Mayor’s Summary of the January 14, 2021 Town Council Meeting

Hello Montreaters,

Our first meeting of the new year was without most staff and no members of the public due to COVID restrictions. We’re looking forward to everyone having the vaccine so we can meet together again. But for tonight, we streamed the meeting. Additionally, we recorded it and posted it to our FaceBook page. CLICK HERE to watch the recording.

Because there was no Public Forum, 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 except Kitty Fouche, who joined virtually. We approved the minutes of the December meeting.
  • In my communications, I reminded everyone that Monday is Martin Luther King Day. The Town offices and services will be closed. There are MLK Day events all over the region, so take advantage of those opportunities. I mentioned that I still am bothered that we can’t offer the Public Forum, and I look forward to reinstituting it. Finally, I reminded everyone that Montreat College is back in session. They reported to us about their COVID procedures, which identified three employees and one student returning for the semester with COVID. Their procedures are the strongest I’ve seen of any higher learning institution. We’re grateful for their significant focus on COVID controls.
  • Town Administrator Alex Carmichael gave a report on systems to contain dog waste, which is a continued problem. We have heard from many residents about the problem, so we asked Alex to explore refuse systems. He investigated various products. He also contacted MRA President Richard DuBose to see how we could partner in addressing the issue. We asked Alex to return with recommendations, including locations, partnership ideas, and costs.
  • There were three Public Comments:
    • John Hinkle expressed his concern about the dog waste problem. He sent the commission an email in December about the issue, and stated he was encouraged to see it on our agenda for tonight’s meeting. He commented that it is not only an eyesore but it’s a health issue as well and thanked the Council for addressing it.
    • Mary Standaert stated she disagreed with statements made last month asking residents not to reach out to agencies about our zip code/address issue. She feels that the “Montreat fatigue” we have encountered is a good thing.
    • Mike and Kathy Mader asked if the revised ordinances will result in a new process for setback adjustments. I asked Alex to talk with the Maders about this issue, and reminded everyone that we do not have any revised ordinances yet. The Planning & Zoning Commission has made some recommendations to the Council, which have not been acted upon.  
  • Under New Business:
    • The Council approved a bid from Dogwood Estate Management to repair a culvert at 435 Greybeard Trail and authorized Alex and me to negotiate the final contract.
    • The Council also approved an easement request from the Town of Black Mountain to install an electronic meter reading system on Town property.
    • Alex and Chief David Arrant explained an upcoming change in police dispatch services, which would consolidate our contract with Black Mountain to Buncombe County. It’s a complicated matter but could result in less expense to Montreat and, hopefully, no change in level of service. Subsequently, the Council approved a motion authorizing Alex and me to negotiate a contract with Buncombe County.
    • We discussed the 2021 Annual Board Retreat, agreeing that the agenda should include not only 2021-2022 budget issues but also addressing the Montreat Comprehensive Plan and the survey results from last winter. As a result, we decided it will take two meetings to accomplish all this. Alex will propose dates.
    • We also discussed next steps in addressing the Planning and Zoning Commission’s Zoning Ordinance change recommendations. We decided that we will meet with several members of P&Z to hear a summary of the changes. The meeting would be the first step in a lengthy state-statute driven process.
  • In Commissioners’ Communications:
    • In Commissioner Fouche’s absence, Commissioner Widmer gave an update on the work on the address/zip code issue:
      • A meeting was held with Montreat Postmaster Tim Bryson. It was not an encouraging meeting because it appears the problem is much greater than the zip code issue. Tim is continuing to work with the USPS Charlotte regional office to devise solutions.
      • The NC School of Government has been asked to help us in our dilemma.
      • We will be reaching out to other municipalities to see if they have encountered similar situations and how they resolved it.
    • Commissioner Widmer also gave a COVID-19 update:
      • The state has expanded vaccine eligibility to 65+, effective Feb. 1. No appointments can be made yet.
      • No vaccines are currently available in Buncombe County, but the public will be notified when they are available and appointments can be made.
      • Watch Friday’s Montreat Minute for more details
    • Commissioner Lentz told everyone that I signed the Mayor’s Monarch program, which will help initiate a new emphasis on attracting more Monarch butterflies to our Town. Alice also stated the Montreat Landcare Committee has been focusing on leaf collection and the pet waste problem.

We are looking forward to a 2021 where we will be able to get together again and, hopefully, return to some form of normalcy. I know you join me in that hope. In the meantime, please stay safe and get your COVID vaccine.

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.

Mayor Tim Helms on behalf of the Town Council