Black Mountain discusses town budget for police, fire, streets, sanitation and recreation

Ezra Maille
Black Mountain News
Town manager Josh Harrold presented the recommended budget for the upcoming fiscal year on May 26.

With budget season rapidly approaching, the Black Mountain Town Council has begun prioritizing specific needs of the town it's found to be most immediately pressing.

Outlined in the recommended budget for fiscal year 2022-23, written and compiled by Josh Harrold, town manager, the entire budget totals $16,951,315, up 15.51% from the previous fiscal year. 

The general fund is recommended to remain at $9,588,840, an 11.4% decrease from the previous fiscal year. The town's outstanding debt in the general fund makes up $1,699,108, consisting of land purchased on Black Mountain Avenue, loans on sanitation trucks and equipment and the Town Square.

This outlined budget, presented May 26 to Town Council, accounts for recreation and parks, finance, administration, planning and zoning, public services, residential garbage and recycling, police, fire, stormwater and other utilities.

For every department, fuel costs have been budgeted to increase 25%.

Police and fire

According to Harrold's budget recommendations, $146,000 is budgeted to pay Buncombe County for police dispatch services, $25,000 for professional development, $15,500 for supplies and $25,000 for law enforcement officer supplies. 

Additionally, $580,000 is budgeted for the purchase of five patrol vehicles and body cameras, the vehicles costing $280,000 and the body cameras $300,000.

Chief Steve Parker addressed the council, saying supplies such as body cameras and radar signs make up a few of the department's necessities. 

"Our body cameras are at the end of life," Parker said. "These (new) cameras integrate with the in-car cameras and automatically turn on when officers exit their vehicle."

For the radar signs, Parker said new technology allows for officers to view speed data virtually from signs throughout town. 

In total, roughly $2.6 million has been recommended as a budget for fire services.

Funds for the fire department will allow access to necessary repairs and new vehicles, such as a new truck for the chief who has yet to be hired. Harrold said the town has received "quite a few" applications for the position. 

"The parking lot over at the fire station is in pretty dire need of some work," Harrold said.  

Sanitation and streets

The largest development from sanitation budgets for one trash can and one recycling bin per trash pickup stop in town. Jamey Matthews, director of the public works department, recommended tipper cans, an easy way for workers to load trash into pickup vehicles. 

"They can drag it over to the truck and let the truck do the work," Matthews said, explaining that tipper cans allow for a mechanism to empty cans directly into the trucks.

Public works director Jamey Matthews recommended tipper cans which allow for a similar mechanism to this claw truck to empty trash cans directly into vehicles without works having to directly interact with garbage.

According to Matthews, currently, some town residents who may not have cans, simply put bags out to the curb for pickup. He said he's concerned for his workers having to handle the bags directly as they could end up coming into contact with unsafe materials.

Council member Pam King discussed the possibility of creating a part time position with sanitation to focus on compositing. She said until the town takes action, talking can only do so much.

"A waste reduction specialist or something like that," King said. "Focusing on educating and implementing compositing, teaching people how to do it and also recycling."

Council member Doug Hay agreed, saying if the position was able to reduce waste, it could save the town money at the landfill. 

For the street budget, $184,000 was recommended for new snowplows, downtown banners, a welder, a salt spreader, building cameras and two trucks.

A bridge replacement has been budgeted at $800,000. Matthews said the bridges in town would have been flagged by the North Carolina Department of Transportation if anything was found to be unsafe. 

"Out of all the bridges, we've got two bridges that are going to need to be rebuilt pretty soon with 9th Street being the worst," Matthews said. "If it needed to be condemned, they would have us condemn that bridge."

Recreation and parks

For the recreation department, $102,500 was recommended for fencing at the croquet court, basketball goals for youth sports, a new van and a new work truck. An additional $15,000 was recommended for park maintenance for a new mower.

Harrold said the recreation budget allows for $95,800 to go toward repairs to the Gray Eagle Arena, an area residents have said desperately needs repairs. 

More:Black Mountain recreation: 'We don't have enough facilities,' staff say

Council members discussed the need to not only rebuild the arena's roof and lighting, but also commit funds to redo the turf field inside. 

"Unless we're going to tear down the Gray Eagle building, were going to need a new roof," Hay said. 

"I think we need to go ahead and get it done as fast as we can," agreed council member Archie Pertiller. 

Ezra Maille covers the town of Black Mountain, Montreat and the Swannanoa Valley. Reach him at 828-230-3324 or emaille@blackmountainnews.com. Please support local journalism with access to more breaking news by subscribing.