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Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Newsletter about the City Council meeting of March 3, 2009

This newsletter is about the Hickory City Council meeting that I attended this past week. City council meetings are held on the first and third Tuesdays of each Month in the Council Chambers of the Julian Whitener building.

At the bottom right of this page under main information links is a Hickory's Local Government link. If you click on that link, it takes you to our city’s website, at the bottom of the page you will see the future dates for meetings scheduled for this year.

At the top of the page, if you click on the “Documents” link, 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.

Here is a summary of the agenda of the 3/3/2009 meeting. There were a couple of important items that were discussed at this meeting and the details are listed further below.

Invocation by Cindy Jordan, Director of Spiritual Care Catawba Valley Medical Center

Special Presentations:
A. Presentation of FY 2009-2010 Board and Commission Work Plans Board / Commission Presenter - The Mayor stated that this was one of his favorite meetings of the year when we get to learn what our civilian volunteers are doing. Only 1 out of every 200 of our citizens participate on one of these boards.

1. Animal Control Advisory Board - Lt. Reed Baer 1) wants to increase the advertising of the Spay and Neuter program. City will help contribute to the cost of the procedure. 2) Coordinate with Catawba County Humane Society to get citzens to contact the Humane society - helps reduce animal control man hours 3) Animal Control Ordinance enforcement is meeting requirements. 4) Cost effective measures to deal with stray animals. Shelter costs are currently $71,756 they will rise to $97,894. A new medical program is responsible for the rise to try and get more animals adopted. Currently the shelter is averaging 210 animals being taken care of each day.5) Sponsor 2 rabies clinics this year to get animal vaccinated at a reduced cost.
(The Hound would like to see people have to obtain a license in order to breed animals. The fee should be equal to the cost of spaying and neutering any animals. We need to get control of the stray animal population in this community. It is inhumane to let animals breed and not take care of them.)

2. Citizens’ Advisory Committee Ms. Yvonne Setzer - Todd Hefner presentation. Trying to create affordable housing for the Green Park, Kenworth, Ridgeview, and West Hickory Neighborhoods. Currently working on a $3.92 million block grant.

3. Community Appearance Commission Ms. Jennifer Helton - presentation made by another lady 1) Funding for Downtown grants for aesthetic improvements. 2) New program being developed called "Friends of Downtown Hickory" 3) Continue funding of litter pick-up (currently 250 to 300 bags per month). 4) Graffiti Removal Matching Program. 5) Arbor Day Tree Celebration 6) Funding for Litter Education 7) Beautification (The Hound is just wondering why the Community Appearance Commission only has interests in Downtown. Here we go again. This community has more areas that need their appearance developed other than Downtown Hickory. By Gosh here we go with this graffiti issue through the back door. This area talks trash about the bad karma coming from Raleigh and Washington constantly, yet here they go doing the same exact thing. I can tell you that the Hound represents this community as a whole and I think that it is time that others start doing the same, instead of looking out towards their little niche, clique interests).

4. Community Relations Council Ms. Lisa Miller - Overall plan costs $17,000. Hallmark Grant Program. Connect, Improve, and Encourage community relations. Multi- Cultural Human Relations Events.
(The Hound believes in Community Relations, but this presentation left a lot to be desired. We need some specifics in a tight budget era. What do you do?)

5. Hickory Regional Planning Commission Mr. Brian Frazier - Revision of Hickory by Choice and the Land-Use Development plan.

6. Hickory Youth Council Mr. Alec Patterson - Promote community and general public knowledge in the hearts and minds of our youth. Requesting $3,600 for general uses, programs, and a possible Summer retreat. (The Hound Knows this is a good Investment, because we need kids to be more civic minded.)

7. Historic Preservation Commission Ms. Clem Geitner - No presentation

8. International Council Mr. Hani Nassar - Spoke about Springfest, Second language in schools. Having a hard time with financial goals due to the economy. Developing a guide for newcomers. Want to work with the public appearance commisiion to create some international signs in other parts of the city besides downtown. The Council proposes events such as movies at the Carolina Thetre featuring special Foreign Films. Want to work on a Speakers Bureau, a new brochure, and a website with a newcomer's guide.

9. Library Advisory Board Ms. Judy Ivester -Asked for no money. The Library is a focal point of the community. Technology plays a big role in and outside of the library. Last year their were 145,000 computer patrons. The computers allow for the use of a virtual library. Offers real time records. Last year the library counted on average 37,000 patrons per month and this year the number has risen to 39,000. This summer the library expects 41,000 people per month. Last summer it was not unusual to have 300 children show up for a children's program. The library is looking to increase and improve technology, customer service, and programming. Mrs. Ivester further discussed "The Big Read." (The Hound believes. Mrs. Ivester had the best presentation of the evening and she was spot on in her assessment. The Library is going to be more critical as a center of knowledge as we move forward.)

10. Parks and Recreation Commission Mr. Gary Stafford - Mr. Stafford went over the list of goals in the order of importance as 1) Support completion of phase 2 of the Ridgeview Recreation Project. 2) Development of the Clonionger Mill Park plan 3) Support 2005 Green Ways and Trails Master plan. The last significant investment in the Green Way plan was from 15 years ago. 4) Create a Dog Park 5) Develop a Community Garden 6) Create a City Endowment to support Parks 7) Create a Henry Fork Ampitheater 8) Create a Sandy Pine's Park from capital obtained by selling residential property at the Cloninger Mill Park site 9) Create a Park Ranger Program for the Hickory Park System. (The Hound liked this presentation also. It was brief and to the point, but I support everything they said and I liked the priority assessment.)

11. Public Art Commission Mr. Phil Barringer - Mr. Barringer showed the Art on the Bench project and how it was implemented. He addressed the focal project for the upcoming year, which will be a permanent fire sculpture created by an esyablished artist, local potter, and local citizens. It should be completed in the 2010-2011 timeframe.

12. Recycling Advisory Board Mr. Jeffrey Wright - Chuck Hansen presentation. Campaign to reach the Hickory City School System. All schools will participate in recycling. 600 Businesses participate. Looking to expand convenience centers to other areas. Currently just in NE and SW Hickory. Address and evaluate the recycling commodity issue. Looking towards recycling pallets, oil filters, flourescent lamps, and ballasts. Recyclables are down 14% since 2005, but this isn't necessarily bad -- due to improved recycling.

Consent Agenda:
Social Interest -- Call for Special Joint Meeting With Hickory City Council and the Parks and Recreation Commission to be Held at the Highland Recreation Center’s Community Room on Tuesday 3/10/2009 at 11:30 a.m. to discuss Park Cloninger Mill Property Site Development.

Authorize Public Hearing about Curb & Gutter along a Portion of 2nd St Pl SE for March 17, 2009

Request From the Hickory Downtown Development Association for the Use of Union Square for the Hickory Alive Event to be Held on June 5, 12, 19, 26 and July 3, 10, 17, 24, and 31, 2009 from 3:30pm–12am

Request From the Hickory Downtown Development Association for use of Union Square for the Swingin’ Under the Stars Event to be Held on 5/24/2009 From 4pm–12am.

Approval to Discard Surplus Library Children’s Materials to the Salvation Army for Distribution to the Family Shelter and Boys and Girls Club - 60 picture books

Transfer of Cemetery Lot in Oakwood Cemetery From Estate of Louise Rowe Starnes to Anna Wallace. Transfer of Cemetery Lot in Oakwood Cemetery From Estate of Louise Rowe Starnes to Susan S. Steiger. Transfer of Cemetery Lot in Oakwood Cemetery From Estate of Louise Rowe Starnes to Joyce Sheffield. Transfer of Cemetery Lot in Oakwood Cemetery From Estate of Louise Rowe Starnes to Iva Rhyne.

Business -- Approval to Purchase 5 Specialized Police Package Emergency Vehicles From Armstrong Ford in the Amount of $110,420.00

Approve Change Order With Ronny Turner Construction Co., Inc. for Additional Work on the Clement Boulevard Connector Water Line Modifications Project in the Amount of $8,700.00

Budget Ordinance Amendments -- Budget a $1,400 donation from Klingspor Abrasives for the International Springfest event. Budget $1,200 of State Revenue from the North Carolina Humanities Council for the Big Read 2009 program. Budget a $10,000 donation from Catawba Valley Community College for the Big Read 2009 program. Budget a $50 Library donation from Ms. Hacker for an honor book. Transfer $5,400 of General Fund to the transportation capital bus shelter project for the purchase of 5 additional bus shelters as part of the West Hickory and Ridgeview Redevelopment plans. The total cost of the project is $27,000 which FTA is funding at 80% ($21,600) with a local match of 20% ($5,400).

New Business - Departmental Reports:
1) Hickory City Council to Elect a Temporary Chairman to Preside Over the 3/17/2009 City Council Meeting Due to the Absence of Both the Mayor and Mayor Pro Tempore - Mayor Wright, Alderlady Hoyle, and Alderman Meisner will be out of town, so Alderlady Fox will preside over the 3/17/2009 meeting. Council Agreed Unanimously.

2. Consideration to Participate in the Duke Energy Carolinas Underground Utilities Conversion Pilot Program - The North Carolina Utilities Commission has approved a pilot program for three North Carolina municipalities to convert overhead power lines to underground. The program is a 50/50 match of up to 0.5% of Duke Energy’s gross receipts in the City, which translates into approximately $301,000.00 per year for a total of approximately $903,000.00. The City and Duke Energy would each contribute approximately $900,000.00 during the 3-year program for a total of $1.8 million.

The program funds can be used for planning, designing and construction of power lines from overhead to underground, but will not cover for the conversion of phone, cable or other overhead wires. The cost of conversion can range from $350,000.00 to $3,000,000.00 per mile based on the type of facility and whether it is urban, suburban, or rural. It is difficult to determine exactly how many miles of power lines will be buried should the City choose to participate in the program. This project is consistent with the Hickory by Choice Future Land Use and Transportation Plan. In order to be considered as part of the program, the City must respond to Duke Energy by March 31, 2009. If selected, Council would need to increase property tax by .75 cents on July 1, 2009, to fund its share of this project

Discussion - The Council discussed the aspect of the costs involved versus the aesthetics. City manager Berry pointed out that the areas where you see a lot of lines is where it is going to cost more money. Mr. Berry said that Duke has to follow the rules of the utility Commission (so their hands are tied in their choices to a certain extent). The Mayor says that there will be other options besides tax funding. Manager Berry says that the Budget is a serious concern on this issue. They are worried about balancing the budget. Basically the options are General Fund or raise taxes. The Mayor said that he was sure that their would be some sort of courtship process before we got to the stage of needing to accept or reject the program. Ms. Hoyle seemed to believe that this isn't feasible under current economic circumstances. The Council voted to take the next step in the exploration process, but not commit to the project as this time.

Bob Vollinger requested to be heard on this issue. He is in favor of burying and consolidating overhead lines. He believes it is in the public's best interest. It helps reduce costs, increases reliability, and increases safety.

The Hound would love for all of these lines to go underground but that is unfortunately not feasible. I think participating in this program is a good idea. The city is interested in aesthetics, while Duke Power is interested in reliability. I am sure that there will be negotiations before any of this goes forward. Mayor Wright asked about power line mileage and the number brought up was 300 miles -- Chuck Hansen said, "At Least." Folks that would mean that it would cost at least $105 million to put these wires in the ground by my calculation and it will cost more than that due to some of the more complex areas. It is going to take a long time to get these wires in the ground. Maybe that is where we should focus our energy when asking for Federal Block Grant monies going into the future. (I changed the cost number once, because I doubted my calculation. I couldn't believe that it would cost $105 million to bury these lines, but after rechecking that number, I have found that that is the correct number.)
The Mayor announced that a Document was signed today creating the Appalachian State University regional partnership Greater Hickory Metro. It will increase the opportunities for higher education in this community. This will unify the branding and marketing of the Higher Education center. We are now in a position to have a better educated population. The employees of the Higher Education Center will now be employees of Appalachian State.

The Mayor hopes the Vision will be realized for Lenoir-Rhyne University. We will support L-R in accomplishing their lofty agenda. The Mayor believes that in the next 8 years that we will have a lot of opportunities in both public and private education in this area. Charlotte Observer Article about this.

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