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Friday, August 7, 2015

Newsletter about the City Council meeting of August 4, 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.

***Final Release***
Agenda about the City Council meeting of August 4, 2015

Hound Notes: I would have had this done sooner and possibly in more detail, but my youngest cat fell ill and passed this week. She was like a child to me and her passing has taken the wind out of my sails to a great degree.

I have made summaries of the information provided by the presenters below. I would like you to watch the video below and get a feel for the proceedings yourself, especially the Persons Requesting to be Heard information.

It seems that the Hickory Housing Authority (HHA) has been given too much autonomy in this community for what is supposed to be a non-profit body. The info provided last year by one of its members, Dr. Sidney Miles, about the new direction the HHA would like to take, certainly does not seem to match up with what is currently being proposed -- a 2 to 3 story complex on 4th Street Southwest. The Council (and especially the Mayor) acquiescing to this body is another abrogation of authority that we have seen throughout the years. No one knows who is in charge of or at the Hickory Housing Authority. They are flying by the seat of their pants and taking actions that certainly don't look right and haven't been passing the smell test with a whole lot of people. People's livelihoods hang in the balance.

The Airport presentation certainly does look like an improvement over what we saw a few years ago, but several details were left out and others were glossed over. The City could have taken over the airport fully back in 2008, but they chose to allow Profile Aviation to sell assets to River Hawk Aviation and run the Fixed Based Operation (FBO) for about 3 more years. Funny, Riverhawk is not mentioned in this presentation. To listen to this, it's almost as if they never existed. River Hawk had some very questionable activities, before they went into bankruptcy and a Federal Bankruptcy Judge forced the City of Hickory to take over the interests of the airport. Profile Aviation previously had some very questionable activities also, just ask Bev Perdue.

City of Hickory takes over operations at Airport - River Hawk Aviation OUT - 12/9/2011
Will Hickory Airport Operators be forced to liquidate -- and why is no one talking about this?!?!? - 9/16/2011
Do people even know? Hickory Airport Operators (River Hawk Aviation) in Bankruptcy - 6/18/2011
Mind Blowing - The City's Mismanagement of the Hickory Regional Airport - 9/30/2009


Persons Requesting to Be Heard

A. Christine Winn – Proposed Building of a Complex by the Hickory Public Authority on 4th Street SW._ Believes that this is an issue of location. The proposed location is incompatible with the existing business district and will have a negative effect upon properties in the area. This project has the ability to revitalize an area and create growth, but need to border an existing residential location. The HHA has not been up front (lack of trust). The 4th street business group brought alternative sites and were told that if they did so that they would drop the option on the 4th street site. They did so and the HHA has taken an option on one of those properties and looking at others, but they have not dropped the option on 4th street. The 4th street group was told last week by the HHA that for safety reasons that they are dropping the number of proposed units on 4th street to 28 units from the proposed 60 units. They are now being told that is false. She asked several questions relating to HHAs reasoning related to choosing this property and disqualifying others. She finished by saying a reduction from 60 to 28 units is acceptable, but added further that these units should be restricted to people 55 years old and older for safety reasons.

B. Dr. Delores Hammer – Proposed Building of a Complex by the Hickory Public Authority on 4th Street SW. - Dr. Hammer talks about meeting with Alanda Jackson, Director of the HHA and other representatives. Alanda offered to remove 4th Street if a suitable 4th property were found to build. The 4th Street group delivered her 12+ properties over the next several weeks. She went over the HHA actions and talked about a property near Commscope's headquarters, in which the HHA has taken out an option, but has not removed the 4th street option. She asked about the ethics, honest, and trust. She went on to talk about their dealings with the HHA and dealing with Dr. Sidney Miles and the dealings with Alanda Jackson and a lack of trust.

C. Kim Clarke – Proposed Building of a Complex by the Hickory Public Authority on 4th Street SW. Attorney Clarke reiterated that back on May 19th, that she asked the Mayor to appoint 4 new Commissioners to the HHA as permitted by law. She stated that the Mayor has made 22 appointments to the Commission and only 2 have been women have been appointed. Those 2 women are tenant representatives and do not have full voting privileges. She believes that women do not have adequate representation on the HHA commision. She wants the Mayor to appoint one caucasian woman and one african-american woman in addition to the 4 appointments she has asked him to make.  She stated that she would like to serve on the commission and went over her qualifications to serve. She later went over some of the negative issues, such as per diems and trips, that surround the HHA.

D. Crystal Rogers – Proposed Building of a Complex by the Hickory Public Authority on 4th Street SW. - She is with Elite Properties and has restored many properties along 4th street. She says that this property will not fit the area. She talked about businesses relocating. Commercial properties will become vacant. This will not benefit the proposed residents or existing businesses.

F. Denise Poe – Corridor Reserved for Future Thoroughfare Located on Buckskin Drive, in Gunpowder Point. - She wants the one time proposed corridor for a thoroughfare from Hickory (29th Ave/Huffman Cove Road) into Gun Powder Point in Caldwell Countyto be removed from the Gunpowder Point property owners deeds so that she can sell the property she owns there. She went over her personal issues that have necessitated the sale of this property. She has a proposed contract for the property she owns. , but it cannot be sold, because of the existing right of way that was established in 1986 related to the thoroughfare. Her family was told that the thoroughfare will not be built. The people that she has tried to contract with cannot get a construction loan, because of this issue.

There was a back and forth discussion between the Mayor, Alderman Lail, and Alderman Meisner. Alderman Lail says the project has long ago been shelved and wants the issue dealt with and the restrictions removed. Alderman Meisner said that he is not aware that the proposed thoroughfare has been shelved and will not happened and the right of way option needs to be kept open. Mayor Wright stated that he wanted to make sure they know the facts before they start saying things, bcause this is a sensitive matter for Ms. Poe and the Gunpowder Point  property owners. Nothing could be changed on this night. Alderman Lail made a motion to do away with the restrictions, because these property owners have not been compensated. Alderman Meisner stated that they need further information. Aldermen Lail and Meisner serve on the MPO (Metropolitan Planning Organization) and Alderman Meisner doesn't known what the traffic pattern will be in 40 years and there is no alternative to this proposed site from Hickory into lower Caldwell County -- This connects I-40 to Hwy 321. It was decided by everyone that more information was needed, because this is a multi-jurisdictional issue and decision. Attorney Crone made a proposal to look further into the matter. Mayor Wright proposed a workshop. It was agreed upon by a unanimous decision that they would have a workshop.

G. Steve Ivester - related to matters at the Airport and speaks about a proposed fly in there. - Steve spoke graciously about the airport talking about the City controlling all the buildings at the airport and the new paving taking place on the north ramp. He spoke about a fly-in that was taking place in Tullahoma, Tennessee on October 10, 2015 and proposed that Hickory have such an event. He thinks that Hickory would be a great place to hold one of these events. It would be a great opportunity for regional cooperation in the Hickory Metro.

H. Frank Simmons lives in Windshere Ridge and spoke of a racetrack that has been built out of an Apple Orchard. This has been called into the police and there have been warnings issued. This violates the noise ordinance and disturbs the peace.

The Mayor spoke about the issues related to the HHA. He stated that the HHA will be coming before the Council to make a presentation, but it has not happened year, because they don't know what questions to ask... As in previous meetings, he stated that the mission of HUD and public housing on the national level has changed. He spoke about HUD wanting to provide guaranteed rent payment and vouchers issued to tenants qualified for public housing. The idea is to disperse public housing instead of being concentrated. He doesn't like the (lack of transparency) group not having to follow the same public records laws as the Hickory City Council. He spoke about appointing members to the HHA board and the scope of their authority and guidrlines related to the board of the HHA.

Consent Agenda
Unanimous Consent of Council

Public Hearings

1. Consideration of Voluntary Contiguous Annexation of 2.001 Acres Located at 2191 13th Avenue Drive SE. - Planning Director Brian Frazier presentations - Property is across from the Bob Evans near Walmart at McDonald Parkway and I-40. Council gave Unanimous Consent.
2. Consideration of Designating the Whisnant Hosiery Mills Complex as a Local Historic Landmark.
 - Community Development Director Dave Leonetti Presentation - This is the Moretz Mill project. The Building was constructed in 1929 with expansions in 1937 and 1966. It was operated as a Hosiery Mill and a Warehouse before being used as a warehouse nefore its recent revitalization. It was the second largest producing mill in Hickory. He showed photos of the building and talked about the old and current purposes of the building. This designation defers  property taxes by 50% as long as the property maintains its Historic integrity. Any changes to the building would have to be approved by the Historic Preservation Commission.

Hound Note: So in perpetuity the owner of this building will be paying half the taxes they would have otherwise.

Departmental Reports

1. Airport Presentation - Settlement Agreement and Release of Claims. 
 -  City Attorney John Crone began the presentation. AGI, the owner of some of the hangars at the airport had brought a lawsuit against the city of Hickory.  Mediation held July 13, 2015 in Charlotte.

AGI, claimed that the City was unjustly benefiting, because AGI still had leasehold interest in the hangars and still owned the bank notes on the properties in which the previous airport tenants had taken out loans to construct these hangars.

The parties representing the City were John Crone, Sam Gorham, Airport Attorney Frank Newton, Andrea Surratt, and Mick Berry. They were able to procure the questioned assets at the airport well within the limits as authorized by Council in closed session. The City wanted to include the Moose Hangar lease in negatiations, because it has been vacant for quite some time. Another company, CRA, owned the lease of that hangar, but also held some interests with the AGI properties and so they were willing to settle. The City of Hickory filed an eviction action against CRA in Burke County, where the hangar is located, in an effort to evict them from the lease based on the neglect of the property.

Frank Newton, Airport Attorney, discussed the settlement. The airport was built in 1942. It served as a training base during World War II. The City took it over at the end of the war in a deed from the Federal Government. The City has operated it ever since. As of December 12, 2011, the City took control of the assets necessary to operate the airport for the benefit of the citizens of Hickory in the way that there was potential to do before, but not the ability. The reason for that was that successive members of the government and Staff of the City of Hickory had delegated the operation of the commercial services on the airport to private entities. In the course of time, the last of those private entities, Profile Aviation was not able to operate on a profitable bases and went into bankruptcy. It was through that bankruptcy proceeding that the City became the owner of all of the properties of the airport.

During the 1990's Profile Aviation had constructed four hangars at the airport that were modern hangars built to today’s standards. Profile borrowed $2,600,000 from Royal Bank of Canada to finance those facilities. Pursuant to its leases they were allowed to mortgage its leasehold interest to the bank to secure the repayment of those loans. Before Profile went into bankruptcy it had already defaulted on those loans to the bank, and the bank had sold the notes as well as the security interest to AGI who was the Plaintiff in this lawsuit.

The 4 hangars in question are leased (one) to Commscope for $72,000 per year, (two) leased to North Carolina Forestry Service for $77,000 per year and has an escalating rental on it, (three) is used as a maintenance hangar and as an aircraft storage hangar and it is generating presently about $50,000 per year, (four) is leased to the helicopter wing, the air ambulance wing of the Carolina’s Medical Center in Hickory, as well as to other aircraft storage and has a potential of generating over $76,000 per year. The  potential income from those hangars in today’s dollars of $275,000 per year.

Council authorized Counsel to go into the mediation with authority to settle the matter. The matter was settled for $900,000, which was $100,000 less than the authority that was given to Counsel, plus they saved the risk of losing more had they gone to trial, plus the cost of litigation which would have been substantial. He said that this was a homerun for the City of Hickory. Mr. Newton referenced Mr. Ivester’s previous conversation of the possibility of the City’s Airport being the focal point of a community event called a fly-in. For that to happen and to have 300-500 airplanes visit here, they would all have to purchase fuel at the airport. The City of Hickory sells them that fuel. For every gallon of fuel sold at the airport there will be money generated to help pay for the airport.

Because this airport has over the years, and most recently received Federal funds from the FAA to pay for improvements on the airport, there are strings attached to those dollars. The City is not permit ted to take any revenue off of the airport. All the revenue generated off the airport must be usedto pay for the cost of the airport, or be kept on the airport in a separate fund. The airport fund would accumulate capital surplus there for the benefit of the airport and aviation uses. The City is permitted to use taxpayer money into the airport. That has been the practice over many, many years. They think that the potential of taking the airport and these facilities over and operating them on a business like basis spells the end for that. They feel that this is an opportunity for the airport to be financially self-sustaining.

Mr. Newton discussed the $900,000 that would have to be paid for the settlement. That money should come from the airport. However, the airport has not accumulated that $900,000 in surplus. He proposed that the General Fund make a loan to the Airport Fund of $900,000. The City should charge the Airport Fund with the cost of the settlement in the amount of $900,000. The City should cause the Airport Fund to generate a note, payable to the General Fund in the amount of $900,000, payableover 30 years at an interest rate which is financially feasible. Eventually the General Fund would recover the money back, plus interest, and it would be coming back from the airport. He advised that is the only way that the City could take airport revenues into the General Fund, by first loaning the money to the airport. This makes the City financially whole on the basis of the airport, and it puts the airport on a financially sustaining basis.

Atty. Newton mentioned  the possibility in the case of a downturn of the economy that theremight be years in which the airport doesn’t generate a $51,000 surplus. In that event any deficiency, and this should be written into the note, should be capitalized, rolled into the amount of the note, and then continued to be recovered over time. If it is done that way there is no chance that the City won’t get its money back and there is no chance that if the FAA were to audit the City’s stewardship of the airport revenues that the City wouldn’t be able to document the soundness of what is being done.

Alderman Lail commented that it closes a door on a chapter of the airport and a new door is opening. That is the financial viability and movement of the airport forward. Mayor Wright stated that it is a good chance to discuss closed session matters and open matters. He stated that when Council went into closed session last week that he said that there would probablybe some action taken at the end of the meeting. Staff could not negotiate with them if Council was telling everyone what their position was in open session. Council discusses with Attorney’s in closed session about what the City’s position is and what they are willing to do. Once the decision is made and they are ready to announce it, they want to announce it that moment and not a minute later. They came back in to open session to accept the Resolution and that became a public record at that very moment. This presentation was not necessary, except to make sure that citizens don’t think that Council did something by cover of darkness and tried not to talk about it.

2. Information Presentation – Proposed Changes to Chapter 4 (Animal and Fowl) Ordinance.
 - Chief of Police Tom Adkins presentation. The Police Department, Legal Department, Parks and Recreation, the Brand Manager, and Public Information Office are all working together to try to come up with a proposed Ordinance that would allow restrictions of animals at special events on City property. A lot of events are held on Union Square. He showed a PowerPoint presentation giving some examples of special event applications that had been filed. Council approves the use of City property for these events. Other areas might be the SALT Block, or the steps at City Hall. This Ordinance would not apply to any events that are sponsored by the City themselves and held on City property. Chief Adkins discussed why the City needs the restriction which was for public safety. The City does not want to have an animal situation on Union Square where a person gets bitten by an animal. We do not want another animal biting another animal at the event. The City has a leash law, so the folks that have these animal’s downtown, i.e. dogs, cats, snakes, etc., leashes can be trip hazards for folks attending events. If an animal would bite another animal and or a person they would have to be quarantined for 10 days, which would have to be run through the Animal Shelter themselves. The animal would have to be quarantined to make sure that they have the proper rabies vaccinations, and that they are not exhibiting any type of behavior that would be associated with having rabies. He also talked about animal waste where dogs mark their territory, and have marked their territory on vendor’s products and displays and discussed outside dining. The restriction of outside dining had loosened up a lot over the years. You see more and more animals in the outside dining areas.

Event sponsors have requested the restrictions. The Farmer’s Market has done the restriction on their own. Waste being put on the product themselves has caused them to restrict citizens inside that footprint area. Chief Adkins showed the definition of an animal on his PowerPoint presentation. Service animals as defined by the Americans with Disability Act (ADA) would be exempt from this Ordinance. Animals that are part of the event, parade or exhibit. If there is a parade through the downtown footprint of an event those would be exempt. If the event themselves had a petting zoo that would be exempt from this Ordinance. Animals controlled by Public Safety would also be exempt. Animals for hire, there is business downtown that has carriage rides that would be exempt from this footprint. The event themselves could apply for a waiver from of this Ordinance, which would obviously be approved by Council. If that was the case then the event sponsor would be asked to have the appropriate amount of liability insurance coverage if an event would happen to a patron or an animal.

Chief Adkins addressed enforcement of the Ordinance if adopted. Education of the public, advertisement at the event through flyers, and word of mouth. Officers would ask people to remove their animal from the footprint of the area. As a last resort they could cite a person for refusing to take an animal from the footprint area. That could be a civil or a criminal citation. Similar
ordinances have been enacted in Apex, Morganton, and Asheville.

3. 3. Update from Bond Implementation Commission on Bond Projects -
Assistant City Manager Andrea Surratt updated City Council on the Bond Implementation Commission’s bond projects. this is about the $25 million infrastructure improvement bond measure to improve the economic development opportunity of Hickory. Identified were the areas that need to be upgraded which included the city walk, riverwalk, five gateways and seven streetscapes. They have begun to gather data to develop the plan for the riverwalk. They selected the riverwalk because they heard the most information about the significance of that project. They did not have the cost estimates and the conceptual plans ready, so it became the first one “out of the gate”. They want to make sure they focus on how that area looks as a gateway into Hickory, Catawba County, from Caldwell County along the bridge. Making that area a destination regionally, and also a gateway and a real iconic point of interest for our community. She showed the conceptual plan. She pointed out the existing bike trail and greenway connection and the footprint of the Lackey Project. She showed sketches of how the riverwalk might look.

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