NC Deep Dive

Unraveling the Holly Springs 2023 Park Bonds: A Deep Dive into Community Park Development

September 09, 2023 Amanda Lunn
NC Deep Dive
Unraveling the Holly Springs 2023 Park Bonds: A Deep Dive into Community Park Development
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Ever puzzled over the complexities of municipal bonds and their role in community development? With our guests LeeAnn Plumer and Randy Harrington, we're revealing the hidden world of general obligation bonds, bond referendums, and the impact they have on the community parks and residents in Holly Springs. We're retracing the history of the 2011 park bond, illustrating how bonds function, their necessity, and the process of paying them off.

Moving into the intricacies of the proposed $100 million bond, we dissect its allocation over seven years and the vital role played by the nine-member Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee. We're spotlighting the ambitious plans for the Park at Cass Holt Road, the Recreation Center, and the myriad of improvements and additions planned for community parks, all funded by the bond. We further venture into the potential inclusivity of Cass Holt Park, discussing its ongoing operating costs, and the opportunities it presents for the community.

What if the bond referendum doesn't cross the finish line? We're laying out the potential alternatives for funding and  giving you a comprehensive look at what comes next. Join us for an enlightening journey, not only to understand park bonds but to connect with the individuals who bring them to life.

For further information on the Holly Springs 2023 Park Bonds and general voting information, feel free to peruse the following links:

Bond Project Portal

Holly Springs 2023 Parks Bond Info

Still have questions about the 2023 Parks Bond? Email  hsbonds@hollyspringsnc.gov .

Parks Bond 2023 Educational Flyer (PDF) 

Wake County Polling Places
 

NC State Board of Elections Voter Search (Search for voter details, including jurisdictions, polling place, sample ballot, absentee ballot information, and voter history)
 

Resolution Calling Bond Referendum

Wake County Tax Rates & Fees
---Current Rates to 2014
---2013 & Prior

Support the show

As always, if you are interested in being on or sponsoring the podcast or if you have any particular issues, thoughts, or questions you'd like explored on the podcast, please email NCDeepDive@gmail.com. Your contributions would be greatly appreciated.

Now, let's dive in!

Amanda Benbow Lunn:

Hello friends, you are listening to the Holly Springs Deep Dive podcast, soon to be called the NC Deep Dive. I am your host, Amanda Benbow Lunn, and today I am honored to be speaking with LeeAnn Plumer and Randy Harrington on behalf of the Town of Holly Springs about the 2023 Parks Bond that will be on your ballot for this upcoming municipal election. LeeAnn is the director of Parks and Recreation for Holly Springs. She is an 11-year resident here and has served in her role since February of 2019. Prior to her current position, she served as the Assistant Director with the Cary Parks Recreation and Cultural Resources Department, Executive Director with the Holly Springs Chamber of Commerce and the Director of Recreation and Parks in Annapolis, Maryland. LeeAnn has over 23 years of municipal government experience. In her position, she oversees the town's six major parks, including the unique amenities at Bass Lake, Sugg Farm, Ting Park, the Hunt Recreational Center and the Holly Springs Cultural Center.

Amanda Benbow Lunn:

Randy Harrington has served as the Holly Springs Town Manager since August of 2018. After 11 years with the City of Charlotte, where he served in roles as Budget and Evaluation Director and later as the Chief Financial Officer and Director of Management and Financial Services. Before joining the City of Charlotte, he worked for the City of Concord as Budget and Performance Manager, as well as the Budget and Management Analyst. As Town Manager, Randy oversees the Operations and Development & Infrastructure Divisions, led by two Assistant Town Managers, while also overseeing the town's Communications, Marketing, Finance and Human Resources Departments. Serving as the town's chief executive officer, Randy is responsible for implementing the town's vision, the Council's policies and managing the town's day-to-day operations. As the liaison between town departments and the Town Council, he offers insight and expert analysis to assist the Council in formulating and implementing short and long-term goals for the town growth management. Randy interacts actively with the community, the Mayor, the Council and other stakeholders in local government to ensure that the ongoing business of planning for the town's future remains a highly inclusive and collaborative process, providing visionary leadership to support the development and management of multiple projects and partnerships designed to strengthen the Holly Springs community.

Amanda Benbow Lunn:

Without further ado, friends, let's dive in. So we have the 2023 Parks Bond that will be on the Holly Springs ballot this November 7th for the Municipal Elections. So I think I'm going to start off with what are general obligation bonds? What are they so that people who aren't familiar with the process can understand what that is.

Randy Harrington:

Yeah, sure, and I'd be happy to answer that. General obligation bonds are really the cheapest form of debt that any municipality can take on to fund public infrastructure investments, and so we go to the voters and the voters can decide whether or not to authorize the town to issue these types of bonds. If voters vote in the affirmative to do that, then we go through a process of selling the bonds to investors and, given our outstanding credit ratings, we're able to sell this debt at a very low cost. The lowest cost that you can get out there in the marketplace means a cheaper cost for residents. So it's just a form, a tool of debt, and it's backed by the full faith and credit of the municipality's taxing authority.

Amanda Benbow Lunn:

And what is a bond referendum? What does that mean?

Randy Harrington:

A bond referendum is an opportunity for the community to go to a formal vote and to decide the direction on a particular issue that the community should go in, and so whatever the voters decide is the decision that will kind of carry the land, so to speak, and will be the direction that we would go then as an organization and as a municipality.

Amanda Benbow Lunn:

And when was the last park bond that was approved? When did that happen?

LeeAnn Plumer:

Yeah, I'm happy to answer that one. So the last park bond was in 2011, when the population of Holly Springs was just about 25,000 people. Here we are now in 2023, and we're looking at 50,000 people here in the town, and so you know, it is really kind of time for us, I think, to look at additional investments for our parks and infrastructure, based on the increased demand and the increased population in our community.

Amanda Benbow Lunn:

Okay, could we talk about that previous bond? What was that one for?

LeeAnn Plumer:

So in 2011, there were several projects that were suggested and identified by both the parks department, the leadership and the community. The purchase of the Sugg Farm the land was included in that, as well as the master plan process. There were several improvements at Womble Park that also were included, including the turf, some restrooms and the shelter area. The lighting for the turf fields as well. There was a loop greenway trail was also included as additional enhancements, as well as the pickleball and tennis facilities that are also at Womble Park.

LeeAnn Plumer:

So in addition there were improvements at Jones Park, there was new playground and new playground installed, as well as a disc golf course, and there let's see, trying to think if there were some other projects that were included for the initial issuance. So, if I may, in 2011, $20 million parks bonds were approved by the voters, but at the time the town only issued $12 million of that debt, and so those improvements that I just shared were part of that initial $12 million. In 2019-2020 timeframe, the remaining issuance the additional $8 million was issued, and that covered two projects that are currently underway. One was for the parkland that was purchased across from Holly Springs High School on Cass Holt Road, and the other project that is funded with those bonds is the Middle Creek Greenway Project, which is currently under construction and is anticipated a spring of 2024 opening.

Amanda Benbow Lunn:

Okay, just because I am curious and if I am, probably other people are too when they issued the bond and took so much in 2012 and then waited to release the funds for the rest in that time period, is Holly Springs paying interest or something on that, or is it just kind of a hold until we take the money to apply? How does that work?

Randy Harrington:

Yeah, it's just a hold until that money is issued. So initially the first $12 million residents were paying on that piece during those years, and then it's not until that second component, that second $8 million, is issued. Then that piece gets paid back.

Amanda Benbow Lunn:

Okay, and that was a 20-year payback period. Is that correct? So is it 20 years for the first set and then 20 years when we took out the second set, Correct, Okay, and how does that work? Because property taxes were affected to pay for that and if I remember correctly you can correct me if I'm wrong it was about five cents for $100 worth of property value, If I'm thinking correctly we approve it and the taxes go up by that amount. At the end of the period, d oes the tax remain a part of the property tax or does that fall off? If it remains, does it get redirected somewhere? Does it stay towards parks and rec? What happens at that point?

Randy Harrington:

Yeah, great question, and there's really two approaches that can occur. One is yes, when debt gets retired and it's paid off and it's free and clear, there could be a reduction to the property tax rate that would be commensurate with that. Or it is factored into future debt, and what I mean by that is every municipality is constantly investing in new infrastructure. As you know, the community continues to grow, and so when that debt is paid off, it then makes it cheaper to afford the future debts. You know, for example, either there's some large project and some previous debt has been paid off, it would either require maybe no tax increase to do some future debt or a reduced level of property tax rate increase to do some type of future investment. So those are the two approaches that can be considered and ultimately that's up to the council to decide, but those would be the two ways.

Amanda Benbow Lunn:

Okay, was I close saying last time it was about five cents per every hundred dollars.

Randy Harrington:

And LeeAnn, I don't know if you have that number.

LeeAnn Plumer:

I do not know for certain. We'd have to maybe provide that additional information for you. I thought, because the full 20 million was not issued at one time, that it was not the full five cent increase, but we would have to verify. Neither Randy or I, unfortunately, were with the town at the time, so is this sort of some some of the back details? But we definitely provide that in the future. Yeah.

Randy Harrington:

The one thing that I do know at the very beginning there was envisioned to be two property tax rate increases associated with that bond, with the first issuance and then the second. But because of the strong economic growth in the community and the associated tax revenues that come from that, we were able to avoid any type of additional property tax rate increase on that second issuance. So a good news kind of component there where a property tax rate increase was able to be avoided, and that was a function of growing revenues as well as other previous debt that had rolled off, kind of similar. Going back to what I mentioned a little bit earlier Perfect.

Amanda Benbow Lunn:

Perfect! Did we accomplish all ?

LeeAnn Plumer:

Well, so there were several projects, or I should say a few projects, that were out for consideration. That again, I think, when the community was informed about what was envisioned for the 2011 parks fund, that there's always some fluctuation in terms of what actually can be completed on changing, potentially changing needs, again, the values of some of the costs to actually build some of those projects. One of the considerations that I think was suggested in 2011 was a gym space out at Ting Park, an indoor gym facility, and that was one project that was not, that was part of that second issuance that we talked about and that was not funded. In fact, those funds were redirected to additional greenways because we got some feedback from the community that that was a priority, as well as the additional acquisition of that new parkland.

Amanda Benbow Lunn:

Okay, perfect. How have you assessed the wants and needs of the community?

LeeAnn Plumer:

So I'll talk a little bit about that and then maybe, Randy, you can kind of fill in. So you know, the town's been very proactive in trying to create some surveys or get feedback from our residents and citizens about what their desires are. So in 2021, there were two surveys, one being part of the Parks and Recreation Master Plan. There was a statistically valid survey that was sent to a number of households to really understand what the community's priorities were, and a lot of the amenities that are included in the new park proposal for to be funded through the bond have been identified in that way. Additionally, there was a community satisfaction survey that ranked other, not just parks and recreation projects, but townwide projects in terms of priority investment, and once again parks and recreation, and particularly park expansion and greenways, were at that top of the ranking.

Randy Harrington:

Yeah, that survey from two years ago covered the entire community as statistically valid survey. And investments in parks and recreation were a consistent top element that we consistently hear from residents that they want investment in.

Amanda Benbow Lunn:

Alright. So moving on to the 2023 Parks Bond. What is the process for something like this to occur and to exist? What's happening behind the scenes before we hear that there is a bond that will be on the ballot?

Randy Harrington:

I think a lot of it goes back to just to what LeeAnn had commented on. So it first starts with that feedback from the community and the Mayor and Council, and so that's the genesis of it. So three years ago, hearing that feedback along with getting an opportunity to purchase 56 acres on Cass Holt Road just across from the high school, was a very unique opportunity. We knew we had some need in the western side of the town for a new park and we had a great opportunity to acquire that. So the town acquired that property and then continued on with the community engagement and the master planning work that goes into shaping what type of amenity is most desired by the community. And so I might let LeeAnn just say a little bit more there.

Randy Harrington:

But through that process a series of elements or amenities in this type of investment start to bubble to the top and so we go through continued community engagement with the community on to refine those ideas. We have engagements with the Mayor and Council. So the Mayor and Council have been involved with this project or really the projects that and with that in particular the Cass Holt Road project, over the last three years and I've had many meetings about conceptual ideas for it what residents have said that they would like to see, and from that we have a planning and preparation process where we look through the financials of the project, we get additional consulting expertise to help us refine what the concepts can look like. And that gets us a little bit to today, where now we're at a point to say, hey, community, if this is something that you want to invest in, let's have a bond referendum. And to get that answer for sure.

Amanda Benbow Lunn:

Sure, and are there particular committees or the planning board involved? What are the nuts and bolts? Who are the people working in finding out all this information?

LeeAnn Plumer:

Sure, and, as Randy indicated, you know, from the community input that we received through the Parks Migration Master Plan process and the opportunity to, you know, identify a future park on the west side of town, we took that information. We had again various public input, meetings, site tours and the recommendations then were presented to the Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee. So there is a nine-member committee that kind of weighs in and makes recommendations in terms of the needs of Parks and Recreation Services and facilities for the community, so their representatives, you know, of the community, their citizens of the community. That feedback then is recommended to Town Council to consider and then Town Council sort of makes that decision on how will we fund, you know, these investments and that's where you know the process of funding sources I think is discussed.

LeeAnn Plumer:

And then, as we talked about, you know, general obligation bonds are really a cost-effective way for us to build this infrastructure and, as we talked about, I mean, that's really how many of the parks and investments that have been made over the years have been made you know, through the general obligation bonds supported by the voters.

Amanda Benbow Lunn:

Right? Was this bond as it is what was initially presented, or is there like a starting point that was initially presented and it just morphed into this, with multiple members having feedback? What does that look like?

LeeAnn Plumer:

Well, again, I think, based on the feedback that we received through the master planning process for the new park, I would say that was probably the starting point, recognizing that as a community we were a deficit on the west side of town for park land and park amenities.

LeeAnn Plumer:

So as we identified what those opportunities would be, we would take them to the parks advisory committee. They would go to Town Council for decision and sort of weighing what the opportunities would be, what the needs were and what the costs were and how we would be able to manage that. In addition, you know we feel that there are other areas within the park system that continue to need to be invested and upgraded. So when we decided that we needed additional capital funding to develop the park on Cass Holt Road, we looked at other opportunities within some of our other park areas to include as well.

LeeAnn Plumer:

As I mentioned, that master plan indicated. You know we are not only deficit on parkland on the west side of town but in some of the amenities for the communities, outdoor basketball courts being a key component of that. That came through additional greenway trails we're just to that again are very specific to the needs of the community and, with the opportunity to potentially get some additional capital funds for investment, we wanted to include some additional facilities as well to continue to maintain really that high standard that Holly Springs has come to expect, I think, in terms of providing, you know, parks and recreation services.

Amanda Benbow Lunn:

So, with the 2023 Parks Bond, how much are we trying to ask for here? What are the nuts and bolts of this bond?

LeeAnn Plumer:

Yeah, the amount that we are asking for voters to authorize is up to $100 million and that is a large number. But our investment and our need is great. It doesn't mean that the town would have to issue all $100 million but depending on the cost of the proposed projects, that is the limit. We also have seven years to actually issue those funds, so they do not need to be issued all at once. But the projects again are located all over town. That would be funded through through the bond, with the good majority being invested in the Cass Holt Road Park and Recreation Center Facility.

LeeAnn Plumer:

But as I indicated. There are other projects that have been also identified in the master plan, like greenways, outdoor basketball courts and so on. That would really also benefit everybody located for our parks, located all over town.

Randy Harrington:

If I could add to that, the bond would include really six core areas and, as LeeAnn alluded to, the Parks and Recreation Center and the Park at Cass Holt Road is the signature project within the bond referendum and that would have amenities such as a splash pad, lighted pickleball courts, lighted basketball courts and turf fields and all wheel skate park trails and greenways, four court gymnasium, e-sports and technology lounge, indoor play space, a cafe with some seating, also an indoor adventure track that would go around the facility and a fitness center.

Randy Harrington:

So those are the elements that are envisioned there with the Park at Cass Holt Road and the Recreation Center. Then there's five other areas that that are outlined: outdoor lighting, an outdoor lighted basketball court at Womble Park, baseball dugout improvements at Womble Park (Some of those are falling into a little bit of disrepair and so those have been considered as part of the list.), a new program pavilion at Sugg Farm Park to continue to build out the master plan elements for Sugg Farm Park, some theater upgrades at the cultural center, particularly related to seating, which try to improve some of the comfort for watching performances, and then greenway connection considerations in the town. So those are the list of projects that are envisioned as part of that one hundred million dollar referendum.

Amanda Benbow Lunn:

OK, and where is the pavilion set to placed a t Sugg Farm?

LeeAnn Plumer:

Yeah, I can speak to that. So it would be on the south side of the park. If you are familiar, Sugg Farm does have a land conservancy overlay so that there are limited areas that can be developed with infrastructure out there. So there is a building envelope is what we call it on the south side of the park that will be adjacent to a community garden and a nature play area that we're currently in the process of designing and constructing. So it would support that community garden nature play area. It's also adjacent to our active archery field that we have out at the park and along some of our natural surface greenway trails that we have out at Sugg. If you have children in the community, they participate often, maybe in some of our summer camps and it would be a home base for our summer camps, our nature camps that we provide at Bass Lake would then have access to that shelter and those restrooms, that program space at Sugg.

Amanda Benbow Lunn:

I know with some of like the transportation bond and you spoke to it with the previous parks bond sometimes things happen where we can't afford all of the things. Is there a set priority list at this moment?

LeeAnn Plumer:

Yeah, you know, I think right now that, as I indicated, the majority of the investment would be for the development of the park at Cass Holt Road and we have, you know, sort of an estimated budget with our designers and engineers, and so we would strive to stay within that budget in order to allow some funding for these other needed park projects throughout the entire town.

LeeAnn Plumer:

And it is kind of hard to identify priorities right now. I feel like they're all important and it really will depend on, you know, case by case basis. But our hope is that we will stay within our projected budgets and be able to complete all the projects that were indicated. We also are continuing to look at alternative funding sources. Maybe, if there are funding gaps that would come forward. In fact, the town did receive an additional $2.3 million from the Wake County Hospitality Grant program through hotel and food and beverage taxes. So that is an additional funding source that can also be allocated and is intended to be allocated for the Cass Holt Road project. So we are continuing to look at different sources of revenue in order to cover, you know, any expected additional costs or just costs in general, to try to even reduce, you know, the impact to taxpayers.

Amanda Benbow Lunn:

OK, and you had mentioned that the bond that will be on the ballot will be for authorization for up to $100 million and that the town doesn't necessarily have to take all of that. But that is kind of the reference point, the most that could be taken. So with that I'm sure that you've done some research into what the projected cost might be for some of these things. Is there a buffer that's there, that's included, for potential price increases or delays or things like that? Is that buffer included, or does 100 million just kind of satisfy what you think it might actually cost?

LeeAnn Plumer:

Yeah, when we scope out all of our projects, we always like to include a contingency. So there is a slight intended contingency, both for, you know, project escalation costs due to just the construction market, but also just in terms of some of the unknowns that might occur during the development or construction of the project. We have been pretty disciplined on our scope so that we are not doing things outside of what we need to do, but there are sometimes unexpected expenses or projects that we need to take care of, and so there is some level of contingency anticipated in with that estimate.

Amanda Benbow Lunn:

Okay, what is the timeline for these projects to happen?

LeeAnn Plumer:

Yeah, that's a great question. So you know, if the voters do approve the bond this November, we are already working through a lot of the schematic design and the design development for the project at Cass Holt Road. So that will continue and we will also be able to move forward with some of the other park projects located, as Randy mentioned, all across the town as early as 2025 and 2026. So we will be again moving forward with that additional investment projects while we continue to finalize the design for the Cass Holt Road Park and the Rec Center. We would hope to begin construction on the new park and Recreation Center sometime in early January of 2026 with the hope to open that new facility sometime, maybe in 2027, mid 2027.

Amanda Benbow Lunn:

Okay, how will the bond impact taxes?

Randy Harrington:

For the median home value in the Holly Springs. This is the tax assessed value that residents would pay their property taxes on. The median value is $375,000. Now we all know buying and selling a house in this particular market you oftentimes see numbers quite higher. But in terms of what taxes are based on is based off of assessed value from the Wake County Tax Assessor using that value, which is again the median. So half of residential properties in the town are less, half are higher, but this midpoint would be $15.63 per month. That's the current estimate on that.

Amanda Benbow Lunn:

Okay, and when were property taxes last assessed and when are they due to be assessed again?

Randy Harrington:

The next assessment is scheduled for this upcoming year, so in calendar year 2024. The Wake County Tax Assessor will reassess properties on January 1st and then those tax bills become effective. Usually those are rolled out to residents in that July-August time frame and then you have, you know, toward the end of the year that ultimately pay the taxes. So that's the general timeline. We do anticipate growth in the overall economic growth in the region and so you know we are, I think it's fair to say, hopeful that the estimates that have currently been produced will get better, and what I mean by better is that hopefully, you know, there'll be less of a property tax rate impact.

Randy Harrington:

We don't know that for sure at this point, but based off the economic growth, we want to be, at this particular point, prudent in our estimation and in terms of showing you know what we think the possible kind of the higher limit is, and so that's where the current up to 5% projection is currently in place.

Amanda Benbow Lunn:

And do you think, I mean obviously you're not assessing property taxes so you don't for sure know, but with the way property has increased in value, that likely when it does get reassessed, that that median is going to jump up.

Randy Harrington:

I think it would. I think that's a fair preliminary observation. I would expect that. Yes, I think the other thing too that's important is in the springtime in 2024, and then leading through the upcoming next year's budget process, that Council and myself and our financial and budget teams, with third party financial advisors who help us, we will work through the updated figures and we'll have you know conversations with the Mayor and Council and the community about what those new updated numbers look like and then ultimately, Council would make a decision as part of their next year's budget consideration. So in May and June of 2024 would be the time when a final property tax rate would be established and based off the vote, the referendum in November, if it were to pass, and then, of course, based on any of the assessed value changes that are reflected in the re-evaluation.

Amanda Benbow Lunn:

And again planning on the 20 years once the bond is issued, to pay off whatever we are incurring in debt. So it's a 20-year payoff. Correct. Why do you think it's prudent to invest in the bond now as opposed to waiting?

Randy Harrington:

I think one of the things that we have seen is our neighbors are also investing in parks and recreation, and you see that in Fuquay-Varina, you see that in Apex, you see that in Car y, and so this is not uncommon and I think you know a lot of the residents here in Southwest Wake, and certainly in Holly Springs, have a high affinity for our parks and recreation programming as well as the amenities that we have.

Randy Harrington:

But those amenities are getting stretched and I think we're hearing that from our residents, and when the 2011 bonds were passed, I think our population was close to 25,000 and today we're approaching 50,000 and we're getting more demand on our parks systems and we are woefully deficient on a number of areas, including the gym space, basketball courts. So those you know, those, among some other areas, are the areas that we're trying to identify where, if the community would like to, or some really strategic investments could go, that help make Holly Springs a continued place t hat's an amazing place to live, a fun place to live, where healthy lifestyles are supported and there's opportunity to remain healthy and active in the community.

Amanda Benbow Lunn:

What will be the ongoing operating costs of the Cass Holt Park? Do we have any estimations on that?

LeeAnn Plumer:

Yeah, so we are working on that. Now, you know there are again different elements that we are still finalizing for the size and the scope in terms of the types of amenities. As Randy indicated, we've got a skate park and courts and fields for the park itself, as well as some indoor facilities. Knowing that we are always striving to be as efficient as we can, you know we're looking at ways to kind of utilize our existing staff but know that there'll be some additional operating costs and staffing needs, particularly for the new indoor facility. But as we look at designing that, we are designing it with efficiencies in mind in order to really keep, you know, the number of staff needed at a low ratio, as well as looking at some environmental and sustainability mindsets in terms of heating and air conditioning systems, really looking at some of those opportunities to keep operating costs as low as possible.

Amanda Benbow Lunn:

Is there an estimate on how many additional staff may be needed?

LeeAnn Plumer:

Not at this time. Like I said, we are kind of putting together what we call it pro forma, really understanding what that operational model looks like, and as we continue to develop and design out the facility, we'll have a better understanding about the number of staff that would be required.

Amanda Benbow Lunn:

I've had some people reach out to me about public safety and I know I've heard about like windows being broken at Womble. Are any of the funds going towards public safety to help prevent crime in a space like this might help elicit and bring out?

LeeAnn Plumer:

Holly Springs is one of the safest communities in Wake County, but we do know that, you know, things do happen and we certainly the parks department works very closely with our police department to ensure that we've got the correct tools and supervision tools, being cameras and other opportunities to target those areas that might be at the highest risk, like parking lots and so on. So we are continuing looking at ways to use technology to our advantage to not only reduce but really prevent those opportunity crimes in that nature and, quite frankly, on the flip side a lot of times. You know parks are a great resource to reduce crime overall in community.

LeeAnn Plumer:

I mean, it provides great avenues for teens in particular and young adults as a place to go and to have sort of productive activity, versus having time to kind of be idle and find those opportunities for additional crime. So you know it is. It is a two-way benefit in that way, but understandably, that we are continuing to work to encourage folks to, you know, prevent that opportunity by leaving cars unlocked or items in sight and so on. I know that seems to be the more recent or common type of activity, as folks are utilizing our parks, they leave things in their cars and their cars, you know our target to be broken into. So we continue to look at additional ways and resources and I know you know looking at again technology through camera and other types of deterrent systems in order to, you know, reduce those opportunities is something that will continue to do throughout the course of all of our operations.

Amanda Benbow Lunn:

Okay, and are there any plans in place to help make the Cass Holt Park inclusive and, if so, how?

LeeAnn Plumer:

Yeah, absolutely so. You know, I think when we talk about inclusivity, there are lots of ways to make sure that it's a welcoming and open space. We are planning this as a multi-generational facility so that not only families, but young children, seniors in particular, and teens are really welcome and have some place that they can identify with and utilize, particularly whether it be inside or in the new recreation center. We are also working to expand, just overall currently, ways to include people with all abilities to participate. We've had some great expansion in some of our programs, with some all abilities art classes and some all abilities cooking classes, and we hope to continue in that mindset as we continue to program out and think through the spaces that would be included in the design and operation for the new park and new facility.

Amanda Benbow Lunn:

Okay, and with the, I'm thinking like children's park structures, I know Sense of Play was an organization that was in town and they were working towards something similar. Will this be an area where folks in wheelchairs, whether they're young kids or maybe the parents, can utilize the playground facilities as well?

LeeAnn Plumer:

Absolutely, it's all again. It's always our goal to have those opportunities for folks that have the different abilities. So, yes, we anticipate that the play structure will be accessible to folks that might have again mobility challenges. We've also just in general also increased some communication boards or added some communication board to our parks for folks that may have limited conversation ability or, you know, verbal skills. So we will continue to use those types of tools and resources and designs in order to make sure that we're including everybody in those facilities particularly for children at the playground area and the splash pad.

LeeAnn Plumer:

We're excited about the new splash pad, so making sure that it is also accessible will be a priority.

Amanda Benbow Lunn:

And thinking of the splash pad and just the beauty of the amenity together, like bringing more people to Holly Springs to live and play, is water allocation something that's on yall's radar?

LeeAnn Plumer:

It certainly is. In terms of the park, and I can let Randy, you know, kind of talk about it overall for residential areas, the splash pad itself would be a circulating system, so it is not a wasteful situation. And that case is that it's similar to a pool pump is that the water would be recirculated and reutilized and not just pumped out and wasted. So we again, as I mentioned, heating and air conditioning, even our you know other types of systems for water reuse and water use in general, will always, you know, be as forethought as we can to be a conservative nature.

Randy Harrington:

Yeah, I think the answer is. Well, just to add, the fixtures, you know, will be designed to be low flow type consideration, so we can make sure that the entire facility uses the least amount of water that's necessary to you know, to operate the facility and Leanne also mentioned our we have a what's called a reclaimed water system where we reuse wastewater and we clean it and then we can reuse it back for things such as irrigation and some other types of use. Is similar to that, and we would certainly look, you know, to do that here at this place as well, to be real smart water users towards maximizing every drop.

Amanda Benbow Lunn:

Okay, I've noticed some chatter on some of the local Facebook pages about there being a lack of parking for students at the high school and the previous owner, from what I'm understanding, of the land, allowed students to park there for a fee and now that's not an opportunity and I know in a lot of the subdivisions and along Cass Holt Road they're not allowed to park on the side of the streets. Is there anything that is in yall's radar? Will parking be available there for the students of the high school or would they be prohibited from parking? Has that been addressed and thought about at all?

LeeAnn Plumer:

Yeah, I can add some to that. It's definitely been thought about. We don't have any firm you know availability at this point, but we understand that there is a parking need and honestly we want the park to be a welcome facility for the students that you know attend the schools that are, you know, right across the street. So we've been having some early conversations with Wake County and the high school in particular about what that might mean for the future. But we do not have any firm plans or any exact number of passes or what that would look like at this point. We know we have a couple of years out for construction but through the design we are considering that to know that that might be a future possibility.

Amanda Benbow Lunn:

Okay, and the traffic is already getting worse, and with all of the new building and congestion around the park will exacerbate that growing issue. It's in a school zone. What are the plans to provide sidewalks around and down Avent Ferry and C ass Holt? What road improvements are planned? Are there anything planned for there, the surrounding areas?

Randy Harrington:

Yes, and as part of the town's investment, you know, in the park, if voters approved that to go forward, we would be installing sidewalk and those types of amenities.

Randy Harrington:

And, as LeeAnn mentioned particularly, we understand there's a unique relationship there with the high school and so we want to ensure that there's a safe way for pedestrians to cross Cass Holt Road and so those will be safety pedestrian design features that we will want to incorporate the overall design.

Randy Harrington:

Also on Avent Ferry Road, and one of the things that's a bit unique, most of the major roads in Holly Springs are our state roads, owned by the North Carolina Department of Transportation.

Randy Harrington:

Typically, the only town roads that we own and maintain are ones that you would think of as being in neighborhoods, those types of streets, and so, for example, Avent Ferry Road is a state road and we have been working with the community and with NCDOT to try to advance investments that they have planned in the future for that corridor. And more specifically, what I'm talking about is between Ralph Stevens Road and Cass Holt Road, which is the next segment that NCDOT would be focusing on. Right now what we understand from NCDOT is that in 2026 would be when they would begin acquiring right-of-way for that future construction and then the construction starting in the 2028 timeframe. So we continue to work with our partners there, with NCDOT, to try to advance and move up. Our Council is very engaged on the importance of pedestrian and motorist safety there on that Avent Ferry Road corridor. We're trying to do everything in our ability to advance that, but it is a road corridor that is state owned and so we have to work with our partners and their ability to fund and make those investments as well.

Amanda Benbow Lunn:

And so when the park comes in because it sounds like the park will be there prior to the roads being constructed do we have the ability to put in those crosswalks and make that safe transition, or would that be something that we just kind of have to cross our fingers and wait for to eventually come?

Randy Harrington:

Yeah, I think we still got some design work to do. But the pedestrian components that would be really right across from the high school, I'd say preliminarily, we think that we can make those connections along Cass Holt Road and the other improvements along Avent Ferry Road. Those are ones that may have to be considered when NCDOT does that segment. But in terms of in front of the park which connects or at least is it right across the street from the high school, we think that we can make some investments at the time of the park construction to help improve that.

Amanda Benbow Lunn:

Okay and I know when I reached out with questions trying to get some feedback, of course there are always areas where people would like more amenities and they feel like they don't have as many amenities in their area. If people feel like they do not have the amenities and they want more amenities in area, w hat is the best way for them to organize, to reach out, to get that process started?

LeeAnn Plumer:

Yeah, there are a couple of ways to do that, to provide that feedback. Certainly you know myself and our staff is always open for citizen input. But probably the better way is to attend one of the Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee meetings. Those are held on the second Thursday of every month at Town Hall and it's really the purpose of that committee to receive resident input to what are their needs in town and so they can help field that input and those suggestions and ideas and then that is sort of culminated and recommended to Town Council through the department as well. So attending the Parks Advisory Committee meetings to really provide any additional feedback or insight is probably the best way to get that information received.

Amanda Benbow Lunn:

Okay, and I saw when I was looking up the various Greenways in Holly Springs there was a future park site along Middle Creek and around Lockley Road. Do you have an update on that status?

LeeAnn Plumer:

Sure, so that is our Middle Creek Greenway, and earlier we talked about that is one of, actually, the additional projects that is being funded through the 2011 remaining Parks Bond. That is a three mile section that is currently under construction and we are anticipating that complete Greenway section to be opened in spring of 2024.

Amanda Benbow Lunn:

Are there any plans or thoughts towards building a pedestrian bridge connecting Ting to the shopping center across the street?

LeeAnn Plumer:

So no pedestrian bridge per se, but there is an underpass, let's say right there north of Ting, and that is part of our Greenway Master Plan. Right now we do have a what I would say a pedestrian tunnel under Sportsmanship Way to kind of get to the north side of the Ting park property, and further up there has been a corridor that is remaining for pedestrian access to go under and see 55 to get to the other side of town and potentially again the Greenways to connect over to the shopping area and the town center, so that folks that are utilizing that Greenway or utilizing Ting park would have a safe underpass under 55 to get to the other side and to access those shops and restaurants, so that the connection to the west side is actually one of the parks bond projects that we're looking at.

LeeAnn Plumer:

In terms of that Greenway, we haven't fully scoped out. There are some you know always some site challenges, but that is something we recognize as a priority in order to try to move that project forward as well.

Amanda Benbow Lunn:

Okay, and so that is on part of the 2023 parks bond.

LeeAnn Plumer:

That has been identified as one of the Greenway locations. Yes, okay.

Amanda Benbow Lunn:

All right. When will people be voting for the 2023 Referendum?

Randy Harrington:

So that'll be November 7th here in a few months.

Amanda Benbow Lunn:

All right, and early voting is going to start October 19th. Do we have any of the official wording that will be on the ballot yet?

Randy Harrington:

Yes, and Council as part of the work that they're doing in terms of the process to go through their parts of the putting it on the referendum. There is language that they are approving that specifies what the voters will see, and Council has seen that. It's been in the Council materials here over the last couple months, I guess, and available for anybody to see currently, and we can easily get that to you as well if that would be helpful.

Amanda Benbow Lunn:

Yeah, that'll be perfect. But how does your average voter find that?

LeeAnn Plumer:

So to get information about the language you can go to that, the Holly Springs website, directly. And then also there is a link to the bond website on. That talks very in deep, more detail about the bond projects. But the general information right now on the bond process and the language I believe is posted on the website currently.

LeeAnn Plumer:

Okay, and what is that website? Yep, so Holly Springs website is www. hollyspringsnc. gov. That will get you to the main page and then there is a button on the right-hand side that'll take you to the Holly Springs Parks and Recreation Bond details.

Amanda Benbow Lunn:

All right, perfect. What happens if the bond referendum does not pass because the majority vote no in November? Is it a majority vote or how does that work?

Randy Harrington:

Yes, it is a simple majority vote of the residents and in the event that it does not pass, we would not issue the general obligation bonds and we would not move forward with the overall build out of the Cass Holt Road Park, that 56 acre component. So that piece would not move forward. And the other smaller pieces that are considered, we'd have to have some review of what might be some alternate. You know smaller funding sources or, along with that, a timeline to perhaps advance you know a couple of those projects or we would likely come back and you know work with the Council and the community and what those might be, but but we would not be able to move forward with the general obligation bonds or Cass Holt Road Park.

Amanda Benbow Lunn:

Okay. So I will say when I initially saw the bond I kind of had a little bit of a sticker shock with a hundred million dollars. So if it does not pass, would it just go back to the drawing board and maybe the potential next step might be like a lower dollar amount and that's having fewer amenities that might be addressed or what might some of those alternatives look like?

Randy Harrington:

Yeah, no, I think that's a very good and insightful question. If the voters did not approve that, then I think we'd want to know and try to find out, you know, what were the reasons then for why and there may be some certain themes, if there are any and then, based off of that, you know, working through community engagement, working through the work of the Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee, the Mayor and Council, to see if something else that's different makes more sense, and so that would likely be, you know, one of the conversations that would occur afterward if the majority voted no.

Amanda Benbow Lunn:

All right, and so if the majority votes no, you come up with different options. Would it be something the the next municipal like w ould we have to wait until that timeline to be able to potentially vote for something else, or how does that timeline look?

Randy Harrington:

Yes. So I think the simplest answer is you know, any election where our voters are going to, you know to, the polls Council has the authority to, to put a ballot measure on the ballot. So you know it could be a year out, it could be two years out, it could be three or four years out. It may probably just depends on the type of conversation or the types of issues that are brought up by the community.

Amanda Benbow Lunn:

Perfect. Is there anything else that you feel we missed or that you would like to go over about t he Parks Bond?

Randy Harrington:

ot are alot of great questions. That will definitely and informative for the community.

LeeAnn Plumer:

Yeah, just to you know, reiterate that if the community has any other questions about the projects, or what would be included is to really encourage them to go to the website. If you want to go directly, hs bonds. c om will take you directly to the bond website and that has a great video that really has some preliminary renderings and some drawings about you know what we're potentially envisioning for some of these projects, so I think it just helps give folks a good visual. So encourage them to do a little bit more information gathering so that they can, you know, be informed about what the opportunities might be.

Amanda Benbow Lunn:

Awesome. So I think that wraps up all the questions that I have. We're gonna go into just kind of a lightning round of some questions that don't have anything to do with the Parks Bond. So no right answers, no wrong answers, just whatever comes to mind. Feel free to speak and you guys can decide who goes first, how you want to do that. What is your favorite book?

Randy Harrington:

I'll start it off because several years ago I read the book 1776, which is a fascinating, you know, historical book around the forming of our nation and you think of just how fragile that time period was in the direction of our country. And it's really a great read and, and that's why I'd say 1776.

LeeAnn Plumer:

Yeah, I don't know that I have a favorite book. I am now less of an avid reader but I listen to you know recorded books and what I like about that is just a great variety of personal enrichment, just other general novels, a lot of actually leadership and team building types of opportunities as well, and so really I listened to two or three a day just in the course of driving or exercising or sometimes when I'm sleeping, if I can't, if I can't sleep if I need to sleep.

LeeAnn Plumer:

So I don't know that I have a particular book, but I just really appreciate that opportunity for the variety of experiences and different types.

Amanda Benbow Lunn:

Awesome. Who is someone you look up to and view as a role model?

LeeAnn Plumer:

Wow. Well, you know I'll speak. Really. I'm gonna actually indicate Randy. So you know I came to Holly Springs four and a half years ago. I've worked in municipal government for over 23 years, worked for six different municipalities and over the course of my my time I've had great city and town managers and administrators that I've worked for. But Randy has really given me a lot of a great leadership direction and I really admire the direction that he's taking the town currently. I know there's been great leaders in Holly Springs throughout the course of history but with this rapid growth and just the quick change that's occurring, I think Randy is a great leader for the time and is, you know, taking Holly Springs and the staff in the direction that it needs to be to serve our residents.

Randy Harrington:

Perfect. Well, thank you, LeeAnn, unexpected and Leanne, is I mean one of our top leaders here in the community and in the town and just does a remarkable job with parks and recreation. I do want to very much recognize that. I think you know. For me, I really look to my father and my two brothers and I had a father who passed away when I was early in college and I look back on on the ways that he shaped me and help instill, you know, qualities of who I am as a person. I mean, that's what I look up to every day and I think about every day. I think something that's really helped guide me through my life and my career.

Amanda Benbow Lunn:

What's your favorite way to relax and let go

LeeAnn Plumer:

I like to walk and lift weights and I just find I put some music on or or a book sometimes and it just takes me away and kind of gives me some some great personal space.

Randy Harrington:

I have three young kids and so most of my fun and free time, so to speak, is absorbed with them. But you know it's funny for me I would say I do some of my best thinking and relaxing, either mowing the yard or washing my car or you know something like that. That's kind of you know, just myself there and relaxation and a little bit of a sense of accomplishment. So I think it's sometimes I do some of my best thinking in those moments.

Amanda Benbow Lunn:

What's one thing that fills your heart with joy?

LeeAnn Plumer:

I say my family, just straightforward.

Randy Harrington:

I would echo that. You know family and your kids, and with younger kids, but kids that are starting to grow into that young adult stage it's nice to see them develop into. You know what's the move, the right term, moving from being alien, so to speak, to moving into young adults and in the great conversations and the pathway that they're headed on. So that's really rewarding and really provides me a great sense of joy.

Amanda Benbow Lunn:

What is your greatest weakness?

LeeAnn Plumer:

I think for me, one of the areas that I struggle with. I have a lot of interests and so I want to start too many projects at one time, or I, you know, I kind of jump from one thing to another. So that is something, you know, that I have to be conscious of and be more aware when we talk about, you know, trying to take on too much. So, if anything, I would say that's one of my weak areas or areas that I'm challenged with, that I continue to work on.

Randy Harrington:

I would say for me, sometimes I can be too optimistic. Too optimistic that I, you know, I can do more things that I can actually do, and then I can only do, you know, seven of the ten things, and I get frustrated at myself for that, or wonder why it's taking me so long to complete my list of ten things, and so I could be a little bit aggressive and maybe optimistic, so to speak, in terms of my list of to-dos.

Amanda Benbow Lunn:

What is one thing you wished for as a kid?

Randy Harrington:

Something you wished for as a kid?

LeeAnn Plumer:

While Randy's thinking, I'll go ahead and add again, I, have a silly one. So I did not have too many pets. I didn't have any pets growing up and you know I didn't want a traditional dog or a cat pet. I wanted a monkey as a pet. So I wished for a monkey. I was very young but I thought that would be a really cool pet to have and, needless to say, I never got it, so that was something as a kid I wished for.

Randy Harrington:

And if anybody listening to this podcast had a GT pro performer when they were kids, that was a wonderful, you know kind of freestyle bike and you could do tricks on. So always dreamed about as as a kid and wanted that latest bicycle that I could do tricks on. So I thought about that a lot as a kid.

Amanda Benbow Lunn:

Very cool. What's something on your bucket list?

Randy Harrington:

So one of the items on my bucket list I have always dreamed about someday, after I retire, buy an airstream and travel the country for one to two years or something like that. I gotta work on my wife, I think, on that idea, but you know, for me that would be just a great opportunity to see our country, visit all 50 states and our wonderful national parks, and you know, in all the hole-in-the-wall restaurants that you hear and read about, yeah, I would follow suit.

LeeAnn Plumer:

Travel is definitely maybe more international, just to, you know, kind of explore different areas, new areas that haven't been so lots of future aspirations to travel over in the future years.

Amanda Benbow Lunn:

Awesome. This is the last question. What is your favorite thing about yourself?

LeeAnn Plumer:

That's a tough one.

Randy Harrington:

I would say, for me, it's it's being genuine. I am who I am and I'm very authentic with that and I'd like to think and I think LeeAnn would say that I'm very genuine in terms of my dealings with others and my role as Town Manager and the work with the Mayor and Council and the community. That genuineness is probably one of my best qualities and I think one of my best qualities is more about my sense of community and service.

LeeAnn Plumer:

You know, I have worked in this field in Parks and Recreation for many, many and I'd have to say the ability to serve and all the great experiences that are provided to kids, adult seniors by the work that we do. So that is something that I'm really, you know, kind of proud of to be able to provide to others through this sense of service and giving you know by the work that we do.

Amanda Benbow Lunn:

Okay, well, thank you all for coming on to share with us. Thank you, Randy and LeeAnn. I appreciate you coming on and just trusting me to talk over the parks bond, helping us to convey as much information as possible so that people can make the best choice for them in their situation. Thanks for joining the Holly Springs Deep Dive podcast.

Randy Harrington:

Great. Thank you so much, Amanda. Yeah, this is great. Thank you for the opportunity.

LeeAnn Plumer:

Yes, thank you.

Amanda Benbow Lunn:

I'd like to take a moment and highlight the awesomeness that is the town of Holly Springs and their employees. They did not have to go out of their way to speak with me or record this podcast, yet they chose to in order to do their absolute best to make sure as many people in Holly Springs as possible could be knowledgeable about the 2023 Parks Bond. Not all municipalities choose to go through such lengths for their people and even after the fact, they went above and beyond to share the following wording for the bond that will be on the ballot with the following wording: "The he estimated property tax implication is up to a 5 cent increase per $100 in property value. In 2011, when we had half as many people living in Holly Springs, they were only able to get a $20 million bond for a potential 5 cent property tax increase. In 2018, the $40 million transportation bond passed with another up to 5 cent property tax increase. In actuality, holly Springs' tax rate in 2011 was 41.5 percent, raised in 2012 by 2 cents. It decreased by a quarter of a cent in 2016,. Raised by 5 cents in 2019, decreased by just over 6 cents in 2020, and has held steady since. That means even with the two previous bonds which could have raised Holly Springs' property tax by up to 10 cents. Our net change since the passage of the 2011 Park Spond has been just over half a cent per $100 of property value. Our growing residential and commercial population has seemingly mostly offset the associated cost in this arena. If you choose no for this bond referendum, that will be on your 2023 municipal ballot. The town will continue to improve the parks, recreation and greenways within Holly Springs as their funds allow and will prioritize accordingly. Either way, the town of Holly Springs will be continually assessing what the priorities are according to the people of Holly Springs, encouraging community feedback and doing their best to continue serving the community in ways that are meaningful.

Amanda Benbow Lunn:

You can look for important links about the Parks B ond and voting in general in the show notes. Just a reminder that early voting starts on October 19th. Election Day itself will be Tuesday, November 7th. You will need a valid ID this year in order to vote. Make sure you check in with your elderly friends and family, along with anyone who might not have a license or drive, to make sure they are ready when the time comes.

Amanda Benbow Lunn:

That brings this installment of the Holly Springs Deep Dive Podcast, soon to be called the NC Deep Dive, to a close. Coming soon will be our 2023 Candidate Episodes, where you can learn more about those running for the Board of Commissioners, also known as the Town Council, for both Holly Springs and Fuquay Varina. Remember, if you have any topics or thoughts you'd like to share, you may do so via social media or email at HollySprings odcast@ gmailcom. I thank you for taking the time to listen to today's episode. Be on the lookout for further episodes at www. hollyspringsdeepdive. com, Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Audible or wherever you typically listen to your podcasts. Until next time, my friends, namaste: the love and light in me sees and honors the love and light in you.

2023 Parks Bond Discussion
2023 Park Bond Projects and Funding
Cass Holt Park
Park Bond Referendum and Alternatives
A Spark of Humanity: Lightening Round Questions