The Buncombe County Board of Commissioners kept its Feb. 2 meeting short, authorizing tax collections, passing grants and, in closed session, discussing the contentious issue of its meeting prayer (though they took no action item).
Here were the night’s developments:
• The board unanimously authorized Tax Collector Gary Roberts, whom Commissioner Carol Peterson dubbed “our compassionate tax collector,” to advertise the names of 6,200-6,500 delinquent tax payers in late March. Currently, Roberts told the board, there are $11.6 million in uncollected taxes, somewhat higher than previous years. “We’ve got more payment plans than ever,” Roberts noted, attributing the rise to the economic downturn.
• The commissioners unanimously approved giving out $500,000 in federal local-development grants to low-income homeowners to repair or improve their property. On the grant front, the board also signed off on distributing $6.5 million in unspent federal recovery bonds to the Mocksville-based Eco Panels Project, which, if successful, plan to move its operations to the county and create more than 50 jobs.
• Mills Gap Road resident Aaron Penland asked the county to reassess the tax value of homes near the contaminated former CTS of Asheville site, in the wake of a disclaimer put out by Beverly Hanks Realty on properties in the area. Penland asserted that since the contamination has massively devalued the properties, residents should at least have their taxes reduced in compensation.
• County Attorney Michael Frue announced that the board would discuss the results of a recent court ruling striking down Forsyth County commissioners’ practice of opening their meeting with a prayer, usually of the Christian variety. The ruling could have implications for Buncombe’s own custom, as it is similar to Forsyth’s. However, Frue also announced that the board would not take any action after the closed session.
— David Forbes, staff writer