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Harold’s Blog: Traffic Light Errors and the 2013 Budget

Cary, NC – It was another busy week in the office of the Mayor.

Red Light Camera Errors

Monday started with several inquiries from the media about Cary’s red light camera system. Cary’s system is under review by staff since 31 errors were discovered because of incorrect citations on flashing yellow left turns. The following is the information to date on the system:

  • Cary has 17 cameras total at 15 different intersections (some intersections have more than one)
  • Cary has turned off eight cameras with left turns because of the latest malfunction
  • The issue with the 31 incorrect citations has been resolved. 12 never received the tickets and 19 were dismissed or refunded.
  • After the investigation has been completed this summer, council will have the option to: 1) leave the system as is, 2) change the system, or 3) eliminate the system

I prefer to make my decisions and give my opinions once all information has been provided. However, it will be a challenge to keep running the red light program the way it is currently running.

Honor a Teacher

Later Monday, I attended the Cary Chamber’s Honor a Teacher Program that recognizes teachers that go above and beyond the call of duty. There were over 130 teachers nominated for 27 awards. Council member Smith and I presented two awards.

The first Civic Education award went to Carolyn Dalecki of Cedar Fork Elementary. The second Civic Education award went to Joe Nixon of Mills Park Elementary. God Bless all the teachers and nominees for answering the call to educate our kids and shape our future.

2013 Cary Budget

Tuesday was a long day for me. Our first work session on the 2013 fiscal year budget started in the afternoon and went well into the night. The proposed budget has no tax increase and no new debt. Council will hold another work session on the budget after public hearings on May 24th and June 14th. Highlights I noted from the budget included:

  • A total budget of $232 million with no tax increase
  • One penny on our tax rate is equivalent to $2.1 million
  • An operating budget of $118 million which is a 2.7% increase
  • A capital budget increase of 4.9%. Note: staff recommended delaying many vehicle replacements.
  • General fund revenues increased 2.6%
  • Debt service is down $725,000 which leaves us with a capacity of $150 million using our 15% cap. A referendum this fall will ask for $80 million.
  • The town’s health costs were $14 million. The town covers over 80% of employee health costs.
  • Seven new employees are proposed this year which would give the town 1167 employees or 8.2 employees per thousand residents. This is one of the lowest in the state.
  • One detective will be hired this year with drug forfeiture money. The town is expected to have $700,000 in total forfeiture money this year.
  • There will be a 6% increase in utility rates. Most of that increase is to pay for construction of the Western Wake Wastewater facility.

The council also discussed several issues including grant matching for Black Creek Greenway, a study for a safety town in downtown, and whether or not to keep $25,000 in the budget for community gardens. It was decided that these issues will be addressed after public hearings. After the public hearings we will have all requests for modifications to the budget and will make a decision then. The council did make some key decisions at the work session that included:

  • Approval of a new sewer impact fee schedule that will be based on actual use rather than tables in the N.C. Administrative Code. This will result in much lower fees and an estimated loss in revenue of around $500,000.
  • Approval to continue with studying “unique” road improvement alternatives for Cary Parkway and High House. The town has received a $700,000 grant to study initiatives such as the jug handle intersection that was vehemently opposed by residents about a year ago. But continuing a study would keep the grant funding until the council makes a decision about what to do with future road improvements at that intersection.
  • Likewise the council approved two roundabouts in downtown on Chatham Street because of a $700,000 grant. The total cost of both of those roundabouts will be around $2 million. Construction will begin in October.

After going over the budget the council went into closed session to discuss the performance of our direct reports: the town manager, town attorney, and town clerk. We reviewed and summarized their performance and made decisions on merit pay. This will be part of the budget and will be made public then. The council also makes decisions on its own pay. We will not have a pay increase or an expense increase.

CAMPO

On Wednesday I attended a meeting of the Capital Metropolitan Planning Organization Transportation Advisory Committee which is referred to as CAMPO. Actions taken that are of the most interest to Cary include:

  • Moving ahead with a study of the NC54 corridor. Mayor Holcombe wanted presented information on the web. I offered Cary’s web site as a host.
  • The Wake Transit Financial Plan has been completed. They are now receiving feedback from staff of the municipalities making up CAMPO.
  • CAMPO staff presented information which would expand the organization north and south including Clayton.
  • A resolution giving “unwavering support” for the construction of the Wake Outer Loop was passed. This is in a response to a March letter from the federal government threatening to pull future funding of I540 if study requirements were not met. The study of future routes virtually stopped when the legislature supported Garner in removal of the “red” route. Now new routes are being considered.

In the NCDOT report it was stated that there is no intent for the state to pass roads on to the county as part of legislation. That is good news!

A poll was done by Fallon Research about the half cent transit referendum. Here are some of the results:

  • 76% do not use public transportation
  • 50.2% favor a way to pay for expanded transportation, 43% oppose, and 6.8% are unsure. In 2011 it was 51%, 45.1%, and 3.9%. In 2010 it was 55%, 41%, and 4%.
  • 55% would not vote for a sales tax increase for transit even if gas was $5 per gallon.

The CAMPO meeting lasted approximately 1 ½ hours.

Career Champions

Due to a cancellation, I only had one meeting on Thursday. I met with the President of Career Champions to talk about their services which include career transition, professional development, and employee engagement. We met for about an hour and had a great conversation.

White Plains Children Center

Saturday started by attending the 30th Celebration of the White Plains Children Center. This is a non-profit development day, childcare, and preschool. The school serves children with and without disabilities, and is the only school of inclusion in western Wake County.

Cary is fortunate to have had this invaluable resource for so many years. Parents of children with disabilities come from all over Wake County. I had the honor of giving greetings from the town. The ceremony lasted for about two hours and included several tearful testimonials.

God Bless the White Plains Children Center and the work they do.

Cary Swim Club 50th Anniversary

Next I headed over to the Cary Swim Club for their 50th Anniversary celebration. This club is not only the first swimming pool in Cary but the first competitive swim team in Cary. It was actually the first swimming pool I ever swam in. In the early years people of Cary gathered at the club for July 4th celebrations with fireworks after watching little league baseball games and participating in other games like the “greased pole” challenge.

It was a fun event and the ceremony lasted a little over an hour.

Ritmo Latino Festival

My final event of the day was the Ritmo Latino festival in downtown Cary. This was the 8th Ritmo Latino festival in Cary and another great celebration of Cary’s diversity.

In my comments to the crowd I mentioned, as I have before, that it is through events like this that we get to know the values, experiences, and talents that each of us have to offer. And it is only through understanding and mutual respect that we can reach the full potential of our community.

This event went on for several hours but I was only able to stay about an hour.

National Tennis Championship

Sunday I gave welcoming comments to the NCAA Division III National Tennis Championship participants. There will be a team competition Monday through Wednesday and then individual competition the rest of the week. It is important to understand that Division III athletes are not scholarship players.

This championship had eight women’s and men’s teams. For the women those included Amherst College, Bowdoin College, Carnegie Mellon University, Claremont Mudd Scripps, University of Chicago, Emory University, John Hopkins University, and Williams College. For the men it included Amherst College, Bowdoin College, Claremont Mudd Scripps, Emory University, John Hopkins University, Kenyon College, Washington University in St. Louis, and Williams College.

In my remarks I talked about our excellent facilities and staff and being one of the NCAA Championship cities.

Town Council/Chatham County Commissioners Meeting

In news this week, the joint subcommittee made up of members of the Cary Town Council and the Chatham County Commissioners met this week. Some of the highlights from that meeting include:

  • Committee members unanimously endorsed the Joint Land Use plan for adoption by the governing boards. The committee discussed a framework for an Interlocal Agreement to be adopted by the Cary Town Council and Chatham County Commissioners
  • A framework for Interlocal agreement documents was presented at the meeting. After minor changes it will go through departments, legal and boards/councils.
  • The committee stated a goal of approving the Joint Land Use Plan by respective boards/council before June 28th.

In other news there will be a Citizens Informational Workshop for the Proposed Improvements to Morrisville Carpenter Road from West of Davis Drive to East of Old Savannah Drive in Morrisville held on Monday, May 21st from 4:00 to 7:00 PM at Morrisville Town Hall.

Health Fair at Hindu Society of North Carolina Temple

The Triangle area Hindu temples and Triangle Area Indian Physicians are conducting their annual Health fair at Hindu Society of North Carolina Temple at 309 Aviation Parkway Morrisville, on June 23rd. This health fair is free and open to the public. This is a great service provided to citizens in the area.

Emails

Emails this week included complaints about the Cary Christian School proposed ball field lights from the adjoining neighbors, a complaint about our bio solids proposal for the new waste water plant, a complaint about red light cameras, several complaints about a crime in Amberwood Apartments, complaints about the proposed ninth grade center for Panther Creek, and requests for chickens in Cary.

Well that is all for this week. My next post will be on Sunday, May 27th. 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.

2 replies
  1. Dean
    Dean says:

    “76% do not use public transportation” <- That seems pretty low. Which would make me believe that the rest of the numbers are a little skewed.

    In other news, California's high speed rail from LA to San Fran is now estimated at $100 billion, from an original $30 billion plan.

    "Debt service is down $725,000 which leaves us with a capacity of $150 million using our 15% cap. A referendum this fall will ask for $80 million."

    Just because it is there, doesn't mean you should use it. The economy hasn't picked up and residents are facing a 6% increase in utility costs.

  2. Harold Weinbrecht
    Harold Weinbrecht says:

    Dean,

    Thanks for your comments.

    The poll was done by a reputable and proven company which has a track record of being accurate. But I am only telling you what I have been told. RTA funded the poll.

    Please understand that we are VERY careful when it comes to spending taxpayer dollars. I believe that is why we have the lowest tax rate in Wake County to go along with the highest quality of life. The $80 million bond referendum is for items that are in greatest need. Without them our service levels will drop. So the question everyone needs to ask is if we want to maintain the quality of life we currently have?

    The 6% increase in utility fees is mostly to pay for the new waste water plant being built. This facility will meet our requirement to return water back to the Neuse River basin. That is how we were able to build the water plant over a decade ago (when we were out of water). So the 6% increase meets past mandates and future needs.

    Thanks!
    Harold

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