At a retreat yesterday, the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners instructed county staff to investigate moving offices for all or most county services into a single location, a move that could cost from $30-60 million, depending on whether the county buys or builds the facility.
The push from the board came after a long review of the county’s offices and properties around the area.
“We’re way too spread out,” Chair David Gantt said, and Commissioner K. Ray Bailey concurred.
“Why can’t we get it all in one place?” Bailey said. “It seems like it would be a lot more efficient.”
The board instructed County Manager Wanda Greene to come back with several options for consolidating the locations of county services in a facility that has easy access and space for growth and doesn’t involve an increase in the tax rate.
That may prove a tall order. Earlier in the day, the commissioners reviewed a series of desperately needed facilities, including a $20 million-plus public-safety training center, an addition to the courthouse (also over $20 million) and more offices for human services. As if that wasn’t enough, Tax Assessor Gary Roberts informed the board that increased tax exemptions under new state laws and a looming property revaluation may leave the county strapped for cash.
“The thing is that we’re in the people business,” Gantt told Xpress after the retreat. “And in tough economic times demands for these services are going to go up.”
“A tax increase is not on the table,” he added. “Not with this board.”
While the county has committed to focusing on “core services,” many of the above needs fall into that category. When asked how the county will prioritize between those services, Gantt said, “We will have to mull that over and consider all the options.”
The costs for a facility consolidating the county’s offices could range widely, considering that it needs to be easily accessible. One possibility is the Biltmore Square Mall, which is for sale.
Greene said that the county will need 300,000 to 400,000 square feet for such a consolidated facility.
— David Forbes, staff writer