This was the first full week after the inter-city visit and it was a busy one.
Monday I called all council members to get any concerns or questions about Thursday’s agenda so that staff can be prepared. There was only one minor clarification needed by a council member. Later in the day I met with key members of staff to go over items on the agenda.
After the agenda meeting I met with staff members about the Cary’s transit plan and how it ties in with the region’s transit plan.
My last meeting of the day was with the owner of Carolina FC, Steve Malik, about their future plans. He is a wonderful guy and easy to talk to. It is his intention to bring MLS soccer to this area and build a stadium. Cary is not out of the running for that stadium. My understanding is that MLS franchises are given every two years. He believes he will get a franchise at least within the next two, four, or six years.
Tuesday I joined a special meeting of Cary’s Economic Development. The meeting was called to talk about a new Cary branding effort. And while most people think that branding is about a logo, Cary will be focusing on the message. This is especially important to change the perception of Cary as a “bedroom community”, “a suburb of Raleigh”, and a “containment area of relocated Yankees”. Add to that all the negativities of HB2 and its discrimination and you have quite a large task. At our meeting the town manager presented an outline of how to proceed with rebranding. Our first tasks will be to set our objects and to answer the questions why. In the upcoming days the town manager will talk with each council member individually and get their ideas about why we should rebrand. Then he will present those findings at a future work session where council will agree on the “why” of the effort. The good news is that a lot of the research from the Cary Community Plan can be used. Our meeting concluded a little over an hour.
Wednesday started with an on camera interview with ABC11 regarding HB2 and the impacts of losing the NCAA. This was prompted by the NCAA deadline that was imposed which would have resulted in North Carolina losing championships for several years. My comments in the interview were that I still had hope that the legislature would do the right thing for North Carolina and repeal HB2. This of course was not what they wanted to hear and thus it did not make the airways.
Later Wednesday I gave opening remarks at the 14th Cary School of Government class. The first class was in 2003 and included council member Lori Bush. This class was designed to increase understanding of how and when the public is involved in Town processes and decisions and spur even greater community involvement. Included topics are how municipal government functions, what services are provided, and how citizens can become involved. Students get a behind the scenes look at the town government structure, culture and decision-making. This class is held once a year and is a must if you want to be civically involved.
Thursday the North Carolina legislature passed action, which was signed by the governor, to repeal HB2 (for the most part). I had several requests for interviews and issued the following statement:
“Today our State government took an important step by coming together to find a way forward from HB 2. On behalf of the entire Cary Town Council and the 160,000 who call Cary home, I want to thank them for putting North Carolina first and bridging what seemed at times to be a vast and insurmountable partisan divide. No compromise is ever perfect, but if we can focus on and learn from the success of actually finding compromise in this case, I believe we can all have increased optimism of what we will be able to accomplish together in our shared future.”
It is my hope that we can all move forward and begin to welcome back businesses, the ACC, and the NCAA.
Thursday’s regularly scheduled council meeting lasted about two and a half hours. It began with recognition of our long time planning director, Jeff Ulma, who retired on Friday. He joined the Town of Cary in 1996, when Cary’s population was about one-half of today’s population of 160,000. As planning director, he has left his imprint on many of the Town’s plans, development regulations and special initiatives, the latest of which is the new Cary Community Plan. The plan, which looks ahead to the year 2040, sets out a long-term vision, policies, and strategic actions to guide Cary into the future. Unanimously adopted in January by the Town Council, it is the result of several years of work, unprecedented community input, and dozens of meetings and workshops conducted under the Imagine Cary process. Other accomplishments include the preparation of the Town’s current zoning ordinance; the Northwest, Southeast, Town Center and Southwest area plans; the Affordable Housing Plan; Architectural and Site Design Guidelines; the Chatham/Cary Joint Land Use Plan; and even personally drafting food truck and backyard chicken regulations. He is a big reason Cary is so well planned and has such a high quality of life. We will certainly miss him.
The rest of the agenda included 9 consent agenda items, 6 public hearings, 4 discussion items, and a closed hearing. The public hearing on fiscal year 2018 Community Development Block Grant had several speakers thanking the town for past support and asking for future support. What is interesting about that program this year is the new administration which might reduce or eliminate the program. If that happened it would be a significant hit to several non-profits that serve our community. Under the items for discussion the council approved a waiver for a waiting period because the proposal was introduced and withdrawn during the old land use plan. It will come back to us later for a rezoning request. Council also approved items related to the water treatment plan, the new water storage tank on Kilmayne and the upgrade of the water storage tank on Maynard, and naming rights for the stadium at the Wake Med Soccer Park. It will be called the Sahlen stadium named after Sahlen Packing Company, Inc. The town had previously tried to sell the naming rights for there were no takers. This contract will allow the town to collect $100,000 over the next five years.
Friday I participated in a meeting of the North Carolina metro mayors to get a legislative update. Of course the repeal of HB2 was the lead topic. Other topics included the metro mayors’ visit with Transportation Secretary Trogdon, meetings with legislators, bills introduced on tax deductions, a bill that would move tax collected from rental cars to the highway fund from the general fund, a bill for sales tax redistribution, and a bill allowing providers to have total control of putting communication equipment in right-of-ways. Our meeting lasted a little over half an hour.
Saturday I participated in the ribbon cutting for Midtown Square. Here is an excerpt from my remarks that I spoke from:
“… Cutting the ribbon to this project today is a testament of what great redevelopment looks like in our downtown. It is wonderful to see all the active downtown redevelopment projects which is making our downtown more of a destination area. And there is more to come, especially with our downtown park which is now opened and has several activities already planned. Multiple people are already taking in the view of the fountain, the activity center, and just enjoying a day downtown.
While learning about this development, I came across a neat fact about the midtown logo – the locomotive. As we come up on our incorporation date of April 3, 1871, it is important to note that without the train, Cary would not be here. The Midtown logo is a representation of the Cary Train that will be revealed later this year with the year of our incorporation date, 1871, reflected on the locomotive. So stay tuned for another celebration when the Town welcomes the locomotive online.
In closing I would like to thank the Jordan Family, Jordan Gussenhoven and George Jordan, for their commitment to downtown. …”
The town manager’s report this week included:
Council/Staff Retreat Report
We have put together the Council/Staff Retreat Report, which is the first step in reporting our process on the issues and ideas discussed at the retreat. The document includes a look back at the retreat sessions, shares Council’s list of priorities, and provides some next steps to guide our future progress. We are interested in finding out if these high level summaries of the different sessions, as well as the list of Council priorities, match what you heard and syncs with your recollection of our conversations.
Town Hall Day
Lana, Allison and I joined Council member Jennifer Robinson at the NC League of Municipalities Town Hall Day at the General Assembly on Wednesday. Town Hall Day hosts elected officials and managers from across the state to speak to legislators about issues important to municipalities. Similar to last year, Lana organized a Wake County delegation luncheon to provide a convenient space for all delegates to meet with their municipal partners. Staff and elected officials from Morrisville, Holly Springs, Knightdale, Wake Forest and Zebulon participated. We were able to interact with Senators Alexander and Chaudhuri, and Representatives Adcock, Holley, John and Williams at the luncheon. Members of our group also had the opportunity to speak with Senator Barringer and Representative Dollar.
School of Government Kick Off
On Wednesday evening, the 14th School of Government class, made up of a diverse group of 26 Cary citizens, convened for the introductory session. The participants first got to hear from almost all Council members about how important it is to have engaged citizens and provided background to the class on how they first got involved with Town government. Then, I had the opportunity to play professor and teach about our Council-Manager form of government and share my views on the role of local government. Chris Simpson provided context from the Town Attorneys Office and facts around topics like open meeting laws. Ginny Johnson closed the evening with prizes and information about the Town Clerk’s role supporting Council and managing the Town’s Hillcrest Cemetery.
Supporting the STOP ACT
Assistant Police Chief Tracy Jernigan accompanied the president of the Association of Police Chiefs, Mike Yaniero (Jacksonville PD) to the Attorney General’s Office on Thursday in support of the STOP Bill that is before the legislature. This bill would be great legislation to begin addressing the opioid issue in North Carolina. The AG, Josh Stein, specifically asked if Cary PD could attend since we had done some media on the issue as well as specifically referenced Cary in his comments.
Google Fiber Install at USA Baseball
On Tuesday, Google’s Gigabit Fiber Service was installed at the USA Baseball National Training Complex at Thomas Brooks Park. This service provides high speed internet connectivity for facility and USA Baseball staff. It also offers video streaming capabilities for events and the foundation for public Wi-Fi service. Cary was selected to be the first municipality to test out this new service offering.
Regional Assistance During Water Main Break Response
Earlier this week, staff responded to two separate water main breaks along Waldo Rood Boulevard. Both breaks occurred along a major water transmission main and temporarily shut down sections of a 30-inch and 36-inch main for repair operations. This resulted in a bottleneck in the water system that substantially reduced our ability to adequately supply water to meet the demands of the Central Pressure Zone.
Cary staff called upon Raleigh to provide water under our mutual aid agreement. Raleigh staff responded within 30 minutes of the call and immediately worked to implement a water transfer to Cary through the Trinity Road Pump Station. During the repair, Raleigh supplied approximately 6.5 million gallons of water to the Central Pressure Zone of Cary.
Cary also called upon assistance from Holly Springs, which has an interconnection with Cary’s Southern Pressure Zone. Cary staff recently tested the Holly Springs interconnection by sending water to Holly Springs. This week, Cary and Holly Springs reversed the flow direction and Holly Springs sent approximately 1.4 million gallons to Cary during the repair operations.
We are very thankful for our interconnections with neighboring utilities and especially grateful to our neighbors who provided both timely and vital assistance to us during these critical water main repair operations.
TCAP Meeting Debrief
At their meeting on Wednesday, the Transit Planning Advisory Committee (TPAC) voted to release the Wake County Transit Plan (WCTP) Master Participation Agreement for local governing board consideration. The Master Participation Agreement is a long-term agreement between all regional partners that documents the high level ground rules for implementation of the Plan and will allow participation in Plan revenues. This action now permits each WCTP partner to bring the Agreement to their governing board for review and this will be a staff report for Council in the near future.
Downtown Park Conditional Certificate of Occupancy
Last Friday, the Town received conditional certificate of occupancy and therefore substantial completion of the Downtown Park. Additional site amenities are at the warehouse and are scheduled for installation by Public Works now that we are at this stage. With the conditional CO in hand and given how many people are out there enjoying it, wanted to let you know that staff will be getting together to plan the celebration event being sure to set it on a day when all Council members are available. Look for information in the next few weeks from Ginny.
Annual Water Disinfection Change Coming to an End
The annual water disinfection change that is conducted each March is coming to an end. The disinfection change to free chlorine combined with extensive water system flushing of the Town’s 1,035 miles of water system pipelines is an important part of the Town’s comprehensive water system maintenance program. The Cary/Apex Water Treatment Facility will resume normal disinfection starting on Monday, April 3.
I’d like to give a pat on the back to everyone involved in this week’s water main break repair operations. We work with amazing professionals who executed a quick response by setting up a command center and mobilizing the technical expertise in the field. It took a coordinated ONECary effort with leadership from Utilities, Public Works, Fire, and PIO. Thanks to everyone’s work, we can say that not a single citizen lost water throughout the break and subsequent repairs. Huge accomplishment!
And over the past week we experienced a number of notable retirements. We’d like to recognize the career and dedication of Jeff Ulma, Planning Director; Ray Boylston, Transit Services Administrator; Assistant Police Chief Scott Davis, and Houston Hinton, Solid Waste Division.
Staff’s February Construction and Activity report, Planning and Development report, and construction activity report included the following interesting notes:
- The average square footage was 4140 square feet compared to 3903 square feet in 2013.
- Cary had 14.1% of the county’s single family permits which was 2nd to Raleigh which had 22%.
- Cary’s permits were up 97% from the previous month
- 3 development plans were approved and included a storage facility, a church expansion, and a sidewalk connection.
Emails from citizens this week included:
- An email campaign complaining about smoking in public places.
- An email campaign complaining about not supporting the Atlantic Coast pipeline (not a town function – we have a policy not to get involved in political matters unless is has a direct impact on us and 100% of the council supports thee action)
- Compliments on the downtown fountain.
- A complaint about the bridge at Bond Park Lake (already scheduled for repair).
- A complaint about the intersection of Yates Store Road and Carpenter Fire Station Road (This is a state intersection and state roads. We are working with them on possible improvements).
- A request and complaint that we won’t make a public statement against a house bill to cap school size (again not a town function and would take all the council to take such an action).
Well, that is all for this week. I will spend the next week on vacation in Augusta, Georgia. My next post will be on Sunday, April 16th. 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.