At its March 14 Capital Work Session, the Board of Commissioners heard updates on Emergency Services, Parks & Recreation, Solid Waste, Capital Project Financing, the general fund Capital Improvement Plan progress, and the Tourism Development Authority collection fee and cycle.
Greg Grayson with North Carolina Fire Chief Consulting began the work session reviewing an Emergency Management Services (EMS) study. Covering the Fire Marshal’s Office, EMS call volume, EMS performance and response times, and the 911 call center, the study identified four ways to move Buncombe County EMS forward and improve the service delivery to the community. Those recommendations are:
- Prepare for EMS station construction – fulfill needs for two locations currently while securing property for new locations
- Secure agreements for facility use to house ambulances until improved facilities can be established
- Optimize call intake and data collection – take measures to reduce call processing and turnout times and measure performance against service delivery areas
- Plan for EMS hubs – move forward with planning and implementing regional EMS hubs in Weaverville, Skyland, Enka-Candler, and East Asheville
Parks and Recreation Director Allison Dains shared the history of the capital investment program for Parks & Recreation, and while the level of care was restricted to basic maintenance resulting in a high level of deferred maintenance, a systemwide Parks & Recreation Master Plan is in development to guide department growth, capital improvement, and recreation programs over the next 20 years. The Parks & Recreation Master Plan will include:
- Comprehensive inventory of park facilities, greenways, and recreation services
- Needs assessment based on equitable public input process, staff input, demographic trends, and mapping exercises
- Visioning to guide the capital investment plan
- Analysis of systemwide opportunities and constraints
- Planning and value-based solutions
View the Parks & Recreation presentation here.
As the cell 7 project at the Buncombe County Landfill nears completion, Solid Waste Director Dane Pederson provided an update on its status. With a total project budget of $15.4 million, the project is coming in under budget and on time. Final completion may be issued as early as next week, and then a permit to operate will be issued by N.C. Department of Environmental Quality.
Budget Director John Hudson led commissioners through capital project financing, including pay as you go (“paygo”) projects and debt-financed projects. In April 2022, $15.1 million was transferred to the Capital Projects Fund and applied to projects originally slated for debt, saving approximately $3.5 million in interest on those projects. The current total debt service in FY23 with the Capital Improvement Plan is $19,882,392. To see future projects, review the presentation here.
Following the capital project financing update, General Services Project Manager Ronnie Lunsford provided an overview of the Capital Improvement Plan. After reviewing space plans and lease reviews for 38 County buildings, General Services was able to build a 15-year Capital Improvement Plan that would not only ensure a maintenance plan, but also helped consolidate space to minimize square footage of current departments. In FY24, requested capital improvements include:
- Courthouse HVAC and plumbing upgrades
- HVAC upgrades at the administrative building at 200 College St.
- Hot water tank replacement at the Detention Center
- Countywide paving including at Lake Julian
- 35 Woodfin renovation
- Fire station alerting/paging
- New storage facility design
- 94 Coxe Ave. renovation
- 200 College St. renovation
- Second phase of solar on schools and public buildings
Longer-term (FY 2025-2028) Capital Improvement deferred maintenance requests include:
- Facility assessment renovation and repair at 199 and 205 College St., 49 Mount Carmel Drive, and 16 Forever Friendly Lane
- Community center assessment and repair
- Library renovation and repair
- Detention Center renovation and repair
Closing out the work session, Tim Love, Economic Development and Intergovernmental Relations Director, updated commissioners on the Tourism Development Authority and Tourism Product Development Fund. From a legislative standpoint, the biggest change was the marketing ratio being reduced to 66% from 75%. Buncombe County has provided administrative support to collect the occupancy tax at an administrative fee of 1.5%. The County is going to revise and develop a new contract, setting the administrative fee at 5%. Current projections estimate that increase to result in an additional $1.3 million collected in FY24.
The Tourism Product Development Fund (TPDF) grant cycle opens in April and reopens for phase 2 in June, with awards being announced in October. Potential Buncombe County priorities for the upcoming TPDF cycles may include:
- Affordable/middle-income housing funding
- Public recreation development and expansion
- Other, such as regional assets and community cleanliness/safety
Current recommended projects for the TPDF include McCormick Field, with affordable housing, and the Buncombe County Sports Park lighting and turf for future years.
To view the full Capital Work Session, go to facebook.com/buncombegov.