Black Mountain Town Council reviews 2019-20 financial audit, annual police report

Ty Roush
Black Mountain News
Black Mountain Town Hall

Black Mountain Police Department experienced an average of 1,011 calls per sworn officer in 2020, an annual review of the department says. 

This is 159 more than the second-highest average, Brevard Police Department, which employs five more officers than Black Mountain.

Last year was "probably one of the worst years I've ever seen for law enforcement," Chief of Police Shawn Freeman said. "However, for us, we saw a lot of highlights with partnerships being made, community contacts that were reinforced ... it wasn't bad for us, luckily."

With all reports of crime separated into 52 separate categories, like theft from a motor vehicle or drug violations, BMPD was "equal to or less than other agencies in 72% of all categories."

The town experienced a "multiple-percent increase" in calls reporting narcotic violations, including a 68% increase in arrests between 2019-20. All other calls were closer to the town's year-to-year average and lower than the national average, Freeman said.

A 60% decrease in vehicle accidents was reported in 2020, a statistic Freeman says he is "most proud of." In 2019, 262 accidents were reported compared to 144 in 2020.

Freeman estimates BMPD has saved the town $172,000 through various cost-cutting efforts.

Finances

Black Mountain experienced a "significant increase in town revenue," a 2019-20 financial audit reports, with an estimated $560,000 added through the sale of land.

Revenue increased from just under $9 million in 2019 to between $9.5 million and $10 million in 2020. By removing the proceeds added by the sale of land, the town's revenue is on average with 2018-19.

Mauldin & Jenkins, a Columbia, South Carolina, based financial advisory firm, says the town is currently sitting with 39% of its general fund unassigned. This is a percentage that is "well above" a recommended minimum amount, the firm said, with the funding being available for spending at the town's discretion.

Despite the percentage of unassigned funds, the firm said unused funds could be beneficial during times of economic duress.

Town Council

The Board of Aldermen is now the Black Mountain Town Council, councilmembers unanimously agreed. The name change follows a review of the town charter and a suggestion by councilmember Pam King for more gender-neutral phrasing for the town's governing body.

A public hearing for revisions to the charter will be held during the council's regularly scheduled meeting in April. Copies of the revised document have been sent to members of the state legislature for a pending approval following the public hearing, town attorney Ron Sneed said.

Swannanoa River restoration

Black Mountain has received $77,000 in grant funding by the N.C. Division of Water Quality to restore a portion of the Swannanoa River at Veteran's Park. The river has eroded portions of banks by the park's trails, town manager Josh Harrold said.

The funding will aid in restoring 1,500 linear feet at the park, Harrold added. Completion of the project is expected in late July or early August.