Day 2 of Cary's annual council-staff retreat began with a slightly different agenda than Day 1. Much of the first day was spent discussing largely philosophical ideals on how the council could work together as a team -- along with town employees, of course -- and identifying strengths and weaknesses within the town's overall governmental operations.
The second full day was spent in part on more meat-and-bones issues. Interim Town Manager Ben Shivar helped walk the Town Council and Cary's staff through a series of agenda items discussed at last year's retreat in Southern Pines. Shivar and other staff members provided updates on various projects and asked the Town Council to identify those the board would like to focus on in the coming year.
A few highlights:
*Find a downtown development manager. Council member Erv Portman likened the position to the kind of work a mall manager might perform, but added that anyone selected to fill such a post would need to strike a balance between the public and private sectors.
Council member Jennifer Robinson said she envisioned the manager perhaps working alongside officials at the Cary Chamber of Commerce to draw new business downtown. Interim Town Manager Ben Shivar, who will temporarily fill the role, said it was an important role.
"We need someone who can bring focus to that area and direct competing interests," he said.
*Begin planning for a new business park. Interim Town Manager Ben Shivar said that he, along with Cary's economic development manager, would likely meet with staff in Chatham County in coming weeks to discuss an idea to build a new business park that would provide economic benefits to both parties.
Some on the council liked the idea in theory. "I don't think there's anything better we can do from an economic development standpoint than to make sure this is built," Council member Erv Portman said of the concept. "It's a relatively cheap economic stimulus initiative."
But Julie Robison and Jennifer Robinson were among those on the board who urged caution in moving forward with the idea of building in a neighboring county. Both Robison and Robinson suggested as an alternative that the Town Council might want to also explore development near the NW Cary rail station or in downtown.
*Continue promoting 'green' practices. Mayor Harold Weinbrecht expressed a dissatisfaction with the amount of litter he sees along Interstate 40 and suggested an anti-litter campaign as a means of raising awareness of environmental issues.
Ideas proposed for such an initiative included Julie Robison's idea of sponsoring a cleanup day through the Haw River Assembly, a non-profit group helping to protect the Haw River and Jordan Lake. Also, Erv Portman proposed conducting an anti-litter campaign to coincide with Earth Day in April.