Buncombe County Commission

Following the lead of other local governments, the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners unanimously agreed last week to set up a committee to oversee the annual county audit.

“It’s a great idea,” proclaimed Commissioner David Young at the board’s Sept. 19 meeting.

County Finance Director Nancy Brooks told the board that only three other local governments in the state’s eight largest counties have audit committees: Mecklenburg County, Winston-Salem and Gastonia.

Board Chair Tom Sobol emphasized that the committee may assist the board, but the responsibility for the budget would still rest with the commissioners.

County watchdog Don Yelton asked whether members of the public could attend the audit committee’s meetings. He also wondered whether a group of citizens could appoint themselves auditors of how the county handles animal control and other duties.

Sobol answered that the board was merely voting on establishing the audit committee. Commissioner David Gantt quizzed Brooks on whether the meetings would be public.

“I really hadn’t thought about that,” Brooks replied.

County Attorney Joe Connolly said that the answer would depend on what function the committee performed, and Sobol offered that the commissioners will learn the answer when they know the committee’s parameters. Brooks said she would be working on the committee’s bylaws.

The resolution approved by the board notes that the committee’s primary responsibilities will be overseeing the audit process — from selecting an independent auditor to resolving the audit’s findings.

After the meeting, Brooks said that the committee will look at last fiscal year’s financial results and the current year’s budget, and perhaps make recommendations to the commissioners about the budget for the next fiscal year. The committee is also required to provide an annual evaluation of the budget documents, according to the resolution.

Brooks later reported that she hopes the committee will meet four times a year, with the first meeting taking place sometime before the Asheville firm Crawley, Lee & Co. finishes the audit of the 1999-2000 fiscal year, at the end of October.

According to North Carolina’s open-meetings law, all official meetings of public bodies are open to the public. Public bodies include appointed committees made up of two or more members that exercise an advisory function.

Immediately after creating the committee, the board unanimously (and with little discussion) appointed the following people to serve on it: Sobol (representing the commissioners); County Manager Wanda Greene (county management team); former Weaverville Town Council member Vince Parsons (outside governing board); Scott Hughes and John Kledis (accountants); Ernest Ferguson (banking); and Elizabeth Graham (at large).

County investments

“Stability” may be the term that best characterizes the county’s investments, county Investment Manager Matt Dotson-Smith told the board. The county earned about $4.54 million in the fiscal year ending June 30 — an increase of about $83,000 from the 1998-99 fiscal year. Dotson-Smith attributed the increase to higher interest rates.

The size of the county’s portfolio has increased slightly, from $78.39 million to $78.44 million in June, Dotson-Smith told the board. Most of the county’s investments ($43.4 million) are in government bonds.

A million families

Five years after the Million Man March in Washington, D.C., a new march will be held this year to focus on family issues, Dr. Charles Blair told commissioners.

The Million Family March (convened by Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan) will take place on Oct. 16 in Washington, focusing on public-policy issues that affect families. The march is purposely timed to happen three weeks before elections, according to Blair.

“It is open to all individuals,” Blair emphasized.

For more information on the march, Blair asked that people call the Asheville organizing committee at (800) 902-3841 or stop by 46 S. Market St. in Asheville, Monday through Friday, 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Minority business report

Mamie W. Scott, director of the Asheville-Buncombe Office of Minority Affairs, presented the county’s portion of an annual report on the city’s and county’s business dealings with the minority community. About $997,000 in county dollars (1.4 percent of total spending) went to minority-owned businesses in the 1999-2000 fiscal year, compared to about $740,000 (1 percent) in the previous year.

A minority-owned business is defined as one that’s 51-percent owned by an ethnic minority or a woman.

Scott’s office informs minority-owned businesses about what projects are available for bid, but neither the county nor the city has quotas or set-asides. As a result, minority businesses still must compete for contracts once they learn about them, Scott said later.

One obstacle in efforts to increase minority participation is that not enough local minority businesses carry the types of equipment or supplies that the city of Asheville and Buncombe County may need. Sometimes — as in the case of fire-truck manufacturers, for example — no regional minority business exists that can provide the needed equipment, Scott noted later.

But she told the commissioners that she’s heartened by the increased response she’s gotten from minority businesses contacted about bids — 24 percent, compared to 18 percent last fiscal year.

“After building a foundation, we’re trying to build on that foundation,” Scott said after the meeting.

Minority Enterprise and more

The Board of Commissioners issued a handful of proclamations at its Sept. 19 meeting, including declaring Sept. 24-30 Minority Enterprise Development Week and Kids Voting Week, and designating October as Sister Cities Month. The board also offered its support to Asheville-Buncombe VISION’s community dialogues on transportation. In addition, the board learned that the Minority Business/Corporate Trade Show will take place on Thursday, Sept. 28, 3-6 p.m., at the Holiday Inn SunSpree Resort (free for attendees). (Call the Asheville-Buncombe County Office of Minority Affairs at 250-4120 for more information.)

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