Monday, November 16, 2009

Week in Review 11/9/09 - 11/15/09

My week began with a meeting with Town Manager Ben Shivar to discuss a number of topics including Old Cary Elementary (more on this later), the town’s current financial outlook and council relations.

This past Tuesday Council held a work session to discuss two topics – Cary’s Historic Preservation Master Plan and Koka Booth Amphitheater.

Town staff and consultants presented the final round of updates and recommendations for Cary’s Historic Preservation Master Plan before preparations begin to send this to public hearing. Council asked that the public hearing be held AFTER the Holidays thinking that folks will already have enough on their plates (turkey I hope!) and might miss their opportunity for comment. As important as this initiative is we want to ensure we gather as much citizen input as possible before making any final decisions.

Next on the agenda were Koka Booth Amphitheater and sound levels. After a healthy discussion council ultimately agreed to allow three events next year to exceed the current limit of 92 decibels but not to exceed 95 decibels. This doesn’t sound like much of a difference I know, but believe me it is. A number of artists, patrons, and citizens have complained about our noise restrictions and a number of artists have even refused to play at the amphitheater due to sound limits. Council decided on limiting the number of shows which may exceed 92 decibels to three as a “test” to see how this works out for the amphitheater and area residents.

Council also discussed concessions and seating – but those are mainly operational items so we differed to staff….although one council member was somewhat critical of current wine selections. Obviously not me. ;-) Beer and pretzels and I’m good to go!

Thursday the council retreat committee and staff met to discuss the upcoming retreat agenda. The retreat will focus on where, or what we want Cary to be in thirty years from now – a visioning exercise in some regards. We will be reviewing allowable densities throughout town, housing types (suburban vs. urban), transportation, stormwater issues and our downtown. The retreat will be held locally in Cary again this year to reduce costs and encourage citizen participation – so if you have an opinion on Cary’s growth rate – and I know you do! – please come.

Afterwards was our council meeting. The majority of the meeting consisted of ceremonial presentations and awards but there were definitely a few other notable items worthy of discussion here.

Funding for the Old Cary Elementary School renovations and conversion to the Cary Community Arts Center was unanimously approved by council. Cary had previously estimated construction costs to be in the neighborhood of $15+ million. Bids came in at 7-9 million; a substantial savings given the down economy and increased competition. The remaining balance of the $15 million that was allocated for Cary Elementary (cash on hand) will be returned to the general fund to help make up for the reduction in revenue we are experiencing given the recession.

Council also unanimously approved the hiring of six new police officers for a new police beat in West Cary – our fastest growing area of town. Council had previously held off on filling these positions as we had applied for a federal grant to help defray some of the costs. Once we were notified we did not receive grant funding we approved the hiring of these additional officers. I wish all our decisions were this easy.

The highlight of the council meeting was the awards presentation for Cary’s first ever Hometown Spirit Award. All 12 finalists were recognized at our meeting and received a small token of our appreciation. Congratulations to Alisa Wright Colopy who was selected as Cary’s first ever Hometown Spirit Award Winner. Many thanks to the selection committee as well – in reading the nomination forms their job of choosing a winner from such an incredible group of individuals was surely no easy task.

On Friday evening I met with WCPSS Board Member Elect Debra Goldman to help her with her new blog, Debra’s Chalk Board. Make sure you bookmark it and check back often for updates…just like you do for my blog right??? ;-) Hopefully more elected officials will follow suit and make the effort to better communicate with their constituency. Great job, Debra!

On Saturday evening I attended John Tedesco’s victory ball in Garner. This was a lot of fun and it was great to celebrate with so many friends and colleagues. I can’t wait for December 1st!!!

Well that’s about it for this week in review. As always, thanks for reading!