Mayor’s Summary of the September 10, 2020 Town Council Meeting

Greetings Montreaters,

Last night’s meeting was a special one in that it was the first meeting since March that was open to the public and included the Public Forum prior to the Council Meeting. With the Governor’s change in allowing up to 25 persons indoors, we were able to accommodate ten chairs for the public given social distancing. Honestly, it was wonderful to see people in the audience in our new Town Hall Community Room. After a five month COVID-19 hiatus, it felt like a landmark occasion and a small step in returning to some level of normalcy. We hope you will join us in the future.

Here’s a summary of the meeting:

  • Public Forum questions/comments included:
    • Tom Frist opened up comments by saying he was pleased that we could be together in the new Town Hall for the meeting. He further commented that he continues to receive comments from residents and visitors about how beautiful the Town Hall is. He asked how it has been being in the new building:
      • Town Administrator, Alex Carmichael, said it has been different but wonderful. Due to COVID restrictions, traffic levels are quite low and visitors make appointments to meet with staff. He said the new building is a delight to be in. It’s a “warmer” building as it is light and welcoming with a freshness and pleasantness that he had not experienced in the past. He commented that he is even more productive in the new facility.
      • Town Clerk, Angela Murphy, said she feels blessed to be working in the building and at Montreat. She said the building is beautiful and functional. She did comment that she misses all her residents who used to stop by but can’t now due to COVID. She thanked everyone for the new facilities.
      • Police Chief, David Arrant, said it took him several weeks to get used to the new building. He couldn’t quite believe he was there! He appreciates the space, including the breakroom, storage space and the evidence room. His patrol officers are most appreciative also.
    • Judy Shuford asked for a status update on the new Public Works building. Alex stated that the building is now complete and occupied. There are some finishing touches and organizing that are still happening, but the staff is very pleased to have a facility that keeps them safe and dry and protects their equipment and supplies. Alex commented that Public Works Director, Barry Creasman, worked many days off and weekends to finish up details. Alex told Barry he didn’t have to give up his free time, but Barry stated “I wanted to do it.” I mentioned that a fund raiser by residents has been started to purchase some appliances/furnishings that were not in the budget. If anyone is interested in doing so, contact Jacqueline Clark for details.
  • I called the meeting to order with all Commissioners present. We approved the minutes of the August 13 Town Council meeting.
  • In my comments, I informed everyone about an incident that occurred over the weekend. The Town had hung a banner at Welch Field reminding everyone to wear masks. Someone defaced the banner with spray paint. I removed the banner and Alex has ordered another one. I’m disappointed that someone would do such a thing in light of the pandemic and everyone’s work to stay safe. I also commented that in conversations with Montreat College President Paul Maurer, he has pledged to keep us informed of any COVID-19 related issues and cases that occur on campus. Paul said that after two weeks of classes, no students, faculty or staff have contracted the virus.
  • In Town Administrator’s communications, Alex Carmichael reported that the Town and MRA have ceased dumping leaves and brush in the composting area off Oklahoma due to concerns expressed by the NC Dept. of Environmental Quality. Several solutions to the problem are being investigated, but in the meantime Public Works staff are hauling all leaves, brush and wood chips off premises to commercial facilities. This is not a feasible long term solution due to the cost. We must pay $25 per truckload, and we are running 4-5 truckloads per week, with it increasing during leaf season. We will keep you informed of the situation.
          I asked Alex about residents composting leaves on their own property. Alex encouraged residents to do so but with two important cautions:
    • Make sure the composting location is far enough from dwellings so as not to create a wildfire hazard. For information about being Firewise, go to the Montreat Landcare website (www.montreatlandcare.org) and click on “Projects”.
    • Do not dump foodscraps into the composting area due to wild animals
  • We had some discussion about the Administrative Reports:
    • Commissioner Fouche commended Chief Arrant for adding last year’s data to the report for comparative purposes and asked if the other reports could do the same.
    • Commissioner Widmer asked PW Director Barry Creasman about the status of the Greybeard Trail guardrail since Barry said it would be completed several weeks ago. Materials have been delivered to the jobsite, but due to the extra work related to dumping brush and leaves, staff has not had time to work on the project. He is hopeful they will be able to work on it in the next few weeks.
  • Public Comments included:
    • Mary Standaert commented about the importance of resolving the Montreat address issue, particularly in light of the COVID pandemic. County Health Department coronavirus reports did not include the 28757 Zip Code early on, but it has now been added. She also stated the new County Next Generation 911 initiative is being implemented and we need to resolve the issue in order to ensure accurate emergency response. I commented that we appreciate the efforts Mary put into the address issue when she was on the Council but as she found out, it is not an easy one to resolve. Commissioner Lentz also worked on it and I have now appointed Commissioner Fouche to the effort. Montreat Postmaster Tim Bryson is working with County planners to load all street addresses into the Montreat database so the PO boxes and street addresses are linked together- a first and major step in resolving the issue.
    • Resident Sean Grady submitted a comment suggesting that the speed monitoring sign at Welch Field should stop flashing the driver’s speed when the vehicle’s speed drops to or below the posted 20 mph speed limit. He feels it would be a nice incentive for those abiding by the speed lilmit.
    • Mary Standaert suggested moving the Montreat Town Limit sign from it’s current location near the gate back to the edge of the Town Hall property to indicate the new town limits after the annexation of the Town Hall property. Alex responded that he will investigate.
    • Tom Frist requested an update on the Texas Road bridge project. Alex responded that funding was included in the original 2020-2021 budget. But when we learned that revenues would be decreased due to the pandemic’s effect on tax revenues, the project was dropped from the current year’s budget. We hope it can be included in next year’s budget.
  • Under New Business:
    • Alex provided an update on Tropical Storm Alberto funding. The Town recently received a check for $136,324 from the state for 75% reimbursement of repairs. The funds will go into the General Fund. Additional reimbursement will be received as final Alberto-related projects are completed.
    • The Council Approved a budget amendment in the amount of $27,418 to fund the cost overrun on the new Town Hall. The cost overrun is 1.3%, bringing the total cost of the new facility to $2,021,819 vs. a budget of $1,994,401.
  • In Commissioners’ Communications:
    • Commissioner Fouche informed everyone that the Presbyterian Heritage Center is now open on a regular but revised schedule. New exhibits have been added. She urged everyone to stop in.
    • Commissioner Lentz passed out copies of the new Landcare brochure “Build Your Own Rain Garden” and acknowledged the work of Katie Widmer and Jean Norris in its production. The brochure is available in the literature rack on the main porch of the Town Hall or by contacting Katie Widmer at 828-357-5247. It was funded by the Landcare raffle held at the 2019 Native Plant Sale. It is a beautiful and informative brochure.

If you have any questions about this meeting summary or any topic, please write me at thelms@townofmontreat.org or call me at 828/669-3852. We appreciate your support and encouragement.

Mayor Tim Helms on behalf of the Town Council

Other Actions taken by the Council included:

  1. Ratified a Letter of Offer to Thomas Dalton for employment as a Sanitation Worker effective August 31
  2. Approved the delegation of hiring additional Sanitation Workers to the Town Administrator
  3. Approved a Letter of Offer to Michael Dixon for employment at a Patrol Officer

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