Buncombe seeks $950K in federal funds for “neighborhood revitalization”

Buncombe County seal

Buncombe County is hoping the second time’s the charm for receiving hundreds of thousands in federal dollars. At the county Board of Commissioners meeting Tuesday, Aug. 16, members will hold a public hearing regarding Buncombe’s application for up to $950,000 in a “neighborhood revitalization” grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

According to Matthew Cable, Buncombe’s community development division manager, the county unsuccessfully applied for the same funding last year. During an Aug. 2 meeting of the county’s Affordable Housing Committee, he said the county had since added Nancy Williams, a planner with previous experience managing community development block grant funds, and hoped to craft a stronger application.

The grant would come from a $20.8 million pot of federal money being administered by the Rural Economic Development Division of the N.C. Department of Commerce. Funded projects must benefit low-income, rural communities. Examples of work that could be supported include water and sewer infrastructure upgrades, housing rehabilitation or development, and public improvements such as parks and greenways. The county will work with community partners to decide what types of projects to apply for and how much money to seek.

Tuesday’s hearing, which specifically concerns the Citizen Participation Plan for the county’s grant application and use of the money, is the first of two scheduled on the grant. A hearing on the application itself is scheduled for Tuesday, Sept. 2; the application deadline is Friday, Sept. 30. If approved, the county would be notified of the award in November.

In other news

Commissioners will hear an update from the Strategic Partnership Grants Committee, which makes grant funding recommendations to the board. Local nonprofits requested nearly $2.6 million in county support for this fiscal year; the committee designated $900,000 in awards, with the plurality going to projects that bolster “resident well-being.”

The board will also vote on a budget amendment to accept a $188,477 grant to the Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office from the N.C. Governor’s Highway Safety Program. The award, which would support the county’s DWI taskforce, would require a 30% match from the county’s general fund, or $80,763. For the total funding of about $269,000, the county could extend three law enforcement officer positions through next September.

And a resolution to establish a General Obligation Bonds Community Oversight Committee will be presented by board Chair Brownie Newman, Vice Chair Amanda Edwards and Commissioner Terri Wells. The committee would be created if county voters approve either or both of the bond referendums slated for November, which would authorize Buncombe to borrow $40 million for affordable housing projects and $30 million for land conservation.

Five people would serve on the committee, including four appointed by commissioners and one appointed by the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce, to review investments made with bond revenue. The committee would remain in place until all bond funds have been committed.

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. That agenda includes the following highlights:

  • A resolution to delegate refund authority for excise tax overpayments to the county manager or finance officer. Overpayment refunds currently require approval by the board of commissioners, but a recent change to state law allows the task to be delegated.
  • A budget amendment to approve a $15,000 award for grants curriculum development from the Dogwood Health Trust. The money is meant to help Buncombe County nonprofits get grants, sustain that funding and meet compliance requirements.
  • A budget amendment accepting $60,000 from the N.C. Division of Emergency Management to support the N.C. Urban Search and Rescue Task Force 2, which is hosted by Buncombe County Emergency Management. The task force members specialize in structural collapse, swift water and trench rescue; the money, which ultimately comes from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, will fund “training and associated needs.”

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. in Asheville; no voicemail or email comments will be permitted. Both the briefing and regular meeting will be livestreamed on the county’s Facebook page and will subsequently be available via YouTube.


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