harolds-blog-1218

Harold’s Blog: Busy Week, Prepping for 2012

From the blog of Cary Mayor Harold Weinbrecht, covering the week through December 18, 2011. Photo of Gurkan’s holiday-decorated Mercedes by Hal Goodtree.

Cary, NC – This was a busy week with meetings, events, and dinners.

Monday

Monday started with the agenda call to all council members, and council-elect, to see if they had any questions or issues with the upcoming agenda for Thursday’s meeting. I was able to contact all council members except Robinson.

At the agenda meeting we mostly went over the meeting process since there will be the oath of office for four of us. We also talked about a few issues that were raised by council members. The town attorney noted that we will have five items in closed session. Based on all of this my prediction for the conclusion of the meeting is 11:30.

Too Many Lawsuits

After the agenda meeting I met with the town attorney to go over current issues and lawsuits. Based on recent legislation, filing a lawsuit against a municipality has been made easier. This means that legal expenses for all towns will increase. This is very disappointing since many lawsuits may be frivolous.

Mayors and Town Managers Meet

Tuesday started with a meeting of the Western Wake Partners Policy Advisory Committee (PAC). This committee is made up of the mayors and town managers of Apex, Morrisville, and Cary. We are responsible for making decisions related to the Western Wake Wastewater Treatment Facility. The only decisions at this meeting were to approve a construction contract and to delay decisions on others and to delay an interlocal agreement. We will address the delayed items at our next meeting.

After the PAC meeting I met with the town manager and the staff member in charge of the council/staff retreat in January. Our main focus was how to structure the team building portion of the retreat. Based on our discussion we will probably have a two hour session on Friday morning of the retreat. But of course that is subject to change at this stage.

Tribute to Meeker

Later Tuesday I attended a reception for outgoing Raleigh Mayor Meeker at the Raleigh Convention Center. The event was very well attended and included former elected officials and current elected officials.

I was able to talk with several including Mayor Bell from Durham, Mayor Killen from Knightdale, and several members from Raleigh council and chamber. Several people spoke before Meeker including representatives from his law firm. The Convention Center ballroom was named after Meeker and artwork was commissioned by his partners. In addition, a plaque will be installed in the lobby.

It was a fitting event for the longest serving elected official of Raleigh. He also tied for the longest serving mayor. I enjoyed working with Meeker over the years and he will be missed.

Cary and D.C.

Wednesday night I had a dinner meeting with representatives from the Ferguson group, our federal lobbyists from Washington D.C., our town manager, and our staff liaison to state and federal governments. We discussed the ongoing climate in Washington and how it will impact our ability to receive grants as we have in the past.

Last year we spent most of our visit in Washington visiting granting agencies which we believe was very beneficial. This coming February we will likely use the same strategy. Our goal is simple. Bring more of our tax dollars back to Cary.

Representatives from the Ferguson group will be part of our council/staff retreat in January and will help with how to best interact with state and federal officials.

Forecast for Cary Economic Climate: Flurries Now Mild Later

Thursday started with a meeting of the Economic Development Governing board. In attendance were the Chamber President, the Chamber Chair, the Chamber Vice President of Economic Development, the town manager, the budget director, mayor pro-tem Robison, council member Robinson, and me.

They reported a “flurry” of economic development activity but warned that next year would probably be slower because election years are usually slower. The also reported that our vacancy rates for Class A office was about 12% (7% or less is desirable) adding that Class A office was leasing at Class B rates.

The quarterly report given by the Chamber Vice President of Economic Development included the following:

  • Epic games last launch of an application sold for $2.99 and generated $20 million in revenue. Their newest application is $6.99 and is expected to generate much more.
  • SmallHD, that makes High definition monitors and viewfinders, noted they were moving to MacGregor Park and employ 40 individuals.
  • A biopharmaceutical project is expected to invest $80 million in Cary. They will employ at least 125 individuals making an average of $90,000 a year.
  • KeneXa Corporation, which provides employment and retention services, is signing two additional leasing contracts in Weston and will bring 100 additional jobs.
  • The “Factory”, which is a sports and retail venue in Wake Forest, is looking to open a similar facility in Cary. It would be a 100,000 square foot facility on 30 acres.
  • Overall office vacancy is 15% with class A at 12%. Retail vacancy rates are at 11%
  • For the 13th consecutive year Cary has been named one of the nation’s safest municipalities with a ranking of 3rd.
  • Cary’s unemployment rate at the end of October was 5.7% compared to 7.7% in Wake County, 8.4% in RTP, 10.5% in North Carolina, and 9.0% in the rest of the United States.

Oaths

Later Thursday I attended a reception for the newly elected council members at the Page Walker. It was a well-attended event with several past and current elected officials and many supporters. I was honored to be able to talk with former Mayor Harold Ritter and his wife. The event lasted about an hour and then all of us headed over to the council chambers to prepare for the meeting that includes the oath of office.

Before the meeting, each group doing the oath of office practiced and signed all legal documents. Once the council meeting started I recognized current and past officials and then called on members to take the oath one at a time.

Council member Adcock went first, followed by council member Frantz, then me, and then newly elected council member Bush.

I had the privilege of being given the oath by the honorable mayor of Morrisville, Jack Holcombe. This was special especially since we have known each other since our adult daughters were in pre-school. It was also nice since I gave her oath two years before.

Others giving the oath included Justice Hudson for council member Adcock, Town Clerk Roland for council member Frantz, and Secretary of State Marshall for council member Bush. After the swearing in ceremony we took a 10 minute break before beginning our regularly scheduled council meeting.

Adcock

The December council meetings is usually one of our longest and by that standard, it was a relatively short meeting ending around 10:30. It was a full agenda starting with the election of the Mayor Pro-Tem.

Mrs. Adcock was nominated by council member Frantz, seconded by former Mayor Pro-Tem Robison, and unanimously elected by the council.

Mrs. Robison served four years as Mayor Pro-Tem attending numerous meetings on the town’s behalf. She did a fantastic job and I am so very proud of her. It will be difficult to fill her shoes.

Appointments

The next part of the meeting was the mayor’s appointments of council members to various positions within and outside Cary. I worked on these appointments for weeks to try and create more of a balance for council members.

Notable appointments include Mr. Frantz as the Chairman of the town’s Planning and Development committee and Mrs. Robinson as Chairman of the town’s Operations committee. I also asked that council allow an additional appointment to the Economic Development Governing Board which was approved. That board will now include Mrs. Robinson, Mr. Smith, and me. The rest of the appointments were liaisons to boards and commissions and were as follows:

  • Mrs. Bush to Citizen Issue Review Committee
  • Mr. Smith to Economic Development
  • Mrs. Robison to Environmental
  • Mrs. Bush to Information Services
  • Mr. Frantz to Parks, Recreation, and Cultural Resources
  • Mrs. Adcock to Planning and Zoning
  • Mrs. Robinson to Public Art
  • Mr. Frantz to Town Center
  • Mr. Smith to Zoning Board of Adjustment

The appointments to liaison positions outside the town were divided up so that no one council member would have such a heavy load as Ms. Robison did the last four years. These appointments were as follows:

  • Mrs. Robison, Mrs. Robinson, and Mrs. Bush to Chatham County/Cary Joint committee
  • Mrs. Robinson, Mrs. Adcock, and myself to Morrisville/Cary Joint committee
  • I with Mrs. Adcock as alternate to Transportation Advisory Committee
  • Mrs. Adcock to the Metropolitan Coalition
  • Mrs. Robinson with Mrs. Robison as alternate to Triangle J Governing Board of Delegates
  • Mrs. Robison with Mr. Smith as alternate to Triangle J Development and Infrastructure Partnership
  • Mr. Smith with Mrs. Robison as alternate to Triangle J Center of Region Enterprise
  • Mrs. Robison with Mr. Smith as alternate to Triangle J Water Resources Advisory Committee
  • Mr. Frantz with Mrs. Bush as alternate to Triangle J Smart Growth Committee
  • I with Mrs. Adcock as alternate to Triangle Area Mayors Group
  • Mr. Smith to Greater Raleigh Convention and Visitors Bureau
  • Mrs. Robinson with Mrs. Adcock as alternate to Tri-Map (Triangle Mobility Partnership)
  • Mrs. Robinson with Mrs. Adcock as alternate to Wake County Regional Elected Officials Transit Roundtable
  • Mr. Smith and Mr. Frantz to Wake County Growth Issues Task Force
  • Mr. Frantz to Friends of the Page Walker Board of Directors
  • Mr. Smith to Sister Cities Association

Employee of the Year

Next in our meeting was the recognition of Cary’s Employee of the year. This year Police Officer Tony Melendez was the recipient. He has done a fantastic job receiving accolades from citizens. Congratulations Tony.

Annexations, Rezonings, and Development

The meeting also included several public hearings including annexations, rezonings, and land development amendments. A quasi-judicial hearing was held for a site plan on the old Austin Food site off Chatham Street. The main concerns seem to focus on the soil contamination. Council approved the request. The council also approved the sidewalk list which includes:

A. SE Cary Parkway from Kildaire Farm Commercial Park to Seabrook Avenue – $59,200
B. W. Chatham Street-missing gap at 404 W. Chatham Street – $6,260
C. SE Cary Parkway from Coorsdale Drive to Thursdale Drive – $82,380
D. Bissett Drivefrom Farmington Woods Drive to High Meadow Drive – $55,388
E. Westhigh Street from Tussled Ivy Way to Westwood Baptist Church – $24,420
F. Queensferry Road (Phase IV) from Govan Lane to Glasgow Road – $153,850
G. McCrimmon Parkwayfrom Twin Lakes Drive to Davis Drive – $78,100

There were four council initiated requests from council. Three directed staff to come back with information and recommendations. Those included:

  • Tethering of dogs
  • Trap, Neuter, and Return of Cats
  • Fracking in Cary

The fourth item which would join Raleigh in removing the Cary Parkway extension from the Comprehensive Transportation Plan was directed to the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization to study. My preference was to have this removed from the transportation plan for several reasons:

  • It would better serve the region closer to Penny Road
  • Raleigh as requested the majority of the road be removed
  • Its purpose would mostly funnel traffic through Cary to and from Raleigh which would not benefit Cary as much as Raleigh.

The council also addressed an employee incentive program proposal. Staff will come back to us with more information on this at our January meeting.

Friday and Saturday Events

Friday I attended a retirement ceremony for the doctor that has been looking out for me for over 10 years. What is special about this doctor is that he not only prescribed medicine but took time and did research to figure out why certain things happened to me. He is responsible for a vitamin regiment I use that has doubled my energy. I wish all doctors were as dedicated as he.

Friday night my wife and I attended the Holiday Suite performance of the International Ballet Company. The talent of these kids was amazing and it was a great show. I understand that these kids practice over 20 hours a week and some of them are homeschooled to allow for more practice. They really help put Cary on the map when it comes to the performing arts. I look forward to attending their next performance.

Saturday I attended two Christmas parties. Both were great parties including one at Wake County Commissioner Portman’s house where we sang Christmas carols.

Emails: Lower Grants, Goose Busters

In emails this week, staff reported that they received a rather data-heavy email from HUD regarding our CDBG (Community Development Block Grant) allocation for next year. HUD incorporated the 2010 Census information into an allocation formula. Cary’s share has increased by about 4% compared to other entitlement cities. Most of the increase is due to a relative increase in persons living in poverty and an increase in pre-1940’s housing. Allocations to the CDBG program for 2012 are expected to be down by 11% over current year figures. The net effect of our increase in share, and the decrease in CDBG allocations, is that our CDBG grant for next year is expected to fall from $452,429 (FFY 2011) to $420,150 (FFY 2012), a net decline of 7.1%.

In other emails I received a solicitation from Goose Busters III. This business uses border collies to chase away geese which I think is an interesting idea.

Emails from citizens included a complaint about the noise and odor at the dump, the need for a traffic light at the Whitebridge subdivision, a complaint about town information on a sewer hookup, and a request to exclude a portion of Lochmere from the town’s leash law.

Next week slows down as we approach the Christmas Holidays. I have a few more luncheons and dinners to go along with a couple of meetings and the taping of the State of the Town.

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