Wednesday, April 8, 2009

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.

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