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County Budget Discussion Continues

June 8, 2012

The Buncombe County Board of Commissioners continued their discussion on the FY 2012-2013 budget at their June 5th meeting. Among the budget items debated were a proposed cut in Commissioners’ salaries, the amount of longevity pay for county employees, and cutting the waiting time before new county hires receive health insurance.

A motion made by Commissioner Peterson to table any vote on Commissioner pay until after the November elections was approved 3-2, with David Gantt and Commissioner Jones voting against. Jones made a motion to reduce the waiting time for health insurance from the current 6 months to 1 month, but the motion was not seconded. As already written, the budget for the next fiscal year calls for lowering the wait to 3 months.

Budget discussions will continue and a vote taken at the June 19th meeting. Read more…

Fiscal 2013 Budget In the Spotlight

May 18, 2012

At their May 15, 2012 meeting, the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners heard County Manager Wanda Greene’s budget proposal for the next fiscal year, which begins on July 1.  It avoids any property tax increases or major cuts and proposes a roughly 1 percent increase in spending over last year. The board will hold a public hearing on the proposal at its next regularly scheduled meeting on June 5.  (David gives his thoughts on the budget here.)

Commissioners also voted unanimously to pass a non–binding pledge to loan Mountain Housing Opportunities up to $2 million to fund Eagle Market Place, a proposed development near the corner of Eagle and South Market streets in downtown Asheville. The $12 million development would include the renovation of several neglected historic buildings and the construction of 60-70 affordable rental apartments, as well as retail, commercial and office space. Officials with Mountain Housing Opportunities said the promise from the commissioners would help the project have a better chance of coming to fruition by increasing the chances of securing housing tax credits through a program of the N.C. Housing Finance Agency. Read more…

Commission Applauds $2 Million+ in Secondary Road Improvements Planned for Buncombe

May 3, 2012

Chairman Gantt comments at the May 1 Commission meeting (Mountain Xpress)

At their May 1, 2012 meeting, the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners heard a report on the North Carolina Department of Transportation’s secondary roads construction program. According to the presentation, DOT is planning to spend nearly $2.2 million on improvements to various roads in Buncombe County. The largest single project is $210,000 worth of shoulder widening, drainage upgrades and sight distance improvements planned for a 10 mile stretch of Old Fort and Chestnut Hill roads in Fairview.

In other business, Commissioners approved two rezoning requests from property owners and passed a resolution that empowers county staff to negotiate financial contracts for several already-approved capital projects.

In addition, Bill Eaker of the Land of Sky Regional Council was presented with the Buncombe Environmental Leadership Award and Sherriff Van Duncan presented several of his deputies with Medals of Honor for outstanding service to the community.

Energizing Buncombe County- With Trash

April 5, 2012

This Generator at the Buncombe County Landfill Converts Methane Gas into Electricity (Photo by Max Cooper)

During their April 3, 2012 meeting, the Board of Commissioners was updated on Buncombe County’s innovative landfill gas-to-energy project, which taps methane gas produced by decomposing trash and uses it to generate electricity.

The project began in 2010 with the installation of additional gas collection wells at the landfill and the new generator began producing electricity at full capacity this month. It is expected to produce 1.4 megawatts of electricity for the next several years, enough to power about 1,100 homes annually. The energy is sold through NC GreenPower.

In other business, a new campaign to prevent child abuse was introduced by Health and Human Services Department staff, and the commission also heard a presentation about the Robotics program at 4H.

Go to the next page for David’s video recap of the April 3rd meeting. Read more…

Initial Steps Taken to Build Two New Schools; Land Conservation Advisory Board Reports Progress

March 21, 2012

Asheville City Schools officials express their appreciation for the Commission's consideration of replacing two aging facilities

At its March 20, 2012 meeting, the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners took the initial action needed to build two new schools in the city of Asheville, voting 5–0 to borrow $2 million from the School Capital Commission Fund to pay for studies and architectural plans. If built, the new buildings would replace the aging structures that currently house Asheville Middle School and Isaac Dickson Elementary with a total cost of at least $60 million, according to estimates. County officials will develop a plan to pay back the initial $2 million loan from the School Capital Commission Fund (whose funding source is lottery and state sales tax revenue) and pay for construction of the new schools.

Board Chairman David Gantt told the Asheville Citizen-Times, “I think the feeling of our board is that we have worked hard to get the county schools up to standard and the city schools have started lagging behind.  I think whatever board gets elected in November, they’re going to have to come to grips with the problems at these schools,” he said. “We’re going to make sure that all of the students at Buncombe County have decent facilities to go to school in and these schools have gone below a level we would like to see.”

Commissioners also heard a report from members of the Land Conservation Advisory Board. Since 2004, the amount of land that’s protected from development in Buncombe County has grown from roughly 12 percent to about 14 percent, according to the report. The land includes thousands of acres preserved through conservation easements as well as land that’s protected under national forest and watershed designations.

Continue to the next page to watch David’s recap of the March 20 meeting and to hear his thoughts on the importance of the actions taken. Read more…

Commission Moves to Limit Light Pollution

January 19, 2012

Artist: David Cohen

At their January 17th meeting, the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners passed a new outdoor lighting ordinance designed to minimize light pollution and improve energy efficiency in unincorporated areas of the county. Commissioners amended the original Planning Board ordinance, incorporating stronger measures recommended by the Sierra Club and local environmental groups. The amendments:

1. Expand the ordinance applicability to include all types of new development except single family residential.

2. Restrict all new Dusk-to-Dawn security lights including single family residential.

3. Include a five-year sunset clause for all non-conforming Dusk-to Dawn security lights including single family residential.

4. Require that all non-conforming light fixtures be made compliant at the time of a renovation or replacement.

The Commissioners also approved a pair of grant applications for over $900,000 in state and federal funding that would go to Mountain Mobility transportation system. The grants would require roughly $166,000 in matching local funds. In addition, the Board heard a report by economic services program administrator Tom Rhodes on the county’s poverty prevention and management programs. He emphasized the county’s success working with outside partners such as ABCCM. In other business, a wellness incentive for county employees was approved.

To watch David’s video summary of the January 17 meeting and hear his thoughts on actions taken, Read more…

Commission Votes to Rename Bridge After Fallen Fire Fighter

January 5, 2012

In their first meeting of 2012, the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners on January 3rd voted unanimously to request that the North Carolina Board of Transportation dedicate Asheville’s Smoky Park Bridge in Capt. Jeff Bowen’s honor. The move was supported by the Asheville Fire Department and the Buncombe County Fire Fighters Association. A 13-year veteran of the Asheville Fire Department, Bowen died on July 28, 2011 while working to put down a fire on the top floor of the Mission Hospitals building on Biltmore Ave.

The board also approved a rezoning request by Norris Max Clubb to allow for commercial development of a 1.27-acre tract located at 1910 US 70 Highway, just west of its intersection with Warren Wilson Road. County planning staff and the Planning Board recommended approving the request, noting in a report that surrounding land is already being used for commercial development.

Taken into consideration during the meeting was a report on the role of substance abuse and mental health problems among the inmate population at the Buncombe County Detention Center and
an “Economic Development Report” from Ben Teague, executive director of the Economic Development Coalition. He said the organization was more organized and working harder than ever before to create jobs in the area.
 
In addition, the Commission honored Buncombe County Library Director Ed Sheary for being named “Director of the Year” by the North Carolina Public Library Directors Association.

Continue to the next page to hear David’s thoughts on the January 3rd meeting. Read more…