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Friday, May 22, 2015

Newsletter about the City Council meeting of May 19, 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 May 19, 2015


Hound Notes: Several interesting issues were discussed during this meeting. It has taken a while to put this together because of the diversity of the issues and the details related to each. This was by far the most interesting meeting that has occurred this year.

The first was when we had the "not in my back yard moment" with five people coming forward during "Persons Requesting to be Heard" about the proposed Public Housing project on 4th St SW. I have listed some of the interesting points relayed by those who made presentations before the City Council. One was a prominent Dentist/business owner, three were in real estate, and one was an attorney. All of these individuals had left by the time the Council addressed the issue during Matters not on the Agenda.

The second issue was kicked off by Steve Ivester during Persons Requesting to be Heard. He wanted to talk about the issue to be discussed during the first Departmental Report. He has addressed the issue several times before related to the proposed Cloninger Mill Park and the attached 10 acre parcel attached to that property. The group Outward Bound has agreed to a $900,000 donation in exchange for restrictions and covenants that will keep this 10 acres from being developed commercially and ensure it is developed in association with the Park's general use.

The third issue is the proposed fiscal budget for the upcoming year. It certainly looks like another year of finagling was necessary to make the numbers work . It also looks like the days of kicking the can down the road on tax rate increases are over.


*** Final Release***

Invocation by Will Posey First United Methodist Church

Special Presentations
A. Business Well Crafted Award to CBSA Architects presented by Business Development Committee

Well Crafted Web Page

Persons Requesting to Be Heard
A. Delores Hammer, Proposed Public Housing Complex on 4th Street SW
B. Crystal Rogers, Proposed Public Housing Complex on 4th Street SW
C. Paul Gadd, Proposed Public Housing Complex on 4th Street SW
D. Mary Yount, Proposed Public Housing Complex on 4th Street SW (Christine Winn spoke in her place)
E. Kim Clarke, Proposed Public Housing Complex on 4th Street SW
F. Steve Ivester speaks about the proposed Cloninger Mill Park and Departmental Reports Item 1

Hound Notes: All of the people spoke against the Housing project. Delores Hammer says that 4th St SW is a business corridor. This is a proposed 3-story building that will tower over existing structures. No residential structures have been built on 4th Street in over 75 years. Every existing Public Housing structure is built in Southeast and Southwest Hickory. She pointed to that on a map she had displayed. 1/5th of the existing structures would be relocated to this site. She addressed a past presentation where Hickory Housing Officials had stated that they wanted to scatter Public Housing throughout the city. She asks, "Where is the diversity in Northeast and Northwest Hickory."

Crystal Rogers is a local Real Estate agent. She talked about the location issue and whether this property fit in the area. She talked about this property having balconies and people seeing clutter on an entry point into the City. Paul Gadd, another Real Estate agent, reiterated the location issue and made statements related to this being a hindrance to growth. Christine Winn spoke about the negative impact that this project would have upon small businesses.

Attorney Kim Clarke wants the Council to encourage the housing authority to find another site and possibly disband the Housing Authority and take its functions under the City Budget. She wants the Mayor to appoint 4 more commissioners to the Authority. She brought up an issue of a conflict of interest related to the the Housing Authority creating an entity called "Unifour Capital Ventures". It has the same Board Members, officers, and directors as the Authority. She asks why?

Newsletter about the City Council meeting of August 5, 2014  -  

Departmental Report Item 2. Consider Hickory Housing Authority’s request to have the City of Hickory make Application for a Choice Neighborhoods Planning Grant from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development. - Hickory Housing Authority contacted City Staff June 30th about applying for a Choice Neighborhoods Planning Grant. This Federal program through HUD provides up to $500,000 in funding to eligible municipalities to develop comprehensive neighborhood transformation plans in areas that contain distressed public housing. The project will emphasize revitalization of public housing sites, develop a plan for new mixed income housing in the target area and in other locations across Catawba County, and address other needed infrastructure improvements. Hickory Housing Authority has contracted with the Wooten Company to assist in the preparation of the grant application. The required grant match will be provided by Hickory Housing Authority. The City of Hickory would be the main applicant for the grant with Hickory Housing Authority as the co-applicant. The grant is for planning services only. A future application would need to be made to HUD for implementation of funds. Andrea Surratt Presentation.

Dr. Myles, member of the board of the Hickory Public Housing Authority, allowed to address the City Council.
 Further discussion of this issue took place during Matters not on the Agenda, which is listed below.

 Consent Agenda: Approved Unanimously 

New Business - Departmental Reports:
1. Cloninger Mill Property Update/North Carolina Outward Bound School (NCOBS) - Recently the North Carolina Outward Bound School (NCOBS), a nonprofit provider of outdoor and experiential education, approached staff with a request that Council take the 10.1 acres off the commercial market and dedicate the parcel solely for park use. The organization is proposing Council enter into a Declaration of Covenants and Restrictions (‘Declaration”) which will conserve the parcel in perpetuity by placing certain covenants and restrictions on the affected property. In exchange for Council entering into the Declaration, NCOBS will make a monetary donation of $900,000 to be used to develop the property as a park. The proposed donation is not an offer from NCOBS to purchase the property. The City will retain ownership of the property.

Hound Notes: Steve Ivester spoke during Persons Requesting to be Heard... He said this is a gateway to the city. It is the only flat land along the site. It can provide some parking. He spoke about some water access being available and possibilities with Canoes and Kayaks. He said this could help Hickory become a City on a lake, instead of Hickory just being a City with a lake.

Arnita Dula presented the agreement between the City of Hickory and Outward Bound, but first she introduced Mr. Dan Leroy, the director of development of Outward Bound, who spoke about the mission of Outward Bound.

Outward Bound is an Educational Movement.

Alderman Lail asked a couple questions related to restrictions. One was about traffic related right of way. Ms. Dula seemed to state that that would not be an issue. Alderman Lail asked the City Manager about restrictions and were the funds going into the General Fund. Manager Berry stated that is correct. The Council unanimously consented to this agreement. 

A Hound thought: It is my hope that Hickory Inc. will utilize the $900,000 to build out this park to a certain extent. At least they could build the running, walking, and bike trails at this time. The educational facility and other amenities could be built later. I certainly hope that they won't take monies given in good faith, meant for this development, and utilize it elsewhere. This park has been on the books  for development for over 30 years. They have said it hasn't been developed, because of a lack of funds. They have some funds, so start the development. Don't utilize these funds for Johnny Come lately pet projects.

Public Hearing #2 to Consider an Economic Development Agreement with MAB American for the Development of City Owned Property at Cloninger Mill Road and NC. 127. - Steve Ivester made some good points. It has always been his desire that the property not be developed commercially. It was announced that an anonymous citizen was willing to buy the property from the city for $900,000 and donate it back to the city to try and keep the 10 acres dedicated to the park in its entirety, instead of it being developed commercially.

Hal Row First Talk - October 6, 2014 -  Man calls in and asks about the Cloninger Mill Park (Hound: The Publix deal fell through).

Agenda about the City Council meeting of October 7, 2014 - MAB developers have backed out on the deal at Cloninger Mill. Are we going to see the people who wanted to purchase the land contacted? - Remember at the March 18, 2014 City Council meeting that Kathryn Greathouse came forward and said someone wanted to purchase the 10 acre site attached to the Cloninger Mill Park and keep it as part of the park. Are they still willing to do this or was this a gambit to keep another grocer from coming into the area?

City Council Meeting October 7, 2014 - Informational Item - A. MAB Acquisitions LLC - (Council Discussion. After a public hearing on March 18, 2014, on April 4, 2014 City Council entered into an Economic Development Agreement for purchase and sell of real property with MAB, with the intent to sell to MAB 10.099 acres of City owned property at the intersection of HWY 127 and Cloninger Mill Road for the price of $900,000. The agreement included a 120 day inspection period which was extended to September 26, 2014 by City Council on July 15th due to a delay in the city removing debris from the property. MAB agreed to develop the property as a grocery anchored shopping center with stipulations on its development as approved by council (Exhibit C of EDA). On September 29th staff received a letter from the attorney representing MAB indicating they would not acquire the property and terminating the EDA. -- The Mayor talks about pursuing the $900,000 in relation to the Cloninger Mill park. The rest of the Council really didn't seem to want to travel down that road. It seemed as though they know that option is no longer on the table.

April 7, 2014 - Hal Row First Talk - The Mayor is asked about the proposed grocery store to be located at Cloninger Mill Road at the site of the proposed public park.

Public Hearing at Hickory City Council on March 18, 2014 to Consider an Economic Development Agreement with MAB American for the Development of City Owned Property at Cloninger Mill Road and NC. 127.
Cloninger Mill Park - 3rd meeting - The Master Plan - 3/10/2009
Cloninger Mill Park - 2nd meeting - 2 Proposals - 1/15/2009
Cloninger Mill Park - 1st meeting - Preliminary Proposal

2. Presentation of City Manager’s FY2015-2016 Recommended Budget. (Authorize Public Hearing for June 2, 2015, at 7:00 p.m. in Council Chambers of the Julian G. Whitener Municipal Building). The 2015-2016 Recommended Annual Budget will be distributed to City Council as required by law and be available for review in the Office of the City Clerk, Patrick Beaver Memorial Library, Ridgeview Library and the City’s website (

Hound Notes:  The City manager discussed the difficult challenges we have faced over the passed decade and the negative impact they have had on the local budget. Property values have dropped by 6.56% since the last assessment. That is an average across the board. That is part of the reason a 3.95-cent increase in the tax rate to bring us to revenue neutrality. The City Manager talked about the Business Privilege license being a budget buster. This will cost $1.14 million out of the budget annually. 2.7 cents in additional property tax will be necessary to bring the budget back to level. The City Manager also cited the need for an additional requested 1-cent for the cost of design for projects related to the bond referendum that was passed last November. The City Manager is also requesting an additional $2 for the Solid Waste fee bringing the cost to $18.50 per month.

Currently Hickory Inc. is above the desired 25% unassigned balance in the General Fund. There are pressures against that goal. FEMA didn't reimburse over a half-million dollars ($571,951) related to the City's cost of clean-up after the flood in July 2013. Hickory Inc. chose to pay $450,000 towards playing for paving streets. They also chose to pay a contract ($498,400) to Freese and Nichols for Bond referendum related work. Henry River Park Soccer Field lighting ($125,000) had to be paid from the General Fund and will be refunded through donation in 2 years.

The City Manager laid out the effects the Bonds have had and will have upon the City's budget including pre-engineering, scope, and design work and costs. There will have to be bids prior to the bond sale and the projects will have to be fully designed before the bond sale. The City will have to front those costs of design and their associated costs. As the City Manager puts it, We may need to front some of these 'soft costs' for your bond projects. 1-cent of property tax increase would bring in an additional $428,000. A potion of the design can be paid from reserves. The City can borrow some of the money for the upfront costs.

The Council unanimously agreed to have the Public Hearing to adopt the budget at the next meeting.

Matters Not on Agenda (requires majority vote of Council to consider) - Council discussed concerns regarding Hickory Housing Authority. Alderman Lail made the motion that the Public Housing issue discussed earlier be discussed further. Lail says the Council has zoning authority. Atty. Clark made some pointed recommendations about bringing the Housing Authority functions under the City's Budget and possibly revoking their charter. He basically says he is not in favor of doing that. Alderman Meisner says that he doesn't think it will be out of line if the Housing Authority has looked at other sites and certainly to preserve the corridor. Meisner states that they have the authority to put this building right there. Alder Patton addressed that when the Housing Authority made the presentation about dispersing Public Housing last Fall that this didn't seem to be what was presented. This certainly goes against this and does the opposite and goes in reverse of what the council was presented with last Fall. She would like to have some communication with the Housing Authority. Alderman Guess asked about this group (those who spoke on this night) could have communication with the Housing Authority. Guess suggests this and recommends it as the first step.

Alderman Seaver believe that this is a money issue. It will cost more to buy several locations throughout the City as opposed to this location. The Mayor stated that wasn't his understanding of the plan, but he hadn't had contact with the Housing Authority in months. His understanding is that the objective is to disperse  Public Housing much more broadly than it is now. There is no move to make smaller units. The goal is to mix Public Housing with partially subsidized housing and market rate tenants. The Federal government will guarantee rents in an amount sufficient to cover borrowings. He believes the local Housing Authority considers this project to be a disbursement of Public Housing. Alderman Lail believes the goal is to privatize Public Housing. Lail believes that the Council can't exercise authority without laying down the hammer and he's not willing to lay down the hammer like Ms. Clarke suggests. The Mayor added that the Council also doesn't have much authority in dealing with HUD. Alder Patton stated that she would like the Council to have a better understanding of what the Housing Authority thinks they are going with this plant as opposed to what the Council was presented with last Fall. She and Alderman Guess asked for an update. Alder Patton and Mayor Wright seemed to want to know what the $7 million in debt and the new non-profit (Unifour Capital Ventures) is all about. Alderman Lail wants the Council to go into this "Eyes Wide Open" knowing that they don't have regulatory or financial oversight in this matter. They do have zoning authority, but it meets zoning requirements. It was decides by motion of Alder Patton that the Council wants the Housing Authority to provide an update of what they presnted last August.

A Hound thought: This is what happens when you don't respect certain areas of the community. Many of the people of Northern Hickory don't have respect for other parts of the city. You go back to the Referendum on Ward specific voting and they basically said it point blank. I recall at the Green Park debate, and on other occasions, where Hickory Inc.'s representatives said that they never come to this part of town -- Southwest Hickory. Dr. Hammer had some great points and eloquently stated, 'Southwest Hickory has diversity, where is the diversity in Northwest and Northeast Hickory?'

General Comments (per Hickory Inc.)
Mayor Wright recognized Daniel Brodie from Scout Troop 250.
Mr. Berry recognized new Assistant City Manager Rodney Miller.

City Council returned from Closed Session
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)
1. Approval of Closed Session Minutes of May 5, 2015 - NCGS §143-318.11(a)(1)
2. Discussion of Pending Litigation – Willie James Grimes vs City of Hickory et. al. File No. 5:14-CV-160 - NCGS §143-318.11(a)(3)

Council returned to open session and approved an engagement agreement with the law firm of Cranfill, Sumner & Hartzog, specifically with Pat Flanagan to defend Chief Tom Adkins in the Grimes vs. City of Hickory, et. al. complaint subject to a reservation of rights should a determination be made there is available insurance coverage for him.

Council also approved to indemnify, defend, and hold harmless Chief Tom Adkins should there be a judgment against him provided there is no finding of willful misconduct or willful violation of any laws on his part.


Harry Hipps said...

Of course, this has been baked into the cake for a long time. Hickory voted for the bonds, with no growth occurring here, declining property values, and a volatile environment in Raleigh with significant tax changes in play. In addition, we can only pray that there aren't further economic declines and we aren't hit with any surprises with our infrastructure (water, sewer, roads etc)that would require some borrowing for necessities.

In typical fashion, there was little discussion about our overall fiscal situation as the pass the bonds party happened, and lo and behold, taxes are going up. There is not a huge increase in population, tax receipts, economic growth or investments to pick up the tab so guess what - we are going to pay the bill.

People get the government they deserve. So most sheeple need to just suck up and pay. The debate on this is over.

James Thomas Shell said...

There was never a debate. WHKY, the HDR, and the guy from Channel 46 all supported it and never really asked any pointed questions. Of course, we talked about it here, but we're supposedly against everything and hate Hickory.

You're right with that last line Harry. People of Hickory just need to shut up, suck it up, and pay. Why's the paper writing articles like this now? They can pay their additional property taxes with those advertising dollars they received from the Bust Hickory group last Fall.

You had your chance to speak up and you either joined the party or didn't care. I certainly don't think it's time to start whining now -- after the fact.