By Leslee Kulba-It was Tax Day. To celebrate, the Buncombe County Commissioners had a number of high-dollar items on their consent agenda, but what did it matter? Everything had been decided long ago. The commissioners only had to give a procedural nod so the paperwork could be in order.
For example, the county defeated $1,075,000 in Project Development Financing Revenue Bonds for the Woodfin Downtown Corridor Development project. An initial $12,960,000 had been floated. No accounting for what the dollars had purchased was provided with the staff reports. Another consent agenda item set aside $450,000 for master planning at AB Tech. Other items moved six-digits in miscellany hither and thither.
Pulled from the consent agenda for further discussion was the decision to build a bus shelter in Swannanoa near the Ingles’ store. City buses and Mountain Mobility partner to provide public transportation between Asheville and Black Mountain, but not a single bus shelter had ever been constructed. Neighborhood activist Sophia Papadopoulos shared that the bus stops were not even ADA compliant, consisting of merely a sign in the grass.
Commissioner Mike Fryar wanted to call attention to the fact that the money was going to be spent on a bus shelter, and not on a plan for or study of bus shelters. The cost was fair. Assistant County Attorney Jon Creighton explained the DOT hamstrings local governments with codes galore. Fortunately, the City of Asheville, right next-door, had an approved drop-in model. Consulting with the city’s transportation director, Ken Putnam, the county learned they could get pre-fabbed structures for $8000 and do the necessary concrete work for another $2000. Papadopoulos’ only complaint was the community was not getting two shelters.
Also yanked from the consent agenda for public attention more than a protest vote was an odd item. The commissioners were actually requesting “that the US Food and Drug Administration exempt craft breweries and the farmers who feed wet grain from any new regulations.” Lots of folks would like to be exempted from lots of regulations; but this very particular item was launched defensively against looming terms of the Current Good Manufacturing Practice and Hazard Analysis and Risk-Based Preventive Controls for Food for Animals.
What’s more, Nathan Ramsey (R-Buncombe) happens to feed his cattle spent seed grain from local breweries. The stuff sounded almost like depleted uranium from a nuclear reactor. Fryar explained it would be too expensive for the brewers to landfill the depleted grain, so they’d end up sludging up the water system with the stuff.
Fryar happened to have paid a visit to Ramsey’s farm to see the stuff in action. He said it had an “awesome aroma” when mixed with silage. The reuse of the grain was good for the environment, “and the cows seem to really like it.” Fryar encouraged anybody who could to make a trip out to the Ramsey farm to witness the magic for themselves.
Since Tax Day falls in Child Abuse Prevention Awareness Month, a number of child advocates reported on what the county is doing, raising awareness and referring parents to programs to keep children “out of the system.” Highlights included the creation of Community Service Navigators, the number of which will soon be multiplying; getting a crosswalk painted to connect Pisgah View to Carrier Park with another shout-out to Putnam; continuing to get the word out that it is dangerous and never appropriate to shake a child; and distribution of T-shirts in child sizes to advertise the Positive Parenting Program.
The county is trying to remove stigmatization from involvement with child abuse prevention services. The new slogan is, “Good parents are made, not born.” Another problem social workers frequently find is that abusers are typically male caregivers who are not biologically related to the children. A classic example would be mom’s boyfriend.
Somewhat ironically, the audience at Tuesday’s meeting was told that the county saves $5626 per investigation it doesn’t have to conduct. Investigations are currently running about 7.6 underbudget. A well-adjusted society should care more about a damaged child than any amount of taxation they would incur. Readers will recall from a couple weeks ago the frustration of those in efforts like HERO, who are trying to get government interested in funding rescue efforts for hundreds of thousands of victims of ongoing child predation.
Next month, the commissioners will move on to other awarenesses. Since they won’t be meeting for a month, they declared May 5-10 National Correction Officers and Employees Week.
In other business, the commissioners unanimously approved realigning the county’s fire and service districts. The resolution began, “Whereas, Buncombe County has thirty-five different service areas; twenty-one different fire departments; and twenty-two contracts for fire and rescue services . . . .” Senior Staff Attorney Mike Frue and Skyland Fire Chief Dennis Presley explained the change was motivated because some districts were pushing the 15-cent tax rate cap.
The new map ironed things into a single layer by joining districts with the same tax rates. Citizens will be materially unaffected. Presley assured the public that the fire departments pay no attention to the lines. They are concerned about helping people as quickly as possible, and they will continue to do so.