Time, public hearing changes among ideas floated during orientation

Buncombe County held an orientation for current and newly elected commissioners. The group discussed meeting logistics, heard presentations from the North Carolina Association of County Commissioners and more. Photo by Dan Hesse

On the morning of Tuesday, Nov. 15, current and future members of the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners attended an orientation session. The workshop was intended to introduce commissioners-elect to county government and to the board’s current members.

The session was attended by current Commissioners Joe Belcher, Ellen Frost, Mike Fryar, Commissioners-elect Jasmine Beach-Ferrara, Robert Pressley and current Commissioner and Chair-elect Brownie Newman, who ran the meeting in that capacity. Not in attendance were outgoing Chair David Gantt and outgoing Commissioner Holly Jones.

The replacement for the District 1 seat Newman will vacate to assume the chair will be appointed by Buncombe County Democratic Party executives. Newman said he hopes the appointment will happen before the new board meets for the first time on Dec. 6.

The future board discussed logistical aspects of its meetings, such as moving the start time from 4:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. to enable residents to attend after the workday, possibly allowing more people to participate.

Commissioners also agreed that all items on the agenda that commissioners will vote on will have a public hearing. That move  wouldn’t be a large deviation from the board’s current practices, since it usually opens a public hearing on new business items that draw members of the public.

The open-ended public hearing, which now is held at the beginning of each meeting, will move to the end of the meeting, commissioners agreed.

None of these changes have been made official, but the orientation group appeared unanimous in moving forward with those items once all members are sworn in.

Newly elected and current members of the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners met for an orientation the morning of Tuesday, Nov. 15. Photo by Dan Hesse
Newly elected and current members of the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners met for an orientation the morning of Tuesday, Nov. 15. Photo by Dan Hesse

The six current and future board members also discussed holding workshops in January and February. The first meeting will be to hear and discuss capital funding requests, mostly from nonprofits, for Fiscal Year 2018. The February retreat will be more focused on open-ended goals commissioners want to achieve. Newman stated that this workshop will be a good chance for commissioners to rally around certain causes and give staff direction for potential policy issues.

No specific dates for either workshop have been scheduled, but the group agreed that January and February would be good times to hold them.

The county also set the time for the swearing in ceremony. Newly and reelected commissioners will be sworn in on Monday, Dec. 5 at 4:30 p.m. The new board will have its first meeting the following day.

The seven-hour orientation also featured a presentation from the North Carolina Association of County Commissioners on the history and powers of counties in the Tar Heel State, budget presentations from County Manager Wanda Greene, advice from outgoing commissioners and more. Xpress only attended the first two hours of the orientation. You can view the orientation agenda here.

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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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