Town departments prepare for move to Black Mountain Avenue

Fred McCormick
Black Mountain News

Black Mountain public services director Jamey Matthews doesn’t hesitate when asked the first word that comes to mind to describe his department’s current location west of downtown on U.S. 70.

“Confined,” says Matthews, who began his tenure with the department over a decade ago. “It’s tight in here.”

Matthews, like many town employees, was excited when aldermen voted last November to purchase the former Carolina Foam, Fabric and Home Decor building at the corner of Black Mountain Avenue and Terry Estate Drive for $2 million. The town closed on the 22,000-square-foot building, which sits on 3.76 acres, in February. 

Public works director for Black Mountain, Jamey Matthews, stands among the tightly packed equipment in his department's current location on U.S. 70.

"This building solves a lot of problems for the town," interim manager Ron Moore said. "It's basically move-in ready and gives the our public services and recreation departments room to grow."

Space is a valuable commodity in the 14,000-square-foot building presently in use by the public services department, especially considering its been decreasing as the needs of the town increase. In an effort to save the town money, Matthews said, the department does as much work in-house as possible. That means an increase in skilled workers, who are able to operate a wide array of machinery. 

Interim town manager Ron Moore is focusing his attention on getting Black Mountain's public works and recreation and parks departments moved into their new location at 304 Black Mountain Avenue.

"A good bit of this equipment wasn't here when I started," he said. "In the last 10 years we've added two dump trucks, two track hoes, a skid steer, all kinds of equipment, because that allows us to do more without having to contract work out."

Storing and accessing the growing inventory requires precise planning by Matthews and his 16 employees. 

"When we come in this building in the morning it's full," Matthews said. "We have to move a lot of it out and back in to get to a lot of it; it's like a puzzle."

The parking lot on the .93-acre parcel is barely big enough to accommodate the 16 people who work for the department and maneuvering large trucks around it is no easy task. When semi-trucks make deliveries, as they do at least once a week, they're often forced to block westbound traffic on U.S. 70 as they're unloaded. 

Town employees unload a tractor-trailer in the full parking lot of the public services building on July 12.

Moving into the new building will alleviate those issues, according to Moore, who stepped into his role in June. He anticipates that will happen in the next 60-90 days. 

"This building is a real asset for the town," he said. "It's a wonderful space and I'm happy to get to help figure out the best way to use it."

Joining the public services department in the building will be the recreation and parks department, which is currently housed in the Carver Community Center. Matthews is the interim director of that department after former director Casey Conner stepped down in June.

The size of the Black Mountain Avenue building, which originally served as a car dealership, will allow the town to consolidate two departments under one roof, but the floor plan gives each department its own space.

It also possesses useful amenities, Moore pointed out.

"There are floor drains throughout the building, which will allow Jamey's department to do equipment maintenance on-site," he said. "There is an empty enclosure in the back where dumpsters used to be, and public works will cover that so it can be used to store salt and sand."

Just a few feet away from the structure Moore is referring to sits an empty garage building, which Moore and Matthews believe will be adequate for servicing the department's vehicles. 

"This building will help us be as efficient as we can be," Matthews said. "We can spend less time organizing and reorganizing and more time community."

The move will also put the department in the center of town instead of near the outskirts. 

"We send crews out from right here and they won't have far to go in any direction," Matthews said.  

The property contains over 100 public parking spaces on the north side of Terry Estate Drive, Moore said.

"There will be probably another 50 or so spaces available to the public when the office is closed," he said. "And parking is obviously a need in town."

One of the things Matthews' staff looks forward to most, he said, is the fact that the entire building is air conditioned. 

"There's no air conditioner in the shop at our current building," he said. "You can imagine on those days when it's 90-something degrees outside it's well up into the hundreds in there."

It's not uncommon to find the small break room packed near the end of a shift on a hot day as employees seek relief.

During the winter the crews have to run equipment, like mowers and tractors, that aren't use during that season and the doors have to be open to ventilate it. That won't be the case in the Black Mountain Avenue building, Moore said.

"You can see where there is a ventilation system that takes air out," he said, pointing up. "That's something that will come in really handy for those guys."

But the space in the building is what excites Moore the most. 

"It's big enough to meet the town's needs well into the future," he said.