Buncombe to consider over $10M in solar projects on July 21

Buncombe County seal

A major public investment in solar energy could soon dawn in Buncombe County. At their meeting of Tuesday, July 21, Buncombe’s commissioners will weigh choices for a nearly $10.3 million collection of solar projects that would be installed on county facilities and area schools.

As outlined in a presentation available before the meeting by Jeremiah LeRoy, the county’s sustainability officer, the projects could save Buncombe County, A-B Tech, Asheville City Schools and Buncombe County Schools roughly $27.2 million in total electricity costs over the next 30 years. The use of solar power would also assist with the county’s commitment to run all operations with renewable energy by 2030.

Although the commissioners voted 6-1 to issue a request for proposals for the solar initiative in November — with only the late Mike Fryar in opposition — the board did not allocate any funding for the work in Buncombe County’s fiscal 2020-21 budget. LeRoy suggested that new 15-year bonds be issued to support the projects.

The contract for the solar projects would go to Asheville-based MB Haynes Corp. The company’s bid came in under previous county cost projections, which LeRoy attributed partly to lower prices on solar panels resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic and reduced market demand.

In other business

At the request of County Manager Avril Pinder, the board will vote on awarding bonus paid time off to more than 1,100 county employees who participated in Buncombe’s COVID-19 response. Approximately 28 of those employees, including communicable disease nurses, emergency services staff and the county’s communication team, could receive an additional two weeks of PTO.

Unlike all other counties in North Carolina except Mecklenburg, Buncombe allows employees to sell unused vacation time. Commissioners capped leave sales at 40 hours per year in late 2018 after revelations that former County Manager Wanda Greene, who is currently serving a seven-year federal prison sentence for fraud, received over $350,000 in compensation for unused annual leave.

The board will also vote to accept several grants to bolster its first responder capacity. The Dogwood Health Trust will award the county $382,000 for community paramedics who can provide medication-assisted treatment and other services to roughly 500 residents who have experienced opioid overdoses.

The Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office will receive over $776,000 in grants. The N.C. Governor’s Highway Safety Program DWI Taskforce will provide over $401,000 to hire three new officers and equip them with vehicles, while the federal Department of Justice will award $375,000 to hire three new detectives and buy one new vehicle.

Consent agenda and public comment

The board’s consent agenda for the meeting contains 13 items, which will be approved as a package unless singled out for separate discussion. Highlights include the following resolutions:

  • Approval of an up to $3.5 million contract with Georgia-based AstroTurf to install artificial turf fields at the Buncombe County Sports Park in Enka. The expense will be covered through the Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority’s Tourism Product Development Fund; the fields are likely to be completed in the spring of 2021.
  • A budget amendment to accept a grant of over $235,000 from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The money will support the county health department’s COVID-19 response, including testing, contact tracing and risk assessment.
  • A resolution allowing the county to collect taxes on behalf of Weaverville. As reported by the Weaverville Tribune, the town council was split 3-2 in its approval of the measure, with Council member Andrew Nagle citing the fiscal malfeasance of Greene and other former Buncombe officials as the reason for his no vote.

The commission will also hold a briefing at 3 p.m., during which members will discuss tax collection, property revaluation and declaring racism a public health crisis. The full agenda and supporting documents for the regular meeting can be found at this link.

Although commissioners did allow members of the public to attend their June 16 regular meeting, the July 21 sessions will return to virtual-only participation. The meetings will be livestreamed on the county’s Facebook page and through BCTV. Comment by electronic means (limit of 350 words) will be accepted through 5 p.m. on Monday, July 20, via email at comment@buncombecounty.org or voicemail at 828-250-6500.

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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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11 thoughts on “Buncombe to consider over $10M in solar projects on July 21

  1. Jonathan Greene

    You can bet with next year being a revaluation year that values will go up…tax rates will go up…and bills will go up to pay for all of the projects and to compensate for the wasteful spending that allowed embezzlement with petty slaps on the wrists. Which proves our taxes are too high to allow them the budgets that so easily allowed theft!

    • C-Law

      Vote with your feet.

      Move out to a lower tax jurisdiction not given over to loony-left madness.

      Our family escaped over 3 years ago…best decision we ever made!

      Asheville and Buncombe have gotten EXACTLY the government they DESERVE!!

    • bsummers

      The project is projected to save approx. $1 million per year in electricity costs. Did you read the whole article?

      • Jonathan Greene

        Estimate…and spending $10 million to save $1 million? Yeah…that makes sense. Did you even use your brain thinking about the comment? No. There’s already been multiple embezzlers that did so for years…probably longer…and they get caught and get a petty slap on the wrist. Taken out of jail because they were worried they’d catch covid. Bobby Medford served years in prison…and died from covid in prison. He didn’t get taken out. There is so much wasteful spending there….and overly expensive projects that WE pay for in ever increasing taxes. Get a grant. That’s what Jeremiah LeRoy does for the county. Their budgets are so over projected and they spend every bit of it…because if they don’t, then it won’t make sense to give them so much next year and certainly not an increased amount. They set aside $500,000 every year for revaluation…maybe even more. It’s by law every 8 years..but they adopt to do it every 4. That’s $2 million every 4 years…and $4 million every 8. And that’s over priced. Because it’s done in house, by people who are already employed there and are not even compensated for overtime in most cases. They sure don’t spend $2 million or $8 million. So what happens with that money? And that’s just assuming that this is the only instance of it occurring. Which means we’re overtaxed and it continues to rise. A business or a person with clout can complain and get an adjustment. Someone that actually can’t afford the increased bill…gets their home sold on the courthouse steps. All so they can waste.

        • bsummers

          Ummm… that’s $1 million per year. It pays for itself in 10 years, and then it’s free money. Are you saying that’s bad?

          • Jonathan Greene

            Did you not comprehend what you just read? That isn’t free money. That’s money that will be ear marked for an ever increasing wasteful budget. Today’s dollar is worth more than tomorrow’s because of inflation (on the side that’s unfortunate for you) and compound interest (the side you can make work for you). Inflation increases prices over time, which means that each dollar you own today will buy more in the present time than it will in the future. The Rule of 72 is a simple way to determine how long an investment will take to double given a fixed annual rate of interest. By dividing 72 by the annual rate of return, investors obtain a rough estimate of how many years it will take for the initial investment to duplicate itself.

          • luther blissett

            1. Inflation is flat. (But it also reduces the real cost of debt which it would make sense to borrow at current interest rates for long-term capital projects. )

            2. Capital projects for government are not the same as stock portfolios. You don’t build a bridge in order to have it be worth twice its value. You build it so people can cross from one side to the other.

  2. Jim

    “Flat”? Do you really believe TRILLIONS of new Federal debt and lower tax collection, both due to government over-reach and economic destruction in responding to the “pandemic”, plus massive spending to pay for State and local responses to leftist cry-babies’ lawlessness will not have an effect on the value of the dollar? Asheville; woke and broke.

    • luther blissett

      lol.

      Inflation has been flat for years. Governments everywhere have been throwing money at the pandemic. Keep hoarding that gold. Just remember that you can’t eat it.

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