Greetings fellow Montreaters,
The Council, staff and approximately 12 attendees convened for the meeting while others joined us by Zoom. If you would like to view the recording, CLICK HERE. Here is my summary of the Public Forum and Council meeting. Remember you can read the complete, official summary in the meeting minutes that will be published next month.
- Philip Arnold expressed his concern about how the current hotel/lodge legal battle is draining the Town’s financial resources. Philip serves on the Town’s Audit Committee and knows it is a challenge dealing with such a significant unbudgeted expense, which will grow with the appeal by the opposing parties. He suggested an idea that the opposing parties reimburse the Town for legal expenses going forward.
- Tom Frist stated he agreed with Philip’s comments and said he was saddened to learn that the funds that were originally budgeted for the Texas Road Bridge were used for legal expenses for the hotel/lodge controversy. Since there is no money to rebuild the bridge, he suggested a beautification of the two bridge entrances. Interim Town Administrator Ben Blackburn said that funds have been included in the draft 2022-2023 Town budget to complete phase 1 of the bridge and two grant proposals have been submitted for funding the bridge.
- Bryant McEntire spoke about various changes that have occurred in Montreat over the past few years and wondered where the “love” is for one another. He suggested several ideas for income sources including parking meters at the Greybeard trailhead. He also suggested reserved parking spots for Montreat residents. He questioned the form of government change being discussed and felt it would reduce the democratic form we currently have.
- Mary Standaert thanked the Town Council for supporting the Board of Adjustment (BOA) during the Special Use Permit hearing. She again expressed her concern for the late audits, the reduced fund balance, and other financial issues. I told her that our fund balance has grown significantly since the 2019-2020 audit and is estimated to be at 32.1% of the annual budget as of the 2020-2021 audit. Mayor Pro Tem Widmer also stated that one of the reasons it fell so low (18.69%) of the annual budget was because the 2019-2020 budget included large expenses for both the Town Hall and the Public Works building, driving the budget upward while our general fund balance didn’t grow and the ratio dropped. Commissioner Otto thanked Mary for her words about the Council’s support of the BOA and voiced his disappointment with the verbal attacks on the volunteer BOA members.
- Grace Nichols, chair of the Landcare Committee, expressed appreciation to me, the Black Mountain News and the other Council members for their support of last month’s Native Plant Sale. She stated there were 195 attendees at the sale.
- In my comments, I asked for condolences to Jack McCaskill in the recent passing of his wife, Fran. Jack served on the Town Council and he and Fran were wonderful representatives for Montreat. I also wished Commissioner Jane Alexander happy birthday! Finally, I mentioned that the Town Council is sending a letter to the State Treasurer explaining several points from the last audit and clarifying several other issues.
- In Public Comments:
- Bryant McEntire expressed further concern about the possible change in form of government, saying he thinks the change puts the people one further step removed from representation. He suggested a survey be done and that the change be put to a referendum vote.
- Mary Standaert stated that effectively the Town has been operating as a manager/council form of government for the last two mayors. She supports the proposed change and stated we will attract more experienced candidates.
- Note- if you would like to learn more about the proposed change, CLICK HERE
- Grace Nichols shared about the Landcare Committee’s meeting last week with special speakers, largely speaking about stormwater management, a huge issue for us here in Montreat. Grace stated that for the benefit of the Town, community education is critical for Montreat residents. Landcare will take the responsibility for this education, with the goal for all of us to learn more about our watershed.
- There was no Old Business, so we moved to New Business
- The Council approved a Public Hearing regarding the 2022-2023 proposed budget on June 9th at 7:00pm in the Community Room of the Town Hall.
- The Council approved a special budget work session for the Council on Thursday, May 26 at 6:00pm in the Community Room of the Town Hall. The public is invited.
- The Council approved a contract extension with Buncombe County regarding tax collections.
- They also approved the renewal of property and liability insurance in the amount of $23,665 with Interlocal Risk Financing Fund.
- They also approved the renewal of our workers compensation insurance in the amount of $13,936 with NC Interlocal Risk Management Agency.
- The Council approved the appointment of Allen Crawford as the ETJ representative to the Planning & Zoning Commission until 5/31/2025 and then appointed Danny Sharpe to move from alternate to a regular member on the Board of Adjustment, filling an unexpired term until 1/31/2023. We are grateful to Allen and Danny for agreeing to serve.
- In Commissioners’ Communications, Commissioner Blake thanked Grace Nichols, Jean Norris, Brad Hester and the Landcare Committee for a successful Native Plant Sale. He also reminded everyone that there will be a meeting to discuss the Town’s dog ordinance controls on May 19, at 6:00pm in the Community Room of the Town Hall. Commissioner Otto reminded everyone about Montreat College’s graduation on Sunday afternoon. He stated the college had a very successful year and had very few COVID cases. He spoke with some international students who said that before coming to Montreat, they had never fished, hiked or just enjoyed beautiful vistas and talked about the beauty of the area.
I adjourned the meeting for the Council to go into closed session.
If you have any questions about this meeting summary or other town topics, please write me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call me at 828/669-3852.
Thank you for your support,
Mayor Tim Helms on behalf of the Town Council