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Stay on the pulse of the decisions being made at meetings for Asheville City Council and Buncombe County Commission, with reports from BPR’s Laura Hackett.

Last night at Commission: new Waste Pro contract denied, Native American Heritage Month

A photo of the Waste Pro truck in front of The Biltmore House, used in Waste Pro's presentation on November 21.
Screen grab from Buncombe County
A photo of the Waste Pro truck in front of The Biltmore House, used in Waste Pro's presentation on November 21.

The agenda was short at last night’s Buncombe County Board of Commissioners meeting. No one signed up for public comment and there were no public hearings. In response to this unusual scenario, likely spurred by the Thanksgiving holiday, Chair Brownie Newman wondered aloud, “I don’t know if that’s ever happened before.”

The November 21 meeting did include a proclamation declaring November Native American Heritage Month. Commissioners also voted to explore alternate options for trash services beyond its current contractor for the fiscal year 2025-2026.

Honoring Native American heritage in WNC

Commissioner Parker Sloan delivered a proclamation on behalf of the county in honor of Native American Heritage Month. The proclamation specifically honors the Cherokee, who were the first people to inhabit what is now known as Buncombe County before its official incorporation in 1792.

“In honoring the cultures, traditions and accomplishments of Native Americans that have shaped our country, we also acknowledge our nation’s history of colonialism that has inflicted discrimination, deprivation, violence and genocide upon Indigenous people,” the proclamation reads.

The proclamation also recognizes the “generous contributions” that the Eastern Band of Cherokee makes to our economy, culture, and community,“ as well as the more than 16,000 members of the Eastern Band of the Cherokee now live in the five counties of Cherokee, Graham, Haywood, Jackson and Swain.”

The county encouraged residents to learn more about the history of Native Americans in Buncombe County through its interactive story map “As Long As the Grass Shall Grow.”

Will Waste Pro have to go? 

Commissioners declined a contract extension and subsequent rate increase with Waste Pro, the agency that has collected the county’s trash and recycling since 2009.

In lieu of a contract extension, the county will collect bids and vote on a new contract in a process expected to take between four and five months. Ideally, the Request For Proposal (RFP) would get issued in December or January, Buncombe County Manager Avril Pinder said.

At the meeting, Waste Pro Regional Manager Chip Gingles blamed “market conditions” as the reason for the rate hikes and said that “costs have increased tremendously” for the company, especially for trucks, fuel, and labor.

Gingles noted that the last time the county sought new bids in 2020, Waste Pro was the only company to submit a complete application. He also said that Waste Pro’s annual number of complaints has decreased over the last few years, from 179 in 2021 to 159 in 2022. This year, there have been 82 complaints, Gingles said.

Commissioner Terri Wells and Chair Brownie Newman both acknowledged the challenge of market conditions, but said the rate increase was too high to not go through an open bidding process.

The current price for Waste Pro’s service is $22.55 per month and the increase would bring it to $25.16 per month starting in 2024, with annual hikes that would raise to $32.05 by 2026.

“It’s not due to dissatisfaction with Waste Pro services. This is a tough business, and there’s always issues from time to time, but the majority of our constituents are happy with service.” Newman said. “It’s really more about the significant increases being proposed. I couldn’t support that without going through an open bid process.”

Commissioners will discuss requirements for trash and recycling services in December before making the bid public.

Every first and third Tuesday, the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners meets at 200 College Street, Room 326 in downtown Asheville beginning at 5:00 p.m. See the full recording of the November 21 meeting.

Laura Hackett joined Blue Ridge Public Radio in June 2023. Originally from Florida, she moved to Asheville more than six years ago and in that time has worked as a writer, journalist, and content creator for organizations like AVLtoday, Mountain Xpress, and the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce. She has a degree in creative writing from Florida Southern College, and in 2023, she completed the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at CUNY's Product Immersion for Small Newsrooms program. In her free time, she loves exploring the city by bike, testing out new restaurants, and hanging out with her dog Iroh at French Broad River Park.