County to implement language access plan

Residents of Buncombe County who speak one of ten non-English languages may soon get increased access to government services thanks to the county’s participation in a statewide language access collaborative.

In 2023, representatives of Buncombe County government and the housing collaborative nonprofit Poder Emma were awarded a $25,000 grant from the Institute for the Study of the Americas and the Building Integrated Communities Initiative at UNC Chapel Hill to increase language access for its residents.

Buncombe joined representatives from eight other municipalities and counties around the state to form the collaborative, which met throughout the year to develop a language access plan for the county. A finalized version was presented to county management in March, and the group is moving forward with its implementation this month, according to a staff presentation for the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners at its meeting Tuesday, April 16.

In addition to Buncombe County, the collaborative consists of Concord, High Point, Raleigh, Wilmington, Winston-Salem, the towns of Apex and Morrisville and New Hanover County, according to the City of Raleigh.

The county hopes to achieve “meaningful access” to government services for non-English speakers through the plan. “Meaningful access” is defined by the U.S. Department of Justice as “language assistance that results in accurate, timely, and effective communication at no cost to the individual.”

Among the 10 top languages spoken in Buncombe County, Spanish, Russian and Ukrainian are the most common, according to the presentation.

In other news

Commissioners will consider approving the issuance of the first housing bonds that were approved by voters in the 2022 general election at their April 16 meeting.

If approved, commissioners will authorize up to $17 million of the voter-approved $40 million in general obligation bonds for affordable housing projects.

Also on the agenda is the issuance of limited obligation bonds — up to $81.5 million to fund about $54 million in school capital infrastructure and maintenance, $17 million for county capital projects and $7 million for county vehicles, according to a county document.

Consent agenda

The consent agenda for the meeting contains seven items, which will be approved as a package unless singled out for separate discussion. Highlights include the following:

  • Approval of a design contract with CPL Architects for the renovation of 35 Woodfin St. for $549,400. THe county plans to move several customer-facing departments into the building. Upon approval, work will begin immediately and is slated to be completed by Thursday, May 30, according to the contract.
  • Acceptance of a $200,000 grant from the N.C. Office of State Budget and Management to develop a park on the Camp Woodson property in Fairview. If approved, the county will pass through the funds to Conserving Carolina to develop hiking and biking trails and trailhead parking on the site.

The full agenda and supporting documents for the regular meeting can be found at this link. There will be a briefing meeting proceeding the regular meeting at 3 pm. The agenda was not posted as of press time.

In-person public comment will be taken at the start of the regular meeting, which begins at 5 p.m. in room 326 at 200 College St., Asheville; no voicemail or email comments will be permitted. Both the briefing and the regular meeting will be livestreamed on the county’s Facebook page and will subsequently be available via YouTube.



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One thought on “County to implement language access plan

  1. Jeff Altman

    On the one hand, there is an article about Asheville outspending revenues. Now we have an article about Buncombe getting a $25000 grant for multilingual access That’s a great goal but $25000 probably won’t fund the first year of the program, let alone year two. Respectfully, consider saying no to the grant unless they are willing to grant more than a year of funding.

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