three classrooms and will focus on gifted children. The request was passed unanimously.

Friday I participated in a meeting of the Metro Mayors. Some of the bills they are tracking include:
• Moving municipal elections to even years (basically making them partisan)
• Making judicial races partisan
• Restricting municipal eminent domain
• ¼ cent sales tax for municipal governments
• Zoning and aesthetic controls
• Sales tax redistribution
• Local incentives for historic preservation
The meeting lasted about an hour and had about two dozen participants.

Saturday I had the opportunity to briefly visit the 4th Annual Wheels on Academy which was mostly on Town Hall campus. In addition to 146 amazing cars on display there was a model T that was assembled and then cranked up. At the conclusion of the show dozens of awards were handed out.

Later Saturday and had the honor and privilege of attending a ribbon cutting for a playground at Lexie Lane park which was renewed by sisters from Cary’s chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority. Lexie Lane Park is Cary’s very first park. It opened in 1972 with just one baseball field and was named after the town manager at the time. It had no upgrades or improvements until 1980 when restrooms, the playground and the basketball court were added. The town reinvested in Lexie Lane’s playground in 2009. We are grateful for the additional beautification projects by the Cary Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha.

Alpha Kappa Alpha’s mission is to enhance the quality of life through program development and financial support in the areas of arts, economics, education, family and health. They support our community with fundraisers and donations coupled with the timeless hours of volunteer service by their members. As a result they have continued to provide and support a plethora of programs including a mentoring program, scholarships, meals at Thanksgiving and Christmas for several local agencies including the Carying Place, health fairs, and support of community gardens just to name a few. God bless the Sigma Tau Omega chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha.

Emails from citizens this week included an email from Kathryn Lindquist who is raising money for an interesting cause. Here is an excerpt from her email:

“… I am the founder of Run for Currahee: a solo 800-mile run from Normandy, France to Berchtesgaden, Germany. This event will retrace the path that the famous “Band of Brothers” of the 101st Airborne Division took during World War II. It has never been done before. I will be running 13.1 miles (a half marathon) per day supported by a two person volunteer team in an effort to raise $50,000 for the World War II veterans’ non-profit Camp Toccoa at Currahee of Toccoa, GA, as detailed below.

The “Band of Brothers,” made famous by Steven Spielberg’s HBO miniseries by the same name, trained at Camp Toccoa, GA before being shipped to Normandy. Their efforts led to the end of WWII in the European theater. They landed in Normandy on D-Day and ended the war on VE-Day in Berchtesgaden, Germany. Camp Toccoa at Currahee aims to preserve the legacies of these veterans by rebuilding the historic Camp Toccoa site for educational purposes, building a memorial for the veterans of Camp Toccoa who gave the ultimate sacrifice, promoting wellbeing through athletic competition, and protecting the natural environment of nearby Currahee Mountain for future generations to enjoy.

Run for Currahee has been met with great support, especially by World War II veterans themselves. That support has given me incredible access to their stories, and the stories of the European civilians they freed. I will meet and interview them along the way, combining their stories with my journey in a documentary called 800 Miles To Freedom. …

I am seeking sponsors to help make this project happen and thought you may be interested, or know someone who is. In order to get my feet on the beaches of Normandy on D-Day, I must raise $5,000 to cover airfare, board and food costs, as I simply cannot afford to make the trip happen based on my own finances. I need help getting there. You can view my campaign at https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/run-for-currahee. …”

So if you can find it in your hearts to help this worthwhile cause, please lend your support.

Other emails from citizens included complaint about an abandoned property, a complaint about the intersection of McCrimmon Parkway and Lake Grove, a complaint about the lack of a traffic signals west of Highway 55, a complaint about scheduling at the Sertoma amphitheater, a question about golf carts on the road, a question about bicycles on sidewalks, a complaint about a U-Verse installation, and a promise to open a negative campaign against the town because of the recently approved golf course ordinance.

Next week will be another busy week for me. It will include the first budget work session, a taping of Cary Matters, and a regularly scheduled council meeting.

Well, that is all for this week. My next post will be on Friday, May 22nd since I will begin a two week vacation on the 23rd. 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.

• Sunday, May 10th, 2015

harold2011_small2This week was dominated by a council meeting and travel. It included an inter-city visit to Greenville, South Carolina, a trip to watch my youngest daughter graduate from college and another trip to move her to her new home and job.

Monday began with calls to council members to hear their concerns and questions about Tuesday’s regularly scheduled council meeting agenda. I was able to talk with all council members except Robinson. Most of the questions and comments I received were about the proposed changes to the Golf Course Noise Ordinance. Later in the day I met with Mayor Pro-Tem Smith, management, directors, administration, legal, and public information to go over the agenda items. Our meeting concluded after about 20 minutes. Afterwards I had my weekly one on one meeting with the town manager. We had very few new items to talk about since most of the focus lately has been on the budget. Our meeting lasted about 20 minutes.

Tuesday I met with cub scouts before the regularly scheduled council meeting. I explained what to expect during the council meeting and then answered questions. As one might guess the questions included everything imaginable.

The regularly scheduled council meeting included the town manager’s budget presentation and the golf course noise ordinance which were the topics that generated the most emails and conversations leading up to the meeting.

The manager’s budget recommendation proposes a 3 cents tax increase. The first 2 cents of the increase will be to pay for projects the citizens/voters approved in the 2012 bond referendum. The last cent is mostly to cover the $1.5 million of revenue lost from the legislature’s elimination of the Privilege License Tax on businesses. In addition the manager pointed out that they have continued with several unfilled positions since the recession and continuing that practice was unsustainable. The council will begin their discussion on the budget at a work session on May 19th.

The golf course noise ordinance was to clarify golf course operations which were vaguely described in the current ordinance. Council decided to pretty much agree with what the course managers are doing today. That will allow an exception for mowing and blowing of the courses starting at 6 A.M. instead of 7 A.M. which is starting time for everywhere else in town. This exception will be from April through September. A lot of time was spent on the decibel levels. It is important to understand that 60 decibels and lower is allowed at any time. That is equivalent to someone holding a conversation at 3 feet. The council meeting ended around 9:30.

Wednesday I joined all council members, a few staff, and several dozen chamber members on an inter-city visit to Greenville, South Carolina. The reason for the trip was to look at their downtown and talk with elected officials and business leaders about how they went from a deserted downtown with boarded up businesses to a thriving regional attraction. We also wanted to hear about their successes and failures along the way. The council was fortunate to meet and spend time with Mayor Knox White. While there were numerous takeaways from the trip, I will mention only a few:
• Make sure your streetscapes include water and sewer upgrades (we are doing this on Academy Street and our engineers are way too smart to make that kind of mistake).
• Capitalize on your towns greatest assets more than trying to create new ones.
• Pay attention to detail. Every public space can be greatly enhanced with more detail. And these types of improvements can be inexpensive.
• Consider using art and infrastructure to display history, historic people, and historic features.
• Always work toward your vision even though it may be unpopular at times.
I left Greenville on Thursday night so that I could attend my daughter’s school graduation on Friday morning. This was followed by my daughter’s degree presentation on Saturday night and then the adventure of moving her to her new job in Morehead City during tropical storm weather. What a way to end the week!

Emails this week include a staff report on housing permits from April. Last month the average size of a new single family home in Cary was 3,830 square feet as compared to the average size of 3,345 square feet in 2011.

An email was also received from the homebuilders association about housing permits. In their report Cary and Raleigh had the same number of permits pulled in April. They also report that Cary permits are down 23% from the number issued twelve months ago.

Emails from citizens this week included several on the golf course noise ordinance, a complaint about the installation practices by a communication company, a complaint about a school bus stop, a comment on the Cary Town Mall rezoning, a concern about the Cary ESC office, and a concern about a rezoning on Chapel Hill Road.

Next week will be a busy one. On the calendar is a teacher appreciation event, a state of the town address, a quasi-judicial hearing, a ribbon cutting, and several meetings.

Well, that is all for this week. My next post will be on Sunday, May 17th. 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.

• Sunday, May 03rd, 2015

harold2011_small2This was another busy week for me as mayor.

Tuesday the town manager and I talked about several items including water/sewer issues, intergovernmental issues, and budget issues.

Later Tuesday I joined council members Frantz, Bush, and Yerha in a work session. Council members Smith and Robinson were on a Raleigh chamber inter-city visit to Austin, Texas. The work session had three topics. The first topic was on adjusting developer transportation fees. Although transportation costs have increased for the town in the last several years the developer transportation fees have remained the same. Council decided to adjust them to 60% of the cost created by a development’s impact to the town’s roads. In addition, council decided to increase these fees by 5% each year to keep up with increasing costs. Even with this fee increase Cary will remain competitive with our neighbors. Cary’s new fees will be between Raleigh and Durham’s.

Our second work session topic was on setting a public hearing for Land Development Ordinance Text Amendments. The public hearing was set for May 21st. These amendments are mostly to clarify the language of the transportation development fees ordinance and make the language closer to the local bill that gives the town authority to charge these fees to developers. If approved these changes go into effect on July 1st.

Our last work session topic was on building design standards. The council agreed on the following:
• Require that material transitions occur at logical intervals such as at floor changes and/or at clearly visible building segments.
• Formed concrete panels may be used to meet masonry requirements on applicable facades provided that all other design standards are achieved.
• Allow 35% of masonry materials for attached residential within the Town Center District. It was 75%.
• Allow some wood siding and fiber cement siding in some of the historic districts. The historic districts are Carpenter, Green Level, and downtown.
• Allow the flexibility of wood siding, fiber cement, and other materials for main and accessory buildings within public parks, homeowner association properties, or natural areas such as Hemlock Bluffs.
• Allow painting of masonry material without the criteria that they had to have been built before 1970.
• Revise the transparency definition to include transparent and translucent glass.
• Allow any intensity of accent color provided an entire center uses the same intensity. Define base color to be the majority of the color (more than 50%).
Our work session concluded after about two and a half hours.

Wednesday I visited Atlas International School in Cary. The purpose of my visit was to do a swearing in of their student Captain of the day. After the quick ceremony I answered questions from the students. Their questions were unrehearsed and impressive. The topics dealt with subjects like growth and authority to make decisions. Some of the easier questions were whether I was a dog or cat person. My visit lasted about 30 minutes.

Wednesday night I joined Mayor Pro-Tem Smith, council member Bush, and council member Yerha at the Cary School of Government graduation. This program provided students sessions to learn how municipal government functions, what services are provided, and how citizens can become involved. The students got a behind-the-scenes look at the Town government structure, its culture and how decisions are made. After a quick question and answer period from the students the council members handed out course certifications and congratulated the students.

Thursday I chaired a joint meeting of the Cary/Morrisville Joint Issues Committee. In attendance for Cary were council member Bush, town manager Shivar, and Intergovernmental manager Hygh. In attendance for Morrisville were Mayor Stohlman, Mayor Pro-Tem Johnson, council member Schlink, and town manager Wheelock. Several staff members were also there to present information.

Our first topic of discussion was the McCrimmon Parkway Sidewalks at Davis Drive. The Morrisville section (about $75,000 worth) was funded a few years ago. The Cary portion (about $150,000) is not high enough on the sidewalk priority list to be budgeted for this year. All Cary sidewalks requests are reviewed and funded based on a set of criteria. This proposal is below several other proposals. Morrisville stated that they may go ahead and implement pedestrian signals in the meantime.

Next the committee heard a report on the NC 54 corridor study. The study will be finalized by this summer and includes NC 54 from I540 to Maynard Road. In a recent public meeting it was reported that the intersection of Cary Parkway and NC 54 would have to be about 10 lanes to accommodate all the traffic. Instead the study is focusing on creating a super street at that intersection. Super Street designs require cars wishing to turn left to take another route to make that turn. Another interesting point made was that regardless of the study state funding has only been planned for the section from I540 to Cary Parkway. And that funding would be in 2022. There is no funding for the remainder of the corridor. Stay tuned for more details once the study has been completed.

The committee next discussed ordinances related to panhandling. Currently Morrisville’s ordinance does not prohibit panhandling in the right of way. That is why there are several people in the medians of Cary Parkway at NC 54 every day. They are looking to change this. Cary’s ordinance does allow panhandling but it cannot be in medians or right of way. It is important to note that past court cases allow panhandling. Trying to prohibit it would certainly invite a lawsuit by the ACLU and others.

Golf course noise ordinances were discussed next. Cary will decide on its revision at a regularly scheduled meeting of the council on May 5th. Morrisville is looking to revise their ordinance.

In the information sharing portion of the meeting council member Bush and town manager Shivar shared interesting observations about a meeting of the Cary council and Wake County Commissioners. We also heard from the Morrisville council members about a new Wake Tech campus that will be just north of McCrimmon Parkway.

Our committee will meet again in September.

Saturday morning I gave welcoming remarks to the fourth annual Purple Cloth 5K. This event raised $10,000 for Dorcas Ministries during the previous three events. Dorcas Ministries provides crisis relief to area residents who seek stability and self-sufficiency through food and financial assistance, scholarships, training programs, referrals and an affordable thrift shop.

Emails from staff this week included the 2015 first quarter report. Items of note include:
• As of April 1st Cary’s population was 152,800
• Our population has increased 2.7% in the last twelve months
• Cary corporate limits are now 57.88 square miles
• In this quarter the average single family house was 4052 square feet whereas in 2011 it was 3645
• In this quarter Cary single family permits accounted for approximately 14% of the permits in the county.
To read the Q1 Report in its entirety go to http://townofcary.uberflip.com/i/503451-2015-1st-quarter-report.

Emails from citizens this week include comments about the McCrimmon and Lake Grove intersection, a request for a type of swing at a park being built, comments about a neighborhood speed limit, comments about the golf course noise ordinance, and comments about a communications company digging in a yard.

Next week will include a council meeting and a lot of travel for me. I will travel to Greenville, S.C. for an intercity visit, then Greenville, N.C. for my daughter’s graduation, then to Morehead City to move my daughter, and then back home.

Well, that is all for this week. My next post will be on Sunday, May 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 augustanat@mindspring.com.

• Sunday, April 26th, 2015

This was a busy week that included several long nights and a long council meeting.

Monday I called all council members to hear their questions and concerns about Tuesday’s regularly scheduled council meeting agenda. I was able to contact all council members except Robinson and there were very few questions. Later in the day I met with management, legal, public information, administration, and other directors to go over the agenda. The agenda had 5 presentations, 18 consent agenda items, 5 public hearings, and 15 discussion items. Items we discussed included the Walnut Street Corridor under the Land Development Ordinance Amendments, the two Wackena Road rezoning proposals, the Keller property waiver to Stephens Road, and Community Development Block Grant Funding. Our meeting concluded after about 30 minutes.

Monday night I attended the monthly meeting of the Mayors Association. All twelve mayors of Wake County were present. The mayors spent a great deal of time talking about current legislative proposals and how it would harm our municipalities. The mayors unanimously agreed to take action of several legislative items but decided to wait until after crossover.

Crossover is a deadline where members of each chamber of the General Assembly work to have pieces of legislation that they sponsored passed by their chamber and sent over to the other chamber. The crossover deadline is an important milestone in the General Assembly schedule, because, with a few exceptions, a bill that is not passed by one chamber before the crossover deadline is dead and cannot be considered during the remainder of the session.

Next we went around the table to hear about what was going on in each of the municipalities and if they were anticipating a tax increase. About half of the municipalities are anticipating a tax increase for this coming fiscal year. Our meeting concluded after about 2 ½ hours.

Tuesday I had a brief meeting with the culinary students from our sister city Le Touquet, France. These students are visiting for four to five weeks and are working in local restaurants. This gives them experience in American cuisine and the American lifestyle. My wife and I have hosted students from this group several times over the years and have many friends as a result of these experiences. This year we are once again hosting two students. The group has been chaperoned over the years by Annie Chatel who is retiring this year. However, she does plan to come back to Cary next year. This culinary student exchange with Wake Med is a great partnership and a great example of why it is important to have sister cities.

My next meeting on Tuesday was with the Boy Scout Troop from St. Michael’s Church. They were working on a citizenship merit badge. I explained what they could expect from the upcoming council meeting and then answered questions. Later in the council meeting I recognized them and thanked them for attending.

Tuesday night the council held their only regularly scheduled meeting for the month. The long agenda didn’t take as long as we expected. Here are some of the decisions made at the meeting: The council approved three annexations totaling about 65 acres. Incentives for CBC Americas, which was announced Wednesday, were approved. The council approved a new General Fund Balance Policy which will give us flexibility to use cash instead of addition debt in special cases. The untouchable balance will remain far above what is required and will not impact our standing with bond agencies. The Debt Management Policy was also changed so that our target of no greater than 15% is now policy rather than direction. The council also approved a rezoning on Wackena Road which has been controversial because of overcrowded schools and congested roads. This proposal had the lowest density possible and will make traffic improvements well beyond what is required. In addition, they agreed to delay development to allow some school construction to catch up. The proposal for Stephens Road for townhomes which was denied a few weeks ago was given a waiver to submit single family residential. They will now have to go through the rezoning process again. The Land Development Ordinance Amendments were approved with the exception of the transportation system requirements which council sent back to staff for additional review. The amendments included the Walnut Street Corridor which will now allow the trailer park to be redeveloped into townhomes. There were many more items discussed by council. To see all the items make sure to visit actions taken at http://www.townofcary.org/Town_Council/Agendas___Minutes/Town_Council/action/April_21__2015__Regular_Meeting.htm. Our meeting concluded after about three and a half hours.

Wednesday started with an announcement by the governor that CBC Americas Corporation will locate their US Headquarters in Cary. The move will create 67 new jobs in Wake County over the next five years. The company plans to invest at least $3.5 million. The Japan based company is part of a global network of import, export, trading, and distribution companies, strategically located throughout the world. CBC is comprised of Imaging Technology, Optics, Chemicals & Pharmaceuticals, Flooring, Plastics and Eco-Energy. The company specializes in security solutions, chemicals and pharmaceuticals, renewable energy technology and video surveillance products. The average salary for the Cary positions will average $85,962.

Wednesday I gave opening remarks at the Cary Chamber’s Elected Officials reception. In attendance were NC Senators, Wake County Commissioners, Wake County School Board members, Cary Council members, and several business leaders. Unfortunately, NC representatives were unable to attend because they were in session. After my comments I was able to talk with several commissioners and school board members about issues we face in Cary. It was nice to talk with some of them simultaneously and hear how they are working together and working on issues. One idea I talked with commissioners about was capital cost leveling. This is similar to what Cary did to pay for the wastewater treatment plant. That is, rather than have an 18% increase in rates in one year, Cary spread the increase over several years to pay for that $300 million capital project. The commissioners are thinking about doing something similar for schools. That would give schools an annual, predictable budget for capital projects (schools). I left the event after about 2 ½ hours.

On Thursday I was part of a presentation to the town by the Insurance Services Office (ISO). I received information that Cary jumped from a Class 3 rating to the top insurance rating of Class 1. As a result, roughly one in three Cary businesses can expect to see a lower insurance premium in the coming months. The change in rating will likely have little to no impact on residential insurance premiums. The rating will go into effect July 1. Cary is the first ISO Class 1 municipality in the Triangle. Nationally, fewer than 100 communities have earned a Class I rating out of nearly 49,000 agencies nationwide. Areas evaluated as part of the rating system include Fire emergency operations, planning, prevention, training and equipment; Water supply and distribution system; and Communications Center operations.

Thursday evening I joined Mayor Pro-Tem Smith and met with the town manager, deputy town manager, assistant town managers, and the budget staff to hear staff’s preliminary budget. The purpose of this type of meeting is to have staff go over their budget in detail and explain how this pertains to the direction we gave. In addition, council members provide feedback on additional information they would like to see when we start deliberating on the budget. The town manager will present his budget on May 5th and the council will have their first work session on the budget on May 19th. While it is too early to disclose any details of the budget I can say that it was a difficult budget process for the staff exacerbated by the North Carolina Legislature’s action eliminating a large amount of town revenue. Our meeting lasted about 2 hours.

Friday I participated in the Metro Mayors meeting to hear about legislative actions and how they will impact municipalities. While the assault on municipal revenues and authority continues, some of our local legislators are doing their best to protect our tax rate and our quality of life. I would like to thank to Representatives Adcock, Senator Stein, and Senator Barringer for fighting to keep Cary a great place to live, work, and play.

Saturday I heard the sad news of a devastating earthquake in Nepal. At the time of this journal entry over 2500 people had perished. My thoughts and prayers are with the people of Nepal. There are many people in our community and in neighboring communities, like Morrisville, who have family and friends in Nepal. Needless to say there were several vigils in the area Saturday and Sunday.

Sunday I attended the 1st Annual Music and Arts festival at the Booth Amphitheater. This was an event of musical talent and visual arts by high school students from high schools that have Cary students. This year it included Cary, Athens, Green Hope, Panther Creek, and Broughton. I gave welcoming remarks and later joined council member Bush in talking about arts in Cary.

In emails from staff this week the council was notified of US Postal Service (USPS) has determined that a request from the residents of Weycroft Reserve to have a Cary ZIP code instead of a Durham ZIP code was operationally feasible. The USPS is currently conducting a mail survey of the addresses in Weycroft and along Pittard Sears Road, according to their standard practices, to determine the level of support for the change. Since a majority of the residents being surveyed are in the Weycroft Reserve subdivision, the town expects the support to be strong, and the change to be made in the near future. If this goes forward any new development along Pittard Sears Road will also have Cary addresses.

Emails from citizens this week included a concern about a planned greenway through Cameron Pond, comments about the Academy Street improvements, and a complaint about an experience with town staff.

Next week’s activities include a council work session on Transportation Development Feeds, Land Development Ordinance Amendments, and Building Design Standards. Other activities include a join meeting with Cary and Morrisville, a visit to Atlas International School, Cary’s Night out with Police and Fire officers, and a 5K for charity.

Well, that is all for this week. My next post will be on Sunday, May 3rd. 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.

• Monday, April 20th, 2015

After a week in Augusta it was time to get back to work as mayor.

I was fortunate enough to start the week by having a photo opportunity with tennis legend and star Venus Williams. She and her sister have won several grand slam tennis tournaments and dozens of other tournaments. They will both be in the tennis hall of fame. In my brief conversation with her I welcomed her to Cary and talked about the excitement she generated. She mentioned that she had been to Cary before. I also talked to her about her last match which was a semi-final loss and her response was that there will be other opportunities. I thanked her for coming to Cary and wished her the best.

Later Monday I met with the town manager and deputy town manager. We talked about a personnel issue and other minor issues. Our meeting lasted about 20 minutes.

Tuesday I met with a representative from Regency Office Park. He had three main concerns: the paving of Regency Parkway, the crape myrtles along Regency Parkway, and the fence along Regency Parkway. Regency Parkway is a NCDOT maintained road and it is their responsibility to pave it. The town did contact NCDOT about the condition of the road but is still waiting on a response from them. The Crape Myrtles and the median along Regency Parkway are the responsibility of the Regency Park Homeowners Association. These trees became diseased and were a safety hazard so the town asked the association to remove them. They refused and the town had them removed. The stumps remain which is the responsibility of the association. The fence, which is disliked by the representative, is an aesthetic issue. With so many other significant needs and limited funding, we are not able to recommend funding in the budget to replace the fence at this time. My meeting with the representative concluded after just a few short minutes. I made no promises or guarantees since most of these issues fall outside of the town’s responsibility.

Thursday I talked with a developer interested in the Land Development Ordinance change which would allow redevelopment of the trailer park on Walnut Street. In his conversation with me he pointed out how the latest proposal would protect residents with larger buffers than the previous proposal from staff.

Friday I participated in the Metro Mayors legislative update. We reviewed about a dozen legislative bills that have been introduced. One bill would make local elections occur in even years and make them partisan. It seems the legislators can get enough of damaging local governments. And why they think making elections partisan would benefit Cary is beyond me. Our meeting lasted about 45 minutes.

Later Friday I talked with County Commissioner Holmes about the upcoming meeting between the Cary Council and the County Commissioners. We talked about items of interest to Cary (mainly schools) and the prioritizations of the commissioners. Commissioner Holmes pointed out that it was early in the budget cycle so the commissioners won’t be able to provide a lot of information. She also said that there will be significant choices; some of which may involve significant tax increases. I conversation lasted about 15 minutes.

Saturday I participated in the Caring Community Foundation Bed Race for cancer. Since its inception this organization has raised over a million dollars to fight cancer. There were fourteen beds in the race in this second year. All were fantastic and the race heats were supported by dozens of people along Academy Street. In addition, members of the Cary High School Band provided drum rolls and trumpet charges. It was a great time and money was raised for a good cause. Please find it in your hearts to support Caring Community Foundation in its mission. Every little bit helps.

Later Saturday I gave welcoming remarks at the Children’s Day festival. This event was put on by the American Turkish Association of North Carolina and Cary’s Sister Cities organization. There were performances, crafts, entertainment of all kinds involving children. It was a great time and the children were absolutely adorable.

Sunday I gave remarks at the Heritage India Association of North Carolina’s festival. There was a lot of great performances that I was blessed to observe. Here is an excerpt from my comments:

“…We know it takes a village to raise a child. And today’s event is a great example of this. As citizens, we appreciate Heritage India Association’s community outreach efforts. This area is blessed to have one of the highest qualities of life, and much of that is due to the volunteer support of our community organizations.

As these kids explore Indian Heritage, know that what you are doing for them today is shaping all of our futures. Dancing, fashion shows, and art competitions are on the agenda, and while they’ll be fun and exciting, these activities will also help in building leadership skills, boosting self-confidence, and encouraging socialization. All skills that our leaders of tomorrow need, and all skills that these children will build upon today. …”

I was at this event for a little over an hour.

Emails from staff this week included an explanation of a maple tree removal at the intersection of Dry Avenue and South Academy. The tree was cabled a few years ago to defray some stress but it finally failed and was in critical condition. Town staff indicated that this tree had already been identified for removal during the downtown park construction. However staff felt the tree had reached a state where it needed to come down prior to the construction. Therefore Town staff had an independent certified arborist confirm the degraded condition of the tree and it was removed.

Emails from citizens this week include comments about the Morrisville – Carpenter Upchurch intersection, a complaint about cigarette smoke coming through apartment walls, a complaint about a neighbor using something to make dogs bark, comments about the new downtown library, comments about a business site plan, and comments about the Cary Innovation Center.

Next week will be a busy week for me and will include a LONG council meeting, a meeting of the Wake County Mayors Association, a reception for elected officials, a budget preview meeting, and Cary’s first Arts and Music festival.

Well, that is all for this week. My next post will be on Sunday, April 26th. 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.

• Tuesday, April 14th, 2015

This journal entry will be different from past journal entries. It will have very little to do with Cary so it may not be of interest to some readers.

I spent the last week volunteering for the Masters Golf tournament. It has been an honor and a privilege to volunteer since1978. This journal entry is about my week in Augusta and some of my observations of the people and the place.

The Economy:
Augusta has three main economic drivers, the Medical College (part of Georgia Regents University), Fort Gordon (the new home of cyber security), and the Augusta National (home of the Masters Golf tournament). The Augusta National, with their buying and redevelopment of properties around the club, seem to have the biggest impact from year to year. Most of the remaining businesses in Augusta seem to be industrial or support businesses. Needless to say the recession hurt them a great deal and if it wasn’t for these three economic drivers Augusta would be in bad shape. That is why I believe it is extremely important to be economically diverse like Cary.

The People:
The people in Augusta are very different from Cary residents in many ways. Augusta is not a diverse city and is 95% African American or Caucasian. Most Augusta residents were born and raised there whereas 95% of Cary residents were born somewhere else. Race continues to be a factor in the news and in elections. On one of my daily runs I saw a rebel flag flying in a front yard. Needless to say that would draw a LOT of negative attention here. Political signs were all Republican candidates. I imagine that Democrats don’t even bother trying. One of the things I liked about Augusta residents is that they are friendly. If you come across someone in a walk, run, or whatever, they always smile and say hello. In fact, cars driving by will wave. Sadly, that is not the case sometime in Cary (So if you see me running don’t forget to wave and say hello). Don’t get me wrong. I believe Cary is made up of great people too; we just need to show it more.

The event and course:
There is absolutely no event of any kind in the world that can measure up to the Masters Golf tournament. Period! They have every aspect of the event down to a science. And they work every year on making it a better experience for the golfer and for the patrons. In case you don’t know, the course was formally a nursery and each hole is named after a tree or plant. Every year during the first week of April the course is immaculate with flowers and trees blooming everywhere. Even if you don’t care for golf it is a must see just for the beauty. Excluding the grounds, the golf course is also incredible. I heard a guy in front of me say “the stuff we are walking on is better than what we put on.” And he is exactly right. It is that manicured.

My involvement:
I was lucky to be invited to volunteer when I lived in Augusta in 1978. I work as a scorer on hole 17 on the big scoreboard in the middle of the course. This year it was 90 degrees on Thursday and Friday which made it tough since we are enclosed by metal walls. But I know people would have given there left arm to be in my position so I was not complaining. From my vantage point I clearly see the 17th and 7th greens. I can see most of hole 2, all of 3, most of 8, and some of 13. So I was literally right in the middle of everything. It is a great view. I intend to continue until they stop inviting me or make me retire (which could be in the next few years). It is what the beginning of spring is all about for me. To put it simply, I love it!

The tournament:
For the first time in my 37 years I predicted the winner. I was confident in picking Speith after watching him in the last few tournaments earlier this year. He did not disappoint and was dominating the course on Thursday (I haven’t seen that since Tiger’s first win). In fact, he should have broken the tournament course record on Thursday except that he missed a couple of easy putts. He was just as impressive Friday and looked as though he would run away from all competitors. Saturday Speith had a six stroke lead when he came to my hole on 17. Then he double bogied and the tournament became interesting. Sunday he played like a true champion. He had his ups and downs but kept it together through it all. He won in style and he is only 21 years old. Amazing! I suspect he will have a collection of green jackets before it is over. Other golfers generated a lot of interest during the tournament. Tiger is back but is struggling off the tee. If he figures out his tee shot he could once again be a force on the PGA. He had his usual following but didn’t have the masses of people that he once had. Mickelson, who is on again off again, had a good tournament and was also a crowd favorite. Bubba Watson, who also has a good following didn’t really do much this year which was disappointing. Ben Crenshaw played is last round ever in Augusta on Friday. It was sad to watch that great champion struggle. It brought tears to my eyes to see him walk up 18. I remember very clearly the last time he won. It is hard to believe that much time has passed. All in all it was fantastic seeing all of the world’s best on the best golf course in the world. I am truly blessed.

Well, that is all for this week. My next post will be on Sunday, April 19th. 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.