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Monday, September 1, 2014

Economic Stories of Relevance in Today's World -- August 31, 2014

Unfortunately Reality and Emotion often conflict with Knuckleheads.

Survey: Americans' pessimism on economy has grown - AP through CNBC - August 28, 2014 -
Americans are more anxious about the economy now than they were right after the Great Recession ended despite stock market gains, falling unemployment, and growth moving closer to full health.
Seventy-one percent of Americans say they think the recession exerted a permanent drag on the economy, according to a survey being released Thursday by Rutgers University. By contrast, in November 2009, five months after the recession officially ended, the Rutgers researchers found that only 49 percent thought the downturn would have lasting damage...                The slow pace of improvement during most of the recovery, now in its sixth year, has eroded confidence and slowed a return to the pay levels that many enjoyed before the economy suffered its worst collapse since the 1930s. About 42 percent of those surveyed say they have less pay and savings than before the recession began in late 2007. Just 7 percent say they're significantly better off...   


Is There Capitalism After Cronyism? - Of Two Minds.com - Charles Hugh Smith - August 30, 2014 - The more the Status Quo pursues the same old Keynesian Cargo Cult script of central planning and free money for financiers, the more self-liquidating the system becomes.
Judging by the mainstream media, the most pressing problems facing capitalism are:
1) income inequality, the basis of Thomas Piketty’s bestseller Capital in the Twenty-First Century, and
2) the failure of laissez-faire markets to regulate their excesses, a common critique encapsulated by Paul Craig Roberts’

These critiques (and many similar diagnoses) reach a widely shared conclusion: capitalism must be reformed to save it from itself.
The proposed reforms align with each analyst’s basic ideological bent. Piketty’s solution to rising wealth inequality is the ultimate in statist centralization: a global wealth tax.
Roberts and others recommend reforming capitalism to embody social purpose and recognize environmental limits. Exactly how this economic reformation should be implemented is a question that sparks debates across the ideological spectrum, but the idea that capitalism can be reformed is generally accepted by left, right and libertarian alike.
Socio-economist Immanuel Wallerstein asks a larger question: can the current iteration of global capitalism be reformed, or is it poised to be replaced by some other arrangement?

recent book The Failure of Laissez Faire Capitalism...









"Widespread Slowdown In Home Price Gains": Case-Shiller Misses, Rises By Slowest Since 2012 - Zero Hedge - Tyler Durden - August 26, 2014 - The fourth (or is it fifth?) dead cat bounce in the US housing market is rapidly fading, as we just confirmed by the latest Case-Shiller Home Price Index data for the month of June, which saw a Y/Y increase in home prices of just 8.07%, below the 8.3% expected, and the slowest increase since December 2012. As the report noted, "for the first time since February 2008, all cities showed lower annual rates than the previous month." On a monthly basis, the NSA index, Case-Shiller's preferred, rose by 1.0% for the 10 and 20-City composite, with the Seasonally Adjusted composite declining for the second consecutive month: the last time there were two consecutive monthly declines during a price declining phase was in late 2010.




Market at highs belies economic reality: Peter Schiff - Yahoo Finance - Jeff Macke - August 29, 2014 - In the attached clip Euro Pacific Capital CEO Peter Schiff offers a rebuttal. On the economy:
The data is garbage. “You’ve got to put 2nd quarter GDP into its proper context,” he argues. The 4.2% print was a simple offset of the Q1-2.9% weather disaster. “We’ve got a 1% economy. People are going to have to figure that out.”           Even at that it’s overstated in Schiff’s eyes. He views the economic reality as being a current decline.
On the apparent success of Quantitative Easing:
“We’re going to overdose on it. The real crisis is not going to be because the Fed stops QE but because it continues it to the point that we have a dollar crisis. That’s going to force a big increase in rates ultimately and this whole bubble economy that the Fed has worked so hard to inflate is going to implode in a big way.”


David Stockman Interview on King World News -  August 31, 2014 - David A. Stockman is Former Director of the US Office of Management and Budget (USOMB), Economic Policy Maker, Politician, Financier & Acclaimed Author - After leaving the White House, Stockman had a 20-year career on Wall Street where he joined Salomon Bros. He later became one of the original partners at New York-based private equity firm, The Blackstone Group and in 1999 started his own private equity fund based in Greenwich, Connecticut. Defying right- and left-wing boxes, his latest book a New York Times best-seller, The Great Deformation: The Corruption of Capitalism in America (2013), (Audio of Interview)

(Synopsis) - Perilous state of the economy... Greatest suckers rally in history; laboring heavily in its final days. Yawning gap between the terrible condition of the real economy on Main Street and this fantastic bubble that we  have had on Wall Street... Bumping along at 2% (GDP)... Earning on a GAAP basis are about $100 per share. P/E ratios of 20:1 for broad market. Russell 2000 is trading P/E's of 80:1. Yield on sovereign debt (10 year treasury bond) at 2.35% not realistic. Results from the heavy hand of Central Banks buying sovereign debt. Not sustainable. More of the same the rest of the year. Game is almost up. Rising level of anxiety and apprehension... End game will be a massive repricing in the entire market - DEFLATION!!! Asset prices are overvalued. Real Estate and Equities. 

 





For millions of cord cutters, cable TV fades to black - USA Today - The Cincinnati Enquirer - Amber Hunt - August 24, 2014 - "I feel like cable is the one company that punishes loyalty," said Holt, 33, of Pleasant Ridge. "With every cable company, my bill continues to go up the longer I am a customer. Anywhere else, be it Kroger or at hotels or with airlines, I'm rewarded the longer I stay a customer."                           So when Holt and his wife, Genevieve, moved into a new house two years ago, they didn't bring DirecTV and its $100 monthly bill with them. Instead, they joined the estimated 7.6 million U.S. households that have left pay television behind.                         The number of pay-TV defectors is steadily rising: About 6.5 percent of households nationwide have cut the cord, up slightly from 4.5 percent in 2010, according to research by Experian Marketing Services. (Yes, the label is a slight misnomer, as most "cord cutters" do still deal with some actual cords.) Nearly one-fifth of Americans who have working Netflix or Hulu Plus accounts don't subscribe to a cable or satellite TV service.                       Michael Greeson, co-founder and director of research for the Diffusion Group, has been tracking cord-cutting trends since 2007. For the past several years, his surveys have consistently shown that about 15 percent of adult broadband users who subscribe to a pay-TV service are considering ditching it within the next six months.                  That more people aren't jumping ship is likely thanks to cable operators' aggressively working to keep subscribers when they call to cancel. They're offering quiet deals that their websites don't advertise in hopes of at least converting a would-be cord cutter into what's called a "cord shaver" — someone who scales down his or her service but doesn't bail on cable entirely.                        "If it were not for operators' jumping on this and the economy coming back, those numbers could be a lot larger now," Greeson said. "With cord cutting, we're not headed toward a mass exodus."



Dosher Hospital (Southport, NC) trustees vote to offer early retirement to help ease hospital's financial struggles - WECT TV (Wilmington, NC) - Emily Devoe - August 25, 2014 - The Dosher Memorial Hospital Board of Trustees voted unanimously to offer employees early retirement to try and alleviate the hospital's financial struggles.                        During the open session portion of Wednesday's meeting, Chief Financial Officer Dan Porter told board members that in order for Dosher to continue to operate and cope with inflation and higher industry costs, changes must be made.                      Porter said Dosher has a higher number of full-time employees per bed than the North Carolina median for critical access hospitals.                      In a presentation, Porter said, on average, it takes 82 days before Dosher receives patient payments as compared to 52 days for the average North Carolina hospital.                   The board considered two options: early retirement or layoffs. In order for staff members to receive early retirement, they would have to be 60 years old with at least five years of service.                     If the board opted for layoffs, employees would have received one week of severance care for ever year of service up to 12 weeks. Employees would have also received three months of health care...

Hound Note: Dosher is a Public Critical Access Hospital in Southport. This has been going on for a while. New Administration was brought in to run the hospital. This hospital has been a staple in Southport forever. Administration wants to make a profit. I am sure big bonuses factor into all of this. This is going to effect employees and service. Obamacare is closing the box around these facilities. This is a harbinger of the future, especially for Public Hospitals. Everyone wants to maintain the status quo, but it is impossible in this economic environment. As individuals the only chance you have is Preventative Care. The future of medicine is a holistic approach that embraces a healthy lifestyle. Those who lead unhealthy lifestyles are going to die quicker, because you won't be able to afford to mask the unhealthiness as people have been doing. Popping pharmaceuticals isn't the solution.


Fred's to close 60 stores, accelerate pharmacy acquisitions - Memphis Business Journal - August 28, 2014 - Fred's Inc. today reported plans to close 60 stores without pharmacies by the end of the year, freeing up capital for an acceleration of its pharmacy acquisitions.                         Memphis-based Fred's (NASDAQ: FRED) said it would close the stores, more than 8.5 percent of its total of 704, as it reported a net loss in the second quarter of $16.4 million. Excluding the impact of reserves for the closures and inventory clearance, the net loss was $7.1 million, the company said.
For the entire year, Fred's will close 70 stores – or about 10 percent of its selling space, said Jerry Shore, Fred's executive vice president and CFO, in the company's earnings call Thursday afternoon.
Shore, reached by phone before the call, declined to disclose which stores would be closed and whether any are in Memphis. He also couldn't immediately provide an estimate of the number of employees that would be affected.

Hound Note: We have had Fred's in our area. You can tell the economy is hurting when these lower economic retailers are closing stores, consolidating, and/or refocusing. You have already been reading stories about Family Dollar's and Dollar General's struggles.


Saturday, August 30, 2014

Agenda about the City Council meeting of September 2, 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

Hickory City Council Agenda - September 2, 2014 

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 The Hound's Notes:   

 1) Budget item 5.1 says Hickory Inc. paid Clark Consulting $37,950 for consulting, buy it doesn't say what Hickory Inc. paid them for. In going back to the records for the last meeting, we see, 'City Council authorized City Attorney John Crone to enter into settlement negotiations with Clark Consulting, and made an offer of $37,950 on behalf of the City; Clark Consulting accepted the offer. Attorneys for Clark Consulting are in the process of drafting the settlement documents. Staff requests authorization of City Attorney John Crone to execute all settlement documents on behalf of the City of Hickory to resolve the lawsuit.'

2) Budget Item 5.3 - We see the $80,000 discussed at the last meeting. $40,000 is to pay for FY13-14 projects still in progress (already promised) in the current fiscal year and an additional $40,000 is to fund projects that are in the initial stages of review in the current fiscal year. Apparently $20,000 of this money is earmarked to the Shuford Mills demolition project (Department Report #4) and $30,000 for 108 South Center Street (Departmental Report #5).

3) Consent Agenda Item A - Taxpayers are subsidizing fundraising for United Way charities. Vacation days are given based upon Employee Contributing and thus being eligible to win a drawing. Money from the general fund goes to subsidize employees who win the raffle to take time off. Personally, I don't think that Hickory Inc. should have such an arrangement. If employees want to donate to charities then great, but Hickory Inc. should not be promoting certain charities over others.

4)  Just remember, if you ain't in the club, then you aren't getting any of this money they are throwing around. So don't get excited thinking they would help you out.

  ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 



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


Special Presentations
A. Recognition of Sherman Stinson, Public Services for the Herman Drake Award (Lou Berry to present)

Consent Agenda:

A. Approval of Six Days of Vacation Time as Prizes for Participation in the Annual United Way Campaign. - The United Way Campaign Committee requests six days of vacation time to be used as prizes for participation in the annual United Way Campaign, which will be held in August and September 2014. The City is a strong supporter of United Way, and use the campaign to educate the City’s workforce about the various programs and services United Way provides, and also to provide an easy way to make a donation. To encourage participation, the Committee would like to offer participants a chance to win some vacation time. Based on the level of participation, coworkers would be eligible to enter a drawing to win one of three vacation time prizes of one day, two days, or three days.

B. Award the Contract for Pavement Resurfacing to Midstate Contractors, Inc. for Asphalt Resurfacing Utilizing Federal Funds.
- Staff requests awarding the resurfacing contract utilizing Federal funds to the responsible responsive low bidder, Midstate Contractors, Inc., for asphalt resurfacing in the amount of $44 per ton for S9.5A asphalt surface, $594 per ton for binder and $3 per square yard forasphalt milling. The Engineering Division staff prepared formal bid documents for an estimated 852 tons of asphalt surface course place and 500 square yards of asphalt milling. The asphalt binder unit price will be adjusted according to NCDOT standard procedures. All work will be paid on a unit price basis as the budget allows. Due to the paperwork required for the Federal funds, and the amount purchased the prices varies on the cost per ton.

C. Award the Contract for Pavement Resurfacing to Midstate Contractors, Inc. for Asphalt Resurfacing.
- Staff requests awarding the resurfacing contract to the responsible responsive low bidder, Midstate Contractors, Inc., for asphalt resurfacing in the amount of $43.75 per ton for S9.5A asphalt surface, $43.90 per ton for S9.5b asphalt surface, $594 per ton for binder and $2 per square yard for asphalt milling. The Engineering Division staff prepared formal bid documents for an estimated 8,500 tons of asphalt surface course in pla ce and 9,000 square yards of asphalt milling. The asphalt binder unit price will be adjusted according to NCDOT standard procedures.

D. Approval of Lease Agreement with Catawba County Council on Aging to Lease Property Located at 400 17th Street SW.
- Staff requests consideration of a Lease Agreement from the Catawba County Council on Aging to lease property owned by the City of Hickory, located at 400 17th Street SW. The property has been leased to the Catawba County Council on Aging for a number of years. Their current lease has expired. Staff has updated the lease to ensure it is active and enforceable. The terms for the proposed lease will be for five years for the nominal amount of $10. The lease shall automatically renew and continue on a year to year basis, for up to four renewal periods, for a total lease period of no more than nine (9) years, unless either party gives a thirty (30) day notice to terminate the tenancy to the other party, or until a new agreement is made. Public Notice was advertised in a newspaper having general circulation in the Hickory area on August 22, 2014.

E. Proclamation for Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.

F. Acceptance of the Community Waste Reduction and Recycling Grant from the State of North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resource. - The City of Hickory applied for the Community Waste Reduction Grant as a way to help reduce the initial cost of starting a Single Stream Recycling Program. The State selected the City of Hickory to receive the $30,000 grant for use in waste reduction, which will allow the City to reduce initial startup cost of the upcoming Single Stream Recycling Program, and shorten the City’s return on investment. The Single Stream Recycling Program will help reduce the Department’s operational cost by reducing the long-term cost of disposal. This program will also increase the amount of material recycled and related revenue generated from that material. The City is receiving the maximum dollar amount of this grant. The City’s match for this grant is 20 percent of the $30,000, which the City will far exceed with the purchase of the necessary rollout carts to cover the entire city. Staff recommends acceptance of the Waste Reduction and Recycling Grant in the amount of $30,000.

G. Approve the Second Amendment to the New Cingular Wireless PCS, LLC’s Option and Lease Agreement for Electronic Communication Equipment. - The City of Hickory entered into an Option and Lease Agreement for Electronic Communication Equipment dated September 14, 2004 with New Cingular Wireless PCS, LLC, the successor in interest to BellSouth Personal Communications, LLC with whom the City had an agreement dating back to the mid 90’s. New Cingular leased a portion of the tower property located at 1441 9th Avenue NE for their equipment. The 2004 agreement was first amended December 22, 2011. New Cingular is requesting to add three new antennas and supporting equipment to the cell tower located at public services. New Cingular has performed a structural analysis and will make the modifications to the tower at their cost. The proposed modifications will bring the tower into compliance for the existing loading on the tower as well as the new antennas. The City’s tower management group reviewed and approved the structural analysis. New Cingular will increase their monthly lease payment by $1,000 for the new antennas. Staff recommends approval of the Second Amendment to the New Cingular Wireless PCS, LLC’s Option and Lease Agreement for Electronic Communication Equipment.

H. Acceptance of the Bid and Award Contract to West Carolina Freightliner, LLC in the amount of $94,499. - The Public Utilities Department use tandem axel road tractors to pull tankers of bio-solids from the wastewater treatment facilities daily as a part of the treatment process. The Northeast Wastewater Treatment Plant and the Henry Fork Wastewater Plant each have a dedicated road tractor and tanker that they use daily. The Public Utilities Department has one spare road tractor and tanker that the facilities share in the event a primary tractor is down for maintenance. This replacement request is for the spare road tractor, and is being replaced as a component of the Public Utilities Department’s normal capital replacement program. Staff recommends acceptance of the bid and award of this Freightliner Columbia tandem axel road tractor with glider kit purchase as proposed by West Carolina Freightliner, LLC in the amount of $94,499. Funds are budget in FY2014-2015 for this purchase.

I. Acceptance of the Bid and Award Contract to Advanced Grading and Excavating, LLC in the amount of $33,750 for the Hickory Metro Convention Center Sewer Relocation Project. - This project is necessary to relocate an existing eight inch sanitary sewer line and manholes that currently cross the parking lot in front of the Hickory Metro Convention Center. This line must be rel cated to allow for construction activities and erection of a proposed parking deck in this area. Staff recommends acceptance of the bid and award of the construction contract with the responsible low bidder, Advanced Grading and Excavating, LLC for the Hickory Metro Convention Center Sewer Relocation Project in the amount of $33,750. This project is being funded as a part of the financing for the parking deck project to be reimbursed by the Tourism Development Authority.

J. Approve Additional Award Adjustment to North Carolina Department of Transportation Division of Aviation Agreement for Project 36237.66.4.3 Rehabilitate and Overlay Taxiway “B”, Taxiway “S” and North Apron Project in the Amount of $166,667. - This is an additional award adjustment of yet more funding from NDCOT Aviation Division to the modified agreement approved by City Council on August 5, 2014, which modified the original agreement approved on July 15, 2014 for Block Grant/NPE Agreement for grant 36237.66.4.3 to rehabilitate Taxiway “B” and “S” and the North Apron. This final allocation of funds will be used to complete the airfield improvement plan. Staff recommends approval of the award adjustment in the amount of $166,667 to NCDOT Agreement for Project 36237.66.4.3. The required local match of 10 percent will be $16,667.

K. Approve Special Events/Activities Application for Children’s Advocacy and Protection Center Vigil
, Kathleen Landry, Community Outreach for Children’s Advocacy and Protection Center, Tuesday, October 21, 2014 from 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at The Sails on the Square.

L. Approve Special Events/Activities Application for Carolina Container Company Outing,
Megan Meade, Hickory Crawdads Director of Community Relations and Events, Saturday, October 4, 2014 from 12:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. at L.P. Frans Stadium, 2500 Clement Blvd.

M. Approve a Transfer of Cemetery Deed from the City of Hickory to Madolyn M. Byrd,

N. Budget Ordinance Amendment Number 5.
1. To transfer $37,950 of General Fund Contingency to the Legal Departments Other Professional Services line item. This transfer is necessary to pay settlement costs to Clark Consulting on behalf of the City.
2. To budget a total of $80,000 of Appropriated General Fund Balance in the Vacant Building Revitalization line item. $40,000 is to pay for FY13-14 projects still in progress in the current fiscal year and an additional $40,000 is to fund projects that are in the initial stages of review in the current fiscal year.
3. To reduce the Capital Reserve-Appropriated Fund Balance by $302,250 and to reduce the transfer to Water and Sewer by $302,250. This amendment is needed for a budgetary adjustment to reflect anticipated expenditures.
4. To appropriate $16,666 of General Fund-Appropriated Fund Balance and transfer to the Airport Rehabilitation and Overlay Taxiway B and S, and North Apron project. The initial grant project was awarded and budgeted in July 2014 however an amendment to the grant was approved which will fund additional pavement rehabilitation work. The funding for the project is a total of $166,666 (90% Federal $150,000 and 10% required match $16,666). Therefore a $16,666
transfer to the project is necessary.

O. Grant Project Ordinance Amendment Number 3.
1. To budget an additional $166,666 of funding for the Airport Rehabilitation and Overlay Taxiway B and S, and North Apron project. The North Carolina Department of Transportation-Division of Aviation amended the award granted in July 2014. The additional funding is 90% Federal funds $150,000 with a 10% required local match of $16,666.

P. Capital Project Ordinance Amendment Number 1.

1. To appropriate $3,000,000 of Proceeds from Financing and budget in the Tourism Development Association (TDA) Parking Deck Project Construction and Miscellaneous line items. This appropriation will fund the construction of the parking deck, the necessary relocation of a sanitary sewer line and the other miscellaneous items that may result in a project of this scale. The debt payments associated with these borrowed funds will be paid with revenue from the TDA.


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


New Business - Public Hearings
1. Resolution and Order for Petition of BHM Holdings, LLC to Close an Unopened Portion of 4th Street NE. - On June 27, 2014, BHM Holdings, LLC, presented a petition to the City Clerk’s office requesting the City to abandon a portion of an unopened street located on 4th Street NE. This public hearing was advertised in a newspaper having general circulation in the Hickory area on August 8, August 15, August 22, and August 29, 2014.

2. Resolution and Order for Petition of William H. Rogers, and wife Linda Rogers; and Terah L. Harris and wife, Karen P. Harris to Close an Unopened Portion of 20th Avenue NE. - On June 27, 2014, William H. Rogers and Linda Rogers; and Terah L. Harris and Karen P. Harris, presented a petition to the City Clerk’s office requesting the City to abandon a portion of an unopened street located on 20th Avenue NE.This public hearing was advertised in a newspaper having general circulation in the Hickory area on August 8, August 15, August 22, and August 29, 2014.

3. Consideration of the Consolidated Annual Performance and Evaluation Report.
- The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development requires the City of Hickory, as a Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) entitlement funding recipient, to report on CDBG monies spent within the previous fiscal year. This report, the Consolidated Annual Performance and Evaluation Report (CAPER), evaluates the effectiveness of the use of resources in addressing identified goalsand objectives cited in the Annual Action Plan which is prepared before the fiscal year begins. Staff recommends approval of the FY2013-2014 Consolidated Annual Performance and Evaluation Report outlining the City’s CDBG expenditures from July 1, 2013 thru June 30, 2014. This public hearing was advertised in a newspaper having general circulation in the Hickory area on August 22, 2014 and September 2, 2014.

4. Review and Presentation of the Financing Concept for the Hickory Metro Convention Center Parking Deck. - The Hickory Metro Convention Center is owned by the City of Hickory, butoperates under the Tourism Development Authority (TDA) board. The Convention Center is self-supported by event revenues and the hotel Occupancy Tax collected in Hickory and Conover. Event parking has reached maximum capacity and has created overflows into area hotel and business parking lots. The need for the parking deck has become vital to attract even larger scale events that would generate even more traffic to the Convention Center. The proposed parking deck plans include an additional 157 sp aces and revisions to the existing traffic flow pattern. Any project involving the financing method of installment purchase is required to hold a public hearing prior to approval of financing for the Hickory Metro Convention Center Parking Deck project by the Local Government Commission. This public hearing was advertised in a newspaper having general circulation in the Hickory area on August 22, 2014.

New Business - Departmental Reports:
1. Approve the Construction Contract with Matthews Construction Company, in the amount of $2,576,000 to construct the Parking Deck Structure and Associated Improvements for the Hickory Metro Convention Center Parking Deck. - City Council approved, on May 20, 2014, a contract with the architect Scott Mitchell for the construction management of the parking deck structure that is planned to be built at the Hickory Metro Convention Center. The City conducted the solicitation for bids. Matthews Construction Company was the lowest, responsive, responsible bidder for this project. The Tourism Development Authority is providing the funds to cover the cost using occupancy tax revenue. Staff recommends awarding the contract to Matthews Construction Company in the amount of $2,576,000 to construct the parking deck structure and associated improvements.

2. Lyerly Mill Redevelopment Update

3. Award Construction Contract to Dane Construction, Inc., for the Replacement of the 46th Avenue NE Bridge in the amount of $942,202.05. - The bridge located on 46th Avenue Drive NE, at the entrance of Windridge Subdivision, was destroyed by flood waters on July 27, 2013, leaving the residents for the subdivision without access to their homes. Temporary access and utility connections were provided for those residents while McGill Associates designed a replacement structure. The replacement structure will provide a longterm solution for access to the subdivision. The lowest responsive bidder, Dane Construction, Inc., from Mooresville, NC submitted the low bid in the amount of $942,202.05. Funding for the majority of the project cost is from FEMA. Staff recommends that Dane Construction, Inc. be awarded the contract for construction of the replacement bridge in the amount of $942,203.05 and a contingency in the project budget for a total amount of $1,035,000.

4. (a) Approve Interlocal Agreement between the City of Hickory and Catawba County for the Development of Business Park 1764.
(b) Approve an Agreement between the City of Hickory, Catawba County, and the Catawba County Economic Development Corporation (EDC) regarding 1764 Park Project. - The 1764 Park project represents efforts between the City, the County, and the Catawba County Economic Development Corporation to positively impact and spur additional economic development and job growth in the area. The parties desired to put certain conditions in place to maximize the development of the business park. The Interlocal Agreement provides the City and the County with the ability to mutually control the development of the park by setting forth certain restrictive covenants and zoning requirements of the respective parties. The covenants and zoning requirements govern a number of items including but not limited to ingress and egress of the property, buildings’ heights, nuisances, park landscaping, park amenities, permitted uses, and property maintenance. Staff recommends Council approve the Interlocal Agreement between the City of Hickory and Catawba County for the development of Business Park 1764 and the Agreement between the City of Hickory, Catawba County, and the Catawba County Economic Development Corporation governing EDC’s ability to exercise options or offers to purchase property associated with the 1764 Park project.

5. Approve an Amendment to the Vacant Building Revitalization and Demolition Grant Agreement with Shuford Mills, LLC. - Shuford Mills, LLC received a Vacant Building Demolition Grant in the amount of $20,000 in January 2014 to assist in the demolition of the former AA Shuford Mill located at 1360 Highland Avenue NE. This agreement stipulated a deadline of 270 days to complete the demolition and site restoration. The applicant has now requested a 120 day extension in order to save a portion of the original exterior wall. Saving this portion of the wall will require additional construction work and additional time to complete. The Business Development Committee considered the request at their August 20, 2014 meeting and recommends approval. Staff  recommends approval of the Amendment to the Vacant Building Revitalization and Demolition Grant Agreement with Shuford Mills, LLC.

6. Approval of a Vacant Building Revitalization and Demolition Grant with The Block 108, LLC for Property Located at 108 South Center Street. - The Vacant Building Revitalization and Demolition Grant provides grant funding for projects to renovate and rehabilitate vacant buildings within the Urban Revitalization Area and targeted industrial buildings in other areas of the city. The Block 108, LLC has applied for a Vacant Building Revitalization Grant in the amount of $30,000 to assist in the renovation of a former mill building located at 108 South Center Street. The applicant plans to invest approximately $763,900 in real property improvement to rehabilitate the facility for use as an office for a general contractor, a motorcycle restoration business, office uses, a salon, and seven “loft” style apartments. In accordance to the program guidelines, all approvals must be in place before the applicant begins work on a project. Significant construction activity on the project has already begun. The roof work that represents a large portion of the project is already nearly complete. Garage doors and a portion of the electrical work is already complete. The Business Development Committee reviewed the application and recommends approval. Staff recommends that City Council deny the Vacant Building Grant Agreement with The Block 108, LLC due to the fact that work has already begun prior to grant approval.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Economic Stories of Relevance in Today's World -- August 24, 2014


Hound Note: Reality has hit the fan and it's everywhere.

30 stats to show to anyone that does not believe the middle class is being destroyed - The Economic Collapse Blog - Michael Snyder - August 20th, 2014 - The 30 statistics that you are about to read prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that the middle class in America is being systematically destroyed.  Once upon a time, the United States had the largest and most prosperous middle class in the history of the world, but now that is changing at a staggering pace.  Yes, the stock market has soared to unprecedented heights this year and there are a few isolated areas of the country that are doing rather well for the moment.  But overall, the long-term trends that are eviscerating the middle class just continue to accelerate.  Over the past decade or so, the percentage of Americans that are working has gone way down, the quality of our jobs has plummeted dramatically and the wealth of the typical American household has fallen precipitously.  Meanwhile, we have watched median household income decline for five years in a row, we have watched the rate of homeownership in this country decline for eight years in a row and dependence on the government is at an all-time high.  Being a part of the middle class in the United States at this point can be compared to playing a game of musical chairs.  We can all see chairs being removed from the game, and we are all desperate to continue to have a chair every time the music stops playing.  The next time the music stops, will it be your chair that gets removed?                               And in this economy, you don't even have to lose your job to fall out of the middle class.  Our paychecks are remaining very stable while the cost of almost everything that we spend money on consistently (food, gas, health insurance, etc.) is going up rapidly.  Bloomberg calls this "the no-raises recovery"...




Is the $5 Bill the New $1 Bill? - Washington's Blog -  Charles Hugh Smith - - Events, food purchased away from home and live entertainment are increasingly unaffordable to the bottom 90%.                          It’s starting to feel like a $5 bill is the new $1 bill: everything that could be purchased with one or two dollars not that long ago is now $5 or even $10. A few days ago I was enjoying the Butte County Fair in California’s farmbelt (the Central Valley), and it seemed like a rural county fair was a price baseline that was far enough away from the urban artifice of $100 meals at fancy bistros to reflect the statistically elusive real-world inflation...                            We are constantly reassured that inflation near-zero–2% annually or less. On the ground, it seems that stuff manufactured in the global supply chain is still relatively cheap, as are energy and food, at least compared to what they cost elsewhere or could cost if supply chains get disrupted.               There are no limits on the cost of government services or government-controlled sectors such as healthcare. Our city garbage service fees just jumped from $356 quarterly to $453, a 27% increase. Note to Federal Reserve: 27% is not 2%.                     Our monthly healthcare insurance (paid entirely by us, as we’re self-employed) leaped $300 per month over the past few years, from $900/month to $1,200/month. These increases add up to thousands of dollars a year. That is not 2% inflation.                 Clearly, healthcare, government services, events, food purchased away from home and live entertainment are increasingly unaffordable to the bottom 90%.





What's $100 Really Worth In Each State? - Zero Hedge - Tyler Durden - August 24, 2014 - Because average prices for similar goods are much higher in California or New York than in Mississippi or South Dakota, The Tax Foundation notes points out that the same amount of dollars will buy you comparatively less in the high-price states, or comparatively more in low-price states. Regional price differences are strikingly large, and have serious policy implications. The same amount of dollars are worth almost 40 percent more in Mississippi than in DC, and the differences become even larger if metro area prices are considered instead of statewide averages.





Cornel West: “He posed as a progressive and turned out to be counterfeit. We ended up with a Wall Street presidency, a drone presidency”
- Salon - Thomas Frank - August 24, 2014 -

Cornel West is a professor at Union Theological Seminary and one of my favorite public intellectuals, a man who deals in penetrating analyses of current events, expressed in a pithy and highly quotable way.                            I first met him nearly six years ago, while the financial crisis and the presidential election were both under way, and I was much impressed by what he had to say. I got back in touch with him last week, to see how he assesses the nation’s progress since then.                     The conversation ranged from Washington, D.C., to Ferguson, Missouri, and although the picture of the nation was sometimes bleak, our talk ended on a surprising note.                     
Last time we talked it was almost six years ago. It was a panel discussion The New Yorker magazine had set up, it was in the fall of 2008, so it was while the financial crisis was happening, while it was actually in progress. The economy was crumbling and everybody was panicking. I remember you  speaking about the financial crisis in a way that I thought made sense. There was a lot of confusion at the time. People didn’t know where to turn or what was going on.                             I also remember, and this is just me I’m talking about, being impressed by Barack Obama who was running for president at the time. I don’t know if you and I talked about him on that occasion. But at the time, I sometimes thought that he looked like he had what this country needed.                           So that’s my first question, it’s a lot of ground to cover but how do you feel things have worked out since then, both with the economy and with this president? That was a huge turning point, that moment in 2008, and my own feeling is that we didn’t turn.
No, the thing is he posed as a progressive and turned out to be counterfeit. We ended up with a Wall Street presidency, a drone presidency, a national security presidency. The torturers go free. The Wall Street executives go free. The war crimes in the Middle East, especially now in Gaza, the war criminals go free. And yet, you know, he acted as if he was both a progressive and as if he was concerned about the issues of serious injustice and inequality and it turned out that he’s just another neoliberal centrist with a smile and with a nice rhetorical flair. And that’s a very sad moment in the history of the nation because we are—we’re an empire in decline. Our culture is in increasing decay. Our school systems are in deep trouble. Our political system is dysfunctional. Our leaders are more and more bought off with legalized bribery and normalized corruption in Congress and too much of our civil life. You would think that we needed somebody—a Lincoln-like figure who could revive some democratic spirit and democratic possibility...





Bix Weir: Who owns your mortgage? Do you own that stock?


Sunday, August 24, 2014

Economic Relevance -- Some things slip through

Hollar Hosiery - 3 months ago - missed this one

NC developer, filmmaker seeks $1.1M in film incentives to pay for rehab of old mill
- Raleigh News and Observer - J. Andrew Curliss - May 26, 2014
- Of the dozens of film projects in North Carolina that have sought millions in taxpayer film subsidies since 2005, one stands out for the unusual way the producer says he spent the money: on construction workers, bricks and mortar to transform an old hosiery mill in Hickory from a vacant eyesore into a valuable piece of commercial real estate.                       The more than $4 million in construction activity at the mill was part of filming for episodes of a reality TV show that promised to take viewers into the ups and downs of remaking historic buildings. The docudrama TV project, known as “The Preservationist,” was filmed two years ago.                 It has not aired and, as of this month, is not lined up for distribution. A website related to the show has been suspended and trailers online are marked “private.”                       The film project is seeking $1.1 million in state film incentives, according to reports filed with the state Department of Revenue and an interview with the show’s producer and starring character, Nathan Kirby of Gastonia.                    Kirby’s primary line of work is in real estate, including as a developer who rehabs old buildings. As a sideline, he has had an interest in producing and acting in lower-budget films.                   At one point, he told state officials that his TV show project needed the subsidy and could mean “hundreds of millions of investment” and “thousands of jobs,” which had the head of the state’s film office saluting the project as a “legitimate production venture.”                   Kirby ultimately reported far less in spending and jobs. The claim filed with state officials listed 14 people employed for the show.

Kirby said state officials who approve film subsidies are now auditing his reality show’s receipts and other information and have not yet approved his claim. He said he is facing scrutiny because of his dual role as a historic buildings developer and film producer.

Kirby said he followed all the r

Read more here: http://www.newsobserver.com/2014/05/26/3889641/nc-developer-filmmaker-uses-dual.html#storylink=cpy



Saturday, August 23, 2014

Newsletter about the City Council meeting of August 19, 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.

Thoughts about the Hickory City Council meeting - August 19, 2014

Agenda about the City Council meeting of August 19, 2014




Invocation by Rev. Bob Thompson, Pastor, Corinth Reformed Church


Special Presentations:
A. Mr. Alan Barnhardt, Executive Director, Catawba Science Center will discuss the
uniqueness of Catawba Science Center, what it is doing to promote the local economy, and the newest featured exhibition – Furniture. Well Crafted.
B. Ms. Bebe Leitch, CEO, Hickory Metro Convention Center, presentation of a Resolution to Hickory City Council
C. Representative of Hickory Downtown Development Association – Discussion of Oktoberfest

Hound Notes: You can read my thoughts about Oktoberfest at the "Thoughts" link above. Oktoberfest beer sells will end at 10:30pm and the festival itself will close at 11pm.

Consent Agenda

Unanimous Consent

New Business - Public Hearings:
1. Consideration of Contiguous Annexation of Startown Road Right of Way. - The City of Hickory has submitted a petition for the voluntary contiguous annexation of 0.6 acres of property. The annexation area is comprised of a portion of the public street right-of-way of Startown Road. The annexation is being requested in an effort to fill in some gaps in the City’s boundary within the Startown Road public street right-of-way. This public hearing was advertised in a newspaper having general circulation in the Hickory area on August 8, 2014. - Unanimous Consent

New Business - Departmental Reports:
1. (a) Vacant Building Grant Program. - Update City Council on the status of the Vacant Building Grant program and request changes to the Vacant Building Revitalization and Demolition Grant Program guidelines, to appropriate fund balance for projects in progress across the most recent fiscal year for which final payments have not been made, and to appropriate fund balance for an additional amount of grant funding for project that are in the initial stages of review and could be awarded a grant in FY 2014-2015. - Unanimous Consent

(b) Amend Vacant Building Grant Agreement from Jack Sipe Construction Company. (First Reading Vote: Unanimous) - Council voted against extending the second portion of this grant, because the company would not have a tenant, per the agreement, in the timely fashion required. Only Mayor Wright voted to extend that agreement.

***  Pointed out by a Hound Viewer  ***
One correction to your comments regarding the Jack Sipe Construction grant....the original total of the grant was $19,834 of which half, $9,917 was paid on Dec 15, 2010.  The other half is what the Council did not approve.  There were never two $40,000 grants.  Reference the info provided in the July 15, 2014 Council meeting.


General Comments:
Alderwoman Patton commended the Police Department for their win for the Safe Harbor Bed Race that was held on Saturday. They actually beat out CrossFit, and the Fire Department received “Best Bed”. It was a lot of fun, and she thanked the Police Department for winning the race.
Mayor Wright commended City Manager Mick Berry on his 10th Anniversary with the City of Hickory, and thanked him for his service.
Alderman Guess commented that Sunday was the dedication for the Longview Elementary School which was located where the old Grandview School was. That was a proud moment and a really good event. They will be opening on Monday.
Alderman Zagaroli commented on the dedication of the Zahra Baker Tree House event that was held.

Mayor Wright commented that you need to go see it, it is special. As we do more planning it is going to become more spectacular.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Thoughts about the Hickory City Council meeting - August 19, 2014

Agenda about the City Council meeting of August 19, 2014


*** The tone of this meeting was much better with the Mayor allowing back and forth interaction on the Oktoberfest issue.

A. Mr. Alan Barnhardt, Executive Director, Catawba Science Center will discuss the
uniqueness of Catawba Science Center, what it is doing to promote the local economy, and the newest featured exhibition – Furniture. Well Crafted.

*** Mr. Barnhardt's presentation will be provided in the Newsletter presentation. Below is a video he presented to Council.

 Visit Catawba Science Center's latest exhibit Furniture. Well Crafted. Science + Innovation + Technology - For more information: http://catawbascience.org/exhibits.ht...








B. Ms. Bebe Leitch, CEO, Hickory Metro Convention Center, presentation of a Resolution to Hickory City Council
Ms. Leitch presented a resolution detailing the history and direction, through the years, of the Hickory Metro Convention and Visitors' Bureau and the Convention Center... how the entities been funded, developed, and have evolved.



C. Representative of Hickory Downtown Development Association – Discussion of Oktoberfest

Hound Notes: One of the key issues of the night. Tracy Nestor presented information related to the operational hours of this year's festival. Oktoberfest has for years been closing between 11pm and 11:30pm. This year a closing time of 10pm was imposed on the festival. The festival coordinators asked for a compromise and eventually it was granted by the city council. The Festival will close at 10:30pm. (According to the HDR, the festival will close at 11pm and it is the beer sales that will end at 10:30pm).

Personally, I'm tired of the leaders of this community having a desire to roll up the sidewalks after dark. It blows me away how unrealistic it is. I understand that the people on the Council relate to Codgers, but it is ridiculous. Hickory Alive and the Sails events have had their operational hours reduced to 9pm from the previous 10pm. Ms. Nestor and another lady, the head of the Jaycees, talked about how this has had a negative impact on their revenues this year and it will have an effect on their upcoming operational budget.

Mayor Wright, the Council, and Chief Adkins went back to the issue of unsupervised kids roaming the streets of Hickory. They say that this is an issue of Public Safety. We've heard this before over the past several years. Nothing is being resolved other than for people who act properly to have to endure an imposition based upon the possibility that someone else might do something wrong -- gonna throw the baby out with the bath water.

Because in the end, we can put society on lockdown and things are still going to happen and then the reaction is to tighten things down even further. None of this makes me feel safer... It makes me feel claustrophobic.

Remember This: June 27, 2011





New Business - Departmental Reports:
1. (a) Vacant Building Grant Program. - Update City Council on the status of the Vacant Building Grant program and request changes to the Vacant Building Revitalization and Demolition Grant Program guidelines, to appropriate fund balance for projects in progress across the most recent fiscal year for which final payments have not been made, and to appropriate fund balance for an additional amount of grant funding for project that are in the initial stages of review and could be awarded a grant in FY 2014-2015.
(b) Amend Vacant Building Grant Agreement from Jack Sipe Construction Company. (First Reading Vote: Unanimous)

Hound Notes: The Council on this night voted to change the Vacant Building Grant Program in a way that will help to better spread the funds. Dave Leonetti presented information detailing these changes. They also agreed to fund $40,000 for projects already agreed to and $40,000 for anticipated projects upcoming in this fiscal year.

Jack Sipe Construction was to receive two $40,000 grants. One grant was to be paid upon completion of the project. The other would not be paid until the building was occupied within a defined period. The first of those grants was allowed even though there were delays in the completion of the project. On this night, the second $40,000 grant was denied, because the planned building occupier (Lenoir-Rhyne) will not be moving into the building until next July.

***  Pointed out by a Hound Viewer  ***
One correction to your comments regarding the Jack Sipe Construction grant....the original total of the grant was $19,834 of which half, $9,917 was paid on Dec 15, 2010.  The other half is what the Council did not approve.  There were never two $40,000 grants.  Reference the info provided in the July 15, 2014 Council meeting.

Below are the details of the changed grant process. Anyone notice anything related to the map of the project locations:








Monday, August 18, 2014

Economic Stories of Relevance in Today's World -- August 17, 2014

*** Hound Notes: What I want you to realize is that your way of life that you have grown accustomed to is over. Those of you who want to shuffle the deck chairs. Your freak out time is coming. Too bad you have refused that and won't realize it until that overwhelming time comes. We've already seen it all around us. Each of us know those people who have been overwhelmed. If you don't meditate and think this out, then you will be that person. The theme this week is Accepting Reality.

*** There currently aren't many stories to report because economic activity has slowed so much.

Cops Gone Wild - Paul Craig Roberts - August 15, 2014

NAFTA Is 20 Years Old – Here Are 20 Facts That Show How It Is Destroying The Economy
- The Economic Collapse Blog - Michael Snyder - August 14th, 2014 - Back in the early 1990s, the North American Free Trade Agreement was one of the hottest political issues in the country.  When he was running for president in 1992, Bill Clinton promised that NAFTA would result in an increase in the number of high quality jobs for Americans that it would reduce illegal immigration.  Ross Perot warned that just the opposite would happen.  He warned that if NAFTA was implemented there would be a "giant sucking sound" as thousands of businesses and millions of jobs left this country.  Most Americans chose to believe Bill Clinton.  Well, it is 20 years later and it turns out that Perot was right and Clinton was dead wrong.  But now history is repeating itself, and most Americans don't even realize that it is happening.  As you will read about at the end of this article, Barack Obama has been negotiating a secret trade treaty that is being called "NAFTA on steroids", and if Congress adopts it we could lose millions more good paying jobs.                         It amazes me how the American people can fall for the same lies over and over again.  The lies that serial liar Barack Obama is telling about "free trade" and the globalization of the economy are the same lies that Bill Clinton was telling back in the early 1990s.  The following is an excerpt from a recent interview with Paul Craig Roberts...






Gerald Celente: Founder & Director of the Trends Research Institute - King World News Interview - August 15, 2014 -  Gerald has had a long track record of making some of the most controversial, yet correct calls in terms of global trends and events. (Interview Audio)
Geopolitics don't change from day-to-day. These are wars. Oil is going down because of lack of demand. Data on commodities show downward trends created by lack of demand. Global stagnation. WalMart is the barometer of the middle class of the nation. WalMart is seeing flat or declining store sales. He talks about a person from Wastchester County, New York and how they are struggling. Westchester County is one of the richest counties in the nation. Doesn't look like there is any way out. We will see another round of stimulus. Global Ponzi Scheme is on its deathbed. Ferguson, Missouri is the future of what is to come. People are going out of their minds and we see overreactions by the cops. We will see more and more desperate actions by desperate people, especially the leaders. The World is being led to war by sociopaths and psychopaths.

20140815 - Max Keiser Bitcoin & Current Geopolitics





The Geography Of Jobs: Mapping The Recovery - Tyler Durden - August 17, 2014 -
The current 'boom'in energy production, the hangover from the housing bubble, and the long-term decline in manufacturing employment are combining to shift the employment profile of the US economy. But as Deloitte Unioversity press notes, the national story of slow recovery obscures the more complicated regional picture: As is the case during most business cycles, the pace of recovery has been very uneven among the states. At present, only 16 states plus the District of Columbia have employment rates at least one percent higher than they were prior to the start of the recession. Overall, as the following chart shows, Americans have been struggling to find work, but some states and industries have had an easier time than others.