Buncombe commissioners acted April 15 to build a new bus shelter, restructure the county’s fire districts and prevent the FDA from implementing new rules that could hamper local brewers’ ability to sell spent grains to farmers for animal feed.
Commissioners voted unanimously to spend $10,000 to build a new bus shelter in Swannanoa near the Ingles at 2299 U.S. 70. The location is served by the Asheville transit system but is outside of city limits. The shelter will be similar to ones the city has installed in recent years and is intended to help protect riders from the elements as they wait for the bus.
According to Sophia Papadopoulos, chair of the Friends and Neighbors of Swannanoa community group, the shelter will be the first one placed at Swannanoa’s nine transit stops. The group has been advocating for shelters to be built at the transit stops for several years, she said.
“There’s a lot of people there who use the bus for employment,” she reported. “I’m so relieved to be able to report that this is actually going to happen.”
However, she added that crosswalks and sidewalks are still needed in the area to make access to the bus stops and new shelter safer for pedestrians. “If we can start on that next, that would be great,” she said.
The move was spurred by Vice Chair Ellen Frost, who faces a primary challenge from fellow Democrat Carol Peterson to represent District 2 on the commission, which includes Swannanoa.
On another front, commissioners unanimously decided to ask state legislators to allow them to restructure the county’s fire districts.
Buncombe County Attorney Michael Frue said the current system of organizing the districts is antiquated and needs an overhaul, which would require a change in state law. The commissioners are recommending that the 35 different service areas be consolidated into 22 new “Fire Protection Service Districts” that would be served by the county’s 21 different fire departments.
“There’s a lot of artificial lines. … We just need to start from scratch,” Frue said.
Skyland Fire Chief Dennis Presley told the commissioners that “all the fire chiefs support this 100 percent.” He added: “It cuts out all these district names; it’s just more help.”
Commissioners asked state lawmakers to honor the request before July 1, when the next fiscal year starts and they set the fire district tax rates.
In other business, commissioners unanimously approved a resolution opposing federal rules being considered by the Food and Drug Administration that could impair the ability of local breweries to sell their spent grains to local farms for animal feed.
The local resolution to be sent to FDA officials and congressional representatives reads in part: “We support our local farmers and numerous craft breweries and respectfully request you give favorable consideration to an exemption for craft breweries and the farmers who feed wet grain from any new regulations.”
“This is something that several different counties have entered into,” said Board Chair David Gantt. “The new rules could be harmful to our farmers and our brewers.”
Commissioner Mike Fryar worried that if local beer companies are no longer able to sell their spent grains to farmers, more of that waste could end up in the sewage system or the landfill. “We don’t need this in the sewage system. We don’t need it in the dump. The cows seem to really like it,” he said, noting that he was speaking from personal observation after watching N.C. Rep. Nathan Ramsey feed the grains to his cows at his Fairview dairy farm.
The idea for the county to sign on to the opposition came from Ramsey, according to Gantt.
The April 15 meeting was the board’s last before the May 6 primary election, in which Frost as well as Commissioners Brownie Newman and David King are facing challenges.