“A logical inference is that things would have been a lot worse, sooner without the prompt action taken by our local leaders.”
Two lawsuits filed in 2018, both of which reached final settlements on June 8, challenged several of the fees Asheville has used to raise money for repairs and updates to the water system. Together, the settlements could have the city pay nearly $2 million to dismiss claims that those fees were charged illegally and prevent the collection of $37 million in fees over the next five years.
Tensions were high as downtown Asheville prepared for another night of anticipated protests, despite a new citywide curfew that will go into effect at 8 p.m.
Support for programs in Buncombe County that serve older adults — one of the groups most vulnerable to severe illness from COVID-19 — is set to decrease by more than $78,000 from the current fiscal year, according to a new budget proposed by the county’s Health and Human Services department.
Since March 16, local government boards and commissions meetings have been canceled, meaning citizens have largely been shut out of formal policy discussions as Asheville City Council and the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners manage the tandem economic and public health crises caused by the coronavirus.
The total fiscal 2020-2021 city budget proposal stands at $184.6 million, a 3% decrease from last year’s total of $190.3 million, and will continue funding for existing services while limiting new programs, service enhancements and initiatives. The property tax rate would remain the same under the proposal, and no fee increases are recommended.
Funds supported with tax money from Buncombe County, the city of Asheville and the Tourism Development Authority are being managed by the nonprofit Mountain BizWorks. Because of this arrangement, government and TDA officials say they will play no direct role in determining what area businesses and nonprofits receive public dollars.
“The latest trail closings seem a bit excessive. Perhaps those who don’t get out much envision hikers and bikers swarming into group hugs or the like?”
The two bills signed into law by Gov. Roy Cooper on May 4, both unanimously passed by the General Assembly, together designate nearly $1.6 billion for the state’s COVID-19 response and grant flexibility in many areas of regulation.
“It does seem odd that the trees were removed from spots that homeless people cool off at or take shelter to wait for the bus.”
According to the formal agreement, up for a Board of Commissioners vote on Tuesday, April 21, both city and county staffers would remain employees of and still be paid by their respective governments while carrying out their new duties. Asheville and Buncombe County would be required to cover the expense of all personal protective equipment for workers from the other government.
“We need help. We are pleading with the city of Asheville, with Buncombe County and with the state of North Carolina to provide us with some relief and some assistance.”
At a press conference on April 8, Buncombe County Board of Commissioners Chair Brownie Newman signed a new stay-at-home order, set to take effect when the previous order expires at 6 a.m. on Thursday, April 9, that will only expire when it is “repealed, replaced or rescinded.”
“Anybody that follows the economy or follows the news will tell you that there’s a big elephant in the room that we can’t measure, and we’re all thinking about it, and it’s going to affect your planning,” Tom Tveidt, president of SYNEVA Economics, told Council members at their March 13 annual retreat. “That being said, I think there will be a pre-coronavirus economy and a post-coronavirus economy.”
Over the 30-day period that began Feb. 27 and runs through March 26, the city and county are planning to issue a total of nearly $233 million in debt. With so much funding set to flow into local coffers, Xpress looked at what goes into a local government credit ratings and their influence on money management.
Buncombe County’s revised emergency declaration restricts gatherings to 10 people or less, a stronger mandate than the current statewide prohibition of gatherings of over 100 people. The mandate also requires gyms, fitness centers and exercise facilities, indoor pools, spas, movie theaters, live performance venues and arcades to close until further notice.
Three draft design concepts for the city-owned Haywood-Page properties were presented during a public work session on the issue Feb. 17, and residents can comment on those designs via online survey through Sunday, March 14.
Buncombe County Board of Commissioners Chair Brownie Newman declared a local state of emergency due to the increasing number of cases of COVID-19 in North Carolina. The move followed a statewide emergency declaration from Gov. Roy Cooper just two days earlier. Mayor Esther Manheimer subsequently declared a state of emergency for the city of Asheville.
“Other than a new roof, the exterior shell and a few walls here and there, we’re looking at a brand-new facility,” said Chris Corl, general manager of Harrah’s Cherokee Center — Asheville, as he displayed concepts for the auditorium developed by the Nashville-based Earl Swensson Associates. He described the plan as “not a renovation, but a transformation.”
“Council had the courage to fight the state over the election process. Let’s hope they find the courage to choose to fight over this life-and-death climate emergency.”