News Briefs: Buncombe maintains state’s lowest unemployment, bat fungus spotted in Madison County

Bat with white-nose syndrome
BY A NOSE: The fungus that causes white-nose syndrome was confirmed to have infected bats in Madison County. Photo by Katherine Etchison, courtesy of the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission

Buncombe County unemployment stays lowest in NC

Buncombe County is at the bottom of the North Carolina barrel, according to the state Department of Commerce — but in this case, that’s a good thing. At 3.1%, the county’s May unemployment rate was the lowest of any of the state’s 100 counties, a distinction Buncombe retained from April. Hyde County, located on the coast, had the highest rate at 6.8%.

Buncombe did see its unemployment tick up from the 2.8% April rate; the May rate was also higher than the 2.8% reported for the same month last year. However, the Department of Commerce noted that all of the state’s other metro areas also saw rate increases, and the Asheville metro area actually added about 1,900 nonfarm jobs in May.

White-nose syndrome fungus confirmed in Madison County

The first confirmed cases of Pseudogymnoascus destructans, the fungus responsible for white-nose syndrome in bats, have been reported in Madison County by the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission. The disease, which has previously been found in other Western North Carolina counties, has been observed to kill up to 99% of infected bat populations.

The white-nose syndrome fungus was also found in Montgomery, Rowan and Gaston counties during surveys conducted in January and February. Commission biologists say these results show that the disease is moving eastward across the state; bats in 16 counties have now tested positive for fungal infection.

Landowners with caves or mines on their property are encouraged to contact Katherine Etchison, the commission’s bat biologist, at to arrange a survey for white-nose syndrome fungus. The commission also recommends that people help prevent the spread of the fungus by staying out of bat habitats.

Tips of the hat

  • Sarah Thompson, executive director of the Southwestern North Carolina Planning and Economic Development Commission and former Sylva town commissioner, was elected to the Dogwood Health Trust’s board of directors on July 1. Thompson will become the 14th board member for the roughly $1.5 billion trust, which was formed with proceeds from the sale of Mission Health to for-profit HCA Healthcare.
  • The city of Asheville received an honorable mention for its Blue Horizons Project as part of the Mayors’ Climate Protection Awards, a program of the U.S. Conference of Mayors. The award particularly recognized Mayor Esther Manheimer’s leadership in the Energy Innovation Task Force, an energy efficiency partnership involving Asheville, Buncombe County and Duke Energy.
  • On June 26, nine area nonprofits received a total of $445,000 from the Asheville Merchants Fund “for innovative projects designed to strengthen community and stimulate economic growth.” Awardees included the Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project for farmers market expansion, the Asheville City Schools Foundation for the In Real Life after-school program and the United Way of Asheville and Buncombe County for its Homework Dinners.   

Save the date

  • City of Hendersonville rain harvesting system
    LET IT RAIN: The city of Hendersonville recently installed a 10,000-gallon rainwater harvesting system to reduce stormwater runoff. Photo courtesy of the city of Hendersonville

    The city of Hendersonville offers a free rainwater harvesting workshop on Monday, July 15, 9 a.m-3 p.m. Participants will gain hands-on experience with installing pumps and drawdown systems, as well as tour the city’s new 10,000-gallon rainwater harvesting setup. Visit for more information and to register.

  • Rep. Joe Sam Queen will call the steps at the Smokies Stomp Barn Party, a fundraiser for nonprofit national park supporters Friends of the Smokies at Hickory Nut Gap Farm in Fairview on Saturday, July 20, at 7 p.m. The event features square dancing with music by Buncombe Turnpike, a farm-to-table meal and a silent auction. Tickets are $100 and are available at
  • Camplify, a Hendersonville-based nonprofit that teaches life skills through outdoor education, is hosting WNC’s first charity poker tournament at Cascades Mountain Resort in Hendersonville on Friday, Aug. 2, at 6 p.m. At “Odd Night Out,” a field of 100 players will compete for a $1,000 prize. Tickets are $100, which includes food and drink for the evening, and can be purchased at

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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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