Tuesday, May 15, 2018

FY2019 Budget, Recycling and an update on the Downtown Park

The council and town staff held our third quarter meeting this past Thursday at the Matthews House in Downtown Cary. Our quarterly meetings are basically a mini council retreat where we reflect on noteworthy projects or initiatives over the last three months and discuss other important items while looking to the future.

Blogworthy discussion items included the budget, recycling and the downtown park.

We are still early on in the budget process and by “we” I mean the council. Town staff – especially those in finance – never really leave the budget process. As soon as one fiscal year’s budget is adopted they begin working on the next one. Who knew that collecting and spending $340 million was so complicated? 😉 Well, it is and we are blessed to have such talented folks working on it – even more so this year. This is the first year that our department directors; rather than simply submitting independent department requests to the Town Manager, worked collaboratively to identify the organization’s overall needs to submit a unified recommendation to our Town Manager. The result is a budget that more closely aligns the organization’s resources with our community’s priorities.

Proposed budget highlights include:

The addition of 12 new firefighters and a new ladder truck

$7.1 Million in street resurfacing

$1.75 Million in new sidewalks

$3.1 Million for Phase III of the Higgins Greenway

Master Plan Phase II of the downtown Park

$1.8 Million for Stormwater initiatives

$6.7 Million for Reedy Creek Road Widening


Proposed budget lowlights include:

Sanitation fees will increase $1 per month to help move the system closer to cost recovery

The Annual Vehicle License fee will increase $15.00 to help cover the costs of road improvements and sidewalks

Utility rates will increase 3% per household.

Recycling is becoming more expensive.

This was a very interesting part of the budget discussion. While Cary’s robust recycling program never came close to breaking even, historically we have been able to sell certain recyclables for about $10.00 a ton. Recent changes in the market however have resulted in us now paying $21.47 a ton to get rid of it. So what happened? Well nearly 40% of US recyclables are shipped to China. That is until China squashed that last year and announced that they would no longer be importing most recyclables. Supply and demand.

Cary delivers roughly 11,000 tons of recyclables to Sonoco Recycling in Raleigh each year. At $10 a ton that generated $110,000.00 in revenue. Paying nearly $22 to get rid of it equals a $220,000 expenditure – a $330,000.00 swing. That stinks, and I aint talking about the trash.

In the end however it is a values decision. Does our community support recycling enough to invest another $330K to keep doing it? Is diverting recyclables away from the landfill worth it? I believe so. In fact, according to Cary’s most recent biennial survey, 93.9% of Cary citizens support Cary’s recycling program - It’s the right thing to do.

Citizens can comment on the proposed budget at the Budget Public Hearing in Council Chambers on June 14th or via email at budgetinput@townofcary.org. Citizens can also contact council members at council@townofcary.org

Downtown Park Update

The council voted 6-1 to hire the Office of James Burnett (OJB) as the downtown park phase II master plan design consultant.

I had previously blogged about the selection process and firms competing for the job here. All four firms are world class and there is no question that any one of them would do a wonderful job if selected. They didn’t get to where they are by being mediocre. After an extensive interview process however, the majority of our town staff and council believed OJB to be the best fit for Cary for a number of reasons.

What really resonated with me was their emphasis on programming, their understanding of the park as a driver for economic development and redevelopment and that Cary’s own Withers and Ravenel are their civil engineers.

While it took a little longer to get here than I had hoped, I am very pleased with the end result and look forward to the real work getting started and working with the community to develop a remarkable master plan for the park so we can start building it. Git r done!

Levy Park in Houston Texas is one example of OJB's work. Click on the link above to see more. Photo courtesy OJB.

That’s about it for now. As always thanks for reading and friend me on facebook or follow me on twitter for more town news and announcements.

Friday, May 4, 2018

Black Creek Greenway Improvements

Major renovations to Cary’s Black Creek Greenway from the Old Reedy Creek Trailhead to West Dynasty moved one step closer to construction at our council meeting last night with the recognition of at least $4 million in NCDOT State Transportation Improvement Program (STIP) funds.

Phases I & II of Black Creek Greenway were originally constructed 25 years ago and extend approximately 2.5 miles between Old Reedy Creek Road and West Dynasty Drive. This portion of the greenway trail does not meet the current Town’s minimum design standard of ten feet wide for asphalt trails and twelve feet wide for the bridges. The greenway has also been severely impacted by heavy rains and flooding requiring major upgrades to prevent further storm damage. Phases I & II reconstruction will bring the greenway up to current design standards including 7 new bridges that will be upgraded and elevated to reduce stormwater impacts.

The Phase V portion of the project (see image below) is a new greenway trail. Currently, sidewalks on West Dynasty Drive provide the connection between Phases II & III of the greenway. As I am sure everyone who has traversed this section of greenway is well aware, it has extremely steep grades that make it difficult for pedestrians and cyclists. The new Phase V section of greenway eliminates the need for users of the trail to travel on the steep section of West Dynasty Drive and aligns the greenway access points directly across from each other on West Dynasty Drive.

The total estimated project cost for the renovations to phases I & II and the new phase V trail is $6.6 million. The town had originally received a grant from the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (CAMPO) for $2.6 million and Cary had already appropriated $2 million. Shortly thereafter we were awarded the $4 million grant from NCDOT. We don’t just apply for grants from one agency, we apply for grants from all possible agencies ;-)

So yeah, we’re accepting the higher grant award from NCDOT and not the CAMPO grant – and before you ask, no we can’t use both 😉

The $4 million grant from NCDOT also allows for another $1 million grant once the project has gone to bid for a total grant amount of $5 million in NCDOT STIP funds. Cary’s share of the cost would be $1.6 million. We have already appropriated $2 million so roughly 400K will be returned to the general fund and become available for other needs. Cary will be getting a shiny new $6.6 million greenway for $1.6 million in town funds…. And did I mention it aligns the greenway crossing West Dynasty so you won’t kill yourself peddling up that crazy hill anymore?

With the acceptance of grant funds, our Town of Cary staff will begin the process for acquiring the necessary easements and right-of-way for the project with a goal of initiating the construction bidding phase in 2019.

Special thanks to our amazing Town of Cary Staff and the fine folks at the Black Creek Watershed Association for all their efforts thus far. As with everything Cary, everyone working together makes great things happen! I can’t wait for this project to begin. Cary Rocks!