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

Greetings Fellow Montreaters,

We had another COVID-19 pandemic “first” tonight. Tonight’s meeting was totally virtual. No one was in the Town Hall Community Room, but instead everyone met via Zoom. I wasn’t sure how it would go, since I myself am not the most “techie” person. But upon conclusion, we agreed that it worked reasonably well. We hope we won’t have to meet this way too many times again. But it’s important we practice correct COVID-19 protocols at this time of increasing infections. We recorded the meeting and posted it to our FaceBook page. CLICK HERE to watch the recording.

Because it was a totally virtual meeting, we followed our approach for the April, May and June meetings and did not have a Public Forum. Instead, comments and questions were made a part of the Public Comments section of the Council meeting.

Here’s a summary of tonight’s meeting:

  • I called the meeting to order with all Commissioners present virtually. We approved the minutes of past meetings.
  • I used my time to give thanks to important people who made things work this year. It’s a long list, but I think it’s important for me to list them: the Town Administrative staff, Public Works staff, the Montreat Police Department, our hard working volunteers with Firewise, Landcare, the Tree Board, the Planning & Zoning Commission, the Board of Adjustment , and the Audit Committee. And I thanked our newest group of volunteers, the “Gardeners of Weedin’” who take care of the Town Hall landscaping. Don’t forget to notice the beautiful wreath on the front of the Town Hall as well as other decorations around the building.
          I then mentioned it was a difficult year with significant impacts on our town. It’s my hope that 2021 will be a better one. I ask everyone to protect one another and get vaccinated when it is available. We all look forward to celebrating a new chapter for Montreat and America.
  • Commissioners Fouche and Widmer gave a report on the Montreat Address and Zip Code issues. It was a very complete and detailed report, and there isn’t enough room here to repeat the entire summary. So, we are providing Kitty and Tom’s notes. CLICK HERE for a copy. Bottom line: it is a multi layered extremely complicated problem, made more challenging with each new form of technology that is introduced. Our primary focus on resolution will be working with the Postal Service and Buncombe County. We won’t fix everything and it will take time— we’ve been working on it for more than a decade. But we believe there are some possible resolutions. We’ll keep you informed of our progress. Thanks for being patient.
  • We had some discussion about the Administrative Reports:
    • Commissioners Fouche and Widmer thanked staff for providing  monthly comparative reporting on all departments. It is very helpful.
    • Commissioner Widmer noted that there was no finance report and it’s important that we stay on top of our financial situation due to COVID effects. Finance Officer Darlene Carrasquillo gave an oral report, saying that income is actually better than was budgeted. Tax revenues from all sources are better than expected, while expenses continue to be under budget. Many thanks to the staff for keeping expenses in check.
  • There was only one Public Comment, submitted by Mary Standaert. She asked that with Zoom technology that we allow citizen comments to be sent to the chat room seen by the public and read at the public comment time by the Town Clerk.
  • Under New Business:
    • I took my Oath of Office for Mayor, being sworn in for the next four years.
    • Kitty Fouche took her Oath of Office for Town Commissioner, being sworn in for the next four years.
    • Jane Alexander took her Oath of Office for Town Commissioner, being sworn in for the next four years.
    • Commissioner Tom Widmer was elected by the Council as Mayor Pro Tempore by unanimous vote. We are all most grateful to Commissioner Kent Otto for the most excellent job he did as Mayor Pro Tempore for the past three years. Thanks, Kent.
    • We approved a conditional employment offer for Patrol Officer to Jon McDonald in the amount of $37,754.
  • In Commissioners’ Communications, Commissioner Lentz thanked the Montreat Landcare Committee for their fine work this year despite difficult conditions. She also thanked Martha Campbell who served as Chair for the past four years and announced that Grace Nichols will be the new Chair.

As the year comes to a close, I thank you for your support and how we have endured the pandemic challenge. Life may never fully return to “normal” pre-pandemic. But I know Montreat will return as the robust conference center, the beloved vacation destination, the Clubs capital, the rock hopping headquarters, the best 4th of July parade location, and the memory making mecca as it has been for decades. I look forward to sharing it with you.

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. Merry Christmas and stay safe.

Mayor Tim Helms on behalf of the Town Council