In a special session expected to last most of the workday, Buncombe commissioners will rise early Tuesday, Jan. 20, to discuss a multitude of capital planning requests for regional nonprofits and county departments — and they’ll take the second, legally required vote on amendments to the animal ordinance. Two weeks ago, commissioners split on a 4-3 party-line vote on the changes, which included rules for tethering dogs.
As for the capital-projects conversation, commissioners will be considering allocations for several county departments, including funding that won’t be officially requested until fiscal year 2022. The total estimated cost of requests for the upcoming budget year is over $100.16 million, with more than three-quarters coming from the county coffers. Some highlights include:
- The Buncombe County Sheriff’s Department is asking for 48 new tasers for the Criminal Investigation Division, Student Resource Officers and Animal Control Units at an estimated cost of $69,689.
- The General Services department has asked that several vehicles be replaced in the Sheriff’s Department, with an estimated cost just under $730,000.
- Solid Waste Services requests new machinery, including a couple of mini-excavators and a compactor, at an estimated cost of $697,000. The department is also requesting an additional $100,000 to go toward expanding their administrative building.
- Commissioners are considering a $100,000 allocation for installing a historical art exhibit inside the new courthouse, as well as an art piece for the plaza outside.
- By far the largest cost is for an expansion of the Department of Health and Human Services facilities, with an estimated cost of $48.5 million (about three-quarters from county funds).
Of particular note is a request by the Library, Recreation and Cultural Department for funds to construct a new indoor pool and aquatics center, which would replace the ancient and ailing Zuegner Center on Springside Road near T.C. Roberson High School. Zuegner is the only county-owned indoor pool in Buncombe, and the proposal follows up a small point of emphasis the Board had last July upon passing the budget for the current fiscal year.
There was originally funding for a new pool in the proposed budget, but it was pulled by the time commissioners voted to pass that budget. At the time, the funding appeared to get lost in the confusion when the now-defunct Cultural Resources Authority was reintegrated into county management: County Manager Wanda Greene said that the funding had been pulled because the CRA had asked staff to “look at various options,” but by the time the approval cycle for the budget came about, the CRA no longer existed. Greene and commissioners said that a new facility would come up again in the next budget cycle.
As proposed, the new indoor pool has an estimated cost of $6.5 million, with the aquatics center adding another $35 million. Annual operating costs for the two would be $614,000 and $1.98 million respectively.
Finally, commissioners will hear presentations on proposed capital requests from local nonprofits, all of which are tied to government funding, including the Asheville Housing Authority, the Coburn Science Museum and the Asheville Art Museum.
Commissioners also hope to put to rest contentious hanges to the county’s Animal Control Ordinance, which they tentatively approved by a 4-3 vote on Jan. 6. Changes to an ordinance, however, have to be approved unanimously if it is the first time said changes are presented at a meeting. Otherwise, the ordinance undergoes a second reading. Although commissioners can wait up to 100 days to do so , traditionally, they simply bring up the issue again at the subsequent meeting.
Much of the controversy regarding the ordinance concerned a possible change in tethering unattended animals. The proposed amendment would extend the minimum length of a tether from 10 to 15 feet, but this recommendation brought commissioners under fire from both sides — anti-tethering advocates accused the amendment of being too lenient, and those that were pro-tethering said the amendment was unnecessary. This created much tension between commissioners and meeting attendees, with one person getting thrown out of the chambers for being disruptive.
The second vote does not have to be unanimous.
The meeting will start at 8:30 a.m. at its regular location — Room 326 of the County offices at 200 College St.