Commissioners to review county fire and emergency service districts

Nonprofit agencies will make their case for funding from Buncombe County's upcoming budget for Fiscal Year 2018. A total of 46 nonprofits are asking for an aggregate of almost $11 million.

The Buncombe County Board of Commissioners will be flooded with public hearings at its Tuesday, Oct. 20 meeting.

A resolution to establish the county’s 15 new proposed fire and ambulatory service districts will be heard, as well as five public hearings abolishing the old districts. Commissioners will also vote on six new fire districts that have already been through the public hearing process.

Currently, there are 35 Rural Fire Protection Districts and County Service Districts providing fire protection, ambulance and rescue services to the citizens of Buncombe County.

For tax and organization purposes, county staff and the Buncombe County Fire Chiefs Association proposed to abolish and establish certain service districts at the board’s Sept. 1 meeting.

County Attorney Michael Frue explained last month that these changes are at the request of the Fire Chiefs Association and would consolidate adjacent fire districts with the same tax rates, reducing the total number of districts down to 21, and cleaning up a “60-year mess” of confusing boundary lines.

Riceville Fire Chief Thad Lewis stood up at the September meeting and explained, “This resolution gives us the opportunity to serve the community the best we possibly can,” and getting the many chiefs in the county to agree on a resolution is “something to be proud of,” he said.

For more on the specific districts being consolidated, established or abolished, click here for a full list.

Mountain Mobility grant

A separate public hearing will be held on the decision to apply for federal and state funding for nonprofit Mountain Mobility, Buncombe County’s Community Transportation Program.

The grants would total $892,139, with $106,794 being matched from Buncombe County.

Part of that money would go to technology and communication systems used for reservations, scheduling, dispatching and other uses, as well as operation costs, employee training and vehicle insurance. The larger half of that sum would be used toward replacing items that have met state and federal mileage or age limits, such as one non-lift conversion van, three lift-equipped vans, five light transit vehicles and 26 mobile radios.

Tax refund

The county will also vote on whether to refund a couple’s property tax overpayment, as the property’s owners were paid in both Henderson and Buncombe County. The property is located in Henderson County and was inaccurately written down in county records. Commissioners will decide whether to refund Eldon and Antionette Huggler their $660 in taxes.

Proclamations

Before the commissioners get into any of this discussion, though, they will proclaim the month of November Lung Cancer Awareness Month and also Adoption Awareness Month.

“Lung cancer will claim an estimated 5,780 lives in North Carolina this year, far outnumbering deaths due to breast, prostate and colon cancers combined,” reads the first proclamation. “Approximately 15 percent of lung cancer cases occur in people who have never smoked, and over 40 percent in those who have formerly smoked. Funding for lung cancer research trails far behind other cancers, [and] Buncombe County has demonstrated its commitment by … making all county properties smoke-free zones.”

On adoption, the board will read: “Adoption Awareness Month is celebrated to call attention to the fact that every child deserves to grow up in a loving, nurturing, permanent home and that this experience lays the foundation for a happy, productive adulthood. In North Carolina last year, there were approximately 9,825 children living away from their birth parents; 1,074 of these children were adopted. And in Buncombe County there are 291 children in foster care.

“During the month of November, Buncombe County Human Services, private adoption agencies, the faith community and local advocacy groups will participate in a statewide public awareness campaign around adoption. This collaborative effort will focus greater attention on children who need permanent adoptive families and honor families who have adopted children.”

The meeting will be held on Tuesday, Oct. 20, at 4:30 p.m., on the third floor of the county building at 200 College St., downtown Asheville. For the full agenda, click here.

 

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About Hayley Benton
Current freelance journalist and artist. Former culture/entertainment reporter at the Asheville Citizen-Times and former news reporter at Mountain Xpress. Also a coffee drinker, bad photographer, teller of stupid jokes and maker-upper of words. I can be reached at hayleyebenton [at] gmail.com. Follow me @HayleyTweeet

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