Oct. 1 financial report shows slow Buncombe capital spending

Buncombe County seal

Buncombe County’s to-do list for capital projects has a lot of boxes left to check, according to the county’s financial report for the last quarter of fiscal year 2019. The Board of Commissioners will hear an update of just how much work remains during its regular meeting at 5 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 1, in room 326 at 200 College St.

The report notes that the county approved nearly $19.57 million in capital spending for the last fiscal year, including more than $7.95 million for Buncombe County Public Schools. However, less than $1.12 million has been spent to date on those school needs, with just over $1.87 million spent on other county projects. Those figures represent just 14% and 16.1% of the respective budget allocations.

A $400,000 school security assessment, for example, has received only $14,392, while only $51,300 has gone to a $1.95 million renovation of kitchen facilities at Clyde A. Erwin High School. In the county government budget, no funds have been put toward a $200,000 training room for Election Services or a $30,000 set of exercise stations for Owen Park, and only $12,312 has been spent on a $2.75 million project for repairing and cleaning the exterior of the Buncombe County Detention Center.

Some projects, however, have seen significant sums expended for their completion. A chiller replacement for the county’s Family Justice Center has been fully funded to the tune of $117,547 — the only item on the list to have used its full budget — while $641,062 has been spent toward a $985,000 replacement of track and field facilities at Enka High School.

“Depending on the type of project, they may take multiple years to complete,” wrote Finance Director Don Warn, in response to an Xpress request for comment. He did not clarify whether the capital spending rate was significantly different from that observed in previous years.

In other business

Buncombe’s leadership in affordable housing has earned the county admission to Harvard — specifically, a symposium at the university’s Joint Center for Housing Studies. In a presentation available before the meeting, Planning Director Nathan Pennington listed the county’s Affordable Housing Services Program and zoning changes to increase density as reasons for the recognition.

Pennington will present “A Big City Approach on Housing in Buncombe County, North Carolina” at Harvard on Friday, Nov. 15, during a series of lectures by finalists for the Ivory Prize for Housing Affordability. The talk will be livestreamed for free on Harvard’s website.

Beyond hearing that good news and proclaiming Friday, Oct. 4, as Manufacturing Day, the board has a light agenda. Its only item of new business is a resolution authorizing the county’s role in partnerships to support the 2020 U.S. Census.

As previously reported by Xpress, the county plans to work with other local governments and community leaders to increase census awareness and participation. According to Tim Love, Buncombe’s director of intergovernmental projects, each uncounted resident represents a roughly $1,600 annual loss of federal funding for county programs.

Consent agenda

The board’s consent agenda for the meeting contains three items, which will be approved as a package unless singled out for separate discussion. Highlights include resolutions to:

  • Approve a $19,600 task order with SCS Engineers to research expansion of the Buncombe County Solid Waste Department’s construction and demolition landfill. The consultants will investigate how the landfill’s footprint and design can be developed to maximize its service life.
  • Approve the minutes for the board’s Sept. 17 meeting. Those minutes make no mention of a request by Vice Chair Jasmine Beach-Ferrara for clarity around public records request fees; Xpress has asked the board to table new fees for the “excessive use” of county resources until specific criteria for those charges can be defined.

The commission will hold a pre-meeting at 3 p.m. in the same location, as well as a special closed session at 4:30 p.m. to discuss the county’s lawsuit against corrupt former contractor Joseph Wiseman, Jr. 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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