Commission to vote on extending health department COVID support

Buncombe County seal

After a nearly four-hour session on July 19, the Buncombe Board of Commissioners will navigate through a shorter agenda for the Aug. 2 meeting.

A series of budget amendments comprise the new business schedule. The board will vote on whether to distribute $1.2 million of U.S. Department of Health and Human Services funds to extend the county Health Department’s COVID capacity. The ordinance, if approved, would continue to fund one temporary nursing position and two new temporary administrative positions, in addition to contracted services, medical supplies and capital equipment.

At the board’s June 7 meeting, county Public Health Director Stacie Saunders reported that the county, like many in the state, had a community level of “medium” as it relates to the coronavirus. Saunders noted, “The COVID-19 response is ever evolving. We’ve learned much in the last 2 1/2 years and will continue to learn and improve and modify our work based on that knowledge we gain.”

Buncombe County has been allocated $432,650 in funds by the federal Low Income Household Water Assistance Program. If approved by the board, this program will provide emergency assistance to low-income households to prevent disconnection or provide assistance with reconnection of drinking and wastewater services. Eblen Charities will administer the program and will provide payments directly to water and wastewater providers. The funding period is through June 2023.

A public hearing will be held to consider a board appropriation of up to $375,000 in American Rescue Plan Act funds to Eagle Market Street Development Corp.’s Community Equity Fund program. The program targets businesses owned by women and people of color “and sectors which have suffered substantial negative economic impacts from the pandemic.” By providing “equity capital” for qualifying businesses, the fund allows companies to continue recovery efforts while not adding debt.

In other news

Commissioners will hear an annual presentation from the Metropolitan Sewerage District. While the presentation is designed to be informative and no board action is scheduled, a proposed sewer project to extend services in the Candler community was the source of debate during the board’s July 19 meeting. Prior to the board’s vote to distribute $18.8 million in American Recovery Plan Act funds to various county projects, Commissioner Robert Pressley asked for nearly $4 million in unassigned funds to be set aside for the Candler MSD project. Board Chair Brownie Newman, who voiced concerns about the cost of the project and uncertainty about state matching funds that Pressley claimed would help finance the project, left the Candler request out of the ARPA vote.

The board will present a resolution of support toward the Tribal Council of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians’ effort to restore the name Kuwahi to the mountain currently known as Clingman’s Dome. Commissioner Parker Sloan brought this issue to commissioners during the July 19 briefing meeting, then the board heard from members of the tribe, who spoke during public comment asking for support.

Consent agenda and public comment

The board’s consent agenda for the meeting contains seven items, which will be approved as a package unless singled out for separate discussion. That agenda includes the following highlights:

  • An approval for an amendment to a contract for renovations at Lucy Herring Elementary School. The project, due to rising material and labor costs, came in significantly over budget. A revision of the contract, if approved, will allow for new project drawings, including the removal of heating, air conditioning and ventilation upgrades from the plans, as well as a rebid process.
  • A resolution for an interlocal agreement between the county and the town of Weaverville to “update, formalize, and more clearly define the parameters of the county’s provision of stormwater and erosion control services for the town.”
  • A budget amendment to allow $20,000 in ARPA funds awarded to Vaya Health to be distributed to the Department of Social Services. The funds, to be spent between Aug. 1 and Sept. 30, will be used to support families caring for children who are at risk of entering or who have entered the foster care system, allowing them to meet basic needs such as utilities, shelter, clothing or bedding.

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., 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.


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.

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.

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.