Cary, NC — This week was a busy week with long meetings for a mini-retreat and a council meeting.
On Monday I called all council members to get questions and concerns they had as part of the preparation for the upcoming Thursday council meeting. I was able to get in touch with all council members except Robinson and Frantz. There were no major concerns expressed in the conversations.
Later in the day I joined Mayor Pro-Tem Adcock, management, directors, legal, public information, and administration to review the agenda. The agenda had 9 consent items, 9 public hearings, and 7 items for discussion. Since all public hearings had the potential for speakers and discussion I predicted the meeting would last until at least 11 PM.
Monday evening I met with the town manager for our one-on-one weekly meeting. Our discussion mostly focused on the winter retreat to be held in Charlotte and how we could cut costs. Having a retreat out of town is about the same cost as having one in town and provides much more benefit since staff and council are together for two whole days.
Tuesday the council held a mini-retreat to set priorities for the upcoming 2016 budget. There were four main topics: 1) Challenges for the future, 2) Capital Improvement Financing, 3) Review of Fund Balance Target, and 4) Near Term Possibilities. The retreat lasted for about 4 ½ hours.
Challenges for the future
The first topic at the mini-retreat was open to the council to list challenges they believed to be important for the future. Here are some of the items:
- Should we reconsider definitions of land use and overlay districts?
- Millennials have nowhere to live but do we need to be all things to all people?
- Quality of life in West Cary is a concern. It looks different from the rest of Cary.
- Managing expectations is important with two population groups: Seniors and young families.
- We need a plan to grade separate and connect greenways.
- We need to look for innovative ways to help with the crowded schools and congested roads in West Cary even though it falls outside our core authority.
- We need to look into recycling more frequently. We should consider more recycling for businesses and multi-family.
This session of the work session lasted an hour.
Capital Improvement Financing
Our second topic in the mini retreat was Capital Improvement Financing. Basically this approach will change the way capital improvement projects will be presented in the Fiscal Year 2016 budget. It better aligns projects with available resources. Interesting points I noted in this session were:
- $1 million in debt is equal to $75,000 in debt service.
- We have $60 million of debt capacity within our 15% debt ceiling (of operating budget).
- For the next 5 years there is only about ½ the revenue needed to meet capital demands.
This session completed after about 45 minutes.
Review of Fund Balance Target
The third topic of the mini retreat was on our General Fund Balance. The General Fund Balance is the town’s savings account and is divided into three parts. The first part is the state mandated 2 months (of operating costs) in reserves. This cannot be touched. The second part is the town policy of 4 months of reserves, and the third part was the reserves in excess of the state and town reserves.
Initially the town had a practice of keeping four months of reserves with an understanding that some of that could be used for pay-as-you-go capital projects. Over the years there was always money in excess of the town reserves and that was used for pay-as-you-go projects. As a result the town’s four months of reserves was never considered for capital projects. This can be problematic since interest savings is almost nothing and is clearly less than debt interest.
After much discussion the council decided to make the town reserves 3 months in addition to the 2 months state mandated giving us 5 months of reserves. In addition, this 5 months will be a hands off reserves. This is considerably more than other municipalities with the highest bond rating (like Cary) from agencies like Moody’s or Standard and Poor. The excess capital reserves will now be around $45 million. The council will continue to use its current policies and budgeting and reviewing any expenditure of capital reserves.
Near Term Possibilities
The last topic at the mini-retreat was basically an open floor for council members to express near term possibilities that they would like to focus on. Here are some of the items mentioned:
- Look at ways to incentivize schools such as providing infrastructure to school sites or building parks next to school sites.
- Look at accessibility improvements for seniors and the handicapped at the Sertoma amphitheater.
- Use the Ivy Ellington House for a town facility like a museum.
- Provide Sunday Service for CTran.
- Create sidewalks in areas that are unsafe for pedestrians like Louis Stephens Road.
- Look at ways to bring all parties together for Louis Stephens Extension.
- Think about ways to market the town and its amenities like the sports venues.
- Investigate alternating Cary Matters with on location programming.
- Realign Jenks Carpenter Road.
- Consider funding more crossing guards at middle schools.
- Look at median issues near Green Hope High School.
- Provide more bus shelters and bike racks at bus stops.
- Support the Cary Invasion more.
The town manager stated that he will summarize all issues from all mini retreat topics and report them back to council with a plan.
Thursday afternoon I met with the town manager, deputy town manager, and the downtown manager to discuss an issue related to downtown.
Thursday night was one of two regularly scheduled council meetings we have each month. The council held eight public hearings, approved the demolition of a burnt structure that has been in a dilapidated state for months, approved the Booth Amphitheater management plan, approved the regional branding for CTran which will be called Go Cary in the future, approved the leasing of street lights on Academy Street from Duke Energy, and directed staff to review the town’s noise ordinance exception for golf courses and come back to council with options. The meeting concluded about 9:45.
Saturday I had the privilege of attending the 56th Cary Band Day competition. All the bands were awesome but I was impressed with Panther Creek and so were the judges. Cary High School and NC State bands provided outstanding exhibitions. At the end of the evening I had the honor of handing out one of the awards.
Sunday I gave remarks at a meet and greet for Gale Adcock which was held in Carpenter Village. Gale will be a HUGE asset to the legislature and I look forward to celebrating her victory on Tuesday night.
3rd Quarter Report
Emails from staff included the 3rd quarter report. Notable items from the report include:
- Cary’s population is estimated to be 150,655
- Cary covers 57.56 square miles
- Cary issued 14% of all Wake County single family permits
- Carpenter Neighborhood park should go to bid this winter
- Jack Smith park broke ground for phase one
- The new firestation #2 should go to bid this winter
- Walnut Street improvements at US1/64 overpass will begin this winter
- Green Level West Road widening design should be complete by spring
- LED street lights are 80% installed throughout town
- The dedication for the Western Wake Regional Wastewater Facility will be November 19th.
- Over 50% of curbside collections are diverted from the landfill. That drops to 27.3% without yard waste
- 95 violent crimes have occurred this year compared to 77 last year
- 1391 property crimes have occurred this year compared to 1608 last year
- Average response times for fire structures were under five minutes.
- Over 71% of fires were contained in the room of origin
- 17 firefighters were added in September
- Over 86,000 people attended events at Wake Med Soccer from July through September
Read the report in its entirety.
Emails from Citizens
Emails from citizens this week included a complaint about overcrowded schools, comments about the noise ordinance review, a complaint about health issues at a local restaurant, and a comment about the Carpenter Fire Station Road bridge.
Get in Touch
This week I will be busy with a dinner at the Divan Center, a visit to Cary Christian school, a visit to ITT campus, the Citizen Police Academy graduation, and a Mayors Association outing at the RBC center.
Well, that is all for this week. My next post will be on Sunday, November 9th. Although I have Facebook and Twitter accounts those are not the best means of communications with me. Please send all Town of Cary questions or comments to Harold.Weinbrecht@townofcary.org and email personal comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
From the blog of Cary Mayor Harold Weinbrecht. Photo by Hal Goodtree.