Buncombe County

BPR News

This week community advocates, education and business leaders from across the region are gathering in Asheville to tackle an issue that has connections to both climate change and hunger - food waste.   Some of the most creative and successful solutions are happening on college campuses.  BPR's Helen Chickering visited UNC Asheville where some small changes are making a big difference.

NC DOT

Another wave of construction is coming  to I-26 in Buncombe and Henderson Counties.  The North Carolina Department of Transportation  anounced on Wednesday the project to widen nearly 17 miles of I-26 from U.S. 64 in Hendersonville to Brevard Road in Asheville is getting underway.   The expansion is part of a bigger construction project around the Brevard Road interchange.   

Plans are to widen the interstate to four lanes in each direction from Brevard Road to U.S. 25 Business. The stretch from U.S. 25 Business to U.S. 64 will be widened to three lanes each way.

www.e2.org

A new report finds North Carolina’s clean energy jobs grew 3.5% last year, nearly double the statewide employment growth of 1.9%.  BPR’s Helen Chickering has details.

Buncombe County

Buncombe County officials say several mature tulip poplar trees will likely have to be removed in Alexander River Park because someone stripped large sections of bark off of each one.  The county recreation services believes a mechanical saw was used to remove the bark. 

Pisgah View Ranch

A dude ranch outside of Asheville has become North Carolina’s 40th state park.     On July 19, Gov. Roy Cooper signed Senate Bill 535 into law, creating Pisgah State View Park.    The 16-hundred acre parcel  in Candler is home to Pisgah View Ranch.    Senator Chuck Edwards  (R-Henderson)  introduced the bill in April and notes that the land  has been owned by the same family since 1790.

A federal grand jury announced an indictment of former Buncombe County commissioner Ellen Frost Tuesday afternoon.  Frost is accused of participating in a scheme with former county manager Wanda Greene to use $575-thousand in county funds to sponsor and promote events at two equestrian centers not located in Buncombe County.  The indictment alleges that as a horse owner herself, Frost had a personal interest in promoting and supporting those venues.  Frost and Greene allegedly tried to cover up the expenditures by claiming the money was spent to advertise the Asheville Regional Airport at equestrian events.

North Carolina has a lot of work to do when it comes to addressing women’s health and wellness.  That's the finding of a state commissioned report released in Asheville this week at Mountain Area Health Education Center. BPR’s Helen Chickering has details.

howderfamily.com / Creative Commons

 

ASHEVILLE, N.C. (AP) — The audit of a North Carolina county dealing with a public corruption scandal will cost $351,000, nearly three times more than originally quoted.

cdc

This week, US Health officials announced there are just over 700 reported measles cases across the country.  That’s the most cases in 25 years and a major source of frustration for public health officials since measles was declared eliminated in this country back in 2000.  Twenty-two states have reported cases, North Carolina has not yet made the list –but state health officials, especially here in Buncombe County, are on alert. BPR’s Helen Chickering has details.

BPR

President Trump this week renewed his pledge to battle the country’s opioid epidemic. Trump spoke at a national drug abuse conference in Atlanta.  Here in Western North Carolina, students are working to raise awareness about the epidemic. BPR’s Helen Chickering reports from  A.C. Reynolds High School, where students organized an opioid education summit. 

“This is something that just doesn’t happen. It is being deliberately mischaracterized to shame women and to make a court case to overturn Roe V. Wade.” - Buncombe County Democratic state senator Terry Van Duyn during Senate Judiciary Committee's heated debate over SB 359

Cass Herrington / BPR News

 

The Buncombe County Detention Center is taking steps to decrease the smuggling of contraband into the facility. The changes come nearly a month after Sheriff Quentin Miller called for increased investment to do so, during his presentation to the county board of commissioners.  

NMPJ

The National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, Alabama features monuments for lynchings that occurred in more than 800 U.S. Counties.  That includes Buncombe, Haywood, Macon, and Cherokee Counties in Western North Carolina.  Exact replicas of each monument have also been created, with designers hoping they are taken to be displayed in the counties here each lynching has occurred.  That hasn't happened yet for those destined for Western North Carolina.

'Opportunity Zones' Ripe For Investment

Mar 7, 2019
NC Department of Commerce

A little-known provision in the Trump tax cut bill has the potential to bring economic investment in some of the poorest areas of the country, including all across Western North Carolina.

Many local governments have economic incentive policies designed to lure new businesses, but an overlooked provision halfway through President Donald Trump’s Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 gave poverty-stricken census tracts a new tool for their economic development toolboxes, called “opportunity zones.”

Wikicommons/DeLawson

Earlier this decade, Buncombe County voters narrowly approved a quarter-cent sales tax hike to further fund A-B Tech.  Years later, it was revealed the revenue raised by that tax hike wasn’t totally going to the school, but was instead being used to balance the county budget. 

Joseph Wiseman, the contractor involved in the final of three indictments against former Buncombe County manager Wanda Greene, plead guilty Thursday to one count of conspiracy to commit honest services fraud.  His guilty plea is the fifth prosecutors have achieved over the past year for an investigation into corruption and fraud in Buncombe County government.  He faces up to five years in prison when sentenced.

Avril Pinder, the deputy county manager for New Hanover County in Eastern North Carolina, has been appointed county manager for Buncombe County.  She is the full-time replacement for Wanda Greene, who retired after 20 years in the job in 2017.  Greene was indicted three separate times in 2018 by federal authorities for corruption and fraud.  Buncombe County commissioners appointed Pinder following a unanimous vote at a special meeting Tuesday afternoon.

Matt Bush / Blue Ridge Public Radio

This Friday morning, those with outstanding misdemeanor charges and traffic citations in Buncombe County can get their cases resolved.  'Amnesty Day’ at the Buncombe County courthouse  will be held from 9 a.m. to noon.  No one will be arrested at the courthouse if they show up for amnesty. 

Former Buncombe County manager Wanda Greene plead guilty last week to charges leveled against her in three separate indictments that were handed down last year.  Her plea mean all four former county employees who were charged by federal prosecutors last year have plead guilty - Greene, her son Michael, and former assistant county managers Jon Creighton and Mandy Stone.  But that doesn't mean the corruption investigation that shook county government to the core is done.  Asheville Citizen-Times reporter Jennifer Bowman broke many stories as the investigation unfolded.  She joined BPR's Matt Bush for an update on the latest news regarding the Greene scandal.

Court documents filed Thursday morning show that former Buncombe County manager Wanda Greene will plead guilty, ending a corruption and fraud scandal in county government that stretched back more than a decade.  The filing comes a day after the Buncombe County board of commissioners reached a settlement agreement in its lawsuit against Greene, and a day after a judge accepted a plea deal with a former assistant county manager who was charged alongside Greene. 

Former Buncombe County assistant manager Mandy Stone has reached a plea deal with prosecutors in the sweeping corruption case that rocked county government in 2018.  Stone was charged alongside fellow assistant manager Jon Creighton and former county manager Wanda Greene over the summer for allegedly accepting trips and other gifts from a contractor that did business with the county.  For Greene, it was the third time she had been indicted on federal charges since she retired at the end of June 2017.  

ncleg.net

Buncombe County Democratic state senator Terry Van Duyn will run for lieutenant governor in 2020.  She made the announcement Monday morning in a video posted on her Twitter account.

Quentin Miller is now Buncombe County sheriff.  Fresh off his sweeping victory in last month’s election, Miller was officially sworn into office Monday afternoon at the Buncombe County courthouse.  Miller replaces Van Duncan, who decided to retire after three terms and 12 years in office.  He's the first African-American to hold the office.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

(Update: 11/29/18) The chicken pox outbreak that began at an Asheville private school in late October is far from over according to the Buncombe County Department of Health and Human Services.  The latest numbers show 37 students at the Asheville Waldorf School along with 4 people in the community have contracted the virus.  Health officials are not releasing details about the additional cates, saying only rhat they are connected to the  outbreak at the school .  

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a chicken pox outbreak is not declared over until 42 days have passed without a new case. 

In a statement on its website, the Buncombe County Department of Health and Human Services says based on the timing of the most recent case in the community, the outbreak will continue into 2019.  The state health department says it's the largest chicken pox outbreak in the NC since the vaccine was introduced in 1995.  

The Buncombe County Department of Health and Human Services says the chicken pox outbreak at an Asheville private school has now spread to more than 30 students. (update: 11/19/2018 - 36)   And as BPR’s Helen Chickering reports,  the school has a history of high vaccine exemption rates.

Cass Herrington

Buncombe County elected Democrat Quentin Miller as its first African American sheriff. The former Asheville Police officer told supporters at the county Democratic party event Tuesday night he hopes to rebuild community trust in law enforcement.

The volume rose several decibels as soon as Quentin Miller’s black fedora could be seen peeking over the top of the crowd. Unity was his central message. "When we started a year ago talking about a community of we, I think we have it here tonight. A community of we," Miller told the crowd at Highland Brewing.

A number of familiar names and offices are on the 2018 midterm election ballot, and there are those 6 amendments everybody is talking about.   What is likely not so familiar are the county races for  Soil and Water Conservation District Supervisor.   If you haven’t heard about it, you are not alone.  BPR’s Helen Chickering reports. 

Buncombe County voters this fall will be electing a new sheriff for the first time in 12 years.  The candidates seeking the office come from very different backgrounds – and hold very different views on a few of the key issues in law enforcement.

Democrats hold a 4-3 edge on the Buncombe County board of commissioners.  Each party has an incumbent on the ballot this fall, with another seat open thanks to Democrat Ellen Frost declining to run for re-election.

Add in the Wanda Greene scandal - which occurred right under the noses of commissioners from both parties for decades – and a high stakes election is now even more so.

A former assistant Buncombe County manager has reached a plea deal with prosecutors who charged him with fraud and the receipt of bribes. 

Matt Bush BPR

Support and opposition to the six proposed North Carolina constitutional amendments on this year’s ballot breaks down along party lines by and large – with Republicans in support and Democrats against.

One of those six proposed amendments would lower the cap on North Carolina’s income tax rate if approved.  And in many ways, that campaign over that amendment pits philsophies against details.

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