Fuquay-Varina leaders departed Wednesday for a lobbying trip to Washington, armed with optimism, a stack of supportive letters and reams of studies.
They hope to convince members of Congress, as well as transportation officials in the executive branch, to think of Fuquay-Varina when spending money on transportation projects and grants.
Mayor John Byrne, mayor pro tem Charlie Adcock and town commissioner Blake Massengill are the political front to the mission. Town Manager Adam Mitchell will handle more detailed, technical discussions.
Byrne said the two-day trip includes meetings with Sens. Richard Burr and Thom Tillis, as well as Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx and North Carolina members of the House of Representatives.
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Byrne said the trip heralds a new age for Fuquay-Varina as it grows and gains more clout as well as more traffic problems. They hope to use that clout to address their traffic woes.
“Our town is approaching 25,000 or 30,000 people,” Byrne said. “And we have to approach things much differently than we did five or 10 years ago. We have to be looking at big-picture items that aren’t going to just help us next week, but 10 years from now.”
A TIGER Grant is the main target of this trip. Fuquay-Varina is pursuing the federal grant to help cover 50 to 60 percent of the costs of completing the Judd Parkway loop around the heart of town.
Residents will vote on a $26 million bond this November that, if passed, will give the town authority to pursue various transportation and infrastructure projects, including Judd Parkway.
If the town pays for all the work itself, the bond would require an 18-percent property tax increase – from 38.5 to 45.25 cents per $100 in valuation.
That 6.75-cent increase would be equal to an extra $140 a year for the average homeowner.
With the TIGER Grant, though, the potential tax increase would be 2 or 3 cents lower.
Fuquay-Varina now has the second-lowest tax rate among Wake County’s 13 municipalities. Officials have gone to great lengths to try to get the TIGER grant that would allow them to keep that rate as low as possible.
In addition to paying for this trip, Fuquay-Varina hired a consultant in July to help with their bond and grant paperwork, for between $70,000 and $90,000.
Other than Judd Parkway, the bond includes improvements to intersections along Main Street, and the extension of water and sewer lines that officials say could help with economic development.
Byrne stressed the regional impact of the work. He and other officials believe the vast majority of rush-hour traffic on roads such as Main Street and Judd Parkway consists of drivers who live somewhere other than Fuquay-Varina.
Over the past few months, the town has lobbied other local groups who could benefit if Fuquay-Varina gets the grant.
Fuquay-Varina gained letters of support from state officials, the Wake County Commissioners, the Wake County Public School System and nearby towns like Holly Springs and Angier. They brought those letters to Washington, too.
“We have done a lot of work ahead of time,” Byrne said.
At the board’s meeting, the commissioners also:
▪ Approved the annexation and rezoning that will allow for a large residential development called Sunset Bluffs to be built to the north of Herbert Akins Road Elementary School. The developers will work to widen nearby roads, and the state DOT will build improvements at the intersection of Sunset Lake, Hilltop-Needmore and Bass Lake roads.
“That’s one that is critical to this area and is most sorely needed,” Byrne said.
▪ Voted to enter into discussions with the Town of Garner over their future boundaries. A previous 20-year agreement over what land the two towns can or can’t annex expires Sept. 15, and officials plan to meet within the next 12 months to reconsider those boundaries and then set another 20-year agreement. The current boundary begins just north of U.S. 401 and runs along Ten-Ten Road to Fanny Brown Road, then south to Old Stage Road and then along Mount Pleasant Road all the way to the Johnston County line.
Doran: 919-460-2604; @will_doran