The Buncombe County Board of Commissioners will reconsider changing the time of some government meetings after a survey of residents revealed a majority in favor of a new schedule.
According to a proposal attached to the board’s agenda for Tuesday, July 18, the board’s first meeting each month would move to 10 a.m., preceded by a briefing at 9 a.m. Commissioners would continue to meet at 5 p.m. on the third Tuesday of each month, with a briefing at 3 p.m.
Of just over 100 people surveyed — 71 of whom had previously attended a commission meeting in person — 59% backed changing the meeting schedule.
The board had previously discussed the proposal in June, but the decision was tabled after it became clear that not all commissioners were supportive of the change. Commissioner Al Whitesides shared concerns that the morning time slot would limit working people, particularly people of color, from being able to attend.
“If it ain’t broke, why are we fixing it?” he asked June 6. “This makes it look like we’re going to make it difficult for people to come to meetings.”
Commissioner Parker Sloan, however, said he supported the time change because it would open meetings up to those who work evenings, as well as parents who have to be home with their kids after school.
(About 6% of respondents to the county’s survey identified as Black or African-American, in line with the percentage of Black Buncombe residents reported by the 2020 census.)
In other news
County manager Avril Pinder will present on a recently awarded state grant meant to expand broadband internet to 500 previously unserved Buncombe households. Skyrunner Internet will receive $1.8 million to provide high-speed fiber service to those residents by December 2026, pending final contracts, said county spokesperson Kassi Day.
Buncombe will match the state money with about $500,000 from its federal American Rescue Plan funds. Areas to be served include North and South Turkey Creek, Fairview Forest and the Reems Creek and Ox Creek neighborhoods.
Commissioners will also consider joining the city of Asheville to pay for an independent audit of local government requested by the Community Reparations Commission. The study would examine compliance with state and federal regulations designed to stop “institutional processes that lead to racially disparate outcomes,” with a focus on Black residents. The county would pay for half of the roughly $174,000 contract through its Reparations Project Fund, with Asheville funding the remainder. The firm to receive the contract has not yet been named because contract negotiations are not yet finalized, said county spokesperson Lillian Govus.
The consent agenda for the meeting contains six items, which will be approved as a package unless singled out for separate discussion. Those items include an amendment to county ordinances adding a rule against the “attracting of animals.”
The change specifically mentions bears and defines an attractant as any substance that could reasonably attract wild animals, including “food products, pet food, feed or grain.” Violation of the ordinance could be enforced by civil penalties or a Class 3 misdemeanor charge, which carries a maximum sentence of a $500 fine and 30 days’ imprisonment.
The full agenda and supporting documents for the regular meeting can be found at this link. Prior to that meeting, the commissioners will hold a 3 p.m. briefing.
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.