Buncombe County

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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.

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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.

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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.  

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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.  

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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.

On Tuesday October 16th, Blue Ridge Public Radio and the Asheville Citizen-Times hosted a forum with the candidates for the District 3 seat on the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners.  Republican incumbent Robert Pressley and Democrat Donna Ensley took part in the forum.  Pressley was first elected to the board in 2016.

On Monday October 15th, Blue Ridge Public Radio and the Asheville Citizen-Times held a forum with the candidates running for Buncombe County sheriff.  Democrat Quentin Miller, a 25-year veteran of the Asheville police force, and Republican Shad Higgins, a Weaverville business owner, participated.  Libertarian Tracey DeBruhl did not respond to repeated invitations to participate.  The winner of this election will replace Van Duncan, who decided to retire after serving three terms in office.

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.

BPR

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.

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