Buncombe board to vote on support for reparations audit

Buncombe County seal

On the same night the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners will issue its proclamation for Black Legacy Month, its members will consider a move to support the future of the area’s Black population. The board is scheduled to vote on approving a racial equity audit of Asheville and Buncombe government at its meeting of Tuesday, Feb. 7.

The audit was formally requested by the city’s Community Reparations Commission on Dec. 5. Its goal would be to ensure that the city and county are compliant with “federal and state laws, regulatory bodies, codes of conduct, court orders and consent degrees” meant to avoid “harm or threats to African Americans.”

The resolution authorizing the audit seeks to ensure that “necessary and reasonable action will be taken to address intentional and unintentional harm committed against the African American community.” It would also direct County Manager Avril Pinder to partner with the city and reparations commission in defining a formal scope of work for the audit.

Asheville City Council adopted a similar resolution Jan. 24. County and city staff intend to finalize the audit’s scope by Monday, March 20, and select an outside firm to conduct the audit by the end of spring.

In other news

The board will look into approving the county’s 2023 legislative agenda, which was developed with help from lobbyists Ward and Smith. As previously reported by Xpress, requested appropriations include more funding for educational employees, water quality, flood resilience and McCormick Field.

Among the agenda’s policy priorities is fighting against any proposals that would limit Buncombe’s ability to regulate short-term rentals. The county also seeks changes to how the state calculates subsidies for early childhood education and pre-K programs.

In addition, the board will look at passing a resolution to support amending the state’s current school calendar law. The measure supports the Buncombe County Board of Education, which unanimously adopted its own resolution to that effect Jan. 12. Current state guidelines push the end of the first semester until January, which local educators say can create learning loss.

Consent agenda

The consent agenda has 12 items that will be approved as a package, unless singled out for separate discussion. The agenda includes the following highlights:

  • Approval of a nearly $139,000 pre-construction services contract with Vannoy Construction to plan various projects at Asheville City Schools. Work will include water and sewer upgrades, a renovation of the Asheville High School auditorium and general renovations at Lucy S. Herring Elementary.
  • A budget amendment accepting a nearly $90,000 state grant for pandemic-related activities at the Buncombe County Detention Facility. The funding will go toward supplies such as sanitization equipment, educational materials, preparedness training and professional decontamination services.
  • A budget amendment accepting over $110,000 in reimbursement from the state for the county’s Sobriety Treatment and Recovery Teams program, which supports high-risk families with parental substance abusee. The reimbursement was permitted by a federal law from 2018, the Family First Prevention Services Act, and started in North Carolina in October.

The commission will also hold a special session at 11:30 a.m. to interview candidates for the independent committee that will review Asheville’s recent water outages, as well as a 3 p.m. briefing to discuss progress on its strategic priorities and other matters. The full agenda and supporting documents for the regular meeting can be found at this link.

In-person public comment will be taken at the start of the regular meeting, which begins at 5 p.m. in room 326 at 200 College St., Asheville; no voicemail or email comments will be permitted. Both the briefing and the regular meeting will be livestreamed on the county’s Facebook page and will subsequently be available via YouTube.


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