BEECH MOUNTAIN — The Town of Beech Mountain reconvened for its regular meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 12, in which the council received two financial reports and discussed improvements to the convenience center site.
As the first order of business, the council approved a high bid for a lot that had been foreclosed on due to nonpayment of taxes. The bid was in the amount of $10,800 for Lot 317 off of Pinnacle Ridge Road, according to Beech Mountain GIS. Additionally, the council approved several tax refunds in amounts ranging from $51 to $1,886.
Certified Public Accountant Cindy Randolph presented the town’s annual audit report. Highlights from the report include increases in the town’s water and sewer fund, as well as its emergency telephone system fund and sanitation fund due to various grants and other sources of revenue. Meanwhile, the town’s capital project fund for its public works facility remained the same for 2020 as it did for 2019. The town also saw a decrease in its general fund balance of $356,030.
Town Manager Bob Pudney then introduced David Cheatwood, managing director of First Tryon Advisors in Charlotte, whom the town engaged for financial advice, and gave a presentation to council members explaining the debt options the town has available in order to fund future projects. The town is currently planning the Watauga River intake in range of $20 million, as well as other future infrastructure projects in the range of $2-3 million. Pudney says that the financial group can help lead the town in creating a plan to fund these projects.
In the town manager’s update, Pudney shared a report on the local vaccination effort for the town’s emergency response units.
“Vaccination availability is becoming more prevalent. Our first responders in our fire department have all been vaccinated, with their first vaccination with no adverse effects, and they’re scheduled for their second vaccination in two weeks,” Pudney said.
Additionally, the town has distributed applications to all town employees to sign up for vaccinations in Watauga and Avery counties as they become available. Both sled hills have been popular since they have opened, but town employees have needed to continue to remind users to wear face masks.
Pudney reported that the town’s solid waste department has been experiencing unprecedented use this season, as many part-time homeowners decided to remain in the area. The town is also planning on updating and improving the functionality of its waste management system ahead of the town’s new waste disposal site opening this spring, including keeping two staffers on site at the convenience center.
According to the Tourism Development Authority report, there were 2,906 visitors in the Visitor Center during the month of December, which was more than the 1,906 visitors received in December 2019, and the highest one-month total ever recorded. The office is staffed half-days on Sundays and from 9 a.m to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Over the holidays staff answered more than 200 calls a day, in addition to assisting the in-person visitors.
Occupancy tax received in the month of December (from November overnight stays) was $83,973, which was 105.28 percent greater than the $40,907 received in December 2019.
The council received its lone public comment from concerned resident Barbara Sugerman, who remains concerned about a fire pit that continues to emit “toxic” fumes around her home. Though Sugerman headed south for the winter, she expects the problem to persist when she returns to the mountain in the summer.
“The night before I left, Dec. 2, the smoke was so intense and toxic that I had to once again call the police. You can check their records. They reported back that the officer did agree that the smoke was everywhere in and around my house, but they couldn’t find the source. This has been a consistent problem,” Sugerman wrote. “I hope and pray that when I and others return to what once was ‘our happy place,’ and now has come to be an unhealthy nightmare totally due to the situation being ignored and that with all the turmoil of 2020 and now 2021, that this dangerously, very unhealthy problem will be no more.”
The council met in closed session before adjourning.