Mayor’s Summary of the June 8, 2023 Town Council Meeting

Greetings all,

We’re grateful the summer season has begun, and it is easy to feel the energy that comes with it to Montreat.

Our meetings were attended by approximately 12 guests, and we appreciated their being with us tonight. My summary follows below. Please remember you can view tonight’s meeting recording by CLICKING HERE.

Public Forum

  • We expressed our condolences to Tom Frist in the passing of his sister and long time Montreater, Jane Frist.
  • Martha Campbell offered appreciation to the Town staff for “bear control” and the excellent landscape work done these past several days at the Town Hall.
  • I asked Commissioner Blake for an overview of the Texas Road Bridge progress. He said we are working closely with NC Department of Transportation staff on the project. In fact, they will be handling engineering, all contracting, construction oversight, and federal reporting– essentially all that needs to be done for the project. The current bridge will be removed and a pre-engineered timber bridge will be installed. It will be designed to enable construction of a covered upper portion at some time in the future if we decide to do so.
  • Black Mountain News reporter Karrigan Monk was in attendance, and I asked her when we might be able to buy BM News papers on the rack. She does not know what the plans are for area distribution.
  • Commissioner Fouche has heard from residents living on Lookout Road that the no parking ordinance on Lookout is causing problems for those who do not have off street parking. We agreed to investigate some type of remedy to alleviate the hardship.

Council Meeting

  • Interim Town Manager Ben Blackburn stated that paving of Oklahoma Road will begin on Tuesday of next week, if all things work out.
  • Under Public Comments:
    • Nancy Hyde and Kay Clegg spoke about the lack of parking on Lookout Road. They were surprised to find the no parking signs, which now eliminates close in parking, particularly for Nancy who has a son with impaired mobility.
    • Ann Laird Jones also commented that the new parking regulations are a detriment to her being able to recruit summer staff who occupy housing in that area and have no place to park.
    • I told them we would look into it and see what can be done to meet their needs.
  • Under New Business:
    • We held a Public Hearing for the FY 23-24 budget. After Ben gave an overview of the budget, I opened it up for public comment. Letta Jean Taylor made several comments, including:
      • She offered appreciation for the 5% COLA increase and making sure all staff are receiving at least a living wage of $20.10 per hour. She commented that Buncombe County is providing a 6% COLA increase. Commissioner Widmer reported the NC League of Municipalities stated the average COLA increase for Western North Carolina was 4.6%, putting Montreat above the average.She expressed concern about the deferral of pavingShe recommended we increase the tax rate to help build the general fund for future needs.
      The Council then approved the 2022-2023 budget as presented with no tax increase. If you would like a copy of the budget and budget ordinance, CLICK HERE.We then broke for a Closed Session to discuss the Buncombe County Superior Court Lawsuit entitled Kathryn A. Hayner, Harry T. Jones, III, William P. Jones, Margaret Jones Berry, and Nancy Jones Fox vs. Town of Montreat, North Carolina and Mountain Retreat Association. After discussion, we returned to open session to continue the meeting.The Council approved a contract with Carter, P.C. as the town auditor in the amount of $28,600 as well as the engagement letter between the town and Carter, P.C. We have used Carter for three years and are quite pleased with their work.The Council approved a budget amendment for $10,000 to fund the balance of the contract with Land of Sky for our Zoning Administrator.
    • The Council discussed how to be more proactive in our search for a permanent Town Manager, although we would love to keep Ben. We had several suggestions and will follow through on them.
  • There were no Commissioners’ Communications. However, in closing, Ben offered sincere appreciation for support on the budget. He thanked the staff, citizen public comments, Commissioner input and comments from individuals. He sincerely believes this budget illustrates we are being good stewards.

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