Woodfin greenway design seeks $958K in extra county funds

Buncombe County seal

Before the first fences are built and the first pavement is laid for the Woodfin Greenway, Buncombe County taxpayers will have to shell out nearly $958,000 more for design than the government had first estimated. The county Board of Commissioners will vote on the first $500,000 of that extra spending at its regular meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 21, in Room 326 at 200 College St.

According to a staff report available before the meeting by Josh O’Conner, the county’s director of recreation services, design of the project’s Riverside Drive segment had initially been estimated at $660,000. Buncombe was only responsible for $132,000 of that cost, with the remaining $528,000 covered by a Federal Highway Administration grant.

That projection, however, covers just 40% of the now-finalized price for laying out the greenway. “Due to the complexity of the Riverside Drive segment of greenway and cost escalation due to project engagement delays, the final design estimate has been received at $1,617,800,” O’Conner explains in the report.

Staff members, including County Manager Avril Pinder, recommend shifting $500,000 of county funds previously budgeted for the actual construction of the greenway to defray part of the extra design cost. The remaining $457,800 would be requested in the county’s budget for the 2020-21 fiscal year.

As O’Conner shared during a Dec. 17 pre-meeting of the board, the county’s greenway efforts have generally been challenged by regulatory issues and right of way acquisition, which have led to higher costs. Since adopting the 102-mile Greenway Master Plan in 2012, he said, the county has completed construction on less than half a mile.

In other business

Commissioners will also vote on accepting over $1.38 million in federal grant money from the Governor’s Crime Commission to expand the county’s Sobriety Treatment and Recovery Team program. The effort, run by Buncombe County Health & Human Services, aims to help parents with substance abuse issues and increase their ability to care for their children.

According to a staff report by Stoney Blevins, the county’s HHS director, the grant would double the START program’s capacity by funding four full-time staffers and additional contract work. Those positions would only be able to work through April 2021 without further grant funding or county budget allocation.

Under the “Good News” section of the agenda, Commissioner Joe Belcher plans to present the Order of the Long Leaf Pine Award to former Maj. Randy Smart of the Buncombe County Sheriff Department. Smart began as a deputy with the county in 1994 and retired in February 2019. In 2018, he was endorsed by then-Sheriff Van Duncan in the Democratic primary for Buncombe County Sheriff but lost to current Sheriff Quentin Miller.

Consent agenda

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

  • Dissolve the Energy Innovation Task Force and establish the Blue Horizons Community Council as its successor organization. The reorganized group will work to bring about “a clean energy future” for Western North Carolina.
  • Accept roughly $3,200 in drawstring comfort bags from the Arden Seventh-Day Adventist Church. The bags, which contain items such as stuffed animals, blankets, hygiene products and devotional books, are distributed to children entering the county’s foster care system.

The commission will hold a special meeting at 1 p.m. in the same location to interview candidates for the Parks, Greenways and Recreation Advisory Board. That meeting will be followed by a closed session on personnel matters, after which the board expects to take no action.

The regularly scheduled 3 p.m. pre-meeting of the board has been canceled. The full meeting agenda and supporting documents can be found at this link.

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About Daniel Walton
Daniel Walton is the Assistant Editor of Mountain Xpress, regularly contributing to coverage of Western North Carolina's government, environment and health care. His work has previously appeared in Capital at Play, Edible Asheville, and the Citizen-Times, among other area publications. Follow me @DanielWWalton

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2 thoughts on “Woodfin greenway design seeks $958K in extra county funds

  1. indy499

    Absurd estimate misses of that magnitude are only tolerated in government.

    There are only two interpretations:
    1. Gross incompetence
    2. Deliberate underestimates to obtain approval, knowing you just go back for more when the reality is uncovered.

    How about cancelling the 660k project which is now 1.6 million and probably rising?

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