News briefs: Merrimon project paused; county wants input on waste collection

SEEKING SAFE PASSAGE: Pedestrians wait to cross Merrimon Avenue near its intersection with Orange Street. NCDOT surprised residents and officials last year when it announced plans to widen a portion of the road. The agency now says it will conduct a study of the corridor in cooperation with the city of Asheville. Photo by Max Hunt

The N.C. Department of Transportation and the city of Asheville announced a decision to wait a bit longer before making changes to Merrimon Avenue. As Xpress reported last January (avl.mx/4nw), residents and elected officials alike were surprised by NCDOT plans to widen a stretch of the roadway to five lanes, plus a 2-foot bike lane and 6-foot sidewalks on either side. That design was developed with little citizen or local government input.

NCDOT and the city will conduct a study examining the corridor between Interstate 240 and the Beaverdam neighborhood.

“Working with city staff and officials has already produced good ideas not only for Merrimon but for other projects in Asheville,” NCDOT Division 13 Engineer Mark Gibbs said in a press release. “We all share a desire to make Merrimon safe and functional for walking, cycling and driving in the near future and for many years to come.”

Staff from NCDOT and the city will meet in early 2019 to determine the scope and nature of the study.

County seeks feedback on waste collection

As its contract with Waste Pro enters its final year, Buncombe County is preparing to receive proposals for waste and recycling collection in unincorporated parts of the county. County staff have created an online survey (avl.mx/5lb) to gather input from community members on the services.

“Input regarding possible collection service improvements will be essential for assessing the restructuring of certain contract parameters,” Dane Pedersen, the county’s solid waste director, said in a press release.

All feedback will be compiled and shared with the public, county staff and the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners. The survey will be open until Thursday, Feb. 28.

Explore Asheville names new agency of record

360i, an Atlanta-based advertising agency, will serve as local tourism booster Explore Asheville’s new agency of record.

Retained for a fee of $141,589 per month pending approval of a budget increase by the Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority board, the selection of 360i “reflects the importance that Explore Asheville places on leveraging data to target travelers in different parts of the country,” the organization said in a press release on Jan. 10.

We are thrilled about 360i’s data-focused expertise and ahead-of-the-curve strategies to market the Asheville area and grow the $2 billion annual visitors spend that puts more than 18,000 people to work here in Buncombe,” Explore Asheville President and CEO Stephanie Brown said in the release.

As part of its contract, 360i will partner with Explore Asheville on a free, all-day marketing workshop for local tourism businesses and non-profits.

360i also works with Hyatt, Canon, Oreo, Fox Sports and the New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corporation.

Asheville wants residents try out the city’s new beta site

The city of Asheville wants residents to try out its new beta website (avl.mx/5la). “We know it can be hard to find exactly what you are looking for on our city of Asheville current website,” the city said in a press release on Jan. 14.

The beta site is a work in progress and does not include all content from all departments. It will change daily as the city develops more pages. Residents can provide input by clicking on the link to a feedback form located at the bottom of each page of the beta site. The city plans to have the new site finished by summer 2019.

Local orgs assist furloughed federal workers

On Friday, Jan. 18, MANNA FoodBank began providing free groceries to federal employees 3-6 p.m. Tuesdays and Fridays throughout the month of January at 627 Swannanoa River Road in Asheville.

Federal employees will need to present a valid federal ID in order to pick up food. If the shutdown continues through the end of January, the organization says it will reassess its open food pickup hours. More information is available at 828-299-3663.

12 Baskets Cafe also stands ready to help furloughed workers and invites federal employees and their families to pick up a free lunch 11 a.m. -1 p.m. every weekday at the organization’s location on State Street at Haywood Road in West Asheville.

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About David Floyd
David Floyd was a reporter for the Mountain Xpress. He previously worked as a general-assignment reporter for the Johnson City Press.

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