For a song: county commissioners vote on mental health, new attorney

In a rather out-of-the-ordinary Nov. 5 Buncombe County Board of Commissioners meeting, the sound of five voices performing a cappella gospel echoed through the Commissioner’s Chambers.

A tribute to the 40th anniversary of Candler-based gospel group Primitive Quartet, the board proclaimed Oct. 12 as “Primitive Quartet Day” in Buncombe County. The quartet then stood in front of the chamber and sang in harmony, followed by a thunderous round of applause.

The rest of the meeting, however, was far less musical — though mostly harmonious, as members of the board voted and came to unanimous decisions on matters of transportation, rezoning and a resolution for a governing board for local mental health services.

• The one thing the board had split opinions on, however, was appointing its new county attorney, Robert Deutsch. He was appointed 4-3, with Commissioners Joe Belcher, David King and Mike Fryar dissenting.

“There were a number of excellent candidates, and it was not an easy process,” said Vice Chair Holly Jones, citing Deutsch’s “requisite knowledge and wealth of experience” as the reason for his installation.

• The board unanimously voted on a change to a county law, which currently prohibits Smoky Mountain Center for Mental Health’s board from having less than 11 or more than 21 voting members. The change was brought about by local mental health authority Smoky Mountain Center for Mental Health, whose board currently consists of 21 members, but reaches 23 counties in WNC.

A representative mentioned how the unrepresented counties had since formed a well-oiled partnership to best serve and represent one another to the board and tend to all shared needs within the highland region.

• Another unanimous vote was cast to support a program grant put forth by Mountain Mobility, asking for $782,353 to fund the continued use of their alternative fuel vehicles, which currently makes up 50 percent of their vehicle fleet. The compressed natural gas vehicles save Mountain Mobility 32 cents per mile, and the liquid propane vehicles save 22 cents per mile, as well as cost the public transportation service less per year in maintenance fees.

• The board also voted on local resident Anthony Cases’s request to rezone his Emma property from residential to commercial. Case cited his reason for the zoning change as a need for extra space to park vehicles for his company, Out ‘n’ About, which provides transportation for area’s elderly or disabled residents. The 1.96-acre single-family home sits adjacent to a commercial property, and the rezoning was adopted unanimously.

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About Hayley Benton
Staff reporter, Clubland editor, coffee drinker, guitar player.

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