Kingswood Visit, Rajagopuram Inauguration, Cary Government Best Place to Work

Kingswood Elementary Visit

Monday morning I joined Assistant Town Manager Danna Widmar in a visit to Kingswood Elementary which is a magnet school in downtown Cary. Kingswood teachers are trained to provide an interdisciplinary approach by integrating science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) in all Common Core State Standards through project-based learning. Our outdoor learning centers combine STEM concepts with Montessori based activities where students enjoy learning opportunities year-round. BTW, I was told that Kingswood was the first year-round school in the nation.

The first part of the visit was to meet with teachers and administration about their award-winning sustainability efforts. Initiatives include compostable trays in the cafeteria. This combined with composting food waste has reduced their trash production by about 70%. There are also raised garden beds throughout the property to allow students to grow and harvest food. A rain garden was created to fix a flooding and erosion problem at the school. But the most impressive part of all their initiatives is that the students know the how, what, and why of the initiatives. Kingswood is currently working toward achieving the status of a Green Ribbon School.

The second part of the visit was to meet with two fifth grade classes who were studying the different levels of government. I explained local government and how we are the closest to the people. In my remarks I talked about my role and the role of the council, our duties, responsibilities, and a typical day. Afterwards, I answered questions for about 15 minutes.

I really enjoyed my visit Kingswood, and I am so impressed with their sustainability efforts. I committed to taking part in future sustainability events.

Rajagopuram Inauguration at SV Temple

Monday afternoon I joined several dignitaries, including the Governor, for the inauguration of Rajagopuram at the SV Temple. Others in attendance included NC Speaker of the House, NC Secretary of State, a NC State Senator, Cary council members, Morrisville Mayor and council members, and county commissioners.

Rajagopuram (Raja meaning king, Gopuram meaning gateway in Hindi, the language of India), will serve as the entrance to the SV Hindu Temple in Cary. At 87 feet, it is the tallest of its kind in North America. Five thousand contributors funded the building of the structure eliminating the need for a loan. Several craftsmen from India worked on this structure for years creating intricately designed figures that go around the outside of the tower. The process included pouring into concrete molds and then carrying the figures up the scaffolding and placing them by hand onto the structure.

The inauguration celebration started with a procession through Rajagopuram which is the entrance to the temple and a place where “you leave your worries behind” and a lighting of the lamp.

After the procession a temple board member, the Governor, the NC Speaker, Madam Secretary, a NC State Senator, and I all provided remarks. In my closing remarks I said the structure is not only a religious symbol but a beacon of diversity.

Agenda Meeting

Later Monday I met with Mayor Pro-Tem Frantz and management to go over the agenda. Since I was unable to attend the meeting on Thursday, Mayor Pro-Tem Frantz was responsible for questions and concerns. There were questions from council members on the property conveyance to Holly Springs and the Swift Creek Elementary renovation.

Town Manager One-On-One

After the agenda meeting I joined Mayor Pro-Tem Frantz in a meeting with the town manager. Several topics were discussed including a process for council member appointment if council member Ya is elected to the NC House and the redevelopment of town hall campus.

Dorcas Tour

Wednesday I toured the Dorcas Ministry facility on High House Road. This was my first visit since the new CEO, Andre Anthony, was hired. I toured the crisis center, food store, education center, the store space, and the back of the house. This ministry has grown so much over the years and is essential for many of the residents in Cary and Morrisville. Currently their biggest challenge is finding space to expand. A big thanks to Mark Helwig and Andre Anthony who spent over two hours with me.

Council Meeting

I was unable to attend the council meeting in person due to a medical procedure. I was able to watch the entire meeting. There were 14 items on the consent agenda, 1 public hearing, and 1 discussion item.

The public hearing on Swift Creek Elementary School Renovation/Replacement ACT 30 Comprehensive Plan Amendment was continued to the next council meeting in November. Questions at the public hearing included transportation and access issues. There was also concern that the playground area, part of the Wake County Park system, was going to be eliminated in the new design. The school’s gym, built in the 1930’s, is considered by many to be historic. Unfortunately, the school system will tear it down unless someone wants to pay to have it moved. Across the street from the newly planned elementary school has plans for a future small middle school with limited capacity. The county school representative said this use could change in the future as needs change.

The discussion item was on a Wake County Public Schools System (WCPSS)/Cary Proposed Joint-Use Baseball Field Project in Mills Park. Council asked a lot of questions concerned that citizens would have less access to the fields due to programming by the school. After much discussion the council unanimously approved the manager to enter a Memorandum of Understanding with the WCPSS. The Town and WCPSS will take six months to finalize the capital and operating issues associated with this joint use proposal and determine if it is feasible. Staff will return to Council to present final operating and capital numbers so Council can make an informed decision.

The council meeting concluded after a little over an hour.

Cary Government Best Place to Work

Friday I was notified that Cary Ranked #1 in the nation for Best Places to Work in Local Government. Here is what they said:

“Why they’re the best: Great core values to focus on people

The Town of Cary, NC had us with their organization’s core values:

  1. People First: We exist to build an inclusive community and take care of people.
  2. Evolution: We seize opportunities to experiment, learn and adapt to create a better future
  3. Working Smart: We prioritize work on the most important things
  4. Anyone Can Lead: We differentiate leadership from authority and believe that everyone can find ways to make our community better.

When it comes to these values, Cary practices what it preaches, with monthly “rap sessions” to provide a safe space for colleagues to discuss uncomfortable or challenging topics. Cary focuses on rewarding its employees, including with a “Benefits My Way” program that offers additional paid time off each year and offers lifestyle reimbursements for things like childcare, tuition assistance, fitness and physical activity, veterinary bills and more.

I am so proud of our town manager, the management team, and all the great people who work for Cary. Thank you for all you do!

Town Manager’s Report

Dan’s Message

Happy Friday!
From my very first days in local government and continuing through today, one of my career’s greatest rewards has been the opportunity to work in and with Public Works. For me, it represents the heartbeat for any community, including Cary.
This week, Director Matt Flynn and the extraordinary team successfully conducted our all-important annual winter weather preparedness exercise, known as the Snow Rodeo. It was great sharing a BBQ lunch with dozens of valued emergency management partners from across the organization as well as engaging with the media for virtual and live interviews. Watch the CBS17 clip here
In other great Public Works news, you’ll begin seeing the Live Inspired brand hit the streets this week! Cary’s brand-new leaf collection truck is the first in the fleet that will showcase our new logo. These changes are coming in tandem with an ongoing effort to update our entire fleet by the end of the year. Keep an eye out for these exciting changes. 
Dan 

Inauguration of Rajagopuram and Celebration of Diwali

Mayor Weinbrecht and Councilmembers Liu and Kohn-Johnson joined Governor Roy Cooper in the Grand Inauguration of Rajagopuram and the annual Celebration of Diwali – Festival of Lights, on October 24 at the Sri Venkateswara Temple of North Carolina. The 87-foot tower is known as the “Tower of Unity and Prosperity,” and is the tallest Hindu temple in North America. 

Nicole Coughlin Appointed to U.S. Department of Commerce IoT Advisory Board

This week, the U.S. Department of Commerce announced the appointment of 16 members to the newly formed Internet of Things Advisory Board (IoTAB), which will advise the Internet of Things Federal Working Group. Included as the only representative from local government is Nicole Coughlin, Cary’s Chief Information Officer. Board members, who will serve two-year appointments, will advise the federal working group on matters such as IoT opportunities and challenges for small businesses, the ways in which IoT can deliver economic and societal benefits to the U.S., and IoT international opportunities for the US. All meetings are open to the public.

Kingswood Magnet Elementary School Visit

The Mayor and Assistant Town Manager Danna Widmar visited Kingswood Magnet Elementary School on Monday. They met with their sustainability committee and engaged in a roundtable discussion about their initiatives including a composting system the students piloted and implemented school system-wide. In addition, Mayor Weinbrecht spoke to fifth graders about government and his role. 

Cary Band Day

Mayor Pro Tem Don Frantz met with Cary Band Director and three Drum Majors in advance of the proclamation presentation at last night’s meeting. This year marks the 63rd anniversary of the event and the 101st anniversary of the Cary Band. It has been described as the greatest celebration of marching band and music education excellence in North Carolina. 

Sharing Cary’s Culture

In July, Chief Development Officer Scot Berry and Assistant Human Resources Director Ashley Lategan attended the Senior Executive Institute (SEI) at the University of Virginia. This week they were invited back and asked to speak about Cary’s culture at an alumni event in Charlottesville attended by senior local government professionals from across the country. Their presentation shared Cary’s evolution: how the Imagine Cary Community Plan is a blueprint for our vision, on how our purpose and values encourage us to stay at the top of the arc, and how adaptive leadership gives us a common language and philosophy for our organizational development efforts. Scot and Ashley now join other SEI alumni in Cary, including Sean Stegall and Russ Overton.

Cary Chamber Eye Opener: Cary and NCAA

On Wednesday morning, William Davis, Sports Venue Manager, discussed Cary’s decades-long relationship with hosting NCAA events and championships at the Chamber Eye Opener. The presentation covered not only the sizeable economic impact of NCAA events, but also the things that set Cary apart from other cities: our commitment to excellence, the quality of our facilities, and how we treat the players, coaches, and families throughout their experience in Cary. He also previewed some exciting championships coming up, including the Division I Women’s & Men’s College Cup at WakeMed in December and the Division II Baseball Championships at USA Baseball in early 2023.

Highlighting Cary’s Environmental Leadership

Cary was well represented at the Solid Waste Association of North America (SWANA) NC annual conference. Staff shared and learned about new technologies, ideas, and solutions to transform waste into a resource. Fleet Manager, Brandon Pasinski, and Waste Strategy and Community Impact Consultant, Srijana Guilford, spoke about Cary’s new electric sanitation truck purchase and food waste drop-off, both unique assets to NC municipal operations, and are keeping Cary a leader in municipal efforts to reduce emissions and food waste.

Project PHOENIX Nottingham Drive Unity in the Community Event

On October 22, the police department’s Project PHOENIX Unit hosted an annual Unity in the Community block party on Nottingham Dr. Residents from Williamsburg Manor, Aurella Cary, and Woodcreek Apartments were invited to enjoy fun activities, games, and food for the day! This year’s participants included some new faces to include Cary Resources for Seniors, El Centro Hispano, Wake County Health and Human Services, SAFEChild, and much more!

Project Epic Trek (PET) Launch

On October 24, Cary staff had a successful formal launch for Project Epic Trek (PET). This project will transform the existing financial and human capital platform into Oracle Fusion Cloud. The excitement of this trek was evidenced by the documented attendance of 195 employees preparing to join the journey into the future. There were morning and afternoon sessions, that provided a high-level snapshot of what the system has to offer from time entry to how we pay our vendors. This day was filled with meet and greet opportunities between Cary staff and vendor partners from Oracle, Enterprise Solution Consulting (ESC) and Plante Moran. While many of the vendor team returned home on Monday, a team from ESC remained in Cary all week to participate in the first week of workshops. A special thank you goes out to all PET Sponsors, Steering Committee, and Change Champions.

Wake County Wastewater Testing

Over the last year, Cary has been working with Wake County Public Health on COVID-19 wastewater monitoring. Cary provides influent wastewater samples from our three water reclamation facilities twice a week to Wake County for COVID-19 testing and trending. The information is used and shared with NC Department of Health and Human Services and CDC through the NC Wastewater Monitoring Network  to help track COVID-19 trends and is used with other public health data. Cary extended our agreement with Wake County to continue COVID-19 wastewater monitoring for an additional 3 years and to add other infectious diseases such as Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) and other health-related issues to the panel for surveillance and tracking.

RAD Share at Carpenter Park

On October 22, Olympic BMX Freestyle coach Ryan Nyquist partnered with RADshare and Cary Action Sports to give back to the community by providing free helmets. RADshare a non-profit that aims to promote a safer bike culture by offering educational opportunities, free helmets and dependable cycling equipment gave out more than 24 helmets. Most of the 40 participants of all ages walked or biked to Carpenter Park to enjoy the unique opportunity to interact with the Olympic coach Ryan Nyquist.  Action Sports staff were onsite to answer questions and provide information about bike, skate and scooter programs Cary offers.

Upcoming Meetings

Human Relations, Inclusion & Diversity Task Force
Tuesday
November 1
6:00 p.m.

Senior Advisory Board
Wednesday
November 2

2:00 p.m.

Virtual Neighborhood Rezoning
Wednesday
November 2

6:30 p.m.

Mayor’s Mailbox

  • Concern that Cary Downtown Park doesn’t look like it is on schedule (It is on schedule and should be open next summer)
  • Complaint about the location of handicapped parking at Fenton (Owners responded with maps)
  • A request for World Pancreatic Cancer Day Proclamation (We do this every year)
  • Complaint about rezoning in Regency (Council does not have information on this until the Public Hearing which is not scheduled)
  • Complaint about 18 wheelers parked on Chapel Road near the Cary/Morrisville border (Staff is looking into code violations)

Next Week

Next week’s activities include staff meetings, Cary Chamber Eye Opener with Ted Abernathy, Advisory Volunteer Appreciation Event, Veterans Luncheon, Parkside Commons Tree Lighting, and the sign dedication to Ed Yerha Park.

Well, that is all for this week. My next post will be on Sunday, November 6th. 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.

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