Harold’s Blog: Tobacco Road, Reading on the Radio, Open Space and Red Light Cams

From the blog of Cary Mayor Harold Weinbrecht, covering the week through April 3, 2011.

This week was a full week with dinners, meetings, and events.

Rained Out Golf and Tobacco Road Marathon

Monday I was supposed to participate in the Grace Christian School charity golf tournament at Prestonwood. Unfortunately, the weather did not cooperate. At the time I was putting on my rain suit and preparing to leave it was sleeting and raining. Fortunately, I received a phone call that the tournament had been postponed a week. While I was glad I didn’t have to play in the damp and cold, I was sad because I won’t be able to play on the rescheduled date next Monday.

Monday night I attended a recognition dinner for the sponsors and volunteers of the Tobacco Road Marathon. This year was the second year for this event and it sold out months in advance. There were over 4,000 participants in this race. One participant actually walked the marathon (it took him around eight hours).

The economic benefits for this event really helped Cary. In addition to filling up hotel rooms and restaurants, we were able to showcase a Cary event to people from all over the United States and twelve different countries. According to estimates from the Greater Raleigh Visitors and Conventions Bureau it was around ¼ million dollars in benefits. Organizers of the race estimate it closer to ½ million. Either way it was a great boost for the town.

This event is another great fit with Cary’s amateur sports theme.

Money Matters – Hotel/Motel Taxes, Possible EMS Consolidation

Tuesday I met with the town manager and Mayor Pro-Tem Robison for about an hour. We discussed the hotel/motel tax revenues and several items of interest from the National Conference recently attended by Ms. Robison. Later Tuesday I had a private meeting for about an hour and a half.

Wednesday I met with Chief Cohen of Cary EMS, a Cary EMS board member, the fire chief, the town manager, and the assistant town manager. Chief Cohen explained that Wake County, who contracts with Cary EMS, wants to have consolidated billing.

While Chief Cohen is in favor of consolidated billing he is worried that this is the first step to county wide EMS consolidation. Cary EMS is strong financially and has been for quite some time. Other EMS units throughout the county are not so lucky.

The concern is that the Cary EMS financial strength would be used in a consolidated effort to boost those that are not doing as well. This may cause issues especially when considering capital costs such as engine replacements for an ambulance. The reason Chief Cohen called the meeting was to ask for our continued support and to support them in opposing a consolidation effort if it occurs.

We said we would love to support him but wanted to get the other side of the issue from the county manager first.

Reading for Triangle Radio Reading Service

Wednesday night I was a guest reader at Triangle Reading Service. The Triangle Radio Reading Service allows people who are blind and print impaired to be able to hear current information that is important in everyday life. The service provides a radio to those in need for a small charge. In addition, reading of news and other programming is provided from local volunteers. I was a reader from 6:30 to 8:00 along with two regular volunteers. We read various parts of the USA Today including news, politics, opinions, sports, and interesting facts. I had a wonderful time and was blessed to have this experience.

Leaders Convene to Protect Open Space

Thursday night a meeting was held by the Triangle Land Conservancy that included me, Mayor Meeker of Raleigh, Mayor Bell of Durham, Orange Water and Sewer Authority Board Chairman Gordon Merklein, former Raleigh mayor Thomas Bradshaw, Conservation Trust for North Carolina Executive Director Reid Wilson, Eno River Association Executive Director Robin Jacobs, Triangle Land Conservancy President Kevin Brice, and Triangle Land Conservancy Board member Bill Holman.

The Triangle Land Conservancy’s mission is “to protect important open space-stream corridors, forests, wildlife habitat, farmland and natural areas-in Chatham, Durham, Johnston, Lee, Orange and Wake counties to help keep our region a healthy and vibrant place to live and work.” So it was no surprise that the focus of the discussion was water quality and protection measures. Raleigh’s mayor Meeker suggested that a small portion of utility bills be set aside to help purchase easements to protect streams going into the drinking water supplies at both Lake Jordan and Falls Lake. This was well received by all in attendance and we agreed to pursue next steps. In Cary, money is transferred from the Utility fund each year to the General fund for the purpose of open space. We might consider earmarking a small amount of that fund for this purpose.

Once I get more information I will propose it to the council.

Weekend

I spent the weekend in Asheville visiting my oldest daughter who did her senior reading of an excerpt from her senior thesis (a major milestone toward her graduation in May).

The Center for Volunteer Caregiving

In addition to emails each week I often receive letters. One letter this week was from The Center for Volunteer Caregiving. The Center for Volunteer Caregiving is a private, nonprofit, faith based organization formed in 1992. Their mission is to provide volunteer services to help Wake County seniors, family caregivers, and adults with disabilities maintain independence, dignity and quality of life. It is a fantastic organization and I can’t say enough about them. People are frequently asking me for ways to volunteer in Cary. This is a way to have a huge impact. Here is one example they sent in their letter:

“Mr. W, is a 90-year-old man, who lives alone in his trailer in an unincorporated part of Wake County. He relies on escorted transportation from The Center for all his medical appointments. Due to failing eyesight and mobility issues he uses a walker in his home and a wheelchair outside his home environment. Mr. W is considered part of the “frail elderly”, and currently 65% of our care receivers are over the age of 70. The Mr. W’s in Wake County can’t just hop on the bus to get to the doctor. If they do not have family and friends they must rely on volunteers to help.”

For more information about The Center for Volunteer Caregiving go to http://www.VolunteerCaregiving.org.

E-Mails: Robberies and Red Light Cams FAQs

Emails this week included one that had a threaded discussion about someone’s home being burglarized. One comment from the victim sums it up:

“Cary is a wonderful, safe place to live, but this just shows you that we have to be aware and extra diligent at all times.”

Amen! I am sorry for her loss but I am glad she understands that it takes all of us working together to prevent crime.

Another email this week was an answer to an inquiry about the town’s red light cameras. Here are some of the questions and answers:

•How much money goes to administration of the program?
$8,872 for Town of Cary administration expenses in FY2010.

•How much money goes to the school fund?
$183,304 for Wake County Public Schools in FY2010.

•How much money goes to the camera companies who provide the red light cameras?
Net of $842,806 for FY2010.  Redflex collected a total of $1,034,983 and from that total, $192,177 was paid to the Town of Cary. From Cary’s $192,177, $8,872 was used for administration costs, and $183,304 was paid to Wake County Public Schools.

•What is the is/are the red light camera company(ies) Cary uses?
Redflex

•Does Cary have an agreement with the school board regarding the disbursement of funds that may be different from other municipalities?
The Town of Cary does not have an agreement with school board regarding the disbursement of funds.

The Town of Cary’s informational page regarding the program:

http://www.townofcary.org/Departments/Police_Department/Red_Light_Signal_Cameras.htm

Other emails this week included complaints about the proposed apartments at Tryon and Cary Parkway, a compliment on the naming of the Cary Arts Center, a complaint about a permit for a pool, and a complaint about proposed legislation to have guns in parks.

With the exception of Monday, I will be on vacation next week in Augusta, Georgia.

Well that is all for this week. My next post will be on Sunday, April 10th. Please feel free to email me with a comment. Email all Town of Cary questions or comments to Harold.Weinbrecht@townofcary.org. Email personal comments to augustanat@mindspring.com.

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