2010 State of the Town

State of the Town Address & Dinner - February 22, 2010
Tuxedo Junction

The Town of Wake Forest, along with the Wake Forest Rotary Club, the Wake Forest Chamber of Commerce, the Wake Forest Downtown Revitalization Corporation, and Tuxedo Junction, sponsored the Second Annual State of the Town Address and Dinner on Monday, Feb. 22, 2010, at Tuxedo Junction.

Wake Forest Mayor Vivian Jones delivered the State of the Town Address, providing Wake Forest citizens an opportunity to reflect on an impressive list of accomplishments in 2010. She also discussed several goals Wake Forest will strive towards over the next 12 months.

Watch the entire event below:

2010 State of the Town from Bill Crabtree on Vimeo.


Full Text of 2010 State of the Town Address

The following is the full text of Mayor Vivian Jones' State of the Town speech, as delivered Feb. 22:

Good evening.

First of all, I want to thank the Rotary Club for this opportunity to share with you the exciting and important things that are happening in Wake Forest. We appreciate your giving us this time on your program.

We all know what a great place Wake Forest is but the secret is out! Last year on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives, Congressman Brad Miller echoed Calvin Jones’ assessment of our town from over 100 years ago when he said that Wake Forest is one of the best communities in the state.

During our public meetings to gather comments from citizens as we prepared our Community Plan, one of the phrases we kept hearing was, “let’s keep our small town charm.”

I think our Centennial Celebration was a reflection of that desire to honor our past by keeping that small-town atmosphere as we embrace the future. Certainly, our birthday party in February when we gathered to eat those wonderful cakes provided by all the organizations in town was a party that brought together old-timers and newcomers, rich and poor, students and townies, red and yellow, black and white.

Wake Forest Centennial pins that were given out at that event and other events during the year showed how proud we all are to be citizens here. I observed that newcomers were just as anxious as old-timers to get their pin. They were proud to be citizens and wanted everyone to know that they are a part of this community.

The year began with our New Year’s Eve celebration. It was so cold the band couldn’t play their horns, but that did not stop us from dancing and having a great time.

A friend came up to me and said, “Wake Forest has moved to a new level.” I couldn’t agree more - but we didn’t stop there! We continued our celebration with beautiful artwork, fireworks, music, the biggest ever children’s parade, and ended with the Community Gala that was simply stunning! What a grand time was had by thousands all during the year.

I want to thank our Centennial Committee who worked over two years planning and executing events for our celebration.

Special thanks goes to Carol Smith for her leadership. Carol and her husband Frank were committed to making this a special year and always went above and beyond every expectation.

Carol would you please come forward. While Carol is coming up, I want to ask the Centennial Committee to stand so we can give them a round of applause.

Carol, this tote bag was made from one of the banners that hung downtown during our Centennial. We hope when you carry it you will remember that we love you and appreciate your leadership in our celebration.

You have heard me say many times that Wake Forest is blessed with a tremendous base of volunteers. This is one of the things that makes our community great. The volunteers are what made our Centennial year possible; many people willing to give of their time to make the year special. I know everyone in this room volunteered at some point in 2009 to make our community a special place. So, give yourselves a hand!

Now I want to say a special thanks to Carol Pelosi. Carol, would you please come forward.

How very blessed we are to have Carol in our community. Carol spent hundreds of hours writing our history book, “Connections”. This book we will all enjoy for many years. She did this as a volunteer because she loves her community.

Carol, thank you from everyone in Wake Forest. We just wanted to give you this piece of art, which is on the cover of the book as a thank you for your work.

Transportation and infrastructure were priorities for us last year and will continue as priorities this year. We completed the first phase of the White Street streetscape plan and the Franklin Street renovations.

All of you have probably noticed the repairs done on all the sidewalks in the historic core of Town. This was a small project that made a big difference in making our sidewalks ADA compliant and safer for everyone.

We completed the right of way acquisition and design of the South Main Street widening. The construction contract has been approved and this project will be completed in the fall.

Thanks to Commissioner Margaret Stinnett we began the engineering and design work on our unpaved streets. When this information is available, we will decide how to proceed in addressing these streets.

The 98 Bypass will be completed this spring and thanks to Commissioner Hines we are in the process of getting it named the Calvin Jones Highway.

NCDOT will begin replacement of bridges on Jones Dairy Road soon. We are hoping to be able to realign Chalks Road in conjunction with this replacement construction. I am afraid that this means Jones Dairy Road will be closed for a while—bear with us, please.

The Dunn Creek Greenway is now under construction. This long-awaited greenway will go from the Heritage Soccer Center to the 98 Bypass pedestrian culvert. We were able to obtain $450,000 in stimulus funds to help with this approximately $800,000 project.

We are also looking at our sidewalk construction priorities and will probably add some newly identified projects to that list.

I hope you have noticed the new wayfinding signs that have been installed downtown. This is a project the D.R.C. has worked on for several years. The signs are beautiful and visible and will help folks find their way around downtown. It is exciting to have this ongoing project.

These signs will eventually be found on all the roadways coming into Wake Forest to direct residents and visitors to significant places in our community.

We hope to be able to fund more of the White Street renovations in the budget this year.

The bus system continues to be successful and provides much-needed transportation for jobs and services for many of our citizens. We will continue to evaluate the ridership and the routes and work with CAT and Triangle Transit to be sure we are optimizing this resource.

As the Vice-Chair of Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization, I am very involved in developing a transit plan for the Triangle. This plan will include extended bus service, commuter rail, and probably light rail.

Sometime in the next 2-3 years you, the voters, will be given an opportunity to decide how we go forward with a plan. It is important to me to have Wake Forest connected to this plan in every way possible. Please do not hesitate to let me know how you feel about transit in our town and in the Triangle.

Economic development continues as a high priority for the Board to try to provide jobs and services for our citizens. We have appointed a Task Force to recommend a process for administering the IDC funds, or as someone has called them, The Futures Fund. This Futures Fund will allow us to foster economic development with existing and new businesses in our community. The Task Force recommendations will be presented to the Town Board next month

The Chamber, on behalf of the Town, was able to assist the German company, Carl Zeiss Optronics, to locate their American headquarters here in Wake Forest.

This is a great opportunity for our community because we are hopeful they will be locating their manufacturing facility here over the next couple of years. The Chamber is working on several other economic development projects that could be of significant value to the town in the future.

We began a business retention program by visiting existing businesses to show our appreciation for them and to discover ways they might need our help. We visited companies that had from 1 to 100’s of employees. It was fascinating to see all the different kinds of businesses that we have here in our town.

They thanked us for caring and gave us opportunities to help them find needed space, get answers from the Town on issues they had, make contacts for advertising and seeking employees. This is an on-going program that has been well received by the business community.

The president of one of the larger companies we visited commented that he couldn’t believe I put my home phone number on my card. But, you know, that is another of the great things about living and working in Wake Forest; your Town Board members are accessible to you whenever you need them.

We continue our emphasis on quality of life issues. We appointed a Public Art Group to develop a Public Art Vision Plan. They did a fantastic job and an ordinance to address procedure and percent for public art will be presented to the Board within the next couple of months.

We have focused on communication with our citizens and educating our residents about what is happening and how they can be involved. We will continue and expand our toolbox in this area.

We have excelled in making strides in our Parks and Recreation area this year. We completed the ball fields, soccer fields, and lighting at the new Heritage High School.

We also completed Taylor Street Park. This neighborhood park was developed with a great deal of input from residents and provides a playground, picnic shelter, benches, and swings for use by all ages.

The highlight of the year in Parks and Recreation was the opening of E. Carroll Joyner Park. Sunday, October 4 was a beautiful day and a big crowd was on hand to celebrate the opening.

The first phase construction was made possible by our citizens who approved a bond referendum in 2005. Hundreds of residents have taken advantage of the trails; have enjoyed the pecan trees and farm buildings and the rock wall that winds through the property.

E. Carroll Joyner Park is truly a jewel in our town that offers everyone space to renew their spirit in the midst of ever crowding urbanization.

The mayor of Cary came for our opening celebration. I told him about a Cary resident who had visited friends in Wake Forest and discovered the park. They had returned a couple of times and informed their friends that it was worth the drive from Cary. Sig Hutchinson, the chair of Wake County Open Space Committee said, “Well, Cary has some beautiful parks.” Cary’s mayor replied, “

Let’s recognize Susan Simpson our Parks and Recreation Director for her outstanding leadership on this project. Susan made sure the work was done right; she kept the vision in front of everyone, and demanded the best.

Susan has proven herself over the years to be an exceptional leader for us, guiding our Parks and Recreation Department to provide the facilities and programs expected by our citizens to keep us at the top of the game.

I also want to say thank you to our Parks and Recreation Advisory Board. This is an outstanding group of citizens whose dedication has been so instrumental in keeping the park facilities and recreational programs top class in Wake Forest. They are always willing to spend the extra time and effort needed.

For example, Thomas Hodge served as the chair of the North Carolina Parks and Recreation Citizens Advisory Group this year. The Advisory Board is an important part of the process of recommending, planning, and building our facilities and programs. We just want to say thank you for all you do—for pushing and pulling us in the right direction!

As a matter of fact, you know we have 10 Advisory Boards and they all do a great job. They give of their time and expertise to help us and make recommendations to us. I’d like for all Advisory Board members that are here to stand and let’s give them a round of applause.

We accomplished some significant things in the area of saving energy costs and taking care of our environment. We adopted an energy policy for the town that encourages and establishes rules for holding our energy costs to a minimum.

As you have all heard, the new Town Hall will be, we expect, platinum LEED certified. We have taken an energy audit and are implementing measures to reduce energy costs in all facilities.

We built a rainwater reclamation system at the Public Works Center and estimate that we will save well over 100,000 gallons of potable water every year by using this water in certain operations.

With the help of the Wake County Soil and Water group we are building a wetlands site to show how storm water can be cleaned as it is absorbed into the ground. We plan to have informational signage posted at storm water facilities at Town Hall to educate our citizens on their purpose and how they work.

The Senior Center expansion was completed this year. This expansion gives our Seniors much needed space for their programs.

We appreciate Matt Hale’s help with the design and oversight and Landmark Construction for doing a great job on time and on budget!

You know, our Senior Center is 15 years old this year. A group of citizens spent hours and hours baking cakes, organizing yard sales, and whatever it took to raise the money for that building. We must continue our commitment to providing the space and programs required to keep our Seniors active and involved in our community.

We are pleased that our partnership with the Wake Forest Fire Department continues to be productive. The Fire Department opened Station #3 this year and held the graduation of the first class of the Fire Department Academy. These were two exceptional accomplishments under our new Chief Lynn.

The Rotary Club has graciously helped sponsor this event for a couple of years and I wanted to acknowledge the work they do in our community. I understand the Rotary Club has taken over the sponsorship of the SOS Club at Wake Forest Rolesville Middle School.

This Club teaches young men and women good business practices and promotes good business decisions. They learn to plan and execute a budget and raise money to fund their budget.

Over the past few years they have raised $58,000 through their Dance Marathon to support the Children’s Hospitals. With the sponsorship of the Rotary Club, the SOS Club will be given direction from business leaders in our community and will expand the Dance Marathon to include all middle school students in our area.

Thanks to the Rotary Club for your service to youth and thanks to the SOS Club for your service to others.

The Gadberry Group in Little Rock, Arkansas announced in January that Wake Forest is ranked in their “9 from 2009” most notable high-growth areas in the U.S. The Gadberry Group provides location intelligence services and data for the world’s top retail brands. They stated that due to the current economic challenges, their list this year might well include the most resilient areas they have ever featured.

“Resilient” is a good word to use when you look at what we have accomplished over the history of our town.

We have experienced outstanding residential growth over the past decade, averaging 566 single-family building permits per year. This year our residential development took a hit but our commercial development stayed strong in spite of the economy.

There were 17 commercial buildings approved this year. Some of them have been built and a number of commercial projects started the year before were completed, both retail and office.

This commercial development is occurring all over town, not just in one area.

The assessed value of property in the Town of Wake Forest is 3.3 billion dollars. This is up from 544 million in 2000. Sales tax revenue, which is the second largest source of revenue for the Town is expected to be a little over 4 million dollars this year. This is a growth of 112.9% since 2003.

I am sharing these statistics to illustrate that our Town is in good shape financially. Our revenue projections are traditionally conservative and this has served us very well this year.

We actually met our property tax and sales tax revenue projections although we did take a hit on investment income and in development fees. We held back on hiring a few positions but we were not forced to cut back on services or release employees as many towns did.

We will continue our conservative projection of revenue and scheduling capital projects in a manner that will allow us to maintain a healthy fund balance that provides us room to handle unexpected situations.

In October, with the general obligation bond market at a 40-year interest rate low, we decided to sell the remainder of the bonds passed in the 2005 referendum for parks and streets. As a part of this process we contacted the rating agencies in New York and had a two-hour conversation with them about our fiscal condition and projections.

We hoped the agencies would confirm our AA rating. We were thrilled when Standard and Poor came back with a raise to AAA!

I want you to understand how huge this is to our community. We are the smallest town in North Carolina with a AAA rating. There are only 73 towns in the United States with populations under 35,000 with a AAA rating! The rating agencies appreciate our growth, our continuity of staff, and our fiscal stability.

We are very fortunate to have staff that really cares about our Town and that is willing to work harder when times are tough. There is a saying that “Trying Times are Times for Trying.” I know this must be the philosophy our staff uses.

I want to take a moment to recognize Mark Williams, our Town Manager, and Aileen Staples, our Finance Director. Their oversight and direction have brought Wake Forest to this outstanding fiscal position. It is because of their work that we have achieved the AAA rating.

We should be proud that over the years our staff has made mostly good recommendations and that our Town Boards have made mostly good decisions!

Our top priority this year is to get our Unified Development Ordinance completed. This will make sure that all of our plans and ordinances comply with our new Community Plan adopted in September.

We appreciate all the input to the Community Plan by our citizens and want to be sure that we have the plans in place for the challenges ahead.

In closing, I am not announcing tonight any big, super initiatives that we will begin this year. What I am telling you is that I am proud of our accomplishments over the past 100 years and I am excited about what we are doing right now.

We are providing the services our citizens need and want; we are buying land and open space to build beautiful parks; we are off to a good start on an extensive greenway system; we are making sure our downtown is beautiful and vibrant; we are building roads and sidewalks to connect our residents together; we are supporting our businesses so they can continue to provide jobs and services for our citizens; and we are anticipating the challenges of the next 100 years.

Our new Town Hall is almost finished. They are installing the furniture and the memorial bricks in the Plaza. In a couple of weeks we will be moving in. We have come a long way since the present Town Hall was built in 1977.When we get settled in our new home, we will invite you to come see the difference 30 years makes.

We believe you will be pleased and proud and I am confident Calvin Jones would still say Wake Forest is one of the best communities in the state.