We had a small but participative group for our last meeting of the year. We’re thankful for our guests, as they add a great deal to the meeting.
My summary follows below. The official minutes will be in next month’s agenda packet. Please remember you can view tonight’s meeting recording by CLICKING HERE.
- Nancy Midgette, FireWise Chairman, presented a report of Montreat FireWise activity. The Town received national FireWise recognition for the fourth year in a row. However, the two primary metrics we and FireWise track decreased in 2023. The two metrics are: 1) resident hours reported in cleaning yards to reduce wildfire fuel, and 2) cubic yards of debris removed from residences by Public Works. After an informal survey, Nancy concluded that Montreaters find raking and bagging leaves cumbersome and expensive. As a result, the FireWise Committee is asking the Town Council to consider an alternative to bagging and collecting leaves: vacuuming leaves that residents would pile up in front of their homes.
We agreed we would do so, and we asked Savannah to work with staff to consider alternatives to bagging.
- Tom Frist asked for an update on the Texas Road Bridge project. Mayor Pro Tem Mason Blake reported that after huge increases in the project budget and frustrating meetings with the State over the grant we received, we cancelled our participation in the government grant and are now pursuing our own solutions to Phase I of the project, which is creating a stable pedestrian bridge (Phase II is the aesthetic phase). Town funds, which were budgeted for last year, are still available but will likely have to be supplemented due to rising costs. We will keep the community apprised of our progress on this important project.
- After I opened the meeting, I wished everyone a Merry Christmas and prosperous New Year, then thanked the staff for their work in helping make Montreat the special place that it is.
- During the Town Manager’s report, Savannah Parrish:
- Explained that the Black Mountain Fire Department is asking Montreaters to complete a survey about their services. A link to the survey will be in the next issue of the Montreat Minute.
- Reminded everyone that bear hunting season has reopened and will continue through January 1st. Please be careful while hiking and call the Town offices (828/669-8200) or the police dispatch line at 828-250-6670 if you observe suspicious hunting activity.
- Following Savannah’s report, Mayor Pro Tem Blake asked about the $5,000 that the Town transferred from the General Fund to the Water Enterprise to reduce the loss the enterprise incurred last year. Finance Director Rachel Eddings clarified the situation, saying the Town’s payment was not to decrease the loss, but to pay for the storage tank cleaning from funds that were in the General Fund restricted for this purpose and payable to the water enterprise .
- Under Public Comments, Shirley Mitchell commented that she thoroughly enjoyed reading the minutes of the Boatd Planning Retreat and was amazed at what had been accomplished. She was impressed with how the planning consultants conducted the meeting and the various techniques they employed to complete the process.
- Under New Business:
- The Council agreed to defer action on the Fund Balance Policy, which needs further consideration, and vote on the Comprehensive Financial Policy and the Debt Management Policy.
- After brief discussion and questions, the Council approved both the Comprehensive Financial Policy and the Debt Management Policy.
- Under Commissioners’ Communications:
- Mayor Pro Tem Blake explained that both Montreat Landcare and Montreat Presbyterian Church were independently working with NC Wildlife Resources Commission to have BearWise presentations in the spring. He recommended that the two groups work together and have only one event. We all agreed.
- Commissioner Alexander thanked the administrative staff for all the work they have done, and continue to do, in reviewing, cleaning up, and rewriting Town policies.
- Commissioner Widmer underscored Shirley Mitchell’s comments about the Board Planning Retreat and the minutes of the meeting. He stated the minutes are an excellent historical reference for the future and recommended residents read the minutes to better understand the planning process and the Town’s future direction in conjunction with the Comprehensive Plan. The minutes are available by CLICKING HERE and going to page 5.
Given the last meeting of the year and all for which we have to be thankful, I offered a closing prayer.
On behalf of the Town Council and staff, I wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and best wishes for the New Year. And, I’ll repeat again that the Commissioners and I thank you sincerely for your encouragement in our work. 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