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Saturday, January 10, 2015

Newsletter about the City Council meeting of January 6, 2015

I began video recording the City Council in 2012, because of my desire that the City do it on their own as any modern 21st century community began doing long ago. I had people tell me that they couldn't make it to the meetings, but they would like to see what is going on. I was also told by some council members that my summaries did not truly reflect the record, so having a video/audio recording cannot be misinterpreted.

So below is the City Council meeting. With each agenda item, you can click on the links and it will take you to that specific point in the meeting. You can always drag the marker on the video display to the point in the broadcast that you are interested in seeing.

Agenda about the City Council meeting of January 6, 2015

Thoughts about the City Council meeting of January 6, 2015 - I didn't do an article of thoughts this week. I will incorporate thoughts into this article.


The Hound's Notes:  Meeting started out with the Discussion of the "Friends" Downtown Park. Seems that they want recognition by Hickory Inc. more than any approval. 

I will add a few more comments later. You can come back to read them and there are also comments below. 


Invocation by Rev. Will Posey, Associate Pastor, First United Methodist Church

*** Special Presentations - None

Consent Agenda:
Item E was asked to be removed from the Consent Agenda by the Mayor 

E. Approval of a Lease Agreement for City-owned Property to Hickory Soup Kitchen, Inc. Located at 131 Main Avenue NE. - Staff requests approval of a Lease agreement with Hickory Soup Kitchen, Inc. to lease property owned by the City of Hickory located at 131 Main Avenue NE, Hickory. The property has been leased to the Hickory Soup Kitchen for a number of years, and the current lease has expired. The lease will be a two year term expiring December 30, 2016 and a nominal fee of one dollar. The lessee will be responsible for the payment of all utilities furnished, securing its own janitorial service, maintaining the premise in good order, and routine maintenance and repairs of the property. Staff recommends approval of the Lease Agreement with Hickory Soup Kitchen Inc.  

Mayor's Concern was about what the Soup Kitchen would purpose this building for once they move into their new facility (relocate). Should lease be terminated once they vacate the building. Alderman Lail's stated that the lease will be terminated 30 days upon notice by the lessee (Hickory Soup Kitchen). They can keep control of the property until notice, but they have to use it for its intended purpose or the lease is negated. After discussion the item was approved unanimously.

New Business - Public Hearings
1. Consideration of Closing a Portion of 3rd Street SE and Two Unopened Right of Ways as Shown in Plat Book 4, at Page 78, Catawba County Registry. - The City Clerk received a petition on November 5, 2014, from Attorney Beth Williams, on behalf of the owners OHM Holdings, LLC and Hickory Trading Group LLC. The petition requests the City close said portion of 3rd Street SE, and two unopened right of ways as shown on Plat Book 4 at Page 78, Catawba County Registry. The signatures on the petition represents two of three property owners abutting this portion of the right of ways. The petition fee of $575 has been paid.

New Business - Departmental Reports:
1. Friends of Hickory Park Proposal Update and Parking Analysis. - Consideration of the Friends of Hickory Downtown Park proposal specifically including:
1) approval for the Friends of Hickory to move forward with private fundraising and
2) direct City staff to move forward with the parking lot and alley right-of-way closures at the appropriate time.

Hound Notes: Alderman Lail brought it to the attention of the Council that his wife works for the company designing this project. That was commendable. Land Design, the company, is also the company that is very heavily involved in the "Linear Park" development, which will connect  Union Square to the Wingfoot area, and Lenoir-Rhyne. Attorney Crone said that there was a very small chance that there would be any conflict and that it is Alderman Lail's duty to vote on the issue.

I do not concur with Attorney Crone's interpretation. 1) If Alderman Lail's spouse's company is benefiting from a project that the City Incorporated has involvement in or is in some way directing, then there is a conflict. 2) Alderman Lail's vote is his vote. He can choose to remove himself from the process. At the end of the day, his constituents will choose whether or not he has acted in their interests. 3) No one challenges Hickory Inc. legal interpretations because of Cost/Benefit. Hickory Inc. has taxpaid attorneys. If you choose to challenge their interpretation, then you have to pay for an attorney and also go find an attorney willing to stand up against the local system. Most of the attorneys here in Hickory aren't going to do that... And herein lies the crux of the mess (and there is even more to it than this) that are the rampant Conflicts of Interest that pillage the community.

As the plaintiff,  what is the benefit if you win? You lay out this money. If the Judge declares for you, then he slaps the local government on the wrist and says don't do this again. In my opinion, they will just go back to business as usual and wait for someone to challenge them again, because they have free legal representation and there is no monetary penalty or criminal punishment and not many people in the public care or are aware of these conflicts. Heck, I'm ostracized for even pointing out something so obvious.

Hound's Bottom Line: The Hound does not agree with Attorney Crone.

2. Consideration of Facility Naming Rights Opportunities by the Greater Hickory Tennis Association (GHTA) for Tennis Complex Improvements at Hickory City Park. The City’s Financial Commitment is estimated to be $449,200. - Greater Hickory Tennis Association (GHTA) has committed to fund a minimum of $125,000 towards the cost of the tennis complex improvements over a five year time period. In ord er to raise their committed funds, GHTA seeks to sell facility naming rights. Following are GHTA’s requested facility naming rights opportunities at Hickory City Park:
1) Naming rights to the park = $200,000;
2) Naming rights to each of eight tennis courts = $10,000;
3) Naming rights to the picnic shelter/restroom/meeting room facility = $28,000. The naming rights opportunities would be valid for a twenty (20) year period. All facility naming rights opportunities obtained by GHTA would require the formal approval of City Council through a recommendation of the Parks and Recreation Commission.

Kathy Kim's Tennis Program - "Explosion of Tennis"
Current Site Conditions
Proposed Tennis Complex improvements - Master Site Plan
Tony Wood of the Parks and Rec Commission and Lenny Teague of GHTA address the Council
Hickory City Council Musings
Mac McLeod, Parks and Rec, recommendations

Hound's Bottom Line: This is great and along the lines of what I have suggested before, but why could the same type of effort not have taken place to save the swimming pools, or at least one of the swimming pools, five years ago. I also suggested similar partnerships when it came to graffiti removal and city beautification. Real public-private partnerships.

3. Discussion of Bond Commission Ordinance and Call for Public Hearing. 
Mick Berry, City Manager, overview of the Bond Commission 
Preamble of the Commission
Business Park outside the purview of this commission
Composition and appointment of the Commission
Mayor Wright states that if he were a candidate, he would hate having his candidacy publicly discussed 
Terms of Members
Officers and Duties
Mission, purpose, objectives, vision
Members within the City and from the ETJ - this leads into a council discussion about appointments inside and outside wards, and appointments of ETJ residents.

*** No Decisions were made on this night.

4. Discussion of Revaluation Numbers and the Revenue Neutral Rate.
Warren Wood presents information about the property tax rate - might impact next year's tax rate.
Loss of privilege license.
Fund balance tapped for increase in expenses in the current budget.
Catawba County shows Hickory Real Values dropped 6.6%
                 Commercial - 10% ... Industrial - 14% ... Residential - 3% (Worse than County average)
Revenue neutral Tax Rate is estimated to be .5395 cents per $100 is assessed value.

Mayor Wright states that residential property owners are going to bear more of the burden.
NC General Assembly on Privilege License
Reduction in Appropriated Balance Fund


1 comment:

Harry Hipps said...

For a long time about the only thing that Hickory could consistently brag about was conservative budgeting and frugality with public spending. It looks like the frugality in public spending is about to be tossed aside. I think there are a couple of worthwhile projects on the table, but they should be done without much of the debt we are going to incur, and it remains to be seen what the priorities and timetable will be.

While I agree that investments have to be made, the negative business climate, the lack of openness on the part of Hickory's government, business community, and culture in general is a real drag and discourages growth. The media around here is a joke and the corporate community doesn't take an active role in promoting business growth in this area.

Until the focus is on enlarging the pie, and not just on personal or close associates' business interests, we aren't going anywhere.
Popeye's, Taco Bell, and Hardees aren't going to bring prosperity to Hickory and I haven't seen evidence that the walking trails in Greensboro, Tampa, and the like have done much there. I hope for the best, but all I see is a bigger tax bill, which may dampen property values further, and more of the same. At least we have more fried chicken and shrimp and not just subs.