Buncombe commissioners preview: Incumbents meet for last time to consider economic incentives

The incumbent Buncombe County commissioners will meet for the last time Nov. 20 to consider a pair of economic development incentive packages and a transportation grant application.

The board will hold a public hearing on a proposal to give Linamar $4.5 million in economic incentive grants. In exchange, the company agreed to make a local investment of $75 million and hire 250 new employees by Dec. 31, 2018.

That’s on top the $10 million the county approved for Linamar in July of 2011. As part of that initial deal, Linamar agreed to invest $125 million into its new facility in Skyland (formerly the Volvo plant) and hire 400 workers by 2020.

The new grants would bring the county’s incentives to the Canadian auto-parts manufacturer up to a total of $14.5 million. The city of Asheville and the state of North Carolina have also approved giving the company millions in grants and tax breaks. 

In addition, commissioners will hold a public hearing on a proposal to give Baldor Electric Company $64,000 in economic incentive grants. In exchange, the Arkansas–based electric parts company would invest $4.8 million in to its Weaverville facility and hire an additional 32 local employees.

In other business, the board will hold a public hearing on the county’s plan to apply for $365,315 in state and federal grants for Mountain Mobility, the county’s public transportation system. In order to receive the transportation grant money, the county would need to commit to providing $64,468 in matching funds.

This will be the first meeting of the board in its new chambers, located at 200 College St., Suite 326, in downtown Asheville. But it will be the last meeting for at least two of the incumbent commissioners: Vice chair Bill Stanley is retiring after serving for 24 years on the board. And Commissioner K. Ray Bailey is stepping down after completing his first four-year term.

After serving for eight years, the fate of commissioner Carol Peterson is still unclear, with the Nov. 6 certified election results in District 2 showing her only 34 votes behind second-place finisher Ellen Frost and another term. (Under the new system, the top-two candidates in each district win seats on the board.) Third-place finisher Christina Kelley G. Merrill is ahead of Peterson by 21 votes and is requesting a recount, which could take up to two weeks to conduct.

In the meantime, Peterson hasn’t conceded the race.

However, the county is planning to hold a public farewell reception for the departing commissioners after the Nov. 20 meeting at 6 p.m. in the lobby of the its building at 35 Woodfin St. And the county’s public invitation includes Peterson’s name along with Stanley and Bailey on its list of outgoing commissioners.

Although the final election results remain contested, the county’s planning to swear in the new board of commissioners Dec. 3, at 9 a.m. Their first meeting is scheduled for Dec. 4 at 4:30 p.m. Leading up to that, the county will hold commissioner-orientation meetings Nov. 29 and 30.

The board will meet at 4:30 p.m., Tuesday, Nov. 20, in the commissioners’ chambers, located at 200 College St., Suite 326. A short pre-meeting review of the agenda will begin at 4:15 p.m.


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About Jake Frankel
Jake Frankel is an award-winning journalist who enjoys covering a wide range of topics, from politics and government to business, education and entertainment.

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