harold-0918

Harold’s Blog: Water Water Everywhere

From the blog of Cary Mayor Harold Weinbrecht, covering the week through September 18, 2011. In compliance with North Carolina election law, CaryCitizen has edited Harold’s Blog this week if necessary to omit any campaign-related references. You can read Harold’s Blog in its complete form at http://haroldweinbrecht.com. Photo by Hal Goodtree.

Cary, NC – As I predicted last week, this week was a busy one for me.

Highcroft Elementary

It started Monday morning with a visit to Highcroft Elementary. I had the joy of addressing the entire second grade class and answering their questions. Some of the questions I remember included:

  • What do you do to help the community?
  • What is your favorite law?
  • What is the best part of being mayor?
  • What is the hardest part of being mayor?
  • Do I have any pets?
  • What is my favorite food?
  • What is my favorite restaurant?
  • What is my favorite ice cream?

It was a great time and a lot of fun. After the question session I had my picture made with each class.

Open Space

Later in the day I did a phone interview with the Independent. They are interested in doing a story about the Triangle Land Conservancy and their involvement in buying land to protect water quality. They wanted to know what Cary is doing. Currently Cary puts aside $1 million a year for open space.

Great Staff, Development Fees

Tuesday I met with the town manager to go over several issues. One issue in particular could have been a crisis but our great staff managed the issue and everything is fine. Cary is blessed to have the greatest staff in the state.

Tuesday evening the council held a work session on the Land Dedication Ordinance. Within the last year or so Cary received authority from the state legislature to implement a fee on new multi-family developments for parks and recreation purposes. This development fee was already charged to single family developers and it was only fair to charge the multi-family developments. It is important to note that development fees are fees charged to developers to cover the impact their development will have on a particular resource, in this case parks. If this fee is not paid for by developers then the burden falls to the taxpayers. The lack of fees would result in fewer parks and/or higher taxes.

The council discussed a variety of options in the work session and decided to charge multi-family developers 65% of the average of what is charged to single family developers. The justification was that, on average, multi-family residents use parks less than single family residents. This decision to propose this fee will now go to public hearing in the next month or so.

Planning and Development: Application Process

Thursday I participated in the Planning and Development meeting. We had one item for discussion. A developer next to Weycroft pulled their application for a Land Use Amendment. As a result they would have a one year waiting period before they can resubmit. The developer was asking for a waiver from that requirement. The adjoining neighbors said that this was because there was a valid protest petition which means that 6 out of 7 council members would have to vote yes to approve. The committee recommended denial to the council and recommended that the applicant continue to work with the neighbors. If he can work out his differences then he is encouraged to apply for a waiver again.

Styx

Friday I attended the Styx concert at the Booth Amphitheater. I thought it was a great concert. It looked like around 3000 were in attendance despite the weather. Styx gave a good show and played all their hits. I was surprised how strong their vocals were. I also had the privilege of talking with several Cary citizens.

ITT Technical Institute, Tiger Rock, Reuse Rodeo, Turkish Night

Saturday was a very busy day for me. I started with a tour and meeting at the local campus of ITT Technical Institute in Cary. Based on my tour, conversations, and talks with students they meet a need that most colleges don’t. While the traditional colleges’ end focus is the degree, ITT’s focus is on the job itself. While they have associate and bachelor’s degrees the attraction is a good paying job. The ITT campus in Cary has four schools: information technology, electronic technology, drafting and design, and criminal justice.

My second event on Saturday was the Grand Opening of the new location for Tiger Rock Martial Arts. This is run by the husband and wife team, the Johnsons. In addition to teaching martial arts, they have a strong emphasis on community service. Some of their students have done amazing things in Cary and surrounding areas. To find out more about this great business visit http://tkdcary.com/. Visit their blog and see all the wonderful things being done in Cary by some of the youngest students.

Next I went to the Cary’s Reuse Rodeo on James Jackson being sponsored by the town and Triangle Reuse Alliance. Local non-profit organizations, such as Dorcas ministries, were onsite accepting gently used clothing, shoes, toys, small appliances, furniture, home decorations and art supplies. I talked to Cary’s new conservation specialist, Sarah Justice, who promises to have more of these events. I was also able to visit and talk with the volunteers including several youth from Green Hope High School. Cary is blessed to have so many volunteers. That is why we are one of the greatest places to live in the United States.

My final event on Saturday was the Turkish Night of Expressions in Music and Dance at the Cary Arts Center. What a show! I was fortunate to be able to hear and see traditional Turkish music and dance from professionals and local artists. It’s events like this that help keep our community strong and successful as we get to know the values, experiences, and talents that each of us offers.

Sunday School and Teen Korps

I started Sunday teaching Sunday School at my church. Afterwards I was able to say a few words and hand out awards at the Teen Korps Annual Awards Ceremony. This chapter once again led the nation for the number of hours in the President’s Volunteer Service Awards. In the past year they had 96 teens representing 19 schools completed 1830 hours in over 20 philanthropies. In the 7 years of their existence they have performed over 12,000 service hours in Cary. God Bless Them!

Water Line Break

There was a lot of information passed from staff this week. The most important of which addressed a significant water line break. Here is an excerpt from the news release:

CARY, NC – After discovering a leak on a portion of a major 42-inch water line near Highway 55 and Jenks Road, the Town of Cary and the Town of Apex have activated their contingency plans to maintain an adequate water supply and meet customer demand while repairing the line. Town crews have taken the leaking water line out of service and rerouted water through an existing 30-inch water line in the system. The towns are also making arrangements to purchase water as needed from the cities of Raleigh and Durham to supplement the current water supply until the repair is completed. Work on the line is underway and is expected to continue through mid-October. …

While no new restrictions have been put in place, utility customers in Cary, Apex, Morrisville and RTP South are reminded to follow year-round watering ordinances, including the Alternate Day Watering (ADW) Ordinance. In following ADW, water customers with odd-numbered street addresses can water outdoors using automated devices such as sprinklers and irrigation systems only on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. Customers with even-numbered street addresses may water outdoors using sprinklers and irrigation systems only on Wednesdays, Fridays, and Sundays. No one may use outdoor automated devices–including sprinklers–on Mondays. Handwatering and using drip irrigation is okay any day of the week. …

Cary and Apex will temporarily buy 3.5 million gallons a day from Durham and 5 million gallons a day from Raleigh. This will give us 27.5 million gallons a day to meet peak demand.

Cary’s New Water Meters

There was also information from staff to counteract misinformation about Cary’s new water meters. Here are the facts:

Financial:
The capital budget for the project is 17.9 million.  Over the life of the project, we expect that the Town will save $27.5 million, resulting in lower utility rates for all customers.  No tax dollars will be used to fund this utility project.

The savings will be derived from the immediate elimination of 10 positions and the vehicles that are currently assigned to read meters. And over the next 17 years, it eliminates the need to hire 6 additional meter readers to accommodate future utility system growth. Due to the fact that drive by systems still require staff, vehicles and the installation of new meters and radios — without providing the advantages of a fixed network system — a drive by option was not deemed a prudent long-term solution for Cary.

Safety and security:
Aquastar does not compromise our citizens’ safety and security. The system only measures the amount of water that has flowed through the meter, so it simply documents water demand in total. Additionally, the system only collects readings once an hour, not by the minute, and transmits that historical data from the meter four times a day.  The data received by the Town does not indicate whether someone is awake, at home, on vacation, or going to bed. Because water can be used at a location when no one is home for an icemaker, a delay start dishwasher, an automated irrigation system, or a leaky toilet, etc, the data does not indicate that someone is home or not.

Radio frequency
While this ad did not raise the issue of radio frequency, there have been questions raised about it. Aquastar meters transmit at 2 watts (2000 milliwatts) of power four times a day at less than one second intervals per transmission.  By comparison, cell phones communicate at .6 watts (600 milliwatts) of power.  At these levels, an individual would have to be very close (a few feet) to the radio on the meter lid and remain there for 24 hours a day for 720 days to equal the radio frequency exposure that one hour of cell phone usage would equal.

The Town’s Aquastar system, both meters and collectors, have been tested, certified, and documented by the Federal Communications Commission to be communicating within the licensed power and frequency levels.

Privacy of information:
Most importantly, this data is not public information and we have designed and implemented a system to provide data security.  The encrypted data that is being sent from the meter to the Town is the same data that can be obtained by simply lifting the meter lid at any individual property. We are not installing smart meters. Unlike smart meters used by electric utilities, the Aquastar meter has no ability to communicate with appliances or plumbing fixtures in your home.

Consumer benefits:
Another goal of the project is to provide our customers with timely information that will allow them to make better decisions about their water consumption. The system enhances our ability to quickly detect water that is leaking within the home. Even during Aquastar implementation, the system has identified hoses that were left running in the backyard, leaking water heaters, and on a daily basis we are helping customers better understand their water demand. The historical flow data has allowed our customer service staff to determine the number of gallons used during a “leak” event and to accurately bill customers, with credit amounts ranging from a few dollars to a few hundred dollars.

Opt Out:
Staff carefully examined individual customers “opting out” of the Aquastar project. If even a few customers were allowed to opt out, it would decrease the Town’s ability to quickly detect leaks within the customer’s home, decrease billing accuracy, and increase overall costs to all utility customers. Staff does not believe there are compelling arguments to opt out. To maintain the council-approved outcomes of Aquastar, all utility customers will receive an Aquastar meter. (This is similar to our approach a few years ago with the Town’s rollout cart program)
The official fact sheet for Aquastar can be found at: http://www.townofcary.org/Departments/Engineering/utilities/Water_Projects/Aquastar.htm

Fitness

Staff also provided information about Cary’s Gold Level designation as a fit community and what we are doing as a town to promote fitness:

NC Health and Wellness Trust Fund’s Fit Community initiative is a designation and grants program that promotes a holistic community-based approach to addressing obesity in the state. Designation awards recognize North Carolina communities’ current and ongoing efforts to support physical activity, healthy eating and tobacco use prevention initiatives in communities, schools and workplaces. A gold-level designation notes outstanding achievements in supporting healthy lifestyles across all key environments.  To receive the designation we completed a self-assessment in each of the following areas: Community, Schools, and Workplace.  For each of these areas, an assessment was completed to measure physical activity, healthy eating, and tobacco-use and prevention.  SAS Institute, Inc. was used as the workplace model for our assessment.  In reviewing the Town’s efforts in promoting physical activity, we were able to submit that the Town of Cary offers 370 miles of sidewalks, 25 miles of marked bicycle lanes, 2,400 acres of combined public recreation areas, 13 special use facilities, more than 50 miles of trails and greenways, and more than 2,100 recreation programs promoting physical activity and healthy eating.

There is a lot of information on the Town’s web site about Fitness and Wellness options.  Here is a link….  http://www.townofcary.org/Departments/Parks__Recreation___Cultural_Resources/Programs_and_Classes.htm
You will find information on types of classes we offer, a Fitness calendar, Open gym schedule and information on healthy snacks for youth sports teams.  For the Fall of 2011 we are offering over 110 classes in fitness and wellness, with over 75 of these activities for participants under 18 years of age.  On the web page link you will also find a full copy of the Fall Senior Program brochure will list over 70 fitness programs just for seniors.  Keep in mind this is just for September – December 2011.
We have partnered with Advocates for Health in Action to provide healthy eating information during our Summer Day Camp program targeted at elementary and middle school students.  Through this partnership we have increased the programs we offer on healthy food choices.  For Spring Daze 2011 we implemented a fit concessionaire program in which food vendors were given incentives to offer a healthy option.

Email

Emails this week included a complaint about the police during a traffic stop, a few thanks for our remembrance day for 911, several emails about the Mills property who wants to downzone his property to very low density, and dozens of emails from residents in Weycroft about a developer asking for a waiting period waiver.

Sister City Visit to Ireland

Next week I will be in Ireland on a sister cities visit to County Meath with 16 others from Cary. We will all be paying our own way. I plan to write summaries of the meetings and events often and send them to the Cary media. I am not sure if any of it will be printed. If not, you can read it all on my blog next week.

Well that is all for this week. My next post will be on Sunday, September 25th. 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.