Commissioners to hear annual report on child mortality, vote on open burning ordinance

Buncombe’s medical director will deliver a report on child mortality and make recommendations Tuesday, Aug. 1 to the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners on how to reduce the mortality rate.

According to presentation materials from Dr. Jennifer Mullendore, there were 20 child deaths in Buncombe County in 2021, 11 of which were infants under the age of one.

Two teams — the Community Child Protection Team, which reviews deaths related to abuse or neglect, and the Child Fatality Prevention team, which reviews all other cases of child death —  put together an annual report with recommendations on how to reduce fatality rates.

One such recommendation from this report is for commissioners to fund a voluntary nurse home-visit program for all Buncombe County families with newborns. Another is to update messaging on how to provide a safe sleeping environment for infants, according to the presentation.

Eight of the 20 deaths in 2021 were a result of birth defects or perinatal conditions happening between 22 weeks of gestation and seven days after birth. Seven more were attributed to illness.

Commissioners will not take official action on the recommendations at the Aug. 1 meeting other than to potentially appoint a new member to the CCPT and CFPT teams.

In other news

Commissioners will consider passing an update to the fire prevention ordinance, which hasn’t been updated since 2007.

Most significantly, the ordinance includes a new open burning section, which doesn’t include any new bans on burning. The ordinance does mandate that bonfires, defined as taller than six feet, require a permit, must be at least 50 feet from any structure and must have a fire department truck and personnel onsite. Recreational fires smaller than six feet but not contained by a fire pit do not require a permit, must be at least 25 feet from a structure and must be supervised, according to the ordinance.

A backyard fire at a private residence does not require a permit, but should be continuously attended while lit. Burning nonvegetative materials, such as trash or construction materials, remains illegal under Buncombe’s air quality ordinance.

Violations of the ordinance can result in fines starting at $500, according to the presentation.

North Carolina Fire Chief Consulting recommended these changes, following its 2022 study of the county’s EMS and fire services.

Buncombe Fire Marshal Kevin Tipton told commissioners at the July 18 meeting that he receives 30 complaints a month for smoke and hopes the new ordinance will help cut down on air quality concerns. Buncombe County has seen poor air quality in recent weeks as a result of Canadian wildfires made more intense and wide-reaching by climate change.

“I’m not trying to reinvent the wheel, but I am trying to cut down on nuisance burning,” Tipton told commissioners last month.

Consent agenda

The consent agenda for the meeting contains four items, which will be approved as a package unless singled out for separate discussion. Items include approval of three separate meeting minutes from July, and June’s tax collection report.

The full agenda and supporting documents for the regular meeting can be found at this link. Prior to that meeting, the commissioners will hold a 3 p.m. briefing.

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 the regular meeting will be livestreamed on the county’s Facebook page and will subsequently be available via YouTube.



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2 thoughts on “Commissioners to hear annual report on child mortality, vote on open burning ordinance

  1. joelharder

    Why did Dr. Mullendore identify one child (under age of one) as “Other/Non-Hispanic” in her slide deck? She choose to identify the remaining children as “White/Non-Hispanic” and “Black/Non-Hispanic.” There’s no footnote to clarify what “other” means or the specifics for this one child.

    I pay taxes in Buncombe County, I am Native American, and I just want to say that one child has an identity that needs to be respected. I want to understand why this child isn’t identified as Hispanic, Asian, Pacific Islander, or Native American – or another category?

    This is a systematic statewide problem with local and state data and something that should be discussed if equity is to be achieved. This is a unique problem to North Carolina.

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