A program focused on keeping kids out of foster care while decreasing opioid use is reporting success. On March 7, the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners heard a report on the work of the Sobriety Treatment and Recovery Teams (START), which is only the second program to complete the national certification process. In 2017, START was implemented in Buncombe County. It is a child welfare service delivery model shown to improve outcomes for children and families affected by parental substance use and child maltreatment. Since its implementation, 155 children have been served through this program, 67% of closed cases had at least one caretaker reach recovery goals, and 72% of closed cases had a child reunified with at least one parent or were never removed from the parent.
While START is active in multiple states and federally recognized tribal nations, Buncombe County is leading the way in North Carolina as the only certified START site. This year, the County became one of only a handful of fully certified START jurisdictions in the country and the second START site in the country to go through the certification process. Congratulations to the social workers, family mentors, and supervisors who make this notable achievement possible. You can read more about START here.
Special recognition for County employees
Commissioners took time to honor one of their own along with other employees recently recognized for various awards. Last month, the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Association of Asheville and Buncombe County announced the first recipients of its John Lewis Award, two of whom were Commissioner Al Whitesides and Sheriff Quentin Miller. In other awards news, Black Wall Street AVL honored County Manager Avril Pinder with the Community History Maker Award and Community Development Specialist Leonard Jones with the Community Leader Award. Congratulations to these County employees for the positive work they are doing in our community.
Agriculture Awareness Day proclamation
Commissioners are declaring March 21 as Agriculture Awareness Day with approval of a proclamation that reads in part: “Buncombe County has over 1,000 farms and more than 72,000 acres of farmland, which produce $50 million in revenue… Commissioners understand the important role County farmers and agriculture contribute to maintaining a strong economic base.” You can read the entire proclamation here.
Mount Carmel rezoning request
Based on a recommendation from the County’s Planning Board, Commissioners unanimously approved a rezoning request. The move will allow 31 Mount Carmel Place to rezone from R-1 to R-3, which would allow for up to 12 dwelling units per acre, up from 10. You can read more about the rezoning here.
Resolution approving financing for Asheville Regional Airport improvements
Commissioners are lending their support for the Asheville Regional Airport Authority’s decision to issue revenue bonds for a series of updates and renovations. The move does not make Buncombe County responsible or liable for the bonds, but it satisfies a federal tax law requirement for the airport to pursue the funding. The planned renovations include:
- Expansion and modernization of its existing terminal
- Expansion and modernization of ticket lobby, TSA screening, baggage claim, and concessions areas
- Improvements to existing supporting infrastructure
- Construction of a centralized energy plant
- Renovation of the remaining portion of the existing terminal building
- Construction of a new air traffic control tower
You can read the resolution here.
Approval of additional Opioid Settlement Funds
New lawsuit settlements mean more funding opioid remediation activities for Buncombe County. Commissioners unanimously agreed to file paperwork that could provide as much as $12,949,951 in additional funding from the Opioid Litigation Settlement. Recently, the NCDOJ announced additional settlements with CVS, Walgreens, Walmart, Allergan, and Teva to the tune of an additional $600 million for North Carolina state and local governments. This is in addition to the first round of settlements which resulted in $750 million being distributed to North Carolina governments, with 85% going to local governments. You can learn more about Buncombe County’s Opioid Settlement funding here.
Approval of additional research capacity for Community Reparations Commission
Commissioners are looking to help the Community Reparations Commission expand its work by unanimously approving creation of a time-limited contract position to help with additional research. The Commission has identified five Impact Focus Area Workgroups (IFAs) tasked with the documenting harms and drafting recommendations across the following areas:
- Criminal Justice
- Economic Development
The IFAs are asking for additional data and information to support future recommendations, and this new position will provide crucial support in this process. The maximum annual total cost for this temporary position is an estimated $100,000 (including salary/benefits and any tangential expenses related to travel and/or archival duplication fees). You can read more here.
Budget amendment for purchase of 111 Victoria Road
Commissioners unanimously approved using a maximum of $5 million of sales tax revenues to allow A-B Tech to purchase a 2.67-acre property adjacent to its campus. The land is located at 111 Victoria Road, and the price includes land acquisition, demolition of the existing building, installation of retaining walls around the north and northwestern boundary, a pedestrian walkway, fill material, related permits, fees, and additional site work. This work will make the property ready for the construction of a new building in the future. This amount also includes a contingency of $250,000.
The funding comes from Article 46 sales tax, a source of money dedicated to capital improvement projects at A-B Tech. You can read more here.
Budget amendment for NCEM stream restoration and stabilization grant
As efforts to mitigate damage from Tropical Storm Fred continue, Commissioners unanimously approved accepting $2 million in grant funding from North Carolina Emergency Management. During the storm, a significant amount of debris were deposited into local streams and rivers, resulting in the rerouting of several waterways, which are undermining streambanks and roadways. This funding will help address these issues with some 50 projects across Buncombe County. The grant runs through June 30, 2024. You can read more here.
Budget amendment for phase two of affordable housing feasibility study
Commissioners are looking to increase the amount of affordable housing on County-owned land. To help identify potential areas, Commissioners approved moving forward with Phase II of the affordable housing feasibility study. The Development Finance Initiative (DFI) completed Phase I of the study, and the County could select upward of three sites to move to Phase II of the feasibility study project. No new County funding is required for Phase II.
Phase II includes additional site-specific predevelopment work and solicitation of development partners. The purpose of this budget amendment is to make available funding for: tasks and expenses associated with site planning expertise from architects or engineers; site preparation expenses including, but not limited to, land survey, soil samples, and environmental testing; and real estate and legal services. These costs are not included in the DFI contract and would be engaged in a separate process. You can read more here.