Council Keeps Temporary Bike Lanes, Denies Occupy Protesters

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With the city’s blessing, the Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Commission will be requesting an extension of the temporary Hillsborough Street bike lanes from the North Carolina Department of Transportation.

The lanes, which run along the state-owned thoroughfare between Gardner and Enterprise streets, were part of a pilot program approved in 2010. The temporary lanes were installed in August and were to be studied for two to six months.

BPAC members want the observation period extended for another few months while the city completes other bicycle projects on Oberlin Road, Clark Avenue and Faircloth Street.

Occupy Raleigh Request Denied
Occupy Raleigh protesters will be spending more time on the Capitol sidewalk after Councilors denied the group’s request to use a small park near the municipal building as a home base.

The unanimous vote came one week after the Law and Public Safety Committee voiced safety and maintenance concerns. The committee encouraged the group to seek private property.

While the city would allow the protesters to occupy the park during the day, they would be forced to leave at night. Protesters are looking for a place where they can set up a semi-permanent camp.

Raleigh’s Occupy protest is part of a national movement of 24-hour protests that began with Occupy Wall Street in New York. Since Oct. 15, Occupy Raleigh has set up a small encampment on the sidewalk along Morgan Street aside the Old State Capitol building. The Occupy Wall Street protesters in New York were evicted by police early Tuesday morning.

Mayor-elect Nancy McFarlane said she has been in touch with property owners trying to find a space for the group. Occupier Kurt Zehnder said so far he has had negative responses from the property owners he has encountered. He said he thinks finding a private space will take awhile.

“I think eventually it will happen,” Zehnder said.

Auditor: City in Good Financial Shape
An independent auditor of the city’s finance records found the City of Raleigh to be in good financial standing with the expectation that it will maintain its AAA credit rating.

A report from Cherry, Bekaert & Holland, LLP found no evidence of financial mismanagement of the city’s funds.

Last year, the city received management letters regarding issues with internal control. City Comptroller Allison Bradsher said the city has since corrected those issues.

The report found the city is exceeding its goal to maintain of 14 percent of the succeeding year’s expended budget. The city has an extra $1.3 million in unassigned funds. Staff decided to keep the money in the fund balance because of unknown costs that could come up.

Chief Financial Officer Perry James said the city continues to watch the cost of health care for how it will affect future budgets.

Some key numbers:

  • The city has $1.7 billion in net assets, which includes land, buildings, equipment and machinery. It makes up 75 percent of the city’s net assets.
  • Expenses for public safety and leisure activities are higher than the revenues generated by those activities. The balance to operate those programs comes from sales and property taxes.
  • Water and sewer and storm water funds produced higher revenues than expected.
  • The Convention Center, parking and transit required subsidies from various accounts.
  • The city earned $354 million in revenues, mostly stemming from taxes.

Amazon for City Services?

The city will soon begin negotiating a contract with technology companies SkyBridge Global and SciQuest for a computer application that would give the city access to a vast array of goods and services. The E-Procurement application would work in the same way that residents use Amazon.com for products and services.

The application would run in concert with the city’s financial program, known as the enterprise resource planning system. Because the program is cost directed, it will help the city manage spending and contract compliance.

The city has budgeted $550,000 for the application, but has not yet entered into a contract.

Veolia to Continue Transportation Management
After extensive debate, Veolia Transportation Services will continue to manage the city’s Capital Area Transit program. The contract, which will cost the city about $300,000 a year, will be in effect for five years. The city can terminate the contract at any time with 120 days notice.

Councilor Eugene Weeks and Mayor-elect Nancy McFarlane had questions about the service, ultimately voting against the contract.

Weeks asked that the contract length be reduced to only one year. He also asked if the city could conduct some sort of employee and customer survey.

City Manager Russell Allen said the city could conduct a ridership survey, but they did not have the authority to survey employees. He added that employees are unionized and have their own means to make changes.

Allen also said any issues relating to bus routes of efficiency would be a separate issue from the management contract.

 

 

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