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Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Newsletter about the City Council meeting of October 6, 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 10/6/2009 meeting. There were a couple of important items that were discussed at this meeting and the details are listed further below.

Invocation by Rev. Bob Thompson of Corinth Reformed Church of Christ

Special Presentations:
A. Presentation of Proclamation to Deputy Fire Chief, Steve Moore Declaring the Week of October 4 – 10, 2009 as “Fire Prevention Week” in the City of Hickory.
In this proclamation the Mayor pointed out that 3,000 people die each year as a result of homefires and burns, 200,000 people were received at emergency rooms for burns, and for children Thermal Burns exceed Scalds nearly 2 to 1. No fire death has occurred in 15 years in the City of Hickory.

B. Presentation of Beautification Awards by the Community Appearance Commission Presented by Steve Bowman, Chair of the Community Appearance Commission.
Awards were given to homes at 811 14th Ave NW, 412 6th st NW, Viewmont Baptist Church, Atriax Group, a renovation at the corner of 3rd ave & 5th st NE, and the Moretz Sports complex at Lenoir-Rhyne University.

C. Presentation of the Certificate of Distinction to the City of Hickory by the International City/County Management Association Center for Performance Measurement. The ICMA Center for Performance Measurement’s Certificate Program recognizes local governments that have made an exceptional commitment to integrating performance measurement into their management practices. This is the first year the City of Hickory has applied for this certificate. Hickory is among 18 jurisdictions being recognized for this achievement. Other recipients include Albany, Oregon; Cartersville, Georgia; Corvallis, Oregon; Eugene, Oregon; Fishers, Indiana; Fort Collins, Colorado; High Point, North Carolina; Mesa, Arizona; North Las Vegas, Nevada; Palm Bay, Florida; Palm Coast Florida; Peoria, Arizona; San Francisco, California; Sarasota County, Florida; Shoreline, Washington; Suwanee, Georgia; and University Place, Washington.

D. Presentation of “Education Matters” by Lamar Mitchell, Director of Catawba County Champions of Education. Followed With the City of Hickory’s Existing Hiring Policies Relating to Education Requirements by Organizational Development Coordinator, Claudia Main. Mr. Mitchell stated that the U.S, is the only industrialized county where kids are less likely to graduate from High School than their parents. The 2007 measure of jobs that we had shows that 34% of the jobs required less than a GED. Earnings potential correlates with education. More Educational Attainment should equal people making more money and people should be able to contribute more to our tax base and to the community overall, as opposed to a drain. Department of Commerce projections to the year 2017 show that the gretest increase in jobs will be in industries that require college educations or greater.

Unemployment correlates with education level. In 2008, estimate were that 41,000 students would not graduate. That translates to a reduction of earnings of $7.5 billion, reduced state tax revenues by $711 million, and increased the state's medicaid costs by $155 million. Drop-outs live fewer year than graduates, are more likely to be incarcerated in prison, and are more likely to use social services.

This is a partnership between education, business, and government. This is about changing the culture in our community that dropping out of school is no longer an option. Students who graduate will have a future rate portfolio that will indicate that students have 21st Century skills that are in demaded in the workplace. Attendance records, Writing samples, and community service work are included. Students will be tested on national career readiness certification skills.

Claudia Main, of the City of Hickory, presented how the city's policies align with Education Matters. Staff does recommend applying for the Gold certification. The city believe that education does improve ones quality of life and helps employees offer better service to the community.

Since the mid 90s. The city does require applicants to possess the minimum of a GED. As far as parental involvement, they provide vacation time to allow parents to participate in school events with their children. Human and Capital resources include tuition assistance for all levels of education. The city works with schools to provide many resources to the schools, both academically and culturally. All City Departments have interns. The Libraries offer lifelong learning opportunities for everyone. Hickory's Youth Council works with 9-12 grade youth. The city encourages employees to tutor, mentor, and volunteer in the community. City staff does recommend applying for the gold certification with Education matters.

Alder Hoyle asked about city employees who do not have a GED, will they be terminated? City Manager stated that when the policy was introduced in the mid-90s that everyone was grandfathered in, but the city does encourage and afford those employees to go back, when the time is right, to obtain their GED and some have gone on further. Mayor Wright asked if the GED is universally accepted as the equivalent of a High School Diploma and this was affirmed. Mayor Wright stated that personally did not believe this should be the case. Council gave Unanimous Consent.

The Hound believes in education - I like a lot of the substance of what Mr. Mitchell is addressing here when he talks about Work Keys and mentoring, but it seems to me that when he talks about a partnership between government, business and education, isn't he leaving the most important element out of the equation. It seems to me that the parents and the children are being left out of the loop.

We keep hearing about the statistics on this issue, but we aren't hearing about what created those statistics. Last week in Raleigh, the Economic Adviser of the Centennial Campus talked about how most kids come into 6th grade motivated and somewhere between 6th and 8th grade some are getting lost in the system. Many times by the time they get to 10th grade they are lost. We better start figuring out why and how we are going to address that problem.

I have heard nothing about the issues the vulnerable young individuals face. This is getting passed down from generation to generation. If the parent dropped out, is the child not most likely to follow the same path? If the parent does not value education, then is this not being passed on to the child? Are there drugs, violence, and abuse in the home? Does this program address any of those dire circumstances that are prevalent in many drop outs homes?

I thought Mrs. Main's presentation of what the City does about this issue is more encompassing in addressing this issue and I would suggest that the "Education Matters" campaign needs to add a few pages to their playbook to ensure that their mission is truly successful.

I would also like to see education truly matter and the leaders of this area start taking the issue of underemployment seriously. How can a college graduate justify staying in this area to get paid $20,000 a year working what equates to menial labor? There is a lot of that going on in this area and it is time that leaders open their eyes, because apparently the MaGoos can't see that that is a major component of the Brain Drain we see in this area.

VII. Consent Agenda:
Voluntary Contiguous Annexation of the Property of Kirk and Debra Hobart Located at 976 30th Avenue Drive, NW (Authorize Public Hearing for October 20, 2009)

Approve Application by West Hickory/Westmont Neighborhood Association for a Neighborhood Matching Implementation Grant in the Amount of $1,500 The Neighborhood Matching Implementation Grant was developed by City Council to provide a neighborhood with a $2,500 matching grant to implement a recommendation in their neighborhood plan or in one of the City’s Master Plans. The neighborhood is one of the oldest in the City and has applied for a $1,500 matching grant to use in the renovation of the pulpit and altar of Houk’s Chapel which is on the National Register of Historic Places and is a Designated Local Historic Landmark.

Amendment to Traffic Ordinance by Reducing The Speed Limit from 35 Mph to 25 Mph Along 24th Avenue NE From 23rd Avenue Drive NE to 24th Street Lane NC, 23rd Avenue Drive NE From 24th Street NE to 24th Street Lane NE and 24th Street Lane NE From 23rd Street Drive NE to 23rd Avenue Drive NE Under the City’s Traffic Calming Program an application was received for a speed limit reduction along the indicated streets above. Staff determined that a speed limit reduction from 35 mph to 25 mph would be acceptable, if the residents desired. The petition packages were received and were determined by Staff to be valid and met the 75% signature requirement.

Accept Grant From the Department of Energy in the Amount of $209,300 for the Purchase and Installation of New Energy Efficient Lighting and Retrofit Materials for Fourteen City-Owned Properties - City Council previously approved Staff to apply for this grant on May 19, 2009 and on September 11, 2009 City staff received notification of the grant award in the amount of $209,300. The City facilities that will receive the new lighting will be the Water Filtration Plant, Henry Fork Waste Treatment Plant, Brown Penn Recreation Center/Gym, Ridgeview Recreation Center/Gym, Neill Clark Main Building, Neill Clark Gym, Westmont Recreation Center/Gym, Whitener Municipal Building (Council Chambers and Drive-thru Building), Hickory Police Headquarters and Fire Stations 2, 4, 5 & 6. The project is estimated to reduce electrical lighting energy cost by 30-35% once the facilities are completely renovated with the new energy efficient lighting materials. The Department of Energy has benchmarked this project to be completed in one year. All work will be performed in-house utilizing certified/licensed staff. Staff recommends acceptance of Grant.

Approve Request by the Coworker Appreciation Day Committee for Eight Days of Vacation Time - The Coworker Appreciation Day Committee is requesting eight days of vacation time to be used as door prizes for Coworker Appreciation Day scheduled for October 17, 2009 at the Hickory Metro Convention Center. For the past couple years, City Council has approved eight days, with five of those days used as the grand prize and the other three days as additional door prizes.

Approval to Submit Application for a Factory Mutual Global Fire Prevention Grant for Digital Cameras and Camera Related Equipment - Factory Mutual Global offers a grant program to fire departments for equipment to be used for fire/arson prevention and investigation. The City’s Fire Department requests to apply for said grant for the purchase of digital cameras and camera related equipment. This is a no match funds grant, but sometimes only partial funding of a request is awarded; with a typical award not exceeding $3,000. The camera equipment that would be purchased would cost $3,195 and would be assigned to the full time fire inspectors/investigators for use during code enforcement or investigation activities.

Approve Landscape Incentive Grant to TS Properties of Hickory Located at 1811 North Center Street in the Amount of $2,500 - TS Properties of Hickory owns property located at 1811 North Center Street and has applied for a Landscape Incentive Grant in the amount of $2,500 to remove the existing plantings surrounding the building and replace them with smaller plants and shrubs that require less maintenance. The project is estimated to cost $5,027.99. The Community Appearance Commission reviewed the application and on September 21, 2009 found it met the criteria and unanimously approved the grant application.

Contract For Services With Stephen F. Austin For Preparation of the City of Hickory’s Five Year Consolidated Plan and One Year Annual Update, as Required by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, in the Amount Not to Exceed $7,500

The City of Hickory receives funding from the U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development’s Community Development Block Grant Program. As a recipient of these funds, the City is required to submit a Five-Year Consolidated Plan; a five-year strategic plan for providing services and assistance to low to moderate income residents within the corporate city limits. Mr. Austin has previously prepared the City’s Five-Year Consolidated Plans and proposes to prepare FY 2010-2014 plan at a cost not to exceed $7,500.

Approval to Apply for a Fire Fighters Fire Prevention and Safety Grant Through the Department of Homeland Security for Smoke Detectors - The 2009 Fire Prevention and Safety Grant will allow the Hickory Fire Department to acquire smoke detectors for residents of Hickory who are unable to obtain them on their own so as to provide a higher level of awareness of the hazards and risks in residential homes. Applications for the grant must be received by October 23, 2009. Fire departments serving areas with a population between 20,000 and 50,000, inclusive, must match the Federal grant funds with an amount of non-federal funds equal to ten percent of the total project cost. Award decisions for the FY 2009 program will be completed on or before September 30, 2010.

Budget Ordinance Amendments - To budget a total of $55 of Library donations in the Library Books line item. Donations include a $30 memorial book and a $25 honor book.

To re-appropriate a total of $5,960 of General Fund Balance and budget in the Library Department's Computer Equipment line item. The Library budgeted funds in FY08-09 for the ITG Handheld Inventory Device; however, budgeted funds rolled into Fund Balance at year end and therefore a re-appropriation is necessary.

To appropriate $55,176 of General Fund Balance and transfer it to the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Services (SAFER) Grant project. This appropriation represents the City of Hickory’s year 1 local match for the multiyear grant. Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Services (SAFER) Grant was awarded by the Department of Homeland Security to fully staff the City of Hickory 2nd Ladder Company. The grant period is from 04-30-09 until 04-29-14 and the City of Hickory began the project July 1, 2009.

To appropriate $30,153 of General Fund Balance and transfer it to the Airport’s AIP 23 grant project. This grant is funded at 95% Federal ($1,145,824), 2.5% State ($30,153) and 2.5% Local ($30,153). This appropriation represents the City of Hickory’s 2.5% local match of a $1,206,130 total project cost that will rehabilitate Taxiway "A" enabling the primary taxiway to handle larger aircraft and require less maintenance. The last repaving occurred over 30 years ago with Federal grant funds. The normal life span of a runway and taxiway paving is between 15 and 20 years depending on usage.

Grant Project Ordinances
1. To budget a $209,300 American Recovery & Reinvestment Act grant from the Department of Energy in several Department Maintenance and Repair of Buildings operational line items. This grant is 100% federally funded and requires no local matching funds from the City. Grant funds are for the purchase and installation of new energy efficient lighting and retrofit materials for fourteen City facilities. The project is estimated to reduce electrical lighting energy costs by 30-35% once facilities are completely renovated with the new energy efficiency lighting materials. The project is to be completed in a one year timeframe with a close out date of September 3, 2010.

1. To budget a $64,653 FY2009 Edward Byrne Memorial Assistance Grant award through the Justice Assistance Grant (J.A.G.) program. The City of Hickory and Catawba County have received approval to receive a combined allocation of $64,563 under the 2009 Justice Assistance Grant program. This grant requires no local matching funds from the City. Catawba County is eligible for a direct award of $16,403 which will fund the purchase of 8-800 MHz radios. The City of Hickory is eligible for a direct award of $48,250 which will provide funds to purchase workout equipment, speed measuring devices, shotguns, tasers, helmets, and a scope.

1. To accept and budget a $55,176 transfer of General Fund Balance and to budget the $2,476,210 Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Services (SAFER) Grant project. The $55,176 transfer of General Fund Balance represents the City of Hickory’s year 1 local match for the multi-year grant. Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Services (SAFER) Grant was awarded by the Department of Homeland Security to fully staff the City of Hickory’s 2nd Ladder Company. The grant period is from 04-30-09 until 04-29-14 and the City of Hickory began the project July 1, 2009.

1. To accept and budget a $30,153 transfer of General Fund Balance to the Airport’s AIP 23 grant project. This grant is funded at 95% Federal ($1,145,824), 2.5% State ($30,153) and 2.5% Local ($30,153). This transfer represents the City of Hickory’s 2.5% local match of a $1,206,130 total project cost that will rehabilitate Taxiway "A" enabling the primary taxiway to handle larger aircraft and require less maintenance. The last repaving occurred over 30 years ago with Federal grant funds. The normal life span of a runway and taxiway paving is between 15 and 20 years depending on usage.

Items Removed from Consent Agenda

Award Bid to Armstrong Ford For The Purchase of Nine Specialized Police Packaged Emergency Vehicles in the Amount of $205,956 Armstrong Ford was the lowest bidder for nine 2010 Ford Crown Victoria specialized police packaged emergency vehicles in the amount of $22,884 per vehicle for a total bid of $205,956 The Hickory Police Department has funds budgeted for these vehicles in the FY 2009-10 CIP and staff recommends Council award the bid to Armstrong Ford. Chief Tom Adkins came to the podium and spoke about the possibility of Green Vehicles. The city has two electric vehicles, non-patrol officers use 6-cylinder vehicles, and a 4 cylinder vehicle is used as a travel vehicle.

The Crown Victoria meets the needs of the officer on the street. Maintenance costs are higher for front wheel drive vehicles. The Crown Victoria suits technology needs. The alternator in these vehicles supports that use (computers, radars, etc.). Manager Berry stated that these vehicles are better than alternatives, such as a Dodge Charger. The technology of Green Vehicles just isn't there yet. The Mayor stated that his Prius would not be a good police car.
The Council gave Unanimous Consent.

Adopt Resolution in Opposition to Loss of Jobs at Hickory Mail Processing and Distribution Center - The U.S. Postal Service is conducting an Area Mail Processing (AMP) study of mail processing at the Hickory Processing and Distribution Center for possible consolidation of certain operations into the Greensboro Processing Distribution Center that could result in the further loss of jobs and shifting all outgoing mail from the 286 region to be processed in Greensboro. As the Hickory-Morganton-Lenoir MSA has lost 43,262 jobs since the year 2000; 12,298 in the last 12 months and holds an unemployment rate of 15.1 percent, it is not time for further loss and important the U.S. Postal Service consider these factors during the ongoing AMP study. Mike Bennett came to the podium and gave an overview of this issue. This goes back to August (HDR Article). A letter was sent to the majority of the cities in the 286 zip code area to pass a similar resolution. The Mayor stated the loss of these jobs becomes a compunding thing and he has asked the post office to find some other way to get the efficiency that they seek. The Council gave Unanimous Consent.

The Hound talked about this when it first came up - This is the death nail. Every time the city issues one of these resolutions it is like the dreaded vote of confidence. What actually is being effectively done to ensure that these jobs stay here? We heard nothing, so I assume nothing is being done by our local government other than a letter writing campaign.

We didn't hear anything about actual actions of negotiations taking place, so you can assume that these jobs are gone. What is really sad is that we didn't see this happening until now. Oh well, par for the course. I hope these people are given an option to at least relocate to the facility in Greensboro.

New Business - Public Hearings:
1. Consider Amendment of City of Hickory Code of Ordinances, Chapter 31, Article
1, Section 31-13 “Location and Ownership of Water Meters” - This amendment revises Chapter 31, Section 31-13 of the Hickory City Code as required by North Carolina House Bill 2499 Drought/Water Management Recommendations. Said Bill mandates that local government water systems require separate meters for all newly installed in-ground irrigation systems, effective July 1, 2009. This revision will have minimal financial affect on the Public Utilities Operation and will benefit the customer so that no sewer charges are applied to such meters, but they will have the expense of a separate water meter. Kevin Greer made the presentation - The State Bill addresses drought issues - This is for newly installed systems. It doesn't affect old systems. Hickory has had the practice of asking whether customers were putting irrigation systems in. You aren't charged a sewer fee for water that utilizes the irrigation tap. So this saves the customer money. This will mostly effect customers outside the city. This will cost customers $910 in Hickory or $820 in Catawba County.

Alderman Lail asked whether professional irrigation contractors always put in separate meters? Mr. Greer stated that inside the city they do, but outside the city there is no carrot to make the homeowner want a separate meter. Alder Fox stated that if you garden that your bill can be astronomical, because you have to pay sewer (on top of water). Mr. Greer said it isn't uncommon to see a 4,000 gallon per month use during the summer for those who use water for irrigation or gardening.

B. Departmental Reports:
1. Approve Assignment and Assumption of Lease Between the City of Hickory, Profile Aviation Center, Inc. and RC Enterprises, LLC - This Assignment and Assumption of Lease pertains to a Lease Agreement dated April 27, 1992 made with Moose Holding Company and McClure Aircraft, Inc. for a certain tract of land, aircraft hangar and other improvements located at the Hickory Regional Airport. Moose Holding Company became the sole tenant under the Lease in November, 2006 and subsequently assigned its entire interest in the Lease to Profile Aviation. Profile Aviation desires to assign its right, title and interest in the Lease to RC Enterprises, LLC who agrees to assume and be bound by all of the provisions of the Lease, including the performance of all the obligations, terms, covenants and agreements outlined in the Lease Agreement. The City accepts RC Enterprises, LLC as Tenant under the Lease upon the express condition that Profile shall remain liable for the prompt payment of the rent and the keeping and performance of all conditions and covenants of the Lease by the Tenant to be kept and performed.
Attorney Crone made the presentation and stated that this is separate from the city's original concession agreement (That has been assigned to River Hawk). Alder Patton asked about the merger between Profile and River Hawk, does Atty. Crone mean River Hawk? Atty. Crone stated that the City's lease is with Profile. The Mayor asked what the City is giving up? Atty Crone ataed the city wasn't giving up anything. Manager Berry stated that the city has increaded the lease on this property substantially and it has an escalator on it.
The Council gave Unanimous Consent.

The Hound is knows that this is the hangar that the Forestry airplane is supposed to be being housed in and it isn't. As I stated many times in my report last week, I surely hope that our city at some point figures out the valuable asset sitting over there. I know at one time past leaders in this area were at the forefront of Aviation development. I'd surely like to know what happened.

2. Award Bid and Approve Contract With Maymead, Inc. for Construction of Clement Boulevard Connector Project in the Amount of $1,982,238 - Bids on the construction of the Clement Boulevard Connector Project were advertised and open with three bids being received. The low bidder was Maymead, Inc. at $1,982,238 which includes a corrected $16,200 math error made on the original bid form. The final contract amount will be adjusted in accordance with the unit prices and contract conditions when the work has been completed. Staff estimates unit price and contract conditions to be within 5% of the bid price. Bids are valid for 60 days and will expire on October 30, 2009. Due to time constraints and the start of construction, Staff requests two readings be held on October 6, 2009.

To appropriate $120,995 of the General Fund and transfer it to the Clement Boulevard Connector Project. This appropriation is necessary to provide sufficient funds to pay Maymead, Inc. for construction of the Clement Boulevard Connector. Roadway construction is anticipated to begin in October. Due to time constraints and the start of construction, Staff requests two readings be held on October 6, 2009. (Capital Budget Ordinance) - Accept a $120,995 transfer of General Fund Balance to the Clement Boulevard Connector Project to provide sufficient funds to pay Maymead, Inc. for construction phase of the Clement Boulevard Connector.

Chuck Hanson gave the specifics and stated that the project has a 6 month time frame. It is an asphalt paving project an railroad crossing project. Dual left hand turn lanes will be built at night. Other works will be worked on after morning traffic and before evening rush hour traffic. some will also take pave at night. He will keep in touch with Mandy Pitts to provide information to the public. Alderman Meisner asked about the low number of bids. Mr. Hanson stated that this was mainly a paving project? Mr. Hanson said there isn't a whole lot of grading. Paving contractors are going with prime contractors. This is a different mix. Graders will sub to them. Alderman Lail asked about inhouse inspections? Mr. Hanson said it would be a combination. There was further discussion about lighting and landscaping. Alder Patton asked about consequences for contractors running over the allotted time frame. Mr. Hanson stated there would be penalties. Alder Fox stated her that it is bothersome that we could not bury the electrical wires. Alder Patton stated that it would be easier to incorporate putting the lines underground originally than to try to go back later and do this. City Manager Berry stated that this was originally discussed, but the council had decided that it was necessary to not do this to move the project forward. Burying the lines` can add 25%, 50%, or 100% to a project.

City Manager Berry stated that after 4 years this project is coming in on target at around $2.5 million. All of the following amendments were unanimously consented to.

a. Approve Contract Amendment No. 4 with Kimley-Horne and Associates, Inc. for the Clement Boulevard Connector Signal Design Project in the Amount of $5,000 - This Amendment is needed due to changes in the Clement Boulevard Connector construction drawings so as to meet current NCDOT specification for traffic signal design. The design changes are required as a result of changes in signal standards from the time of the original signal design. Revisions to the plans must be completed before receiving final approval from NCDOT. Staff recommends approval and requests two readings be held on October 6, 2009 due to starting of construction. (Capital budget Ordinance) - To accept a $8,494 transfer of General Fund Balance to the Clement Boulevard Connector Project Engineering line item. This appropriation is necessary to provide sufficient funds to pay Kimley-Horn and Associates, Inc. $5,000 for the signal design revisions and to provide an additional $3,494 for overages in this line item. Changes to the drawings are required to meet current North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) specifications for traffic signal design.

b. Approve Contract with Froehling & Robertson, Inc. for Construction Materials Testing Services Regarding the Clement Boulevard Connector Project in the Amount of $36,945 - The NC Department of Transportation (NCDOT) requires testing of construction materials to verify compliance with the plans and specifications of the Clement Boulevard Connector Project. Construction materials testing must begin when the roadway construction begins in October, 2009. The total amount of $36,945 is based on unit prices for various testing services and the final contract amount will be adjusted in accordance with the unit prices and services rendered when the roadway construction has been completed. Staff recommends approval and requests two readings be held on October 6, 2009 due to starting of construction. (Capital Budget Amendment) To accept a $28,109 transfer of the General Fund to the Clement Boulevard Connector Project Miscellaneous account. This appropriation is necessary to provide sufficient funds to pay Froehling & Robertson, Inc. $36,495 for testing of construction materials for the Clement Boulevard Connector project. The testing of construction materials is to verify compliance with the projects plans and specifications.

Adopt Resolution for Authorization of Retirement Incentive Program - Due to current economic conditions, City Staff requests consideration of adopting a Retirement Incentive Program. Said program will be offered to coworkers who are eligible to retire through the North Carolina Local Governmental Employees’ Retirement system by March 1, 2010. Over the past few years, the City has eliminated more than 70 positions without layoffs and implemented a hiring freeze this year, which has helped with the current conditions. There are approximately 90 coworkers who meet the requirements for consideration and who will be offered a cash incentive of up to six months salary, depending upon when they choose to retire. Retirement must occur between January 1, 2010 and March 1, 2010. Retirement participants may receive City-paid individual health insurance for the same amount of time should they meet the eligibility requirements. Cost savings to the City will be achieved by leaving some or all of the positions vacant and the vacancies will also provide opportunities for reorganization and restructuring. The number of participants in the program will not be known until December 1, 2009, the deadline for employee participation. The program will be paid out of FY 2009-10 and the savings will be seen in FY 2010-11.
Warren Wood made the presentation. He stated that the economic downturn started showing last October and continued through the year. Alders lail and Hoyle along with Mayor Wright are on the audit committee. Staff has worked on a plan to address the inevitable of what will be happening through 2010-11. They creating a structurally balanced budget through cuts and restructuring. This voluntary retirement proposal is just one piece to a larger plan that will culminate with the 2010-11 plan.

The things they are seeing. The unemployment rate is very high in the Metro area. They have seen a decline in every major source of revenue. Building permit activity is down 50% since last year and even more when compared to ltwo years ago. They are keeping a close eye on the State of North Carolina. Six or Seven years ago, the State took around $3 million of local money that they never gave back. The state is going to face major difficulties with their budget and the City is worried about this happening again. that could be a budget buster by itself.

What do they hope to achieve? If an employee leaves, then the position will be filled by a person that doesn't make as much and/or positions will be consolidated and/or eliminated. It is not a silver bullet, but it is very important to the overall plan. he doesn't think the city has done this before, but the city over the last six years, the city has eliminated 71 positions through attrition.

Claudia Main came to the podium and stated that this program is completely voluntary. It will start March 1, 2010 and must be declared by December 1, 2010. To participate, the employee must retire on January 1, February 1, or March 1, 2011. Employees, who retire on their earliest eligibility date, will receive six months of their annual base salary and six months of city paid individual city health insurance, unless they are medicare eligible. Employees, who retire one month after their earliest eligibility date, will receive five months of their annual base salary and five months of city paid individual city healthcare. Employees, who retire on two months after their earliest eligibility date, will receive four months of their annual base salary and four months of city paid individual city health insurance. Currently ninety employees are eligible. the city believes that 20 people will participate based upon studies.

The Hound believes that this shows the city's admittance that the long-term prospects of city revenues do not look good. What other companies are doing this? Companies like the Domestic Auto makers, GE, 3M, Corning, and Norfolk-Southern are trimming payrolls to get leaner. Warren Wood has essentially been telling us since the beginning of the year that tax revenue projections look bleak for the foreseeable future. I appreciate the honesty and wish that our elected officials would level with the people so that they can prepare for what lies ahead. Hickory is going to have to be innovative and creative going forward to move out of the bottom of economic realities and prognostications. That will entail collaboration between public and private entities in creating opportunities for local area businesses and our citizens.

Lake Hickory Assessment Update - Assistant Public Services Director Kevin Greer will update Council on the recently completed lake and reservoir assessment done by the Environmental Services Section of the NC Divisio n of Water Quality. Kevin Greer made the presentation. He stated that there is a lag before data is crunched. These reports come out every five years. The 2005 report comes from data from 2003. that sample data was accumulated from May to September of 2002. There was a drought and the Lake got a non-rated status. there were taste and odor complaints.

In January 2006, Lake Rhodhiss was cited as primary concern. Lake Hickory and Lake Rhodhiss are small and connected. In August 2009, the 2008 basinwide assessment for Lake Hickory was that there were no exceedences in any criteria analyzed. Samples were taken from May to September 2007. This happened even with the drought occurring. Mr. Greer attributes this to better management of the Lake and River system. This is directly attributable to improvements in Lake Rhodhiss. there have also been improvements made in stormwater runoff and erosion control.

Rhodhiss remains impaired. By 2012 it is required to have P&D levels that are supportive. This is part of the upper stem of Lake Hickory and Lake Rhodhiss is causing sediment issues in Lake Hickory. Alder Fox asked how much longer can Lake Rhodhiss go on impaired before someone else steps in and starts managing the Lake? Mr. Greer stated that 2012 would be the year. The feds would step in. They give a window of time. They have to be able to accommodate all of the entities that are coming into the lake.


Anonymous said...

Part of what hasn’t been recognized here is that the sweetheart deal that Riverhawk’s predecessor got is DIRECTLY attributable to Mayor Rudy Wright.

Just after Mr. Wright took office, it was time to renegotiate with Profile Aviation. City Staff members had researched the earlier agreements and noted the problems – there was no control over Profile’s actions, essentially, and they acted as though they owned the airport. Hickory’s airport had a horrible reputation among pilots because of the way they were treated by Profile. Many opted to go to Morganton or Statesville for fuel (which was cheaper), service and overnight accommodations rather than to have to put up with the lack of service at Hickory.

There was a plan of action for improving things during the contract renegotiation. Unfortunately, Mayor Wright was good buddies with the guys that owned Profile. The result was that the discussion would occur in closed session at a council meeting and by the time Staff could meet the following morning already knew the negotiating parameters. Thus, nothing could be fairly negotiated because the other side already knew not only the strategy but the details of how it would be approached. Rudy was seen numerous times leaving Profile’s offices on Wednesday mornings, where presumably he’d briefed them on the prior evening’s meetings.

Imagine if the Panthers tried to play a football game, but the other side knew all their hand signals and how they intended to approach not only the game, but every single play. It’s much harder, if not impossible, to win that way – especially if the coach keeps intentionally sending you down the field the wrong way!

What ended up was a sweetheart deal that gave away the farm, all the cows on the farm, the crops yet in the ground and the farmer’s wife! That agreement was entered into over significant objections by virtually all of the staff members involved.

You can’t negotiate anything close to a fair deal under those circumstances. Look at the contract – there’s no independent audit provisions – Hickory’s income from the airport was based solely on what Profile TOLD them they made. There was no way to get to the books for an independent audit, no control over hours of operation, prices to be charged, etc.

Instead, all the control was given to Profile.

There was a chance to eliminate that when Riverhawk took over, but once again it was lost. We can thank Jill Patton and Brad Lail for failing to have any significant input into that, but in fairness, they had no records to review to know the issues. Instead, they knew only that which the contract allowed them to know – a contract that was overseen by Rudy for the benefit of his friends at Profile.

Hickory had a chance to take their airport back, but instead got a task force packed with people who either knew nothing about airports or were looking to skew the deal. How often does that kind of thing happen here? To figure it out, you really only have to look at who leaves and when. Tim Deike, who was the Airport Manager then, left about this same time. Coincidence? Or, like so many other department heads, did he realize that it’s not possible to fight that type of corruption without the support of a strong City Manager who has the balls to stand up for what’s right. Hickory could have easily taken over operations at the airport, and the income from those operations gone to make it self-sustaining. Instead, we end up with a tiny piece of the action, no control over the airport and once again the taxpayers get the short end.

Anonymous said...

I just think it is interesting how everyone in the country is taking a pay cut but our officials in a high power position (ie. Mick Berry). The pain of the economy should be spread all over and not just to the lower salaries. It should start at the top and not end there. We have a landscaping director in the 80K range for a very small city and we are loosing site of what makes this place great, LOCATION. Manufacturing needs to be driving this place and I am not talking about furniture. We lead the way in recycling in the country, why are we not building solar panels and have them on everyone of our city buildings? I was in Greenville, SC last weekend and I spoke to a local there and I told him I lived in Hickory and he said, "that was us 10 years ago". Drop the taxes, privelage licenses, salaries of the top officials, regulations, over-zealous police, and lets get back to prosperity where you know and buy from your neighbor. This is how an economy needs to be. We are not getting anywhere here by allowing all these big-box stores to move in and go out of business (Circuit City) except a bunch of empty skeletons that look terrible. Lets get our people walking and riding our bikes to work instead of hopping in car for 2 miles. Lets use these federal funds for building a place that extends the farmers market downtown and creates more bike paths for the folks that use that as thier primary means of transportation. Lets tear down some of these old factories in the city, and build some community gardens so organic produce can be readily available for the people who need it. We are in a re-set period in America where all of us are rethinking debt, ownership and many other ideas perpetuated by the establishment. Lets think for ourselves and give the power back to ourselves instead of delegating all of our legislative powers to elected career politicians. Lets get some new blood in the Council and some younger blood in there.