Black Mountain City Council Hears Infrastructure Funding Options


Black Mountain City Council met for the first of three special telephone meetings on December 2 to discuss infrastructure funding with the Land of Sky Regional Council and French Broad MPO.

“Why we wanted to start this was a question that came up at one of our recent council meetings about how we fund some of our local projects,” said Mayor Larry Harris.

Harris said the hearing with the Land of Sky Regional Council and the French Metropolitan Planning Organization seemed like a good place to start. The board made no decision at the December 2 meeting.

Erica Anderson, Director of Economic and Community Development at the Land of Sky Regional Council, and Tristan Winkler, Executive Director of the French Broad River MPO, presented the council with information on funding as well as on each organization.

Winkler and Anderson agreed that regionally, the region is over budget by more than $ 1 billion.

Winkler described five main types of funding to the council, starting with planning funds, made available by DFO. These federal funds help small projects such as plans for bicycles and pedestrians and require a local contribution of 20% from the city.

“All of these programs are very competitive,” Winkler said. “At the national level, you are competing across the country. “

The greatest amount of funding is available through the statewide prioritization process, or SPOT funds. SPOT funds cover larger projects in the region and are an important part of what DFO does, but do not require local matching.

MPO or LAPP (Locally Administered Project Program) funds are used for engineering, acquisition of rights of way and construction. The largest source of funding for bicycle and pedestrian projects in the area, Winkler said these types of funds have been used for projects such as the Black Mountain Greenway.

LAPP funds also require a 20% local contribution from the city.

In the five-county area, Winkler reported there were more pedestrians killed in 2020 than before. From a regional perspective, Winkler recognized the opportunity for local municipalities to obtain grants and funding to address concerns of this nature.

Land of Sky consists of four counties, Buncombe, Madison, Henderson and Transylvania. Anderson said the organization is also working with Haywood County through the French Broad MPO. The composition of the group’s data analysis included the five counties.

Appointed as a governing council, Land of Sky exists as a regional government agency based on its members, but does not hold any regulatory authority. The organization primarily manages federal transit funding, but also works with state funds.

The French DFO Broad River began in the 1960s. Winkler said the group does not respect jurisdictional boundaries; it exists to plan the transport components of a region based on urbanized areas and census data.

“At the heart of what we do, we maintain the transportation planning process required by the federal government,” said Winkler.

The federal government has plenty of funds for transportation, he said, but wants to see a plan in place before allocating funds to an area.

“If you have the ability to fund things locally, do it,” Winkler said. “If you are applying for less than a million dollars, don’t bother.”

Winkler said the projects are funded through a quantitative rating process. In terms of the city’s unfunded projects, the upgrading of Blue Ridge Road for example, did not score high enough in quantitative terms to be successful.

For projects like this, for which funding has still not been secured since its first application in 2015, Winkler said DFO will likely have to look for other options to make the project more competitive.

“We have a large number of requests, but like these other areas, we are limited by the resources we receive,” said Deputy Mayor Ryan Stone.

Black Mountain City Council has yet to set a date for the remaining two meetings to discuss infrastructure funding.


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