More than 27 million people worldwide are victims of human trafficking at any given time, according to the US Department of State. During its meeting on Jan. 17, the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners declared January Human Trafficking Awareness month. The proclamation reads in part: “Buncombe County is committed to preventing human trafficking and has implemented a coordinated Rapid Response Team partnering with community organizations… Buncombe County is committed to supporting the safety of survivors of human trafficking and opened the Family Justice Center where survivors can access coordinated support from different partner agencies including law enforcement, nonprofit, and health care providers.” You can read the entire proclamation here.
Domestic Violence Fatality Review Team report
The Buncombe Domestic Violence Fatality Review Team (DVFRT) was formed in 2018, and its mission is to prevent domestic violence (DV) deaths, increase safety for DV victims, and increase accountability for abusers through systems change.
Some key findings for Buncombe County from the DVFRT include:
- Calls concerning domestic violence for fiscal year 2022 are up from the previous year.
- Danger assessments for fiscal year 2022 are up from the previous year.
- There were three domestic violence- or intimate partner-related homicides in 2021 (the last year data is available).
Some of the DVFRT recommendations include:
- Expand funding and support for prevention services in our schools (e.g., healthy relationship education).
- Strengthen educational/career development opportunities to provide hope and pathways out of generational poverty.
- Require purchase permits for all firearms.
- Advocate to revisit the adoption of House Bill 525, as well as any other legislation that limits access to firearms of violent DV offenders.
- Be intentional to include DVFRT members with representation from diverse backgrounds and with different lived experiences.
- Remove barriers to accessing and navigating court systems and resources, including peer support navigator, social work access on site, and funding for community organizations that provide services.
If you or anyone you know needs help escaping an abusive relationship, please contact or visit the FJC. You can read the entire DVFRT report here.
Affordable parking program update
More than 100 downtown service workers are set to get discounted parking through the affordable parking program. The initiative was approved last year in an effort to alleviate the cost of working downtown for service industry and retail workers by offering reduced parking rate of $40 per month at the Coxe Avenue parking deck. The County made 150 spaces available and opened the application period for four weeks. The following are some statistics from the program:
- 1,230 people visited the affordable parking program website
- 280 people started an application
- 133 were deemed eligible for the program
- 17 reduced-rate parking passes are still available
Since there are still spots available, the County will continue to advertise the application process. Staff will also research the interest and logistics of providing reduced parking at the County’s College Street parking deck. You can read more here.
Ambulance franchise resolution
In a move to bolster the County’s nonemergency response capabilities, Commissioners approved a franchise agreement that will allow Mountain Area Ground Non-Emergency Transportation (MAGNET) for various transport situations. According to staff, this service has a marginal impact on revenues while creating more time free time up for County ambulances to respond to emergency situations. The initial contract is for one year.
You can read the franchise agreement here.
Resolution supporting Friends of Fonta Flora State Trail
Expanded greenways could be coming to Buncombe County and beyond. Friends of Fonta Flora State Trail (F3ST) is selected to participate in NCDOT's Great Trails State Plan and identified the segment of the Fonta Flora State Trail (FFST) between Point Lookout at the Buncombe and McDowell counties border through Black Mountain for a general planning study. The 100-mile state trail aims to eventually connect Asheville to Morganton. Commissioners unanimously approved supporting F3ST applying for state grants to help with the trail’s connectivity. No County funding is required, and you can learn more about the trail here.
Budget amendment to establish 2022 GO bonds budget
Commissioners are clearing the way for work to get started on the 2022 general obligation bonds approved by voters last year. The Board unanimously approved a budget amendment of $1,874,426 to create salaries and operating budgets for two project managers to administer the housing and open space bonds. The budgets for these bonds are in a new multi-year fund and cover seven years. You can see the budget amendment here.