Buncombe County sets renewable energy goal

LOOKING TO THE FUTURE: Students from Youth for Environmental Stewardship present a petition to the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners on Dec. 5. Photo by David Floyd

Near the end of an approximately three-hour Buncombe County Board of Commissioners meeting on Dec. 5, about a dozen students from high schools in the county gathered around a microphone to make a point to their commissioners.

They held petitions with signatures from about 1,800 high school students, college students and community members who support establishing a deadline for the county and community to operate entirely from renewable energy sources. Representatives from several county high schools and UNC Asheville approached the microphone one after another to announce the total number of signatures they had gathered from their schools.

“Every time I asked someone to sign this, they were ready to get a copy of it and take it to all of their homerooms, all of their classes, all of their clubs, all of their sports in support of this bill,” a student from the School of Inquiry and Life Sciences at Asheville told the commissioners.  “There are so many young people that are so ready to see the change that we’ve all been waiting for.”

Commissioners voted to establish formal goals on six issues: renewable energy, opioid abuse, affordable housing, early childhood education, justice resource support and the diversification of the community workforce. Of the six issues, renewable energy attracted the most input during the period of public comment set aside for the resolution.

The issue prompted spirited responses from the commissioners. “I was sort of teetering with this,” said Commissioner Al Whitesides, “but the one that really pulled me over was my grandson, who’s a sophomore in college in Texas. … Let’s face it, [young people] are the ones who are going to inherit this mess, and the least that we can do is start cleaning it up.”

Several commissioners, however, questioned the feasibility of the plan and weren’t optimistic about the timeframe established in the goals. “I brought my kids up with a saying: ‘Do you want it or do you need it?’” said Commissioner Robert Pressley. “We need 100 percent. I wish we could get there.”

Commissioner Mike Fryar expressed similar concerns “We can’t get there, young people,” he said. “I wish we could.”

Nevertheless, in a 4-3 vote, commissioners approved setting goals to make all county operations run on renewable energy sources by 2030 and all community operations run on renewable energy within 25 years. Fryar, Pressley and Commissioner Joe Belcher voted against the resolution. In addition to its renewable energy goals, commissioners approved the five other strategic initiatives on its list.

County employees to get promised pay increase

County Manager Mandy Stone reported on the implementation of a 1.5 percent budget-neutral pay increase for the county’s lowest-paid employees. In 2016, the board approved a 3.5 percent pay increase, of which 2 percent went to all employees, and 1.5 percent was to be allocated at the discretion of the county manager.

Former County Manager Wanda Greene was tasked by the commission with giving that 1.5 percent raise to the county’s lowest-paid employees. She distributed more than $100,000 dollars in raises: 16 percent of that money went to county employees making less than $40,000, and 84 percent went to employees making more than $40,000 a year. Employees making six-figure salaries received 28 percent of all raise dollars. (See Raising questions: Past pay increases present puzzles, Xpress, Sept. 17.) Greene announced her retirement in May and is currently under investigation by the FBI.

“What we know is that the 1.5 [percent] went to a variety of employees,” Stone told commissioners at the Dec. 5 meeting. “Not all of them are lower-paid employees, so my intent tonight is to honor your direction and set right a past action that did not honor the intention of this board.”

The increase will become effective for 472 employees, a group that includes such positions as administrative assistants, court security and landfill employees, on Dec. 9. Those employees will also receive a one-time payment of $500 “because we’re not able to go back retroactively, and you clearly intended this adjustment to be effective July 1,” Stone said.

Commissioner Ellen Frost said the raise was the right thing to do. “In the last few months, Buncombe County employees have been, for lack of a better word, dragged through the mud,” she said. “People can drag commissioners through the mud all they want, but the employees are our backbone and they come to work tirelessly. They don’t care about political parties, and this was something that was promised to them a long, long time ago.”

In other business

  • The Buncombe County Board of Commissioners approved a resolution appointing a five-member library board of trustees. Three members will come from one of each of the commission districts, and two will be selected at large. The board will serve as a general advisory group to the commission and to the community as well as serving as a means for the community to become more involved in library business.
  • The commission approved a resolution moving its period of open public comment, which now happens at the beginning of the session, after “new business” on the meeting agenda, meaning public comment will now occur near the end of the meeting.

Thanks for reading through to the end…

We share your inclination to get the whole story. For the past 25 years, Xpress has been committed to in-depth, balanced reporting about the greater Asheville area. We want everyone to have access to our stories. That’s a big part of why we've never charged for the paper or put up a paywall.

We’re pretty sure that you know journalism faces big challenges these days. Advertising no longer pays the whole cost. Media outlets around the country are asking their readers to chip in. Xpress needs help, too. We hope you’ll consider signing up to be a member of Xpress. For as little as $5 a month — the cost of a craft beer or kombucha — you can help keep local journalism strong. It only takes a moment.

About David Floyd
David Floyd was a reporter for the Mountain Xpress. He previously worked as a general-assignment reporter for the Johnson City Press.

Before you comment

The comments section is here to provide a platform for civil dialogue on the issues we face together as a local community. Xpress is committed to offering this platform for all voices, but when the tone of the discussion gets nasty or strays off topic, we believe many people choose not to participate. Xpress editors are determined to moderate comments to ensure a constructive interchange is maintained. All comments judged not to be in keeping with the spirit of civil discourse will be removed and repeat violators will be banned. See here for our terms of service. Thank you for being part of this effort to promote respectful discussion.

9 thoughts on “Buncombe County sets renewable energy goal

  1. BMacAVL

    No big surprise three county commissioners are still siding with corporate cronies over at DUKE, who have always seemed, with the exception of the worst TV commercial I’ve ever seen, to give absolutely ZERO F*UCKS about the massive amount of coal ash and other pollutants that has entered our waterways. Shame on Duke and shame on those in support of those lazy greedy crooks.

    You all know that “petitions with signatures from about 1,800 high school students, college students and community members who support establishing a deadline for the county and community to operate entirely from renewable energy sources” means less out of profits for Duke and potentially being called out on more environmental travesties that we may only assume continue to happen each day we don’t start converting to renewable energy like most of the developed world is already doing…good ol’ MERICA…think our sh*t don’t stink meanwhile sh*tting on the rest of the world by continuing to allow our war mongering, central bank controlled government making all of us look bad.

    • Alan Ditmore

      Per capita coal ash is not a problem, there is too much coal ash ONLY because there are too many people. ONLY contraception can save the environment so THIS IS A STUPID DIVERSION WHICH DOES GREAT HARM TO THE ENVIRONMENT!

      • BMacAVL

        Most of us understand over population is a major contributing factor to pollution on this planet but the point is that our current way of creating power on a massive scale is changing the planet drastically, where as solar or wind power are naturally replenished on a human timescale.

        “Per capita coal ash is not a problem,” is like one saying that shooting heroin ONLY on a single occasion is safe…but science has proven that when one tries the substance they may not have a choice because that is the new norm and for some that is all it will take to change brain chemistry but you wouldn’t know that for 100% fact until you try the substance. So do you try the substance with the chance of becoming addicted or NEVER try it because of the possibility of changing you life forever?

        Wouldn’t it be best for the currently living populations and all future generations didn’t have any additional coal ash in our waterways or on the fields where our food is grown? Toxic is still toxic regardless of “Per capita” ratios. The argument in null in void.

        …and how does pushing for a CHANGE to a safer alternative forms of energy do “GREAT HARM TO THE ENVIRONMENT!” I’m genuinely curious about the logic used to make this statement. Please enlighten the fine folks on the MTX article comment boards.

        To the point you did hit head on “THIS IS A STUPID DIVERSION”; most(if not all) government pushed initiatives(including this one) are to distract the masses who have been and still are being programmed to think the government has our best interests in mind and choose to create laws to help the majority population. While some government officials may have good intentions, as a whole the oligarchy that runs the central banking(and all governments) system wants us to continue to use and pay for the natural resources(Foosibl they continue to profit millions or now billions of dollars on per year. Here is Asheville just like all over the world…corporations are more important and obtain more benefits through the government than a majority of the humans on this planet. Why is this…because it is easier to help businesses bringing in more money than one individual and just use propaganda to control minds to avoid altercation.

        • Alan Ditmore

          NO! each person is not burning too much coal! The ONLY reason too much coal is being burned is because there are too many people and the only legitimate way to reduce the amount of coal being burned is by reducing the number of people. (that is globally, Ameicans might be burning too much coal each on a mean basis, but not on a median basis).

      • bsummers

        “And for those of you who want to do something really meaningful, we got TNT suppositories for everybody.”
        National Lampoon’s Lemmings

    • Lulz

      LOL, considering these “young” students know nothing of real life, sure you can parade them around like little brainwashed tools. Let them grow a little bit. Oh and let’s present them with such trivial things as Wanda Green using taxpayer money for her own benefit. Or Frost who diverted taxpayer funds to benefit Tryon. I doubt one of the them knows anything of that. Maybe just maybe if presented with different POVs and allowed to come up with their own ideas instead of the totalitarian and fascist views people like YOU present them, they might adjust their mindset to more reality based. Instead of towing the leftist line that public school brainwashing and the lack of dissent currently is producing.

      • hauntedheadnc

        So true… If only these poor, impressionable young people could go and see the glory of the flaming Cuyahoga River, or experience the thrill of having to stay inside in New York in the 60’s because the air pollution has reached dangerous levels. Or even… dare I even mention such joy, experience air pollution events like the one in London in the 1950’s that was so bad (wonderful?) that it killed thousands of people.

        You know they’d choose those high, heady days over what we have now. I mean, the air isn’t even filthy enough to blacken a building anymore! Children these days need that kind of filth to strengthen their constitutions! What kind of pansies are we raising here, amiright?

Leave a Reply

To leave a reply you may Login with your Mountain Xpress account, connect socially or enter your name and e-mail. Your e-mail address will not be published. All fields are required.