Montreat town manager resigns after 2 months in role, faces DWI charge

Karrigan Monk
Black Mountain News
Ben Blackburn was hired as Montreat's interim town manager following the resignation of Jason Burrell.

The town of Montreat is once again looking for a town manager.

This comes after the resignation of the town's first manager, Jason Burrell. He was hired in March.

In the May 5 edition of the weekly Montreat Minute newsletter, it was reported the town is searching for a new town manager as "things did not work out with" Burrell.

In a special closed session meeting May 10, the Board of Commissioners voted to accept the resignation of Burrell and rehire Ben Blackburn as interim town manager.

Jason Burrell

Burrell was previously town manager in Canton. He was suspended without pay in April 2021 and resigned the next month.

According to a Black Mountain Police Department report, Burrell was arrested May 4 and charged with driving while intoxicated.

In the public comment period of the regularly scheduled May 11 meeting, a resident asked the board if they could provide any "clarification" as to what happened with Burrell.

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"Commissioners accepted his letter of resignation yesterday and that's it," Mayor Tim Helms said. "That's all I can say about it, to tell you the truth."

Residents gathered at the meeting thanked and applauded Blackburn for stepping back into the role.

"We're all going to roll up our sleeves for the betterment of this town," Blackburn said. "Be patient and be understanding and we'll get through this. Montreat's a strong community and it's stronger than any one person or one group and I'm proud to be back and thank you again for all your support."

In new business, the board voted to authorize the mayor to sign a letter of commitment for the Landcare Committee's Flat Creek Crossing Project.

Presented by Patti Pyle, the project is seeking an environmental enhancement grant of $50,000 from the North Carolina Department of Justice.

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The project will aim to put an emphasis on protecting the creek by improving stormwater mitigation and adding signage to educate the public. The project will also be ADA-compliant.

"It provides an entry point into the natural environment for those living with disabilities and for the elderly," Pyle said. "Our original vision for this project has not changed. We want everyone to be able to get to the creek and we see accessibility as an issue of environmental justice."

Commissioner Kitty Fouche called the grant a "work of art" and the commissioners voted to authorize the mayor to sign unanimously. Pyle said the project will be completed July 4, 2025.

The board then voted to approve two budget amendments. The first was a $3,900 amendment to fund the final payment of the comprehensive plan and the second approved $1,500 to cover IT billing.

Blackburn told commissioners the town still has $83,000 left of American Rescue Plan Act funds that need to be allocated by the end of the year.

Commissioners voted to designate May 21-27 as the town's first Public Works Appreciation Week.

The commissioners will meet for a special budget workshop meeting May 24 at 1 p.m. A public hearing regarding the budget will take place at the next monthly meeting on June 8.