Cary Mayor

Harold’s Blog: Bond Referendums, Lyman Collins and More

Cary, NC – This week was a little busier than last week.

Monday – General Obligation Bonds

Monday I joined the town manager, the chief financial officer, the deputy town clerk, the bond attorney, and a representative of the bank to sign legal documents for the sale of the last portion of the 2012 General Obligation bonds. The amount was $16,050,000 and will be used to implement promises made in 2012. Since we have the highest bond rating possible our bonds are at the lowest interest rate possible. The interest rates will be almost nothing since it is just barely above inflation.

Following the signing of the documents I met with the town manager to discuss my trip and take-a-ways from New York. We talked about Bryant Park and about the Fortnite World Cup. Other topics included doing more to protect our trees (within our authority). And we also talked about the hotel occupancy and meals tax where Cary has put in over $80 million in the past few years but only received roughly $20 million for projects.

Tuesday – Lyman Collins

Tuesday we said goodbye to our Cultural Arts Director for the last 20 years, Lyman Collins. He defined the arts in Cary which basically didn’t exist before he got here. Through his leadership Cary celebrates and embraces our diversity through the arts. Without that we would be lesser community than we are today. Words cannot express how much Lyman has meant to this community and how grateful we are. I wish Lyman the best in his retirement and hope to see him at upcoming activities.

Tuesday afternoon I met with an assessor who is evaluating the reaccredition of our police department. He asked me several questions, mostly on how our police department interacts with the community. Of course, I only have positive things to say about out police department. They ARE the best of the best and I am grateful to live in a community with such great law enforcement.

Tuesday evening I attended dance practice for Diwali that will occur in October. We have been exposed to several dozen dance steps and I continue to struggle to keep up.

Wednesday – Bond Referendum

Wednesday I joined council members, chamber members, and about 100 people from the community to hear our town manager, Sean Stegall, talk about the town and the upcoming General Obligation (GO) bond referendum. General Obligation bonds allow financing at the lowest interest rate possible. So they are the best way to finance capital projects. While projects can still move forward without GO bond approval it is highly unlikely since it would cost much more in interest.

Before talking about the bond referendum Mr. Stegall talked about the current council and how important it was for them to remain non-partisan. He even stated that if we had a Republican or Democratic council Cary would not be as great as it is today. I agree. There is absolutely no place for partisan politics (and those issues) in local government.

On the bond referendum he talked about the projects and the importance of those projects. Here is a list of those projects:

  • Parks: $112 M
  • Downtown Park – $50M
  • Playground Upgrades – $3.25M
  • Historic Property Preservation – $3.2M
  • Open Space Acquisition – $20M
  • Carpenter Fire Station Park – $8.9M
  • McCrimmon Park – $6.1M
  • Annie Jones Park Tennis Court Replacement – $1.1M
  • Sk8-Cary Upgrades – $2M
  • Veterans Freedom Park Enhancements – $2M
  • Penny Road School Park Refurbishment – $1M
  • Tryon Road Park – $10M
  • Walnut Creek Greenway – $1.4M
  • Street Improvement Program – $14M
  • Proposed Transportation Projects: $113M
  • Green Level Church Road Widening – $15.5M
  • O’Kelly Chapel Road Widening – $9.2M
  • Carpenter Fire Station Road Widening – $4M
  • NCDOT Betterments – $23M
  • Sidewalk Improvements – $5M
  • Louis Stephens Sidewalk – $3.2M
  • Cary Parkway Sidewalk at Black Creek – $4.8M
  • NC 55 Pedestrian Grade Separation – $1M
  • Intersection Improvement Program – $5M
  • Downtown Parking Development – $5M
  • Fenton Infrastructure – $21M

Keep in mind that these are the proposed projects which means they are the target projects and what we intend to do. The cost will be covered over time which could include a tax rate increase. Mr. Stegall stated that a tax increase isn’t needed in the near future but would likely change as these projects come online and bonds are sold. While staff cannot advocate for bonds I, and the council, certainly can. IMHO, if Cary is to remain one of the greatest places in the nation to live, work, and play we need to continue to move forward. That is, they are essential if we are to keep the quality of life we enjoy today.

Wednesday evening I joined council member Frantz at the Contrast Creative studios for a premier viewing of the music video “My Round”. The musician and songwriter Myles Travitz grew up in Cary. He has released music on labels such as Atlantic Records and Ultra Music. Travitz is a graduate of ECU with a degree in composition and music theory. In this music video project nineteen individuals share their deeply personal story of hardship along with their desire to triumph over prejudice, illness, racism, sexism, abandonment, disability and much more.

The story they tell is the story of all of us, captured in an uplifting video featuring all of them and set in locations in Cary, Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill. The Cary locations include the Cary Arts Center, the Cary Movie Theater and the downtown park water fountain. A Cary Deputy Fire Marshall, featured in the video, is battling cancer. His video is especially moving and inspirational. The stories of the nineteen individuals can be viewed on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/user/MylesTravitzOfficial/ . WRAL and WTVD covered the event and there may be stories online. This was a very powerful event that made me think of my own personal struggles and how I have dealt with them. It is important to understand that we all have struggles and we should all support each other. This is especially important since divisiveness and hate seems to be the norm.

Friday – NC General Assembly

Friday I participated in a meeting of the North Carolina Metro Mayors Association. Here is a summary from the Executive Director’s office:

Brief OPENING Remarks

It was another quiet week at the General Assembly. The Senate took the week off with the plan to reconvene on Monday. Meanwhile, the House remained in session and worked Monday through Wednesday through a variety of non-controversial bills. As the adjournment remains in the forefront of everyone’s mind, there is still much uncertainty as to when that will happen.

TOPICS INCLUDED:

Legislative Schedule and BUDGET (H966)

In theory, the legislature is still looking at taking a veto override vote, but not much has changed in negotiations with the Governor.
A stop-gap funding bill (H961) that allows the state to draw down federal funds for block grants was sent to the Governor last week.
It was signed by the Governor yesterday and is now Session Law 2019-192.
At this point, we are not sure when the legislature plans to adjourn. There is a chance they could continue to work on and off through late this year.
We expect next week to be another light work week as a number of legislators are planning to attend a conference out of state.

Transportation

S68 – Relocation of Water/Sewer Line Costs
Originally, the bill would amend the percentage of non-betterment cost for transportation projects paid by municipalities for the relocation of water and sewer lines from 100% to 50% for a municipality with a population 50,000 to 100,000.
An amendment was added in the House to reduce the cost for cities of 25,000-50,000 to only 25% cost share.
It passed on the House floor on Tuesday with a near unanimous vote (98-2).
It scheduled to be heard in the Senate for a concurrence vote next Monday.

Public Safety

S290 – ABC Regulatory Reform Bill
This bill makes various changes to the ABC laws and includes provisions that would allow distilleries to serve cocktails on-site, allow liquor tastings at ABC stores, and allow for two drinks to be served to a single patron (if it is not a spirituous liquor).
The bill was signed by the Governor on Monday and is now Session Law 2019-182.
H971 – ABC Modernization
We discussed this bill on last week’s call. The bill deals with privatization but we do NOT expect it to gain any legs.
A fiscal memo was released by staff that addresses the impact on state and local revenue. Fiscal Analysis

Economic Development

Nothing new to report

Local Revenues/ Local Control

H645 – Outdoor Advertising

As we have discussed on previous calls, the final version is a bi-partisan bill and much more modest than past versions from previous sessions.

Ultimately, NCLM and other individual cities took a neutral position on the bill.

It was originally scheduled for a vote on Tuesday, but was displaced at the request of the bill sponsor.

It has been re-calendared and scheduled to be heard for a concurrence vote next Tuesday.

Town Manager’s Report

The town manager’s report for this week included:

Referendum Kickoff

I want to thank the Council and staff who attended Wednesday’s Cary Chamber Eye Opener for the official kickoff to our public education efforts for the 2019 Shaping Cary’s Tomorrow Bond Referendum. Having you there helped me feel comfortable and supported, and I’m grateful to all the staff who have worked incredibly hard to get us to this point. Attached is a list of the types of activities we’ll be undertaking up to Election Day. Information about the bond referendum is available at www.CaryBonds.org.

Alston Middle School

Council members Jennifer Robinson and Don Frantz joined Board of Education members, Wake County Commissioners, Rep. Gale Adcock and other school officials for a ribbon cutting ceremony at Alston Ridge Middle School to officially open Wake County’s newest middle school at 7833 Fussell Avenue.

EAB Tree Recommendations

The Environmental Advisory Board (EAB) developed a set of recommendations regarding trees and tree canopy. A multi-departmental team is reviewing the recommendations including the following actions:

Working with NCSU Center for Geospatial Analytics and other regional stakeholders to establish a baseline tree canopy coverage using state-generated LIDAR. The final product is anticipated to be shared on Cary’s open data portal.
Collaborating with a Wake County tree canopy work group to investigate best practices from other jurisdictions and state and federal resources​.
Working with ISA Board Certified Master Arborist Katie Rose Levin on ordinance language, enforcement, education and tree planting practices.
Utilizing a recent analysis of tree canopy and tree-provided ecosystem services (e.g. air and water quality) by the City of Raleigh to inform our approach including a standardized methodology for assessing codes and ordinances.
Staff will bring EAB’s report and a progress update to Council in August; final recommendations for a phased approach are anticipated in the fall.

Fenton Development Plan

Staff met with representatives of the Fenton team on Wednesday to discuss the schedule for development plan and building permit submittals. At this meeting, the team confirmed their intention to submit the development plan on August 5, 2019. Once the project is submitted and routed, the development plan will be available to the public. To access the plans, visit the online development plan submittal portal (https://townofcary.idtplans.com/secure/) and search for Fenton.

Upcoming Tree Removal

A large willow oak in the right of way at the corner of Chapel Hill Road and Hickory Street was brought to the attention of Public Works by PD last week when officers noticed wood and branches in the street. Upon closer inspection, it became evident that this tree poses an elevated risk. As confirmed by an independent arborist, there are numerous large dead limbs that extend over both streets and the sidewalk, as well as the adjacent residential dwelling and yard. There are multiple generations of fungal conks circumventing the entire root flare. This fungus causes white rot of the stem and roots, culminating in whole tree failure at ground level. Our contractor began trimming out some dead wood on Thursday and will remove the rest of the tree early next week.

Kildaire Farm Rd / Cary Parkway

Significant progress is being made on intersection improvements at Kildaire Farm Road and Cary Parkway:

Installation of the new traffic and pedestrian signal poles and mast arms
Grading adjacent to Boston Market for sidewalk
Installation of the right turn in front of the medical office building
Roadway and signal construction are scheduled to be complete by September.

We have also encountered challenges:

The traffic signal mast arms did not meet specifications and had to be reordered. Due to back orders, this took several months.
On July 17, the signal contractor hit a gas line resulting in closing the intersection for over two hours. Utility strikes are very impactful, and staff is taking additional measures with consultants, contractors and 811 to work together to properly locate and protect existing utilities.
Concurrent with construction, staff has been working on an upgraded median landscaping design that incorporates a wide variety of plants. As we work to finalize the landscaping design, we will be reaching out to citizens for feedback.

Breakfast on Rose Street

Cary staff members gathered with residents at Rose Street Park on the morning of July 30 for coffee, bagels and conversation. Following our presence on Rose Street earlier this month for the animal cruelty investigation and rescue operation, this pop up at the park was a chance to meet and greet the neighbors and give them an opportunity to ask questions. In addition to discussing the recent incident, residents discussed future plans for Rose Street Park, trees, and nearby development. Rose Street neighbors said they appreciated engaging with Cary staff and each other.

Neighborhood Rezoning Meeting

The Rezoning Neighborhood Meeting for August 7 has been cancelled because no rezoning applications were received in June. The next Rezoning Neighborhood Meeting is scheduled for September 4. The cases for discussion will be posted on the Town of Cary webpage.

Sewer System Leak Testing

Beginning in September, the Town will test for leaks in the sewer system by placing a safe, non-toxic smoke into the sewer lines. Citizens and business will be notified through social media and written notifications starting next week and leading up to the smoke testing events. Fifty miles of sewer lines in 16 sewer service areas near downtown will be tested. Weather permitting, testing will occur for one day in each area.

Smoke testing is an efficient and effective method of identifying areas where water can enter or exit through cracks, separations, or openings in the sewer system. An added benefit of smoke testing is identifying areas where a sewer smell may be escaping or could cause a problem. When leaks are found, the Town coordinates repairs to address the problem. If a leak is found on private property, the Town notifies homeowners or business owners of the needed repairs. More information and a link to a map of the test area is available online.

Property Services Workshop

In partnership with corporate sponsors Triangle Apartment Association, Miracle Movers of Raleigh and BioOneRaleigh, Project PHOENIX offered a Property Services Workshop to our apartment community partners. This particular workshop was specifically geared to maintenance workers. Topics including minimum housing codes and gang and drug awareness. Presenters included Darnell Parnell of the Town of Cary, William Parris with the NC State Board of Electrical Contractors and Officer Jeff Morgan.

PHOENIX Partner

In Cary, we believe community safety is directly tied to how involved citizens are with helping keep it safe. Project PHOENIX is designed to help residents, owners and rental property managers keep drugs and other illegal activity off their property. This initiative brings Cary police and apartment managers together to share information, review crime trends and develop strategies for solving problems and reducing the fear of crime in and near multifamily housing developments. Officer Jeff Morgan partners with residents and management staff to become involved in community affairs and tailor services to the unique characteristics and needs of the Arboretum. According to Arboretum Manager Kristin Briceno, “We are truly grateful to be a part of this program. Officer Jeff Morgan checks in with us on a regular basis and is extremely helpful when we have any questions or concerns. Our residents are appreciative that we are working together with Project PHOENIX to increase their awareness and reduce their fear of crime here at the Arboretum. A very special thank you to all you do to better our community!”

Recycling Field Trip

On July 24, staff met with key members of Recycle America which processes the single stream curbside recycling collected in Cary. Staff toured the facility and reviewed the acceptable materials list and learned how a pile of commingled recyclables is sorted into salable commodities. Recycle America will be constructing a state-of-the-art facility at their Globe Road property with the expectation of being operational in 2021. This new location will be closer to Cary than the current one on Capital Boulevard.

Later, on July 29, staff members participated in the second Triangle MRFshed meeting in Raleigh. Joined by 30 stakeholders from neighboring municipalities along with private haulers, the group continued discussing opportunities to partner on initiatives and on regional messages that enhance recycling education and outreach efforts.

Sidewalk Project Complete

Tony P. Mensah stepped up from his day to day CADD drafting duties by engineering and project managing the Harrison Avenue Sidewalk Project through a successful completion.

Wimberly Road Water Line

We increased our water system resiliency and efficiency this week when the new Wimberly Road water line was put into service Thursday morning. This 3-foot diameter water main extends north from the Cary/Apex Water Treatment Facility directly into the Green Level community. It will serve as the primary feed for all of Cary west of NC 55. The 30-inch water main that extended south from the CAWTF and previously served this area will soon be used to provide additional capacity east of NC 55 where water demands are even greater. To increase operational flexibility, minor modifications are being made to retain the ability to serve both zones using the 30-inch main.

The Wimberly Road water line is just one component of our overall water system management plan that will continue to unfold over the coming months. Years of planning and design went into navigating through this still rural, Wake County corridor. Crossings of the American Tobacco Trail, White Oak Creek, US Army Corps controlled property, multiple petroleum gas transmission mains as well as Town of Apex utilities required multifaceted coordination both before and during construction. In fact, permitting agencies originally required there be no trees touched in the White Oak Creek vicinity. This added over $1M to the construction cost as we began the design of the 36 inch horizontal directional drill. While our cost was not a consideration for them, persistence finally paid off as we successfully negotiated a low impact stream crossing method with a limited footprint that would save us $900,000. It has taken about nine months to install the 7,200 feet of pipe and restoration activities are still occurring, but water is flowing north on a much more direct route into Cary.

PD Accreditation Team On-Site

On August 1, the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA) Lead Assessor, Retired Deputy Chief Michael Webb, and Team Member Lieutenant Charles Groover completed our CALEA On-Site for reaccreditation of our Police Department. Accreditation is a process in which an agency is evaluated on compliance with prescribed standards established by CALEA.

A Compliance Service Member (CSM) reviews the files before the on-site, and all standards were in compliance. The CSM commented that our files were the best he had ever reviewed. While on-site, the assessors focused on the agency. They looked at the effectiveness of processes and outcomes associated with the standards specific to our policies. They did this through observation, interviews with PD staff and other town employees, interviews with members of the community and by attending community outreach programs.

Additionally, agency employees and members of the community were invited to offer comments at a public information session held in the Council Chambers. For citizens who could not attend, there was also a call-in session.

The on-site assessors were extremely complimentary of the department in the exit interview, and both assessors stated they had assessed many departments across the United States, and neither of them had seen a better department than ours.

Chief Dezomits and Accreditation Manager Kathleen Sanfratello will attend the CALEA Hearings in November and find out at that time if we receive reaccreditation.

Stormwater Presentation

In a live presentation at the Operations Center that was streamed to Council Chambers and other locations, Danna Widmar and Matt Flynn shared Cary’s adaptive approach to stormwater with staff members across the organization. The approach has been developed over the last year and a half, including several successful initiatives that have been implemented this year. Staff in various departments have been working on different aspects such as the proactive storm drain maintenance program, our Downtown Working Group, the proposed ordinance revisions, the Walnut Creek watershed modeling and private-public partnerships. The presentation clearly showed how each of the “puzzle pieces” fit neatly together to help improve the lives of our citizens. Collaboration among staff and with businesses and citizens is a hallmark of this approach, and it represents a model for other Town initiatives to employ.

Recognition

Karen Mills, CFO, led a successful summer conference, her first meeting as President of the North Carolina Government Finance Officers’ Association (NCGFOA). More than 500 people attended this conference, including members from municipalities and counties across North Carolina as well as vendors. Karen was appointed president in the spring and is now serving her one-year term. As President, Karen is responsible for managing three annual conferences, board and business meetings and more. With over 28 years of municipal finance experience, Karen is highly regarded by her peers as an expert on local government finance. As President of NCGFOA, her experience will benefit all finance professionals in the state.

The purpose of this Association, which serves over 400 local government finance officers, is to promote the improvement of the methods of governmental financing in North Carolina as developed and recommended by the Government Finance Officers Association of the United States and Canada, the Governmental Accounting Standards Board, the Department of the State Treasurer and other recognized authorities in the field of government administration.

Advisory Board Meetings

Parks Recreation and Cultural Resources Advisory Board

Mon, 8/5, 5:15pm

Town Hall Conf Room 11130

Information Services Advisory Board

Mon, 8/5, 6pm

Town Hall Conf Room 10035

Zoning Board of Adjustment Advisory Board

Mon, 8/5, 6:30pm

Town Hall Conf Room 21275

Greenway Committee

Thurs, 8/8, 6pm

Town Hall Conf Room 11130

Emails From Citizens

Email from citizens this week included:

  • A concern about Rose Street Park
  • A concern about a house that needs to be torn down on Rose Street (Staff met with residents about their concerns)
  • A concern about not being interviewed for an advisory board
  • A concern that Davis Drive Middle School Orchestra would be cancelled (The principal changed his mind)
  • A request to focus on trees in West Cary

Next week’s activities will include two campaign interviews with the Triangle Apartments Association and the Realtors. Other activities include staff meetings, Diwali dance practice, the Green Level High School Community social, and the We Strive event.

Get In Touch

Well, that is all for this week. My next post will be on Sunday, August 11th. 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 augustanat@mindspring.com.


From the blog of Cary Mayor Harold Weinbrecht. Photos courtesy of Harold Weinbrecht.

7 replies
  1. Lydia Tolar
    Lydia Tolar says:

    Could anyone here refer me to web-based materials related to Fenton’s wildlife protection plans? I just downloaded the 8/4/2019 to see if it was easily available but I’m afraid I don’t know enough about the architectural plan genre to tease out any relevant information (there’s plenty about water, but not wildlife.)

    For example, I believe some major projects build pathways underneath highways so that wildlife can more safely migrate to a forested area with more safety. Or, are there any plans to have NC State help re-home some of the more endangered species? If they come upon injured or visible wildlife, will steps be taken to have these animals rescued?

    As this was one of the few thick stands (to my knowledge) in East Cary area between Umstead and Cary parks, I’m assuming that it is rich with deer, raccoons, opossum, turtles, snakes, salamanders, foxes, squirrels, rabbits, bats, owls, raptors, and dozens of other avian species (not to mention insect species). Razing such a rich micro-ecosystem to the ground seems pretty severe.

    Reply
    • Karen Mills
      Karen Mills says:

      Hi Andy,
      The Mayor referred to signing papers for $16 million of bonds that we recently issued. Those bonds will pay an average of only 2.18% for twenty years. We are really pleased with the competitive bid results that reflected the Town’s strong credit ratings and financial market demand for Town bonds. Let me know if you have any more questions about the Town’s debt or other finances.

      Karen Mills, CFO, Town of Cary

      Reply
  2. Mark Neill
    Mark Neill says:

    “The interest rates will be almost nothing since it is just barely above inflation.”

    Before the spending-money-we-don’t-have crowd shows up…

    Money for the things related to this bond needs to be spent. We can either pay as the work for them comes up, or we can use a bond, and pay for all of them now at today’s pricing. Much of this work will take years to work through, though, so over time, what costs $1M today may cost $1.2M in 5 years, primarily due to inflation.

    When the mayor says the rates will be almost nothing, the comparison is not to no rates – the comparison is to taking on the interest rate payments for some number of years, in order to gain access to the total amount of money now; versus the inflationary cost of not paying for things until we get around to the projects on a per-item basis.

    If Cary’s bond interest rates are barely above current and forecasted inflation rates, then that barely-more cost provides the Town a much better budgetary planning opportunity, as they now know that the Bond payments will be $someAmount per month for the next 120 months, no other calculations. If they were to go with a paygo model, then costs for projects much more than a year or two out are difficult to forecast, and could vary greatly from year to year, leading to more uncertainty on the monthly costs for projects, and an unknown final cost for that list of projects.

    Reply
    • Harold
      Harold says:

      Hi Mark,

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts. We need to hear from everyone about the proposed bond issue. The pay-as-you-go model is certainly an option. However, the approach would result in capital projects taking longer to come on line. But the biggest issue is fairness. That is, citizens of today and citizens of the past will pay for the new parks and infrastructure. Many believe it is only fair that citizens of the future help pay for these capital projects since they will benefit from them.

      Not all debt is bad. Debt is bad when it is mismanaged. Cary set a ceiling of 15% years ago and we have never come close to that. I believe we manage our debt very well. Currently it is about 11% of our operating budget which is considered very healthy. All major bond rating agencies think so. That is why we have the highest rating from them. This allows us the lowest interest rate.

      So to me the bond question is timing and fairness. Do we want these capital projects sooner than later and do we want future residents to share in the burden of the cost?

      Mark, I do appreciate your comments and I do hope you will consider supporting the bonds.

      Thanks,
      Harold

      Reply
      • Mark Neill
        Mark Neill says:

        Oh, I will be – but there’s a decent crowd of people whose default position is taking on additional debt is bad, everything done should have the funds available at the time to do it without borrowing money.

        Like you say, and like I explained – sometimes the math works out better to borrow instead. Costs _will_ be higher if paid in the future, so the total spent compared to today’s budgeting for those projects will be higher than today. We just have no idea by how much prices will increase. At the current rate of just inflation, $16M today will cost $20.5M in 10 years, a 25% cost increase.

        Borrowing to pay for them now is a stability hedge against future unexpected changes in material prices, inflation, or other economic changes that can’t be planned for; the fixed cost of borrowing is the trade for the unknown cost of waiting

        Reply

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *