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.
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Here is a summary of the agenda of the 12/20/2011 meeting. There were a couple of important items that were discussed at this meeting and the details are listed further below:
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Invocation by Rev. Bud Zehmer, Church of the Master
A. Presentation by Tracy Nestor, Oktoberfest Event Director, Thanking City Council for Their
Support and to Report on the Success of the 2011 Oktoberfest - Ms. Nestor has served as the head of Oktoberfest since the year 2000. She stated that 98,000 people were welcomed to Downtown Hickory during the 3-day festival, which is always the second weekend in October. The WPCOG estimated an economic impact of more than $7 million this year. This year vendor participation was expanded with 12 local businesses located on the flag court. Local businesses stated that Oktoberfest was their best sales day of the year. 62% of commercial vendors were from the Hickory metro area. 46% of craft vendors were from the Hickory Metro area. 100% of non-profit vendors were from the Hickory Metro Area. Food vendors are carefully selected each year to fit the German theme. 42% of food vendors were from the Hickory area.
Many of these vendors have become a tradition at Oktoberfest. She talked about the maps and directional signs that are used during the festival to help visitors find their way around. She talked about the kid’s fest area. She talked about the variety of entertainment with 5 live stages throughout the weekend. She went over the various entertainment genre associated with each stage. She talked about the roving accordion player and roving German music that was played throughout the festival. The Castle of Cans supported by the Hickory High Key Club and various Boy Scout troops received 16,000 pounds of food that was distributed to 8 Catawba County Agencies through the Second harvest Food bank. This is double the amount of food received in 2010.
She next went into the Oktoberfest foot race which is sponsored by Carolina Orthopedic Specialists. 320 runners participated. This was up from 166 in 2010. $6,000 was contributed to the four county area hospices that came from the foot race proceeds.
1,432 volunteer hours were logged. She talked about the partnership that has been established with Lenoir-Rhyne University. This is the second year their homecoming has been coordinated around Oktoberfest. They do a pep rally on Friday night on the main stage. A Greenway shuttle was coordinated from L-R to the event. 414 riders took advantage of the shuttle.
The Hound appreciates the growth that this festival is seeing. What I appreciate more is that Ms. Nestor has significantly improved the presentation of the summary of the event. This is the fourth time I have sat through one of these Oktoberfest presentations and I truly appreciate that she brought out relevant information without grandiose fluff. When one looks at the fact that areas of participation doubled over the last year (Examples: The foot race and the Castle of cans), then one can see the obvious growth taking place. I think that when one hears about participation statistics that it is many times much more relevant than money statistics that can always be embellished. Congratulations to those who have made this event a success and here is to hoping that it will continue to grow.
A. Proclamation Honoring Joab Cotton for his Service to the Hickory Board of Education
B. Proclamation Honoring Gloria Hemphill for her Service to the Hickory Board of Education
C. Transfer of Cemetery Deed From City of Hickory to Donald R. Barger and Wife, Camellia C. Barger and Doris Y. Barger, Widow in Oakwood Cemetery
D. Transfer of Cemetery Deed From City of Hickory to Faith Canterbury in Oakwood Cemetery
E. Community Appearance Grant to the Hickory Elks Lodge – Non-Residential Property Located at 356 Main Avenue NW in the Amount of $5,000 - This non-residential property, owned by the Hickory Elks Lodge, is located at 356 Main Avenue NW. The proposed renovations include the removal of old pebble board which covers the existing windows, the replacement of six windows with bronze frame reflective windows, brick infill around the replacement windows, and new paint for the façade and fire escape. In all, the applicant plans approximately $30,000 worth of interior and exterior improvements to the building. The portions of these improvements involving the building’s exterior, which are eligible activities, are estimated to be $27,000. Being that both estimates exceed $10,000 in value, the proposal would be eligible for the full $5,000 Community Appearance Grant. On November 28, 2011, the Community Appearance Commission unanimously voted to recommend grant funding in the amount of $5,000.
F. Community Appearance Grant to Michael and Nora Perkett – Non-Residential Property Located at 813 Main Avenue SW in the Amount of $5,000 This non-residential property, owned by Michael and Nora Perkett, is located at 813 Main Avenue SW. They have converted the property into a bed and breakfast and desire to utilize the requested grant funds to paint the existing structure and install decorative and security fencing. The amount of the improvements is estimated to be at $11,300, which qualifies the application for the maximum grant amount of $5,000. On April 25, 2011, the Community Appearance Commission unanimously voted to recommend grant funding in the amount of $5,000.
G. Citizens’ Advisory Committee Recommendations for Assistance Through the City of Hickory’s Housing Programs - The following requests were considered by the Citizens’ Advisory Committee at their regular meeting on December 1, 2011:
• Pressly Development was awarded a City of Hickory’s Housing Rehabilitation Loan. The Citizens’ Advisory Committee recommends approval for assistance not to exceed $20,000 for an 84-unit senior apartment community. Assistance would be in the form of a 2% interest loan. Funds are budgeted for these items through the City of Hickory’s former Rental Rehabilitation Program income received in FY 2009 and/or program income received through the City of Hickory’s Community Development Block Grant Program.
Each of the following applicants is being recommended for approval for assistance under the City of Hickory’s 2011 Urgent Repair Program. This program provides qualified low income citizens with assistance for emergency-related repairs not to exceed $5,000.
• Barbara Byrd, 117 8th Avenue Drive SW, Hickory, not to exceed $3,215. (Used $1,785 in URP10 funds)
• Frank Byrd, 1441 4th Street SW, Hickory
The Citizens’ Advisory Committee considered these requests at their December 1, 2011 Meeting and recommends approval of the above applicants.
H. Request Approval to Purchase 1.42-Acre Vacant Lot from the James Ray Simmons Estate Located at 2104 6th Street, NW in the Amount of $40,000 - This 1.42-acre vacant lot is located at 2104 6th Street NW and is opposite and just past the entrance to Glenn C. Hilton, Jr. Memorial Park. Hilton Park experiences a great deal of use throughout the year and has limited parking available in comparison to the number of people that visit the park. Due to the vicinity of this property to the park, the property should be acquired and set aside for future parking. Preliminary engineering estimates indicate that 42 parking spaces could be constructed on the site. The property is zoned R-2, which allows the property to be used for this purpose. The property owners have accepted the City’s offer to purchase in the amount of $40,000. Staff recommends approval.
I. Municipal Agreement Between NC DOT, City of Hickory and Town of Granite Falls for TIP Project U-5204 in Caldwell County - This municipal agreement is for the new two-lane roadway from SR 1751 (Grace Chapel Road) to SR 1764 (New Farm Road) and the extension of Alex Lee Boulevard to the new
section of New Farm Road in Caldwell County. This agreement defines that NC DOT is responsible for any environmental permits and to construct the project in accordance with the plans and specifications. NC DOT is also responsible for all traffic operating controls and devices and will be responsible for maintenance of the road once completed. The City of Hickory and the Town of Granite Falls will be responsible for the environmental/planning document, design, and any rights-of-way needed for the project. The cities will be responsible for removal of any obstructions, encroachments or any hazardous or contaminated materials that may be found. Hickory’s responsibilities have been completed and funded previously with the exception of any obstructions or hazardous materials found during construction. Staff recommends approval of the municipal agreement.
J. Proposed Clarifications to the Vacant Building Revitalization and Demolition Grant Program - City Council established the Vacant Building Grant Revitalization Grant Program in September, 2008, which provided matching funds of up to $25,000 for applicants seeking to renovate and rehabilitate vacant buildings. In February, 2011, City Council suspended the program and asked Staff to propose modifications to the program that would better protect the City’s investment and improve the effectiveness of the program. In November, 2011, City Council reinstated the program to provide grants of 15% of eligible project costs up to a maximum of $30,000. Staff recommends approval of the proposed clarifications to the Vacant Building Revitalization and Demolition Grant Guidelines.
K. Budget Ordinance Amendments -
1. To budget $1,050 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 transfer $16,572 of General Fund Contingency to the L.P. Frans Stadium Maintenance and Repair of Grounds line item. This transfer to pay for the installation of a sidewalk behind the clubhouse a requested by the Hickory Crawdads and Texas Rangers. The total cost includes a 5% contingency to
allow for any increases that may occur with rising concrete costs.
3. To appropriate $40,000 of Capital Reserve Parking Fund to the Parks and Recreation Capital Land line item for the purchase of a 1.42 acre vacant lot located near the Glenn C. Hilton, Jr. Memorial Park. This property purchase is for future parking for Hilton Park. It's estimated that 42 parking spaces will eventually be constructed on this site.
4. To transfer $8,000 from the Police Department operational Non-Asset Inventory line item to the Governor’s Highway Safety Program Grant project Non-Asset Inventory line item. The City received a $24,000 Federal award from the State of North Carolina Department of Transportation which allows for the purchase of four (4) lidars and four (4) pole mounted radar systems for a total cost of $32,000. The grant pays 75 % of the cost ($24,000) and the remaining 25% ($8,000) is the required local match. Therefore an $8,000 transfer to the Grant project is necessary.
5. Through the order of a Federal Bankruptcy judge, on December 9, 2011 the City of Hickory assumed FBO operational responsibilities at the Hickory Regional Airport. This budget amendment will establish a new “FBO Division” within the Airport’s budget which will cover the City’s FBO related expenses for the remainder of the fiscal year (December 2011 – June 2012). Through this amendment, the City will add 4 full-time and 5 part-time employees to provide FBO services. The expenditures in this amendment are offset with projected FBO revenue of $207,584 as well as a $90,000 appropriation of fund balance for equipment purchases needed for operational start-up.
The Hound sure sees this in a different context than was reported in the HDR on 12/17/2011. In that article it was stated, "The Hickory City Council will vote Tuesday on a proposed amendment that will carry Hickory Regional Airport through the remainder of the budget year."
This sure does seem to be a bastardization of the term vote to me. Will the HDR do a follow up? To plunk down something in a Budget Ordinance Amendment with no discussion of how we got to this point sure does reek of something being done to keep things under the radar. Why hasn't there been a discussion about what has been going on at the airport? Doesn't the public deserve to know? What is being hidden here?
A. Report of Mayor Wright’s travel to Charlotte, NC to appear on “Charlotte Today” at News Channel 36 Studios (mileage - $62.37)
New Business - Public Hearings
1. Approval to Enter into an Economic Development Agreement with Punker, LLC - Punker, LLC is a European market leader in developing and producing fan wheels for the HVAC and exhaust industries, and has chosen to locate their first US manufacturing operation in Hickory, NC. Punker was founded in 1954 and currently employs over 300 people in Germany. The company will locate a manufacturing operation at 914 25th Street SE in Hickory, investing $4,584,000, and creating a minimum of 62 and up to 80 new jobs over the next 5 years. The economic incentive grant would be a total of $59,150. The State of North Carolina will be giving Punker a $78,100 grant from the One North Carolina Fund. The City of Hickory grant will be for 60% for 4 years and an additional year at 75% should they reach 80 jobs. If 80 jobs are not met, then the fifth year will not include an incentive amount. Catawba County is providing the same incentive. This project meets and exceeds the minimum requirements of the City of Hickory Economic Development Assistance Guidelines. The improvements are expected to increase the City’s tax base by a related amount and result in the creation of at least 80 new, permanent jobs paying a total average wage of over $35,000/year. These jobs will pay above the county average wage ($34,000). The company will also provide health insurance, dental insurance, a 401K, and profit sharing will be available.
This public hearing was advertised in a newspaper having general circulation in the Hickory area on December 8, 2011. The presentation was once again made by Julie Pruett of the EDC.
Punker produces fan wheels that provide superior operating characteristics, such as high energy efficiency and low noise levels. Punker also manufactures blowers and ventilation systems. They have a 1,000 customers worldwide such as Trane and Carrier. They currently employ 360 people. Existing U.S. business will be transferred to the facility here in Hickory and this will also allow them to expand their market in the U.S. The EDC has been working on this project since June. Punker looked all over the Southeast and Ohio. The facility they are leasing was used by Turbotech until Turbotech moved to their current location. This is a Green Business in the most favored business model. This company represents two targeted business markets for the -- EDC.Green Energy and Advanced Manufacturing. This is a performance based incentive. If they don’t meet the requirements, they don’t get the incentive. They will follow the requirements of Education Matters in their hiring criteria/practices. The rising incentives over 5 years will encourage Punker to do more (and grow) and create more jobs in order to receive the incentives. This will net a positive payback to the city immediately.
Alder Fox asked about how we go about monitoring job creation. In the Charlotte Observer there has been negative information about communities that have not monitored job creation. Ms. Pruett stated that before the EDC provides any agreements to them that they must prove their investment and their job incentives and their average wages and the EDC uses the employment filings that they do each year. The EDC does monitor and they don’t receive the incentives until they actually make sure that they hacve created the jobs. Alderman Guess asked if they would be relocating people from Germany here. Ms. Pruett stated that no they would be hiring people locally. That they want this to be a U.S. run company.
2. Resolution Confirming and Levying Assessment Along a Portion of 5th Street, SE– No. 01-11 -
The City Clerk received a petition from the owners of property along 5th Street SE to install curb and gutter along a portion of their street as per Section 29-2 of the Hickory Code of Ordinances. The City Council adopted a Resolution directing that Street Improvement Project Be Undertaken on May 17, 2011, and the work was completed on August 29, 2011. The Preliminary Assessment Roll 01-11 has been prepared based on the curb and gutter constructed along 5th Street SE. Staff recommends that Resolution Confirming and Levying Assessment be approved. This public hearing was advertised in a newspaper having general circulation in the Hickory area on December 8, 2011.
New Business - Departmental Reports:
1. Farmers Market Proposal for Union Square - A presentation will be made by Pete Zagaroli on a proposed permanent structure for the Farmers Market on Union Square. He will provide detail at the meeting on the design, engineering, and cost of the project that will replace the temporary white tents used each year for the Farmers Market. This structure will provide an architectural feature to Union Square that will enhance the attractiveness of downtown. Incorporated into the design are a low platform/stage and a seating area that will replace the existing portable stage. The proposal will be distributed at the meeting.
Newsletter about the City Council meeting of December 20, 2011 -- Addendum on Union Square's largest Awning yet - $285,000
This is how the Action Agenda reads – *Council unanimously approved the concept presented and proceeding with the proposed budget of $285,976.00, through a budget amendment at the January 3, 2012 City Council Meeting, to construct the permanent structure and amphitheater for Union Square that will serve as the home for the Farmers Market and many other exciting events in downtown Hickory.”
Listen and see if what you hear correlates to that summary. They took action and are going through these convolutions to make all appear to be above board. Folks, you gotta call ‘em like you see ‘em.
This is after Mr. Zagaroli finishes his presentation. Notice Ms. Surratt's opener in this sequence. The time frame is critical. Straight out of the Rahm Emanuel playbook. Create a crisis point and seize an opportunity to take quick action before anyone can respond. At around the 3:40 mark. "...Either a budget amendment should you choose tonight or we can bring that back on January 3rd." At the 8:06 mark the Mayor makes a motion to adopt this plan, which is seconded by Mrs. Patton, then they unanimously consent and Larry Pope stands up to protest.
As I have stated. I have never seen the City Council make an motion related to a Departmental Report. That is why they are called Departmental Reports. What does adopting the plan mean, if it doesn't mean that you are sanctioning the expenditure? So they can tap dance all day long, but in the end it is what it is. My guess, empirical evidence shows, is that this is something else that goes into the Consent Agenda on January 3, 2012. I don't believe there will be a discussion with the public.
Closed Session Per NC General Statutes 143-318.11(a)(1)(3) 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. Approval of Closed Session Minutes of December 6, 2011 – NCGS §143-318.11(a)(1)
C. Discussion Regarding Pending Litigation Matter – Profile Aviation Center, Inc. – Bankruptcy Case No. 11-50642 – NCGS §143-318.11(a)(3)
The Hound once again wants you to see that they are continuing to discuss the airport issue in closed chambers.
Matters not on the Agenda
Mayor Wright thanked the entire Hickory Staff – starting at the top and throughout the entire Hickory coworker group – for making the Mayor and Council Members look good all year. He also thanked City Attorney John Crone. He cited a couple of examples of City Staff going above and beyond to get the job done. He stated he moves around enough to know that Hickory truly has the best staff in the United States.
Alderman Meisner cited another example whereby someone broke into his neighbor’s house at 8:30 this morning, and the thief was caught by 1:00 p.m.
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