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Commissioners Honor Hispanic Heritage Month, Revise Economic Incentive Development Policy, & More

Hispanic and Latino Heritage Month Proclamation

Buncombe County is proud of the contributions our Hispanic and Latino communities make in our neighborhoods, County, and beyond. During its meeting on Sept. 19, the Board of Commissioners approved a proclamation officially declaring Sept. 15-Oct. 15 as Hispanic and Latino Heritage Month. It reads in part: “Sept. 15 is significant as a starting date because it is the anniversary of the independence for the Latin American countries of Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua, while Mexico and Chile celebrate their independence on Sept. 16 and Sept. 18 respectively. This is a time to honor the invaluable ways Hispanics and Latinos contribute to our common goals, celebrate their diverse cultures, and work toward a stronger, more inclusive, and more prosperous society for all.” You can read the entire proclamation in Spanish and English here.

Grant applications

Commissioners are greenlighting a process to get more federal and state dollars to help with the County’s funding of Mountain Mobility, which provides transportation to senior adults, persons with disabilities, clients of Human Service agencies, and more. As the designated recipient of state and federal money, the County must apply for, administer, operate, and execute transportation projects while complying with all applicable state and federal laws. As part of this process, a public hearing held on Sept. 19 was required.

This funding is for fiscal year 2025 (July 1, 2024-June 30, 2025), and breaks down like this:

  • $1,605,247 in federal funds
  • $179,167 in state funds
  • $222,146 in local funds

You can read more about the funding here.

New Finance Director

Commissioners officially introduced the County’s new Finance Director, a position that is hired by the Board. All finalists were interviewed by Commissioners and the County Manager, during which time they provided a presentation.

Melissa has over 20 years of experience in finance and management consulting and earned her Bachelor of Business Administration from Texas State University and a Master of Business Administration from Webster University. Her first day was Sept. 18, and you can read her official hiring announcement here.

Economic development policy revision

Commissioners are making some slight tweaks to the County’s economic development incentive policy, which has not changed since 2017. Due to inflation and other rising costs of living, Commissioners are updating the wages associated with incentive dollars to help bring more high-paying jobs to the community. Increased salaries for jobs tied to economic incentives will also help realign with the current labor market and pay trends, which have increased since 2017. Commissioners approved a new wage index that will be updated annually with the new rate based on the County’s median single-person household, which is $28.60 for 2022. Commissioners also asked staff to explore options about bonus incentives for companies offering a higher percentage of jobs meeting or exceeding that wage.

A second update is centered around equitable hiring. The changes will require participating employers to participate in the Inclusive Hiring Partners, a resource provided by the Asheville-Area Chamber of Commerce aimed at connecting those facing significant barriers to available jobs in growing industries. Alternatively, the policy update will also allow employers to work with an equivalent workforce program. New hires stemming from this process will be valued at a minimum of $1,000 per verified employee.

County staff will evaluate these updates to see how they affect future projects and look for any suggestions to further improve the economic incentive policy. You can read more about the updated policies here.

Approval of bond funding, COVID recovery funding reallocation

Commissioners are switching revenue sources for two affordable housing projects. COVID Recovery Funding originally tabbed for a Mountain Housing Opportunities (MHO) project will now be used to help with infrastructure at the Ferry Road Project, which is a County-owned property that will provide affordable housing units.

In 2021, the County awarded $2,545,231 of COVID Recovery Funding to MHO for its Recovery Starts at Home project, an initiative that supports the development of new, affordable rental housing at Lakeshore Villas in Arden. In 2022, the project was awarded an additional $718,616, but MHO has not signed the subrecipient agreement to accept that additional funding as it is concerned with clawback requirements in the contract.

The County’s Affordable Housing Committee recommended the Board replace the COVID Recovery Funding with an equal amount with money from the Affordable Housing Bonds, which would bring the total amount for MHO’s Lakeshore Villas project from $2,600,000 to $3,336,782 in bond funding.

Meantime, the County’s Ferry Road project needs an access road, and Commissioners are giving $718,616 in COVID Recovery Funding to the Ferry Road Project. You can read more about the funding reallocations here.

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Updated Sep 22, 2023 03:17 PM
Published Sep 19, 2023 06:28 PM

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