Clean and green?

Green consulting: Vice Chair Ellen Frost consults with Buncombe County Attorney Bob Deutsch about the language in a resolution that seeks to limit the use of toxic cleaners. photo by Alicia Funderburk

Their argument wasn’t quite toxic, but Buncombe County Commissioners fiercely debated a resolution extolling the virtues of green cleaning Feb. 18.

Pushed by Vice Chair Ellen Frost, the “Resolution Regarding Use of Non-Toxic Cleaners” urges county staff to “incorporate environmental considerations into purchasing decisions” by using guiding principals developed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Noting that some cleaning chemicals can be toxic to workers’ health, Frost said the approach will help ensure “we won’t see people having to wear masks when they clean.”

But some commissioners voiced concern that green-cleaning approaches might not get the job done.

Commissioner Mike Fryar likened the concern to his own battle with cancer, saying that “it takes something strong to kill this bacteria that’s in me — it is a poison.” He added, “It takes Chlorox to get green stuff off the side of my house.”

However, Frost brushed aside his concerns, noting, “Some of the major hospitals in the country have gone green.” She helped draft the resolution, which states: “Choosing less hazardous products that have positive environmental attributes (biodegradability, low toxicity, low volatile organic compound (VOC) content, reduced packaging, low life cycle energy use) and taking steps to reduce exposure can minimize harmful impacts to custodial workers and building occupants.”

Commissioner Brownie Newman argued that there’s no language requiring staff or contractors to use products that don’t work well. “It’s not a mandate. … It doesn’t tie hands,” he said. “We want to use the most environmental products we can while still getting the job done.”

Meanwhile, Fryar’s Republican colleagues on the board, Commissioners David King and Joe Belcher, also stood opposed — at least initially. King said he also worried about the measure hampering proper cleaning, especially in the county’s maintenance department, which deals with heavy equipment. And Belcher said that the status quo was working just fine. “The requirements that they’re under now are pretty strict,” he said. “What we’re doing now is pretty good.”

Seeking their votes, Commissioner Holly Jones asked her GOP counterparts, “How can we make it palatable?”

To assuage their concerns, County Attorney Bob Deutsch suggested amending the language to specifically state that nothing in the resolution would prohibit county staff from using the cleaning materials necessary to do the tasks required of them.

That change was enough for King, who then voted for Frost’s resolution.

But Fryar and Belcher held firm. “It’s still fluff and buff any way you want to look at it,” Fryar asserted. “This is just something … that we don’t need to be wasting our time on.”

In the end, the measure passed 5-2.

“I feel like this is just caring about people having a healthier work experience,” said Jones. “I don’t think it’s fluff. I think it’s an important step for caring about people.”

Hot button issues delayed; ban on tethering coming?

Commissioners delayed a pair of hot-button issues originally scheduled for Feb. 18: Moogfest’s request for $90,000 in incentives and Coggins Farm LLC’s development proposal in Riceville.

Moogfest’s request was rescheduled for March 4 so that company President Mike Adams, who was out of town, could attend the deliberations. And Coggins Farm withdrew its rezoning request for a 169-acre mixed-use development; the company asked for more time to change its plans. No date has been set yet to consider the matter.

Instead, Commissioners unanimously approved tweaks to the county’s zoning ordinance concerning small residential lot sizes and the setbacks between new buildings and public utilities. The new rules aim to encourage infill development and affordable housing construction, said Josh O’Conner, county zoning administrator.

In other business, animal-health advocates urged the Commissioners to consider a county ban on tethering dogs. Patrick Irwin, president of ChainFree Asheville, said that dogs on tethers are more likely to become aggressive and bite people. The organization pushed Asheville officials to pass a similar measure in 2009 that outlaws the tethering of unattended dogs.

Frost, who runs Bed & Biscuit, an the animal-care business, instructed staff to coordinate with the Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office to research drafting such rules.


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About Jake Frankel
Jake Frankel is an award-winning journalist who enjoys covering a wide range of topics, from politics and government to business, education and entertainment.

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