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Thursday, October 30, 2014

Hey Hickory -- Who said the following in 2009 about 'Quality of Life' issues? (Quote)

“...but we have to have jobs. Young Professionals aren't going to come here, even for quality of life and social/community involvement, if there are no job opportunities. We are in a quandary. We can market all we want, but we have to have jobs.”

As a Hound reader, who does not support this bond referendum, stated:
It is interesting to go back to some of the 2009 (Hickory Hound) blogs and re-read them. Future Economic Council, Transformative Leadership, Narrowing our Focus from the Fixing Hickory series. Our local leadership has been sitting on the answers for 5 years. Now they want $40M (not including finance costs) to make Hickory “a great place to live”.

Who made the quote above about Young Professionals, that basically says that, 'young people aren't going to move here for quality of life issues unless there are jobs.' In other words, this person was saying 'build it and they will come' will not work.

Now, five years later this person is pushing for a stimulus package that is the complete opposite of what he espoused five years ago. The person who delivered that quote was Alan Jackson, the original Chairman of Hickory Inc.'s Business Development Committee.

Fixing Hickory - Narrowing Our Focus Economic Stimulus Package for Catawba County Finalized (The Finale) - October 26, 2014

Remember the Federal Stimulus plan of 2009-10. Has it made the economy better? It has for a few at the top, but what has it done for the middle class down. Look at the people pushing this plan. Is it not the same Insiders that always benefit when the local government starts throwing money around?


Now, I was basically told I was Anti-Hickory and not objective, this week, and here is my response edited for the general public:

I am not an anti-city guy. If that is what floats your boat, then enjoy. If we are going to be honest and forthright, that is only established in certain circles close to the Whitener Building. Not everyone with Hickory Inc. has that big a problem with what I say. The numbers related to this Bond Referendum that I have laid out aren't conjecture, they come directly from Hickory Inc. sources.  I haven't made any of it up. It's mathematics.

You can't be any more transparent than what I have laid out about this Bond issue and what I have interpreted Hickory Inc. says this money will be used for. Here's something I want the public to understand about where I am coming from. The City of Hickory are the people that reside, work and have an economic interest in the community. They are the diaspora that have come and gone from the community and are involved in the community. It is supposed to be a government of, by, and for the people.

Studies, surveys, committees, commissions, decisions should always take ALL of the people into account.

What they call "the City of Hickory" and I call "Hickory Inc." is the business mechanism that operates the community; the local Bureaucracy and Elected Officials. Those are supposed to be the Public Servants of the People. They work for the people and are supposed to work in the interest of the people. This corporate entity, that is chartered with the State of North Carolina and sanctioned by the North Carolina General Assembly, is a business mechanism that was established to serve the interests of the community of Hickory. This Corporation has jurisdiction over the City Proper and it's ETJ and any business interests that the associated public trust invests in. In Hickory, that includes the water system for nearly all of Catawba County.

The point is that I am not anti-Hickory. I haven't liked the ramrod style of government I have seen here for a long time. Does anyone think I'm the only one?

When the BUST Hickory side mandates that we either do this or Hickory is done... well, I find THAT to be negative. Especially when these people are the people that had us, by their own admission, hunkered down. The same people are constantly Lording over us... telling us what will and won't work, while not allowing (sanctioning) much of the public to have input.

I have been to every City Council meeting since July 2008. I have been to many community functions, including that meeting Mr. Jackson is quoted from above, where the issues I have addressed have been presented. I have people that call me out of the blue to discuss issues. I have people I have structured meetings with to discuss these issues. I'm not just shooting off at the mouth. Respect is a multi-lane street.

A lot of the sentiment from people who claim the Hound is Anti-Hickory and not objective, seems to be "If you're not with us, you're against us." Is that a positive attitude? Is that objective?

The Hound's intent IS, and will continue to be, an inclusive and positive force for the people of the community.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Cliff Moone - Candidate 96th NC House District - First Talk with Hal Row

I have known Cliff Moone for close to four years. The first time I saw him was in December 2010 at a City Council meeting where he introduced a proclamation regarding the U.S. Constitution's Bill of Rights. I first formally met him a couple months later. Cliff was one of 8 people, of diverse backgrounds, four white men and four black men, some from North Hickory and some from South Hickory, who met in Starbuck's in 2011 with a mission to move Hickory Forward. That movement brought forward the Ward Specific Voting Referendum of 2012 that was narrowly defeated. It also brought about Citizens Requesting to be Heard being moved to the front of the Agenda at Hickory City Council Meetings. And it brought about the Hickory City Council meeting being recorded and uploaded to Youtube.

This is his interview on Hal Row's first Talk last Wednesday Morning.Cliff staunchly attacks the current NC General Assembly, especially in the area of education, and supports the current Bond Referendum here in Hickory.

I'll let the Cliff speak for himself in this interview. I will say that everyone has to appreciate his words about the tragic loss of Kent Crowe at the Candidate Forum in Conover the day before.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Newsletter about the City Council meeting of October 21, 2014

I began video recording the City Council in 2012, because of my desire that the City do it on their own as any modern 21st century community began doing long ago. I had people tell me that they couldn't make it to the meetings, but they would like to see what is going on. I was also told by some council members that my summaries did not truly reflect the record, so having a video/audio recording cannot be misinterpreted.

So below is the City Council meeting. With each agenda item, you can click on the links and it will take you to that specific point in the meeting. You can always drag the marker on the video display to the point in the broadcast that you are interested in seeing.

Agenda about the City Council meeting of October 21, 2014

Thoughts about the Hickory City Council meeting of October 21, 2014 


Hound Notes: We see that Land Design is heavily involved in Inspiring Spaces, the Linear Park, the "Friends" Playground at Union Square, bond referendums, and city officials personal lives. Wow! How Neat!

Council Members Meisner and Patton were not in attendance

Invocation by Alderman Danny Seaver

Special Presentations
A. Friends of Hickory - (17 minute presentation) about a proposed park that will be built/located to the west of Union Square behind the Community One Bank. (Per Hickory Inc.) - Ms. Beth Watts Rogers, Ms. Allison Holtzman, and Mr. Adrian Holtzman presented to City Council a concept for a playscape to be located in the downtown area, and requested Council’s approval to move forward with their planning. The project is being developed by Land Design and Kompan.

Alderman Guess asks about the concerns about loss of parking behind Community One bank.
Alderman Guess asks about people crossing over the Thoroughfare Crosswalk to get from Union Square to the park.. and about other possibilities for this park's location.
Mrs. Rogers talks about asking for the Council's approval and coming back to go through a process with City Staff, Parks and Rec, the Council about Design, and then coming back with hard dollars.
Mayor Wright and City manager Berry talk about freeing up (parking) spots with the joint City-Transportation Insight parking lot.
City Manager Berry about Parking Perception issue Downtown.

(From) -- Newsletter about the City Council meeting of March 18, 2014

A. Roger Young - Friends of Hickory, Specific Space for the Downtown Park - (from Hickory Inc.) -  presented to Council plans for a playground and park in the downtown area. He showed photos from three companies that they are currently working with on ideas for the playground. The estimated cost will be between $300,000 - $400,000, and they are planning fund raisers to come up with the money for the project. He requested Council’s permission to continue moving forward with this project on this location.

Persons Requesting to Be Heard
A. Mr. Jim Bright, Tarheel Challenge Academy - (7 minute presentation) - (Per Hickory Inc.) - Mr. Jim Bright informed City Council of the Tarheel Challenge Academy located in Salemburg, North Carolina. The Academy is a quasi-military program for high school dropouts, or expellees. Mr. Bright discussed details of the program which has a 90 percent success rate.

B. Larry Pope -  (Per Hickory Inc.) addressed City Council on his concern of utilizing parking revenues for the parking lot that the City is going to enter into that was discussed at the last Council meeting. Mr. Pope expressed concerns of City Council’s use of funds that were designated for other projects. Mr. Pope also discussed the upcoming bond referendum and his concern of what the funds would be used for. He advised Council that he would be encouraging citizens to vote no in the upcoming referendum.
Mayor Wright's response to Larry Pope's address

Consent Agenda:

New Business - Departmental Reports:
1. Audit Report - Presentation by Tonya Marshall of Martin-Starnes - Unmodified (clean) opinion was given. The highest level that can be received. Compliant with State and Federal regulations. Report was prepared by City Staff. General Fund unassigned balance increased by $442,282. Revenues were $44.6 million and Expenditures were $41.2 million. Total General Fund is $34.3 million with unassigned of $13.5 million. (You can watch the video to see the rest of the presented numbers.)

2. Financial Report - Presentation Warren Wood- Warren Reiterated the info presented from Ms. Marshall. General Fund Balance percentage is 29.22%. City's total net assets increase by $744,274 to $206,607,874. There was no increase in the property tax base - $4.7 billion.
Link to 25% of the year summary.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Thoughts about the Hickory City Council meeting of October 21, 2014

Tonight the biggest item of interest was the "Friends" presentation of their Park at Union Square. They had drawing and spoke to it. The concept was very nice. I will put up a video of this ASAP.

Alderman Hank Guess asked about the parking issues. 18 (or 19 -- off the top of my head) parking spaces will be lost because this park will be built in the Hickory Inc. owned lot behind Community One Bank to the west of Union Square. I did not understand what the City Manager was getting at when he said they will be added back at the Transportation Insight site. That site is full four blocks away.

(To Be Continued)

Monday, October 20, 2014

Retooling and Revamping

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Agenda about the City Council meeting of October 21, 2014

This Agenda is about the Hickory City Council meeting that took place on the date listed above. City council meetings are held on the first and third Tuesdays of each Month in the Council Chambers of the Julian Whitener building.

At right of this page under Main Information links is an Hickory's City Website link. If you click on that link, it takes you to our city’s website, at the left of the page you will see the Agenda's and Minutes link you need to click. This will give you a choice of PDF files to upcoming and previous meetings.

You will find historic Agenda and Minutes links. Agendas show what is on the docket for the meeting of that date. The Minutes is an actual summary of the proceedings of the meeting of that date. You can also look in the upper right hand corner of the front page of the Hickory Hound and (will soon) find the link to the past history of Hickory City Newsletters.

Here is a summary of the agenda of the meeting. There were a couple of important items that were discussed at this meeting and the details are listed further below:

Please remember that pressing Ctrl and + will magnify the text and page and pressing Ctrl and - will make the text and page smaller. This will help the readability for those with smaller screens and/or eye difficulties.

City Website has changed - Here is a link to the City of Hickory Document Center:
  City Council Agenda - October 21, 2014

Hound Notes: Budget Amendment  Item 3. To transfer $639,620 of Capital Reserve-Parking Fund and $211,685 of Appropriated General Fund Balance to the Capital Improvements line item.

The parking fund was used for the Transportation Insight Site to the tune of $639,620. Apparently there will never be a parking deck built in the City Core. Remember two weeks ago when I told you that I believed this was why they were expanding the definition of Downtown footprint all of the sudden. Right on Cue. 


Invocation by Rev. David Roberts II, Pastor Morningside First Baptist Church

Special Presentations
A. Friends of Hickory

Persons Requesting to Be Heard
A. Mr. Jim Bright, Tarheel Challenge Academy

Consent Agenda:
A. Approval of a Proclamation for Extra Mile Day, November 1, 2014

B. Acknowledge Receipt and Addition of an A-6E Cockpit to the National Naval Aviation Museum Standard Loan Agreement. - The City of Hickory/Hickory Regional Airport has on loan from the National Naval Aviation Museum (NNAM) certain retired aircraft and artifacts located at the Hickory Regional Airport and on display by the Hickory Aviation Museum. The Hickory Regional Airport has participated in, and has had on loan property from the NNAM for over fifteen years. The Hickory Aviation Museum has received an A-6E Cockpit to add to its display at the Hickory Regional Airport from the Department of Navy and it is now being added to the City’s loan agreement with the Navy. Staff recommends the acknowledgement of receipt and addition of an A-6E Cockpit to the current loan agreement with the National Naval Aviation Museum.

C. Approval of a Lease Agreement for Property Located at 304 3rd Street SW, Hickory to Ronald Andrew Jones and Jennie Nicole Frye. - Hickory Police Department purchased and renovated the property at 304 3rd Street SW Hickory. The property has three bedrooms, two baths, stove, refrigerator, and microwave. Hickory Police Department requests leasing the property to Ronald Andrew Jones and Jennie Nicole Frye in the amount of $600 per month, beginning October 1, 2014. The tenant will be responsible for all utilities.

D. Citizens’ Advisory Committee Recommendations for Assistance through the City of Hickory’s Housing Programs. - The following request was considered by the Citizens’ Advisory Committee at their regular meeting on October 2, 2014:
The applicant, Nolan Jerome Carlton, is being recommended for approval for first-time homebuyer’s assistance to purchase a house located at 820 5th Avenue SW, Hickory. He has requested $10,000 for assistance with down payment and closing costs. The First-Time Homebuyers Assistance Loan is zero interest, no payments and repaid upon sale, refinance, or payoff of first mortgage. Funds are budgeted for these items through the City of Hickory’s former Rental Rehabilitation Program income received in FY 2012 and/or program income received through the City of Hickory’s Community Development Block Grant Program. The Citizens’ Advisory Committee recommends approval of the request.

E. Call for Public Hearing – for Consideration of Closing a Portion of 15th Street NW.

F. Call for Public Hearing – for Consideration of Amending Chapter 24 of the Hickory Code of Ordinance.

G. Special Events/Activities Application for Crawdads Halloween Party, Megan Meade, Director of Community Relations and Events, Hickory Crawdads, L.P. Frans Stadium, Thursday, October 30, 2014 7:00 p.m. to 1:00 a.m.

H. Approve Submittal of a Grant Application to the North Carolina Clean Energy Technology Center – New Electric Vehicle Service Equipment Charging Station on Union Square. - Staff requests approval to submit an application for a grant award through the North Carolina Clean Energy Technology Center for the purchase of materials, and installation utilizing City forces, for the installation of one electric vehicle service equipment charging station on Union Square. The station will be accessible and open for use to the general public 24 hours a day, seven days a week. This grant qualifies for an 80/20 reimbursement on funds upon completion of the eligible project. Eighty percent of the completed project cost would be reimbursed by Clean Fuel Advanced Technology and
twenty percent of the project cost must be committed by the City. Estimated project cost for the project is $7,000, with the City’s twenty percent being $1,400. Funds are available in the FY 2014/2015 annual budget.

I. Budget Ordinance Amendment Number 8.
1. To budget $320 from Mountain Recycling in the Fire Departments-Departmental Supplies line item. These funds were received from the sale of scrap metal for unserviceable air cylinders, oil filters, etc. to the recycling center.
2. To budget $4,068 of proceeds from the Lyerly property real estate closing at 11,17,21,and 27 3rd St. SE in the Library’s Departmental Supplies line item. Funds will be used for furniture in a new seating area at the Patrick Beaver Memorial Library.
3. To transfer $639,620 of Capital Reserve-Parking Fund and $211,685 of Appropriated General Fund Balance to the Capital Improvements line item. This budget amendment is needed to reimburse Old Hickory Mill Holdings (OHM) for construction of a public parking lot, for lane widening and for the addition of a turn lane associated with this project.

J. Approval of a Deed of Easement and an Abandonment of an Easement for the Relocation of a City of Hickory Waterline at the FedEx Facility Located at 1936 Amity Street, Newton. - Approximately six or seven years ago, Scannell Properties #105, LLC constructed the FedEx Facility located at 1936 Amity Street, Newton, North Carolina. The new ownership entity of the property, PIRET (Amity Street) Holdings LLC (PIRET), now desires to expand the facility. The building’s expansion will require relocating an existing City of Hickory waterline because the expansion will cover the existing waterline preventing the City from accessing it for maintenance and repairs. PIRET has requested the City of Hickory to relocate the existing waterline. Staff requests Council accept the deed of easement and abandonment of an easement for the relocation of a City-owned waterline at the FedEx Facility located at 1936 Amity Street, Newton, North Carolina.

Informational Item
A. Report of Mayor Wright’s travel to North Carolina League of Municipalities General Government Legislative Action Committee Meeting, September 23, 2014 (Mileage Reimbursement $192.64)

New Business - Departmental Reports:
1. Audit Report
2. Financial Report

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Boost or Bust Hickory

Dr. Inglefield and I were at the Green Park association meeting Monday night. I made a miscalculation in my figures, compounding instead of amortizing the numbers in a comment I made, but it is a fact that when interest rates rise people associated with Hickory will pay more taxes to pay off these proposed bonds.

I reverse engineered the (amortization) numbers the city has been willing to put forth and came up with an Interest rate of a little less than 4.5% - ($21 million on $40 million debt over 20 years) - that is conservative and fair compared to the current rate of around 3%, but traditional long term interest rates have been around 6%. I made a misstatement in calculation at the meeting last night and last week (I apologize). Problem is that no one with the city has put out an actual payback schedule and they should have. Why is anyone having to calculate this? I know most aren't interested, but it is relevant.

We are currently at historical lows. Interest rates are going to rise and when they do the issuance of bonds WILL cost more money. As it stands now this will cost around $3 million per year for 20 years. At 6% that goes to around $3.5 million per year.

I have been to several meetings and watched several presentations. The City manager and others have stated that Hickory Inc. will go after this money in 4 tranches. If this passes on November 4th, Hickory Inc. is likely to start with the issuance of these bonds in 2016 and then follow in 2018, 2020, and 2022... and each time they issue these bonds, they will (their numbers) raise the property tax rate by 2-cents that year. That means 2016 - 52¢. 2018 - 54¢. 2020 - 56¢, 2022 - 58¢. That means that over the next 8 years that you will be paying 16% more in property taxes. Also, to remain revenue neutral, if property values have fallen by 8%, then you are going to have to pay 8% more starting next year, so that Catawba County and Hickory can maintain current revenues.

Also, the meetings I have been to prior to last night, the presenters presented the projects as this is what they are. Last night, we were told that these were conceptual ideas. That made me think of Nancy Pelosi telling us that we needed to pass it before we know what's in it. Pass this $61 million open credit card to us and we'll get back to you on the details.

More along that mentality was when I asked about the first $10 million to be issued. I asked about how those monies will be weighted. What percentage will be directed towards what they define as Business Park? and what percentage towards sidewalk/street infrastructure. Will it be 62.5%/37.5% like the referendums are split or could all the money go to one or the other. I was told that would be determined once this is passed.

The people of Hickory are voting upon two referendums, one for (Loosely defined) Business Park expansion and the other for (Loosely defined) Sidewalk and Street Infrastructure. These bond referendums are so vaguely worded that it is hard to pin down what money can be spent on -- and I'm not talking minutia. I'm talking Projects.

That is just the financial/numbers part of this whole thing. I'm not a salesman or a marketer, but I sure do know a sales pitch versus fiduciary responsibility towards the people you are supposed to represent. It is a hard sales pitch with very few facts and figures related to Economic Impact and real costs.

They tell you for the average person this is only $10 per month. No, this is $120 per year more than what you are already paying for a person in a $150,000 house ($750 becomes $870). Your business building assessed at $500,000 that will be $400 more ($2900) more or $1 million building $800 more ($5800). Hey that's just City of Hickory taxes. You know you double that when you pay Catawba County taxes also. This is on top of all the taxes you are already paying. So, it sure seems that you better know what is happening here and what the return on investment will be.


There were very few people at the Green Park meeting. Besides 3 council members, there were I believe nine people in the room. Last week at Hartzell Church in Ridgeview, there were around 50 people in attendance and 2 Council members.

The people in Ridgeview were completely against this proposal, because they say it does nothing to enhance their community, but they are expected to help foot the bill. They were telling the Hickory Inc. folks, 'we're talking two different languages.' Hickory Inc. folks said this is for everyone and they were told that 'the people from the Ridgeview area are not welcomed on Union Square and they won't be welcomed on the walking trails.' They laughed when they were told they could go to the lake front park and walk the Riverwalk... and unfortunately they are telling the truth and that is embarrassing here in freakin 2014.

Look where you see the Bust, I mean Boost, signs are... same ole, same ole. They move forward, but nothing changes.

There was a couple last night that said they wanted this. They moved to Green Park and they like to walk Downtown. The lady is in Real Estate. The husband said, 'what is going to be the cost if we don't do this.' Hello, None of this is going to touch Green Park. Hello, Drive up and down the one way pairs over there, out towards Long View and on 70 going towards Hildebran. If we do nothing there (like for the past generation) what is that going to look like when we get these walking trails done?

I think there does need to be investment in Hickory. I'm not automatically against Hickory Inc. proposals. They need to invest in all the quadrants, if they expect everyone to pay, and they need to be more specific about what the projects are and what their intentions are and be honest about the money. "The Sails" started at $285,000 went to $420,000 and then to (what they will admit to) $500,000 in a matter of months. What will prevent us from revisiting that scenario? The same people are in charge.

The 10,000 pound elephant in the room is Trust. If one person doesn't trust you, then that's on them. If dozens of people don't trust you, then its time for some self-reflection. If thousands of people don't trust you, then "Houston, we have a problem." 


Every one of the cities that Hickory Inc. visited and have touted has a Business Improvement District Tax. That is where there is a local special assessment in specific areas and those monies are pumped back into those areas, but Hickory's Downtown has refused that and that is on them, not the people down Huffman Cove Road or Spring's Road or Highland or Westmont or Catawba Springs or wherever.


I differ from the Hickory Incsters, in that I don't think our problems are as much related to infrastructure as mindset. Asheville, Charlotte, Raleigh, Wilmington are all thriving and it is because they are open idea/accepting communities. I went to college in both Wilmington and Charlotte. In Hickory they shut down Oktoberfest, at a time, when in the communities above they just start cranking. People that have the good time they do in Asheville would be harassed in Hickory. In Hickory they want to roll up the sidewalks after dark. They want to tell you what you can do, where and when you can do it.

These communities aren't top-down communities. I hate to say that I regret moving back here after graduating from UNC-Wilmington, but I wanted to be near my family and Hickory has changed (for the worse) in ways that I can't really relay to people who haven't been here like I have the past 48 years. I want you to remember that I was in that coveted demo when I started speaking up. I saw the issues and was that lone person crying in the wilderness.

I talk to young people and the vast majority aren't comfortable around here and it doesn't have anything to do with sidewalks... and yes there are exceptions to every rule so I'm not saying everyone.

Do I hope Hickory will change? YES... Do I want it to change? Obviously. Do I think Hickory will change? Not for at least a generation. I wouldn't be saying this, especially when I know there are people out there who will not tolerate my stance... I can accept their stance... they will not accept mine.

Come November 4th, if the bond referendum passes, the Incsters will be popping Champagne corks celebrating another victory and on the 5th they'll be looking towards the next conquest. On the other hand, if the bond referendum fails, those who don't support it won't be celebrating. They'll have to face the local Powers That Be and they know that something does need to be done and they will once again ask for a seat at the table. Will they ever get that seat at the table?

Most people try to hide their expressions... like they are in a poker match or something. I like being upfront and laying it out. I'm at a point where I've basically decided to give up. I don't see anything improving except for a select few and the people who do the bidding for them. I'm overwhelmed with survival and have come to the realization that the rat race is something I don't want any part of. You only live once and it ain't forever. I think there are many more people out here like me than most care to admit. We've got nothing to lose and many of the Baby Busters don't seem to care. They love their raw power. That doesn't bode well for the future.