Buncombe County commissioners: Sheriff gives first annual report

Millions of dollars worth of county-financed building projects are either pending or in progress around Buncombe County, and Planning Director Jon Creighton updated the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners on them during the board’s May 13 meeting.

The 248-bed jail annex, begun in nearly two years ago, is now complete, he said. Inspections are now under way, and the facility is expected to open in July, he said. Across town, the new $22 million Human Services Center on Coxe Avenue in downtown Asheville is in the design stage and expected to be let out to bid in early fall. Current plans envision a five-story, 48,000 square foot structure that would house elements of both the Department of Social Services and the Health Department.

“We’re basically trying to do a one-stop for the public at this location,” Creighton told the board. An attached 650-space, eight-story parking deck will accommodate county employees and offer after-hours parking for the paying public. Monthly parking rates will be set once the construction cost has been determined, he said.

Renovations to the county’s new Emergency Operations Center on Erwin Hills Road are nearing completion, Creighton reported. The county has spent $3 million on the renovation and a 3,000 square foot addition to the property, which was formerly leased to the Army Reserve. It will house the Emergency Services Department, headed by Jerry VeHaun.

“We’re gonna call it Jerry’s Castle,” said Commissioner Bill Stanley.

Last month the county awarded Lexington-based Davidson Sash and Door a contract to replace the windows in the Buncombe County Courthouse. The $1.8 million project, which involves more than 1,000 windows, is expected to take more than a year to complete.

“That’s more than it cost to build that courthouse,” noted Ramsey.

“I knew you would bring that up,” said Creighton. The work will be done at night and on weekends to avoiding disrupting court proceedings.

Preliminary work continues at the new animal shelter site on Pond Road, off Brevard Road. So far, said Creighton, 30,000 cubic yards of fill dirt have been brought in to level the ground there. Construction of a retaining wall will follow, with site work expected to end in early August.

“It’s been a long haul,” said Creighton. The shelter should open a year after construction begins, he added.

Work at the county’s new parking deck on College Street is going “extremely well,” said Creighton. The 650-space structure is expected to be finished by the first of the year, he said.

“Amen,” said Stanley.

Renovations are also pending at Pack Memorial Library in Asheville ($2.5 million, to begin in fall 2008) and the Black Mountain Library ($250,000, beginning this month).

Crime is up in Buncombe County, said Sheriff Van Duncan in presenting his first annual report.

The document, which covers calendar year 2007, shows a total of 9,548 arrests in the county—a more than 6 percent increase from the previous year.

“What do you attribute this to?” asked Chairman Nathan Ramsey. “The county is growing a little less than 2 percent annually. Is crime on the rise at a rate that exceeds population growth?”

“It is,” answered Duncan. “And that’s a sad thing. Tough economic times probably account for some of that. It may also be that people have more confidence in our department and are more likely to call us for help.”

In 2007 the Sheriff’s Office received a record 51,625 calls for service—an 8 percent increase over 2006.

The good news, noted Duncan, is that the average response time for those calls was down almost a full minute: from 11.65 minutes in 2006 to 10.75 minutes last year. And based on the data so far, Duncan said 2008 response times are even shorter, averaging 9.16 minutes. To read the entire report, go to the Xpress Files and click here to download a PDF.

City water for residents near CTS site

In new business, the board unanimously approved a budget amendment allocating $220,000 towards a project to bring city water lines to The Oaks subdivision in Skyland, where wells have tested positive for the industrial solvent tricholoroethylene, a suspected carcinogen.

The new lines will provide 35 homes with city water; work on the project is expected to begin in June and end in early August. An informational meeting on the improvements will be held at the Skyland Fire Department on Wednesday, May 28, beginning at 6 p.m.

Other business

The board issued two proclamations during its May 13 meeting, simultaneously naming May “Drug Court Month” and “Older Americans Month.”

The commissioners unanimously approved a resolution in support of continued state funding for the Criminal Justice Partnership Program, which provides day services and community supervision of convicts under the care of the N.C. Department of Corrections. In February the North Carolina General Assembly asked for justification of the $9.1 million program, which operates in 95 of the state’s 100 counties.
The board also unanimously approved a resolution in support of the Metropolitan Sewerage District’s affordable-housing programs. The agency has two mechanisms for encouraging new affordable housing: a reduced facility fee for qualifying developments and a cost-recovery program in which the district contributes a portion of the cost of extending sewer lines to such developments with the understanding that it will recoup the contribution through regular service fees within a five-year period.

Board appointments

Before going into closed session at 5:30 p.m. to consider a personnel issue and a property-acquisition matter, the commissioners approved two appointments—Ernest Hewitt to the Weaverville Zoning Board of Adjustment, and former Commissioner Doris Giezentanner to the A-B Tech board of trustees—and reappointed Vice Chair David Gantt to the Airport Authority.

Fellow Airport Board member Gerard Mozian, however, did not enjoy the board’s unquestioning approval.

“As is tradition,” noted Commissioner David Young, “let’s put our board member on the Airport Board. Let’s interview the second person.” Only time will tell what fate awaits Mr. Mozian.


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One thought on “Buncombe County commissioners: Sheriff gives first annual report

  1. William P Miller

    I support Sheriff Duncan. He is quite an improvement on the former Sheriff. I predict he will be Sheriff for a long time to come. Thank you Sheriff Duncan for a job well done.

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