County to vote on $35,000 in cost-sharing for Vance Monument consulting

Buncombe County seal

As of March 8, the Vance Monument had been standing in downtown Asheville for 103 years. Barring the unforeseen, it won’t make it to 104.

That being so, during its Tuesday, April 6, meeting, the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners will consider a vote to authorize up to $35,000 in county funds toward the re-visioning process that will follow the monument’s demolition and removal. 

The funds represent half of the $70,000 price tag shared between the city and county to hire a consultant to facilitate the process of determining what’s next for the location. The vision process will include a community engagement component that could begin as early as June and aims to answer questions about possible replacements for the monument, including who will design the new features. The consultant will also include the “intersection of equity, inclusion and placemaking” throughout the design and visioning process, according to a March 23 presentation by the city of Asheville.  

Demolition of the monument will take place during the spring and summer, while the visioning process is expected to last through fall. Results of that process are expected to be presented in document form by the end of 2021. The cost-sharing does not include construction expenses for the renovations. 

On June 9 and June 16, 2020, the Asheville City Council and Buncombe County Board of Commissioners passed a joint resolution to establish a task force to recommend action regarding the removal or repurposing of the Vance monument. The task force voted on Nov. 19 to remove the monument, followed by a vote from the Commission to accept that recommendation on Dec. 7, with Council voting in support of the recommendation Dec. 8.

In other news

Following Gov. Roy Cooper’s Executive Order 204, which eased restrictions on indoor mass gatherings, county staff has developed a plan to allow up to 25 residents to attend meetings of the county board in person

The plan would reserve 10 seats for the public in the county chamber and would use room 310 as overflow for the public. Room 330 would be reserved for staff and presenters until their agenda item is presented. Staff recommends that a mask mandate and social distancing be enforced during the meetings. 

The plan calls for gradually increasing the number of residents allowed to attend the meetings, per the state’s guidance, and allows residents to continue to call into the meetings to participate in public comment until all indoor capacity restrictions have been lifted.

Commissioners will decide whether to implement the new plan or keep the current process in place until all restrictions are lifted. 

The commission will also conduct a public hearing on a one-time $100,000 economic development incentive for Systems Logistics, which plans to create 47 new jobs with hourly pay averaging $32.17 through an expansion of its Arden-based facility. The company is eligible for the incentive based on the Buncombe County Economic Development Policy for meeting job-creation targets.

Commissioners will also hear a presentation from Asheville City Schools regarding student capacity. A report prepared for the state Department of Public Instruction shows that the system has 29% more capacity in its school buildings than is required for current students. Projections for six to 10 years in the future show that the excess capacity will come down to about 20% more than required for the expected number of students. The reduction in capacity will result from the closure of the Asheville Primary School and Lucy S. Herring Elementary (formerly Vance Elementary) campuses rather than an increase in student enrollment. 

Consent agenda and public comment

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

  • To approve the February 2021 tax collection report. As of February 28, the county has collected 97.88% of taxes levied, totaling more than $209 million. However, the collection rate for individual property tax, 69.98%, is significantly below the collected percentage of 80.22% as of the same time last year, due to a significant amount of motor vehicle registration tax revenue outstanding.
  • An $8,300 budget amendment to fund the Visit NC Farms app, a statewide agritourism application created by the N.C. Department of Agriculture that allows residents and visitors to locate farms closest to them.The grant includes $4,250 from NCDA, $800 from the Buncombe Farm Bureau’s nonprofit board and $3,250 from Buncombe Farm Bureau Insurance.
  • A $20,000 budget amendment from the Volkswagen Corp. as part of a 2016 lawsuit settlement for falsifying vehicle emissions data. The company was ordered to fund electric vehicle infrastructure across the country, including in North Carolina. The county plans to use the funds to add four additional electric vehicle charging stations to the county parking garage on College Street, which will cost $26,926. The remaining expenses will be covered by existing funds in the Sustainability Office’s budget

Public comment will only be permitted through live telephone calls at the start of the meeting; no in-person comments, emails or voicemails will be accepted at this time. Those planning to comment must sign up online or call 828-250-4001 by Monday, April 5, at 3 p.m. All commenters will receive three minutes to address the board.

The commissioners will also hold a briefing at 3 p.m. to discuss the county’s COVID-19 response and other topics. The full agenda and supporting documents for the regular meeting can be found at this link.

Both the briefing and regular meeting will be livestreamed on the county’s Facebook page and will subsequently be available via YouTube.

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18 thoughts on “County to vote on $35,000 in cost-sharing for Vance Monument consulting

  1. Richard B.

    The Vance Monument debacle will be remembered in years to come as the beginning of the end for the growth spurt over the past 20 years that has seen Asheville and Buncombe County become nationally recognized as a place to visit, or to consider as a place to find a career and raise a family, or to retire. The beauty of the Blue Ridge and environs will not lose their luster, and folks will still travel up and down the Parkway. But will be increasingly bypassing downtown Asheville.
    With streets and sidewalks crumbling, parking spots becoming harder to find, overbuilding and under planning for infrastructure, homelessness and encampments on the rise, accompanied by an increasingly unsafe downtown area, – what do our City and County officials see as a priority? And how are they spending their time?
    If you guessed maybe they are concerned about the crumbling streets and sidewalks, uh, wrong. Maybe about city schools rated as among the worse in the state for achievement scores, particularly for kids of color? Nope, wrong again. Oh, how about the increase in homelessness, open drug use, scary downtown streets after dark? You would think this might get some attention due to tourism being the driving force of the economy, But, sorry, wrong again.
    The most important thing that matters to the betterment of Asheville, and to future growth, is to tear down an obelisk that offends just about everyone who so much as glances at it. And therefore it is critical, a crisis really, because it has become a safety issue. Safety issue? Why yes, it is so offensive that a rampaging mob might try to bring it down, thus injuring or killing innocent citizens.

    Only one person among the sad sacks on the City Council, only one reasonable and intelligent voice, and she was drowned out.
    Sandra Kilgore should be mayor, and she deserves to serve on a governing body with a lot more courage and foresight than those other six.
    It’s not hard to imagine how the several hundred thousands of dollars that will be spent to destroy and then to replace the obelisk, when all is said and done, could be used to provide assistance to our struggling students, – to build community centers, provide family planning and health educational seminars for the “underserved” in the city and county.
    How many folks of color, really now, how many truly believe that knocking down a “racist” pile of stone and rebuilding something in its place will benefit any person of color living in Asheville?
    I’d like to know.

    • Peter Robbins

      How much would it cost to transform the Vance Monument into the Unity Tower, as Council Member Kilgore proposed? Is the Kilgore proposal even less expensive at all? If so, why would money spent on demolition be squandered but money spent on “repurposing” wisely spent? In both cases, the money could have been used for something else, regardless of amount. Why isn’t the Kilgore plan also a cowbird egg that pushes all the others aside, as you think the demolition plan does? In other words, what on earth makes you think that spending money on one item transforms that one item into the top priority in the budget? If the public would derive zero benefit from tearing down the Vance Monument, what benefit would renaming the obelisk produce? In particular, how would it benefit African Americans to have the Vance Monument called the Unity Tower? I’d like to know.

      For my part, I think the demolition would accomplish a lot of good at a low cost. At the very least, it would get rid of an ugly pile of stones that only snobs think is art. But that alone doesn’t make it necessarily the best option. Demolition and repurposing make different statements. Whether one option is more efficient than the other depends on costs, to a minor extent, but primarily on much good we can say one statement accomplishes compared to the other. To do that, you need to place a dollar value on the benefits of both statements. Go ahead and try. I suspect your new-found love for repurposing is disingenuous. I doubt you ever wanted to change the Vance Monument at all. What you really want to do is lash out perceived ideological foes because they dominate the City Council.

      • Roger

        I doubt that you even know who Richard Sharpe Smith is to the history of Asheville. But then, again, as an “outsider” you most likely could care less about anything but your own sanctimonious views about Whites from the South vs. Whites from the North. Don’t suppose anyone has informed you of the true significance? You and every other White person, no matter where we’re from, has some duty and responsibility to become conscious of the central issue at hand: “systemic racism.” And again, if you’ve not yet been informed, the matter is a topic you, apparently, have not yet come to terms with. If I had to guess, I’d say you’re hiding behind your own lack of understanding about systemic racism. May I suggest you ask Councilwomen Sandra Kilgore about the issue. But, then, since you seem to hold a contemptible view of her for the common sense she brings to city governance, you most likely don’t have the slightest interest in the central issue: The difference between “systemic racism” [our future] and ignorance about local historic sites and significant figures associated with them. My view of you is that you’re a negative man who can be counted upon to contribute destructive ideas that favor no one but yourself. In short, you’re a jerk!

        • Peter Robbins

          Let’s not make this about me. I’m nobody. I don’t even live in Asheville, so I’m certainly an outsider to you. Tell me about this systemic racism thing. Tell me what I should be doing to overcome it. Then tell me why you haven’t already done what you think I haven’t been doing. Does changing the name of the Vance Monument to the Unity Tower overcome systemic racism? Or is it just a first step? Would the cost of monument demolition cover the full cost of ending systemic racism? Or is that just a down payment, too? I’m here to learn.

          • Roger

            You could care less about what’s important to the City’s future; and since you’re so concerned about its past, perhaps you should educate yourself about the root causes of the “War Between the States,” the conflict of one hundred and sixty years ago that was fought over money and imperial power. At this point, there are those who would focus upon the future by steering the conversation to “systemic racism” rather than confederate monuments. This issue is not so much about money, as it is doing what’s positive for the future of the City and its citizens. I personally cannot see that you’re here to learn anything that you can’t find something negative and backward to argue over. Like I stated earlier, “You are a jerk!”

          • Peter Robbins

            So forget me. Maybe other people are reading your comments. Educate them about systemic racism. I’ve seen quite a few comments on the Mountain Xpress website that question its very existence. Set people straight. I promise not to argue.

          • Peter Robbins

            And as far as my knowledge of the Civil War goes, I took a course on the Civil War in college, I’ve audited online courses by Gary Gallagher and David Blight, and I’ve read a fair number of books, including respected works by Sean Wilentz, James Mcpherson and David Potter, among others. Their takes on the war’s origins appear to differ from yours in critical respects. But go ahead and suggest some better resources, if you think you know some. Just because people are well regarded doesn’t mean they can’t mess up now and then. Look what happened with Richard Sharpe Smith and the Vance Monument.

      • Richard B.

        Peter R., it appears that you are not a numbers guy, perhaps not even very much experienced in planning and conducting a business.
        I am happy to respond to your question as to how much it would cost to not destroy the obelisk versus tearing it down and replacing it.

        If the offensive Vance Monument was NOT destroyed, but simply renamed, perhaps an elementary PR effort to accomplish this, it would cost considerably less that what is now planned. Which is over $200,000 as has been made public, and I capsulize that below.
        That covers the $125,000 for the demolition part, $25,000 for landscaping while finalizing plans for “repurposing” (one of my favorite Liberal catch phrases), and $75,000 for “consulting” to help “guide” the replacement to be erected in Pack Square.
        It does NOT cover the construction of the repurposed edifice, statue, or whatever the consultants come up with. Nor has any estimate been advanced by City Council or the County.
        So you see, Peter, that you are looking at several hundred thousand dollars, whereas Councilman Kilgore’s Unity or similar approach would likely be counted in the tens of thousands, not hundreds. So I strongly disagree that the costs of one option versus the other is a minor consideration as you state in your comment….”Whether one option is more efficient than the other depends on costs, to a minor extent”.
        And I will again challenge you, or anyone, to address my question of how the demolition plan, costing the City and taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars, monies which could really contribute to meaningful steps in remedying life in our “underserved” (another of my beloved Liberal platitudes) communities, as I outlined in my comment above, leads to a better life for any person of color in Asheville and surrounding communities.
        I sincerely welcome all efforts to address my question.

        Time Frame:
        Spring – Summer 2021
        Demolition (45 days)
        Landscape (30 days)
        Cost: $139,685
        Time Frame:
        Spring – Fall 2021
        Cost: $70,00

        • Peter Robbins

          Where did you get the “tens of thousands” figure for the Kilgore proposal? Did you just make it up? (Remember, you have to maintain and protect the obelisk if you leave it up. Also, revise tourist maps, etc.) But more to the point, what good would it do to spend even tens of thousands to change the name of the Vance Monument? Why not just leave alone? If you answer that question, you’ll have an answer to your own question about what good the demolition would accomplish. It does the same thing as repurposing but in a more dramatic and powerful way. Sometimes it’s better to spend a few extra bucks to get the job done right. Look at the Trump Wall.

        • Peter Robbins

          I’ll take your silence, Richard B., as a “yes” – meaning that your “cost estimate” for the Kilgore alternative was pulled from thin air and has no basis in reality. All you did was compare the estimated costs of demolition (which I could have gotten off any news story) with some garbage speculations that you made up yourself about the Unity Tower option. Well, two can play at that game. My house is worth more than the Biltmore Estate if I’m allowed to imagine whatever values I want for my house. I may be bad at numbers, as you say, but you’re terrible at sleight-of-hand.

          Just out of curiosity, though, how did you think you were going to implement the Kilgore option as a low-cost “public-relations” effort? Where did that conceit come from? Did you think you were going to strip the Vance name off the base of the monument (and replace it with the word “Unity”) without spending money? Or did you think you could just leave the Vance name there (carved in stone), send out a few press releases announcing the creation of a “Unity Tower,” and hope no one would notice that the obelisk was still really the Vance Monument?

          You have given me no reason to think that a one-time demolition would necessarily be more expensive – let alone significantly more expensive – than a “repurposed” obelisk that must be maintained in perpetuity. And you certainly haven’t convinced me that the Kilgore option would produce anywhere near the benefit (in terms of a clean break with a racist past) that demolition would achieve. You haven’t even indicated why you believe (as you must if you support the renaming) that the Vance name has a racist connotation from which Asheville urgently needs to be disassociated.

          What would be wrong with leaving the Vance Monument the way it is? You refuse to answer. Why are you so ashamed of the Vance legacy that you would support spending a single penny on remedial action of any kind? Again, silence. Until you face those hard questions, honestly and without evasion, you’re not going to understand the thinking of people around you. You’re just going to make yourself bitter and sad.

          • Richard B.

            I am truly sorry that I bothered to even address your original response to my comments.
            You are so obviously and ideologue who gets off by imagining things about people that will
            disagree with you in order to bolster your low self esteem. A waste of my time.
            Oh, and Peter, you really do show your hand when you claim that one can “disassociate” from the past.
            Communists over the past 100 years have tried to do just that. Can’t. A metaphysical impossibility.

          • Peter Robbins

            At least you stopped making fun of my math skills. I am not now and never have been a numbers guy.

          • Peter Robbins

            Communism, Richard B.? Hmmm. The Soviets didn’t tear down St. Basil’s Cathedral; they repurposed it. They didn’t rip up Beautiful Square; they tweaked the name into Red Square. Isn’t that what you want to do with the Obelisk formerly known as the Vance Monument? You better think of an answer quick before they call the next session of the House UnAmerican Activities Committee. I’m planning to name names.

  2. Roger

    Mayor Manheimer Needs to Wake Up!

    The Mayor of Asheville should consider ALL the voices of the City, including that of Councilmember, Sandra Kilgore, who favors a majority of common sense responders to the local press who oppose the Council’s wrongful decision to destroy the 65-foot obelisk at Pack Square. I urge the Mayor to think again about this “partisan” act and do what is best for ALL citizens, many who, like Sandra Kilgore, want to “repurpose” this monument and save it from destruction by “cancel culture” activists who apparently want to destroy anything and everything that reminds them of the past.

    “Do not use justice for blacks as an excuse to destroy this nation,” said Black civil rights veteran, Bob Woodson, when he was interviewed about the letter, that he and 43 other Black intellectuals endorsed, to Kathleen McCartney, President of Smith College. “We, the undersigned, are writing as Black Americans to express our outrage at the treatment of the service workers of Smith College in light of the incident of alleged racial profiling that occurred in the summer of 2018.” The letter went on to express objection to the approach that McCartney’s administration had taken to address what it alleged to be “racism.”

    “Please consider that many Black Americans find training that reduces us simply to a racial category profoundly condescending and dehumanizing. Not only do such activities often increase racial animosity rather than reduce it, but they also deeply harm students of color by teaching them to process every one of life’s difficulties through the lens of race. Elite institutions like Smith should be teaching all their students to work through misunderstandings and offenses with the very grace you ask for in your letters, not punishing its least powerful employees in order to virtue signal…. We implore you to rethink how you have handled this situation. We ask that you publicly apologize to the falsely accused service workers, that you cease forced, accusatory ‘anti-bias’ training, and that you compensate your service workers for the harm that you have caused them.”

    Mayor Manheimer and five other members of Council need to read this letter to Kathleen McCartney for the insight it would provide against a rush to judgment in destroying the obelisk at Pack Place. The Council needs to heed Sandra Kilgore’s common sense and rational judgment in opposing the destruction of the 65-foot granite structure, which the taxpayers of the City should oppose, as well.

    In a recent interview with Woodson and several other veterans of the civil rights movement, Forrest Porch asserted: “Dr. King would not want this type of justice.” While another interviewee declared: “Our values are sacred. God gave us all Free Will. Every one of us!!! All people are given this and the Constitution and Bill of Rights are based on this. We must strongly, firmly ‘peacefully and patriotically’ make our voices heard.” This is not the time to “cancel” God or the values the American People hold as sacred.

    I urge the Mayor to rise above the partisan stance she has beat the drum for over the past number of years, which urged the destruction of commemorative monuments from the past and encouraged radical activity that demonstrated no respect for values or property. Systemic Racism, which is the REAL issue, is not a Southern problem. It’s a problem for all Americans. As such, taking a partisan stand against Southern Whites and monuments that commemorate the dead from a war that should never have happened, is short-sighted and divisive. Simply put, this decision by City Council is WRONG, because is conceals what the real issue is for our Nation!

    I urge the Mayor to rise above this partisan vindictiveness and become a leader for ALL the citizens of Asheville and its urban surrounds. She also needs to council County Commissioners about their misjudgments. Put a stop to this political focus upon the past, you acts of hate and spitefulness, and do it for the City’s future. Such courage would do much to create a positive legacy for the Mayor, not the one which I believe she will most likely live to regret. [photo by the author].

    • Richard B.

      Very thoughtful, Roger, and very true. Right up there with Bob Woodson’s and his colleagues’ letter to the Smith College president.
      I doubt that, at this point, sound reason is able to hurdle the obstacle of blind ideology, or of cowardice.
      Sad.

      • Roger

        Thank you, Richard. Your contribution to this important “conversation” is what is needed to stand up to the insane “blind ideology” that rules over the citizens of our City. The backward focus by the “radical” members of Council is deaf to reason and to the proper focus upon the future that seems to be squelched by such partisan sanctimony. I have made the effort over the past four or five years to inject reason into this debate. And, so, you might well be correct in the view that “sound reason” is now wanted at City Council, not with a measly 12% turnout by citizens who vote for “radical left” partisans. I cannot see that this Mayor or any of her comrades are willing to exercise good sense or courage in reversing the wrongful decisions so righteously made. Thank you, sir, for your citizenship, your good sense, and the courage to express an honest view. I believe this backwardness on the part of the six members of Council who chose to destroy the Richard Sharpe Smith structure will eventually discover that it has only eroded the community’s view of these politicians. Yes, it is sad.

      • Roger

        This is a response to the comment by Richard B. Thank you, Richard B. Your contribution to this important “conversation” is what is needed to stand up to the insane “blind ideology” that rules over the citizens of our City. The backward focus by the “radical” members of Council is deaf to reason and to the proper focus upon the future that seems to be squelched by such partisan sanctimony. I have made the effort over the past four or five years to inject reason into this debate. And, so, you might well be correct in the view that “sound reason” is now wanted at City Council, not with a measly 12% turnout by citizens who vote for “radical left” partisans. I cannot see that this Mayor or any of her comrades are willing to exercise good sense or courage in reversing the wrongful decisions so righteously made. Thank you, sir, for your citizenship, your good sense, and the courage to express an honest view. I believe this backwardness on the part of the six members of Council who chose to destroy the Richard Sharpe Smith structure will eventually discover that it has only eroded the community’s view of these politicians. Yes, it is sad.

  3. Stan Hawkins

    Gentlemen, and I mean that. Just a heads up on the issue of dollars. In finance and most business circles, there is a sometimes loosely used phrase called; “what is the opportunity cost” of not doing Project A versus doing Project B now.

    For example, if Solar Panel Y costs the City / County $50,000 today; but instead we use that $50,000 to let’s say demolish a structure – what is the lost opportunity costs to the City / County for delaying Project A? The equation would need to include a host of variables, right? If project B goes over budget, well you know how government works; I don’t believe we are running a surplus in these municipal budgets.

    As far as I know, we do not know what the cost of a repurposed structure would be because there has been no real political support for that idea. When a municipality does not run a surplus budget, and most do not – there is always an opportunity cost for priorities not funded. Most of the time – they just pass that along to us in a prone position.

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