Buncombe to consider facilities plan on Nov. 19

Buncombe County seal

Sometimes, you’ve got to spend money to spend more money. That’s the case for Buncombe County when it comes to a proposed Comprehensive Facility Plan, for which the Board of Commissioners will consider a request for qualifications at its regular meeting at 5 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 19, in room 326 at 200 College St.

As outlined in a presentation available before the meeting, Buncombe’s 26 county-owned buildings have an average age of nearly 50 years, with total maintenance costs running over $789,000 in each of the past two fiscal cycles. Ronnie Lunsford, the county’s facilities and construction coordinator, hopes to hire an outside firm to evaluate those buildings against Buncombe’s needs.

To be included in the evaluation are an analysis of how the county’s roughly 1.7 million square feet of building space are currently used, identification of potential investments for existing structures and projections of future construction or renovation requirements. Buncombe’s 12 libraries, together comprising 150,000 square feet, would only be included in the plan if the county secures grant funds for the work.

If commissioners vote to issue the RFQ, county staff would develop the request in greater detail and send it to potential contractors, with a final cost and contract to come before the board within six weeks. Completing the plan and compiling the associated reports is expected to take six months. No projected cost for the work was included in the presentation.

In other business

Much of the commission’s other new business concerns amendments to the county budget. By value, the largest change is $17 million in funding proposed by the School Capital Fund Commission for new initiatives at Asheville City and Buncombe County Schools. The recommendations include over $6.24 million for additions and renovations to Haw Creek Elementary, nearly $3.49 million for new classrooms at Asheville High School and $1.31 million to replace the track facility at North Buncombe High.

The board will also vote on the allocation of nearly $1.1 million to projects under the Affordable Housing Services Program. Over $496,000 in grant funding is recommended to support the 84-unit Jasper rental project in Swannanoa, with more than $296,000 going to a 40-unit rental development off Tunnel Road in East Asheville. The county is giving itself over $45,000 toward manufactured home removal.

And two amendments will accept more than $1 million in grant funding on projects addressing the opioid crisis. The Safer Together program, aimed at decreasing the overdose death rate through intensive wraparound services for drug users, will receive nearly $879,000 from the federal government, while a pilot medication assisted treatment program at the Buncombe County Detention Facility will get nearly $162,000 in state funds.

Consent agenda

The board’s consent agenda for the meeting contains six items, which will be approved as a package unless singled out for separate discussion. Highlights include resolutions to:

  • Approve over $51,600 in funding to establish three new conservation easements in West Asheville, Beaverdam and Upper Hominy Creek Valley. The money will come from the existing county budget for conservation easements and will not require additional spending.
  • Accept nearly $27,000 in additional federal funding for the county’s Crisis Intervention Program, which helps low-income residents meet emergency heating or cooling costs. Eblen Charities administers the program on behalf of Buncombe County Health and Human Services.
  • Transfer ownership of Sampson, a K-9 unit with the Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office, to his handler, Deputy Stanley Lee Murray. State law allows retiring service animals to enter the “ownership, care and custody” of the officer who regularly worked with the animal.

The commission’s regularly scheduled pre-meeting at 3 p.m. in the same location has been canceled. The full meeting agenda and supporting documents can be found at this link.

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About Daniel Walton
Daniel Walton is the Green Scene editor and a reporter for Mountain Xpress. His work has previously appeared in Capital at Play, Edible Asheville, and the Citizen-Times, among other area publications. Follow me @DanielWWalton

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