• County joins sustainability consortium
• FLS Energy, Rosetta’s Kitchen honored
• Thompson appointed to Airport Authority board
As part of a larger push to shuffle and consolidate county departments, the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners agreed to buy a downtown building to house its General Services Department. At their Aug. 17 session, the commissioners unanimously approved purchasing the 11,700-square-foot structure at 40 McCormick Place for $699,000. The former home of AAMCO Transmissions, it was recently appraised at $775,000. General Services is responsible for maintaining all county facilities.
The plan aims to consolidate Social Services and Health Department staffers while freeing up space for the courts system. County property deeds will be moved to 205 College St., where General Services is now, so they can be within walking distance of the courthouse, County Manager Wanda Greene explained. Meanwhile, keeping General Services’ 30 employees close to town will help them maintain the county's 1.2 million square feet of facilities, she added.
Over the next two years, most of the Health Department's 170 workers are slated to move into the Department of Social Services building at 40 Coxe Ave. And the Health Department’s current home at 35 Woodfin St. will instead house the Board of Elections, Tax Department and Register of Deeds offices. The current Tax Department and Register of Deeds offices will be renovated for use by the courts, which will also get a new four-story building on College Street and extensive renovations of existing facilities.
Swannanoa parcel rezoned
In another property matter, the commissioners unanimously approved a rezoning request by Gerald Penland to allow commercial development of a 0.37 acre lot near the intersection of Old Lytle Cove Road and U.S. Highway 70 in Swannanoa. Adjacent to Penland Furniture, the parcel was rezoned from residential district to commercial service district. Both the county Planning Board and planning staff had recommended approving the request.
Consortium seeks sustainability grant
To help secure up to $2 million in federal Department of Housing and Urban Development grant funds, the commissioners voted 5-0 to join a consortium of government and nonprofit organizations that includes the French Broad River Metropolitan Planning Organization and the Land-of-Sky Regional Council. According to the resolution, the Sustainable Communities Regional Planning Grant money would support the group's “efforts to promote transportation choices; equitable and affordable housing; economic competitiveness and revitalization; social equity, inclusion and access to opportunity; energy use and climate change; and public health and environmental impacts.”
Commissioner Holly Jones and board Chair David Gantt both expressed strong support for the measure.
"In addition to the government entities who are very well-versed and involved in this, there's so many citizens who are really excited in committing to this too," gushed Jones. "So I'm just thrilled and keeping all my fingers and toes crossed."
Gantt, meanwhile, noted: "Sustainable communities cut across property boundaries and jurisdictions and city lines and county lines. We're all in it together, and it sounds like a good idea."
Thanks for going green
The commissioners also honored a pair of local businesses for their efforts to operate more sustainably. FLS Energy and Rosetta's Kitchen both were presented with Buncombe Green awards for "saving time, money and the environment with their business practices," as Gannt put it. "We wanted to thank you on behalf of our citizens."
President Dale Freudenberger of FLS Energy accepted the award on behalf of the solar-energy company, which he said started out in a dirt-floored building in Black Mountain four years ago and has now become a regional leader in installing solar-thermal systems. With about 65 employees and offices on Amboy Road in Asheville, the company continues to see phenomenal growth, he reported.
"We're very fortunate to be a growing company and have the support of Buncombe County and the local community," said Freudenberger, adding that the business has "a sustainability team, and we recycle just over 94 percent of our waste companywide: That's at construction sites and at our office. Also, being a solar business, we're inherently green, because we're producing renewable energy."
Although no one from Rosetta's Kitchen was on hand, Gantt noted that the downtown vegetarian restaurant "recycles and composts and donates their used kitchen grease for a vegetable-powered car, among other things."
Christmas in July
Clerk to the Board Kathy Hughes said the county's recently completed drive to collect Christmas gifts for troops overseas was "overwhelmingly successful." In July, the county amassed 112 boxes of donations worth an estimated $33,000. That’s a major increase from the 30 boxes the county collected the last time it ran the program, in 2008, she explained.
"It's heartwarming to see what people brought: the letters, the cards, the individual care packages that people put together," continued Hughes, garnering loud applause from the commissioners.
In other business, the board appointed Martha Thompson to the Asheville Regional Airport Authority board. She was one of six candidates for the position.
— Jake Frankel can be reached at 251-1333, ext. 115, or at email@example.com.