Gantt lists county board’s top achievements during his 20 years in office

Photo courtesy of David Gantt

David Gantt, outgoing chair of the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners, reached out to Xpress to share his list of the board’s top achievements during his 20 years on the board.

Gantt did not seek reelection and helmed his last meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 15. You can read Xpress‘ coverage of that meeting here.

Below, in his own words, are Gantt’s list of the county’s best overall accomplishments, with additional detailed list by category and a line item of capital investments from fiscal years 1996-2016.

Top 10 achievements 1996-2016

1. Enact ordinances that protect steep slopes, mountain tops and high elevations, including Blue Ridge Parkway Overlay, dark skies, cell tower, water runoff and erosion control;

2. Massive school-facilities construction (11 new schools) and many renovations. Buncombe County, Asheville City, A-B Tech — total of $305,100,262 invested;

3. Conservation easement program that has permanently protected roughly 6,000 acres of farmland, ridge tops and special places in the county;

4. Primary health care available to each resident at no cost to the individual, in operation for over 20 years;

5. Landfill that may become first perpetual facility in the USA;

6. New courthouse, two new jails, after decades of need, and the Family Justice Center to assist survivors of domestic violence;

7. AAA bond rating for efficient financing that enables low borrowing rates. Kept tax rate one of lowest of the state’s urban counties. Reduced rate from 73 to 60 cents — total improvements to infrastructure (including school construction) was $812,799,187, the largest expenditure in county history;

8. Job creations and new business openings, strong economic incentives program;

9. First zoning and planning ordinances, which begin process of sustainable growth/planning; and

10. Greenway programs, pools, libraries, community centers, recreational facilities and parks in each part of county.

Buncombe County Commission accomplishments, by category, 1996-2016

*Red indicates action by the Commission from 2012- present

Environmental

  • Instituted model steep slope ordinance that will protect overdevelopment of ridge tops and hillsides (state model)
  • Instituted Dark Skies Lighting Ordinance that will prevent light trespass and save energy
  • Instituted Asphalt Plant standards to reduce placement problems and guide them toward appropriate areas of county
  • Instituted retaining wall ordinance (state model) – oversaw demolition of Fairview disaster
  • Revised public tower ordinance to protect neighborhoods
  • Adopted Sustainability Goals and Objectives
  • Energy Independence resolution to cut carbon footprint by 80 percent at a 2 percent per year rate — net savings of $1.2 million expected in first five years
  • Partner with other groups to preserve over 6,000 acres of land, primarily steep slope and ridge top, prime farmland in conservation easements. Receive state recognition for innovative and effective preservation. Cost of $1,050/acre. Leveraged $32,000,000 from $6,363,839 county funds (Total protected land= 72,095 or 17 percent of county). Another 16,000 acres preserved since Land Conservation Advisory Board created 10 years ago
  • Conduct Greenway Master Plan to methodically coordinate 102 miles in greenways across county for fitness, tourism and recreation
  • Created Blue Ridge Parkway zoning overlay to protect and preserve BRP
  • Conduct Master Plan for Sports Park and Lake Julian Park
  • Demolished contaminated CTS and ran water lines to neighbors near plant
  • Supported cell tower ordinances that force co-location and minimum number of cell towers needed for coverage
  • First zoning ordinance in county history to help guide development and sustainability
  • No toxic cleaning agents used by county employees

Public Health

  • Partner with WNCCHS to provide universal health care for every resident: 60,000 medical visits, 3,000 new unduplicated patients from when Health Dept. handled all patient care and left 200-300 patients/month without service (national model) – 14,000 new people served
  • Dental sealant partnership with Eblen and A-B Tech to seal every student
  • Move to Coxe Avenue and create most integrated Health/Human Services Department in USA. Access also available electronically. Kiosk speed and coordinate info and cross training permits one-stop visit for health and social needs (national model)
  • Remove over 138 dilapidated and unsafe mobile homes since 2009, 459 since program started in 2004
  • Support Family Justice Center where domestic violence victims can be compassionately and efficiently cared for by putting all partners in same building
  • Support C3 356 facility that will triage and assess appropriate level of care and response to mental health ailments- Also house Child Crisis Center
  • Partner with City and Homelessness groups to provide housing for 39 “hard to place” citizens where they will get social and medical care, reducing net cost to County

Human Services

  • Move to Coxe Avenue and create most integrated Health/Human Services Department in USA- Access also available electronically- Kiosk speed and coordinate info and cross training permits one-stop visit for health and social needs (national model)
  • Leverage over $100 million in workforce housing by partnerships and $8.4 million om direct investments – (NOT including new $11million Eagle Street housing/business project- $2M County investment= 50 permanent jobs)
  • Distribute $1.3 million each month in child support from absent parents
  • Increase Mountain Mobility trips by 14% since 2009 ($1.1 million stimulus for vehicle maintenance and new equipment
  • Convert 52% of Mountain Mobility vehicles to dual fuel capabilities (gas, propane, CNG)
  • Partnered with non-profits for affordable housing to create 1601 new homes and keep thousands of residents in existing homes
  • Funded 1st Workforce Housing project for 40 unit subdivision
  • Expand Workforce Housing to include rental projects
  • Recognized domestic partner benefits for County employees
  • Banned discrimination based on sexual orientation and/or gender identity

Safety and Law Enforcement

  • Partner with Cassidian to develop public safety communication system that covers 94% of County with digital clear sound- Donation of $6 million in equipment, labor, expertise by Cassidian to create showcase for mountain terrain projects- Use 12 existing cell towers
  • Construct new Public Safety Training Center for law enforcement, public safety, and emergency service to keep staff current and provide potential revenue for use of facility ($15.7 million)
  • Aggressive programs to maximize jail revenue and minimize use of jail for mentally ill or substance abuse inmates by training to recognize and treat underlying problems at earliest stage (Crisis Intervention Team- CIT and jail diversion program)
  • Opened new 911 Emergency Call Center with all local municipalities in 1 room to coordinate efforts and expenses
  • Sheriff School resource officers in every middle school and high school
  • 30% decrease in major crimes reported to FBI in last 5 years due to Sheriff Duncan

Solid Waste

1st reporting EPA Bioreactor recirculating leachate to maximize life of landfill- Work toward perpetual landfill- Currently, looking like +30 yr – As of 08-13, recirculated 2.97 million gallons and saving 593 less truck trips to wastewater treatment plant

  • Install wells to power Landfill gas to Energy 1.4 MW generator (total cost = $4.3M) that will power 1100 home electricity needs from captured gas ($3 million stimulus award)- for FY 2013, received $660,000 from utility company for power generated and sold $80k/yr energy credits through 08-13- Total payments from utility is $965,222- $4.3M cost with $2.8M grants and $1.5M balance interest free ($75k/yr payments plus generator maintenance are ongoing costs)- Total carbon credits through 08-13 are 28,784 (same as offsetting gas emissions from 5,400 cars)
  • $47 million investment in state of the art landfill facility
  • Processed 260 million pounds of garbage and debris
  • Increased recycling by 43% since 2009- Now # 3 in NC recycling

Energy Reduction

  • LEED certified new Courthouse under construction- Recycle old courthouse with energy efficient windows ($1.3 million) , new safety tower, additional use of top 5 floors
  • Energy efficient Woodfin and Coxe Avenue buildings
  • CFL lighting program to replace lighting with most cost effective
  • Solar array on Coxe Avenue facility to save at least $2,000/yr
  • Requirement to use alternative energy or specify why not
  • Support Read, Write, and Retrofit program- led to state organization NC Green Schools (1st 2 schools are Buncombe County), 37 Energy Star Schools out of 43 that qualify for lower utility rate)- Saves $250k/yr energy costs and 1350 metric tons of CO2 emissions
  • Energy Independence resolution to cut carbon footprint by 80% at a 2% per year rate- Net savings of $1.2 million expected in first 5 years

Construction- Schools

  • New facilities for students in County/City schools and AB Tech = $305,100,262

County Schools

    • Eblen Intermediate $15,250,000
    • Koontz Intermediate $15,250,000
    • Nesbitt STEM school $5,000,000
    • Cane Creek Middle $11,915,069
    • Hominy Valley Elementary $11,772,931
    • North Windy Ridge Intermediate $5,141,005
    • Barnardsville Elementary $1,188,226
    • Buncombe Community School West $555,096
    • Enka Intermediate $26,000,000

Total $92,072,327

City Schools

    • Asheville Middle $40,900,000
    • Isaac Dickson Elementary $20,000,000
    • Asheville High School roof $44,000,000
    • Claxton Elementary renovations $7,307,293
    • Asheville High cafeteria $3,995,492
    • ACS aquatics facility $290,150

Total $123,042,935

AB Tech

    • Allied Health Building $41,100,000
    • Parking Deck $15,000,000
    • Multipurpose Building $7,500,000
    • 93 Victoria Road Building $2,300,000
    • Birch, Fernihurst, Computer Tech $10,485,000
    • PS Training Center Classroom Building $7,100,000

Total $83,485,000

Construction other than school facilities

  • $12.2 million total for Library construction and renovations

  • $14.7 million total for parks and recreation improvements

  • $4.2 million renovation of Pack Library- Embrace digital technology, e-books while keeping hard copy books
  • $13.1 million College Street Parking Deck completed for downtown parking in 2009
  • $322k improvement to Black Mt Library in 2009
  • $15.7 million new Public Safety Training Facility
  • $4.4 million New Animal Shelter facility that is located with Adoption Center, AB Tech student training facility in 2010
  • $4.3 million renovation to Woodfin Street County office building in 2010
  • $5.1 million renovation of Coxe Avenue Health/Human Services completed – Most integrated departments in USA- 2012
  • $30.8 million Life Safety Tower that will open top 5 floors of Courthouse and recycle use of 90 year old building in downtown- 2012
  • $25 million New Courthouse LEED certified to relieve overcrowding conditions in old Courthouse – Dedicated on 11-07-13
  • $55 million new detention center to replace dangerous old facility
  • $2 million for Pack Place park, a landmark facility in City/County Plaza
  • Support AB Tech sales tax referendum financing new Health Services building and job opportunities for graduates
  • $6.5 million new Aquatic Center to replace antiquated Zeugner pool
  • Support first STEM school in WNC- Opened Fall 2014
  • Partnered with Enka Sports to create 7 new ball field facility on Enka site
  • $48.5 Million to build new HHS Building and Parking Deck on Coxe Avenue to better serve customers
  • Support teacher apartment project to help recruit new teachers to community

Government efficiency

  • AAA Bond rating highest in County history and highest possible- 3.4% refinancing rate
  • Integrated one stop permitting to help builders and developers get all necessary info and compliance paperwork in 1 location (MSD satellite office)
  • 73rd lowest tax rate in NC
  • 48% of current debt is for City, County Schools, and AB Tech- Only using 9% of total debt potential- Equivalent to a $82,500 mortgage note on a $200,000 house
  • Erosion control now all electronic paperwork
  • Best County website in USA in 2009 – Wins most NC awards for Excellence in Communications
  • 1st Register of Deeds in NC to provide Spanish translation in person, over phone, online
  • 1st Register of Deeds in NC to publish slave records from historical data
  • Register of Deeds computerized genealogy software, eliminating microfilm, budget $238k↓
  • Register of Deeds offers online marriage license applications
  • 98.63% tax collection rate (top 3 in NC)
  • Promote Elderly Exemption Program that helps seniors who qualify save over $1 million in property tax revenues
  • 117 less positions than 15 years ago even though offering more service to citizens
  • Income maintenance worker case load is 500/each almost twice NC (270/each) average
  • Eliminate leasing costs by strategic construction and renovations- Save $200k on probation lease yearly cost alone
  • No rental payments for any County office for 1st time in history

Jobs

  • Additional 6,100 jobs announced since 2010 (650 Linamar)
  • Over $1 billion million in tax base improvements since 2010 ($200 million Linamar)
  • One of lowest unemployment rate in NC
  • Adopted Living Wage for Buncombe County employees
  • Support farmers- Livestock facility in Haywood County- Lowers costs- Keeps local farms viable- Provide healthy and safe food
  • Support small business loan program expansion through local nonprofit BizWorks

20 year asset investments — FY 1996-2016

Buncombe County Capital Investments
FY 1996 to FY 2016
General Fund Courthouse $71,069,122
Detention Center $55,077,783
Stanley Center Renovations $5,150,000
Coxe Ave HHS Renovations $9,010,000
Coxe Avenue Deck and Expansion $48,525,000
200 College Street Admin Building $8,850,000
Leicester Crossing $4,127,845
Interchange $2,914,500
Allport Building Renovations $1,411,790
Public Safety Training Center $15,087,692
Parks and Rec Facilities $14,755,469
Soccer Complex
Owen Park
Erwin Pool
Rec Admin at Nature Center
Hominy Pool
Cane Creek Pool/Fields
Owen Pool
Rec Park Pool
McCormick Field Renovations
Parking Deck $13,099,974
Libraries $12,204,096
Pack Renovations
South Buncombe Library
Leicester Library
Fairview Library
Enka Library
West Asheville Library
North Asheville Library
Black Mountain Library Renovations
Pack Square Park $2,000,000
Civic Center SoCon Renovations $1,000,000
Human Services Buildings $11,977,006
Sherriff’s Facilities $6,237,683
Firing Range $6,900,000
Biltmore Press/94 Coxe. Chestnut and Lexington Ave buildings $5,792,194
Animal Shelter $5,543,459
911 Radio System $8,520,300
Tax Software $3,030,000
Health Software $3,900,000
Voting Machines $2,565,000
Phone System $3,612,500
Haywood Street Sheriff’s Office $2,055,200
Emergency Services – “The Castle” $4,239,699
Firing Range $6,900,000
Family Justice Center $1,350,000
Human Service Center – Coxe Ave $48,525,000
Cthouse History Wall and Art sculpture $75,000
$460,431,313
Solid Waste Landfill $38,092,233
Bioreactor $8,085,470
Landfill Buildings $1,089,909
$47,267,612
Buncombe County Schools
Eblen Intermediate $15,250,000
Koontz Intermediate $15,250,000
Martin Nesbitt STEM School $5,000,000
Cane Creek Middle $11,915,069
Hominy Valley Elementary $11,772,931
North Windy Ridge Intermediate $5,141,005
Barnardsville Elementary $1,188,226
Buncombe Community School West $555,096
Swimming Athletic Facility $6,500,000
Enka Intermediate $26,000,000
$98,572,327
Asheville City Schools
Asheville Middle School $40,900,000
Dickson Elementary $20,000,000
Claxton Elem Gen Renovations $7,307,293
TCR Special Needs Addition $6,550,000
AHS Cafeteria $3,995,492
ACS Aquatics Facility $290,150
Asheville High School roof $44,000,000
$123,042,935
AB Tech  
Allied Health Building $41,100,000
Parking Deck $15,000,000
Multipurpose Building $7,500,000
93 Victoria $2,300,000
Birch, Fernihurst, Computer Tech $10,485,000
PS Training Center Classroom Bldg. $7,100,000
$83,485,000
Total 20 Year Investment: $812,799,187
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About Dan Hesse
I grew up outside of Atlanta and moved to WNC in 2001 to attend Montreat College. After college, I worked at NewsRadio 570 WWNC as an anchor/reporter and covered Asheville City Council and the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners starting in 2004. During that time I also completed WCU's Master of Public Administration program. You can reach me at dhesse@mountainx.com.

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