After a series of marathon meetings, the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners will likely make short work of its agenda on Tuesday, April 4. The sole new business item concerns leasing county-owned land for the purpose of expanding preschool offerings. Other than that, only board appointments stand in the way of commissioners getting home in time for dinner this go-round.
Commissioners will consider leasing property to Eliada Home to enable the nonprofit to provide 60 additional preschool spots that will open as soon as August. County staff states those slots would make room for 18 infants; 14 2-year-olds; and 28 Pre-K children, with priority being given to kids with disabilities and those from low-income homes. Eliada Home currently serves 152 children in various preschool programs.
The 2.08-acre parcel is located at 32 Compton Drive. Commissioners approved putting it up for sale in May last year after county staff indicated potential buyers had inquired about the property. However, county staff told Xpress the land had not received a single bid as of March 30. The property was originally granted to the county by Trinity Presbyterian Church in 1989. Its assessed value for 2017 is $998,600, up $60,2000 from its last appraisal. An existing 8,301 square foot day care facility is located on the property, making it a desirable location to expedite additional preschool slots.
The county’s resolution states the terms as a ten-year ($1 per year) lease with an option for Eliada Home to purchase the property. North Carolina general statutes allow for publicly owned property to be leased for any amount approved by its governing body for up to 10 years. County staff is recommending approval. Considering that commissioners have previously identified expanding preschool opportunities as a long-term priority, approval of the lease seems highly likely.
Earlier this year, Xpress published an in-depth report looking at the barriers, opportunities and potential costs involved with efforts to make preschool accessible to all children in Buncombe County by the Asheville Buncombe Preschool Planning Collaborative. You can read that story here.
Also of note is a consent agenda item featuring $171,250 to hire three community paramedics for the rest of the current fiscal year ending June 30. Last month, county staff recommended commissioners approve funding for the positions in response to the rising number of opioid overdoses in Buncombe County. Staff said community paramedics will follow up with residents who have experienced an overdose and discuss recovery and support options.
In January and February, there were 150 calls to county Emergency Medical Services connected to overdoses, with 20 of those resulting in fatalities. Additionally, the use of Narcan (an overdose reversal drug) is significantly on the rise, with county personnel administering the drug 44 times in 2011 and 159 times last year.
Earlier this year, Xpress published an in-depth report on Buncombe County’s opioid crisis and the fight to frame addiction as a public health issue rather than a crime. You can read that story here.
Commissioners will also appoint people to the following boards: A-B Tech Board of Trustees; Civic Center Commission; French Broad River MPO; and Planning Board.
The meeting is at 5 p.m. on Tuesday, April 4, and will take place at 200 College St. You can see the entire agenda here.