Saturday, April 19, 2014

We're Sued...

If you haven’t heard the sad news, Cary Town Clerk Sue Rowland is retiring. I know, how dare she right?

Council members Gale Adcock, Jack Smith and I are on the town clerk selection committee and have been working with HR (Thanks so much Renee!) to whittle a list of 159 applicants down to four who we will conduct face to face interviews with. After interviews it is our expectation to get down to two finalists for the entire council to interview, and ultimately select Cary’s next Town Clerk.

This is no easy task let me tell you! I mean, how on earth do you replace mom? That is what I think of Sue. She is Cary’s – and especially the council’s - mom.

Sue’s “official duties” include giving notice of Town Council meetings, preparing the Council meeting agenda, recording all council meetings, worksessions and committee meetings and creation of associated minutes, serving as custodian of all permanent town records, keeping the Town Seal, attesting all Town documents, maintaining the Town Code, managing the various Boards and Commissions, management of clerk’s office staff, notary services and the administration of Hillcrest Cemetery. She is responsible for all public records requests and manages Sunshine Week activities. Sue prepares proclamations and resolutions for community events and my personal favorite - provides support services to the Town Council and town staff.

And does she ever. Sue coordinates – and often attends - individual or group council member and staff meetings. She makes sure we are where we are supposed to be, when we are supposed to be there and that we have everything we need when we get there. She even makes sure we are dressed appropriately for special events! (some of us need more help than others). She makes pimento cheese and chili for staff and council members for those really long meetings and she makes sure I always have at least one cold Monster in the fridge. She swears at…oops, swears IN newly elected council members ;-) and she never misses celebrating a council member’s birthday.

Sue also serves as the unofficial council psychologist. I have gone to her office on many occasions to discuss something that was troubling me. Her door is always open (I know because I disabled the lock ;-) and she always listens and does her very best to try and help. I ALWAYS leave her office feeling better than I did when I got there…even if it was me who is in the wrong….which never happens ;-)

Sue is oftentimes a citizen’s first contact with the town – whether they need to schedule a meeting with staff and/or council, have a general question about a town program or service or they need help with an issue they are experiencing, Sue does her very best to get them what they need. Sue puts everyone else first and never seeks the spotlight or asks for credit for a job well done. Cary’s success is what is important to Sue.

Sue manages all of council’s emails, snail mail and phone messages which is pretty dang impressive in itself as I have a hard time managing all that. I can’t imagine that times seven. Sue also has this amazing gift of getting folks with strong differences of opinion to come together and work towards something we all can be satisfied with, and she’ll even make you smile doing it! Sue eats drama for lunch.

Sue gets more done by 10:00 am than most of us probably get done all day! Just like mom.

The only thing I can think of that Sue has ever done wrong is retire…and dang it, she even makes you feel good about that…sort-of…not really….well maybe….good for her! See? Her last day is August 1st I think….I don’t know, my calendar doesn't have an August.

Given the caliber of applicants I am certain we will find another highly qualified and talented town clerk. I remain optimistic we will find a new mom. I can't help but feel that Cary’s success depends on it.

I had the pleasure of attending a couple of ribbon-cuttings this week for two new area businesses (kind of) – Carolina Pottery and City Barbeque. Carolina Pottery has relocated from their Harrison Avenue location to the old Kmart building on Kildaire Farm Road. City Barbeque is a new business to Cary and the first to open in North Carolina. They are also located on Kildaire Farm Road next to IHOP. If you’re in the area please check them both out!

The council held another – although brief – worksession to discuss, you guessed it – a fountain. Yes, we are meeting a lot on this one. Staff is proceeding very cautiously and checking in with council often to make sure they are on the right path. I have no idea why all the concern….ok, yes I do ;-) It’s all my fault and, well, I can’t say I feel that guilty about it. If we are going to do this – which we are – then we are going to get it right!

I, along with the rest of council, was very pleased with the latest designs. While each of the three concepts had elements that the council liked, it was also clear that we preferred one design over the other two. Staff will now work towards a final design based on our feedback. And while it all hasn’t been sunshine, puppies and rainbows, I do want to express my thanks to staff for all their hard work so far – I really do appreciate it guys.

Our last council meeting was a quasi-judicial meeting which basically means we act as judge and jury and can only consider factual testimony in our decision making process. It is very similar to that of a court of law. The most difficult case was a home day-care behind Cary Town Center Mall. I hate daycare cases as they often pit neighbor against neighbor and create a lot of animosity in the neighborhood.

Both sides presented valid arguments for why the case should be approved or denied. But in the end the facts were on the side of the applicant. State and municipal law allow the use as long as certain criteria are met, and it was my belief, and that of the majority of council, that was the case.

I am however hopeful that the applicant not only heard the concerns of her neighbors, but works to address them as best she can. While not a legal requirement, it sure would go a long way towards mending fences in their community.

I want to remind everyone about one of my favorite Town of Cary events coming up – the 3rd annual Wheels on Academy Car Show in downtown Cary. This year’s show will take place on May 17th from 9:00 am to 2:00. Participants should arrive between 7:00 and 9:00. There will be close to 200 classic and custom cars on display, live music, an art car project, a Model T take apart demonstration, fire trucks and arts and crafts for the kids, a detail clinic and lots of food and vendors! The Mayor will even be on hand to choose the Mayor’s Award this year – no pressure, Harold!

I’m thinking this year I might take the race car so the kids can sit in it and take photos if they want. They always seem to have a blast with that.
That’s about it for now. As always, thanks for reading!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

2014 Stuff

Long time no hear from eh? C’mon….admit it. You know you missed my blog posts ;-)

Well life has been a little hectic these days to say the least. Mostly good stuff though. We have two sons getting married soon, some long overdue remodel projects are underway (we’re finally getting a new bathroom!!!), work (the one that pays the bills) is busy and I’m restoring a 1948 Chevy Pickup.

See Ed, who says I don’t care about Historic Preservation ;-)

And I have to admit, when I have to decide whether to spend time with the family or write a blog post…well…it’s a pretty easy choice. Family. Unlike, Lori, I can't bang these things out in 15 minutes. Hi Lori! ;-)

All that said, we have some catching up to do!

Walnut Street Repaving

I’m sure you all heard a lot about this one. Repave Walnut Street (from Kildaire Farm Rd. to Cary Town Blvd.) as-is or eliminate two travel lanes and construct a landscaped median and bike lanes.

I first want to commend our town staff – especially Lori Cove and Kyle Hubert – for all their efforts and outside the box thinking on this project. When planning the Walnut Street repave, they decided to take a second look and see if maybe there was a better way to move cars and people while also improving aesthetics. Believe it or not, both options presented would be about the same cost.

Staff spent a great deal of time presenting both alternatives to the public and gathering feedback. Given the number of emails the council received from citizens this was no easy task.

And to make matters even more complicated, a few bright citizens suggested a possible hybrid of the two options – an option C if you will. This option would still allow for one travel lane in each direction and bike lanes but would not construct the median. Town engineers however were not supportive of this option.

The council ultimately decided to go with repaving Walnut Street as-is. This was no easy decision as there were a number of pros and cons to both options. For me however, the kicker was that if we constructed the median, while it would surely improve aesthetics, many folks who live along Walnut would have to drive past their home and make a U-Turn to get to their driveway. When leaving home, depending on their destination, they might have to make another U-Turn to get to where they are going. I know that if I lived along Walnut Street (I live just behind it) this would drive me insane. I couldn't vote to drive folks insane ;-)

Repaving is scheduled to begin sometime the end of June first of July.

Academy Street, Downtown Park and Fountain

Ya know, I guess we are pretty blessed when our biggest issue lately seems to be a fountain ;-)

The council has held a number of meetings over the last few months to discuss both the Academy Street Improvement Project and the Downtown Park/Town Square/Fountain.

The Academy Street project is moving through the engineering phase just fine. About the only changes made have been to eliminate the proposed arch(s) and reduce the number of artistic elements. The feeling was that a little art goes a long way and we could way over do it if we weren't careful. Plus we are going to have a lot of art in the park already. The council also decided to align the vehicle travel lanes at the intersection of Dry and Academy (if you've been through there you know what I’m talking about).

Engineering of the town square component of the downtown park has also been moving along just fine, well, almost – except for that pesky fountain.

I know it sounds trivial as you wouldn't expect a friggin fountain to cause so much controversy. And honestly it probably wouldn't have had the consulting/design team listened to council direction on the front end. They didn't.

The council was clear – crystal clear – that we wanted a fountain that was classical and traditional in nature – one that respected its historic surroundings while at the same time having that “wow factor” that would make folks want to come see it. Art could be incorporated to the design, but the fountain’s primary purpose would be a fountain – not the other way around.

They came back with this.

Needless to say I was not pleased. Neither was council. In no way is the above image remotely close to what we were looking for. While this might work on SAS campus, Disneyland or Sea World, it sure as heck doesn't work in Cary’s historic district.

Somewhere along the way, the artist the town hired to work with the design team on the park morphed into a fountain artist.
I was angry and disappointed and I let everyone know it. But to be fair I also apologized to the artist who was in attendance for being misled – by whom I don’t exactly know - because he was never hired to design the fountain. We made that clear. He was hired to help us incorporate artistic elements into the park.
So, where are we now? Where we should have been at the first meeting – reviewing images and elements of fountains and deciding which ones we would like to incorporate into Cary’s fountain. Staff and the design team will now take that input and bring back to council a few concepts to review that are in line with our expectations.
It has been a long and painful process, but things do seem much more positive now. In the end I am sure it will be worth it.
At our last council meeting we received some very good news. Revenues are beating budget by over $5 Million! Many thanks to everyone in the Town Manager’s office, the Budget and Finance Department and Department Directors for a job well done!
Bass Pro Shops
Do I really need to say anything about this? I mean, its Bass Pro Shops! In Cary! How awesome is that!
Dumb Median
Council member Jennifer Robinson and I recently met with NCDOT and Secretary Tony Tata to discuss removing the median at Morrisville Parkway and Carpenter Upchurch Road. This median was a NCDOT and CSX requirement. It was not the Town of Cary’s idea. NCDOT and the railroad required this median when Morrisville Parkway was extended to Highway 55. They believed it would increase public safety. They were wrong ;-) What we have discovered is that not only does it impede traffic flow, but folks are actually driving over and around the median further putting their lives and those of others at risk. It was a very positive meeting and we are optimistic that NCDOT will allow the removal of this median. You can see Mrs. Robinson and I discuss this issue in more detail on Cary Matters here.
NC House 41
I can’t tell you how many people have asked me about the NC House District 41 race so far. I guess it is because I know both Tom Murry and Gale Adcock pretty well? Anyways, I do have the utmost respect for both of them. I admire and look up to one of them. They both possess impressive resumes and records. Given the makeup of the district and previous election results, the key to winning this district will be turnout. Whichever candidate gets their voters to the polls will win period. I expect both sides and especially outside special interest groups will spend well over $500,000 on this one race to sway less than 2% of unaffiliated voters. I wish them both the best of luck.
What? You thought I was going to pick a favorite? Silly reader…… ;-) Not yet anyways.
But it will be interesting to see if the same folks who were critical of me running for the state house and “using my council seat as a springboard” will treat Mrs. Adcock in the same manner. Ya, I know….silly Don ;-)
Downtown Cary Farmer’s Market
Just a heads up that the Downtown Cary Farmer’s Market will be open this Saturday from 8:00 – 12:30. Their new location is on Chatham Street in between Ashworth Drugs and the Adcock Building on the lawn of the historic Ivey Ellington-Waddell House (the old house with the green roof – you can’t miss it). I would love to say “see you there!”, but we gots a young’n getting hitched this weekend! ;-) Which reminds me, I need to go pick up my suit from the tailor.
Well, that’s what I have for now – as always, thanks for reading!