After a peaceful demonstration of thousands in downtown Asheville turned violent around 10:30 p.m. on Monday evening, some attendees smashed windows and spray-painted graffiti on downtown buildings and the Vance Monument.
Noting that 34% of North Carolina’s 898 COVID-19 deaths through June 1 have been among African Americans, who make up roughly 22% of North Carolina’s population, NCDHHS Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen emphasized that structural racism has created health disparities in black communities.
Asheville Police used tear gas and rubber bullets as demonstrators protested police brutality and racial injustice the evening of May 31.
Support for programs in Buncombe County that serve older adults — one of the groups most vulnerable to severe illness from COVID-19 — is set to decrease by more than $78,000 from the current fiscal year, according to a new budget proposed by the county’s Health and Human Services department.
Since March 16, local government boards and commissions meetings have been canceled, meaning citizens have largely been shut out of formal policy discussions as Asheville City Council and the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners manage the tandem economic and public health crises caused by the coronavirus.
Six staff members at Asheville’s Mission Hospital have tested positive for COVID-19. “This cluster of cases occurred in some of our most dedicated and talented staff,” said Dr. William Hathaway, Mission Health’s chief medical officer.
“Our objective is to safely and responsibly encourage travel, working hand-in-hand with our local health officials and government, as we move toward that direct invitation of visitors to our community,” said Marla Tambellini, Explore Asheville’s vice president of marketing.
The total fiscal 2020-2021 city budget proposal stands at $184.6 million, a 3% decrease from last year’s total of $190.3 million, and will continue funding for existing services while limiting new programs, service enhancements and initiatives. The property tax rate would remain the same under the proposal, and no fee increases are recommended.
Council members will consider approving multiple incentives for projects at 11 Collier Avenue and 2 Restaurant Court. The first would receive a Land Use Incentive Grant of more than $383,000, while the second would get a LUIG of more than $289,000, as well as a $1 million loan from the city’s Housing Trust Fund.
A new county policy to require the wearing of face coverings at all indoor public facilities will go into effect on Tuesday, May 26, at 7 a.m., announced Brownie Newman, chair of the Buncombe Board of Commissioners, during a May 22 press conference. The county commissioners passed a resolution directing staff to develop the policy […]
Restaurants, pools and personal care services — including salons and barber shops — will be allowed to open at 50% capacity, while child care facilities, day camps and overnight camps can open with “enhanced cleaning and screening requirements.”
As Buncombe County Schools Superintendent Tony Baldwin explained to the county Board of Commissioners during a May 19 meeting, the system’s pandemic response has completely exhausted its $4.6 million rainy day fund — and the schools now project a $2.1 million deficit by the end of the fiscal year.
Four nursing homes and long-term care facilities in Buncombe County are now experiencing COVID-19 outbreaks, announced Dr. Jennifer Mullendore, the county’s interim health director, at a May 18 press conference. The county has not yet disclosed the names of two of the facilities reporting outbreaks.
Funds supported with tax money from Buncombe County, the city of Asheville and the Tourism Development Authority are being managed by the nonprofit Mountain BizWorks. Because of this arrangement, government and TDA officials say they will play no direct role in determining what area businesses and nonprofits receive public dollars.
Coronavirus relief is just the latest topic in an ongoing debate over whether the Tourism Development Authority, with its mission to bring ever more overnight guests to Buncombe County, is good for county residents — or just good for the hotel industry that has controlled it since its inception nearly four decades ago.
County government only plans to keep about $3 million of the state allocation; the remainder would be distributed to Buncombe’s municipalities and fire districts using the same formula as for county sales tax. Asheville would receive roughly $944,000, or 21% of the money, with the Skyland Fire District receiving the next largest award of nearly $67,000, or 1.5%.
Buncombe hotels can now host more visitors — as long as they have an 828 area code. The Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce has announced a coronavirus-inflected legislative agenda, and $5,000 micro grants are available for local startups.
County officials said Aston Park Health Care Center and Deerfield Retirement Episcopal Skilled Nursing Home both had active outbreaks of the disease, defined by the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services as two or more lab-confirmed cases in staff or residents. They did not share the specific number of cases reported for each outbreak.
Debra Campbell, Asheville’s city manager, said she was recommending no new spending for projects that Council had previously explored, such as renewable energy on city buildings. All departments have also been asked to cut their budgets as much as possible, “with a focus on minimizing operational impacts.”