While Asheville City Council continues to grapple with the effects of COVID-19 on the city’s budget for the next fiscal year, its members are set to move some money around in this year’s budget at their meeting of Tuesday, April 14. Council will hold a public hearing on a $100,000 allocation to the One Buncombe Fund, a rapid relief effort for area individuals and businesses experiencing economic hardship due to the coronavirus.
Council members voted to approve participating in One Buncombe on March 24, but because any budget allocation for the effort is technically considered an economic development initiative, state law requires a public hearing to take place with advance notice. As of the afternoon of April 10, the fund stood at just under $950,000 in pledged contributions, a total that includes $200,000 from Buncombe County government and $50,000 from the Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority.
At an April 7 meeting of the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners, Tim Love, the county’s director of intergovernmental relations, said that roughly 75% of individuals seeking assistance from the fund had been employed in the hospitality industry. Of those requests, he added, the vast majority were for support to maintain rent or mortgage payments.
Sam Powers, the city’s community and economic development director, acknowledged in a staff report available before the meeting that the substantial economic fallout from COVID-19 will likely exceed Asheville’s ability to respond. “The magnitude of this crisis may require additional resources,” he noted. “The city is limited in available funding.”
In other news
Two other public hearings will be held during the meeting. The first concerns local historic landmark designation for the Lewie Muller Griffith House on Woodland Road in the Grove Park Historic District. According to a staff report, the house was designed by architect Ronald Greene and is “significant architecturally as a highly intact example of a French Eclectic style dwelling.”
The second hearing is about the proposed expansion of conditional zoning for a mixed-used development on Broad Street in North Asheville. If approved, the change would allow for a three-story building with four residential units above office space and structured parking.
Council’s consent agenda for the meeting contains 16 items, which will be approved as a package unless singled out for separate discussion. Highlights include the following:
- Allow all Council members to participate in meetings and vote remotely for the duration of the local state of emergency. A previous motion, passed on March 24, only permitted remote participation by up to three members.
- Award $100,000 from the Affordable Housing Trust Fund to support Thrive Asheville, a program that connects families currently living in public housing to “neighborhoods with greater opportunities and safety.” The money will come from donations to the fund rather thant taxpayer dollars.
- Approve a contract of nearly $2.29 million for asphalt resurfacing with Asheville-based Harrison Construction Company Division of APAC Atlantic. Funded from the city’s annual streets program and not general obligation bonds, the work will repair and resurface 19 poorly rated roads and improve sidewalk compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
- Increase an annual fleet maintenance contract with Asheville-based Carolina Tractor & Equipment Co. by $150,000. The new yearly spending of $650,000, according to a staff report, will “allow for continuity of essential city operations in the event that fleet management is unable to perform heavy vehicle repairs” due to COVID-19.
Asheville City Council meets at 5 p.m. in Council chambers on the second floor of City Hall at 70 Court Plaza, Asheville. A briefing on the current fiscal year’s budget and planning for fiscal year 2020-21 is also scheduled for 3 p.m. in the same location.
In line with guidance from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and local state of emergency declarations, members of the public will not be permitted to attend these meetings in person. A video livestream will be available on the city’s website, and the events will be broadcast on the Asheville City Channel (Charter Cable channel 193, AT&T U-Verse channel 99).
Public comment can be submitted via voicemail up to 5 p.m. on Monday, April 13, by calling the city at 828-259-5900. Up to one hour of comment per agenda item will be played aloud during the meeting. The full agenda and supporting documents can be found here.