Commissioners give go ahead to $44 million in school projects, including AHS roof repair

During its meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 18, the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners unanimously approved more than $44 million in funding for Asheville City and Buncombe County School systems.
During its meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 18, the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners unanimously approved more than $44 million in funding for Asheville City and Buncombe County School systems.

The Buncombe County Board of Commissioners, during its meeting Tuesday, Oct. 18,  approved allocating more than $44 million in bond money for various projects, the bulk of which is going to roof repairs at Asheville High School. Commissioners also approved $121,970 in rebates for Waste Pro and the property tax schedule.

Burning issue

Commissioners kicked off the evening unanimously approving additions to two of the county’s fire districts in the Reems Creek and Skyland areas. At issue were homes that receive service from a fire district in which the properties are not actually located. Michael Frue, the county’s attorney, said the situation is a product of development over the years and needs to be addressed to mitigate potentially unacceptable response times. County staff noted it could take upward of 14 minutes for a home in the wrong district to receive service. Staff also urged members of the public to look at their tax bills and make sure they’re in the correct fire district.

You can view the new fire districts for Reems Creek here and for Skyland here.

On the go

Next, commissioners heard a presentation about grants for Mountain Mobility, a county service that provides rides for seniors, people with disabilities and others facing transportation barriers.

Mountain Mobility will apply for two grants for fiscal year 2018: an administrative grant for $318,265 in federal and state dollars that would have a county match of $56,166; and a capital grant worth $489,150 in federal and state funds with a county match of $54,350.

Mountain Mobility staff said the administrative grant will help pay for software, operational costs, employee training and other needs while the capital grant will go toward nine vans.

Mountain Mobility must retire some vans in its fleet due to mileage requirements set by the state. Staff says it will sell those at the county auction and put that revenue toward local matches on the two grants.

Commissioners unanimously approved moving forward with both grants.

For more information on the grants, click here.

Tax man

Keith Miller, the county’s chief appraiser, told commissioners the tax department is on schedule with the revaluation process and it will continue through January. “We are meeting our goals, and things are going well,” he said.

On Oct. 4, commissioners held a public hearing on the proposed tax schedule, a state requirement before they could approve the tax schedule. The hearing drew two comments.

Commissioner Tim Moffitt said: “Like most county residents, when you hear revaluations are around the corner, we face it with apprehension. But after going through the schedule of values … it’s an excellent process you have put together to help us understand the value of our property and how that relates to us as taxpayers.

“My confidence is very high in the process. I won’t dread the revaluation. It’s clear in my mind you guys aren’t the bad guys. I commend you for an excellent job.”

Commissioners unanimously approved the tax schedule, but members of the public have four more weeks to comment on it. You can view the tax schedule here.

But is it art?

The county is looking to add two art installations to go along with its new courthouse building. One, a kinetic sculpture, will occupy space outside the building, and another, a history wall, will be featured in the lobby.

Both projects went up for bid, and the history wall received three applicants, while the kinetic sculpture drew two bids.

The budget for the history wall is $5,000, and bids range from $5,000 to $24,500.

For more on the concepts and costs of the history wall proposals, click here.

However, county staff offered a fourth option for the history wall: allowing library staff to select various pictures from its archives, a project it says it could deliver for under $2,000.

The kinetic sculpture will be a monument outside the courthouse. The county’s budget for this project is $35,000, and there are two bids, both coming in at $35,000. You can read more about the concepts of those bids here.

The county has also allocated a total of $10,000 for installation of both projects.

Chairman David Gantt said he wants to get the concept designs out to the public before making a decision. Commissioners unanimously approved waiting until its next meeting, on Nov. 1, to make a decision about which bids to select.

Think of the children

The School Capital Fund Commission presented its case for $44,161,525 in financed funding for school projects at the Asheville City and Buncombe County school systems, a figure it says was pared down from $60,909,250. The funding is largely made available by SB 888, which allows the districts to take on more capital improvement debt.

The money would go toward the following projects: $25,266,250 for Asheville High School roof renovations; $1,634,000 for Montford School (former Randolph Building); $12 million for BCS’ Community High School; and $5,261,275 for various BCS maintenance needs.
BCC School Funding

Commissioner Brownie Newman said, “We are in a fortunate position that we can access funds at a really low rate, and it’s compelling to address these needs sooner rather than later. … The problems will get worse, and the cost of construction will get higher. There isn’t any question that financing is the most economic way to address this.”

Commissioner Joe Belcher added, “[AHS] is a magnificent building and a huge part of history in Buncombe County. And preserving that … I’m glad were doing that. Other cities and counties might tear it down.”

After commissioners unanimously approved funding the projects, Commissioner Holly Jones stressed that jobs stemming from these projects need to go to locals, as much as is possible.

You can view the School Capital Fund Commission’s presentation here.

What a waste

Waste Pro, the county’s trash contractor, missed a January deadline to file for a $121,970 rebate for hitting incentive benchmarks.

Bob Christie, a Waste Pro representative, addressed commissioners and said, “A year ago things were not good, and Waste Pro went out and hired a new district manager. He came in, made dramatic changes and improved service.” Waste Pro says it also invested $1 million in improvements, but ultimately the new district manager did not know about the rebate deadline. “We are asking for forgiveness. … It will not happen again this year,” said Christie.

Commissioners approved the rebate by a vote of 6-1, with Commissioner Ellen Frost voting against the measure.

You can view more about the benchmarks laid out by the county here.

Commissioners next meet on Tuesday, Nov. 1.

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About Dan Hesse
I grew up outside of Atlanta and moved to WNC in 2001 to attend Montreat College. After college I worked at NewsRadio 570 WWNC as an anchor/reporter covering the City of Asheville and Buncombe County for about eight years. During that time I also completed WCU's Master of Public Administration program. You can reach me at dhesse@mountainx.com.

10 thoughts on “Commissioners give go ahead to $44 million in school projects, including AHS roof repair

  1. Deplorable Infidel

    Why did Brownie Newman MISS the well attended I-26 widening project FORUM last Thursday….after having SUED NC to STOP
    the widening project 14 years ago, here we sit still in heavy traffic. Was Brownie TOO SCARED to be tarred and feathered at this
    public event? He was NOTICEABLY ABSENT…very POOR FORM with an impending election.

    • keith

      Getting to Atlanta faster is the only priority for any planning or spending for some folks. Bringing Atlanta sprawl with them was the plan for some infidels.

    • bsummers

      You opened the door for this, Fisher Caudle: why did every single Democrat accept an invitation to the League of Women Voters candidate forums, yet every single Republican passed? What are they afraid of?

      “Pierce said the nonpartisan League received affirmative responses from Brownie Newman, Drew Reisinger, Norman Bosser, David King, Ed Hay, Terry Van Duyn, John Ager and Nancy Nehls Nelson, who are Democrats, and William Meredith, who is a Libertarian.

      “She said the candidates who declined the invitation or did not respond are Frank Moretz, Chuck Archerd, Mike Fryar, Pat Cothran, Chuck Edwards, Joe Belcher and Robert Pressley. Those candidates are Republicans.”
      http://www.citizen-times.com/story/news/local/2016/10/18/gop-refusals-stop-asheville-debates/92350398/

      • Deplorable Infidel

        Simply, republicans KNOW they will NOT receive any welcome at the LWV events as they are predominately progressive democrackkk womyn who run that show! Yes, I know they will RUSH to shout just how ‘non-partisan’ they are, but it’s just an illusion, like all ‘crackkks operate.

        • NFB

          If they can’t stand up for what they believe in to an allegedly hostile audience, and can’t even admit publicly the supposed real reason for their refusal to attend then they are totally unfit for the offices they seek.

          • Deplorable Infidel

            they see no need in encountering such infidels with no elective reward …

          • NFB

            So if they are elected they won’t bother to engage with constituents who they disagree with because there is “no elective reward?” That alone should disqualify them from office.

          • bsummers

            The League of Women Voters are “infidels”? Well then, you should get along fine with them, “Deplorable Infidel”. Or are there intramural squabbles between different brands of non-believers?

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