The Buncombe County Board of Commissioners awarded over $11 million in federal COVID-19 recovery funding Nov. 16. Those grants did not include any money toward the city of Asheville’s controversial planned purchase of a Ramada Inn for a low-barrier homeless shelter.
No further details on the organizations that will get new funding or the amounts they could receive were linked to the Board of Commissioners agenda. Over 125 nonprofits, community groups and governmental entities have pitched to the board over the past several months.
In fiscal year 2019-20, the most recent year for which data is available, the city emitted the equivalent of roughly 18,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide. Its target for the year was approximately 15,600 metric tons of CO2, about 15% less than the actual figure.
In a unanimous vote, the county Board of Commissioners directed staff to maintain the county’s current library branches — including those in Black Mountain, Oakley/South Asheville and Swannanoa — and explore other ways to improve the system.
The current policy runs for less than a page and does not specifically define what a conflict of interest entails. In contrast, the new proposal is six pages long and describes a conflict of interest as “when private interests interfere or appear to interfere with the performance of official duties.”
A combination of increased demand due to the COVID-19 pandemic and low staffing levels has led to emergency response times well above national standards, said Rafael Baptista, the county’s director of performance management, in an Oct. 19 briefing to the board.
At its Oct. 19 meeting, the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners also will consider spending $394,000 to support conservation easements on eight farms throughout the county.
Six years in the making, a 300 kilowatt-hour solar array at Asheville’s Isaac Dickson Elementary School was officially dedicated Sept. 24. The $428,000 project is expected to save the school over $1.3 million in utilities costs over its 30-year operational lifespan.
The Buncombe County Board of Commissioners voted 6-1 for a resolution opposing Republican Sen. Chuck Edwards’ latest legislative move, an attempt to create district elections for Buncombe’s Board of Education.
Two interlocal agreements up for consideration by the Board of Commissioners Oct. 5, to be signed with the town of Black Mountain and UNC Asheville, would allow those entities to combine their solar energy proposals with new county solar projects in a bid for installers.
The Buncombe County Board of Commissioners unanimously approved nearly $97,000 in new spending from the county’s fund balance to cover nine months of services that had previously been supported by the Governor’s Crime Commission.
While the initial round of One Buncombe money was split between emergency assistance for individuals and low-interest loans to small businesses, the new $500,000 would go entirely toward grants of up to $5,000 for business owners.
Eight candidates are vying for three seats on the governing body for the town of roughly 8,000 people to the northwest of Asheville. Challengers and incumbents alike agree that concerns over development, particularly The Bluffs at River Bend proposal, are driving interest in a normally quiet race.
On Aug. 12, a subsidiary of nonprofit Conserving Carolina completed the $7.8 million purchase of the currently unused Ecusta rail line, stretching 19 miles between Hendersonville and Brevard, from the Blue Ridge Southern Railroad.
While the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners did not make a formal commitment to any plan for the 137-acre site, several members expressed a desire for denser development focused on housing.
At its regular meeting that evening, the Board of Commissioners will invite public input on its application for $750,000 in Community Development Block Grant funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
The largest single grant of $4 million will support broadband infrastructure expansion in unserved areas of the county. Brownie Newman, chair of the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners, said that investment would leverage an additional $6 million from the state of North Carolina and private broadband providers.
The requirement covers all “business establishments, offices and workplaces, public transportation facilities and vehicles, and any indoor place the public is invited or allowed to enter and gather,” with the exception of weddings, funerals, religious gatherings and “other activities constituting the exercise of First Amendment rights.”
Currently, Buncombe recommends indoor masking as a response to COVID-19 but has instituted no legal mandate. The city of Asheville also plans to reinstate a similar requirement, while rules in other county municipalities would be left to their governing bodies.
The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians Tribal Council passed an ordinance on Aug. 5 allowing production and use of the crop, which the body had previously voted to decriminalize on May 6.
The city’s urban centers initiative, as well as updates to open-space requirements for new projects, are meant to encourage denser development patterns, supporting less car-dependent communities and increasing the city’s tax base.