2008 State of the Town
State of the Town - January 28, 2008
Wake Forest Town Hall
For the third consecutive year, Wake Forest Mayor Vivian Jones has recorded the State of the Town address. Mayor Jones' 16-minute presentation highlights several of the Town's accomplishments during 2007, which she describes as "a busy and exciting year." The Mayor also discusses several current initiatives as well as a number of personal goals for 2008, including a renewed emphasis on economic development.
Full Text of 2008 State of the Town Address
The following is the full text of Mayor Vivian Jones' State of the Town speech, as delivered January 28:
It is hard to believe that another year has passed, but I am confident 2007 will be remembered as a year when many good things happened in Wake Forest. I have had the opportunity to represent the Town in so many ways from the Martin Luther King Celebration in January to the Christmas Parade in December.
What a great year!
We have enjoyed several significant accomplishments this year. I want to begin by talking about the Community Plan process.
Last January we began to develop a Community Plan which will provide your Board of Commissioners and other Town leaders with a guide for future development and redevelopment and will help direct discussion on how we manage growth and set priorities to allocate resources. To aid in the plan's development, the Town Board appointed a steering committee that began work in January.
Over 200 people attended our first Community Plan town meeting in April and offered their ideas and suggestions concerning the future of Wake Forest. In November we held a second community meeting with over 100 people in attendance. At the second meeting, attendees reviewed and responded to the vision statements that were drawn up from the ideas generated at the first community meeting.
The steering committee is continuing to work on putting the plan together. Later this year, the draft plan will be presented to the community for final review and comments. In the meantime, a blog has been created on our website so that citizens can stay in touch with the planning process. The blog includes announcements, pictures, and notes from meetings of the Steering Committee. It also provides an opportunity for you to offer your input concerning the Community Plan process.
I hope everyone will monitor the planning process and provide feedback because this will be a very important tool in helping direct our future.
The Northeast Neighborhood Plan was approved this year. We had a very successful process in developing this plan with tremendous neighborhood involvement. The Board is committed to working on implementing many of the plan's proposals, and we have already addressed the street lighting issues.
Additionally, the Parks & Recreation Advisory Board worked with the Neighborhood Association to make recommendations to the Board for upgrades to Ailey Young Park and Taylor Park/Alston Massenburg Center. We will have some projects underway this year as well as a street project off of North Allen Road that was identified in the Plan.
By the way, I am pleased to report that we received an award for our Northeast Neighborhood Plan from the North Carolina Chapter of the American Planning Association.
We continue to make strides in our efforts to communicate with our citizens. Focus on Wake Forest began in February as a program on Channel 10 designed to provide information about Town programs and services and ways citizens can take advantage of what the Town has to offer.
We also began producing Our Town, a bi-monthly newsletter filled with events, news, and general Town information. This newsletter is mailed to everyone with a 27587 zip code and helps connect everyone to what is happening in Wake Forest.
The Guide to the Town of Wake Forest was also produced and distributed this year. This is a handbook that provides Town history, as well as information about Town departments, advisory boards, the Board of Commissioners, community events, civic clubs, and a lot more. The Guide proved to be so popular that we had to print additional copies which we now offer for sale at cost to businesses and organizations in Town.
RecConnect is the new name and face for the Parks & Recreation program brochure. RecConnect is printed three times a year to provide important information about recreational programs, cultural programs, and park facilities.
We continue to make improvements to our website to make navigation easier and to provide more information for our citizens.
For the second year, the Town received the Communication Public Power Award of Excellence at the ElectriCities Annual Meeting in August. Also, our Public Information Officer, Bill Crabtree, gave a presentation at the Annual Meeting showing our communication program and how our ideas might be used by other cities.
The Parks & Recreation Department was busy this year completing the third phase of Flaherty Park, using a portion of the money from the 2005 bonds approved by the voters.
We completed four additional lighted tennis courts, along with a picnic shelter, playground, and the dog park. Local tennis players have told me that our courts at Flaherty are the best in Wake County!
The dog park has been a rousing success. At the grand opening there were over 100 citizens with their dogs celebrating this highly anticipated amenity to our community.
Our Parks & Recreation Advisory Board received the 2007 Distinguished Board Award from the North Carolina Recreation & Parks Association for outstanding contributions and accomplishments in promoting parks and recreation.
The Old Mill Stream section of the Richland Creek Greenway opened in August. This is just one example of the efforts we are making to add to our greenway system. I believe the Board will commit even more to greenway development as we go forward.
Wake Forest Power received the RP3 Reliable Public Power Provider certification this year. Only 48 cities out of over 2,000 public power cities received RP3 certification this year.
This certification means that we have in place the tools and expertise necessary to provide our citizens with the highest degree of reliable and safe electric service. Congratulations to our Wake Forest Power team who work so hard to keep our lights on!
We formed a Youth Advisory Board this year. Their adopted slogan is Y.A.B. â Young, Active, Bold. We can expect great things from this group of bright, energetic students who have a passion for working for good in their community.
The Board of Commissioners approved a 1 cent increase in property taxes in June. This additional money will go entirely for fire protection.
In December, the Board approved a fire impact fee to be imposed on new development to help with Fire Department capital needs.
The Board also approved an increase in the Municipal Service District Tax for downtown property owners. This money will be used for various downtown projects including parking.
Water has been a big topic of conversation this year. As all of you know, we are in the midst of the worst drought our area has ever experienced.
In July, the City of Raleigh adopted year-round water conservation measure regarding lawn irrigation. In August, Stage 1 Water Restrictions were imposed and in October, the City banned all lawn irrigation and vehicle washing at home.
We are very concerned about the drought. Your Town Board has sent several letters to Raleigh's mayor requesting that they impose stricter measures.
We will continue to monitor the situation and continue to talk with Raleigh about what will be done in the future to address the water shortage as the drought continues. In addition, I am joining with the mayors of the six towns that are on the Raleigh system to give input and urge Raleigh to be more proactive in addressing the drought.
In conjunction with our electric billing, we began to offer NCGreenPower this year. NCGreenPower is a program designed to supplement the state's existing power with more green energy that is generated from renewable resources like the sun, wind, and organic matter. So far, we have 15 families who have signed up for this program.
The Board of Commissioners endorsed the U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement and was recognized by the Sierra Club as a "Cool City" as a result of our commitment to reducing carbon emissions.
Our citizens are doing their part to make Wake Forest a sustainable community. Since we began using roll-out recycle carts, our citizens are recycling two and a half times more and our solid waste has been reduced by 10 per cent as a result.
Arbor Day was once again a big day in Wake Forest as we received the Tree City USA designation for the 29th year. In connection to Arbor Day, the Urban Forestry Advisory Board conducted a tree seedling giveaway and distributed over 1100 tree seedlings to over 500 Wake Forest citizens.
The site plan for the new Town Hall was approved in December and construction will begin soon. We expect to move into the new facility in 2009 and hold a grand opening tentatively scheduled in December as part of our Centennial Celebration.
Speaking of the Centennial, the Centennial Celebration Committee is hard at work planning fun and exciting events to occur throughout 2009 as we celebrate our 100 years as The Town of Wake Forest.
Besides the Town Hall, another Renaissance Plan project that was started this year is the $5.3 million Franklin Street enhancement. This project is being funded by the Street Bonds approved in 2005.
The White Street Plan is also being finalized and will be completed this year.
The third section of the NC 98 Bypass has just been bid and will be completed by early 2010.
I started 2007 by attending the North Carolina Main Street Conference in January to receive the Main Street Award. I ended the year in December at the Wake County Soil and Water Conservation Dinner. It was both a busy and exciting year.
2008 promises to be even busier and more exciting! As your mayor, there are three things that I will concentrate on this year in addition to my usual duties.
The first is Public Transportation: Over the past two years, I have spent several days at transportation workshops and meetings with officials from Triangle Transit Authority, the Raleigh CAT system, the TRACS program and others.
I believe that we will have some type of bus service to downtown Raleigh this year with a possible stop at Triangle Town Center. With those two stops, our residents will be able to connect to bus service throughout the triangle region.
Getting service around town is going to be more difficult, but I am confident we can also accomplish that. It will be expensive, and the Town of Wake Forest will have to supplement the service, but I believe that the time has come for this issue.
We have talked about it, the citizens have asked for it, now we need to get it done.
Secondly, I will work on the Cultural Arts program. I have proposed that we hire a Cultural arts staff person in our Parks & Recreation Department. This individual will look for ways to expand our cultural arts programming and coordinate with local organizations that are offering cultural programs.
I will work to develop a Public Art Vision Plan through the North Carolina Arts Council. This is another item that has been discussed and asked for. It is time to start this program.
The third thing that I will work on this year is Economic Development. The Town has, for a number of years, worked with our local Chamber of Commerce on Economic Development.
This has been a good relationship. The Chamber is ramping up their involvement and has begun the process of implementing recommendations made by the Sanford Holhauser Group in a study they conducted a couple of years ago.
The Chamber's Executive Director and Board of Directors have made Economic Development one of their priorities this year and I intend to do everything I can to assist them.
We have been fortunate over the past few years to acquire commercial development in the form of retail and office. We now need to prepare for and recruit those small businesses that will provide local jobs for our citizens.
Part of the implementation of these recommendations will consist of helping to retain current businesses. Statistics suggest that over 80 percent of new jobs come from current businesses.
You hear about big deals when a new company comes to town and says they will provide 100 new jobs. You don't hear as much about those 25 businesses that grew and hired four more people. But in both cases you end up with 100 new jobs.
I believe that the Town should be working with the business community to help our current businesses stay and grow.
It is a privilege and an honor to serve the citizens of Wake Forest.
2008 will be another busy and exciting year. A big thank you to everyone for all you do to make Wake Forest a great place to live.