Buncombe County Commission

If the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners’ July 8 meeting had been any shorter, it would have taken longer for everyone to file in and out than it did for the board to conduct its business.

Contributing to the meeting’s brevity was the commissioners’ decision to postpone making appointments to the county Planning Board until Aug. 5. Before the meeting, the commissioners interviewed Asheville native Scott Hughes, who is seeking a seat on the board (the terms of three incumbents have expired). Commissioner Bill Stanley commented afterward that such interviews are routine when making appointments to boards whose decisions have particularly significant impact, such as the Air Quality Board and the Planning Board. Hughes, an accountant who works for the city, “has seen where Asheville has been and has an idea of where he’d like to see it go,” noted Stanley. At least some incumbents are seeking reappointment, however.

The commissioners also made the following appointments: Latrella Higgins to the Minority Business Commission, Carol Townsley to the Nursing Home Community Advisory Committee, and Alice Keller to the Historic Resources Commission. Kerry Forrest was reappointed to the HRC.

Clerk to the Board Kathy Hughes briefed the commissioners and others at the sparsely attended meeting on the redesign of the county’s Web site, www.buncombecounty.org, intended to make it more functional and user-friendly for the average citizen who knows little about the workings of government. Staffers Judy Rhew, Rhett Langston and Hughes are among those who were instrumental in retooling the site. Citizens can now pay taxes online, access property deeds, and even check the sanitation/performance ratings for local restaurants and nursing homes. There’s also a “Living Here” section that focuses on fun, services, and safety. “We’re so excited about the usability of [the site] now,” Hughes exclaimed. Ads for the Web site and for BCTV, the countyis cable channel, have been posted on all Asheville city buses.

The board recognized Hominy Valley resident Jennifer Powell Nave, a member of the Hominy Valley Baptist Church, as an Outstanding Citizen of Buncombe County. Nave has been active in Meals on Wheels, in church missions, and on other independent projects, such as food drives during the holidays and in the summer, when students no longer receive free school lunches. She has also spearheaded collections of school supplies for students in need. Commissioner David Gantt recognized Nave with a plaque commending her for her “selfless, loving service to the valued community of Hominy Valley.” Nave accepted the honor gratefully, saying she couldnit take all the credit because of the assistance sheid gotten from her church.

In new business, the commissioners reviewed yet another Tourism Development Authority vote to waive penalties incurred by Asheville hotels for late payment of taxes. Board of Commissioners Vice Chairman David Young asked both bodies to stop approving penalty waivers, noting that there have been six in the last four months. In this instance, however, the late payments were due to a post-office glitch, said Young. Accordingly, the waiver was unanimously approved.

As part of the consent agenda, the commissioners approved a resolution granting Progress Energy an easement across 25.5 acres of county-owned land in Lower Hominy Township so the utility can upgrade electrical service in the Enka area.

Not everyone seemed pleased about the rapid pace of the evening’s proceedings, however. During the public-comment portion of the meeting, county residents Don Yelton and Jerry Rice complained that meeting agendas are getting shorter and shorter as part of what they maintain is a trend toward reduced opportunities for public scrutiny of the board’s decisions.

Yelton called on the commissioners to address key issues — such as solid-waste and budget matters — during their regular meetings, rather than relegating them to the consent agenda, so that citizens can be better informed about what’s going on in Buncombe County. Rice seconded that suggestion, exhorting the county (as he has in the past) to resume televising the public-comment period and discuss budget items more openly. “I’d like to know what you’re buying with my money,” he reiterated. Both men regularly attend Board of Commissioners meetings and frequently take issue with the way county government makes decisions.

The abbreviated meeting was concluded in 23 minutes.

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