Click or Tap Section Headings to Expand
With national news coverage, it’s no secret that recycling nationwide is facing extreme challenges. What was once a revenue-generating endeavor has become an operational dilemma of costly processing fees and an abundance of materials without a market. China’s 2018 National Sword policy significantly impacted recycling programs across the United States; numerous municipalities have discontinued their programs. Communities that are committed to recycling saw dramatic increases in processing fees. Many cities banned materials from their programs, and many others were compelled to landfill materials that processors would not accept.
Until recently, China imported over half of the recycled materials from the United States with no restriction on contamination. With the implementation of its National Sword policy, all commodities entering China must have no more than 0.5 percent contamination. The national average is approximately 25 percent; the local rate is about 13 percent.
Cary, over 7,000 miles away, has felt the impact of this new policy. In February, Cary’s recycling processor notified the Town that it did not have capacity for all of its customers. A Recycling Crisis Management Team was quickly assembled to work through the issue. The Team, consisting of staff from Finance, Public Works, Legal and the Town Manager’s Office, met daily to ensure that Cary would be able to maintain its recycling program without interruption to citizens while striving for cost effectiveness. Cary was able to negotiate a new, two-year agreement with Waste Management at a processing cost of $95 per ton. While this is $20 per ton more than the previous rate, other proposals were as high as $135 per ton. The new contract will increase the annual recycling cost by $600,000 compared to the FY 2018 budget.
To address the contamination issue, Cary is partnering with Wake County to audit both trash and recycling. The audit will be conducted by a professional engineering company that specializes in waste audits. With this information, we can target contamination as well as know what materials in our waste stream can be recovered. Staff will be working across departmental units, advisory boards and community groups to communicate to our citizens about proper recycling and waste reduction strategies as part of a comprehensive community conversation.
The Cary Fire Department provided coverage to the Atlantic Beach Fire Department (ABFD) after an accident that mortally injured their fire chief, Adam Snyder. The four-person Cary crew provided fire and EMS services for a 24-hour period on March 12, in response to a request from the Office of the State Fire Marshal. The crew responded to several calls while on duty, maintained the station and dressed the trucks and stations in bunting for the memorial to the Chief. They were available for any issues that arose at the station and in the community. The citizens, ABFD members and neighboring fire departments commended the Cary Fire Department and voiced their gratitude for them being there during such a difficult time. The crew’s interactions with staff and community left no doubt as to the impact Chief Snyder had on the fire service and his community.
Cary’s presence garnered positive social media feedback:
- “Great work Cary FD — thanks for stepping up.”
- “Very classy stuff, Cary Fire Department.”
- “So proud to live in Cary! Praying for Atlantic Beach and the Snyder family!” –Stephanie Cave Moore
Water Storage Tanks
Reaching above the pines along Kilmayne Drive is the newest addition to Cary’s water infrastructure system. The two-million-gallon Kilmayne Drive water storage tank, placed into service in early February, provides additional storage in the central pressure zone. The Kilmayne Tank is the seventh elevated water storage tank in the system and the first with a composite column. The reinforced concrete column is as structurally sound as steel and considered by many to be more aesthetically pleasing. While beauty is in the eye of the beholder, what’s not up for debate is the total lifecycle cost of the composite tank. Construction costs were $243,000 less and annual maintenance costs are $10,000 less than for a tank with a steel base.
The additional storage provided by the new Kilmayne Tank provides the capacity to take the Maynard Tank out of service for renovation with no disruption to the distribution system. The iconic 53-year-old Maynard Tank is receiving structural repairs, equipment upgrades and a new coat of paint, inside and out. To maximize the life of the new paint, it is necessary to remove the existing paint. At the end of March, preparations were made to install a shroud on the tank to contain the dust and debris that will result from the paint removal process. Despite covering the tank, this year’s graduating class will still be recognized with a banner on the tank. When the tank emerges from behind the curtain this summer, the new paint job will recognize the Class of 2020, and this landmark tank will return to service ready to support the water demands of the surrounding neighborhoods and the upcoming Fenton development.
Ensuring Utility Capacity
Cary is committed to delivering high-quality, affordable and reliable water and wastewater services to our citizens and businesses and to sustain future growth. To support this commitment, the Long Range Water Resources Plan has been updated. This plan helps staff understand the evolving behaviors that drive residential and commercial water demand and influence the future need for water supply and wastewater management facilities. Using various tools, including five years of Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) data, a continuing trend toward efficient water usage can be seen across the service area:
- Residential per capita water use declined 30 percent in the past 20 years. Wise water use by citizens and the business community reflects the success of our water efficiency programs. In addition, 1990s plumbing code changes required the use of more efficient fixtures in all new construction.
- Residents and businesses are much less likely to irrigate their lawns than a decade ago. Irrigation permits dropped from about 33 percent to 13 percent of new homes over the past six years, and water use is declining accordingly.
These trends are expected to continue. The plan forecasts water demand and wastewater flows through 2065 based on the Imagine Cary Community Plan framework for future growth, including mixed-use projects and redevelopment. It also addresses Apex’s projections for continued strong growth and their need for additional capacity in the Cary/Apex Water Treatment Facility and Western Wake Regional Wastewater Management Facilities.
The ultimate water supply and utility infrastructure needs are currently forecast to be somewhat lower than in previous forecasts. Coupled with the recently-increased water supply allocation from Jordan Lake, Cary’s current water and wastewater facilities are well positioned to accommodate more growth than had been expected when they were built, and several growth-related water and wastewater capital projects can be deferred into the future by at least ten years.
The Long Range Water Resources Plan also forecasts a reduction in reclaimed water demand due to the general trend toward less irrigation. The plan evaluated the business case for several reclaimed water program alternatives, which will provide input for discussions on the right path forward for the reclaimed water program.
Annual Drinking Water Switchover
Providing safe, high-quality drinking water to the citizens of Cary, Apex and Morrisville is the top priority for water treatment and distribution system staff. Following state and federal recommendations for maintaining the drinking water system, including the annual disinfection switchover, is important for meeting this commitment.
Most of the year, a mixture of chlorine and ammonia is used for drinking water disinfection. This combination minimizes the amount of trihalomethanes (THMs) in the finished water. THMs are a byproduct formed when water is treated with free chlorine alone. The state recommends that systems that utilize the chlorine and ammonia combination perform an annual system cleansing by temporarily switching to free chlorine and flushing the pipes. This ensures that the proper level of disinfection is maintained throughout the network.
During the switchover, citizens may notice minor differences in color and taste of the water and an increased chlorine odor. These are normal parts of the process and decrease when the regular disinfection process resumes. The water continues to meet or exceed all state requirements and is safe for drinking.
This year’s disinfection switchover commenced in early March and lasted for approximately six weeks. Very few customer calls were received during the switchover period. Public outreach efforts prior to the switchover included news releases, publication on Cary’s website and social media posts.
Force Main Repair
On February 14, a directional drilling contractor installing fiber optic telecommunications infrastructure damaged one of two 36-inch Swift Creek Pump Station Force Mains buried along the shoulder of Holly Springs Road between Penny Road and Ten Ten Road. The damage resulted in 13,500 gallons of wastewater spilling into Dutchman’s Branch. The Swift Creek Pump Station typically pumps more than 4.5 million gallons of wastewater per day to the South Cary Water Reclamation Facility and includes two separate and redundant wastewater force mains. Fortunately, damage occurred to the inactive force main, which only resulted in residual wastewater draining from the pipeline. The spill was reported to state officials and a news release issued, as required by state statute.
Staff quickly isolated the damaged pipe and contained the wastewater to prevent further spillage. As part of initial response efforts, mobile pumps were staged to fill tanker trucks that were then safely offloaded into a nearby gravity sewer system. Staff also devised a strategy to pump wastewater from the damaged force main into the active force main, allowing staff to quickly stop the spill and open Holly Springs Road to traffic. Dutchman’s Branch was inspected multiple times, including extensive stream testing. No stream impacts were found.
Repairs were completed, the pipeline was tested and all systems returned to normal operations. A pipeline repair of this magnitude could have easily resulted in a much larger spill event. Thanks to the quick thinking and ingenuity of Cary staff members, the event was successfully managed with minimal impact to the stream.
Exceptional Wastewater Treatment Service
Nitrogen removal is an important performance measure for wastewater treatment. Cary’s three wastewater treatment facilities, North Cary, South Cary and Western Wake Regional, processed more than 6.7 billion gallons of wastewater in 2018. With nitrogen removal rates exceeding 95 percent with more than 3 million pounds of nitrogen removed, Cary’s wastewater treatment facilities continue to protect the environment by providing safe, highly-treated wastewater to receiving streams.
Within the Neuse River Basin, the North Cary and South Cary Water Reclamation Facilities continue to be among the best performing treatment facilities in the Lower Neuse Basin Association (LNBA). Both facilities consistently outperform the LNBA average nitrogen discharge removal concentration of 2.78 mg/L.
New Hill Community Center Completed
When Cary and Apex determined the location of the Western Wake Regional Wastewater Management Facilities to serve growth in both communities, staff reached out to the families living in New Hill near the site, listened to their concerns and continuously worked to earn their trust. As construction on the facilities began, Cary and Apex agreed to provide $500,000 to purchase land and design and construct a community center. The New Hill Community Center has been completed and will hold a grand opening on April 27.
Public Works completed its third leaf sweep on March 31, finalizing the annual loose leaf collection program. The program is implemented by 10 drivers, 18 collectors and a supervisor, using nine trucks with leaf machines and one automated truck. The loose leaf collection program costs $325,000 annually.
Every day, the Human Resources Department designs projects and services through the lens of promoting and perpetuating adaptive culture throughout the organization. HR’s mission is to encourage and support employees who are in the midst of an exciting challenge: creating a local government that doesn’t exist. From developing relationships and forging productive partnerships to deploying technology to create efficiencies, HR is leading the way.
Relationships Through Retreat
In March, the 15-member HR team and Town Manager Sean Stegall gathered for a day-long retreat to set goals and envision pathways to enculturating employees with our developing leadership model. Discussion focused on charting a path forward as a department to model adaptive leadership. HR staff were prepared to discuss:
- What do we NOT WANT to be? What is getting in the way of HR’s growth? What does staff need to stop doing?
- Who do we WANT to be? What does HR want to spend time working on? How does HR work connect to the organization’s culture in ways that can help encourage and inspire?
The wide-ranging discussion included sharing thoughts, concerns, experiences and steps forward, including a candid conversation about being courageous in times of organizational change and growth.
Efficiencies Through Technology
A Signature Experience project team has been working for nearly a year to create a remarkable experience for new colleagues to empower all to reach their highest potential through the understanding that leadership is required for local government excellence.
The project encompasses initiatives such as revamping onboarding materials, re-imagining orientation, creating chronologies for learning milestones throughout the first year and devising a hiring manager roadmap to guide and welcome new employees from the moment an application is submitted to completion of the probationary period. Incorporating technology to replace paper processes is a key guidepost to the team’s efforts. This quarter, the project team rolled out an electronic drug and background check process, allowing candidates who are extended job offers to complete their screenings through an online referral portal. Previously, a visit to Town Hall to fill out paperwork was required. This streamlined electronic process saves time and resources and, more importantly, provides modern convenience to our new hire candidates, putting the Town’s best foot forward from the moment an offer is extended.
Much like the Signature Experience project, staff from multiple departments worked together to build on the existing online benefits enrollment platform, resulting in the development and implementation of a comprehensive online enrollment system for new hires. With new hires electing their benefits options online, multiple efficiencies were created, including elimination of hard copy enrollment forms, minimization of data entry and automation of IRS-required information. Additionally, the new platform increased the availability of benefit information to employees, allowing them to make these selections at their convenience. By thinking creatively and maximizing existing technology, the team streamlined an existing process while empowering employees and allowing HR staff to more effectively serve the organization.
Taking Care of Employees
Employees are our most important resource, and there are many ways Cary takes care of staff throughout the year by addressing holistic health with a mind, body and spirit focus. This winter, the eight-week Choose to Lose Weight Loss Challenge included an initial and final weigh-in,
one-on-one personalized sessions with an on-site nutritionist or health coach and onsite classes. The challenge was designed to help employees combat obesity and introduce healthy, sustainable lifestyle changes that promote weight loss.
Nearly 250 employees, with at least one employee from every department, chose to enroll, and 60 percent completed the challenge. When asked why they joined the challenge, participants shared that their number one challenge was bad habits/choices — and by being hypervigilant about their choices and using their personal support networks of friends and coworkers, they were making positive steps forward.
Of the 250 participants, 81 percent improved BMI, 74 percent lost weight and 83 percent decreased the size of their waist circumference. One participant lost 30 pounds, and another saw a decrease in waist circumference of eight inches. The group lost a total of 700 pounds and 453 inches from their waist circumference.
Wellness offerings, such as this spring’s Maintain Don’t Gain Challenge and Wellness Walks, continue to allow our employees to explore programs and opportunities that support a healthy lifestyle.