Mayor’s Summary of the May 11, 2023 Town Council Meeting

Hello Montreaters,

We had a lively and upbeat Council meeting with approximately 17 guests for the Public Forum and Council meeting. My summary follows below. The complete official meeting minutes will be in next month’s agenda packet. You can view the meeting recording by CLICKING HERE.

Public Forum

  • Tom Frist asked what to do if bears get into trash cans and strew everything in the street—if he cleans it up can he take it down to the trash Convenience Center to dispose of it? We told Tom that he is welcome to take the trash to the Convenience Center, and we appreciate his taking care of neighbors’ messes. Residents can let Angie know about the situation, and she will contact the property owner. Tom also asked if there was any further information about the former Town Manager. I told Tom that Jason’s resignation was accepted by the Council and that is all I can say.
  • Clary Phipps commended Public Works’ Mike Harrison, who “did a great job cleaning up John Knox”. She asked that we pass on the KUDOs to Mike.
  • Shirley Mitchell offered thanksgiving for Interim Town Manager Ben Blackburn coming back to serve the Town again. She also thanked Ben’s wife, Robin, for letting him return. Shirley’s comments were met with applause from everyone in attendance. Shirley also gave a “shout out” to Public Works Director, Barry Creasman and his staff for their quick response. Shirley noticed the Dead End sign on Harmony disappeared. She called and told Angie about the missing sign. A new sign was installed the next day.
  • Martha Campbell praised the Landcare Committee team who crafted the grant application for Flat Creek Crossing. As volunteers, they put in many hours to complete the grant application. Martha also told everyone that it is difficult to find the Black Mountain News in stores and newsstands, but learned that it is available at Harris Teeter in Asheville. She commented that the current issue has two stories about Montreat and she urges Montreaters to read them.
  • Patti Pyle admitted that she forgot to call and thank Angie for her service last week during Professional Municipal Clerk Week,
  • Mary Standaert commented that the cell tower by the college is looking decrepit. She said when she was on Council, they negotiated with the cell tower company about the aesthetics of the tower. She urged the Council to talk to the owner about improving the tower’s appearance. Commissioner Alexander told Mary that Zoning Administrator Kayla DiCristina is working on this issue.
  • Arrington Cox suggested that if someone’s trash gets broken into by bears and the Town is made aware of it, they should contact Arrington and she will send out Bearwise information to the homeowner.

Council Meeting

  • After I opened the meeting, I announced that I had a conversation with our Duke Power representative yesterday. She told me that Duke is making line improvements and installing new poles in Montreat. She asked that everyone be patient with the short term inconvenience. I also announced the passing of former Montreat finance officer Stefan Stackhouse. Steve served the Town for 11 years from 2006 to 2017.
  • Under Town Manager’s Communications, interim Town Manager Ben Blackburn expressed his pleasure to be back and thanked the Council for asking him to return. He commented that there is much going on, and we will get it all done! He offered thanks to the entire community for their support.
  • In Public Comments,Martha Campbell offered several comments about the FY 23-24 budget process:
    • She is a proponent of raising staff salaries to remain competitive
    • She believes the Council should abide by the vehicle replacement policy for police vehicles, which is 10 years or 100,000 miles
    • She wishes previous Councils had raised taxes and stated she is not opposed to a tax increase to handle the Town’s needs
  • Under New Business:
    • The Council authorized me to sign a letter of commitment for the Landcare Committee’s grant application for Flat Creek Crossing. Landcare representative Patti Pyle made an excellent presentation outlining the project and the grant proposal.
    • The Council approved a budget amendment for $3,900 to fund final payment of the Comprehensive Plan Update.
    • The Council approved a budget amendment for $1,500 to fund IT billing for May and June.
    • The Council approved an ARPA Grant Project Ordinance involving the Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds. We received $277,267 in ARPA funds and were required to report our use of the funds.
    • The Council approved a proclamation designating May 21-27, 2023, as Montreat’s First Public Works Appreciation Week
    • The Council approved adding Ben Blackburn and removing Jason Burrell as signers to Town business accounts
    • The Council set a Public Hearing on the FY 23-24 budget for June 8th during the normal Town Council meeting
    • The Council agreed to a second budget special work session on Wednesday, May 24, at 1:00pm in the Town Hall
  • In Commissioners’ Communications:
    • Commissioner Widmer:
      • Offered appreciation to Public Works’ Daniel Wiggs who, when driving down Tennessee Road, saw a terrible mess caused by bears having gotten into a trash enclosure. Daniel stopped and cleaned up the entire area even though it is not his job.
      • Gave an update on the Texas Road Bridge project. The $191,000 grant from the Land of Sky MPO we received last year is not full of red tape as we thought and will be easy to administrate. We were a bit concerned that our new design approach would not be acceptable by the MPO, but they found it to be an excellent solution.

Commissioner Blake:

  • Continued the Texas Road Bridge update. He stated the original plan to simply repair the bridge abutments and upper bridge is not feasible due to extensive damage over the past several years. Instead, the plan is to remove the existing bridge and replace it with a pre-engineered structure that will be assembled in place. It will be a more effective and economical solution. Project work has already begun.

Once more, we thank you for your encouragement in the Council’s work. It means a great deal to us.

If you have any questions, comments or suggestions, please write me at [email protected] or call me at 828/669-3852.

Mayor Tim Helms on behalf of the Town Council