Enka ‘bridge to nowhere’ connection on Feb. 18 commission agenda

Buncombe County seal

More than four years after construction began, a bridge in Enka for which county leaders allocated $3 million of taxpayer funding has yet to carry a single car from Smokey Park Highway over Hominy Creek. The Buncombe County Board of Commissioners may bring that state of affairs to an end on Tuesday, Feb. 18, when members will consider $650,000 in additional money to connect the bridge to existing roads at the board’s regular meeting in Room 326 at 200 College St.

In a report available before the meeting, county staff members blame unspecified “funding constraints” for the delay in putting the bridge to use. The total cost of the new road connections is estimated at $4.3 million: $2 million would come from the Appalachian Regional Commission, $1.3 million from the N.C. Department of Transportation and $350,000 from Fletcher Partners, the private corporation that developed the Enka Commerce Park to which the bridge will connect.

The report also notes that the bridge will improve access to the Enka Intermediate School, a future fire substation and existing industrial users of the commerce park. Currently, vehicles traveling west on Smokey Park Highway must continue on to Sand Hill Road to cross Hominy Creek. The bridge would shave roughly 2 miles off that drive.

“Feb. 18 is going to be a day that I’ve been looking forward to for a long time,” said Commissioner Joe Belcher, whose District 3 includes Enka, during a discussion of the project at a Feb. 4 pre-meeting of the board. “I want to thank the entire board for being supportive of this, but I would particularly want to thank [board Chair] Brownie [Newman] and [District 3 Commissioner] Robert [Pressley]. I’m really excited about what it’s going to do for the community.”

In other business

Also on the theme of economic development, the commission will hold a public hearing regarding a $170,000 grant for health care plastics manufacturer Nypro. According to a presentation available before the meeting, the company has pledged to invest $18.4 million in the county and create 68 new jobs at an average hourly wage of $21.94 in exchange for the taxpayer funding.

Two agenda items concern the county’s health policies for employees. The first seeks the commission’s approval for a 6.6% hike in staff insurance premiums and a health risk assessment program for workers and their spouses, which some employees have criticized as invasive and lacking transparency. The second would prohibit anyone on county property, including employees, from vaping or using e-cigarettes.

And another resolution, added to the agenda by Newman and commissioners Jasmine Beach-Ferrara and Amanda Edwards, would affirm “the right of Buncombe County citizens to vote in municipal elections.” The move is likely a response to the Jan. 21 request of Black Mountain and Montreat residents for a formal censure of their municipalities, which (along with Asheville and Biltmore Forest) moved elections from 2019 to 2020 and extended the terms of their elected officials by a year. In Asheville, that extra unelected year came at the behest of Mayor Esther Manheimer, who asked state Sen. Terry Van Duyn for the change during negotiations over districting at the General Assembly in 2018.

The agenda makes no mention of any resolution regarding gun rights. An overflow crowd packed Commission chambers on Feb. 5 to support declaring Buncombe County a “Second Amendment sanctuary,” and an online petition with the same goal currently has nearly 1,700 signatures. Since that meeting, neighboring Madison and Yancey counties have both passed sanctuary language.

Consent agenda

The board’s 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 resolutions:

The commission will hold a pre-meeting at 3 p.m. in the same location. The full meeting agenda and supporting documents can be found at this link.


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About Daniel Walton
Daniel Walton is the former news editor of Mountain Xpress. His work has also appeared in Sierra, The Guardian, and Civil Eats, among other national and regional publications. Follow me @DanielWWalton

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4 thoughts on “Enka ‘bridge to nowhere’ connection on Feb. 18 commission agenda

  1. bsummers

    Sure, a bridge. But what about the proposed water connection between Haywood County and Enka/Candler? It was dangled before Candler voters right before the 2018 election.

    “At the Oct. 16 Buncombe County Board of Commissioners’ meeting, interim County Manager George Wood discussed the idea of conducting a study on extending water lines from Canton to the Smoky Park Highway Corridor of the Enka/Candler area.”

    Was this real, or just a lie from the local GOP to Buncombe voters? Is this bridge “deal” cut from the same cloth?

    Buncombe looks at linking water system with Canton’s

  2. Curious

    Is there any way to get Mountain X to rethink this new webpage design, with white print on black background and rain or snow falling constantly? Very hard to read. You wouldn’t print the paper version with white ink on black paper.

    • Virginia Daffron

      Curious, click the lightbulb icon in the upper righthand corner of the website. That will turn your settings back to the daytime mode for the MX website, with the white background.

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