As is the case every New Year’s, the staff of The Apex Herald has voted for its top stories of the last 12 months.
These are stories that occurred right here in Apex. So don’t expect some of the major national topics that dominated headlines to make the list: the inauguration of Barack Obama, the continuing wars in the Middle East, the struggling economy, and the New York Yankees’ 27th world championship (sorry, Red Sox fans).
Our Top Nine for ’09 list is focused more on the local angle. They are stories about people, places and things right here in The Peak of Good Living.
The selection process is certainly not scientific. In fact, it’s completely subjective. So we completely understand if you disagree with our rankings.
Okay, let’s get started:
9.) Another state title – For the third straight year the Apex Lady Cougars claimed the N.C. High School Women’s Lacrosse Association championship. Apex posted a dramatic 13-12 come-from-behind victory over Charlotte Catholic in the May 16 title game.
Coach Jessica Pinneo’s team has now won three championships in the varsity program’s short four-year existence.
“Leadership is something that has carried through from each year,” said Pinneo following the game. “Every season we have had seniors step up for us and it happened again this year.”
Don’t be surprised if it happens again.
8.) Familiar faces – There was plenty of potential for change on town council this year as seven candidates battled for three open seats. But in the end the voters chose some familiar faces. Incumbents Mike Jones and Gene Schulze were both reelected while longtime planning board member Lance Olive tallied the most votes.
The 2009 election also marked the retirement of Councilman Bill Sutton. Although he only served one term on council he was deeply involved in the town’s growth over the past 16 years as town manager (1993-2001) and as a member of the planning board (2003-2005).
7.) Film crews in town – Filming for the pilot of the children’s TV show “The Rusty Bucket Kids Clubs” took place locally in October.
For two weekends film crews and actors descended on the downtown area. Other scenes were shot in New Hill and Bonsal. Executive producer and New Hill resident John Demers not only filmed locally but he also utilized local talent.
“People get to go to work on the set and then go home and go to bed,” said Demers. “Some might be a couple of hours away but they are all going home at night. This industry doesn’t traditionally do that.”
The show follows the adventures of youngsters who have the ability to travel back in time and visit with historical figures who are still in their teenage years. It is set to premiere in February.
6.) Going green – In one of the most touching stories of the year, Apex teen Mary Silliman organized a February project that had over 100 youth volunteers plant 2,200 trees in Apex Jaycees Park. She dedicated the project to her brother, Matthew, who was murdered in November of 2008.
“This was great for kids who wanted to do community service and remember Matt,” said Mary’s father, Ben Silliman. “You always hear so much about the bad things, about the crimes perpetrated by our youth. An event like this shows all the good they do. We need to hear about them, too.”
In August, the 13-year-old Silliman earned the prestigious Outstanding Individual Grand Award in the N.C. Division of Forest Resources Urban Forestry Awards Program.
5.) Difficult balancing act – Although Apex fared much better than many other local communities during the national financial crisis it didn’t escape unscathed. The town suffered a 53 percent decrease in development revenue and a five percent decrease in sales tax.
“We had $800,000 less in income from the year prior,” said town manager Bruce Radford. “It was the first time in the modern history for the Town of Apex that we had any revenue less than the previous year.”
That made putting together the 2009-10 fiscal year budget a difficult process. Plenty of cuts were made but no jobs were lost and taxes remained the same.
Radford said it was the “most arduous” budgeting process that he, assistant town manger Mike Wilson, and finance director Lee Smiley ever faced.
4.) School board blues – District 8, which encompasses the Apex area, wasn’t part of the 2009 Wake County Public School System Board of Education election. Still, you can’t help but feel that local folks had a lot to do with the major shake up on the board.
In fact, 2009 was only five days old when parents were voicing their concerns at a WCPSS public hearing held at Apex High School.
The controversial decisions made by previous board members – constant student reassignments and the introduction of year-round schools – hit Apex residents hard the past few years. That discontent seemed to spread to other districts and resulted in several “neighborhood schools” candidates being elected.
It will be interesting to see what changes – if any – the new board makes in 2010.
3.) Peak of relocation – Apex received some very positive national publicity when Forbes .com ranked the town No. 3 on its 25 Best Places to Move in America list.
This list identifies communities with populations of 25,000 or more with a high percentage of residents that
were born out of state or abroad (Apex: 65 percent), have moved from a considerable distance in the last five years (Apex: 36 percent), and moved for a better job opportunity.
Other positive factors considered were a community’s population growth, family income (Apex: $91,328 median family), adults with bachelor’s degrees or higher (Apex: 55 percent), persons in executive and professional jobs, the proximity of multi-national companies, and the price (Apex: $225,100 median value), size, and age of homes.
“We are all so pleased that our Town has attracted this kind of positive national attention,” said Mayor Keith Weatherly. “For many years the Town has worked with our civic groups, our businesses, and churches to make newcomers feel very welcome.
“We are so encouraged when newcomers tell us that they find Apex to be one of the best places to get a good job, find a nice home in an attractive neighborhood, raise a family, and enjoy a safe and happy lifestyle.”
2.) Apex goes Hollywood – The inaugural Peak City International Film Festival – Family Style roared upon the scene in quite an impressive manner. Held at the Halle Cultural Arts Center in late November, the festival was one of the snazziest events seen in town in a long, long time.
The festival recognized family-friendly filmmakers in a variety of genres. It also honored the many years of outstanding service by retired WRAL anchor Charles Gaddy. But the star of the show was without doubt actor Jerry Mathers of “Leave It to Beaver” fame. His involvement gave the festival a strong boost in publicity and credibility.
Organizers have big plans for the annual festival and hope the event eventually gains international prestige. If the inaugural event is any indicator then it appears they have taken a big first step in the right direction.
1.) Veridea, Veridea, Veridea – Do you think you’ve heard a lot about Veridea in the past year? Well, just wait. You’re going to hear a lot more about it in 2010 as town leaders begin taking a closer look at plans for the massive development that will encompass 1,000 acres and take up to 15 years to complete.
Dubbed the next generation’s Research Triangle Park by developers, the project will tentatively include 10 million square feet of office space, 3.5 million square feet of mixed-use retail and commercial space, 2 million square feet of high-tech manufacturing, and 8,000 residential units. Veridea would increase Apex’s tax base by nearly $6 billion and could also bring up to 30,000 jobs to the area.
Properly planned, Veridea could provide a major boost to the local economy and become a national showpiece in green development. But without proper planning it could quickly devolve into just another oversized development that burdens the town’s infrastructure.
Either way, Veridea promises to have quite an impact on the future of Apex.