Monday, April 27, 2009

Water Rates

The Raleigh City Council approved an increase of $500 on the fees charged for the water and sewer utility hook-up for new buildings. Our current capacity fees are about $1700, but the rate in Raleigh is still well below what other municipalities in Wake County charge new developments. The average is about $3500, however some cities run upwards of $8000. This increase for Raleigh will still not cover the total cost for building new water and sewer capacity, but we are striving to assure that growth pays for itself.

The residenitial water rates will increase by 8.5% starting May 1 and continuing until December 1 when the tiered water rates take effect. Currently the rate per gallon is $2.63 per 1,000 gallons. After the rate increase goes into effect, water will cost $2.85 per 1,000 gallons.
This translates to just under 3/100 of 1 cent per gallon of water.

The average Raleigh household uses between 5-6,000 gallons a month. In the summer our municipal collective water consumption jumps from an average of 40 million gallons per day to 70 million gallons per day. Most of this is due to irrigation systems using potable water for lawns. There are a variety of options for collecting and reusing rain water, such as
FreeFlow Water Recycling Systems which helped my company set up an excellent underground cistern system.

The tiered water rate system is specifically structured to reward customers who are actively conserving.

Tier 1 - Less than 3,000 gallons a month - $2.80 per 1,000 gallons
Tier 2 - 3,000 to 7,500 gallons a month - $4.15 per 1,000 gallons
Tier 3 - More than 7,500 gallons a month - $5.50 per 1,000 gallons

Why Less is More by Matthew Eisley, N&O 4/22/09 A great summary of background information on the complexities of raising rates.

The recent drought was a huge wake-up call for us that our water/sewer system must be prepared to handle seasonal and annual fluctuations. We need to move towards a system which values conservation and budgets our water in a responsible and appropriate way. I want to say a huge thank you to the entire Raleigh community for the collective conservation efforts. The positive response reflects a continued movement towards recognizing that water is a collective, finite resource that must be protected and budgeted responsibly.

Where does our water come from?
#1 Neuse River Basin
Cape Fear River Basin

Where does it go?
According to a recent report from the Raleigh Water Conservation Advisory Council:
24% is commercial use
11% is institutional use
3% is industrial use
62% is residential use

Within that Residential Use the breakdown looks something like this:
20% irrigation
18% clothes washers (average wash cycle uses approximately 40-45 gallons)
16% showers
14% toilets
check out the Toilet Replacement Rebate Program
19% faucets
7% leaks
6% other

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Outcomes of 4/21/09 Meeting

Recognition of Special Awards
  1. As part of National Drinking Water Week, May 4-8th, the City will host its annual WaterFest at the Neuse River Wastewater Treatment Plant. Thousands of Wake County students will participate in educational programs at the plant throughout the week to encourage awareness and understanding about water as a precious resource.
  2. The City of Raleigh joins many other municipalities in the USA and abroad in declaring May Breast Cancer Early Detection Month. It is important to note that breast cancer affects 1 in 8 women, and the outcome strongly affected by the stage at which it is detected.
  3. May 10-16 is declared Raleigh Fashion Week. The main event of the week is Strut09 which will highlight the work of national fashion designers, many with roots and local connections right in the Triangle, and featuring the latest offerings of area boutiques and stores. The event will be held at the Raleigh Convention Center and the 3-day show will include many emerging local artists and designers.
  4. A total of six Parks & Recreation employees have completed a 6-month diploma program in Energy Management at NCSU. The cost of their training was covered by a grant from the state. The Mayor proclaimed that strengthening our City employees is the nuts & bolts of assuring that Raleigh becomes a truly pioneering green city.
  5. The Council and those attendance held a moment of silence to honor the late Senator Vernon Malone. He was an outstanding public servant for over 35 years, with his roots in the Wake County School Board and County Commissioners. His presence will be missed by the entire NC community.

Z-8-09 - Request to rezone a 9.5 acre section of Blue Ridge Road from Office & Institution 6/ Residential-6 to Office & Institution 2. The recommendation from the Planning Commission was to approve this rezoning because it is consistent with the current CompPlan. However the concern was raised about the possibility for increased traffic at Crabtree Valley. We heard from traffic engineer Krista Green that the "worst-case scenario" for the Leadmine Rd. intersection was an additional 6 seconds of delay during peak morning hours, and 12 seconds of delay during peak afternoon. Councillor McFarlane noted that the City recently commissioned a new traffic study for Crabtree Valley since it has become an incredibly crowded intersection, and that this rezoning can not be considered realistically considered without that study. The zoning case is referred to the Comprehensive Planning Committee, which Councillor McFarlane is the chair of.

The City Council authorized the Moore Square Design Public Process Concept, and its Phase I, II, III activities. Phase I & II (May-September 2009) consists of an Open Call to the public for ideas, and Phase III (January 2010) will be a juried Design Competition for professional designers to submit plans. Councillor Stephenson expressed desire for the competition to be publicized and strongly encouraged amongst local Raleigh and NC designers. This project will be a joint effort of Parks & Rec Department, Downtown Raleigh Alliance, the City and the State.
More information.

The Arts Commission presented their 2009-2010 Arts Grants Allocations and recommendation for the Public Art & Design Board to manage the new "Percent for Arts Ordinance". This is the most competitive year the Commission has experienced, marked by the highest ever dollar request in their 22 year history. Requests for funding in the respective areas of projects, operations and management was over $1.6 million and actual grants awarded at about $1.4 million. They have also helped to assemble an excellent and diverse team of art advocates to organize the inclusion of public art into the Raleigh community. Thomas Sayre will be the Chair. For final review this item has been referred as a special item in the Budget Work Session on Monday April 27th at 4pm.

The Substance Abuse Advisory Committee notified that through their conversations with DEA and Police officials that prescription drug abuse has increased dramatically in our community. Prescription drug abuse has becoming an increasing problem amongst young teenagers and the easiest source for them is often their own home. So on Saturday May 30th from 10am-4pm the SAAC will host Prescription Drug Drop-off events at various Food Lions around the City. People are encouraged to bring expired or unfinished prescriptions to be disposed of properly by the Police Department. Councillor McFarlane also offered the services of her company MedPro Rx, Inc. to help with the proper disposal of medications. To take care of disposal in your home please do not flush down the toilet because this affects our water supply, but rather crush up the pills and mix with something like coffee grounds or kitty litter.

The issue of water & sewer rates is moved to the Budget Work Session on Monday April 27th at 4pm.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Community Read Day at Brooks Elementary

Yesterday I had fun reading The Truth about the 3 Little Pigs by Jon Scieszka to one of the fifth grade classes at Brooks Elementary for Community Read Day. It was great to visit Brooks since this was the first Wake County School that my child attended when we moved here in 1984. After I read the book some of the students asked questions about my job on City Council. There were also policemen, firefighters and a number of other community leaders who also participated in Community Read Day.

Monday, April 20, 2009

City Council Agenda 4/21/2009

Full text of the Agenda available here.


1. Invocation - Pastor Tyler Jones, Vintage 21 Church

2. Pledge of Allegiance



All items on the consent agenda are considered to be routine and may be enacted by one motion. If a Councilor requests discussion on an item, the item will be removed from the consent agenda and considered separately. The vote on the consent agenda will be a roll call vote.



1. Water and Sewer Rates

The proposal to increase water and sewer rates by 17% has been discussed on several occasions. Various information has been supplied and it was directed that the item be placed on this agenda for further consideration.

Read full text of the report from Dale Crisp, Raleigh Public Utilities Director.


1. Moore Square Design and Public Process Concept, Phases I, II and III


Brian Starkey, Chair of the Arts Commission, will present the 2009-2010 Arts Grants Allocations recommendations and his recommended Public Art and Design Board appointments.


1. Isabella Cannon Park Master Plan - Isabella Cannon Park is a 3.5-acre Neighborhood Park located in the University Park neighborhood at the corner of Gardner Street and Kilgore Avenue. The park has been a part of Raleigh’s park system since the 1930’s. Funds for the renovation and master plan of the park were included as part of the 2003 Park Bond.


Representatives of the Substance Abuse Advisory Commission will present a report on the prescription drug drop off event.


The Water Conservation Advisory Council will present their recommendations for the City’s current and future water conservation strategies.


1. Loree Idol, Enloe High School, would like to present a student editorial and request that the Council consider funding for one school resource officer per every 1,000 students at all Raleigh City high schools.



4. Water and Sewer Capacity Fees

It is recommended that this item be referred to the special Public Utilities Work Session and Budget Work Session scheduled for Monday April 27 at 4pm.


1. Text Change - Prohibit Industrial Facilities in Residential Areas

The Committee recommends the City Council direct Administration to prepare a text change to create a new special use permit designation for compost facilities and authorize a public hearing for that text change upon completion of the ordinance.

1. Temporary Street Closings - Notification

The Committee recommends this item be reported out of Committee with the Council

directing Administration to monitor and address complaints by citizens regarding traffic

issues and street closing notifications for special events.


1. No report.






Thursday, April 16, 2009

Identity Theft Prevention Event

Attorney General Roy Cooper and local sponsors are donating their time and resources to sponsor a free shred-a-thon and free educational seminars on scams in your community. Identity theft prevention tips will be available at all events. Shred-a-thons are a perfect way to destroy old tax records, checks, employment records or credit applications. You do NOT need to remove staples and paper clips from the documents. It usually takes about 10 minutes to watch the documents shred.

Saturday, April 18 th from 10am to 2pm.
Tabernacle Baptist Church
8304 Leesville Rd., Raleigh

Local Sponsors: Attorney General Roy Cooper, Tabernacle Baptist Church, Shred It

For more information please review the NC DOJ Scam Prevention website.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Capitol Broadcasting announces digital WRAL broadcasting on Raleigh's CAT buses

Mobile digital television broadcasting joined forces with public transit, on Monday, April 13, as the City of Raleigh and WRAL, the CBC New Media Group, launched the first public deployment of mobile digital TV in a Capital Area Transit (CAT) bus. Capitol Broadcasting Chief Executive and President Jim Goodmon and Mayor Charles Meeker unveiled an pioneering program that allows CAT bus users to watch live WRAL broadcasting while on the bus. The announcement was made in front of the Raleigh Convention Center on Salisbury Street, the very spot from which the City initiated the Downtown Circulator just two months ago. About 30 people gathered outside the convention center to learn about the new program and take a ride on the bus. CAT bus passengers will be able to view WRAL’s local and syndicated programming throughout the day, as well as city-oriented news, real-time schedules, route-specific updates and other information on digital screens strategically placed inside buses. The monitors include a simulcast of WRAL's programming, as well as a Doppler radar image showing the region's weather, a seven-day weather forecast and space for advertising and city and CAT news, Goodmon said.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Possible Stimulus Funds for Utility & Stormwater Improvements

The Raleigh City Council voted unanimously to apply for funds from the federal economic stimulus package to pay for improvements to the City’s wastewater, drinking water and stormwater systems. The resolution approved by council members authorizes City Manager J. Russell Allen to seek grants and loans from the economic stimulus package. Stimulus funding is being made available through the North Carolina State Revolving Fund. Projects selected by the State for stimulus funding will be eligible for up to $3 million in no-interest loans or grants. The City of Raleigh also must provide funds for the selected projects.

The City is seeking stimulus funding for 11 wastewater, drinking water and stormwater improvement projects. The projects total approximately $40 million. For complete list please click here.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Berkshire Downs

The Annexation of the Berkshire Downs neighborhood was officially adopted at the January 6, 2009 City Council meeting with a vote of 7-1 with me as the only opposition vote. Then on March 2, about a dozen neighbors petitioned the City to ask for a reconsideration of the annexation decision. Mayor Meeker suggested a community meeting be held on March 31 to clarify the details of the annexation process and answer neighbor concerns. I attended this meeting along with Mayor Meeker and the strong neighborhood turnout was indicative of the concern people feel over this issue. Since then many neighbors have continued to request that I bring to City Council a reconsideration of the Berkshire Downs annexation. However since I cast the original opposition vote, this prevents me from officially reintroducing the issue.

At the 4/7/09 City Council meeting Rodger Koopman, who is the councillor for this district, asked the Council to revisit the Berkshire Downs annexation. Discussion at the table noted the overwhelming response from citizens against the annexation, particularly in regards to taxes and assessment fees. While the neighborhood will be officially annexed in June 2009, the Mayor noted that most of the assessment fees will not come for 2+ years. The question was also raised whether this is primarily an issue of timing since the repeal of annexation now would complicate any future need or desire by Berkshire Downs for annexation.

The Mayor called a vote and the repeal of the Berkshire Downs Annexation was defeated 4-4 with Councillors McFarlane, Koopman, Isley and Stephenson voting For the repeal of annexation and Councillors West, Baldwin, Crowder and Mayor Meeker voting Against the repeal. The annexation moves forward as planned.

Outcomes of 4/7/09 Meeting

C. Recognition of Special Awards

- Raleigh received the "Tree City USA Award" for the 21st time.
- The Mayor proclaimed April 2009 is Donate Life Month
- The Mayor proclaimed April 2009 is Fair Housing Month. The City of Raleigh Fair Housing Hearing Board, in partnership with Legal Aid NC, is sponsoring the 7th annual Fair Housing Conference on Friday April 17th at the Convention Center. US Representative Brad Miller will serve as the keynote speaker.
- The Mayor proclaimed April 2009 is Poetry Month in Raleigh.
- April 12-18, 2009 is National Public Safety Telecommunications Week. The Mayor presented an award to Kevin Anderson for being the “Employee of the Year” in the Raleigh-Wake ECC 911 Emergency Communications Center. Also recognized by Mayor Meeker was “Rookie of the Year” Heather Fletcher who joined the ECC last year as a call taker. Mr. Anderson and Ms. Fletcher were nominated for the awards by fellow employees for their dedication to and knowledge of emergency communications. The City of Raleigh Emergency Communications Center is hiring.
- Carter Worthy presented a distinguished list of Raleigh residents who will be inducted into the Raleigh Hall of Fame. Many of the honoraries were present and recognized at the meeting. Thank you for the wonderful and diverse contributions to the Raleigh community.
- April 7, 2009 is Service Raleigh Day. Service Raleigh is an annual citywide day of service started in 1998 by NC State's Student Government and Park Scholars. Each year, volunteers from the university and surrounding community unite to undertake a variety of projects, each of which provides much needed assistance to local organizations. Over 6000 hours were contributed across the city on 3/28/2009. Councilor Crowder spoke at kick-off event and Councilor McFarlane visited the Brooks Nature Trail project which was one of the 200+ projects. Special thanks to Alan Wiggs of the Falls of Neuse CAC for coordinating this trail improvement project.

Water & Sewer Rates
The decision over whether to raise the rates was postponed until the next Council meeting on 4/21/09. This is a very complicated issue and the Council wants to make sure that they have all the available information before making any kind of decision. A major point of contention is how not raising the rates will affect the City's Bond Rating and therefore the rate at which we borrow money. Currently Raleigh enjoys the highest Bond Rating AAA, which Mayor Meeker noted has been a consistent priority of Council policy to maintain. Staff is generating numbers to suggest what a drop in the Bond Rating would mean for the City of Raleigh. Many of our current investments in the water/sewer system were issued from bonds and funding must be sustained. When considering adjusting the rates, we also want to make sure that we establish some rebate programs, such as low-flush toilet reimbursements, to reward citizens who actively conserve water. The 17% increase works out for the "average consumer" to about $5.00 per month. Separately from this decision, a new tiered water rate system is scheduled to take effect in November 2009.

Bill Holman from the Nicholas Institute of Environmental Policy Solutions at Duke University presented the candid report "NC Water Allocation Policy Study" to the Council. He was clear that many municipalities are facing similar struggles as Raleigh because "the era of cheap and abundant water is ending in the South." We were reminded that water is a shared resource amongst businesses, municipalities and citizens, and that Raleigh's main source the Upper Neuse River Basin is already over-allocated. Demand continues to increase along with population, growth and electricity use; note that NC is expected to have about 12 million people in 2030. He reiterated that not all of our water problems are caused by conservation inside the home - the recession, recent rain and outdated irrigation systems also contribute. This highlights just how important it is that our water delivery system be able to withstand fluctuations in the normal cycles of weather. So as we move forward with the issue of water, we have to find a balance between conservation and the timing of our adjustments along with planning for the long-term health of our utility delivery services.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Standing up for public water rights

Nancy is President of NC Water Rights, a grassroots coalition of citizens and buisness people who believe the residents of North Carolina, are the best stewards for our water rather than private firms who use it primarily for their financial benefit. This mission has driven NC Water Rights to join the fight to deny the relicensing of the permit to operate a private hydroelectric dam on the Yadkin River.

Will Alcoa Honor its Contract? Op-Ed by Nancy McFarlane

Alcoa’s public relations specialists have repeatedly stated that the State of North Carolina is attempting to take Alcoa’s private property during the current relicensing process for the Yadkin Hydroelectric Project. But there is no “taking of private property” without just compensation as Alcoa implies. Alcoa has always understood that its license for the Yadkin Project was for a limited number of years. In return for receiving from the federal government—for free—the exclusive license to generate hydropower from the Yadkin River for 50 years, Alcoa agreed to transfer the Project Property at the end of its license if the federal government decided, that in the public’s best interest, someone else should be given the right to generate power from the Yadkin River. If the federal government decides to reclaim the Yadkin Project, Alcoa will be compensated for its property exactly as Alcoa understood and agreed when it originally accepted the Yadkin license in 1958. Now, Alcoa would like the public to believe that it had a different deal.

The hydropower potential of the Yadkin River is owned by the public, not Alcoa. For the past 50 years, APGI (Alcoa Power Generating, Inc.) and its predecessors enjoyed the exclusive right to use the water of the Yadkin River to generate electricity under the terms of a license issued by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). That 50-year right to use the publicly-owned power potential of the river to generate electricity has now expired, and Alcoa is continuing to generate electricity under year-to-year “annual licenses” from FERC that allow the project to continue operating while FERC decides whether or not to give Alcoa—for free—another 30- to 50-year license.

In return for the privilege of damming up the Yadkin River and using the public’s resource to generate electricity worth millions, if not billions, of dollars, while inconveniencing its neighbors above and below the dam, Alcoa had to acknowledge that the people own the water and that the Federal Power Act gave the government the right to reclaim the Project at relicensing. The law provides that whatever entity is granted, the federal right to generate hydropower from the Yadkin River has a legal right to Project Property. As a FERC licensee, Alcoa specifically agreed—and is required by federal law—to transfer any Project Property it owns at a price set by federal statute, not by the market, if the federal government decides that someone else should operate that Project after the expiration of Alcoa’s existing license.

Relicensing is supposed to, by law, make sure that the river resources are still being used for the benefit of the public. The guiding assumption behind the Federal Power Act was that the major rivers of the United States belong to the people of the Unites States and no one should be allowed to use those waters solely for their own profits. The river and the benefits of the electricity it generates belong to all of us, as provided by long-standing law.

No license holder of a hydro project has a right to a new license at relicensing. Alcoa, however, would like to have the public believe that because they have already enjoyed the Yadkin license for 50 years, it would be wrong for the federal government to exercise its right to reclaim the Project as provided by law and agreed to by Alcoa. Instead, Alcoa apparently believes that the federal government should just hand over the equivalent of a government subsidy that may be worth billions of dollars, even though the public receives almost nothing in return. Alcoa’s arguments about protecting a “privately-owned business” are really about making sure Alcoa—a privately-owned business—gets a great big government handout.

Federal takeover has to be done at the end of a license. For the Yadkin Project, that means now. The law and Alcoa’s license are very specific about the price to be paid and the process of returning the water to its rightful owner: the public.

Alcoa, in its agreement with the government, acknowledged it had a license to use
Project Property to generate power from the public’s resource for 50 years, at which time the licensed expired. (Project Property boils down to the land under the water and all the other assets necessary to use the river to produce electrical power.) Alcoa, in the agreement, acknowledged that the government could refuse to renew that license. Congress believed that a 50-year license provided sufficient time for an investor to amortize or recover its cost of the project and to receive a fair financial reward for building the dams. A 50-year license provided a specific deadline at which the license would expire and the public would have an opportunity to regain control of their water resources for their own prosperity. It is our right; it is our law. It is corporate spin from Alcoa in arguing that its property is unlawfully being taken. The facts don’t agree.

Statement from the Governor on the Filing of the State's Motion to Intervene in Alcoa's Yadkin River Hydroelectric Dam Relicensing - Released April 1, 2009
“The waters of the Yadkin River belong to the people of North Carolina. Fifty years ago, we endorsed Alcoa’s request for a federal license to operate hydroelectric dams on the river because they powered the company’s aluminum smelting works. That facility was a linchpin in the regional economy and created jobs for up to 1,000 North Carolina workers.” said Gov. Perdue. “Today the smelter and the jobs are gone – and so is the reason for the license. I’m asking FERC to enable the recapture of the license so it can be used once again to help create jobs and economic opportunity for the region.”

Forging a new Yadkin basin
By Jack Betts - The Charlotte Observer
Published: Tue, Mar. 31, 2009

RALEIGH -- The Battle of the Yadkin River is generating almost as much controversy as its waters have generated electrical power. Before it's settled, this scrap may involve Gov. Beverly Perdue in a process that could lead to a new owner of four hydroelectric facilities that once helped produce a steady supply of aluminum.

For much of the 20th century, Alcoa's aluminum smelter at Badin in Stanly County was a major regional employer, a mainstay of the economy in the central Yadkin River basin with its 1,000 or so employees producing aluminum and the hydropower that fueled its operation. So when Alcoa Power Generating Inc.'s 50-year license to operate came up for renewal, the company had every expectation of local and state support for a renewal for another half-century.

But that was before a crippling drought in 2008 turned policymakers' thoughts toward the use of a river that slices through the state's Piedmont area. It provides recreation and habitat at a series of lakes running south from I-85 to the state border and could be a key resource if the state rethinks how to make sure the central region of the state has enough water.

And that was before it sank in that the aluminum smelter no longer employed its once-large workforce -- one reason Alcoa cited in its 1957 petition as an argument in favor of a 50-year license. Or that Alcoa had gotten a big break on sales taxes on its electricity. Or that Alcoa might one day sell its operations to a company outside the state. And it was before local residents began focusing on reports of environmental contamination linked to smelter operations.

For Cabarrus Republican Sen. Fletcher Hartsell, this is a rare opportunity to establish firmer state control over a public resource vital to the region's prosperity and quality of life: "This could create a partnership to share control of the water and use it for the best interests of the state," he said. "The real issue is not electricity, but the use of the state's water."

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

National Praise for Raleigh


New US census numbers out today show that Raleigh is the fastest-growing city in the country. A perfect storm of economic and demographic factors contribute to Raleigh’s status as the fastest-growing city in America. Annexations and Raleigh’s relatively small size among other metro areas are two of the reasons for the city’s 4.3 percent growth rate between July 2007 and July 2008.


Leading the way is Raleigh, N.C., which grabbed the top spot for a third straight year on the strength of strong job growth (both past and projected), low business costs and a highly educated workforce