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Duke Energy Carolinas Files Rate Request

Duke Energy Carolinas filed its request to the N.C. Utilities Commission today to increase rates for its customers, which are located in central and western North Carolina. The request is for a 13.6 percent overall rate increase, which includes a 10.6 percent average increase to outdoor lighting rates and a 29 percent increase to traffic signal service. This proposed rate increase comes after a similar request by Duke Energy Progress (DEP) in June, when it requested a 14.9 percent overall rate increase for its customers. DEP customers are located in the central and eastern parts of the state.

Neither utility has requested a rate increase since 2012. At the time of that previous request, the League of Municipalities intervened on behalf of municipalities, resulting in a 50% reduction and many other savings for municipal customers compared to the original request by the utilities. The goal of the League’s interventions was to reduce the financial burden that an increase in electricity rates would bring upon municipal governments served by each utility. Increases in electricity rates can significantly impact municipal budgets, particularly in those cities and towns providing such services as water and wastewater treatment, street lighting, traffic signals, and recreational facilities. Read more about the 2017 filings by the utility here. Contact: Sarah Collins


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League Affiliates Help Create Local Stormwater Peer Review Program

The N.C. Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) has announced a new voluntary program to assist municipal separate storm sewer systems (MS4) and demonstrate to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) the state’s commitment to building sustainable local stormwater programs. This program will, in turn, lessen permit reporting requirements for participating local governments.

The new program is named the North Carolina MS4 Sustainable Stormwater Management Program (MS6), and it is a collaborative initiative of DEQ and League affiliate organizations the Storm Water Association of North Carolina (SWANC) and the American Public Works Association – North Carolina Chapter (APWA-NC), in partnership with EPA - Region 4.

While voluntary and non-regulatory, the MS6 program strives to build sustainable community stormwater management programs that focus on program efficiency, effectiveness, collaboration, and strong municipal and community support. The intent is to develop and build a network of stormwater support across communities within the state through peer reviews, open information reporting and exchange, and best practice development and sharing. DEQ and EPA support the innovative program and recognize the goals of developing consistent, scalable, practicable, and adaptable stormwater measures that fit local community needs, as well as meet state and federal regulatory requirements.

Communities that participate in the MS6 program in good standing will gain many benefits, including waiver of the DEQ annual MS4 permit reporting requirement, access to a sustainable program framework with gap analysis review and guidance on six MS4 program areas, open information sharing among participants, and access to a clearinghouse of best practices. They will also receive a consistent set of key metrics for evaluating and reporting the performance of their storm management programs. More information regarding the MS6 program can be found on DEQ’s website or by contacting Robert D. Patterson, P.E. in the DEQ Stormwater Program (919-807-6369, Robert.Patterson@ncdenr.gov). Contact: Sarah Collins 


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Listen: RTCC Hears Big Positives, Challenges of Tourism

Municipal officials in southeast North Carolina this week heard a detailed review about local tourism's economic impact in a thorough presentation put on by N.C. Resort Towns and Convention Cities (RTCC), delivered by author Dr. Rebecca Tippett of Carolina Demography, and streamed across the web. (The League has archived the complete audio file.) 

The presentation wasn't only about the staggering positives. "We have a lot of great data about the benefits of tourism ... but what we often don't have as clear of a picture of are really the flipside of the benefits, or the challenges, or the investments that need to be made to get those benefits from tourism," said Dr. Tippett, who debuted the findings of a study on the topic earlier this year. In 2015, for instance, 55 million visitors traveled to or within North Carolina, spending a record $21.9 billion and pushing $2 billion in tax revenue to the state and localities. Tourism also supported an estimated 211,000 jobs, according to Dr. Tippett. RTCC sponsored the full report.

The presentation noted that it takes a lot for a town to support those numbers. For example, planning and capacities must be geared toward seasonal peaks, which can be costly. The study captures those often-missed challenges for resort towns and convention cities, with Oak Island one of the communities examined. If your town has an economy influenced by tourism or convention activity, please contact Oak Island Mayor Cin Brochure about joining RTCC.


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Legislators Take Up More Veto Overrides

The North Carolina General Assembly has begun another round of veto overrides, with two taken up on Thursday and more possible on Monday's House calendar. The House voted to override Gov. Roy Cooper's veto of HB 770 Various Clarifying Changes on Thursday afternoon and sent it to the Senate for consideration. The governor in his veto message had taken issue with portions of the bill, including one that he characterized as the legislature "taking" appointment power over two seats on the state's Medical Board, which he called "an intrusion on executive authority and not needed."

The House also voted to override the veto of HB 140 Dental Plans Provider Contracts/Transparency, which Gov. Cooper said could create difficult debt situations for borrowers who "can least afford it." WRAL quoted Rep. John Szoka disputing that assertion. Three other bills the governor has vetoed -- HB 205, HB 511 and HB 576 -- may surface on Monday's House calendar for override votes, according to reports. HB 205 is a bill that includes a pilot program in Guilford County for the electronic publication of government notices in lieu of newspaper publication.

The Senate, on Friday, decided to put off consideration of the two vetoes overridden by the House until Tuesday, and instead focused on its efforts to redraw new legislative districts. The House also held a committee meeting on Friday focused on the creation of new legislation districts in response to court rulings tossing aside existing districts. Although legislators largely completed the annual legislative session and their work for the year back in June, they agreed to continue returning to Raleigh to address legislative redistricting, Governor Cooper's vetoes, and a few bills that House and Senate negotiators had not come to final agreement on.


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FINAL EXTENSION! Register for CityVision 2017 NOW

Registration for Connect CityVision 2017 -- the League's annual conference just ahead in Greenville -- is almost at capacity. But we're offering one final chance to potential registrants who want to sign up in advance onlineMake it so by midnight (Friday) to save your place at the best annual conference for North Carolina's municipal officials, scheduled for Sept. 20-23. Conference attendees will discover best practices for connecting to technology, to neighboring cities and towns, to regional projects and organizations, and to influential leadership skills. As anyone who has attended past CityVision conferences knows, it's your best chance to join with hundreds of municipal officials from across North Carolina to network and learn. (Read about what's ahead in the latest Southern City.) After deadline, all questions about conference attendance should be directed to events@nclm.org. Day-of registration may also be available, but the final spots are filling quickly.


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Tech Businesses Get Seed Money to Grow in Cities Across State

Several early-stage tech businesses in cities large and small will share in nearly $2 million meant to help their initial growth. "These grants are a critical tool to help spur new products and industries, increase the number of high-paying jobs across the state, and improve quality of life in our communities,” Gov. Roy Cooper said in a press release about the funds, which came through the state's One North Carolina Small Business program.

The state funds are matches to money awarded through competitive federal programs for small business growth in the tech or innovation fields. According to the state, more than 250 companies in 47 cities and 25 counties in North Carolina have benefited from the match program. Since the program's rollout in 2005, 85 percent of funding recipients are still in business. The press release provides the names and locations of the 32 latest recipients.


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Apply for Bike, Pedestrian Planning Grants

Municipalities are encouraged to submit proposals to the N.C. Department of Transportation in its 2018 Bicycle and Pedestrian Planning Grant Initiative, which provides funding for cities and towns across the state for the creation of comprehensive bike and pedestrian plans. According to the agency, smaller communities with populations of less than 5,000 can also apply to develop combined bicycle and pedestrian plans. Communities of any size may apply for the development of a corridor/area plan. The deadline for application submissions, sent electronically, is Nov. 9 at 5 p.m. Award recipients will be notified by March 2018. Around $5 million has been awarded through this program to 183 cities and towns in North Carolina since 2004, according to the agency. For more information, contact Nick Scheuer at (919) 707-2608 or nrscheuer@ncdot.gov.

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Apply for NLC Leadership Positions

The National League of Cities has opened an application period for leadership slots, including officers, board members and seats on its Advocacy Committee. "As a member of the board of directors, you join an elite group of local leaders who are guiding our organization and shaping the future of cities," says the description for that opening. "A position on our board of directors offers unparalleled opportunities to affect change at the national level while raising your profile as a city leader." Instructions are on NLC's website.

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Ways to Spread Word About Your Downtown WiFi

The state's Broadband Infrastructure Office has released a simple guide for how downtowns can spread the word about their WiFi programs. "Providing free wifi in your downtown can be an excellent way to encourage people to spend more time at local shops and businesses, growing local revenue and marketability. But many local communities struggle with spreading the word about this feature," the office says. Ideas include "Free WiFi" signage. Find out more here.