Asheville City Council

When it’s cold, windy and wet, the gas-fired heaters at the Asheville Transit Center simply don’t do the job. Sure, they get red hot and blast heat downward. But they’re hung too high above waiting riders to do any good, especially in windy conditions.

Months ago, Asheville City Council directed Transit Services Director Bruce Black to find a warm solution. He reported on Oct. 3 that the most viable option appears to be adding a 540-square-foot waiting room to the center’s existing ticket office.

But Council members balked at the proposal’s estimated cost — more than $100,000.

“That’s outrageous,” said Council member Barbara Field, an architect. The new building would require no additional plumbing or other costly modifications, she and other Council members pointed out. Surely, Field argued, the city could provide a shelter for less.

Other options have already been explored, replied Black. One heater was lowered to see if that would help; “It didn’t work,” he said. Heavy plastic curtains (such as those used on loading docks) were also considered, but they were found to be inefficient and likely to hinder bus traffic.

Field also asked why Black hadn’t solicited a redesign proposal from the architect who drew up the plans for the recently completed center, which cost nearly $1 million to build.

“We tried that,” responded Black. But the architect, it seems, had advised the Transit Authority against using those heaters in the first place. (Often used on loading docks, they’re not designed to be effective at temperatures below about 40 degrees Fahrenheit.) “[The architect] wants nothing else to do with [the project],” said Black.

So Glazer Architects drew up the preliminary plans Black brought to Council on Oct. 3: The drawings show a small addition that follows the basic contours and design features of the ticket office.

“No matter what, I want to see something done,” declared Mayor Leni Sitnick, mentioning that she’s often seen people waiting for buses there in driving rain or cold conditions. “They’re miserable,” she remarked.

The addition would accommodate about 40 seated transit customers, plus another 40 standing, Black reported.

Council member Charles Worley said the city should do something to shield riders from the weather. “But I’m appalled at the $100,000-plus price tag.”

Council member Chuck Cloninger suggested that Black consult with Glazer about possible cost-saving modifications to the proposal.

Sitnick agreed and asked Black to report back at Council’s next work session, later this fall.

Council members took no formal action on the proposal.

Landing the Big Apple

On Oct. 4, Asheville City Council members unanimously endorsed the Airport Authority’s attempt to land direct-flight service to New York.

Airport Marketing Director Kathryn Solee told Council members that she, airport Director Mike Armour and local business leaders would solicit the service from Continental Airlines. Other airlines either weren’t interested or wanted too much in incentives: “American Airlines said, ‘Yeah, buy the airplane,'” Solee joked.

Continental, on the other hand, expressed direct interest: “They called us,” she reported. To entice the airline into providing nonstop service from Asheville to New York, Solee has secured pledges from 65 Western North Carolina businesses to commit a portion of their travel budgets to a Continental New York connection.

“What can we do? [Asheville City Council members] don’t fly to New York very often,” noted Council member Cloninger.

“Your assignment is to be a champion,” replied Solee.

In other words, she needed Council’s official support, in the form of an immediate resolution, so the Authority could cut a deal with Continental in time to have the New York connection up and running next spring.

Mayor Sitnick reached for her pen.

On a motion by Charles Worley, seconded by Terry Bellamy, Council voted unanimously to waive the rules that restrict them from taking formal action during a work session. Once that had passed, Worley made the motion to adopt the resolution that City Attorney Bob Oast and City Manager Jim Westbrook had hastily composed.

“Whereas, whereas, whereas: Be it therefore resolved,” Sitnick joked, adding, “That’s good enough.”

Oct. 17 work session canceled

As Council member Field remarked on Sept. 5, “You know, we don’t have to meet every week if we have nothing to discuss.”

She got her wish (and other Council members seemed visibly pleased, too): Council agreed to cancel its mid-October work session. It seems that several Council members will be out of town on Oct. 17, and there’s little city business to deal with that week, City Manager Jim Westbrook noted.

About Margaret Williams
Editor Margaret Williams first wrote for Xpress in 1994. An Alabama native, she has lived in Western North Carolina since 1987 and completed her Masters of Liberal Arts & Sciences from UNC-Asheville in 2016. Follow me @mvwilliams

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