Mayor’s Summary of the March 14, 2024 Town Council Meeting

Hello Montreaters!

I’m not sure if it was the agenda or a beautiful 70-degree evening that brought everyone out to fill up the Town Hall Community Room! We were very appreciative of everyone’s participation tonight.

My meeting summary follows below, but the official minutes will be in next month’s agenda packet. And remember that you can view tonight’s meeting recording by CLICKING HERE.

Public Forum

  • The Public Forum began a little differently than usual. I opened the Forum with a question: What is your opinion about creating a special honorary designation of Assembly Drive as Billy Graham Way? We showed a sample of how the signage might look and I explained that we are not suggesting renaming Assembly Drive. It will always be Assembly Drive. But, we would do an honorary declaration as Billy Graham Drive with street signs indicating so. I then opened it up for public comments. Six individuals spoke:
    • Wade Burns suggested a marker of some type rather than the honorary street designation.
    • Sally Giles commented that Ruth Graham had more of a desire to live in Montreat and an ongoing presence than Dr. Graham, and we should do something in both their names.
    • Tom Frist appreciated the effort, but suggested the Grahams would have been more comfortable with a park dedicated in their honor instead of a road, perhaps located over by the Texas Road Bridge.
    • Mary Jo Clark provided some historical context and agreed with Tom First’s comments.
    • Clary Phipps liked the idea but suggested the gate be renamed in honor of Dr. Graham.
    • William Brown offered that he didn’t think there was a proper “fit” with the signs. Assembly Drive was in honor of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church, while Dr. Graham was not even Presbyterian, he was Baptist.

I thanked everyone for their comments and told them we will continue this conversation for a while, with a survey going out to all residents in tomorrow’s Montreat Minute. Stay tuned…

I then opened it up to other comments:

  • Wade Burns stated that he hopes the Council will pass the proposed text change to the Stormwater Ordinance allowing Mr. Higgins access to his lot off Harmony Road.
  • Nancy Midgette asked if progress was being made on an alternative to the current leaf pick up system of bagging leaves. Town Manager Savannah Parrish stated the staff is working on alternatives and the subject will be discussed at the upcoming Budget Workshop, but that the staff was satisfied with the system and its efficiency. Nancy commented that maybe the staff was satisfied, but the residents are not.

Council Meeting

  • After I opened the meeting, I announced that the Town has earned Tree City USA status from the national Arbor Day Foundation for the ninth consecutive year. I congratulated Brad Hestir and the Tree Board, along with Public Works staff, for this commendation.
  • Jesse Gardner from Civil Design Concepts gave an overview of where things stand with the Texas Road Bridge. His firm has made a proposal to design, plan and manage construction of a new bridge. His plan includes an 8-10’ wide pre-fab bridge that would sit atop new abutments. Aesthetic enhancements could be done afterward with a separate budget. Jesse estimates the cost of the new bridge at $260,000. I thanked Jesse and said we will discuss it at the Budget Workshop next week.
  • Jim Williamson, on behalf of the Landcare Committee, made an informational presentation on why Montreat should prohibit the use of gas powered leaf blowers within town limits. He provided various facts and research as to why the ban should be done. We took his report under advisement.
  • Town Manager Savannah Parrish stated that Officer Morgan Bocanegra has rejoined the Montreat Police Department full time. We are delighted at Morgan’s return. Savannah also commented on a new water billing platform that will give much flexibility to Montreat water customers. More information will be in tomorrow’s Montreat Minute.

  • Under New Business:
    • The Council approved a proposal for private funding and implementation of Beautification Efforts at the stream adjacent to Wynne-Lithia Springs.
    • The Council approved the Landcare Committee’s grant application to the Pigeon River Fund for Flat Creek Crossing funding.
    • The Council approved text amendments to the Stormwater Ordinance, which was tabled last month for further review and modifications.
    • The Council approved the appointment of George Sawyer as a regular member to the Board of Adjustment for a three year term expiring January 31, 2027. We are grateful to George for his willingness to serve.
    • The Council approved the Fund Balance Policy, Alternative 3, with a 40% Fund Balance Ratio Requirement. They also approved an Accessible Fund Reserve Requirement in the amount of $400,000 for use in emergencies and other unusual circumstances.
    • The Council agreed to have discussions with Allen Stahl + Kilbourne to provide legal services to the Town.
  • Public Comments included:
    • Letta Jean Taylor offered thanks to Public Works staff for fixing the hole on Oklahoma Road. She also stated she hopes funds will be allocated in next year’s budget for ample road repairs and staff salary increases. She also expressed her appreciation to the Town Council for increasing the Fund Balance Ratio Requirement.
    • Arrington Cox, chair of Landcare Committee, thanked the Council for approving the Wynne-Lithia Springs Beautification Proposal and the Pigeon River Fund grant proposal.

I particularly enjoyed and appreciated the open dialogue with everyone at tonight’s meeting, Thank you for your participation, encouragement, and interest in the work of our Town.

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