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Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Newsletter about the City Council meeting of November 2, 2010

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 right of this page under Main Information links is an Hickory's City Website link. If you click on that link, it takes you to our city’s website, at the left of the page you will see the Agenda's and Minutes link you need to click. This will give you a choice of PDF files to upcoming and previous meetings.

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 10/19/2010 meeting. There were a couple of important items that were discussed at this meeting and the details are listed further below:

Please remember that pressing Ctrl and + will magnify the text and page and pressing Ctrl and - will make the text and page smaller. This will help the readability for those with smaller screens and/or eye difficulties.

Invocation by Pastor Deborah McEachran of First Presbyterian Church

Special Presentations:
A. Presentation by Tracy Nestor, Oktoberfest Event Director Thanking City Council for Their Support and to Report on the Success of the 2010 Oktoberfest - Tracy Nestor made the presentation in which she stated that she has been involved with the festival for the last 12 years. This was the 25th anniversary of Oktoberfest and she stated it was the biggest year by far. She stated that there was an increase in attendance by 10 to 15%, while many festivals in the area have suffered and seen a reduction of as much as 30% in their attendance. The Hickory daily record has awarded Oktoberfest as the best festival in Hickory for the past three years.

She stated that there were 132 vendors to share in the vendor spaces were sold out by August 1. The attendance was estimated to be 108,000 people over the three day event. Based on the number of attendees, the western Piedmont Council of governments estimates that the event had an economic impact of $7.3 million.

Mrs. Nestor stated that they were faced with a few new issues this year. People were bringing animals to the festival and she stated that there were issues with science this year. She added that she would be bringing these issues forward to the Council and effort to create ordinances pertaining to these specific issues.

The Hound is not going to question Mrs. Nestor, because I do believe that this event has been growing over the years and I do believe it is becoming more and more successful. What I would like to emphasize is my credibility when it comes to questioning the previous numbers related to hyperbole versus real statistics. Some people thought I was rude two years ago when I forcefully questioned the numbers associated with this event.

On November 18, 2008 Mrs. Nestor came before the council and stated that an estimated 110,000 people attended the event. She stated that they estimated that at least 50% of the people came from outside the Unifour area. Area hotels tracked the number of guests (The numbers were given to the Western Piedmont Council of Governments). She stated that the event generated 732 room nights, which most of those rooms were reserved in blocks of 4 night increments by event vendors. She estimates the event generated $7.637million.

The numbers stated this year show an attendance of 110,000 people and an economic impact of $7.3 million and a 10% to 15% growth in attendance over the previous year. If we extrapolate the conservative estimate of growth that means that 100,000 attended the event last year and around 91,000 two years ago. Look at the 20%+ growth in attendance and the fact that the revenue estimates are down from those stated two years ago. These numbers are also estimates given from the Western Piedmont Council of Governments.

I would like to congratulate the HDDA, Mrs. Nestor, Ms. Kincaid, and the City for the success of this event. I truly appreciate and respect that they are bringing real numbers to the table. I think that it is very important to be realistic about the context of these events and their impact on the area. Here is hoping that an area with a rich Germanic history, such as ours, can see this tradition grow into a truly regional event.

B. Proclamation Presented to Ms. Teena Willis Declaring November 14 – 20, 2010 as “Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week” in the City of Hickory - The Mayor made the presentation. This coalition sponsored national hunger awareness and homeless week. The proclamation is intended to help people understand the plight of people who are hungry and homeless. It is meant to encourage support for homeless assistance service providers and and community assistance opportunities for students and community service organizations. There are many organizations involved in this process including the Salvation Army, grace house, family care Center, safe Harbor rescue mission, family guidance Center, Greater Hickory Cooperative Christian ministry, Eastern Catawba Cooperative Christian Ministries., Mental health partners, greater Hickory United Way, Exodus homes, the department of social services, ALFA, Catawba County behavioral health care, our fathers pavilion, Sipes Orchard home, and many more partners.

The theme of national hunger and homeless awareness week is bringing America home. The Council recognizes hunger and homelessness is a problem in Hickory and Catawba County.

For people associated with this effort made comments. Among those comments were that they that people would participate in events that will be held from November 14 through the 20th. What statement that was made was about a grant provided to this foundation in the amount of $133,800 in that amount of money will typically house about 4 to 5 households. Another program grants applied for will be geared toward those who are not chronically homeless but need assistance. It was mentioned that 48 families have received assistance through these programs.

The continuum of care is intended to avert crisis in key people from ever becoming homeless. And effort has been made to create for the first time a food policy Council in Catawba County. This would help to assure the nutritional value of every citizen whether.

The Hound believes that this mission is very important to our area during these difficult times. This reflects on our wellness as a community. Wellness isn't about the wealthy in a community. They can afford to eat right and afford exercise and recreational amenities. The wellness of our community correlates with Quality of Life issues of middle class and poor people. It is essential that our community make investment in the health and well being of working class people!

Hickory - The lowest well being in the United States of America

Consent Agenda:
A.Acceptance of Governor’s Highway Safety Program Grant to Purchase In-Car Digital Cameras and Radars in the Amount of $24,375 - The Hickory Police Department received notification that its application was approved for a Governor’s Highway Safety Program Grant. These grant funds will be used to purchase five (5) in-car digital cameras and radars at a total cost of $42,500.00. The grant funds awarded are in the amount of $24,375.00 and the City’s portion will be $18,125.00. Funds have been budgeted. Staff recommends acceptance.

B. Approve Agreement for Services with Stephen F. Austin for Preparation of the City of Hickory’s Annual Action Plan and Application for Funding to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for FY-2011-12 Community Development Block Grant Entitlement Program in the Amount Not to Exceed $2,500 - The City receives yearly funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Community Development Block Grant program, and the City is required to submit an Annual Action Plan prior to being funded each fiscal year. The Annual Action Plan details the City’s planned Community Development Block Grant expenditures for the fiscal year. Mr. Stephen F. Austin has prepared the City’s prior plans and Mr. Austin proposes to prepare the FY 2011-12 Annual Action Plan and application for funding at a cost not to exceed $2,500.00. Having prepared the City’s previous Consolidated Plan, he is quite knowledgeable with both the Hickory area as well as the work involved in completing this document as required by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Staff recommends approval.

The Hound is curious about Mr. Austin being paid this money to do this paperwork. Two comments were made relating to this issue in the Newsletter from February 17, 2009. Why can't city staff do this paperwork?
Comment from Anonymous - While you're asking about wasted money, why is Stephan Austin being paid $2500 annually to simply reprint the Grant Application that he's submitted for the last 8 or 10years, since he left working for the Western Piedmont Council of Governments? Don't we have any qualified planners in the City that can fill out a 5 page grant form successfully, especially when all they have to do is copy what he submitted the year before? The Planners are already on staff and that would seem to be one place that money can be trimmed from the budget.

Oh, wait - he's another of Sally & Jill's pets, isn't he? Never mind. Answered my own question.

Comment from Anon2 - Sometimes things in the Action Plan change, like someone new asking for and receiving money...but Todd Hefner gives Mr. Austin most of that information. You're quite IS basically the same document with the dates changed. The planners do not have anything to do with it's a Community Development thing paid from from Community Development grant funds received by the City. Todd could, however, update it himself...and he has an assistant who could easily help him. The document is always given to the city on disc, and it's on the computer there already, so it's very easy to update. Personally, I like Steve Austin....nothing in the world bad can really be said about him. I don't know about his being Sally & Jill's pet...but I know Todd likes the way it looks and sounds to hire a consultant to do a job for him, such as the Annual Action Plan. The city of Hickory is an entitlement city meaning they will be funded regardless of how wonderful the grant application's a formality, preparing and submitting the paperwork. It DOES have to be done, but you are could be done without hiring the job out.

Mr. Austin was allocated $2,500 during the meeting from February 17, 2009 for Hickory’s Annual Action Plan and Application for Funding to HUD for 2009-10. On October 6, 2009 he received $7,500 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.

So in the last 20 months Mr. Austin has been allocated and will have been paid $12,500 for work that could be done in-house. If I am wrong and what has been stated in the comments is wrong, then please explain it to me so that I can explain this to the public.

C. Amendment to Traffic Ordinance by Reducing the Speed Limit From 35 mph to 25 mph Along 23rd St Dr, NE
From the Intersection With 25th St, NE South Approximately 1,296 Feet to the Intersection With 24th St Ln, NE, 25th Av, NE From the Intersection With 23rd St Dr, NE East Approximately 200 Feet to the City Limits, and 25th Av Ct, NE From the Intersection With 23rd St Dr, NE West Approximately 350 Feet to the Dead End - Under the City’s Traffic Calming Program an application was received for a speed limit reduction along 23rd St Dr, NE as indicated above serving the Grayfield Subdivision. 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. Staff recommends approval.

D. Amendment to Traffic Ordinance by Regulating Access to 2nd Av, SE Between 5th St, SE and Lenoir-Rhyne Boulevard, SE With Certain Class Vehicles - The above-described street segment has long been the de facto truck route used to access Lenoir-Rhyne Blvd., SE from origination points to the west. This traffic flow proved to be undesirable in several respects. Even with the recent completion of the Lenoir-Rhyne Blvd. Extension project, 2nd Av, SE continues to experience undesirable and unnecessary truck traffic. Following a thorough analysis by the City of Hickory Traffic Division, it was concluded to prohibit access of certain classes of trucks along this segment of 2nd Av, SE, being no truck tractors with semitrailers, commercial vehicles with three (3) or more axles, commercial combination single unit trucks with trailers or buses with trailers.

E. Approval for the City of Hickory to Purchase Property From Freddie Mac Located at 304 3rd Street, SW in the Amount of $25,900- The subject property is located adjacent to City-owned property located at 347 2nd Avenue, SW containing approximately 6.18 acres, which is Hickory Police Department (HPD) property. The purchase of the .41 acres could be used for potential expansion of the HPD. The property is in foreclosure and a vacant house is situated on the property. Tax value is $80,600.00 with a purchase price of $25,900.00. Staff recommends approval.

F. Transfer of Cemetery Lot in Oakwood Cemetery From Eric McNeely and Gloria McNeely to Beth W. Huffman

G. Approve Change Order No. 2 With Hickory Sand Company, Inc. Regarding the Cripple Creek Outfall Replacement Project in the Amount of $86,879.15 - Staff requests approval of the project close out Change Order No. 2 with Hickory Sand Company, Inc. in the amount of $86,879.15 for the Cripple Creek Outfall Replacement Project. This change order is necessary to address project concerns that have risen during construction and field conditions on the project. The largest item on the change order is replacement of the pier crossing beside Moose Club Lift Station. Other items are related to construction. The change order amount of $86,879.15 represents 3.86% of the original project cost and results in a total project change order amount of $141,579.15 or 6.29%. Funds are available within the project and no budget amendment is necessary.Staff recommends approval.

H. Affirm Designating Mayor Wright as Voting Delegate for the National League of Cities – 2010 Congress of Cities Annual Business Meeting in Denver, CO on Saturday, December 4, 2010 - As a direct member city, Hickory’s elected officials are entitled to vote at the annual business meeting. To be eligible to cast the City’s vote, each voting delegate and alternate must be officially designated by the City.

I. Budget Ordinance Amendment No. 8 -
1. To budget a $532 insurance claim check from Trident Insurance Company to the Fire Department Maintenance and Repair of vehicles line item. This payment is for damage sustained to the Ladder 2 fire apparatus on 09-11-10.
2. To appropriate $15,000 of General Fund Balance and budget in the Landscape Division Street Tree Planting line item. This appropriation is to pay for the plant materials needed for the Lenoir Rhyne Blvd. Landscaping project. The total cost of the planting project is $17,000. $2,000 is budgeted in this line item therefore
an additional $15,000 appropriation is necessary.
3. To budget a $205 insurance claim check from Nationwide Insurance Company in the Water and Sewer Pipes, Hydrants and Meters line item. This payment is for damage sustained to a fire hydrant on 09-13-10.

Informational Items:
A. Report of City Manager Berry’s Travel to Raleigh, NC for the NCLM Tax and Finance Legislative Action Committee Meeting on October 5, 2010; mileage - $165.50

B. Report of Mayor Wright’s Travel to Washington, DC to Meet With Legislators and Government Officials on October 7, 2010; airfare - $493.15; per diem - $22.40

C. Report of Alderman Guess’s Travel to Washington, DC to Meet With Legislators and Government Officials on October 7, 2010; airfare - $493.15; per diem - $22.40

D. Report of Alderwoman Patton’s Travel to Washington, DC to Meet With Legislators and Government Officials on October 7, 2010; airfare - $493.15; per diem - $11.74

E. Report of Alderman Seaver’s Travel to Washington, DC to Meet With Legislators and Government Officials on October 7, 2010; airfare - $493.15; per diem - $22.40

F. Report of City Manager Berry’s Travel to Raleigh, NC for the NC Spin H2O Conference on October 12, 2010; mileage - $169.00; registration - $60.00

New Business - Departmental Reports:
1. Approval to Amend Engineering Agreement With Louis Berger Group, Inc. for Additional Engineering Services for Grace Chapel to US 321 Connector Road Project in the Amount of $15,187.36 - Request approval to amend the original agreement with Louis Berger Group, Inc. dated July 29, 2008 for additional engineering services for the Grace Chapel to US 321 connector road project in the amount of $15,187.36. A redesign of the Open Bottom Culverts (OBC’s) is needed due to comments by Raleigh NCDOT indicating what was originally approved by the local DOT will not be approved. The change also includes additional environmental work that the NCDOT has agreed to undertake in house at their expense. This project is funded by the NCDOT and therefore must comply with their comments for approval. By letter dated September 22, 2010, Caldwell County will reimburse the City of Hickory $7,600.00 toward this amendment. The City of Hickory therefore will be responsible for $7,587.36. An appropriation from fund balance is required. Staff recommends approval. Chuck Hanson went over the above facts in his presentation to council. Council unanimously approved.

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