Snapshots: Bevy of reports illuminates city’s status

A contemplative mood: Asheville City Council members Marc Hunt and Cecil Bothwell ponder the implications of a report presented at the Nov. 27 meeting. Photo by Max Cooper

Reports are a regular component of Asheville City Council agendas, though they’re often FAIRLY CUT-AND-DRIED. THEY LOOMED LARGE at Council’s Nov. 27 meeting, however, providing updates on matters ranging from crime to water to finance.

Fighting crime

Asheville-Buncombe Crime Stoppers Chair David Herbert touted his program’s effectiveness. While most citizens are law-abiding, he noted, "There are murderers, bank robbers, molesters and rapists … roaming and hiding in our neighborhoods as we speak."

Last year, said Lt. Randy Sorrells of the Buncombe County Sheriff's Office, Crime Stoppers received more than 400 tips FOR WHICH IT paid ABOUT $4,000. A SINGLE recent tip led to 12 arrests, he reported, adding, “We consider that a good return on investment.”

Governing downtown

Downtown Commission Chair Bruce Hazzard said his board, which is CHARGED with the challenging task of PRESERVING the charm of the city’s core while allowing it to change, is "a filter for so much of what happens downtown. We find ourselves discussing any topic that comes before downtown. We have to recognize that downtown cannot stay stagnant.”

The current development rules, he said, aren't suited to the smaller-scale renovation projects that have been coming before the commission since the economy slowed down. Currently, the commission is EXPLORING WAYS TO ENHANCE walkability AND IMPROVE THE development guidelines.

Transportation

The city is due for THE NEXT five-year study of its transit conditions. In the past, those studies have relied on "borrowed data," noted Transportation Director Ken Putnam: projecting Asheville's traffic and transit CONDITIONS AND NEEDS BASED ON NUMBERS FROM a similar urban area.

But this time, he continued, Asheville needs to gather its own data. “All the local governments in the region just felt like this wasn't a very good way to do it,” Putnam explained. “How can we borrow data from some place in Ohio and apply it to our travel needs down here?”

The state Department of Transportation is offering assistance to make that happen . Going forward, he said, this will give the city more accurate information when dealing with the state and federal governments.

Rising tides

BUSINESS SERVICES MANAGER Phil Kleisler, WHO’S IN CHARGE OF the city's IN-HOUSE??? OR JOBBED OUT??? study of a potential merger of its water system with the Metropolitan Sewerage District, said he'll unveil HIS??? report Dec. 11. MSD presented its initial findings earlier this month, and discussed further issues, including WHAT City Manager Gary Jackson CALLED possible "modest compensation" for Asheville, on Nov. 30 (for details, go to INSERT LINK HERE).

Money in the bank

Asheville’s financial PROJECTIONS ARE GENERALLY on target SO FAR, Budget Manager Tony McDowell told Council. FEE COLLECTIONS are up, sales-tax revenues are slightly less than anticipated and property taxes are coming in as expected. Health care expenditures have declined, but fuel costs are rising.

“We assumed 5 percent revenue growth; we're at 2.9 percent right now, but it's still very early in the [FISCAL] year,” he noted. “We still have a lot to learn about where we're headed.”

David Forbes can be reached at 251-1333, ext. 137, or at dforbes@mountainx.com.

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