Town council hears stormwater report, passes other resolutions
Mayor Larry Harris opened Oct. 10’s Town Council meeting by acknowledging Indigenous Peoples Day, to be recognized the second Monday in October. Harris said council member Doug Hay brought it to the council’s attention.
Matthew Selves from the North Carolina League of Municipalities Law Enforcement Risk Review presented an award to the Black Mountain Police Department for completing the review. Selves said the review consists of 39 categories on “high risk policies, operations and practices.” He thanked the department for being “open and transparent” throughout the process.
During the public comment period, three residents, including Town Council candidate Weston Hall, spoke to ask for a full-time community garden manager position, rather than the current part-time position.
The council heard the annual stormwater report presented by Planning Director Jessica Trotman and Stormwater Technician Anne Phillip.
Trotman began by reminding the council that all stormwater regulations come from the Clean Water Act and went over what has been accomplished in the past year including hiring the first dedicated staff and improving the billing process.
She also went over where some of the budget for the program goes, including to staffing, materials, genetic testing of the river and other projects.
Trotman handed over the presentation to Phillip, who explained to the council that the permit is good for five years and helps the town stay in compliance while also saving money in the long run.
“We had the choice last year … to either commence with a stormwater program and be in compliance … or we risked failure and failure to comply comes along with fines of tens of thousands of dollars per day,” Phillip said. “Federal fines of up to $37,500 per day per violation. After 10 business days, we would be up to the revenue for our stormwater program, so I think it was a good choice that we got something for that money.”
Since November 2021, Phillip said she has had 43 reports of illicit discharge, 16 of which resulted in further action. She said she has also performed 60 outreach visits to residents to see if the town can do anything to help with their stormwater issues and, if not, provide resources.
Phillip presented the council with several new projects that are in the works, including putting green infrastructure in the Terry Estate parking lot, collaborating with the railroad to keep debris away on Black Mountain Avenue, the construction of rain gardens throughout town and a tree giveaway.
Town Council members thanked Trotman and Phillip for their work.
Harris asked Town Attorney Ron Sneed to discuss the legality of what Town Square can and cannot be used for.
Sneed said, in short, Town Square is a traditional public forum and speeches and peaceful protests of any sort can be held there and the town cannot regulate it. Other town forums include limited public forum like Town Council meetings and non-public forums like the police department.
Moving on to new business, council heard a resolution to demolish 621 Padgettown Road. Town Manager Josh Harrold said the town has given the owner of the property “ample opportunity” to fix the safety issues of the property. The owner did not respond, so council moved to demolish the property and place a lien on the owner with no opposition.
Council also passed a new water billing policy that allows the town manager or designee to waive fees on a case-by-case basis with no opposition.
A new subdivision known as Padgettown Place asked the town to take over the subdivision’s waterlines, which Harrold said is normal for this stage of construction and the lines have been installed to meet town and state specifications. The acceptance passed with no opposition.
Hay’s proposal to create a Town Council subcommittee policy was tabled for a later meeting’s discussion.
Council next heard a proposal to make the upcoming Montreat Road bike boulevard pedestrian friendly as well. Trotman said it would “make enough sense” and would increase the cost by $32,000, effectively doubling the budget. Town Council voted to approve the project with a budget amendment to be presented at a later date.
Although full-time workers received a 6% cost-of-living adjustment earlier in the year, part-time town workers did not. Council voted with no opposition to apply this raise to part-time workers as well.
The final item on the agenda was to approve the move of two public works employees to sanitation with a new wage of $18 an hour. Harris said this was on the agenda because a policy was passed around five years ago that, after the annual budget was passed, any change in pay would need to be made in public record.
He reminded the public that the town is still conducting a salary study and it would be more expensive to use an outside vendor.
“We want to pay them fairly to start with to do that very difficult and demanding work,” Harris said. “We want to pay folks doing these jobs what they deserve and certainly what their peers are receiving in our area.”