Mayor’s Summary of the October 8, 2020 Town Council Meeting

Hello Fellow Montreaters,

I must first apologize for something. We had a problem with our internet service last night and did not find out about it until shortly before the Public Forum began. We were not able to fix it in time for the meetings. We weren’t able to send out a message of the internet failure, so some of you may have been wondering what was happening. Again, we apologize.

Although we set up ten chairs for the public given social distancing, only 6 citizens were present. Nonetheless, we were delighted to have them join us.

Here’s a summary of the meeting:

  • Public Forum questions/comments included:
    • Sally Stansill reviewed the petition she and 14 other Montreaters submitted last week. The petition focused on measures to control noise, traffic speed and pollution. The petition outlined three specific requests, including landscaping for the hill by the gate parking lot leading up Kanawha, establishment of no parking with adequate noise control signage in the gate by-pass area, and enforcement of the traffic speed and noise ordinances by the MPD. There was productive discussion on the subject, and Sally acknowledged and thanked the Town for putting up additional No Parking signs in the by-pass area. We will continue to work together on this issue.
    • Bill Roberts reported on a noise problem coming from the house behind him that is rented by MC college students. He reviewed the noise issues he has encountered, the actions he has taken and his frustration that until the last week or two, things have not gotten any better. He requested more vigilant follow up by the MPD and a review of the noise ordinances. I stated we appreciated his problem and that three Council members, Town administration, MPD, College leadership and others have been involved in trying to resolve the situation. We will continue to monitor it and do our best at bringing a peaceful resolution.
  • I called the meeting to order with all Commissioners present. We approved the minutes of the September Town Council meeting.
  • The first order of business was a report from Police Chief David Arrant about receiving a body worn camera from the Black Mountain Police Department for our officers. They are providing the camera for our trial evaluation. We only need one camera since we have only one officer on duty at a time.
  • In Town Administrator’s communications, Alex Carmichael reported that we have had two responses on a RFQ for repair of the Texas Road culvert up near the swimming pool. We hope to move that project forward quickly. He also reported that we have received a second reimbursement check from the state for repairs from Tropical Storm Alberto. Thus far, we have received $242,000 reimbursement and still have four more projects to complete. Additionally, he told us we received a report on our bridges status. There are some issues and will be dealt with. Commissioner Fouche asked Alex about the Sewanee Road repair project. Alex stated that he will be preparing a RFQ for that work within the next month.
  • We had some discussion about the Administrative Reports:
    • Commissioner Otto asked if staff has any indication of the status of tax revenues from the state. Finance Officer Darlene Carrasquillo said June tax revenues were up 15% over the previous month, which was down 12% from the prior month. She will provide a comparison to June tax revenues from June of 2019.
    • Commissioner Widmer thanked the staff for the communications report that was recently initiated. He suggested that an item not be shown as completed until the issue is completely resolved.
  • Public Comments included:
    • Clare Frist thanked the Council and the staff for their work and dedication. She asked if the COVID virus has been stressful for the Council and staff. I told her that the primary effect on us has been financial, with the significant drop in revenue directly caused by the pandemic. As a result, we are doing no capital projects in 2020 except the Alberto repairs, for which we are reimbursed. Staff is watching expenses closely and doing without. I said it’s like we are running around in patched jeans!
    • Angie Murphy read an email comment from Mary Nell Todd concerning the removal of the tree canopy due to residential construction projects. She suggested that Montreat adopt a plan to preserve the remaining canopy in our town.
    • Angie also read an email comment from Mary Standaert offering important information about voting in the upcoming election, including information about voting locations, absentee ballots, early voting and more. To access Mary’s full comments about the voting information, CLICK HERE.
    • Tom Frist asked if anything could be done about beautifying the Texas Road bridge while we wait for funding to do the major repairs, such as removing the danger cones and putting in large flower pots. Alex explained about some of the constraints we are under. We then asked that Alex address this issue next spring, even if it means putting the pots on the approaches to the bridge instead of the bridge itself.
    • Tom also asked about renting the Community Room of the new Town Hall since it is such an attractive venue. I told him we were planning on doing so, but we’ll have to wait until we push through the pandemic.
  • Under New Business:
    • Alex stated that the Town received $9,697 in CARES Act funding from the state to cover expenses incurred due to the pandemic. The funding covers expenses such as PPE, Zoom services, extra cleaning of he Town Hall and similar expenses. The funds cannot be used for revenue replacement. The Council needed to approve the establishment of a new revenue fund, which was done.
  • In Commissioners’ Communications:
    • Commissioner Fouche suggested Council members take turns sitting at the gate to observe the traffic, noise and speed issues that Sally Stansill mentioned earlier.
    • Commissioner Lentz alerted everyone that seasonal tree trimming and removal on behalf of Duke Power will begin next week. The Asplundh tree-care company and ECI (another Duke Energy subcontractor) have recently identified trees on the Town of Montreat property and in the community that pose threats to power lines. As winter approaches, caring for these trees and addressing these threats are important. Five trees on public property have been identified for removal. These trees were also identified as needing removal in the Tree Board’s dead and at-risk tree inventory of 2019. The tree removal and trimming will be primarily located along Assembly Drive and Lookout Road. Any trees identified on private property will not be trimmed/removed without written permission of the home-owner. Notices will be left at homeowners’ doors by Asplundh and the associated company. Homeowners receiving notices may contact Public Works Director Barry Creasman with questions 828/669-8002 x4.
    • Commissioner Otto expressed his sorrow for Bill Roberts’ frustration. He stated the college has been very responsive and are doing all they are able to do. He emphasized that it will take work by all parties and creativity in solving the issue.
    • Commissioner Widmer commended Barry Creasman and the PW crew for completing the Greybeard Trail guardrail ahead of the schedule he gave us last month. Tom said the job was very well done and the landscaping added a great deal.

If you have any questions about this meeting summary or any topic, please write me at [email protected] or call me at 828/669-3852. We appreciate your support and encouragement.

Mayor Tim Helms on behalf of the Town Council