Montreat town council meeting gets testy

Fred McCormick

The controversial N.C. law perceived as crippling legal options for LGBT in the state was the least controversial part of the Montreat commissioner meeting last week.

The larger issue of the April 14 meeting involved criticism over alleged irregularities during the November board of commission elections. Montreat resident Peter Boggs criticized Joe Standaert, the husband on town commissioner Mary Standaert, over comments he said Joe Standaert made, during the April 7 commission meeting, that fraud occurred during the Montreat election.

“Mr. Standaert said that there was an orchestrated effort to get Montreaters to change their voter registrations to Montreat,” Boggs said. “Mr. Standaert also said that there were ongoing investigations into the elections in Montreat. We have learned from the chair of the Buncombe County Board of Elections that as far as he knows there are no investigations going on into the election in Montreat.”

Boggs went on to say that Joe Standaert was “ill-informed” and asked that he apologize.

Mary Standaert responded by reading excerpts of transcripts from the Nov. 10 Buncombe County Board of Elections hearing that upheld 14 voter registrations challenges in Montreat. The total number of challenges was 27, brought by Joe Standaert, John Johnson, Rusty Frank and Eric Nichols, “out of their conviction that there were irregularities,” Mary Standaert said.

“It is the responsibility of any individual, or any citizen who feels there is a problem, to bring it to the attention of the board of election,” she said.

She went on to read from a transcript that quoted Buncombe County Board of Elections chair, John Watson.

“Based on the evidence before this board,” Mary Standaert read, “they are not qualified to vote in North Carolina, or at least in this precinct. ... So yes, we will be looking at registrations. I think I want to look a little more at the statute, maybe seek some guidance from the state board.”

In an unrelated item, the board voted 3-2 not to discuss the controversial House Bill 2.

Opposing discussion were Kent Otto, Kitty Fouche and Bill Gilliland. For discussing it were Ann Vinson and Mary Standaert.

“As far as (HB2) being the law, I think it’s important to point out that slavery was once the law of the land,” Vinson said.

Fouche said that there was already too much conflict in Montreat for the board to address the state law.

“I think it’s going to change anyway,” she said. “We’ve got enough chaos to deal with.”

The board also acted to establish a committee to explore additional options for replacing a bridge that spans Flat Creek on Texas Road. Mayor Tim Helms announced the members of the committee.

Town administrator Ron Nalley updated the board with the latest information on the Texas Road bridge, which has been closed to vehicular traffic since 2008 and was slated to be rebuilt with funding from the Municipal Bridge Program until the board voted to suspend that process.

“As of last week we were told that because of the motion that was made (in March) to suspend the bridge project indefinitely, that wording sort of put our funding in jeopardy,” Nalley said. “We were advised that if we re-open the planning document, we wouldn’t necessarily have to return the $250,000, roughly, of planning money.”

Nalley went on to tell the board that the Federal Highway Administration and the North Carolina Department of Transportation recently expressed an interest in reviewing the project.

“They have requested that the board sort of sit tight until they can get back in touch with us,” Nalley said.