Important City Council actions in July included approval of the final Dell contract, and improvements in our sediment pollution control ordinance.
Dell contract finalized:
The City Council and County Commissioners, in separate votes during July, approved the final contracts for participation in the Dell Computer economic development project. When the new Dell plant opens in September, it is now expected to add $135 million in immediate additional local tax base, and to exceed $180 million in tax value within three years. Between 500 and 1,000 new local jobs should be created this year, increasing to 1,700 later. Those are the direct impacts of the Dell plant itself. They do not include the jobs and tax base value of local Dell suppliers which will locate and grow here during the same period. The Dell local tax contribution alone will exceed local public costs within three years. Adding in their local suppliers, the net effect on local tax revenues will be positive from the first year onward. Overall, the positive effect on the regional economy is difficult to project with precision, but is expected to be in the neighborhood of $1 billion per year. It’s not surprising, therefore, that the votes in favor of the final contract were unanimous on both the Council and the Commission.
Water pollution control ordinance improved:
At its July 5 meeting, the City Council approved important improvements to our city ordinance controlling water pollution and downstream property damage from erosion and sedimentation. These changes were recommended by the state Division of Land Resources, and are expected to help reduce mud and water pollution from construction sites in our area. Among other changes, the amendments will reduce the time that construction-disturbed slopes and land can be left without ground cover; require that downstream banks and channels be protected from damage due to increased stormwater runoff velocity; allow the city to require changes in an erosion control plan if the original plan is not working; and allow the city to require those responsible for eroded mud downstream to remove the mud and restore the damaged area.
I have an update on one major road project of special interest to the Southwest Ward, and news of a possible new project of direct interest. The state Dept. of Transportation (DOT) took bids in July for the Hanes Mall Boulevard and bridge widening project. According to the regional DOT engineer, the bids for the contract came in higher than expected. The state Board of Transportation will decide at its August meeting whether to accept one of those bids or to re-bid the project. Meanwhile, the Winston-Salem Urban Area Transportation Advisory Committee approved a study of possible "roundabouts" (traffic circles) at three major intersections in Winston-Salem, including the Five Points intersection (Stratford, Country Club, Miller, and First). Well-placed roundabouts can reduce traffic accidents, congestion, and delays at intersections, by eliminating traffic signals and left turns. The Five Points intersection has a history of front-to-side ("t-bone") collisions during left turns. The study should be completed within a year.
The city has started two new programs designed to reduce illegal dumping of trash on city streets and lots (both public and private). First, the city has purchased three moveable surveillance cameras, and is rotating them around the worst dumping sites within the city to catch offenders. (If you know of a repeated-dumping site that you think should be added to the list, please let me know, and I can suggest it.) Second, we’re putting together a Trash Busters program to encourage citizens to report illegal dumping by offering a Crimestoppers-style reporting and reward system. I’ll report back with the Trash Busters call-in number and process information as soon as they’re ready.
A hot, dry spell during the last week of July brought our two worst air quality days of the year so far. Both were in the low "orange" alert range for ozone, the range considered unhealthy for sensitive groups (like seniors, young children, and those with health problems like asthma or heart conditions). They show that it is still important for public health (and protecting our area from federal non-compliance penalties) that we continue our work to reduce air pollution, especially from mobile sources (mostly cars and trucks). The Piedmont Triad Early Action Compact stakeholders committee (which I chair) will consider as part of our September agenda whether there are "ozone action day" efforts which we should recommend adding to our region’s pollution control strategies.
August agenda items:
Looking ahead, the City Council’s August meeting agendas will include a number of items of interest to the Southwest Ward. They include rezoning requests on Westbrook Drive and on Mayfield Road; new sidewalk construction priorities; and the urban area bicycle plan.
As always, please contact me with suggestions or questions on city and neighborhood items of interest. Thanks.