Buncombe County

Blue Ridge Public Radio and its media partners will hold three candidate forums next week.  Both forums will be broadcast live as Facebook Live videos that can be watched on the BPR Facebook page.

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State health officials have extended the immunization deadline for public school students to November first - to give more time to families impacted by Hurricane Florence.  Meantime, in Western North Carolina, health officials are facing a different kind of vaccination challenge – the growing number of parents who are choosing not to immunize their children.   BPR’s Helen Chickering has been following the newly formed immunization coalition as it works to reverse that trend.  She checked in with them in September, during one of their meetings.

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Buncombe County’s rape crisis and prevention center says it has seen a surge in calls before, during, and after last Thursday's hearing featuring Dr. Christine Ford.  She testified to the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee allegations that supreme court nominee Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her when they were teenagers. 

The latest report from Buncombe County tourism officials shows just how much short-term rentals have completely transformed lodging in the area.  Short-term rentals, booked through sites like AirBnB, have seen rapid growth in the past two years.  The report compiled the Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority shows in 2015, just under 92-thousand room nights were booked with short-term rentals.  Just two years later, that number was over 392-thousand.  Tha

Jason deBruyn WUNC

The latest numbers from the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services show for the 2017-18 school year, Buncombe County once again had the highest number of unimmunized students, who opted for a religious exemption.

On a busy Thursday morning at Asheville Children's Medical Center, Dr. Sam Kohn made the rounds. It was toward the end of summer break, so there were lots of back-to-school check-ups and vaccines on the schedule that day.

Many visits were easy, following the simple routine of parents bringing their tots in for their shots.

Matt Bush BPR

Buncombe County commissioners are weighing whether a ‘forensic audit’ of county spending is needed following the latest indictment of former county manager Wanda Greene.  Greene, and former assistant county managers Jon Creighton and Mandy Stone, all pleaded not guilty this week to charges they accepted all-expense paid trips and other gifts from a consultant who worked for businesses that had contracts with Buncombe County.  It was the third time Greene was indicted this year by federal prosecutors for fraud and conspiracy.   County commissioners

Buncombe County commissioners voted Tuesday afternoon to terminate all contracts the county has with a consultant tied to the indictment of three former high-level county managers.  The county will also sue all involved in the alleged scheme.  Board of commissioners chair Brownie Newman made the announcement of the lawsuit at the very end of a special meeting that lasted about 20 minutes.

UPDATE 10:00 PM - A statement put out by Buncombe County commissioners Tuesday evening seemed to name the contractor in the indictment as Joseph Wiseman.  The full statement reads -

The first month of the fiscal year for both the city of Asheville and Buncombe County governments has passed.  Both cut arts funding in their budgets for the year, and in particular, money to the Asheville Area Arts Council (The council is a business sponsor of Blue Ridge Public Radio).  BPR's Matt Bush spoke with Jason Sandford of AshVegas about the reaction to the cuts from the arts community in Asheville.

INTERVIEW EXCERPTS -

UPDATE - FRIDAY 12:30 P.M. - Michael Greene plead guilty Friday morning in federal court in Asheville to one charge of conspiracy, related the charges that he and his mother Wanda Greene misused Buncombe County-owned credit cards for thousands of dollars of personal purchases over a 10-year period.  He faces up to five years in prison and up to a $250-thousand fine when he's sentenced at a later date.  Michael Greene has also been ordered to forfeit $11, 732.21 that prosecutors say represents the amount of "proceeds obtained, directly or indirectly, from the offenses plead

Duke Energy

Duke Energy is in the process of completing the installtion of more than 1-million so-called 'smart meters' in Buncombe County.  The meters will allow Duke to record power usage directly without having to send someone to read the meter.  A handful of customers in Buncombe County have tried to opt out of using the meters - an action that has consequences.  Jason Sandford of AshVegas spoke with those customers to see what happened to them. 

Matt Bush BPR

Following a closed session meeting Monday morning, Buncombe County commissioners announced manager Mandy Stone will retire on July 1st after just 11 months on the job.  Her decision comes after a whirlwind of actions - and responses to those actions - following the announcement of further federal charges against her immediate predecessor Wanda Greene last Tuesday.  Stone took over the position when Greene retired last June.

Former Buncombe County manager Wanda Greene faces 23 new charges including wire fraud, federal program fraud, and money laundering.  Those charges were announced in a federal indictment this week.  They're in addition to the fraud, conspiracy, and embezzlement charges that were already filed against her in April for allegedly misusing county-owned credit cards to purchase personal goods.  Her son Michael, also a former Buncombe County employee, was also charged in that case.

Matt Bush BPR

The French Broad River winds its way through Asheville and provides some of the most picturesque scenery in the region. It’s also a major driver of Western North Carolina’s booming tourism industry. 

So how healthy is this vital asset?  Hartwell Carson has a short answer and a long explanation to the question of how healthy is the French Broad River.  First, the short answer.  “It’s good.  It could be a lot better," says Carson.

Former Buncombe County manager Wanda Greene faces a new round of federal charges including  money laundering and wire and federal program fraud.  Shortly after the new charges were announced Tuesday evening, Buncombe County announced it would sue Greene and her son Michael to recover money the county lost due to her alleged actions.

Health officials have confirmed four cases of pertussis, (whooping cough) in Buncombe County. Three other cases have been identified, which health officials say are connected to the four lab-confirmed cases.           BPR's Helen Chickering spoke with Buncombe County Department of Health and Human Services medical director Dr. Jennifer Mullendore about pertussis, the cases and what health officials are doing to help stop the respiratory illness from spreading.  

Here’s more from Buncombe County Health and Human Services:  

The Community Foundation of Western North Carolina held its annual 'Power of the Purse' luncheon Tuesday.  Award-winning journalist and Latino USA host Maria Hinojosa was the keynote speaker for the event.  She spoke about immigration, the changing demographics of the U.S., and women in philanthropy.  The last part is the focus of 'Power of the Purse' (BPR is a media sponsor of the event), and its organizers announced that $450-thousand in grants will be awarded to groups that work to prevent domestic and sexual violence.

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Among the thousands of teachers who filled the streets of North Carolina's capital Wednesday, were hundreds of educators from Western North Carolina.  Many who were unable to make the trip to Raleigh attended satellite rallies, including one in Asheville. 

“Thank you so much for coming today”

Around 10 o’clock Wednesday morning, teachers and supporters who couldn’t make the rally in Raleigh, gathered at THE BLOCK off biltmore in  downtown Asheville to make posters and phone calls to lawmakers

Buncombe County Schools

Buncombe County schools on Friday announced they will be closed on Wednesday, the same day teachers from across North Carolina will rally at the state capitol in Raleigh.  The district joins several other large public school systems in the state in closing that day, including Asheville City schools, which announced earlier this week it would be closing Wednesday.

Commencement ceremonies take place this Saturday on the campus of UNC-Asheville.  The school's interim chancellor Joe Urgo says this year's graduating class is the largest in recent memory, while the incoming class of freshman this fall is the largest in school history.  Urgo sat down with BPR's Matt Bush to discuss news at the school, including the search for a full-time chancellor (expect something by the end of May).  Urgo also discussed something he spoke about at a recent appearance in Western North Carolina by Margaret Spellings, the president of the University of North Carolina Syst

Matt Bush BPR

Asheville police sergeant Quentin Miller easily outdistanced four others for the Democratic nomination for Buncombe County sheriff.  

Asheville High School Facebook Page

Asheville City schools will close next Wednesday May 16th, becoming the latest district in North Carolina to shut down as teachers plan to rally that day at the state capitol in Raleigh for better pay, working conditions, and education funding.  The General Assembly convenes the 16th in Raleigh for its annual session.  The teacher rally is being organized by the state's association of educators.

Buncombe County district attorney Todd Williams defeated Ben Scales again, while Quentin Miller took home a very large and historic victory in the Democratic primary for Buncombe County sheriff.

Buncombe County Sheriff's Office

Electing a sheriff – even in one of North Carolina’s largest counties – doesn’t usually draw a lot of attention. But this year’s democratic primary in Buncombe County is different.  Voters will select a new sheriff for the first time in 12 years.  And law enforcement practices and reforms are center stage in the campaign because of an incident that took place within the county.

Local immigration advocates say there have been more arrests by federal Immigration & Customs Enforcement across Western North Carolina.  Those come after around 15 people were detained last weekend in Buncombe and Henderson Counties.  ICE spokesman Bryan Cox says the agency makes arrests on a daily basis as part of ongoing enforcement activity.  Appearing on The State Of Things Tuesday, Cox says ICE agents target specific individuals who are in the country undocumented and have criminal record

Buncombe County Schools

At the first-ever Student Opioid Summit,  high school students across Buncombe County, Asheville City Schools and Madison County Schools spent the day learning about the drugs, everything from how the opioids affect the brain to how casual use can lead to addiction.    In the afternoon, the students held brainstorming sessions and were encouraged to come up with action plans to implement at school in an effort to increase awareness and promote prevention.  The inaugural summit took place at the Biltmore Park Campus at Western Carolina University.

Sometimes, going to prison is the easy way out for those fighting addiction.  The difficult path is learning how to live.  The Buncombe County drug court program looks to teach that difficult path.

Blue Ridge Public Radio and the Asheville Citizen-Times will partner on a candidate forum for Buncombe County sheriff.  The forum will take place April 16th at noon at BPR's studio.  It will be broadcast live on both the BPR and Citizen-Times Facebook pages.  BPR will also the air the forum at a later date before the May 8th primary.

Former Buncombe County manager Wanda Greene and her son Michael were indicted Thursday morning on charges they both misused public funds.  Each faces conspiracy and fraud charges, while Wanda Greene faces additional embezzlement counts.  The pair are accused of using Buncombe County-owned and issued credit cards to make improper personal purchases.  Federal authorities allege Wanda and Michael Greene used those cards to buy roughly $200-thousand worth of goods over a 10-year period from 2007 to 2017.  Wanda Greene retired on June 30th of 2017.  Shortly after, federal authorities announced t

Former Buncombe County manager Wanda Greene and her son Michael have been indicted on federal charges for alleged misuse of public funds.  The charges were announced Thursday morning by the office of the U.S.

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