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Harold’s Blog: April 22, 2013

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From the blog of Cary Mayor Harold Weinbrecht. Photo via Kirk of Kildaire on Facebook.

Cary, NC  – This week was a tough one, after having a week of vacation, with mayoral duties scheduled almost every day.

Monday: Prepping for Council

Monday started with calls to council members to see if they had concerns or questions about the agenda for Thursday’s regularly scheduled council meeting. I was able to talk with all but two council members. Questions and concerns were related to an agenda item on electronic meeting participation and clarification on an agenda item about the Architectural Standards for buffering buildings.

Later in the day I met with management, administration, legal, and department directors to go over the budget. We discussed the concerns and questions of the council members. In addition, I was notified that we would have a closed session. Based on that information I estimated the council meeting would last until about 8 PM.

Monday: Municipalities Under Attack

Monday night I attended the Mayors Association meeting in Cary. Paul Meyer, Director of Governmental Affairs for the NC League of Municipalities gave a summary of State House and State Senate legislation that could harm municipalities. His short list included 94 Items.

One spreadsheet showed taxes that could be in jeopardy for towns that include: beer and wine, natural gas, electricity excise, privilege licenses, and 1 cent sales tax on food. If these taxes went away it would be a $7.5 million loss in revenue for Cary or about 4 additional cents to our tax rate. Hopefully, our new legislators will realize this and not harm municipalities and its citizens.

I introduced a letter to be sent to our federal delegation on the elimination of the current tax exemption on the interest earned from tax-exempt municipal bonds. If this change occurs it would drive up the borrowing costs on financial critical infrastructure, shift more of the burden for financing infrastructure from the federal to the local levels, and increase taxes on the middle class. The letter was approved unanimously and will be sent to our delegation from the Mayors Association.

Wednesday: CAMPO

Wednesday I attended the CAMPO (Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization – Transportation Advisory Committee) yesterday. There were two public hearings with no speakers. The following actions items were approved:

  • 2013-2014 Unified Planning Work Program
  • Self-Certification of Planning Process
  • Status of System Report
  • May is Bike Month

Julie White, of the Metropolitan Mayors, presented a legislative update to the CAMPO members. I noted the following from her updates:

  • The Governor’s budget is irrelevant since there is a major tax reform.
  • There is a lot of legislation originating out of issues from Asheville. These are harmful to municipalities in general.
  • Bills were introduced or passed one body related to ethics, metropolitan planning organizations, and tolling for I95 and I77.

The NCDOT report including the following points:

  • Bids have been received for I40/I440. The Secretary needs to award the project. Worst scenario has the project taking 3 1/2 years with 2 lanes open. However, some contractors will have 3 lanes open.
  • The I40/I440 project was expected to be $190 million. Bids have been received at $120 million.
  • NCDOT is investigating adding an extra through lane on the I40/I440 project since this expansion may be one of the last opportunities for widening. They are also looking at tolling, express lanes, and HOT (High Occupancy) lanes.
  • The “Bus on the Shoulder” pilot project has been successful with no incidents so far. The pilot will end soon and NCDOT is looking for opportunities.

The CAMPO meeting lasted one hour.

Wednesday: Cary School of Gov

Later Wednesday I attended the last meeting and graduation of the Cary School of Government which was held at the Wake Med Soccer Park.

First we toured the expansion of the facility which included 3000 new seats, new locker rooms, party decks, sky boxes, and other rooms. Afterwards the Wake County Manager spoke of the relationships between county and municipalities. He also talked about the hotel/motel/food & beverage taxes which were used to build most of the soccer park and several other facilities like the Raleigh Convention Center and the Mudcats stadium.

After his talk he answered questions from the participants. Then the participants asked questions of the council members present which included Smith, Bush, and me. Once the question and answer session concluded we handed out the course certificates.

It was a good time and I appreciate and congratulate all the School of Government participants for caring about their town.

Thursday: Busy at Town Hall

Thursday, I joined Mayor Pro-Tem Adcock and council member Robinson as we did our final budget preview with staff. Some of the topics covered were the Capital Improvements Budget, Development Fee trends, General Capital Reserve Fund, special capital projects, and implementation approaches for the Technology Task Force. After staff finishes previewing with all the council members they will finalize their budget which will be presented to council.

After the budget preview meeting I participated in a council group photo which was taken in the council chambers. We took several photos around the town seal with us seated and standing.

Next I headed outside to greet the Exchange culinary students from our sister city Le Touquet France. Wake Tech and the business school in France have been exchanging students for several years. My wife and I have hosted students several times in the past which has resulted great friendships. We still keep in touch with our first student from over ten years ago.

Thursday night the council held its regularly scheduled council meeting. In addition to presentations, recognitions, and public hearings, the council took several actions. The council amended an ordinance to allow electronic meetings for board appointed members once a year. The council also approved subcommittee recommendations to clarify architectural standards for building facades and buffering. Due to the lengthy closed session our meeting lasted until about 9:45.

Saturday: Community Garden at Kirk of Kildaire

Saturday I gave remarks at a Community Garden dedication at the Kirk of Kildaire Presbyterian Church. I was joined by council member Bush who gave remarks on sustainability.

This community garden was a culmination of actions by many in our community. Funding for the community garden was provided in part by the Town’s Neighborhood Improvement Grant Program. The amount of raised garden beds was doubled thanks to hard work by local Eagle Scouts. Local home improvement and garden centers generously donated plants.

This summer, the garden will benefit from the work and efforts of two Appalachian Service Youth projects and a class project by NC State Agriculture students. And the fruit of their labors will be shared with those who benefit from the Interfaith Food Shuttle, the local organization that helps provide healthy meals for families in our area. What a beautiful project with such positive results!

Mailbag

Emails from citizens this week included questions about the Waldo Rood house, concerns about the downtown park site, concerns and questions about the Summit for the Future, a complaint about a police officer, comments about electronic meetings, and a complaint about a developer causing issues.

This Week

This week will continue to be busy. It includes a joint issues meeting with Morrisville elected officials, an elected officials reception sponsored by the Cary Chamber, a breakfast, and a cultural event.

Get in Touch

Well that is all for this week. My next post will be on Sunday April 28th. 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.