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 2/2/2010 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
A. Request From Charity Chase Committee for Use of Union Square for the Charity Chase
Half Marathon on June 5, 2010 from 4:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.
B. Approve Fire Protection Service Agreement With the Town of Brookford - The Fire Protection Service Agreement is to provide fire service protection and medical related services to the Town of Brookford for a period of five years beginning April 1, 2010 thru December 31, 2014. During the term of this agreement the Town of Brookford will pay the City of Hickory $9,900.00 annually. The Town of Brookford does not have an established fire department and the City of Hickory is incorporated and is therefore chartered to provide fire protection to areas in Catawba County located outside the corporate limits of municipalities within the County that do not have established fire departments. Alder Patton asked for this item to be removed from the agenda. City Manager Berry explained the contract negotiations with Brookford. Alder Patton asked why Brookford (Population 427) is paying less per citizen ($23) than citizens of the City of Hickory (over $100 per resident). What is the Logic behind this and at what point will there be any more compensation for the services provided and maintained. manager berry stated that we have a good neighbor relation with Brookford and in the interest of public safety the two cities back one another up from time to time. There is a mutual aid agreement with the Mountain View Fire Department. It is very customary for communities to have mutual aid. We already have the relationship and respond with backup. Hickory's professional fire department often gets there first and volunteer departments (ie Brookford) provide support.
From a cost standpoint, the city already has the fixed costs, Base 7 is very close to Brookford. Brookford had 12 fire calls last year. The city ran the marginal costs of the fuel and expenses and Brookford stated that is all about all they could afford to pay. Manager Berry stated that it was fine because we would be running the calls anyway. It is a benefit to Hickory at no significant additional costs. Alderman Guess asked why they (Brookford) didn't go back to Mountain View. Manager Berry stated that he didn't know the background there. He didn't know whether Mountain View wanted to charge more or couldn't provide the service. Alderman Guess asked if Mountain View would provide backup. manager Berry stated that there was still mutual aid between Mountain View and Hickory. Motion carried unanimously.
The Hound believes that Alder Patton made an excellent point here. Why is the cost to Brookford cheaper than that of the residents of Hickory. Like her, I fail to see the logic here. Nothing against Brookford, but the costs should come to equilibrium and there is no way that their costs should be a quarter of the costs to Hickory residents. Do you think that Hickory homes are four times more likely to catch on fire? That does not compute.
Also, the mentality of every community in this area is to hem and haw over what they can and cannot afford. What Hickory is basically doing here is providing insurance to Brookford. I know that it is my hope that I don't utilize any of my insurance policies to a great extent this year, but I have them for a reason. The costs of those policies were set by the providers and they were non-negotiable. I think the City undersold the costs of its service in this circumstance. This runs a little over $800 per call based on last year's events. Is it really that cheap to put out fires? Isn't Hickory basically subsidizing Brookford in this deal? If so, why?
C. Request to Reject All Bids Received Regarding the Traffic Signal System Upgrade Project Due to Insufficient Funds and to Authorize Modification of Plan to Reduce Cost and Rebid Project - Bids were open by the City on January 14, 2010 for the Traffic Signal System Upgrade Project, with four (4) bids being received ranging from $2,834,531.95 to $4,446,117.95 with an engineers estimate of $2,345,154.63. Total project funds available are $2,500,000.00. Due to these being Federal funds, there is no process of negotiation with the low bidder due to Federal regulations. We propose to reduce the scope of the project by removing some signal corridors that will not negatively affect the over all results of the project, which should reduce the over all cost of the project and bring it within budget. Staff recommends rejection of all bids along with authorization to modify said plan to reduce cost and to rebid the project.
D. Budget Ordinance Amendment No. 15
1. To appropriate $104 of Local Government Revenue and budget in the Police Department Overtime line item. This revenue is the January 2010 payment from Catawba County Mental Health for a portion of an Officers time spent when accompanying involuntary commitment patients.
2. To appropriate $25,924 of General Fund Balance to the Police Department Training, Meals and Lodging line item ($7,524) and Specialized Equipment line item ($18,400). This appropriation is necessary to purchase two canines, and for travel and training for two officers to attend a six week school at Global Training Academy in San Antonio, Texas. $25,924 represents Police Federal Reimbursement balances from previous years (1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002,
2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009) that have been rolled into Fund Balance at year end, therefore an appropriation is necessary.
3. To appropriate $2,272 of General Fund Balance to the Police Departmental Supply line item. This appropriation is necessary to purchase DARE t-shirts for children upon their completion of the DARE program. The DARE program is taught by Hickory Police Department School Resource Officers within the Hickory School System. $2,272 represents a part of the remaining Police State Reimbursement balances from previous years (1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009) that have been rolled into Fund Balance at year end, therefore an appropriation is necessary.
4. To budget a $20,000 Library Services & Technology Act Planning Federal Grant in the Library’s Professional Services line item. The Grant funds will be used towards supporting the library's long-range strategic planning project approved by the Library Advisory Board for their 2009-2010 workplan. Mr. Bill Millett of Scope View Strategic Advantage will assist the library staff and planning committee with the systematic review of current services, collection holdings and programming. The City Council accepted this grant during the January 5, 2010 City Council meeting.
5. To appropriate $10,000 of Community Development Block Grant Fund (Federal Funds) and reimburse the General Fund $10,000 for invoices paid from New Sidewalk Construction and Supplies/Sidewalks line item. Funds were used for the curb and gutter project located off 9th Street and 13th Avenue NE.
6. To budget a $1,292 insurance claim check from Erie Insurance Exchange in the Water and Sewer Pipes, Hydrants and Meters line item. This payment is for damage sustained to a fire hydrant on 10-31-09.
E. Grant Project Ordinance Amendment No. 7
1. To budget $34,935 of North Carolina Finance Agency Fund revenue and $6,378 of Consortium Home Program revenue in various expenditure line items. The administrative cost is to budget money for salaries for the URP09 (Urgent Repair) grant that the city received and has to match 50/50. The other revenue is being allocated so it is available to reuse back to first-time homebuyers and/or housing rehab.
New Business - Departmental Reports:
1. Update of Hickory by Choice Review Process - The Hickory by Choice Advisory Committee has been meeting since February 2009 with the City’s Planning Department and consultant, Studio Cascade, Inc. to formulate revisions to Hickory by Choice and the Land Development Code. This update will provide Council with a brief overview of what progress has been made up to this point. Brian Frazier addressed the council about the process that has taken place so far. Brian showed the map of the old Hickory By Choice (pictured below). It was all about mixed use development -- walkability, sustainability. There were 15 growth nodes scattered throughout the city. Brian stated that was where development was scheduled to take place along major transportation intersections. After 10 years there weren't many, if any, changes to the land use plan with the exception of a half dozen thoroughfare plan changes. Studio cascade, staff, and the HBC advisory committee have the beginnings of a "work in progress" map shown below.
It has reduced the nodes to the Hickory Proper and the ETJ areas. This is the third or fourth revision. Notable changes will be a true comprehensive plan addressing old HBC topics of land use and transportation along with additional subject areas to include demographics, housing, economic development, public infrastructure and utilities, parks and recreation... Other changes include designating a true central business district, designating specific revitalization areas, simplifying residential classifications, and refining General Business and Industrial Areas to reflect demographic and market changes. The number of mixed use areas will be cut back by nearly half -- down from 15. They are looking to be extremely realistic with this plan.
There will be various commercial divisions, while simplifying the residential designations. People have been confused by the various classifications. Residential areas will be classified will be low, medium, and high population distinctions. Industrial areas will reflect true demographic market changes. The industrial areas will reflect current economic times. The Land Development Code will be simplified and hopefully become more user friendly by utilizing graphics and illustrations. They are going to say what they want and take subjectivity out of the process. This will become a more black and white process.
They want the definition section of the LDC to relate to the text. Commercial will be split into regional commercial, community commercial, and neighborhood centers. Neighborhood centers will serve existing neighborhoods and promote walkability and small car trips. Regional commercial will serve people in the neighboring counties and area. Community commercial will serve people throughout the community who might want to run across town to a grocery store or other such facility. Big Boxes will be permitted in the Regional Commercial, Smaller Boxes will be allowed in the Community Commercial, and Box stores will not be permitted in the neighborhood centers. It is based upon scalability. They are trying put in high density along corridors and in the centers. It has been disseminated all over town ovcer the past 10 years. They are trying to focus the development around the centers, which have been reduced in size substantially from 15 in the original HBC.
They will hold another public workshop on February 9, 2010 and another in late March or early April. They are looking to publicly roll out the plan in early to mid April. They will look for a recommendation from the advisory committee. Then there will be a public hearing with the planning commission, there will be a series of meetings, and then there will be a recommendation brought forth to council. Brian encourages public participation in this process and hopes that people will show up next Tuesday.
In answering a question from Alder Fox, Brian stated that all of the 15 centers were geared toward community commercial to support mixed-use (residential and commercial). An example is Belle Hollow, staff and the advisory committee does not see opportunity for high density residential to go there. They have conceded that this is a commercial center and will be for the foreseeable future. They would like to see a one year revisement and a five year rewrite. That is what was talked about when HBC was first implemented, but for financial reasons it has not happened. They are really scrambling to go back and fix what needed to be addressed over the last ten years.
In answering a statements from Aldermen Lail and Seaver, Brian reiterated the fact that it would have been best to do a five year revision. He stated that in times, like this economic slowdown, there is no better time to plan for your future. This will help deal with the issues of residential density and some of the mixed use, because the original HBC wanted to concentrate growth in the cores, but there were 15 and it was greatly dispersed. It wasn't concentrated the way it should be, so you have limited success stories and they stuck with that model for ten years. The realization is that there were some successes, but some did not work out at all. So they are trying to retool and be ready not just for now, but be clairvoyant for the next twenty years. That is difficult with a changing marketplace and demographic changes.
Alderman Seaver stated that the realization is that there will be things we haven't heard of or imagined over twenty years. Twenty years is a very long time to plan in this day and time. Alder Fox stated that she was going to hold Brian Frazier to the idea of user friendly. That was what they were told with the original HBC. The theory of the original HBC was great. It's just how we go about getting there. There was a great deal of public participation with the original HBC. She was concerned with this process at first, but the last meeting made her excited, She hopes we can get that number at this next meeting. Alder Patton stated that she believes the use of illustrations will be of great benefit and providing a visual will help.
This is the map of HBC 1999:
This is the map of HBC 2030:
The Hound has stated it before and we will state it again. I like this plan and it cannot happen soon enough. Brian Frazier, Studio cascade, and the HBC advisory committee are streamling one of the most important governmental processes that will play a role in our economic development. The current Hickory By Choice is typical government. Layer after layer of bureaucratic mess were heaped on top of a bad structure to begin with until it became totally useless.
This is truly addition by subtraction. I totally agree with what Brian states above. There were way too many of these neighborhood cores. What we see is realistic because it has naturally occurred around market forces. I also agree that you can't force a round residential core into a square commercial hole, such as what has developed around Belle Hollow-Harris Teeter. Although it doesn't fit the perfect theoretical structure of a neighborhood core, it does serve a common sense purpose. That area is highly successful, because the residential area blends in perfectly next to the commercial and public access points. I think the core areas that are shown on the new map have this in common. These are commercial areas that are already successful, now we need to build collateral residential support for those areas.
What all of this shows is that market places bring people together. It isn't the buildings. It is that common marketplace and interest. That is the reason why cities formed to start with. Cities are trading posts and that is what these nodes have to be. Our city originally centered and focused mainly on factories. Those factories were part of the marketplace. We need to understand that neighborhoods do not form, if there aren't common interests. Integration of work, play, the market, and residence have to come together to have a successful community and I believe that Mr. Frazier and Studio cascade are moving us in that direction.
2. Ranking of Priorities - Following City Council’s December 7th retreat session, staff condensed the list of ideas brainstormed by City Council into eight items. These items were discussed at the Council work session on January 28th and Council expressed a desire to further rank the eight items. At the February 2nd meeting staff will provide Council with the results of the ranking process for further discussion and/or approval. City Manager Berry went over the cities priorities according to the ranking process. The number one priority was to invest in revitalization efforts for specific areas and existing buildings. Highway 70 is the city's designated revitalization area that they talk a lot about. They will budget funds to help property owners update properties and support various big structures.
The next was to invest in properties and partnerships to spur new development in targeted locations such as Cloninger Mill Road and a multi-jurisdictional park. The third priority was to position Hickory to become the major technology hub for the Southeast. Manager Berry stated that as you look at the three their is some interplay between the three. Alder Patton stated that he top priority was to invest in property and land to give Scott Millar something to take out and peddle and bring in another business. She hopes that they will always have an inventory available for him so that he has something else in his pocket to pull out and can be something for people to invest in. Alderman Seaver stated that we have seen leadership headed in that direction already and that would be logical.
Alderman Lail stated that his recollection is that they would take that first one however the numbers turned out and work on it. He thought number two was number one, but the group conscious was revitalization and he;'s ready to go to work on it. He believes that as far as revitalization they might be able to create some bait for Scott Millar to utilize. Alderman Guess stated that maybe instead of focusing on just one, they can focus on the top three, because he feels that are all related. Alderman Lail stated that he was all in favor of that. Mayor Wright stated that this was a little like the planning document. It is going to be somewhat fluid depending on the opportunity that presents itself, something may become much more attractive. He would also like to give this to the Business Development Committee and the EDC as not the final word, but the direction they would like to head in. Alderman Lail stated that this was particularly relevant to the Business development Committee. Mayor Wright stated that he would like to encourage staff to accept the top three priorities and to develop short and long term plans to position us accomplish these. The Mayor stated that the other priorities may still happen, but the top three will be the priorities.
The Hound thinks the top three priorities need to be Jobs, Jobs, and Jobs, I just don't understand how revitalization is the top priority. I am happy that Alder Patton, Alderman Guess, and Alderman Lail addressed the issue of developing bait for Economic Development. That is what I like to hear, because that will create jobs.
There are a lot of things that will be done in the name of revitalization that will have very little impact on the job picture, but playing hand in hand with Scott Millar's Economic Development strategies will give you the most bang for the buck. Once again, it is not about buildings. I think some of our leaders have a co-dependent relationship with these buildings.
Many of these buildings are standing in the way of progress. We should not hold these buildings up as some sort of temples, because they are the furtherest thing from that. The same people that decry the area's big box retail stores act like they want to tie themselves to the dilapidated big box factory buildings, as if they were a tree in the virgin Redwood Forest, if you propose tearing them down. We seriously need to address which of these places are dumps and we need to facilitate their removal. Why place this burden on future generations?
The Business Development Committee was appointed with members being Ryan Lovern, Mark Huckabee, Bijon Byrd(?name), Dave Gissy, Dave Pace(?name), Lauren Hoover, and Alan Jackson. Sorry if the names aren't spelled correctly.
The Hound knows that Alan Jackson in a group is a good thing. The man has impeccable standards when it comes to data, statistics, and his passion for this community. The others I don't really know, but hope that they succeed in their mission.
Persons requesting to address the council - Larry Pope once again addressed the council about snow on the sidewalk. He last addressed this subject on January 5, 2010. Larry thanked Chuck Hansen for finding the information out from Newton about what they do with their sidewalks. He stated that our population has become an elderly population and city ordinances state that it is a citizen's responsibility to clean the sidewalks in front of or next to their property. That is not going to work and if people don't do it, then what are they going to do to enforce the city ordinance.
Larry recommends that they go back and look at the ordinance and do what is fair for all of the citizens of the city. On Sunday, Larry paid a young man to scrape his driveway and sidewalk. They walked from his house to the police department, the post office, and then to Ridgeview. The sidewalks in front of the police department were covered in snow. They walked in the roadway all of the way. Walking to City Council tonight he couldn't use the sidewalk.
There is a North Carolina Ordinance that states that sidewalks must be kept clear of all debris, rubbish, and trash. He would like to meet with Mick Berry, Chuck Hanson, and whomever to see what can be done to come up with some type of workable agreement. They talk about creating jobs. Why not pay people minimum wage to do these sidewalks and make some money. You (City Council) talk about creating jobs, but yet you don't want to use what is available to you.
If the seven of you can't make a decision, then (Larry) is forced to do what he does a lot. He needs to find twelve people and a judge who can make the decision for them. The Mayor instructed City Manager Berry and Chuck Hanson to talk with Mr. Pope. Alderman Lail stated the city workers did an excellent job cleaning the streets. Living in the South you cannot organize your public works department of such a scope to deal with what are somewhat rare events. manager berry stated that they love it. Mayor Wright stated that he traveled to Youngsville, NC and our staff does it faster, harder, and quicker.
The Hound can certainly see Larry's point on this issue. Is this not the same council that wants to see walkability built into our future infrastructure? What was Brian Frazier talking about during this meeting? Does walkability not have to be addressed for all seasons and all occasions?
As Harry Hipps and I rode home, we noticed that snow was pushed up onto the sidewalks on Hwy 127. I truly do believe that the city's Public Works Department did do a great job and they did go above and beyond. I do believe that these last two events have been abnormal compared to what we have seen over the last 15+ years. That being said, the city has to have contingency plans if events such as these are to occur.
In a city where drivers do not respect pedestrians, it is irresponsible to expect people to walk in the streets, especially along thoroughfares. It is bad enough for average citizens to be forced onto the streets, let alone a blind man. This is a timebomb waiting to go off and it should be addressed in a thorough manner as soon as possible.
***The Mayor displayed a half ounce Gold piece that was presented to him and he accepted it on behalf of the City of Hickory -- to be displayed
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