Monday afternoon I met virtually with members of OneWake who advocate for affordable housing. Most of the members on this call were clergy leading congregations in Cary. They talked about the needs and the desperate situations of many individuals. I, along with housing staff members, talked about the Cary Housing Plan and funding for that plan. We all agreed that communication was key and to continue to work together to come up with solutions.
Town Manager One-On-One
Later Monday I met virtually with the town manager for our weekly meeting. Some of the topics we talked about included the budget and the Cary Tennis Park.
Wake County Mayors Association
Monday evening I participated in a meeting of the Wake County Mayors at the Duke Energy Customer Service Center on Rush Street in Raleigh. We visited the control room where outages are handled for all Duke Energy customers in North and South Carolina. We learned about the “self-healing” technology that automatically detects power outages and quickly reroute power to restore service faster or avoid the outage altogether. So if you have ever experienced a five to ten second outage, that was the self-healing technology rerouting around a problem to restore power to you. We also heard from several executives about their new commitment to reduce carbon emissions by 70% by 2030 and net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.
For the first time Cary Elections were held during a partisan primary. The top vote getter in each of the three races was a party endorsed candidate. Here are the results:
- Jennifer Robinson (I): 75.61% (endorsed by the Republican Party)
- Chase McGrath: 24.02%
Jennifer Robinson wins
- Renee Miller: 28.54% (endorsed by the Republican Party)
- Jack Smith(I): 28.04%
- Amanda Murphy: 23.41% (endorsed by the Democratic Party)
- Mary Insprucker: 12.49%
- George McDowell: 7.39%
Runoff between Renee Miller and Jack Smith
- Carissa Johnson: 39.88% (endorsed by the Democratic Party)
- Ken George: 38.77% (endorsed by the Republican Party)
- Ed Yerha(I): 21.02%
Runoff between Carissa Johnson and Ken George
Runoff elections will be held on July 26th.
Wednesday I participated in a meeting of the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization’s Executive Board. The committee unanimously approved an update for the CAMPO Strategic Plan for 2022. A public hearing was held for the Wake Transit Fiscal Year 2023 work plan. Information was provided about the Triangle Regional Travel Survey and the Electric Vehicles and Infrastructure Update.
Bust Installation of Jerry Miller
Thursday I joined Mayor Pro-Tem Frantz, and council members Robinson, Smith, Yerha, Liu, and Bush in a ceremony to install a bust for long time Cary artist Jerry Miller. Speakers for the event included long time friend Anthony Blackman, NC Representative Gale Adcock, Sanford Mayor Chet Mann (Jerry’s great nephew), and I. In my remarks I talked from remarks that I had written down earlier in the day:
“Although Jerry was born in Sanford, he has spent much of his life in Cary. And he loves Cary. He is one of those that we describe as “bleeds green”. In my conversations with Jerry, we have a great time talking about things in Cary’s past and in Cary’s future.
He is an award-winning artist. And if there is an iconic structure in Cary, Jerry has drawn it. In fact, Jerry Miller art is considered a valued treasure and is often given as gifts. I am willing to bet that most people here this afternoon have Jerry’s art in their houses. I know I do.
Jerry shared his passion for art in 1977 by creating the first Lazy Daze Arts and Crafts Festival in downtown. That festival which started with 100 artists is now one of the largest in the southeast and has grown to a 2-day festival that brings over 300 of the highest quality artists from across the nation. It is amazing to think that this festival started with one person’s passion. And that passion put Cary on the map for art. So, in my mind that makes Jerry the godfather of Cary art.
With all that Jerry has accomplished, he is still known by many of us as one of the friendliest faces in Cary. And today we are honored that we will capture that smiling face in perpetuity. …”
Jerry Miller followed our remarks with his own mostly thanking all in attendance. It was a fantastic event, and his bust is now on display in front of the Cary Arts Center.
North Carolina Metro Mayors
Friday morning I participated in a meeting of the North Carolina Metro Mayors. Here is a summary of that meeting from the Executive Director:
- The Legislature is officially in session as of Wednesday, May 18th. No votes or committee meetings of significance this week.
- They will return next week for committee meetings and some private caucus discussions.
- Short session may actually be completed by July 1st, with the chance they could return in the Fall for a special session to take up “unfinished business.”
- The budget this year will likely be in the form of a conference report that cannot be amended – an up or down vote, no changes allowed. Based on the perception that the biennial budget that passed last year had plenty of spending and tax cuts – there is the possibility that the General Assembly and Governor Cooper would NOT reach an agreement on a budget and the second-year short session adjustments to the budget may not be enacted this year.
- While we have not seen any specific budget language at this point (it is still being developed behind closed doors), the majority leaders have publicly suggested they want another round of tax cuts or a rebate and to raise teacher/state employee pay.
- In somewhat of a role reversal, the Senate appears ready to consider expanding Medicaid coverage, while the House, which earlier seemed poised to take up expansion, now seems less interested. It has been suggested the House may be hesitant to take the issue until after the elections, pointing to a possible special session after the November elections.
- We anticipate legislation/budget item that would add funding to transportation projects by directing state transportation related sales and taxes collected by the state to NCDOT rather that the General Fund. This could mean $500m/year increase to transportation, perhaps to the Highway Trust Fund which would help alleviate the backlog of projects in the state’s STIP (attached handout from NC Chamber of Commerce). Metro Mayors are active partners in efforts to improve funding for transportation.
- It is important to note that this extends the “user-pay approach” (transportation related taxes spent on transportation) and does not require any new or additional taxes. It is generally recognized the the long-term financing of transportation is going to be challenged as electric vehicles become more prevalent and the gas tax revenue that goes to transportation declines. This proposal would provide badly needed funding for delayed transportation projects and serve as a bridge for financing transportation when gas taxes begin to decline.
- Senator Vickie Sawyer and Senator Tom McInnis have been very supportive of this initiative, providing leadership from the Senate Transportation Committee.
- Please review the attached documents and consider talking to your local Chamber of Commerce. This effort is going to take municipal leaders working in collaboration with the business community if we are going to be able to provide this BADLY NEEDED FUNDING to our state’s transportation program. Reach out to your local chamber and consider a joint appeal to your local delegation to support this legislation. This would be a very positive way to leverage both the support from municipalities and the business community.
Public Safety – Marijuana legislation
- Senator Rabon is planning on moving his Medical Marijuana legislation in the Senate. Because of time constraints in this short session, our lobbying team believes it is highly unlikely it will pass in the House. We are anticipating the legislation will be taken up again in the next General Assembly, in 2023.
- There have been conversations about allowing a local government county level opt-out of such a program. Early indications suggest this would likely be a 30–60-day period after the legislation is passed where a local government could choose to opt-out.
- The current version of the bill only allows 80 dispensaries across the State of North Carolina.
Economic Development – no significant legislative activity
Local Control/Local Revenues
Possible AirBnB/STR legislation –
- While we have not seen any proposals yet, we will remain vigilant on any efforts to restrict local government authority.
Commercial Prop. Plan Review (H291) –
- This bill is a building and multi-family permit acceleration bill. Local governments will have 21 days to complete the plan submission/plan approval process.
- H291 also requires that 2% of local fees paid must be paid to the state for the Department of Insurance, to help cover the costs at the state level.
- Bill was re-referred to committee in March, but the question remains if the legislature is interested in the current format of the bill.
- It will be important for us as a group to remain engaged with your local delegation and help educate legislators regarding this issue.
The meeting concluded after about thirty minutes.
Proposed Budget Details
This week staff provided slides presented at last week’s quarterly meeting which included detail about the proposed budget:
- A budget public hearing during Council’s next regular meeting on May 26
- A second budget public hearing during Council’s regular meeting on June 9
- Budget adoption during Council’s regular meeting on June 23.
- The recommended budget assumes that the tax rate will remain unchanged at 34.5 cents per every $100 of assessed value. One penny on the tax rate generates $3.4M
- The solid waste fee is recommended to increase $1.50 to $22 per month:
- Increasing the fee by $1.50 generates approximately $944,000 annually
- Our current rate of $20.50 / month recovers just under 90% of the program’s cost.
- The $1.50 increase will bring cost recovery to 94%
- Cary’s solid waste fee has historically recovered roughly 85% to 95% of the program’s cost. Staff does not recall reaching 100% cost recovery.
- Utility Rates are recommended to increase 3%:
- This roughly translates to a $2.30 / month increase for the average family of 4.
- Rates were increased in our current fiscal year (FY 2022) by approximately 2.5%. And they were decreased by 4% the prior year.
- Even with increases in FYs 2022 and 2023, Cary’s rates remain below what was projected prior to the FY 2021 decrease.
- Property tax revenue continues to perform well:
- As of Q3, we collected $114.3M, or 98% of our $116.2M property tax budget for FY 2022.
- FY 2023 property tax revenue is budgeted at 2% growth in conjunction with tax base growth.
- Sales Tax Revenue:
- FY 2022 sales tax revenue is estimated at $50.M which is 15% more than budget.
- The FY 2023 budget recommendation of $53M assumes 5% growth over FY 2022 estimated numbers.
- Total Budget:
- The total budget, operating and capital combined, is $443.6 million. That figure is up 10.9% from the current year’s budget.
- $324.0 million of the total budget supports the operating budget which is up 12.1% from the current year’s budget.
- The remaining $119.6 million supports capital improvements projects identified for the year. This is a 7.7% increase from the current year.
- The primary drivers behind this year’s operating budget increases are inflation, supply chain, employee compensation and the Downtown Park.
- On the capital side, rising inflation and supply chain costs are significant contributors. The capital budget also reflects an intentional increase in housing funding, as well.
- What the Budget Does:
- Maintains Services and Infrastructure
- Moves Forward with Priority Areas Like Stormwater, Housing, and the Environment
- Brings the Downtown Park On-line
- Supports Police Department Staffing and Vehicle Needs
- Continuous Commitment to Employees
- Core Services:
- $7.3 million is directed to the street improvements project
- $8.75 million is included for sidewalk improvements:
- $7M of this funding is supported by American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) dollars with the remaining $1.75M funded with Town cash.
- Council directed $5 million of ARPA funding to sidewalks in our current fiscal year (2022), so adding this $7M in FY 2023 brings total ARPA supported sidewalks to $12M.
- $13.5 million supports water and sewer line maintenance and repair.
- $2.4 million is included for maintaining existing fire stations. Station 4 is the focus for FY 2023 rehabilitation funding.
- Facility maintenance examples range from:
- Park and playground renovations to
- HVAC and roof repair and replacements, Town Hall renovations, and more at various facilities.
- Major maintenance and repair at Cary’s three sports special venues – Cary Tennis Park, WakeMed Soccer Park and the USA Baseball National Training Facility are also included.
- The Town receives $3M per year in Hospitality Tax funds from Wake County to offset a portion of these special venue maintenance needs.
- The FY 2023 recommended budget continues to carry out the projects approved by voters in the Shaping Cary’s Tomorrow Bond referendum with $24.5 million in projects:
- $19.1 million Transportation
- $ 5.4 million Parks
- In addition to regular operating expenses, $3.3 million is directed toward stormwater initiatives between the operating and capital budgets.
- $2.3 million of this amount supports our routine stormwater infrastructure, condition assessment projects and continuation of our Swift Creek Model, while an additional $1 million included in the operating budget supports study and related work that the team will move forward with in FY 2023.
- A total of $9M supports implementation of Cary’s recently adopted Housing Plan.
- $5M of this total is supported with American Rescue Plan Act funds that Council approved for use in January 2022 ($1M to flow through the FY 2023 Community Development Block Grant program and $4M to be used for a land purchase or other similar use when identified.)
- The remaining $4M appropriated through the FY 2023 budget is funded with $650,000 in federal CDBG funds and Town of Cary dollars.
- For context – Cary’s $4M in housing funding is equal to a bit over one penny, while the $9M total equates to a little less than 3 pennies on the tax rate.
- New Environmental Initiatives:
- Environmental Action Plan
- Pollinator Gardens design and installation
- Solarized campaign – Solarized campaigns help homes and businesses in the same area go solar together through local organized community outreach. This campaign is being led by TJCOG, and Cary is participating as a partner.
- Tree care
- Tree plantings
- Nursery to grow and deliver specific trees for Cary’s “My Tree Our Tree” program
- An electric vehicle study
- Continued consideration and purchase of electric vehicles when appropriate
- The FY 2023 recommended budget also includes $18.4M for construction of the GoCary Bus Operations and Maintenance Facility.
- Total project cost is estimated at $39.2 million. $20.8 million has been appropriated to date. The FY 2023 funding provides remaining funds needed for construction.
- This project is 100% funded with Wake County Transit Plan funds.
- Downtown Park:
- The FY 2023 recommended budget provides funding so that we are ready when the park is ready.
- $2.5 million is included for programming, programming related supplies and equipment and 9 positions to serve the park.
- The facility’s remaining position needs in both PRCR and Public Works will be a part of FY 2024 budget development.
- Police Staffing and Vehicles:
- 6 new police officer positions are included in the FY 2023 recommended budget. These positions will be downtown-focused working to build relationships with citizens, businesses and downtown patrons while continuing to keep our community safe. Total cost for these positions including salaries, benefits, equipment and vehicles is estimated at $1M.
- An additional $2.6M is included in the budget to complete the transition of the Police Department’s vehicle assignment model from shared vehicle to 1:1. Purchasing 36 more police vehicles will allow the department to assign one officer to one vehicle and eliminate the need for vehicle sharing.
- Employee Commitment:
- Our employees are another important focus of the FY 2023 budget recommendation. Continuing to employ the best is key to keeping Cary Cary.
- To that end, the recommended budget establishes a new employee compensation program which Chief Human Resource Officer Renee Poole will share more about.
- The budget also funds Cary’s Pay-for-Performance program at an average 5% merit award.
Town Manager’s Report
The Town Manager’s Report for this week includes the following:
At the time of this writing, I’m preparing to join today’s celebration of our employees at ”Appreciate the Best,” which we’re holding at USA Baseball National Training Complex. Our staff organizing team has planned a ballpark lunch as well as several contests and opportunities to enjoy one another’s company. As you have said, Council, Cary has the best staff in the nation, and we want to continue expressing our gratitude for their hard work and excellence.
Also, with regard to our staff, you will find an invitation in your calendars to meet our four Police Chief finalists early next week. I look forward to joining you in those conversations.
Lastly, next Thursday is our only regular council meeting in May.
Have a great weekend.
Virtual Information Session
A virtual information session will be held on May 25 at 6:30 p.m. for the upcoming infrastructure improvement project along NW Maynard Road. The project includes closing a 1,700-ft gap in the sidewalk system along the east side of NW Maynard Road between High House Road and Old Apex Road. Additionally, 3,300-ft of new 24-inch water main will also be installed along the same segment to increase capacity in the water system. The meeting will be used to share plans, traffic impacts, and receive feedback. Please register in advance for this meeting.
Road Detour Update
In mid-April, traffic on Walnut Street was reduced to one-way between Kildaire Farm Road and Walker Street and detoured to Byrum Street. The detour was necessary to allow for installation of storm drainage and water and sewer connections associated with the Lee & Associates building that is currently under construction at the intersection of Walnut Street and Kildaire Farm Road. As of yesterday, the detours have been removed, and a new traffic pattern has been put into place.
Also, S. Academy Street from Chatham Street to Dry Avenue will be closed tomorrow from 5:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. for the 9th Annual Wheels on Academy. Dry Avenue and Chatham Street will remain open during the event.
ESG Panel Discussion
Assistant Town Manager Danna Widmar participated in a panel discussion regarding ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) work with the NAIOP, Commercial Real Estate Development Association. The panel discussion was an introduction to the topic and Q&A, with representation from Cary for the municipal perspective and from Fujifilm for the perspective from a publicly traded company. Sarah Gaskill is Head of Sustainability and ESG at Fujifilm and joined Danna on the panel discussion. There were excellent questions from the group about environmental work, diversity and inclusion, as well as the approach to governance in general.
Fest in the West
Cary was host to the 6th Fest in the West at Thomas Brooks Park on May 7. The event was relocated to the softball complex this year due to construction at the National Training Complex. This free community festival drew great crowds despite the weather that creeped in toward the end of the afternoon. With two stages, each with a full line-up, food trucks, beer garden, entertainment, kids activities, and crafts for sale, there was a little something for everyone.
Calling the Monarchs
Monarch butterflies like nectar from many native plants, but they love milkweeds. Milkweed leaves are the only food monarch caterpillars eat, so the butterflies are on the lookout for milkweed patches to lay their eggs. Once the eggs hatch, the larvae caterpillars can start nibbling right away. Having planted 400 milkweed plugs at Jack Smith Park, Cary looks forward to being a host site for this beautiful butterfly. In addition to milkweed, more than 100 sunflower plugs were also planted to adorn the area under the whirligigs.
Cary regularly connects with regional municipal neighbors to explore and share solid waste operations and waste management initiatives. Recently, staff spoke about the pilot food waste drop-off with members of the TJCOG Regional Solid Waste Consortium and later toured the City of Durham’s yard waste site and their compost facility to learn how they run these operations through contracted services with Atlas Organics. Interestingly, Durham adds a few hundred pounds of food scraps to their weekly mix to make compost. Food scraps are collected from less than 100 volunteer households participating in their pilot curbside program.
Annual Compost Bin and Rain Barrel Sale
In support of Cary’s commitment to stormwater mitigation and waste diversion, we hosted our 10th annual Compost Bin and Rain Barrel Sale. Community members purchased a collective 311 rain barrels and 233 compost bins in order to grow greener lawns and gardens. Distribution events are taking place throughout the month of May at the historic Good Hope Farm where participants are also receiving education regarding backyard composting and rainwater harvesting.
West Point Leadership Graduation Program
On May 10, Corporals Jann Leach, Tim Hageter, Armando Bake, and Matt Cavalear graduated from the West Point Leadership Program (WPLP). Developed by Methodist University’s Center for Excellence in Justice Administration, the West Point Leadership Program is a challenging 16-week leadership course designed to inspire leaders to develop an informed, systematic, and dynamic approach to leading in police organizations. WPLP is an adaptation of the third-year Military Leadership course completed by all West Point cadets.
First Cary PD Motorcycle Instructor
This month, Motor Officer Dustin Preston became the first Cary Police Officer to earn the Police Motorcycle Instructor Certification through the Institute of Police Technology and Management (IPTM) in Daytona Beach, Florida. The extensive two-week course curriculum included advanced riding skill building, creating and improving department training programs, and presenting a block of instruction. His training and expertise will enable Cary to host its own police motorcycle training courses, enhance current internal motor officer training programs, and assist other agencies with their motorcycle training courses.
NCWRF Aeration Improvements Update
Construction is complete on the North Cary Water Reclamation Facility Aeration Improvements Project. Facility staff and the contractor, Crowder Construction, worked together to maintain daily operations and deliver this project on time and under budget. Capital upgrades installed over the past two years modernized the aeration systems, replaced obsolete equipment, and will supply future energy savings while supporting advanced treatment. This capital investment into Cary’s oldest water reclamation facility will allow treatment to remain at the highest standards for years to come.
Virtual Neighborhood Rezoning Meeting
A neighborhood meeting will be held virtually on WebEx from 6:30 to 8:00 p.m. on June 1. The following case will be discussed:
- 22-REZ-10 Cary Plastic Surgery
For more information and to register, visit the Virtual Neighborhood Rezoning Meeting page.
Planning and Zoning Board
Monday, May 23
Cultural Arts Committee
Wednesday, May 25
Thursday, May 26
Emails from citizens this week included:
- A proclamation request which was evaluated against our guidelines.
- A request to use town media (the use of our media is limited by state and federal laws)
- A complaint about paving roadways along Ridgecrest and Willow.
- A complaint about replacing landscaping on Ridgecrest.
- A complaint about bicyclists impacting traffic.
Next I will be on a family vacation out of town. Any mayoral duties will be handled by Mayor Pro-Tem Frantz.
Well, that is all for this week. My next post will be on Sunday, June 5th. 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.