2018 in review: Ten notable Buncombe government accomplishments, by George Wood

George Wood, Interim Buncombe County Manager
  1. Advanced early childhood education: In addition to classrooms it supported this year, on Oct. 30, the Board of Commissioners created an early childhood education and development fund, with initial annual funding of $3.6 million to begin in fiscal year 2020.
  2. Secured $12 million for new Enka Heritage Trail Greenway and sports park improvements: A $4.8 million grant from the Federal Highway Administration will underwrite construction of a 2-mile greenway, while a $6 million grant from the Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority will support the greenway and improvements to the adjacent Buncombe County Sports Park.
  3. Received $1.75 million MacArthur Foundation grant: On Oct. 24, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation announced a $1.75 million grant to build on efforts to reform the local criminal justice system and safely reduce the county’s jail population.
  4. Opened Transfer Station expansion: In August, the county opened a new 18,000-square-foot facility on county-owned property adjacent to the current station. The new station’s benefits include providing separate weigh stations for commercial haulers and the public, new drop-off lanes, larger trailers for transporting material and safety and screening improvements.
  5. Received $400,000 to protect farmland and promote agriculture: The Buncombe Soil and Water Conservation District received funding from the N.C. Agricultural Development and Farmland Preservation Trust Fund for conservation easements on 220 acres of farm and forestland in Sandy Mush.
  6. Completed new Health and Human Services building and parking garage: A long-awaited addition to the existing HHS location and a new public parking garage at 40 Coxe Ave. opened in February. The building supports accessible, coordinated and efficient services, with 96 percent of space dedicated to direct service. The public parking garage added 664 spaces in downtown.
  7. Announced administration changes: New leaders included Stoney Blevins, Health and Human Services director; Dane Pedersen, solid waste director; Nathan Pennington, planning director; Jennifer Chilton, budget director; Don Warn, finance director; Jim Blanton, library director; and Cataldo Perrone, communications director. Buncombe County is also conducting a national search for a new county manager.
  8. Highlighted transparency: In 2018, the county made changes to increase accountability and transparency, including a new board-approved procurement manual; new online dashboard; and new data portals for Permits & Inspections, Planning, Tax and Environmental Health.
  9. Received nearly $1 million in grants for justice programs: U.S. Department of Justice grants will provide for the continuation of two specialized treatment courts and ongoing services at the Family Justice Center.
  10. Committed to library improvements: Enka Library improvements that will more than double the facility’s space began this year. Commissioners also approved funding for a new East Asheville Library, which is scheduled to break ground in mid-2019.

George Wood is interim county manager for Buncombe County.

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