As Buncombe County holds its primary election on Tuesday, March 3, one candidate on the ballot will be sworn into office before the polls even close. The Board of Commissioners is scheduled to appoint Anthony Penland to fill the vacancy left by the late Commissioner Mike Fryar during its regular meeting at 5 p.m. in room 326 at 200 College St.
Penland had previously filed to run against Fryar in the Republican primary for the board’s District 2 contest. With Fryar’s Feb. 2 death, however, the Swannanoa fire chief became the GOP’s presumptive nominee.
The new commissioner will face incumbent Democrat Jasmine Beach-Ferrara in the November general election. The two are double-bunked as a result of last September’s redistricting of state House lines, which by law determine Buncombe board districts. Beach-Ferrara was previously elected in District 1; Nancy Nehls Nelson and Terri Wells are contesting the Democratic primary to fill that seat, with the winner to face Republican Glenda Weinert in November.
The Buncombe County Republican Party nominated Penland to serve the remainder of Fryar’s term on Feb. 22 in a letter to board Chair Brownie Newman. In a press release announcing the nomination, the BCGOP praised Penland’s 30-year history of public service in the Swannanoa community.
“[Penland] has served and is serving on several local, regional and state organizational boards that are dedicated to improving the safety of our public servants and better protection for our citizens,” the BCGOP wrote. “In Anthony’s professional and volunteer service, he has dedicated himself to putting others before self.”
In other business
After being sworn in, Penland will join his new colleagues in considering a $400,000 budget and request for proposals for consultants to lead development of a comprehensive plan. In a presentation available before the meeting, Nathan Pennington, the county’s planning director, said such a plan was required by state law but that Buncombe had “never had a true comprehensive long-range plan.”
Pennington added that the county’s ongoing strategic planning had flagged the need for a comprehensive plan. In July 2019, the commissioners began a $40,000 strategic planning process with consultant Rebecca Ryan; although the board had initially scheduled the plan’s approval for last September, then delayed expected adoption until January, the document remains in draft status as of press time.
The commissioners will also correct a technical error in the structure of a joint Asheville-Buncombe County 911 call center that caused the county to forego $178,000 in state funding. According to Brooke Hazlett, the county’s 911 manager, the state considered the city and county dispatchers to be “colocated” instead of “consolidated,” which made the city’s portion of expenses ineligible for state reimbursement.
And in old business, the board will take its final vote regarding the county’s planned issue of up to $212 million in limited obligation bonds. A public hearing regarding the bonds, which would cover roughly $39 million in new capital projects and refinance over $172 million of existing debt, was previously held on Feb. 4.
The board’s consent agenda for the meeting contains 12 items, which will be approved as a package unless singled out for separate discussion. Highlights include the following resolutions:
- Accept a $45,000 grant from the federal Department of Homeland Security to fund training for the North Carolina Urban Search and Rescue Team Taskforce 2. Staff members from Buncombe County Emergency Services, as well as several fire departments within the county, collaborate on the team to locate and rescue victims of “every kind of disaster,” according to the N.C. Department of Public Safety.
- Finalize accounting for over $11.3 million of projects in the county’s School Capital Fund. In total, the projects cost about $161,000 less than budgeted; that money will be repurposed for other projects in the same fund.
- Grant permission for 13 fireworks displays by Pyrotecnico Fireworks during spring and summer at McCormick Field and the Biltmore Estate. Dates include the first Friday home game of the Asheville Tourists on April 17 and Independence Day on Saturday, July 4.
The commission’s previously scheduled pre-meeting at 3 p.m. in the same location has been canceled. The full meeting agenda and supporting documents for the regular meeting can be found at this link.