Texas, Augusta, and a Legislative Summary

Texas Trip

Monday I joined others on a trip to visit community centers and venues in Texas where we were hosted by architects and consultants. The purpose of the trip was to see pros and cons of how others have done a combined community centers with senior centers and to look at centers that had competition spaces. This will help as we begin the concept-to-design of Mills Park and The Centre at South Hills.

The first visit was to the Rec of Grapevine which had a total size of over 114,000 square feet and included a water feature. Personally, I considered this a baseline center. That is, Cary would have had better finishes and probably more amenities and programming. The big positive for this center was the integration of the senior center with the rest of the facility. While the seniors had their own entrance and space, they could easily be part of the rest of the center if they desired. The biggest negative for me was the small, programed spaces and the walk/run path that was 1/8 of a mile. There were other cons, especially with the water feature. The entire water feature was one body of water making it too hot for lane swimmers or too cold for the recreational part of the pool. In addition, maintenance of the pool was a big expense.

The second visit was to the MARQ of Southlake. This had an 84,000 square foot center, called the Champions Club, and a 22,000 square foot senior center, called Legends Hall. This facility also had a water feature, and the pros and cons of that feature were like the Rec of Grapevine. The champions club portion had several types of rooms for programming and for rentals. Programming seemed to be strong, but the amount of exercise equipment seemed to be small. The Legends Club had high end finishings that made it look like a country club. In addition, it was only connected to community center portion by one door and a set of steps which made it feel exclusive. The two centers didn’t seem to have any mixing of people, which seemed an intentional part of the design.

The third visit was to the Lewisville Thrive which was about 80,000 square feet with a water feature. This facility did a much better job with the programming rooms and the water feature. It still lacked a good walking/running trail. The biggest pro to me was how they used the outdoor space which included a little amphitheater.

The fourth facility visited was the Stephen Terrell Recreation Center which was still under construction. The center is going to be 149,000 square feet and will not include a water feature. It will include several indoor full-length basketball courts which could flex into a huge event space. Its walking/running trail was significantly better than the others and included multiple levels and even steps for those who wanted to integrate that into their walk/run routine. This facility also had integration to a huge outdoors space. The surprise part of the visit to this facility was that it was being built for $54 million. It would cost twice that if it were built here.

On the way to our fifth facility we toured the Edge Skate Park. This was a big skate park that is used for parties and other events in addition to skating. Something to think about when we consider changes to our skate park.

Our last visit was to the Epic in Grand Prairie. It was a massive space which included a water feature even though it was adjacent to a water park. It had features you don’t normally see in a community center such as a theater. Its exercise space was significant and there were plenty of rooms for rental and programming. The walking/running trail was also significant and multi-level. One big positive for this center was the adjacent outdoor space which was programmed as well as the indoor space. We also toured the adjacent water park which reminded me a little of a small indoor Emerald Point.

The trip was successful in the sense that it gave us information on what works well and what doesn’t work so well in a community and senior center. I had several great discussions with our Parks Director and our Director of Special Venues. One interesting note was that all the facilities talked about the lack of staffing. I look forward to the next phase of concept-to-design for both of Mills Park and the Centre.

Augusta Trip

Wednesday and Thursday I traveled to and from Augusta, Georgia to watch the Masters Golf tournament. I worked at the tournament for 39 years until they retired me in 2017. This was my first visit back. It was a beautiful day with the temperature on the warm side. The course and the golf were amazing as always. I enjoyed visiting and hope I get the chance in the coming years.

Legislative Summary

The North Carolina Metro Mayors did not meet this week due to the holiday weekend. However a weekly summary was provided by KTS Strategies:

Legislative Spring BreakDue to the NC General Assembly’s spring break next week, (April 10-14) you will not receive a legislative update next Friday. Our weekly newsletter will resume Friday, April 21. 

House Passes Budget

This week, the House completed their work on the biennial budget proposal. The proposal received approval from the House Finance and Pensions Committees before heading to the House floor.  After consideration of nearly 30 amendments over the two-day vote, it passed third reading Thursday morning with a vote of 78-38. Ten Democrats voted in favor. The $29.7 billion spending plan includes the following highlights: 

  • 10.2 percent average teacher pay raise over two years;
  • 11 percent Highway Patrol pay raise over two years;
  • 7.5 percent state employee pay raise;
  • Personal income tax rate cut to 4.5 percent; and 
  • $1 billon for transportation needs.

The Senate will now begin work on their budget proposal. Once passed, the two chambers will meet in a conference committee to negotiate a final version. The goal is to have a budget in place before the end of the fiscal year on June 30. 

Party Switch

On Wednesday, Democratic Representative Tricia Cotham announced she was switching her affiliation to the Republican Party.  Rep. Cotham represents House District 112 in Mecklenburg County.  During the press conference House Speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland) stated, “Even when I was in the minority, and Rep. Cotham was in the majority, she was always one of the most bipartisan members who would work with us a great deal.” The switch means that Republicans now officially hold a supermajority in both chambers. Here are links to the official statements from the NCGOP and NCDP

Boards and Commissions Appointments

Sponsored by Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger (R-Rockingham), Senate Rules Chair Bill Rabon (R-Brunswick), and Senator Warren Daniel (R-Burke) S512, Greater Accountability for Boards/Commissions was filed in the Senate this week. The bill would amend the composition and appointments of the nine following Boards and Commissions: 

  • The Utilities Commission
  • The Economic Investment Committee
  • The Environmental Management Commission
  • The Commission for Public Health
  • The Board of Transportation
  • The Coastal Resources Commission
  • The Wildlife Resources Commission
  • The N.C. Railroad Board of Directors
  • The UNC Health Care Board of Directors

It would generally reduce the number of gubernatorial appointees and allow for appointments by the State Treasurer and Commissioner of Agriculture for certain commissions. S512 was approved by the Senate Judiciary and Senate Rules Committee on Tuesday and Wednesday respectively. It passed third reading on the Senate floor along party lines (29-18) and will now head to the House for consideration.

Mayor’s Mailbox

  • A request to play exhibition tennis in Senior Appreciation Day.
  • A request to pass a non-discrimination ordinance (we did that last summer).
  • A request to speak as a panel member of a discussion.
  • A complaint about construction runoff in MacGregor.

Next Week

Next week’s activities include staff meetings, a meeting of the Atlantic Tire Championship board, a meeting with NC Senator Adcock, a meeting with a business owner, the first regularly scheduled council meeting of April, the Year of the Trails event, and the First Responders banquet.

Well, that is all for this week. My next post will be on Sunday, April 16th, 2023. Although I have Facebook and Twitter accounts those are not the best means of communication 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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