Black Mountain transportation: Interchange still on track for 2025, bike improvements eyed

Karrigan Monk
Black Mountain News
Black Mountain Chief of Police Steve Parker (right) recognized Sgt. Josh Kiser (middle) as the police department's employee of the year.

The Feb. 13 Black Mountain Town Council meeting began by Mayor Michael Sobol congratulating Owen High sophomore David Kendall for bringing back yet another state championship to the Valley, this time in indoor track for the 500 meter race. Kendall previously helped the Warhorses to a state soccer title in the fall. 

Sobol then read a proclamation celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Black Mountain Swannanoa Chamber of Commerce. 

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Chief of Police Steve Parker recognized Sgt. Josh Kiser as the police employee of the year, voted on by staff and agreed upon by command staff, according to Parker. He said Kiser attended an FBI course on leadership, as well as assisted in two situations last year involving pursuits. 

Following a public comment period, Planning Director Jessica Trotman provided the council with an update on various transportation projects around town.

This report included several projects being completed within the town by the North Carolina Department of Transportation. Among these, the Blue Ridge Road interchange is "on schedule" for construction in 2025, according to Trotman. Also in 2025, the Ninth Street bridge is scheduled to begin construction after a failed inspection in 2018. 

"If there was an imminent threat, they would tell us," Trotman said. "We were put on notice that we had to do it." 

Another bridge repair project is also taking place on South Blue Ridge Road with construction taking place this summer. 

Moving on to resurfacing projects, Trotman named projects on Old U.S. 70, Blue Ridge Road and North Blue Ridge Road near the Cragmont area. 

Trotman also named two potential projects. One is a U.S. 70 road diet, which Trotman called an "incredible project" with a timeline of 2040 and a price tag of $20 million. The other is a modernization of Blue Ridge Road. 

For local active transportation projects, Trotman said the town is working to add 7.8 miles of new bike and pedestrian improvements by 2025. She said this is "way, way above" any town of similar size. The town is also hoping to complete Phase 2 of the Cragmont Loop project this spring, as well as the Grey Eagle bike boulevard to be completed on the same timeline. 

Two more projects, EB5547A and EB5547B, are going through processes at the NCDOT in order for the town to move forward. EB5547A is a Charlotte Street sidewalk collaboration with Buncombe County Schools and EB5547B is a connection from the Flat Creek greenway. 

Trotman ended the presentation by telling the council about other studies in process.

Following Trotman's presentation, the council passed several resolutions in the consent agenda. Among these resolutions, the Black Mountain Police Department donated 10 body cameras to the Old Fort Police Department as the Black Mountain department upgraded. 

The council also voted to support Buncombe County Schools in controlling their own calendar and adopted a resolution to accept services from the Creating Outdoor Recreation Economies program. 

More:Black Mountain selected for CORE program

Trotman returned to discuss EB5547B. The council voted to approve the update to the existing agreement between the town and NCDOT.

The Black Mountain Town Council met for its monthly meeting Feb. 13.

In new business, the council asked town staff to look into creating an ordinance that would prohibit large trucks more than a proposed two axles from using Midland Avenue. 

The council also directed Trotman to look into changing the yearly stormwater fee from yearly to monthly, should residents choose to pay monthly. This is made possible by new billing software. 

Trotman presented an amendment to an ordinance requiring construction waste to be kept in an orderly fashion in some sort of container, such as a dumpster. 

Waste Reduction and Recycling Specialist Rechelle Ray presented the council with two grants. 

"These grants specifically promote equitable access to recycling carts to the residents for no cost to residents," Ray said. 

According to Ray, Black Mountain is the last municipality in the county to use the non-recyclable blue bags to collect recycling rather than using carts. She said using the carts also is safer for sanitation workers and cuts down on insurance premiums and claims for on-the-job injuries. Along with the carts comes technical assistance and educational materials. 

"It's pretty obvious that we have a lot of folks in town that are not recycling yet," council member Pam King said. "I think whatever we can do to make it easier and more convenient for people is a good thing." 

The budget impact for purchasing the carts would be $228,000. The council voted to give the public works department approval to apply with the understanding the town can decline the grant should funds not be found in the budget. 

In communication from staff, Town Attorney Ron Sneed announced he would not be participating in the bid for town attorney and would be stepping away from the position. 

Council member Bill Christy read a statement on Martin Luther King Jr. Day and Black History Month. 

"This is a good time for reflection on the basic principals of equality and justice," Christy said. 

The council's annual retreat will take place Feb. 25.