Given that state and local governments around the country are struggling with their finances due to the economy, it came as little surprise when county staff informed the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners at its April 7 meeting that, as per the board’s instruction, they’re pursuing federal stimulus money for a variety of uses.
• The stimulus cash would be put to a variety of uses. The county is requesting $1.25 million to hire seven new law-enforcement officers, $1.4 million to help with workforce training, funds for the homeless problem, community grants to help with affordable housing, energy efficiency and aid for construction of a variety of projects, including a much-needed courthouse expansion and a $15 million public-safety training facility.
“A lot of people think it’s going to be bridges, roads, a lot of construction,” Assistant County Manager Jon Creighton said. “But over $200 billion goes to health services and human services. There’s a lot of this money out there that’s basically going to help people in need. We’re going after it, but it’s become a ‘hurry up and wait’ sort of thing.”
However, Assistant County Manager Mandy Stone, who heads the county’s Department of Social Services, warned that the state may take a large portion of the stimulus money allocated to North Carolina to make up its own budget shortfall.
In other business at the meeting:
• The board heard a report from Buncombe County School system officials that high school dropouts have declined 15 percent over the past school year.
School officials attributed the decline to a combination of programs intended to help freshmen adjust to high school and the Career Academy, which helps them get career training.
Donna Lanahan, head of the school system’s Dropout Prevention Program, praised the commissioners for the financial assistance they’d put into solving the problem.
“Your dropout-prevention grant gave our students the opportunity to have in-depth academic support, career explorations and a nurturing academic environment,” Lanahan said. “We’ve been able to hire a graduation advocate to foster a better learning environment for these students.”
• The commissioners voted 5-0 to spend $560,000 to repair the roof of North Windy Ridge Intermediate School and endorsed (also in a 5-0 vote) the Humane Euthanasia Act, which would end the use of carbon monoxide to euthanize animals in shelters.
— David Forbes, staff writer