Town finances and other issues of high priority

Happy New Year! In these first weeks of 2016, I appreciate the opportunity to comment on Black Mountain’s financial health and to highlight one of the recommendations from the 2014 Comprehensive Plan Update concerning water production and conservation.

Town finances

Leadership has worked hard over the past five years to reduce our long term debt by more than $2 million and to set aside $650,000 for future town needs. In addition we have made significant improvements and expenditures at the Carver Center totaling nearly $200,000.

All that is good news, but we have deferred maintenance and needed upkeep on many of our town-owned facilities that grow each and every year. Over the next decade, funding the deferred maintenance could easily amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars. The cost to regularly replace aging vehicles used by our public works, police and fire departments is substantial, and we are often behind in needed replacement.

As a matter of perspective, consider comments made at a UNC School of Government seminar cautioning elected officials that the coming decade will be one of leaner resources from the federal and state governments. The reasoning is that the national and state economies are not likely to expand sufficiently to fund the growing demand for government services, in particular the soaring cost of health care. This means that local government will need to be leaner and smarter in order to provide for local government services.

All that said, I think we must continue the practice of careful debt management, careful and thoughtful spending habits and do all we can to promote a healthy local, state and national economy.

Water production and conservation

The 2014 Comprehensive Plan Update is a product of input from our citizens and community leaders and was unanimously adopted by the Board of Aldermen as a blueprint for our future. There are several action items in the plan update that are considered to be of high priority and of such a nature that they should be addressed as soon as possible.

One of those big issues of high priority is the recommendation to develop a water production and conservation plan. We have been setting aside money for water line replacement, funded a new pump station and have in place a new GPS mapping system of our water lines.

All this is a good start, but we need to step up our efforts in planning for both water delivery and production for the coming decades. Water production, delivery and conservation will hopefully be the topic of one of the first budget workshops this winter. We can follow up in due time with an effective plan for production and conservation (including delivery) as recommended and envisioned by all those involved with the formation and adoption of the 2014 Comprehensive Plan Update.

I appreciate the opportunity to serve on the Board of Aldermen. I look forward to working with my colleagues on the Board of Aldermen and the Mayor to face the challenges of 2016 and beyond. I am thankful for the Town of Black Mountain and for all those who volunteer and work to make it one of the best places to live in the world.

May God bless you and all those who labor to protect us at home and abroad.

Larry B. Harris is an alderman for the town of Black Mountain