Black Mountain Town Council discusses ARPA funds allocation, more

Karrigan Monk
Black Mountain News
Mayor Larry Harris explains to the public how the town manager review process is completed.

The Black Mountain Town Council met for a special call meeting Oct. 6 to discuss allocation of American Rescue Plan Act funds, utility bill collections, the golf course streambanks and the town manager’s annual review.

The town was allocated $2.6 million of ARPA funds, $1,480,800 of which has already been allocated.

Of the funds that have already been allocated, $500,000 went to Lake Tomahawk dam repair, $500,000 went to U.S. 70 waterline renovations, $65,000 went to the Charlotte St. sidewalk project, $100,000 went to updating the public safety bay apron, $120,000 went to construction of pickleball courts and $195,800 went to renovating Grey Eagle.

Town Manager Josh Harrold gave an update on each project.

He said the dam repair has been underway for “quite a while” and construction has been approved by the Army Corps of Engineers and the town is waiting on approval from North Carolina Dam Safety. Harrold said he hopes for the project to be completed this winter.

Harrold said when he spoke to suppliers for the waterline, he was quoted a 42 week wait period, and he said the engineering for the project is around 40% complete.

A survey has been done for the sidewalk project. Harrold said the town will need to work with the school system to move an existing fence back for the sidewalk. He said he hopes to complete the project in spring.

Harrold said the public safety bay is in queue for construction and should start within in the next few weeks.

He said the town is “putting the brakes on pickleball” until the parks and recreation master plan is completed by McGill and Associates.

Because of indoor soccer, the Grey Eagle project will not start until the spring, but Harrold said the town is gathering quotes.

Mayor Larry Harris said he wanted to wait to allocate more funds until the parks and recreation master plan study was completed, as well as until the public could provide their input.

Harris asked the rest of the council for their “wish list” on what they would use the rest of the funds for.

Council member Bill Christy said he hoped to use funds to standardize trash and recycling carts so they can be lifted by trucks. Harrold said it would cost $500,000.

Council member Pam King said she was interested in putting solar panels on all town-owned buildings, completing deferred maintenance at Lake Tomahawk, renovating Cherry St. restrooms and constructing a new multipurpose building at the community garden.

Harris said he wanted to work on the tennis complex in town.

Council member Doug Hay said allocating the rest of the funds is a good opportunity for the town.

“I think this is an opportunity for us to invest in maintenance and fixing up some of the things that we’ve kind of let fall apart,” Hay said. “It’s an opportunity for us, instead of building new things and starting new projects, to fix up some of the stuff we’ve not been able to afford to fix up or prioritize in the past.”

After a presentation on stormwater utility bill collections, Harris suggested tabling a decision until the council had time to think about the information they were presented.

Previously, the stormwater and utility bills were separate because an old software did not allow for a distinction. New software does and gives the town the opportunity to combine the two to alleviate the strain on residents. About 10% of stormwater bills from last year remain unpaid.

King and Harris agreed the council needed to allow time for public input.

Harrold said the approximately $300,000 golf course streambanks project was “for the most part finished.”

The final item on the agenda was to let the public know the process of the annual town manager evaluation.

King said the council wanted to make the evaluation more of a conversation between both the town manager and the council.

Though the actual evaluation occurs in closed session, the compensation adjustment is public.

“Our goal is to keep him competitive with our peers in the county,” Harris said. “When you have to look for one, you don’t want to have to be behind in compensation, nor do we want to be behind regardless.”