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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Newsletter about the City Council meeting of December 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 12/15/2009 meeting. There were a couple of important items that were discussed at this meeting and the details are listed further below

Invocation by Chaplain Robert Ford of Frye Regional Medical Center

Special Presentations:
Presentation of Diplomas by Mayor Wright to the 2009 Neighborhood College Graduating Class - Mandy Pitts had a few remarks. This is the largest class they ever had with 32 people graduating. Alderman Hank Guess was a graduate. Mandy gave a brief synopsis of each graduate. Mary Boone, one of the graduates, took to the podium and spoke congratulating Council and administration for superb management and fiscal responsibility. "The constant tug of war between finances and need and the juggling of federal, state, county, and city resources to meet the need of all of our citizens was truly eye opening." City Manager Mick Berry had a few comments where he expressed his thoughts about citizenship and thanked the graduates for their participation. The Mayor next spoke and stated that 1 out of 200 citizens participate on city boards. He says that we will see a lot of these folks nominated to these positions. He states that they (governance) is very open and wants to hear from these people.

Presentation of Proclamation to Dr. Robert Bisanar Declaring December 15, 2009 as “Bisanar Optometry Day” in the City of Hickory - The Mayor stated that they, Oakwood Vision Services (Bisanar Optometry), are celebrating 100 years of service in Hickory. There have been 3 generations of family members who have served the area. It is one of our city's oldest businesses. George Bisanar, Allan Bisanar, and now Robert Bisanar have continued this practice.

Approval of Minutes:
A. Regular Meeting of December 1, 2009
B. Special Meetings of December 7 & 8, 2009 - This was the yearly retreat that focused on agendas for the upcoming year.

Consent Agenda:
A. Approval of Property Tax Refund as Recommended by Catawba County Tax Office to D & H Real Estate, LLC in the Amount of $1,084 - The property was listed by both Burke and Catawba counties for 2007 and 2008 and therefore, D & H Real Estate, LLC paid taxes in both counties. Following discussions between both counties, Catawba County inactivated the listing in 2009 and therefore, D & H Real Estate, LLC requests a tax refund for taxes paid for 2007 and 2008 to Catawba County. Information has been verified pursuant to the Catawba County Tax Office.

B. Approve Resolution Approving Proposed Amendments to the Western Piedmont Council of Government’s (WPCOG) Charter Pertaining to Purchasing of Real Property

C. Approval of Citizens’ Advisory Committee Recommendations for Assistance Through the City of Hickory’s Housing Programs - John D. Little of 629 9th Avenue Drive, SE is being recommended for approval for assistance under the City of Hickory’s Housing Rehabilitation Loan program in the amount not to exceed $10,000. Funds are budgeted for this through the City’s former Rental Rehabilitation Program income received in FY 2008 and/or program income received through the City’s Community Development Block Grant Program. Geraldine Flood of 417 2nd Street Place, SE, is being recommended for approval for assistance under the City of Hickory’s Urgent Repair Program in an amount not to exceed $5,000. Funds are budgeted for this through the City’s Community Development Department funding received in FY 2009-10.

D. Approve Contract With C.W. Williams Fire Equipment Specialists For The Purchase of a Fire Apparatus Pumper in the Amount of $489,873
- On December 1, 2009 City Council awarded C.W. Williams the bid for the City’s purchase of a fire apparatus pumper to replace Fire Engine 7 in the amount of $489,873 Engine 7 has been appropriated for replacement in the Capital Improvement Project Fund of the Fire Department for FY 2009-10. A budget amendment in the amount of $289,873 has been submitted to finalize this purchase.

E. Approve Community Appearance Grant to Michael Shane Motley Located at 829 8th Avenue, NE in the Amount of $3,572.50 - Michael Shane Motley owns property located at 829 8th Avenue, NE which is currently occupied by Foothills Mortgage. Mr. Motley has applied for a Community Appearance Grant in the amount of $3,572.50. Said grant will be used to resurface the front concrete porch, repair brickwork, replace windows and replace two (2) vents. These upgrades will give the building a new more attractive appearance. The Community Appearance Commission reviewed the application on November 23, 2009 and found it met the criteria and unanimously approved the grant application.

F. Approve Community Appearance Landscape Grant to Michael Shane Motley Located at 829 8th Avenue, NE in the Amount of $2,432.50
- Michael Shane Motley owns property located at 829 8th Avenue, NE which is currently occupied by Foothills Mortgage. Mr. Motley has applied for a Community Appearance Landscape Grant in the amount of $2,432.50. Said grant will be used to resurface the asphalt parking lot. The Community Appearance Commission reviewed the application on November 23, 2009 and found it met the criteria and unanimously approved the grant application.

G. Approve Community Appearance Grant to Jack Sipe Construction Co. Located at 840-850 Highland Avenue, NE in the Amount of $5,000. - Jack Sipe Construction Co. owns property located at 840-850 Highland Avenue, NE and has applied for a Community Appearance Grant in the amount of $5,000. Said grant will be used to assist in replacing the fascia along the outside of the entire building. The Community Appearance Commission reviewed the application on November 23, 2009 and found it met the criteria and unanimously approved the grant application.

H. Approve Resolution to Discard Library Materials to the Friends of the Library for Their Fourth Saturday Book Sales From January, 2010 – June, 2010 - The Friends of the Library collect donated books and other materials throughout the year for their book sales which will be held from January, 2010 – June, 2010. 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 1,694 discarded library materials to be donated. The proceeds ultimately benefit the library, which is an appropriate means of disposing of unneeded materials.

I. Budget Ordinances

1. Budget a total of $45 of Library donations ($25-Dr. Kathy J. Ivey and $20-Judith Lavin Ivester)

2. Appropriate $1,923 toward Police Department Overtime. This revenue is the November payment from Catawba County Mental Health for a portion of an Officers time spent when accompanying involuntary commitment patients.

3. Appropriate $41,800 of General Fund to the Police Department Capital Outlay of Buildings. This appropriation is necessary to pay Moss-Marlowe Building Co. Inc., for construction of a new range house at the Police Department Firing Range. The proposed target upgrades at the Firing Range require a building to house the operator and controls for the target system. This project is a permanent upgrade for the facility and supports a long-term usage of the facility. This appropriation represents a part of the remaining Police Federal Forfeiture Reimbursement balances from previous years that have rolled into General Fund balance at year-end.

4. Transfer $8,000 from the Stormwater Division Other Professional Services line item to the Information Technology Maintenance and Repair of Equipment line item. This transfer represents the Stormwater Divisions share of the contributions to pay for the GIS/ESRI contract unlimited seat license (USL). ESRI (Environmental Systems Research Institute) is the leader in commercial GIS (Geographic Information Systems) software. GIS is a software application that specializes in land-use analysis. It combines points, lines and polygons to overlay these unique points in space onto a map. This geographic information is combined with other data to produce a highly useful visual representation (flow of water, density of buildings, size/location of pipes, demographic info, etc.). As the demand for GIS has grown, we have begun generating more data and discovering more uses. This contract for an ELA (Enterprise License Agreement) will allow the City of Hickory to have unlimited use of all ESRI GIS software. Today we pay on a per-user basis which restricts our ability to effectively roll out these services.

5. Appropriate $289,873 of Rural Fire District Designated Funds, which reside in General Fund to the Rural Fire District vehicle capital outlay line item. This amendment is needed to pay for a pumper apparatus to replace Engine 7, which was purchased in 1993 and has reached its intended frontline service. City Council approved the bid for this purchase at their last meeting. The 1993 Engine 7 apparatus will be utilized an additional five years as a reserve pumper.

Informational Items:

A. City Manager Berry’s Travel to the 2009 NCLM Annual Conference in Greenville, NC From October 25 – 27, 2009; hotel - $125.40; registration - $335; per diem - $40; City Vehicle Fuel - $37.25

B. City Manager Berry’s Expenses for the Alliance for Innovation 2009 East Manager’s Forum in Durham, NC From November 4 – 5 , 2009; registration - $99

C. Mayor Wright’s Travel to the 2009 Congress of Cities & Exposition in San Antonio, TX From November 10 – 15, 2009; hotel - $1,253.90; registration - $530; per diem - $260; mileage - $57.20; airfare - $402.70; other expenses - $78.39

New Business - Departmental Reports:

1. Report by Hickory Police Department Regarding Sweepstakes Gaming in the City of Hickory - The Hickory Police Department researched sweepstakes gaming regarding the four (4) known types of sweepstakes gaming businesses operating within the City, what other surrounding jurisdictions have encountered, how they were addressed and what the NC General Statutes contains regarding these types of operations. Lieutenant Reed Baer made the presentation about cyber sweepstakes. In July 2007 the General Assembly passed a law to remove video gaming machines from the state. The law requires the removal of any machine that requires a deposit of any coin, token, credit card, debit card or other method of payment to activate play on the machine. Before the law could come into effect owners of these machines began modifying them into machines that would qualify under the sweepstakes laws. Lottery and sweepstakes gaming is not illegal. The sweepstakes system invites patrons to purchase internet access on computers that have gaming software on them. The gaming software is a secondary function of the machines. You are paying a fee to utilize the computer.

The vendors state that the software simulate a game of chance and upon winning one of these games the customer can obtain a predetermined sweepstakes prize at the counter of the establishment. In most case this is points that can be redeemed for cash. Individuals go into the business and set up an account on the computer. the fee is considered an entry (or sweepstakes fee). This is very similar to how the lottery is won.

In 2008 the General Assembly passed a law to ban these sweepstakes machines. The law was bogged down because of the inability to find a way to ban these games without also banning online sweepstakes sponsored by retail businesses and other implications to the State Education Lottery. In March 2008, police agencies went in and charged vendors with violations. The laws were deemed to be too broad under North Carolina statutes and a preliminary injunction has been put in place that is currently in effect today. Law officers are also prevented from saying that these activities are illegal. The gaming devices are computers with actual windows software. Officers are prevented from saying that. A Wake county judge has further stated that the General Assemblies legislation is unconstitutional. Our local District Attorney is not offering an official opinion at this point. Local Ordinances face the same issue, because this would pose the same issues that the General Assembly faces.

Currently in the City of Hickory, the first of these businesses opened in July 2008. There are currently five of these establishments open, with three in Northeast Hickory and two in Southeast Hickory. The largest business has approximately 25 of these machines available. the computers are networked together. The police have responded to five calls involving these establishments.

What are other cities doing? Shelby has tried several things. They wrote a local ordinance, but because of the judicial rulings they cannot administer the law. Burlington did raid one of the operations and seized the machines, but they were forced to return the machines and are no longer enforcing any actions. Cities are now waiting to see what the General Assembly is going to decide to do about these operations.

Alderman Meisner asked about age requirements? Lt. Baer stated that all of the establishments require patrons to be 18 years old and none of them serve alcohol. Alderman Meisner asked if these were free standing Businesses? Lt. Baer stated that all but one were located in a strip mall setting, only one is a free standing building. Alderman Seaver asked about if they have to report winnings for tax purposes? They don't have to report to law enforcement, but patrons are responsible for reporting winnings according to tax laws. The Mayor interjected that they can pay up to $499 per day as a way of avoiding the IRS. The Mayor further compared this gaming to retail product sweepstakes. He also said that this reaffirms his belief that there should not be a lottery.

The Hound thinks that this once again shows that we are a Nation of Men and Not of Laws. Whatever happened to Common Sense. It is obvious that these are gambling establishments and this state has since its inception regulated gambling. I was given a tip by many of my mentors over the years, "Follow the Money." Who are the people that own these businesses and where are they from and what are their associations in this state?

Next, I would like to see the city look into collecting sales tax from these sales of "Sweepstakes Fees" or see if that isn't permissible, then our do nothing representatives from this area need to introduce and support legislation that will allow us to create a special tax to collect revenue off of these operations. And if those legislators aren't willing to do so, then it is time to start looking for someone who will represent our ideals.

The City and County get revenue when McDonald's sells a sandwich or the grocery store has a giveaway, and the Education Lottery is supposed to operate under the guise of a Public Service (sort of non-profit), but these little hole in the wall gambling centers are all about easy money for the for profit vendors. Look where these things are sprouting up. They prey upon the poor. It's just like the "cash for gold" stores. In the end they lead to crime and perpetrate needless anxieties and broken dreams.

To me, there is nothing wrong with little wagers for fun, but there should never be pressure or stress involved. It is all about Personal Responsibility. Those who have it end up throwing good money after bad towards those who don't.

P.S. I think
Lieutenant Baer's report on this was top-notch. He could not have laid this issue out any more precisely.

2. Update on the Stormwater Mapping Project
- Stormwater mapping is a requirement by the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Phase II Stormwater project through the US Environmental Protection Agency. The City had contracted with the Western Piedmont Council of Governments (WPCOG) earlier this year to prepare an inventory of the entire stormwater infrastructure located within the rights of way. The City will benefit significantly from the data collected containing the location, size and condition of stormwater infrastructure. Terry Watts of the WPCOG made the presentation. The deadline for this project is June 30, 2010. First, they determined which area of the city to collect the data in, then they used a GPS unit to collect the field data, and verified the collective features. The Global Positioning System (GPS) allows one to accurately determine positions on earth using signals from satellites. Geographic Information Systems (GIS) take data collected from the GPS and creates an intelligent database map.

Mr. Watts next showed a Power Point presentation of the project and photos of the entire project to date. Alder Patton saw a picture of a stormwater culvert lid and asked if data had shown what percentage of these lids might need to be repaired? Mr. Watts stated that at this time he did not know what the percentage was, but there are documented repairs that will be scheduled over time. He further stated that the number of drainage ditches in the city being studied is 40,000 and the project is 60% completed and will be finished on time. The winter months will be used to walk the creeks and mount the outfalls. They also will be looking for the ends of pipe culverts located in weeds and kudzu. This map will serve as a resource to the street condition for maintenance purposes. Alder Lail asked if this will be a layer on the GIS system? Mr. Watts said possibly, but they are going to have to find out if this is permissable by the Department of Homeland Security.

3. Submission of Letter to Senator Kay Hagan on the City of Hickory’s Position Regarding Legislation Allowing Collective Bargaining for Public Safety Employees - North Carolina is internationally recognized as one of the leading states in the US for well-managed local government, through the council-manager form of government as well as its fiscal responsibility provided for by the NC Local Government Commission. It is also attractive to existing business for its designation as a right-to-work state and its AAA bond rating. These features are part of the package of assurances that attract new business and industry to NC. Federal Legislation continues to threaten to force collective bargaining on all employers in NC without regard to how the change will affect the local economy. - Collective bargaining for public safety employees will adversely affect productivity and efficiency, employee morale and local government budgets. North Carolina will lose a key competitive advantage in the international marketplace for business recruitment and retention. These factors will have a direct impact on the taxpayer and ultimately the local economy. City Manager Berry stated that there is a concern that this legislation is going to be slipped into a defense spending bill to get it approved. Warren Wood made the presentation. He stated that there is a letter in Council files addressing this issue. City Council has opposed this type of legislation for years. Collective Bargaining is prohibited by state law in North Carolina. The Public Safety employer/employee Cooperation Act is pending in the U.S. House and Senate. It would allow police officers and firefighters to have more union rights and force local officials to recognize the union. It would change the face of labor relations. Senator Hagan has been supportive of this legislation.

The National League of Cities, The National Association of Counties, The National Sheriff's Association, The International Association of Chiefs of police, The International Municipal Lawyers Association are against this legislation. The International Association of Firefighters and the Fraternal Order of Police support this issue. Attaching the bill avoids hearings, amendments, or stand alone votes.

The Mayor asked why the Police and Firefighters are being separated from other government workers? Mr. Wood said this is being done under the justification of Homeland Security. The mayor said that this would mean that when budgeting is done that there will have to be two sets of pay rates for employees. These public safety officials' local union would be allowed to bargain with the local government. If they cannot agree on a contract, then the issue would go to a mediator.

The Hound is getting tire of this, but in a sickening sense I hope it passes. The bottom line is that we don't have to put up with it, but no one is willing to take it head on like it should be. At some point in time there is going to be a clash of wills on these issues. I don't think it will come from Hickory's Status Quo, go with the flow mentality. It will take leadership with intestinal fortitude and I've been getting a gut feeling that it ain't gonna be pretty. Many times Intestinal Fortitude develops from pain and tyranny.

The bottom line is that the 10th Amendment to the Constitution is being willfully and constantly violated and if you aren't willing to challenge the usurpation of our Constitution, then you are aiding and abetting criminal activity, because upon a Bible you took an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States of America.

The Tenth Amendment of the United States Constitution is part of the Bill of Rights. The Tenth Amendment restates the Constitution's principle of federalism by providing that powers not granted to the national government nor prohibited to the states by the constitution of the United States are reserved to the states or the people. Will you tell me where the Constitution gives the Federal Government the right to tell States, Counties, and Municipalities how they are going to practice labor relations or any of the other myriad of mandates that Washington has foisted upon State and local Government?

Under Nullification, North Carolina has the right to nullify, or invalidate, any federal law which is unconstitutional. Yes, it will take a paradigm shift in political philosophy to make this happen, but a broken economy certainly can be that agent of change. And the quickest way to break our economic system is to keep piling more spending on top of a broken budget. Can you remember a few short months back, when our state had a $4 billion shortfall? It will be as bad or worse this coming year. Has anyone seen any evidence of the federal or state governments cutting back spending?

Kay Hagen is not going to represent North Carolina. She has already proven that. I'm ambivalent about this one. You better go at this one from every angle. This is not a time for the meek, laid back, or lazy. You better have plans A through Z ready. Be prepared for dollars to be worthless, because our government is doing nothing to stop it.


harryhipps said...

The bottom line is that everyone's rights, States, Municipalities, and individuals are being usurped by a Federal government that no longer feels bound by the Constitution. The Democrats are in power and the unions fund them generously so you can expect political payback to the unions.
The Democrats are totalitarians, hell bent on controlling every aspect of people's lives and the Republicans are feckless weasels that don't have the backbone to stand up to it. Meanwhile as long as the restaurants are still open and the tv is working the public will make a deal with the devil as long as they don't have to be inconvenienced. The founding fathers would surely be irate by now.

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