Harold’s Blog: Week of August 12, 2019

Cary, NC – This was another slow summer week dominated by campaign related activities.

Monday – Affordable Housing

Monday I interviewed with the Triangle Apartment Association. Questions included my plans for the next four years, what we are doing about affordable housing, and how many units out of the 60,000 needed for the area by 2030 would be located in Cary. I talked about our new affordable housing and CDBG (Community Development Block Grant) manager, Morgan Mansa, and how multi-family fits into the Cary Community Plan. There is no way of knowing how many multi-family units would be in Cary during the next 11 years. However, I believe there will be some housing density in the redevelopment of the mall site and the Fenton. It was pointed out that there are nearly 20,000 multi-family units in Cary which is the 3rd largest market. The interview concluded after thirty minutes.

Wednesday – Raleigh Association of Realtors

Wednesday I had a candidate interview with the Raleigh Regional Association of Realtors (RRAR). The interview had a strict 25-minute time limit and was in a formal environment. It was held in a board room with about a dozen folks asking questions. For a first-time interviewer it could be intimidating. Although the stated purpose of the interview was whether the RRAR would endorse me, my main purpose was to connect, hear of their concerns, and answer their questions. The RRAR hasn’t endorsed me in any of my previous campaigns. In my opening I talked about what was going on in the town and all we have accomplished in the last twelve years. This took about half the time. Afterwards I answered their questions which included future plans for the mall site and affordable housing.

Thursday – Wake Dems

Thursday I had a candidate interview with the Wake County Democratic Party. The interview lasted about an hour and included a list of expectations of someone in the party. Then they explained the benefits of a candidate that is endorsed by the party. It was a very informal interview, so we ended up talking about several topics outside the party documents. We concluded after about an hour.

Friday – NC Metro Mayors

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

Brief OPENING remarks

The Senate returned to town this week as the budget stand-off continues. While there appears to be no adjournment in sight, both chambers continue to work through bills that are important for our state. Both chambers held floor votes this week and four bills were sent to the Governor for consideration. We anticipate this slow, tedious pace to continue for the foreseeable future.

TOPICS INCLUDED:

Legislative Schedule and BUDGET (H966)

  • Despite a legislative conference occurring out of state, most members remained in Raleigh in the event a veto override might occur.
  • There were a couple of healthcare bills that popped up this week, so there was also interest in whether or not anything new would emerge regarding Medicaid expansion, however nothing out of the ordinary materialized.
  • Overall, there has been no status change or movement of the budget.  Unless something fundamental changes in the next month or so, we expect this to remain the status quo.

Transportation

  • S68 – Relocation of Water/Sewer Line Costs

o   Amends the percentage of non-betterment cost for transportation projects paid by municipalities for relocation of water and sewer lines.

o   The Senate unanimously concurred on Wednesday.

o   It has been sent to the Governor for consideration.

Public Safety

Nothing new to report.

Economic Development

  • H431 – FIBER NC Act

o   The intent of this bill is to increase access to broadband in rural parts of the state.

o   It would allow certain cities and counties to install and maintain broadband infrastructure and lease that infrastructure to private companies.

o   There are a number of requirements for participation including business plans, feasibility studies and public hearings.

o   Overall, the majority of the telecom industry has voiced concern over the bill.

o   It passed in the House State and Local Government Committee this week with a vote of 13-9.

o   It has been referred to the House Finance Committee.  We expect it will be heard in that committee in the next couple of weeks.

Local Revenues/ Local Control

  • H645 – Outdoor Advertising

o   The House concurred on Wednesday with a vote of 60-54.

o   The vote count reflects the level of concern some legislators still have on this bill.

o   It has been sent to the Governor for consideration.  We are unsure of the action the Governor will take at this point.  There’s a possibility for a veto given the margin of the vote.

  • S118 – Short Term Rentals/Airbnb Legislation

o   A proposed committee substitute (PCS) is NOT available online at this point, as a PCS has not been properly adopted by any legislative committee

o   MMC and KTS team have been involved in ongoing stakeholder discussions with NCLM, Restaurant and Lodging Association, and other city lobbyists.

o   We are working diligently to keep anything emerging that would be harmful to our cities as this should be a thoughtful, long-term stakeholder discussion.

o   Currently, drafts have included language that would give authority for municipalities to regulate short term rentals, but a number of things are listed that could not be regulated by ordinance (essentially making it difficult for cities to do anything substantive around regulation).

o   There has been no agreement on language.

o   Please continue to monitor your inbox for any ACTION ALERTS in the event something pops up.

  • Conference Reports

o   Currently, the only germane legislation that is being negotiated in conference committee is S553, Regulatory Reform Act.

o   When it moved into conference, there was nothing of negative impact to cities.

o   The bill did include the definition for electric scooters.

o   We are working with the committee conferees and bill sponsor to ensure nothing that would impact cities negatively is added at the last minute.

Town Managers Report

The town manager’s report for this week included:

Tax Bills Mailed

Cary homeowners, or their escrow agents, recently received property tax bills on their homes as both Wake and Chatham counties mailed these documents in late July. These statements detail both the municipal and the county property taxes due in FY 2020. While Cary’s property tax remains at $0.35 per $100 of assessed valuation, both Wake and Chatham counties increased their property tax rates. The Wake County rate of $0.7207 is 6.63 cents higher than the prior year while Chatham County’s $0.67 rate is 4.19 cents higher.

Merit Badge College

On Saturday, August 3, more than 260 scouts and 50 adult scouters from two dozen participating troops attended the first-ever Town of Cary Merit Badge College and filled every seat in the Council Chambers for the opening ceremony. Hosted in coordination with the Occonneechee Council of the Boy Scouts of America, the event offered the opportunity for scouts to earn one or two merit badges from a selection of 15 badges related to municipal government. Demand for the classes was so high that when registration opened on July 15, the event filled up in just 15 minutes.

Council Member Jennifer Robinson originally suggested the idea of having staff members use their expertise to teach selected Boy Scout Merit Badges, with the opportunity to help scouts understand how these topics relate to municipal government. Development Planning Manager Rob Wilson suggested offering a large selection of such merit badges on the same day, making it a major campus-wide event. Planning for the event began in January, and over 70 Cary staff members ultimately got involved and volunteered their Saturday to help make the event possible.

Most classes were taught on the Town Hall campus and at Herb Young Community Center, with lunch being served in the gym. These merit badge classes included Citizenship in the Community, Architecture, Landscape Architecture, American Labor, Chess, Digital Technology, Disabilities Awareness, Dog Care, Fingerprinting, Crime Prevention, Journalism and Traffic Safety. In addition, an Automotive Maintenance class was held at Public Works (Fleet), a Soil and Water Conservation class visited the Cary/Apex Water Treatment Plant and the North Cary Water Reclamation Facility, and the Fire Safety class visited Fire Station 2. Feedback has been very positive, with several requests that the Town offer the event again in 2020.

Special thanks to our employees who volunteered to teach the classes as well as to Rob Wilson who took this project on and saw it through completion. This is another great example of employees taking initiative and working collaboratively to provide the exemplary service that is The Cary Way.

Community Center Closing for Maintenance

Bond Park Community Center will be closed for maintenance from Monday, August 26 through Monday, September 2 and will resume regular operations on Tuesday, September 3.

Walker Street Improvements

Bruce Allen Construction Company will begin the Walker Street Improvements Project in Downtown Cary on Monday, August 19, weather permitting. Construction activities are expected to last through winter.

Project Improvements:

  • Sewer repairs and improvements
  • Storm water improvements
  • Water main replacement and improvements
  • Relocate aerial utilities to underground for new traffic signal
  • Upgraded sidewalk, curb, asphalt pavement and long-life pavement markings
  • Decorative black painted metal traffic signal poles and equipment

To ensure safety to the workers, business owners, drivers and pedestrians during the work, the contractor will intermittently close portions of Walker Street, Waldo Street and E Chatham Street during the project. At least one-travel lane will remain open during the work periods where traffic is to be maintained through the work area.

Temporary Street Closures:

  • Phase I: Intersection of S Walker Street and Waldo Streets (Aug 20 to Sept 1)
  • Phase II: S Walker Street from E Chatham Street to Waldo Street (Sept 1 to Dec 31).
  • Phase III: Walker Street at E. Chatham Street (two-week period in December)

Project Schedule

  • Door to Door Public Outreach: Spring/Summer 2019
  • Begin Construction: Summer 2019
  • Substantially Complete Project: Summer 2020
  • Complete Architectural Decorative Traffic Signals: Late Fall 2020
  • Final Project Completion: Winter 2020

Staying Updated:

Bus Rapid Transit

The Western Boulevard Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) route is anticipated to be the second corridor developed as part of the Wake Transit Plan, with projected construction between 2024 and 2027. Since the route crosses both Raleigh and Cary, each community is charged with evaluating options and working together to develop a preferred alternative.

The City of Raleigh is kicking off its study to explore BRT along Western Boulevard with a public meeting on Thursday, September 5 from 5:30-7:30 pm at the McKimmon Center in Raleigh. Raleigh staff will outline the Wake Transit Plan vision to connect downtown Raleigh to downtown Cary and explore what future service might look like when implemented along this corridor. As stakeholders, Cary staff will attend and be available if there are questions on the Cary side. Raleigh is also evaluating transportation and land use data to develop a recommendation on the routing.

This Raleigh effort follows Cary’s analysis of BRT service as part of the on-going Downtown Multi-Modal Transit Center Study. For more information on Cary’s preliminary BRT recommendations and next steps in the study, please refer to the study overview. Cary staff are serving as stakeholders in the Raleigh study to ensure coordination and concurrence on BRT recommendations moving forward.

Taking Care of Employees

A 15-minute lockdown drill will be held at 9am on August 14, a next step in empowering our employees to feel safe not only at work, but also in their homes and in the community. Employees have been provided training in preparation for the town-wide lockdown drill. Captain Jerry McCormick presented “Moving Beyond the Active Shooter” which was recorded and is available to employees and their families. Employees have also been encouraged to sign-up for emergency text alert notifications. These actions are all part of an ongoing effort to protect our most valuable asset, our employees.

Stormwater

One of the biggest stormwater management challenges is intense, localized summer thunderstorms. These cells are difficult to predict, prepare for and manage. Last Friday, the area near Cary Parkway / Davis Drive / High House Road experienced a strong cell that dropped a reported three to six inches of rain in about two hours. This burst of rainfall, similar to the July 2016 event, temporarily flooded roads and vehicles and damaged private property. Our adaptive stormwater approach is working to mitigate some of the impacts of these intense rainfall events. A house in this area that would likely have flooded did not because of the recently-completed Summer Lakes Drive culvert replacement. In addition to improving stormwater infrastructure and continuing the storm drain maintenance program, we will soon be working with Smart Cities to install sensors that will identify and alert us to potential flooding so we can take preventative action to keep our citizens, their property and our community safe.

Senior Center Renovations Complete

The Cary Senior Center recently underwent some exciting improvements. The renovations created new office space and addressed accessibility per the ADA Transition Plan. The renovated lobby and reception area provide staff more room to work and a collaborative workspace. The improvements also allow staff to communicate more effectively with patrons. Other facility improvements include a revamped conference room complete with new furniture and a new patron lounge with comfortable seating, magazines and HDTV. The now state-of-the-art computer lab is complete with a 75-inch digital TV for presentations and technology demonstrations. Access to the courtyard memorial garden was also provided.

Coffee with a Cop

Monday, members of the Police Department partnered with Starbuck’s to host Coffee with a Cop. This provided another great opportunity to engage with our community. As an added bonus, Sergeant Doug Williams also worked the drive thru to the surprise and delight of several patrons!

Fire Investigation Class

The fire department hosted a regional Fire/Arson Investigator class. Cary FD members joined 22 other regional investigators in this intensive course on fire cause and determination. The class, led by the NC Office of State Fire Marshal, brought in subject matter experts from across the state including the ATF, DOI Criminal Investigations and the NC Attorney General’s Office. On Monday, Cary FD suppression staff assisted in setting and extinguishing fires in a vacant house on the Cary/Apex Water Treatment site. These fires provided a real-world classroom for future investigators.

This realistic training was made possible through collaboration between the Utilities Department and the Fire Department. The Town acquired the property adjacent to the Cary/Apex Water Treatment Facility for a future plant expansion, which included the vacant house and several other buildings. After the buildings were first evaluated for historical significance and determined not to be historic, they were slated for demolition. This provided the opportunity for the Fire Department to use them for this valuable training, which also took care of much of the demolition – a One Cary win.

Connected Vehicles

The Federal Highway Administration approved Construction Funding Authorization for the Connected Vehicle Technology Project. This $2 million project, funded by a $1.6 million grant and $400,000 of Town funds, will upgrade traffic signals with cellular connected vehicle technology. Once installed, motorists traveling through Cary will be able to hear and/or see the traffic light information on their dashboard or phone. Advertising for construction will occur this fall; the project will take about three years to complete.

Community Event

On Saturday, August 3, Cary partner StepUp Ministry had a community event at Chatham Estates mobile home park. The event helped connect residents with StepUp’s job training program, as well as other local services like local language classes, emergency preparation with CERT, free meal programs, and more. Fifty backpacks filled with school supplies were given to local children, and hotdogs and hamburgers were served. The Cary Fire Department brought a fire truck and talked with youth and families. Many thanks to Firefighter Jonathan Gomez for sharing his Spanish translation skills. This event provided an opportunity to get to know our neighbors in Chatham Estates and build relationships. These efforts are funded through a Southeast Sustainable Communities Fund grant and are part of an effort to connect with all residents in the Walnut Creek Watershed.

PHOENIX

Project PHOENIX brings Cary police and apartment managers together to share information and develop strategies to solve problems to keep residents safe in multifamily housing communities. In Ashton Woods, Officer Lekisha Branch partners with residents and management staff to become involved in community affairs and tailor services to the unique characteristics and needs of Ashton Woods. According to Manager Sandy Browning, “We have been so pleased with the success of Project PHOENIX and are so lucky to have the personal and professional service provided by the Cary PD and our assigned officer, Lekisha Branch. Ever since we began our partnership with Project PHOENIX, the Wrenn Drive community has been a safe place to call home.”

Recognition

Congratulations to Lieutenant Kat Christian and Corporal Donna Pell for successful completion of the Women in Command course. We are appreciative of their ongoing efforts to develop their leadership skills.

Advisory Board Meetings

Environmental Advisory Board

Tues, 8/13, 6pm

Town Hall Conf Room 10035

Historic Preservation Commission

Wed, 8/14, 6:30pm

Town Hall Conf Room 10035

Emails

Emails from citizens this week included:

  • Compliments for several things we are doing in Cary
  • A complaint about a Garbage truck leaking hydraulics (Staff has responded about what we have done to fix this situation and is working with the resident on additional complaints)
  • A complaint about water runoff on Green Level Church Road (Staff will respond to this complaint and give them contact information for NCDOT since this is a NCDOT road).
  • Status of Louis Stephens Drive past Walnut Woods and Northwest Park to O’Kelly Chapel Road (Staff’s response: Good News: It’s currently a funded NCDOT project with the Town partnering to make pedestrian improvements in the corridor that wouldn’t have otherwise been done. Below is the information on our website: https://www.townofcary.org/projects-initiatives/project-updates/street-projects/ncdot-local-projects#Louis%20Stephens%20Dr%20(U-5827) Louis Stephens Dr (U-5827)NCDOT is planning to extend Louis Stephens Drive from O’Kelly Chapel Road in RTP to Poplar Pike Lane in Morrisville. The project includes building half of the future four-lane median divided road (the two northbound lanes) to be utilized as the interim two-lane roadway. The project will include pedestrian facilities and will improve connectivity as well as provide a parallel alternative to NC 55. The estimated project cost is $3,000,000 and construction is scheduled to begin in spring of 2019.)

Looking Ahead

Next week will be a busy week for me. Activities include staff meetings, a campaign meeting, an important announcement about economic development, a council candidate meeting, the Chamber Leadership meeting, the first regularly scheduled council meeting of the month, a meeting of the North Carolina Metro mayors, and an India Independence Day celebration.

Get in Touch

Well, that is all for this week. My next post will be on Sunday, August 18th.  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. Pictures courtesy of Mayor Weinbrecht.

0 replies

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 *