Did you know that 25% of women and 10% of men report experiencing physical violence, sexual coercion, or stalking by an intimate partner? Those statistics from the CDC show the need for more widespread awareness about resources available for people facing domestic violence. During its Oct. 18 meeting, the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners declared October as Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
If you or anyone you know is dealing with domestic violence, please reach out to the Family Justice Center or call (828) 250-6900. All services are free and offered in English or Spanish with additional interpretation services available. The Family Justice Center accepts walk-ins, appointments, and referrals Monday-Friday, 8 a.m.-5 p.m. You can also call Helpmate’s 24-hour hotline for domestic violence situations.
You can read the Domestic Violence Awareness Month proclamation here.
Election Services’ sticker contest
During this year’s election, you’ll have the chance to choose which “I Voted” sticker you would like. Among the options is a sticker designed by 10-year-old Polly Crutchfield, who won the County’s sticker contest. Commissioners honored Polly and the other finalists during their meeting. “I made this sticker with people holding hands… I wanted to say things are better together,” exclaimed Polly to the Board of Commissioners. You can see the winning design here.
Early Voting starts Thursday, Oct. 20. For more information on voter registration, sample ballots, Early Voting locations, and more click here.
Hurricane Ian storm preparedness
While our region was spared the worst from Hurricane Ian, we are no stranger to flooding, landslides, and other inclement weather events such as last year’s Tropical Storm Fred. Every weather event is a chance to fortify our preparedness and response efforts, and Tropical Storm Fred taught County Emergency Response officials multiple lessons such as:
- The need for a stand-alone Damage Assessment Response Team.
- A plan to divert non-emergency storm calls to alternative process.
- Continuity of operations planning for garage contingencies to include shifting locations and/or secondary sites.
For Hurricane Ian, the County stood up an Emergency Operations Center where staff prepared for potential inclement weather by going through a best practices checklist, keeping constant communication with local and regional response teams, and other activities. While the storm diverted from Western North Carolina, it was a chance for County staff to implement and audit response procedures. To learn more about the County’s preparedness plan for Hurricane Ian, you can view this presentation.
Budget update and amendment for Justice Services grant awards
The County’s Justice Services department has been awarded two federal grants totaling more than $2.2 million. The money will be used to sustain and enhance the County’s various treatment courts and help reduce violent crime by supporting intervention and prevention programs. The two initiatives receiving funding are:
- Buncombe County’s Treatment Courts (adult drug, veterans, and sobriety courts): This award will scale up service delivery, improve access to treatment, enhance treatment capacity, and enhance operations in all three courts by adding one full-time equivalent clinician/therapist and one contracted peer support specialist. Intended outcomes include: increased public safety, reduced recidivism, and improved access to treatment for eligible participants.
- Community Violence Intervention and Prevention Initiative: Aimed at reducing violent crime by supporting comprehensive, evidence-based violence intervention and prevention programs, including efforts to address gun violence. This award will: create one full-time equivalent grant manager position dedicated to expanding the Community Safety and Violence Prevention Initiative; enhance the work of currently contracted partners; develop a multi-sectoral coalition focused on community violence prevention and intervention; and contract with a Community-Based Organization to hire Community Health Workers trained in violence prevention and youth leadership development.
You can read more about the grants and the associated work here.
Environmental and energy stewardship update
One of Buncombe County’s key strategic priorities is environmental and energy stewardship. A key part of keeping goals associated with that priority moving is the environmental and energy stewardship subcommittee which is authorized to examine opportunities including, but not limited to:
- Solar and other renewable energy
- Solid waste management and recycling
- Air and water quality
- Green building
- Conservation easement strategies
- Preservation of farmlands and natural resources
Through the subcommittee’s efforts, the following actions have been recommended to the Board of Commissioners:
- Fleet vehicle resolution
- Solar panels on schools by 2025
- Open space bond referendum
- 20% land conservation goal for Buncombe County.
Moving forward, the subcommittee will be focused on the following areas:
- Water quality
- Renewable energy transition
- Open space and conserved lands
- Climate resiliency
- Clean energy financing
- Preserve farmland and environmentally sensitive tracts of land
- Reduce greenhouse gas emissions
Meantime, the County continues to make progress on its two major strategic priority goals of preserving farmland and environmentally sensitive tracts of land and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Since fiscal year 2021, the County has conserved more than 2,000 acres of farmland moving closer to the goal of having 20% put into easements by 2030. At this point, 5,362.6 acres are still needed to meet that goal.
In regard to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, the following are some of the ongoing projects:
- A five-megawatt solar farm in Woodfin is slated to go live in early December
- 15 on-site renewable projects ongoing at County-owned facilities
- 13 new electric vehicles for fiscal year 2023
You can read more about the County's goals and progress in environmental and energy stewardship here.