Bathrooms a problem spot for Black Mountain's Veteran's Park, other Town Council news

Ezra Maille
Black Mountain News
The Black Mountain Town Council approved replacing the Ninth Street bridge on Sept. 13.

The Black Mountain Town Council discussed the Veteran's Park project, approved a bridge replacement and honored service members at the monthly meeting Sept. 13. 

The availability of bathrooms in Veteran's Park was a significant topic of discussion. According to Josh Harrold, town manager, the location does not allow for sewage access, presenting a significant obstacle in the building process. After exploring multiple options through the county and public works, the easiest and most readily accessible option requires an easement for the sewer line on Blue Ridge Road. 

Harrold said he, along with town attorney Ron Sneed, attempted to negotiate with the owner of the strip mall at the end of Veteran's Park Drive and Blue Ridge Road in regard to installing the easement, but the owner requests a minimum of $9,000. 

"I've tried to negotiate with him," Harrold said. "And he hasn't really budged much."

Harrold said purchases from landowners such as this are not uncommon, though Sneed pointed out that so far the town has been fortunate in that no easements have been needed to be bought. Sneed said the law prohibits the government to take the land needed without compensation. 

"This is not setting a new precedent, this is something that has gone on forever," Sneed said. 

Without access to a sewer line, the bathrooms in the park will not be possible. Harrold estimated the investment currently in the park project to be roughly $200,000. As the end of the grant cycle approaches, Harrold mentioned the need for an extension. 

The parking lot, playground and picnic pavilion have taken up the majority of the investment, the bathrooms being the final piece of the project. 

Considering the investment already in place, the council moved to approve the easement in the amount of $9,000, approving the project to move ahead as planned. 

In addition to the park project, the council approved a replacement for the Ninth Street bridge, a project funded and outlined by N.C. Department of Transportation. Grant funds from NCDOT helps take additional burdens for the project off of staff, according to Harrold. 

"About every two years we have an engineer do an analysis on our bridges here in town," Harrold said. 

The town manger said the NCDOT funding covers 80% of the cost from a total of nearly $700,000. With the approval of Town Council, NCDOT can now begin engineering of the project with construction hopefully taking place next year, according to Harrold. 

Taking a moment outside of the business discussion, Mayor Larry Harris read a proclamation to commemorate the sacrifice of Black Mountain Firefighter Garrett Presnell, who recently died due to complications from COVID-19. Presnell had been a part of the rescue task force during Tropical Storm Fred and also worked as a firefighter in McDowell County. 

"Whereas Garrett Presnell served the town of Black Mountain as a firefighter and the town of Black Mountain desires to recognize and honor his memory for his dedication and diligence while serving the community," Harris read. 

Closing the meeting, the mayor also recognized the 20th anniversary of the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, noting how encouraged Americans can feel, knowing that the community can come together when necessary. 

"People have different opinions and our politics can be pretty charged," Harris said. "But we also see that when we need to come together, we do come together."