COVID-19 may be dominating work for the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners at the moment, but that doesn’t mean officials have stopped thinking about tomorrow. At the board’s meeting of Tuesday, May 5, members will consider adoption of a strategic plan to guide county government action through 2025.
The plan, which has been under development since July and was initially expected to be adopted in September, lists four “community focus areas” for Buncombe’s leaders: an educated and capable community, environmental and energy stewardship, resident well-being and a vibrant economy. Those general priorities are undergirded by 13 more specific goals, such as reducing greenhouse gas emissions and increasing access to public transportation, that will be further defined by county staff over the coming months.
As noted in the plan’s introduction, extensive public comment led equity to be added as a value and “foundational goal” for the county. In contrast with the city of Asheville, Buncombe County currently does not have an office dedicated to equity and inclusion.
The county paid Madison, Wis.-based consultant Rebecca Ryan $40,000 to help develop the plan. As Xpress reported in October, Ryan has also worked on recent strategic plans for the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development Coalition for Asheville-Buncombe County.
In other news
The commissioners will hear yet another presentation regarding Buncombe’s new contract with residential waste collection provider Waste Pro. Concerns over the company’s mandatory cart rentals, as well as its service to elderly residents and those living in rural areas, dominated the discussion at several board meetings last fall.
According to a staff report available before the meeting, one program designed to resolve service concerns has seen little use since its adoption in January. Of the 700 slots available in the Elderly/Low-Income Discount Program, only 10 have been claimed. The county is planning a new advertising campaign to increase program participation.
Commissioners will also consider adopting a policy to guide Buncombe’s compliance with the federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which requires employers to provide paid leave for employees impacted by COVID-19. Specifics of the proposed policy were not linked through the board’s online meeting agenda as of press time.
Consent agenda and public comment
The board’s consent agenda for the meeting contains eight items, which will be approved as a package unless singled out for separate discussion. Highlights include the following resolutions:
- A budget amendment to accept $172,455 from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for the county’s COVID-19 response. Uses for the funds include scaling up disease testing and developing plans to “preserve health care, workforce and infrastructure functions and minimize social and economic impacts,” according to a staff report available before the meeting.
- A budget amendment to allocate $180,000 for erosion control and repairs required due to “past storms and record-breaking rainfalls” at the old county landfill in Woodfin. The site is currently slated for a 5-megawatt solar farm to be operated by Duke Energy.
- Two resolutions that give names to previously anonymous creeks in Asheville. A tributary of Haw Creek in East Asheville will be named Masters Branch after neighborhood residents Rory and Hazel Masters, while a stream near the A-B Tech campus will be named Haith Branch for teacher and civil rights leader Lacy Haith. Both names were chosen by community members as part of RiverLink’s “Name That Creek” program.
The commission will hold a pre-meeting at 3 p.m. to discuss upcoming business, including fiscal year 2020-21 budget requests from the county’s fire districts. The full meeting agenda and supporting documents for the regular meeting can be found at this link.
Due to COVID-19, no public attendance will be allowed at the board’s 200 College St. meeting location. The meetings will be livestreamed on the county’s Facebook page and through BCTV. Public comment (limit of 350 words) will be accepted through 5 p.m. on Monday, May 4, via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or voicemail at 828-250-6500.