Buncombe to receive over $1M for community health response

Buncombe County seal

The Buncombe County Board of Commissioners is set to begin 2021 with a light but positive agenda. At its regular meeting of Tuesday, Jan. 5, the board will vote on two budget amendments to accept over $1 million in grant support for county health and human services.

The first resolution would accept nearly $118,000 from the Dogwood Health Trust to hire a program manager as part of a previously funded community paramedic team. The position, which would be funded through the end of the year, would coordinate with other community organizations to further the team’s goal of reducing opioid overdoses.

The second resolution would budget $900,000 in federal coronavirus relief money toward housing and utility payments for Buncombe County residents who have lost income due to COVID-19. Due to federal regulations, only those living outside Asheville city limits will be eligible for the aid.

Although Buncombe received the money on Dec. 2, according to a presentation available before the meeting, staff members have been “awaiting guidance from the state” to begin distributing funds. County documents gave different figures for the amount of the grant that would be spent on program administration, with a low of about $76,000 and a high of over $85,000.

In other news

Having sworn in two new members last month — Democrats Parker Sloan and Terri Wells — the board will decide which of its number should serve on several key committees. Outgoing Republican member Joe Belcher left vacancies on the Affordable Housing Subcommittee, School Capital Fund Commission and Tourism Development Authority, which together issue recommendations on millions in spending each year.

Also to be filled is the vacancy left by Republican Anthony Penland on the Juvenile Crime Prevention Council. The current board is weighted 6-1 in favor of Democrats, with Robert Pressley as the only remaining Republican.

Consent agenda and public comment

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

  • Approving an application by Asheville-based nonprofit RiverLink to name a creek running through the River Arts District as Bacoate Branch. The name, chosen through a community input process, honors the late Osie W. Bacoate, a Black teacher who lived in the neighboring West End/Clingman Avenue Neighborhood.
  • Accepting the November 2020 tax collection report. Although the rate of collections for fiscal year 2020-21 has lagged slightly behind that for fiscal 2019-20, the county is due to collect nearly $2.87 million in additional business personal property taxes, largely due to the newly taxable assets of Mission Hospital.

The commissioners will also hold a briefing at 3 p.m. to discuss the county’s COVID-19 response, its upcoming comprehensive plan, a proposed sustainable fleet policy and other matters. The full agenda and supporting documents for the regular meeting can be found at this link.

Public comment will only be permitted through live telephone calls at the start of the meeting; no in-person comments, emails or voicemails will be accepted. Those planning to comment must sign up online or call 828-250-4001 by Monday, Jan. 4, at 3 p.m. All commenters will receive three minutes to address the board.

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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About Daniel Walton
Daniel Walton is the Assistant Editor of Mountain Xpress, regularly contributing to coverage of Western North Carolina's government, environment and health care. 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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