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Friday, December 9, 2011

Newsletter about the City Council meeting of December 6, 2011

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 11/15/2011 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 Rev. Calvin Vaughn, Unifour Christian Fellowship Church

Oaths of Office Ceremony
Mayor Wright administered the oath of office to Ward 1 Alderman Brad Lail, Ward 2 Alderman Bruce Meisner, and Ward 3 Alderman Danny Seaver.

Election of Mayor Pro Tempore for Calendar Year 2012 Pursuant to NC General Statutes §260A-70 and Section 2-54 of the Hickory City Code - Alderman Danny Seaver was elected as Mayor Pro Tempore.

Appointment of a City Attorney for Calendar Year 2012 Pursuant to the Hickory City Code, Section 4.151 of the Charter - Attorney John W. Crone III was reappointed as City Attorney.

Special Presentations:
A. Proclamation – Declaring Thursday, December 15, 2011 as Bill of Rights Day in the City of Hickory (Presentation to Cliff Moone) – Mr. Moone was absent so this ceremony didn’t go forward.

B. Report – Special Council Meeting Held on November 29, 2011 to Tour Downtown Development and Historic Train Depot in City of Burlington, NC - Council Members Meisner, Guess, Fox, and Patton attended along with some city staff and HDDA's Connie Kincaid. The meeting with Burlington Officials
included the City Manager, a City Council member, Downtown Director, Planning Director, Parks and Recreation Director and several staff in Parks and Recreation that handle special events.

The visit included views of the Downtown amphitheater and historic train depot, a performing arts venue, a co-op grocery store, and a larger amphitheater in a local park. Downtown Burlington's Downtown Association is funded by a business improvement district (BID tax), which taxes downtown property owners $.016 per $100 assessed value. This allows for a $150,000 annual budget from the City (50% for staffing and 50% for grants and loan programs).

The Downtown Amphitheater was built in the 1970s as part of a urban renewal program. It seats approximately 200 people and is used approximately 35 to 40 times per year for weddings, plays, church events, and art classes. The limited size is a factor for usage. More concerts have been moved to the lawn behind the Train Depot.

The Council tored a local Co-Op Grocery store, which is located at theformer site of and A&P in downtown Burlington. The Co-Op grocery store has 2,000 shareholder investors.

Another public entertainment venue looked at was the old Paramount Theater, which is the former site of local theater. It was renovated in the 1990s and is owned by the City of Burlington. . It was funded with  CDBG Block Grant funds as well as city, county, arts council and private corporation dollars.
The site seats 390 people and is used as for community theater, concerts, and as a multipurpose facility. It is utilized 250 to 270 times annually.

One important part of the viability of Burlington's Downtown area  includes Lab Corp, a major downtown employer.

Another public entertainment venue is named "The Jimmy" after a former employee. It was finished in 2010. Its open space seating can accommodate 2,000 to 4,000 people. It is primarily a concert space and is located approximately 1 mile from Downtown.

What City officials took away from their visit with Burlington officials: Understand who you are and what size of events make sense of your community. Burlington Parks & Recreation handles all special events at each facility. City tax dollars fund most events. There is a Time limit of 11pm for all events. They prefer individual seating rather than concrete seating at the amphitheater. Off duty police officers are present at events and they use cameras to deter crime. Have tight control over the approval process for events. “If we had it to do over again, we’d put an open, above ground venue Downtown instead of the Amphitheater,” Harold Owen, City Manager

Next Steps: City officials have studied Roanoke, VA and Burlington, NC. The next stop is Chattanooga, TN to view their downtown redevelopment along the riverfront. The purpose of these trips is to learn new ways of enhancing our community through redevelopment, use of vacant buildings and maximizing public spaces to enhance our brand and for the benefit of the community.

The Hound believes that this was a highly disappointing presentation. I can understand Burlington's feelings about who they are. They are surrounded by a huge metropolitan overlay with gigantic entertainment centers and concert venues throughout their immediate area. Arenas in Raleigh, Chapel Hill, Winston-Salem, and Greensboro that seat 10,000 to 20,000 people and amphitheaters that seat 5,000 to 10,000 as well as a plethora of smaller venues. We have nothing even close to that within those drives except in Charlotte. We have plenty of these micro venues, such as at the SALT Block, CVCC, and L-R. And we have parks for people to stand around while music plays. We don't have a good venue to take advantage of our geographical location or our shopping marketplace and a glorified Yesterday's (the former club) doesn't fit the ticket either.

Sometimes I just don't think The City's bureaucratic administration gets "IT." I honestly don't think that they appreciate or respect this area and they don't understand what it is. They are too busy trying to tell us what it isn't. They are supposed to physically build this area up and instead we constantly get fluff when it comes to economic marketing and so much of an attitude of doing things on the cheap. What I saw pushed during this presentation was related to doing things on the cheap and making sure that you limit yourself. There is no vision of doing anything special. If this is your mindset and intent, then please, I beg you, don't do anything at all.

I don't want the city doing what they did at the Crawdads stadium a couple months ago or the mindset that I have seen displayed related to Hickory Alive. If this is the initiation of this process, then please, I am begging you to not throw away the tax payers money, because you are headed towards a monumental failure.

What I would like to see is a public-private partnership where the city helps a public-private agency secure financing that can allow for an amphitheater venue to be built and run by the agency, but the city would have no role other that ordinances and codes. The city would be paid back by this autonomous agency and that agency can look to grow as events and time warrant.

I like the idea of the Co-op grocery store, but I believe that this role can be fulfilled by a covered marketplace (ie indoor farmer's market). This would allow local corporate food purveyors to participate along side the local farmers and would allow for more of a variety of products to be sold. Local Restaurants could use this facility as much as individuals would. I believe that this would also get buy-in from Alex Lee if they saw the big picture of what such a venue would entail. I understand this because I understand food like 99.9% of the people in this area don't, because I am a real full spectrum chef; not just a cook, a salesman, or a marketer.

In closing, I would like the bureaucrats to understand that they need to broaden their horizons of understanding to include people who are experts in their field and not just other bureaucrats who limit themselves in endeavors of creativity. Entrepreneurs look how to make things happen. They don't look for ways to see why endeavors shouldn't be approached and actions shouldn't be taken. There may be some limitations to Hickory based on Geography. (ie we aren't going to be a World Class Beach resort), but by limiting ourselves, and our horizons, we only ensure that we are going to always be sucking hind (you know what).

Consent Agenda:
A. Accept and Enter Into Minutes Certification of Votes from November 8, 2011 Election From the Catawba County Board of Elections
Ward 1 Brad Lail 959 - (88.71%) - Write-In 122 – (11.29%)
Ward 2 Bruce Meisner - 968 (88.81%) - Write-In 122 – (11.19%)
Ward 3 Danny Seaver - 947 (89.68%) - Write-In 109 – (10.32%)

B. Approval of Community Relations Council Grant Recommendations for Fall 2011
Agency - Project Title – Amount – Requested Amount – Recommended by CRC
CVCC Foundation, Inc. - Multicultural Series - $1,500 - $1,000
Humane Society of CC - Spanish Information Brochures - $1,500 - $.00
Hickory Community Theater“ By a Black Hand” NC Black Repertory Company - $2,000 - $.00
Greater Hickory Cooperative Christian Ministry - Chronic Disease Program - $2,500 - $1,000
Women’s Resource Center Women’s Life - Transition Services - $1,500 - $1,000
Clinton’s Corner of Catawba Community Development Inc. - Expansion of the Mario A. Mitchell Summer and Saturday Academy (Parenting Academy) - $1,500 - $1,000
Centro Latino (CC Hispanic Ministry) - Neighbors in Need - $1,500 - $1,000
Council on Adolescents of Catawba County, Inc. - Health Education Resource Center - $1,250 - $1,000
Total requested by all agencies - $13,250 - Total recommended for funding by CRC $6,000

C. Resolution Authorizing Preparation of Assessment Rolls and Public Hearing on Preliminary Assessment Roll for Street Improvements Petition No. 01-11 (Curb and Gutter). A petition was made on March 23, 2011, approved by City Council on April 19, 2011, and the project was completed on August 29, 2011 (Authorized Public Hearing for December 20, 2011)

D. Call for Public Hearing to Consider Entering Into an Economic Development Incentive Agreement With Punker, LLC In The Form of a Grant for the Creation of 80 Jobs and a City Incentive Package Totaling Approximately $59,150.00 Over the Next Five Years (Authorized Public Hearing for December 20, 2011)

E. Change Order No. 6 to Contract with Pizzagalli Construction Company in the Amount of $37,360 for the Northeast Wastewater Treatment Plant (NEWWTP) Upgrade Project - The NEWWTP Upgrade Project was initiated in July, 2010 at a cost of $21,569,382.50 for a complete upgrade of the facility. The current contract amount for this project is $22,057,935.50 which includes previously approved Change Orders Nos. 1 – 5. This project was established with a contingency fund in order to address unforeseen expenses that may arise, and Change Order No. 6 consists of six items. The single largest items are $11,332 for revisions to the SCADA control system for the proposed facility at the influent lift station and $9,620 for modifications to the chlorine building that will improve safety features and air flow through the building in the event of a chlorine cylinder leak. Contract change orders total $525,913 or 2.38% of the original project contract. Revised contract total to date will be $22,095,295.50.

F. Acceptance of Bid and Award to Triangle Contractors, Inc. for the Moose Club Pump Station Demolition in the Amount of $15,842 - The Moose Club Pump Station serves the Cripple Creek Basin and the area in and around Glen Hilton Park. It is located adjacent to a Lakeland Park area of Northwest
Hickory. The pump station is in need of exterior renovations due to a failing roof over the wet well and corresponding odor issues. The roof has also degraded to the point that it could pose a safety risk if individuals were to get inside the fenced area. While this work is being done, the Public Utilities Dept. would like to repaint the station and tear down some adjacent structures so that the site is more appealing to the neighbors. The pump station is mechanically well kept. The roof will be replaced in a separate project. This project is not budgeted; therefore, the funds are proposed to be allocated from the Water
and Sewer Fund Capital Reserve.

G. Acceptance of Bid and Award to Brushy Mountain Builders, Inc. for the Water Treatment Facility Bolt Replacement Project in the Amount of $27,947.50 - The water treatment facility was last upgraded in the early 1990’s with an official startup in 1993. Components of this facility are now reaching 19 years of continuous service and require more extensive maintenance and replacement of 4,468 bolts located on the discharge pipe from the finish water filters to the clear wells. The bolts require replacement due to corrosion and the essential nature of their function to ensure reliability of the piping. This project is the first step necessary for rehabilitation of the pipe gallery including repainting of the piping and replacing some minor electrical components. The bolts/nuts/washers are being purchased separately ($12,102.13) and provided to the contractor in order to reduce the cost of the overall project. This project is budgeted, and .

H. Budget Ordinance Amendments
1. To budget $1,381 of Miscellaneous Revenue in the Fire Department Departmental Supply line item. These funds were received from Mountain Recycling, Inc. for the sale of salvaged metal from surplus Engine 14.
2. To budget a $600,000 check from the State of North Carolina Department of Commerce (One North Carolina Fund) in the Economic and Community Development Incentives line item. This check is a first partial payment for CheckFree Services Corporation (Fiserv). The City of Hickory will disburse this
money to the company and as stated in the Performance Agreement, the money will be used in accordance with Senate Bill 27, Page 247, and Section 31.
3. To appropriate $15,842 of Water and Sewer Capital Reserve to the Water and Sewer Maintenance Repair of Equipment line item. This appropriation is necessary to pay Triangle Contractors, Inc. for exterior renovations to the pump station due to a falling roof over the wet well. The roof will be replaced in a separate project to follow immediately after this one. This project includes painting the station structure that has become weathered and to remove the brick structures that are no longer in use. The exterior maintenance will improve the appearance of the Moose Club Pump Station.

Informational Items
A. Report of Alderman Hank Guess’s travel to attend the CityWorks(X)po in Roanoke, VA on October 27-29, 2011 (registration - $505; room - $246.30; per diem - $44.30)
B. Report of Alderwoman Sally Fox’s travel to attend the CityWorks(X)po in Roanoke, VA on October 27-29, 2011 (registration - $505; room $246.30; per diem - $44.30)
C. Report of City Manager Mick Berry’s travel to attend the CityWorks(X)po in Roanoke, VA on October 27-29, 2011 (registration - $505; room $246.30; per diem - $44.30)
D. Report of Mayor Wright’s travel to attend the 2011 NCLM Annual Conference in Raleigh, NC on October 24-25, 2011 (registration - $277; room - $235.65; per diem - $34; mileage - $191.40; parking - $12)
E. Report of Mayor Wright’s travel to attend the National League of Cities Congress of Cities in Phoenix, Arizona on November 8-13, 2011 (registration - $435; airfare - $349.80; room - $583.35; per diem - $284; mileage - $53.04)
F. Report of Mayor Wright’s travel to Boca Raton, Florida for an Economic Development Site Visit on November 3-4, 2011 (room - $124.32; airfare - $619.90; per diem - $115.46)

New Business - Public Hearings:
1. Ordinance Amending Hickory City Code Chapter 21, Section 21-13, “Use of Weapons” Regarding Firearms in City Parks - *Council voted 6 to 1 to approve Ordinance Amendment Exhibit 2 which complies with state law and allows concealed handguns in all park areas. A new state law passed in the last General Assembly Session will require the City of Hickory to amend its ordinance which bans firearms in city parks. Session Law 2011-268, which became effective December 1, 2011, amends Article 14, Chapter 14 of the General Statutes which pertains to various laws regarding the right to own, possess, or carry a firearm in North Carolina. Staff presented two concealed handgun permit ordinance options to the Parks and Recreation Commission at their November 8, 2011 meeting. The first ordinance, which Staff recommended to be endorsed by the Parks and Recreation Commission, prohibits concealed handguns in certain specified park areas. The second ordinance simply complies with state law and allows concealed handguns in all park areas. Six (6) Commission Members voted to endorse and recommend to City Council the first ordinance option. Four (4) Commission Members voted to endorse and recommend to City Council, the second ordinance option. Staff recommends approval of the local ordinance which prohibits concealed handguns in certain park areas. This public hearing was advertised in a newspaper having general circulation in the Hickory area on November 23, 2011.

Newsletter about the City Council meeting of December 6, 2011 -- Addendum on Concealed Carry in Hickory Parks and Recreation Facilities

2. Fifth Amendment to Tower Lease with AT&T Wireless for City’s Tower Located at Public Services Facility - AT&T Wireless wishes to extend the current lease agreement for antenna space on the guyed-wire tower located at the Public Services Facility. The original tower lease with AT&T began in 1996. AT&T Wireless approached the City to extend the lease and requested a reduction in rent, which the City refused. They then requested an extension to the current agreement (expires in 2014) that would continue at the same rate (no increase). The new amendment will allow AT&T to continue leasing tower space for two additional five year extension terms upon expiration of the current lease terms. This would guarantee income at the current rate until 2019. Staff recommends approval. This public hearing was advertised in a newspaper having general circulation in the Hickory area on November 23, 2011. Jeff Brittain presentation. The City gave Unanimous Consent.

General Comments
Mayor Wright stated he liked the downtown market in Burlington, and he would like for people to have the ability to purchase groceries in downtown Hickory. Alder Fox stated that Burlington sold $20,000 worth of shares for the downtown market. Mayor Wright stated that when he attended the NCLM Conference in Phoenix, AZ, he saw a virtual supermarket where people go in one day, place their orders for grocery items, pay for them, and the groceries are delivered back to that location the next day. That process is not without cost either (combination of grants, other tax funding, stockholders, etc.). He stated he would like for the City to look at any such possibilities, because he didn’t feel that there is a way to encourage a full grocery store to locate downtown until they feel the circumstances are right.

Alder Patton stated she had the opportunity to attend the Choral Society Concert on Saturday afternoon, and she stated the City is truly blessed with arts and talent... the City supports the Arts Council and it is well worth it. Mayor Wright stated that it speaks well for our community, that with modest support, we are able to keep the Arts Center, the Science Center, the symphony, the Choral Society, etc.

Alderman Guess stated he attended the Exodus House Christmas Parade this past Saturday, and there was a good turnout with a lot of good food and fellowship. He was the

Closed Session Per NC General Statutes 143-318.11(a)(1)(5) to consult with the attorneys regarding the following: (Action on these items, if any, will occur in Open Session)

A. Approval of Closed Session Minutes of November 15, 2011 – NCGS §143-318.11(a)(1)
B. Discussion Regarding Potential Acquisition of Real Property – NCGS §143-318.11(a)(5)
No action was taken upon return to open session.

The Hounds Final Note : There were well over 100 people that showed up for this meeting. The vast majority showed up for the Concealed Carry Ordinance issue. While it is great that they showed up to support something that meant so much to them and it is a validation that standing up for ones rights is imperative towards the protection of those rights and liberties, it is disheartening to see these one issue advocates disappear as soon as their issue has been dealt with. As soon as the decision was rendered 3/4ths of the attendees flooded out immediately.

First, to file out so abruptly and noisily as the meeting continues is not good etiquette. I am not picking on the gun right's supporters. I have seen this countless times over the past three years. But, what people never look at is the big picture. You need to take interest in the body of work of our local governance. You need to pay attention to your neighbor's issue and look out for their interests. We need to look out for one another. One of the things I despise most in life is when I hear people tell me , "That doesn't effect me." It makes me cringe, because it is a selfish attitude and it shows ignorance, a lack of compassion, and a lack of understanding for the complexity of life.

Remember you deserve the government that you get and when the majority of society doesn't care, then why should we expect our representatives to care what we think? Why should they expect to be held accountable? And what do those who don't participate or only care about one issue have to complain about?


harryhipps said...

I think your comments on the trips and what the council sees in them is right. It's great that they look at other communities and see what make them tick (or what ticking they lack), but it is obvious they have no answers and if given the opportunity they will waste taxpayer money on a cheap facade rather than seeing and implementing a vision.
The good thing is that since they don't have a clue as to what to do they, at least, haven't wasted money on a turkey. Maintenance of basic services is all they understand and all they can do.
Is this a formula for progress? No. But Hickory governance is all about maintenance and accounting, not progress. There are no visionaries on council so at least they get to visit some different restaurants and relax during the holidays.

Silence DoGood said...

What about Detroit MI? Allentown PA? Cleveland OH? Why doesn't council pay a visit to those cities to, you know, get a look at where Hickory is HEADING.

Silence DoGood said...

Alrighty now, I’ve had time to go back and read this thread rather than skim and there’s a few things that I’m curious about. The Mayor attended the NCLM (North Carolina League of Municipalities) conference in Phoenix, AZ. Really? Why did the NCLM have a conference in Phoenix? I hope he was trying to say National League of Cities. A virtual grocery store that you have to make two trips to in order to get your food? Oh, there’s a cutting edge idea for you! Burn twice as much of that fossil juice to accomplish the same task. Why would anyone go uptown to buy groceries today? Supermarket chains are strategically located in the areas and neighborhoods they want to serve.

I like the idea of the open air indoor marketplace as well. But that has been tried once and the gentleman just closed the doors because it failed. I think that was the idea of what was being done in the old Woolworth building and there just wasn’t any support for it apparently. Now, vegetables and foods might be different, but then again, who knows.

Here’s what I see as wrong with downtown Hickory, in no particular order. When you mention the word ‘downtown’ what does that bring to mind? Well, if you’re a city dweller, shops, restaurants, theatre, bakery, niche entertainment. If you’re from Podunk, buildings and shops of stuff you only see in catalogs. Now overlay that in Hickory. Downtown is basically two blocks square. Comprised mostly of lawyers, banks, and jewelry stores. Yeah I know, there are other places as well, including a couple of pubs, but play along. So essentially, over time as things drifted out of downtown, that space was re-utilized because the consensus that sprawl was the rage and there was no place for shops downtown. When I think of downtown, I think of a centralized street, flanked with buildings containing shops of all sorts, wide sidewalks, and parking that encompasses several blocks in a linear fashion. Those traits are predominant in the cities they are visiting. Hickory never was any of that. Blame the railroad, the topography, poor planning, or nothing; it is what it is. Point being, you have to make the most of with what you have.

So while there is a dynamic for a thriving downtown, it will never be megalopolis. Union Square was built to accommodate pedestrians and crushed the parking and thus the means for getting to downtown. Sure, there’s a parking deck, very far away. If you had the notion of going from shop to shop to shop and wanted to deposit bags of goods in your car between shops, how could you do that with any ease? No, Hickory wants to go Rolls Royce on a Ford Focus budget, talk a whole lot, say and do very little, and then tout the fact that they’ve “studied the issue at length.” Well, pardon me Professors, but can you tell us just what are the conclusions you’ve come up with? We built an atomic bomb with cruder technology in less time than it takes a bunch of politicians to reach a decision about downtown development viability or even direction.

James Thomas Shell said...

DoGood a virtual grocery store is a good thing. You can also order groceries off of a computer and they will deliver them to you.

And I'm not talking about a half-##### run on the cheap pretend grocery store. I'm talking about a real marketplace. Asheville has a huge one. And I do know and believe that this can work. If I had the money I'd put it on the line for this. And you are right about the failure of that marketplace, but it is because Downtown currently doesn't have a legitimate marketplace where you can get all of your essentials in one stop. It is basically bars and boutiques.

And I'm not talking about depositing any of this on Union Square, because to me Union Square is a very small part of Downtown and once we get past that entrenched notion from the 1960s, then we might be able to get somewhere.

Otherwise what you have said here is once again spot on.

Silence DoGood said...

Ah ok. I was thinking that virtual would be computer oriented, and I read it a few times and I kept pulling the same meaning out of it. You had to go to the grocery to order and then go back the next day to pick up. And I was thinking, "Whuuuuut?"

Yup, right there with you on Union Square. But when you speak of downtown, that is what pops up as a notion of in Hickory, futile as it might be.

I'm in complete agreement about a marketplace. Look at the people that flock in to patronize the farmer's market even in the confined space it's in. That should have been a spotlight on the obvious appeal to what was going on and if it only grew, so would attendance and participation. But no, we need to have some more contentious comments and public hearings about using and the use of what currently postulates itself as downtown Hickory.

Case in point, Asheville has a real downtown too!

I appreciate the kind words. I perpetually find myself wondering what it is exactly that the power brokers hope to accomplish with all of this. Is there an objective to the exercise, or is it just wildly swinging hoping to eventually connect with something viable.

James Thomas Shell said...

It called "Look like you are doing something, but don't take any action that you may be held accountable for later."

ie Busy Work... and we have pleanty of that going on with local "leadership."