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Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Newsletter about the City Council meeting of September 15, 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 9/15/2009 meeting. There were a couple of important items that were discussed at this meeting and the details are listed further below.

Invocation by Rev. Deborah McEachran of First Presbyterian Church

Consent Agenda:
Resolutions - Discard Library Materials to the Friends of the Library for Their Annual Book Sale The Friends of the Library collect donated books and other materials throughout the year for their Annual Book Sale to be held October 8 – 11, 2009. The donated books and materials are out of date, in poor condition or are no longer needed to meet the collection development goals of the library. There are 2,869 discarded library materials to be donated. The proceeds ultimately benefit the library, which is an appropriate means of disposing of unneeded materials.

Resolution for Public Hearings - (Authorize Public Hearing for October 20, 2009) Consented to Catawba Valley Medical Center to Close a Portion of Old School Drive. (Authorize Public Hearing for October 6, 2009) - Consideration of an Ordinance Amendment to Revise Chapter 31, Section 13 “Location and Ownership of Water Meters” of the Hickory City Code

Proclamation - Declaring September 19, 2009 as “Centro Latino Day” in Celebration of their 10th Anniversary in the City of Hickory

Business - Award Bid to J. T. Russell & Sons, Inc. to Rehabilitate and Overlay Taxiway “A” at the Hickory Regional Airport in the Amount of $1,070,298.15 - this will increase the load carrying capacity comparable to Runway 6-24. The Federal Aviation Administration awarded the City Grant AIP #23 in the amount of $1,145,824, which is a 95% grant, with a State obligation of 2.5% and a 2.5% obligation by the City in the amount of $26,757.45 for rehabilitation of this taxiway. The contractor will be unable to start this project in 2009, but has agreed to honor their bid prices through Spring 2010. A total of three bids were received for this project and J. T. Russell & Sons, Inc. was the lowest responsible bidder.

Approve First Amendment to Lease Agreement With AGW Leasing Company, Inc. (Sprint) For Their Lease of Antenna Space on City’s Water Tower and Additional Ground - The initial lease will expire on November 1, 2009. The amendment extends the Lease Agreement for one additional five year term beginning on November 2, 2009, expiring on November 1, 2014. The agreement will automatically renew for one additional five year term on November 2, 2014. AGW will pay the City annual rent in the amount of $36,000 in equal monthly installments of $3,000. The lease fee is subject to an increase of 3% each successive year. Any improvements the lessee makes at the site are at the corporation’s expense and an experienced contractor must be used to install any new equipment. Regular inspections are to be performed of its antennae by the lessee.

Accept Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) in the Amount of $48,250 - The City of Hickory and Catawba County received approval of a combined allocation of $64,653 under the 2009 JAG Program. The award is based on the City and County’s Uniform Crime Reports. These funds can be spent on virtually any purpose that benefits law enforcement. The Hickory Police Department will use these funds to enhance current operations within the department, i.e. purchase of workout equipment, speed measuring devices, additional shotguns, tasers and tactical equipment. The City’s portion of the award is $48,250 with no match required.

Approval of Citizens’ Advisory Committee Recommendation for Assistance Through the City of Hickory’s Housing Programs
1. Applicant Alfreda Wingate of 943 4th Street Place, SE Hickory is being recommended for approval for assistance under the City of Hickory’s First-Time Homebuyers Assistance Loan Program in an amount up to $6,500.

2. Applicants Dirk & Carolyn Thompson of 146 3rd Avenue, SE Hickory are being
recommended to subordinate City’s 3rd mortgage to Peoples Bank due to refinancing of 2nd mortgage.

3. Applicant Delores Benge of 1710 2nd Avenue, SW Hickory is being recommended for approval for assistance under the City of Hickory’s 2009 Urgent Repair Program in an amount up to $5,000.
FY 2008 – 2009 Consolidated Annual Performance and Evaluation Report (CAPER) - The US Dept. of Housing and Urban Development requires the City, as a Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) entitlement funding recipient, to report on CDBG monies spent within the previous fiscal year. This report evaluates the effectiveness of the use of resources in addressing identified goals and objectives cited in the Annual Action Plan, which is prepared before the fiscal year begins.

Budget Ordinances -
Appropriate $3,786 of Local Government Revenue and budget in the Police Department for overtime. This revenue is payment from Catawba County Mental Health for a portion of an Officers time spent when accompanying involuntary commitment patients during August, 2009.

Budget $391 insurance claim check from Progressive Premier Insurance Company in the Police Department Maintenance and Repair of Vehicle line item for damage sustained to a Police vehicle on 08-13-09.

Budget $13,431 of Contingency as the City of Hickory contribution of a GCC Inter Agency Gang grant. This establishes the reimbursement to the General Fund for salary and benefits for the crime analyst and overtime, FICA and retirement for officer overtime reported and related to gang activity prevention in the amount of $67,640.

Accept $3,900 of Bulletproof Vest Program Federal Revenue and budget in the Police Department Uniform line item to pay for officers vests. This program is up to a 50% match from the Department of Justice.
Purchases Twelve Vests at an estimated price of $650 each. The life expectancy of each vest is approximately five years.

Amendment to establish funding form GCC Inter Agency Gang grant as part of the American Recovery Act of 2009 - Budget a total of $135,630 of revenue in the Police Department operational line items. ($122,199 - Restricted Gov. Revenue and $13,431 Transfer from General Fund).

Appropriate $37,500 of Urgent Repair Program - Grant-Restricted State Revenue funds and budget in the Economic and Community Development Program Administration ($5,000) and Energy ($32,500) operational line items.

Informational Items:
A. Report of Alderwoman Hoyle’s Travel to the Fall PSCP Steering Committee Meeting in Thornton, CO From August 20 – 22, 2009; hotel - $205.82; airfare - $973.70; shuttle - $50; per diem - $29.25; airline baggage fees - $35 The NCLM is to reimburse the City $400 pursuant to the League’s adopted budget regarding NLC Committee Meetings

B. Report of Mayor Wright’s Travel to the NC Metropolitan Mayors Coalition Fall Retreat in Concord/Salisbury, NC From August 27 – 28, 2009; hotel - $109.37; registration fee - $125; mileage - $77. The Mayor stated Items B and C were not a retreat, but it was a work session.

C. Report of City Manager Berry’s Attendance of the NC Metropolitan Mayors Coalition Fall Retreat in Concord/Salisbury, NC From August 27 – 28, 2009; registration $125

New Business - Public Hearings:
1. Adopt Amended Ordinance to Revise Chapter 2, Article VIII, Youth Council of the Hickory City Code - Adoption of the amended Ordinance will assist the Youth Council to operate more smoothly by removing the requirement that members be appointed by their school principals, and the requirement that there be one member from each of the four classes at Hickory High School and St. Stephens High School which will allow member recruitment to be completed in the spring as opposed to the fall. Additionally, the requirement that two existing members of the City’s Community Relations Council serving as “at large” members of the Youth Council will be removed. These two members will be appointed directly to the Youth Council. A recruitment committee will be formed to review applications and make appointment recommendations to City Council. Finally, the amended ordinance will also reduce the quorum number from thirteen to ten. Youth Council at its August 20, 2009 meeting reviewed the proposed amendment and recommends adoption. Dave Leonetti made the Presentation. He stated that this will help maintain a quorum. In the past it has been hard to hold meetings until October. Eliminates the requirement that members be nominated by High School Principals. Instead two references will be required instead of one. One will come from a Principal, a school official, or teacher and the other can come from anyone. City staff will also have input. That makes it hard to get things done. Unanimous Consent of Council

2. Approve Claremont Historic District Expansion Nomination to the National Register of Historic Places - Consider the recommendation by the Hickory Historic Preservation Commission to accept the nomination of the Claremont Historic District Expansion to the National Register of Historic Places. In 2008 Clay Griffith of Acme Preservation Services conducted research of the expansion areas in the three historic districts. On August 25, 2009 Ann Swallow the National Register Coordinator from the State Historic Preservation Office and Mr. Griffith attended a Hickory Historic Preservation Commission meeting. Through Mr. Griffith’s research, it clearly indicated that the period of significance has expanded through the 1950’s. A public hearing was held thereafter finding the expansion area met the criteria for listing on the National Register of Historic Places. Should Council approve this nomination, Council’s recommendation will be presented to the North Carolina National Register Advisory Committee on October 8, 2009. And once the expansion area is considered a National Register District, unless the City follows with an action to create a Historic Overlay on this property, the property owners will not be required to have renovations approved by the Hickory Historic Preservation Commission. Donna Cullum made the presentation. She stated that the district was approved in 1986. There were 62 properties listed on the National registry at that time. The period of significance was from 1870 to 1935. This expansion will include smaller houses, smaller lots, and structures closer to the street. This expansion includes buildings from after world war 1, as vacant lots were improved. 161 new structures will be added to the registry. Unanimous Consent of Council

Departmental Reports:
1. First Reading (From the Consent Agenda) and Second Reading - Accept Airport Improvement Program Grant From the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Grant AIP #23 in the Amount of $1,145,824 for Rehabilitation and Overlay of Taxiway “A” - Taxiway “A” is the primary taxiway at the Hickory Regional Airport and the only taxiway designated for use by an air carrier and larger charter aircraft. Charter traffic has increased in the last couple of years. This is a continuing maintenance program at the airport and is mandated by the FAA. Last year, this grant was awarded to the Hickory Regional Airport for the repaving of Taxiway “A”. Upon FAA’s approval, bidding was delayed due to high petroleum rates, which has saved approximately one hundred thousand dollars. It has been over 30 years since Taxiway “A” has been repaved. Repaving will enable the primary taxiway to handle larger aircraft and require less maintenance. Funding for this project includes 95% FAA share, 2.5% State and 2.5% local. The Mayor pointed out that Alders Lail and Patton, who were on the Airport Committee made motions to approve, so if they made motions... any discissions? Unanimous Consent of Council

2. First Reading (From the Consent Agenda) and Second Reading - Approve Contract With Ponder & Co., Inc. for Construction of Piedmont Wagon Transit Depot in Hickory in the Amount of $427,000 City owned property located at 285 1st Avenue, SW - will house the new Hickory Transit Station for the Western Piedmont Regional Transit Authority. The City received a total of nine bids on the project with Ponder & Co., Inc. being the lowest bidder at $427,000. The low bid will be subject to review by NCDOT for compliance with minority business enterprise requirements. The depot will be a single story brick veneer building with a timber truss canopy with steel column supports and concrete sidewalk and loading area along with the construction of a roadway between 1st Ave. SW and 2nd Ave. SW. Paving of two associated parking areas is also included. Design of the depot was approved by the Historic Preservation Committee. Construction is a lump sum project including all applicable permits. Estimated construction time is 120 days and will be coordinated and overseen by the City’s Engineering staff. No budgetary action is required since funding has been previously arranged. Funding will consist of 80% Federal grant, 10% State and 10% Local.Award Bid to Ponder & Co., Inc. for Construction of Piedmont Wagon Transit Depot in the Amount of $427,000 Ponder & Co., Inc. is the lowest of nine other bids the City received on this project. If awarded the bid, the Contract will be subject to review by NCDOT for compliance with minority business enterprise requirements. The transit depot is to be constructed on City owned property located at 285 1st Avenue, SW along with the construction of a roadway between 1st Ave. SW and 2nd Ave. SW. Manager Berry pointed out that the Transit Authority is now going by the name Greenway. Unanimous Consent of Council

3. Designation of Voting Delegate and One Alternate Voting Delegate for 2009 Annual North Carolina Annual Business Meeting on October 27, 2009 in Greenville, NC. - Under the NCLM Constitution and the voting procedure established by the League Board of Directors, each member municipality sending delegates to the Annual Conference is required to designate one voting delegate and one alternate voting delegate. The vote of each municipality at the Annual Business Meeting on October 27, 2009 may be cast only by a designated voting delegate or alternate voting delegate. Mayor Wright, Alder Hoyle, and the City Manager Mick Berry will attend. Alder Hoyle was appointed as the voting delegate. Unanimous Consent of Council

4. Progress Report on Brownfield Assessment Grant - Brian Frazier made the presentation. In the Fall of 2007 the US EPA awarded Hickory two $200,000 Brownfield Grants. Brownfield Sites are usually abandoned, vacant, underutilized buildings or lots. Most likely in Hickory it is going to be an old Furniture Factory or Textile Mill. Staff and consultants have identified well over 100 sites in Hickory as well as the ETJ. They have fully prioritized those sites and gone out and hired Hart & Hickman out of Charlotte to be consultants of record. They are 75% of the way through the process and the grant must be completed by September 30, 2010.

Mr. Frazier showed the various buildings that the city is now focusing on. he stated staff has been 1) Meeting with the Owners 2) having discussions with The North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources (NC DENR), the EPA, and the property owners 3)moving forward with Phase 1 and 2 assessments 4) Identifying new prospects.

Currently the city has completed five Phase 1 assessments, which is basically a paper trail. Phase 1 is fully funded and the vast majority, if not all, of phase 2 will be paid for by the grant. Where the site is, who owns the site, have there been any spills? The city has completed one Phase 2, which goes beyond the paper trail and includes air, water, and soil sampling.

Mr. Frazier mentioned the Regal Building in Viewmont (which has gone through Phase 1 and stated Phase 2 will be coming around shortly) , Hollar Hosiery (Ironically the building I filmed on Sunday, has gone through Phase 2), the Piedmont Wagon Building (Phase 2 planning is underway), S&W Chemical (He stated that this is a priority site), and Joan's Fabric (is another Priority site). He also mentioned the Lyerly Mill and Moretz Mill. Lyerly Mill has gone through Phase 1 and Moretz Mill has gone through Phase 1 and is being prepped for phase 2.

He showed some of the outreach and promotional materials and talked about how they are promoting the sites to developers throughout the Southeast. Mr. Frazier stated that it was his understanding that the Hollar Hosiery site is under contract with a local developer and they are trying to work out some agreements with the railroad. He stated the owners of Lyerly Mill have decided, because of the economy, not to proceed ahead with phase 2 assessment at this time. He stated that the owner has a year to change his mind and they hope he will (nothing is imminent or being planned with this site).

Once all of these sites are assessed, the city can apply for remediation Money through the EPA and the Federal grant would be 80%. To qualify for such a grant, the Municipality must fully own the property. Most of the sites the city are looking at are privately owned. He stated that the economy is putting a crimp in the city's plans. The property owners (of Moretz Mill) don't presently have any potential buyers on the hook.

The Hound believes that this is a very important issue. That is the reason why I have been documenting the blighted properties in this area. The biggest problems in our community lie on the south side of the railroad tracks. Here are the two articles so far where I have documented the blight: Houndvision: Let's take a Drive through Southwest Downtown and Houndvision: Let's Head on over toward Highway 70 West.

I have been wondering about that Hollar property and I have asked about it to people in the know, but I never knew that it was as far along as it seems to be. I have been impressed with the course that Brian Frazier and Dave Leonetti have been plotting. Many of the questions I have been interested in on this subject were answered tonight. I honestly believe that the city is headed in the right direction on this front. I hope that City Council will continue to let these guys maneuver in the manner they find necessary.

The one thing I desire is to see the City facilitate a means to move the properties towards a productive state, instead of allowing property owners to let properties deteriorate at the expense of the surrounding community. We must make this a priority. The Real Estate Market and this issue can't be allowed to fester and make a bad situation worse.

In General Comments (Very Important): Jill Patton talked about the Small Business Job Growth Team and stated that they need the support of the Council. She stated that something new must be done to reignite the entrepreneurial spirit in our city. The Mayor stated that the group has moved past the Pet Peeve stage and said he is proud of that. The Mayor said we can expand this group, if people want to participate.

The Mayor made a motion that was Unanimously consented to, to put a $6,100 sign up at the intersection of Tate Boulevard and Lenoir-Rhyne Boulevard when it is opened in October. The sign will carry the City's new logo and the Mayor seemed excited about the prospects of having an unveiling ceremony when the road is opened.

Jill Patton mentioned that She and the Mayor were at the Champions of Education
and it was a kickoff for 2012 that businesses not hire anyone without a High School Diploma or GED. There are different levels of signing on. The Gold Level will require a $2,500 support of the program. 20 different businesses in the area have signed on as Gold. She would like to see Hickory to sign on to do this. She stated that we are 606 out of 788 communities in our educational attainment.

Z. Anne Hoyle stated that it sounds real good, but what do we do with our citizens that don't have it? What do we do, push them out of town? Alder Patton stated that this would be for new hires starting in 2012. Alder Hoyle stated that there are people that don't have it, but they are adults... Alder Patton stated there is a GED. She stated that this tells High School Students and Population how important it is to have an education to succeed in the new business model out there. She stated that we are always talking about competing with India and China and no they are so far above us in educational attainment. If we are going to succeed, we have to put education number one.

The Mayor jumped in stating there will be four groups of employers. The gold category will state that you must have a High School Education or GED to be employed here. The second one was confusing. The third one states that you express a preference for a High School Education or a GED. The fourth one doesn't sign on for anything. He said it isn't like you would be closing out anyone for a chance at employment. He stated that Prestige employers will sign on for Gold. It was stated that staff will look at this. Alder Hoyle stated that she wasn't opposed to it, but since we are in a town that traditionally hired people if they didn't have... lots of people now won't hire you without this... but we've been in furniture since the beginning of time and we hired people because they were skilled enough to do the job and we can possibly elite ourselves out. She isn't against education, she insisted (her children) get an education, but at the same time unless you plan to run some people out of town...

The Mayor stated to be fair that he spoke to someone who is a leading employer here, who stated that he would not put himself in a position that I have to hire people who have a high school education or GED. If he finds the right person who is willing to work 40 hours a week, work hard, is versatile, and comes to work on time; he needs that kind of person more than he needs credentials. Alderman Meisner stated that there are a lot of businesses like that, like landscaping and such.

The Mayor stated that this won't banish someone to unemployment forever. It will encourage people to get their High School Diploma or GED. He would also like for staff to advise what a GED of today means. Alder Patton said that it encourages and sends a message to the community that an education is important. To stop at High School level and drop out is no longer acceptable as far as educational attainment. Alder Hoyle said that we do that any way with the Employment Commission. Alder Patton stated that this puts a little emphasis behind it, that we are interested in looking beyond what we have traditionally done in textiles and furniture. Alder Hoyle stated that is what she is looking for to, but she doesn't believe that is the council's job. Alderman Lail stated that it was a great policy discussion, but we ought to have it at another time. Mayor Wright stated that Alder Patton was asking the staff to look at what this would mean for us as a city employer and what are the pitfalls. The Mayor stated that they would grandfather anyone who is currently employed.

Manager Berry stated that this dovetails with what they already do. they already work with and encourage employees to get their GED. They are familiar with this.

The Hound was uncomfortable witnessing the contentiousness displayed over this subject. I understand Mrs. Patton's passion on this issue and I share much of her belief on this issue, but I believe she made a mistake in the way she introduced the topic and that is what drew the ire of Mrs. Hoyle. If the subject had been narrowed to "the City of Hickory" from the get-go and the topic would have originally included the discussion of Grandfathering by the Mayor and encouragement and facilitation by Manager Berry, then I don't think this discussion would have gone as awry as it did.

I would like to see companies move in this direction; but we must facilitate, not legislate, this goal for companies in our community. It is going to have to be phased in and 2012 is not enough time. And you need to talk with area companies, before pushing any agenda, not dictate what they do. We cannot afford to go negative in addressing this issue.

What we have to do is change our culture and that starts by facilitating and encouraging young people, on an individual level, to find a niche (a passion) that they are interested in and show them how education can help them gravitate towards their dreams. We also have to as a society help the children, who have home issues, because of abuse or neglect. At some point our society needs to deal with these sensitive issues. These children are lost through no fault of their own because of violence, chemical dependency, and/or mental instability in their homes.

I did not like primary education when I was growing up, because it was confining and restrictive, which makes it boring. And I think that we have to recreate the wheel when it comes to education. Kids say, "Why do I need to know this?" And the worst part is that adults never give them a decent answer. It is always the generic, brainless,"You need an education to succeed." Why not ask the kid about their dreams and then tangibly point out how education works to facilitate that dream. And if a kid says I don't know (about their dream or passion), then find out why they don't have a goal, what is inhibiting them, or find a way to encourage them to dream. Our area's worst problem is adult's negative attitudes that always look towards what we aren't and what we can't be, instead of losing the shackles of limiting ourselves and talking about what we can be.

The other problem with this discussion is always falling back on the sword of education, education, education. My formal education came from dictionaries and encyclopedias, not from teachers or family. Society (and our community) keep asking for quantitative measures without figuring out the functions and variables of the Equation. So we are in the bottom 25% of communities with Associate degrees and bottom 10% of communities with Bachelor degrees, do you even know what that means or the variables that may play a role in those numbers?

I have asked the question before and I guess they don't find it convenient to their paradigm, so they refuse to answer it. What employment capacity do we have to retain or attain educated people?

We have kids in this area who are smart, but they are leaving and they are leaving behind the people who are stuck here. I would bet that most of those youngsters (left behind) come from poverty, which statistics show to be expanding in our community. Look at and read this article, Our High Schools versus the State of North Carolina Averages, and then get back to me. We need to expand our job market. We've been hearing about education forever. If you get jobs worthy of the educated, creative class, then you will increase our educational attainment number; if you don't then we will still be hearing this same discussion 10 years from now. The only difference is that educated people like myself, who can't find jobs worthy of our educational attainment, will have long given up on this area and moved out of here. Then the numbers will be even worse and you will wondering why all of these initiatives haven't worked.


Anonymous said...

So the highlight of Tuesday's meeting is that the City, in the infinite wisdom of our elected leaders and their appointed minions, are going to pay $6,100.00 (plus the inevitable overruns) to put up a sign in the middle of town to tell people where they’re at, all so Rudy can have another opportunity to cut a ribbon?

The Mayor ought to get credit – his enthusiasm for ribbon cutting has waned since Council clipped his wings early on. It’s a little known fact that members of Council and the Mayor get a stipend for attending any municipal functions - $50.00 a meeting. It adds up to substantial dollars for some of the Council Members.

Rudy was initially dinging the City for $50.00 every time a new tanning salon opened its’ doors and he showed up to speechify. He eventually had to give back several thousand dollars, which he did in the form of a check that he attempted to designate as a “donation” to “keep the library open.”

The City then had a Finance Director with some kahonies who didn’t let that happen, unlike the senior management folks who now hold that much-abused public trust. The money was returned to general fund, despite Hizzoner’s wishes, and he was told that he couldn’t keep asking for payment to supplement the sign shop income for these trivial things which, frequently, he wasn't asked to appear at but simply decided to show up and be official.

So to summarize - we can’t get some pretty essential functions done in the City because of budget concerns during the worst economic recession since the great depression but our tax dollars are going to be used to make another sign to usher the unknowing and lost little lambs into the sacred borders of Downtown?

Here's a news flash, Council -- those of us who live here know where we're at. Those who happen to wander in can check the signs on the interstate as they take the exit. Given that Downtown Hickory is NOT the tourist destination that Sally Fox and the DDA would have us believe, the "cost per look" for the dozen folks a year who inadvertently stumble across this sillyness and would actually be informed of their location on the Planet Earth is going to be pretty significant.

Is this REALLY the best use of our tax dollars?

Is it possible that people aren’t paying attention, or are the citizens of Hickory simply worn down by the continued stupidity in office to the point that they don't care any more?

Anonymous said...

I have witnessed this city in the 90's grow where people believed we were becoming the next Charlotte. As I was relatively young, and would hear this frequently as a child. But as a student of a four year University, and aware of Lamar Mitchell's intentions the City of Hickory is a dud! I am unpleased in leadership, and attitude of our city council. I met wtih Champions of Education, and Lamar is doing a teriffic job! But Rudy to implement a sign at LR BLVD. I am sorry Lenoir-Rhyne students are not interested in receiving $30,000/yr jobs, as after 4yrs here the school itself cost in the range of $100,000+

Thus, I can conclude I admire Lamars intentions...but I cannot see a real benifcial side to this except more high school diplomas. There will always be kings, and peasants.