Interim manager George Wood has given Buncombe County commissioners a reading assignment before their meeting on Tuesday, July 10.
In preparation for the search for a new county manager that follows the announcement in early June of Mandy Stone’s retirement, Wood has recommended that commissioners read up on the suggested search process for a county manager, pointing to the book Getting the Right Fit: The Governing Board’s Role in Hiring a Manager as a starting point.
The next major step is deciding whether to hire an executive search firm to help with the selection. That’s an issue commissioners will discuss during their meeting on July 10.
In a memo sent to the board on July 2, Wood noted that commissioners have not previously conducted an executive search for a county manager. Stone was named county manager at the board’s meeting on June 9, 2017. She previously served as assistant county manager and director of health and human services.
In his memo, Wood mentions two possible paths.
The board could ask Wood and David Nicholson, a staff member with N.C. Association of County Commissioners who helped the board find an interim manager, to conduct the search. That would be free, but Wood said it would take time away from focusing on other issues. Or it could hire an executive search firm, which Wood said would likely charge one-third of the annual salary of the county manager, or about $80,000.
Wood recommends the second option and lists several advantages in the memo. “You and the community can have a high degree of confidence in the process being conducting [sic] by a firm that specializes in recruiting local government executives and do a number of these annually,” he wrote. “In addition, they may be aware of managers that may not actively be looking for a position they could recruit.”
According to the memo, Wood and commissioners believe it is important to get input from the public and county department heads on the attributes they would like to see in the next county manager. He recommends that the board hold input sessions in the county’s three election districts, as well as an input session with department heads, while the county waits for responses to a request for qualifications.
“That way we could gather that information before selecting the search firm and save that time,” Wood wrote. Wood indicated that time is a big consideration for commissioners right now.
He wrote in the memo that, if the board does not make a decision during the July 10 meeting, it would lose an entire month of the search process before the next regular meeting, which is scheduled for Tuesday, August 7.
The board is in the process of finding a new county manager after Stone’s sudden departure. Stone held the position for about a year after the retirement on June 30, 2017, of former County Manager Wanda Greene, who has since been accused of misappropriating county money for personal gain. Stone officially retired almost exactly a year later — on July 1, 2018.
She was one of several employees who received a whole-life insurance policy that Greene obtained for herself, her son and several county employees by allegedly misappropriating county money and misleading county commissioners.
The county has said that none of the county employees who received the insurance policies, including Stone, were aware that Greene allegedly obtained them through duplicity. The board said the employees (with the exception of Greene and her son, Michael Greene) did not benefit financially from the policies and signed them over to the county after learning that Wanda Greene did not follow the legal requirements for issuing these benefits, including obtaining the consent of commissioners.
Waste Pro rate increase request
Waste Pro is asking for a $2.475 rate increase from the county, which would bring the monthly rate for solid waste and trash collection from $14.77 to $17.245 per account. This includes a $1 recycling fee and a $0.075 tipping fee. Excluding the added recycling fee and tipping fee, the base increase in the rate would go from $14.77 to $16.17.
The Buncombe County Board of Commissioners will hold a public hearing on this request during its meeting on July 10.
Waste Pro has had an exclusive franchise for the collection and disposal of solid waste and collection of recyclables in unincorporated parts of the county since Jan. 1, 2010. The franchise is scheduled to end on Dec. 31, 2019. Waste Pro operates more than 75 locations spread across the southeastern United States, according to the company’s website.
The board last approved an increase in 2012, taking the monthly rate from $14.20 to $14.77, according to an info sheet prepared by the county. At 4 percent, that increase fell short of the 7.1 percent rise in the consumer price index that occurred between Jan. 1, 2010 and July 1, 2012.
Robert Allen, the director of government relations with Waste Pro, told commissioners in a letter that the company is in a “difficult situation.” Among other obstacles, Allen said the nation is experiencing a shortage of truck drivers, which has driven driver salaries up by about 20 percent; equipment costs have risen; and the market for recyclable materials has become “volatile.”
Allen also said the number of households in the county has increased 17 percent since 2010, while the amount of recycling has grown by 35 percent. Additionally, Waste Pro has spent $20 million over the same timeframe on capital expenses such as facilities, equipment and acquisitions. These investments drive an average of $600,000 a month into the local economy, Allen said.
The new rate would represent a 16.76 percent increase, according to the county. In contrast, the consumer price index has increased 8.73 percent since July 1, 2012, when the last Waste Pro rate increase went into effect.
In other business
Commissioners will also decide whether to move the Buncombe County Veterans Services Office, currently located at 199 College St., to the county Department of Health and Human Services building at 40 Coxe Ave. Wood has recommended that the board approve the move.
The Board of Commissioners will meet at 5 p.m. on Tuesday, July 10, in the third-floor conference room at 200 College St. in downtown Asheville.
See the full agenda here.