Minutes from May 2011 East CAC meeting (draft)

East CAC Meeting Minutes
May 2011
Submitted by Secretary Sue Sturgis

Raleigh’s East Citizens Advisory Council held its monthly meeting at 7 p.m. on Monday, May 16, 2011 at Lions Park Community Center. About 35 people were there, with about six attending for the first time; Charlene Willard with the city’s Community Services Department handed out bags with information about the CAC and the city to newcomers. The April minutes were approved without changes. Chairman Mark Turner recorded the meeting, with video available at www.eastraleigh.org.

SUCCESS REPORTS: The entrance sign to the Belvidere Park neighborhood is finished, and the bench delivered and installed. The project was three years in the making. Thanks to local stonemason Joe Valles and everyone else who helped with the project. Longview Gardens is now moving forward with their grant to build a neighborhood sign.

PARKS AND RECREATION REPORT: Lions Park Director Christy Jones reported that a couple of city-owned cemeteries suffered damage in the April tornado, and volunteers are needed to help with cleanup. For more information, contact Cindy Trumbower at 919-996-3292.

Lions Park will be holding two summer camps, one for children ages 6 to 11 and another for youth ages 12 to 14. For more information, visit the Parks and Recreation website at http://1.usa.gov/mckvNQ.

POLICE REPORT: Community Police Officer James Kryskowiak began by thanking everyone who helped with the tornado relief center at Powell Elementary School. ECAC Vice Chair Van Alston’s restaurant donated food, Rent-a-Center lent a truck, and many volunteers pitched in to provide assistance to neighbors in need.

Officer Kryskowiak went over the monthly police report. There were 11 burglaries, with four involving things stolen from tornado-stricken homes. There were also seven larcenies from motor vehicles, with four involving unlocked doors and items left in view. Remember to “lock, take and hide.” Of five motor vehicle thefts, two involved running vehicles left unlocked and unattended.

There were also five robberies, with one of them taking place around 1 or 2 a.m. behind the tennis courts at Lions Park. This is an area where police officers want better lighting. Be careful in that area, especially at night.

In response to a question about gang activity in the community, Officer Kryskowiak noted that RPD’s gang unit is putting together a report on the situation that he’ll share with the CAC. Four years ago, he would have said there was definitely a gang problem in the area, but RPD has focused on the problem and arrested many of the leaders; consequently gang activity seems to be down.

Someone reported hearing about nine gunshots at Park Glen Apartments around 2 or 3 p.m. the day before the meeting and calling 911. Officer Kryskowiak didn’t have information on that incident. However, he reported that on Saturday night he and another officer smelled marijuana coming from a parked car at that location and arrested two men and confiscated an ounce of marijuana. Because neighbors have reported issues with drug sales in that area, police have made it a regular stop on their foot patrols. Officer Kryskowiak also reported that tips from tenants led police to make a drug buy at Raleigh North Apartments, and five people were evicted as a result.

Officer Kryskowiak reported unsafe conditions as a result of tornado damage at the old DMV property along King Charles Road where there’s now a convenience store. He spoke with the property owner but nothing has happened, so he now plans to take the matter to city officials.

Officer Kryskowiak is getting certified in Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design and will be happy to offer free consultations to local residents. E-mail him at James dot Kryskowiak at raleighnc dot gov.

Residents praised RPD’s work in neighborhoods affected by the tornado.

ANNOUNCEMENTS: Mark reported that Brookside Market and Deli is now open at Brookside and Glascock. They’re still getting permits for deli and alcohol but they have other grocery items. They will be serving Mediterranean food.

Gilead Pharmacy is now open in the Longview Shopping Center in the former bank. The building has been nicely refurbished.

Some upcoming meetings and events: Belvidere Park and Woodcrest neighborhoods will meet in June. City Camp—an event billed as an “unconference” designed to encourage citizens and city officials to share ideas—will take place at Vintage 21 church in downtown Raleigh from June 3 to 5; for more information go to citycampral.org. There will be a free benefit concert for tornado victims on June 3 at downtown amphitheater; for more information visit Riseupraleigh.com.

JOHN BURNS, ENVIRONMENTAL ADVISORY BOARD CHAIR: Mayor Charles Meeker created the EAB in 2006 to help the city become more sustainable in its operations, and Mr. Burns has served for five years. Every year the board comes up with a work plan, and its initial focus was reducing the city fleet’s use of fossil fuels. The board also recommended that Raleigh join the U.S. Conference of Mayors’ Climate Protection Agreement, which also meant committing the city to sustainability goals.

Raleigh adopted a greenhouse gas emissions reduction strategy in 2007, and adopted energy efficiency standards for its buildings the following year. To reduce fuel usage, each city department adopts not only a fiscal budget but also a fuel usage budget. In addition, the city has purchased hybrid vehicles and encourages carpooling. All of the city’s garbage trucks run on biodiesel, and Raleigh is currently looking into switching its fire trucks to biodiesel.

The operations that produce the city’s highest percentage of greenhouse gas emissions are solid waste management at 25 percent and wastewater management at 34 percent, a number that the new wastewater treatment plant is expected to reduce. Buildings are responsible for 19 percent of the city’s emissions, but Raleigh’s adoption of LEED Silver standards for new buildings over 10,000 square feet should help lower that. The Convention Center, the new wastewater treatment plant and the Raleigh Senior Center are all LEED Silver projects. LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, an internationally recognized green building certification.

Three people are about to rotate off the EAB, and anyone who’s interested in serving should talk to their city council representative. If you would like to be added to the mailing list for the meetings or if you have any questions, e-mail EnvironmentalAdvisoryBoard at raleighnc dot gov.

TORNADO DISCUSSION: Hunt McKinnon, an architect affiliated with N.C. State, came to field questions about rebuilding after the tornado. Also there for the discussion were City Councilors Eugene Weeks and Russ Stephenson. Mr. McKinnon began by advising people to exercise caution when approached by people offering to do repairs. He urged homeowners to be sure they know exactly what they’re bargaining for.

In response to a question about permit requirements for repair work, Mr. Weeks advised homeowners that the city’s Inspections Department is available to review requirements. What permits are required depends on the project’s scale.

Someone noted that smaller contractors don’t necessarily work off of formal contracts. Mr. McKinnon said that a contract could be as simple as a letter of agreement between the parties. However, never sign anything you don’t fully understand. Also, while contracts are not required to be in writing, it’s better to do it that way.

Keith Emrick, a Lockwood resident, reported that his property suffered severe tornado damage and that many contractors came knocking. His insurance company recommended Disaster One to get a tree off his house. However, after reading the contract, Keith realized that it would make the firm his contractor for all subsequent work, and had to insist the contract be edited in order to receive emergency services. When receiving a quote for reconstruction from Carolina Restoration Services, the wait increased from a couple days to five to eight weeks once he explained he wanted to receive a quote before signing a contract. Another CAC resident reported similar problems with that company. She also said State Farm canceled her insurance policy after the tornado, though they must still pay to fix the damage.

Noting that he’s an attorney, Mr. Burns from the EAB said there are laws about contractors who do a certain amount of work having to be licensed. He also suggested that homeowners might prefer to hire someone who’s bonded and insured, so if a worker gets injured he will turn to the employer to recover and not the homeowners. Contractors with licenses are generally bonded. Mr. Burns also recommended that homeowners consider paying a lawyer $150 to walk them through any contract before signing it. Call the N.C. Bar for referrals at 919-677-0561.

Someone asked about a vacant house that still has a tree atop it, and someone else raised concerns about sidewalks in Lockwood being blocked by downed trees and construction debris. It was suggested that SeeClickFix.com would be a good route for reporting such problems.

Many of the damaged properties are in neighborhoods zoned R-10, and many of these are investment properties. There’s concern that the rebuilding could dramatically change the character of the neighborhood, and some are wondering if there is a solution such as an emergency overlay. Mr. Stephenson pointed to the city’s neighborhood conservation overlay district, which requires neighbors to initiate a study and discuss what they want to preserve. It’s a petition process that requires the agreement of 50 percent of affected residents. Mr. Weeks also encouraged residents to raise their concerns during the public comment session of a city council meeting.

Neighbors are worried that storm-related debris in the creek that runs behind the houses along Marlborough Road could lead to flooding problems. People with the city said they would look into that.

Someone suggested buying a digital tape recorder for the phone and asking if it would be OK to tape conversations with contractors. Mark asked people to send recommendations for good contractors to the ECAC e-mail list.

If anyone has questions related to the tornado and does not know where to start, they are welcome to contact Charlene Willard at charlene dot willard at raleighnc dot gov or call 919-996-5718.

The meeting adjourned at 8:50 p.m. The next meeting will be Monday, June 20.

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