Buncombe County

Matt Bush BPR

Nearly all counties in Western Carolina are now home to self-serve kiosks where people can learn more about mental illness – and determine whether they might be suffering from one.  The kiosks are really just a computer screen, with no keyboard and a phone is attached to the screen.  With just a few touches on the screen, users can learn the symptoms of several common mental health conditions says Jessie Smathers of Vaya Health, which helped place the kiosks around the region.

Bookings through Airbnb skyrocketed in the past year in Buncombe County.  A study commissioned by the Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority showed demand for rentals through the site increased 105% in the past year.  Hotel room bookings grew only 3% during the same time.  The growth in Airbnb demand comes despite its murky legal status in Asheville.  Airbnb rentals are legal in "commercial" parts of the city, but illegal in "residential" parts.

Matt Bush BPR

Student resource officers at several Buncombe County middle and high schools will have overdose-reversal kits for the first time ever.  The kits contain Narcan, the brand name for a nasal spray administered to those who have overdosed on opioids.  The kits are being made available through collaboration between the Mountain Area Health Education Center (MAHEC), Vaya Health, and the Buncombe County Sheriff's office.  

Matt Bush BPR

September will be Alcohol and Drug Addiction Recovery month in North Carolina.  Governor Roy Cooper signed the proclamation designating alcohol and drug addiction recovery month at Vaya Health in Asheville.  The organization helps connect people with health insurance, including for addiction and recovery, something the governor says is crucial in a state where the opioid crisis is growing.

Paul Deans / TravelQuest International

Where will you be watching the total solar eclipse this Monday?  Hotels, campgrounds, and many viewing along the path of totality in Western North Carolina and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park sold out long in advance of the eclipse.  But Karen Chavez of the Asheville Citizen-Times says don't worry if you haven't booked anything, there are still plenty of places you go to see the eclipse.

Mission Health announced Thursday it wants to continue accepting Blue Cross Blue Shield insurance, but only for those who receive it through the healthcare exchange set up through the Affordable Care Act.  But the insurer rejected Mission's offer, saying it's unfair to those who have Blue Cross Blue Shield through other means, such as their jobs.

Asheville Buncombe County Christian Ministry

The Western North Carolina branch of a national program designed to connect veterans with social service programs is expanding.  NCServes - Western, which is a part of the national AmericaServes network, will connect veterans, active service members and their families to more than 40 agencies and service providers throughout the region.  NCServes - Western covers the following counties - Buncombe, Haywood, Henderson, Jackson, Macon, Madison, McDowell, Mitchell, Polk, Rutherford, Transylvania, and Yancey.

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Earlier this year, Buncombe County Republican Party chairman Dr. Carl Mumpower put out the offer - for anyone who wanted to debate him on any topic, he'd give $100 to charity for each event.  His first debate since making that offer will take place this weekend.

Wikicommons

The filing deadline is noon on Friday July 21st for candidates wishing to run for offices in this fall's municipal elections in Buncombe County.  Asheville, Black Mountain, Montreat, Weaverville, and Woodfin will all be holding elections this fall for mayor, city council, town council, or board of alderman seats (Woodfin will also hold an election for its Sanitary Water & Sewer District Board of Trustees).

IvoShandor

The head of Buncombe County’s Republican Party wants to debate.  He’ll even put some money up for it.  Dr. Carl Mumpower says he’ll debate anyone, as long as there’s some kind of structure and rules for the discourse.  And to sweeten the pot, he’ll make a $100 contribution to charity for each debate that happens.

Much has been written about its demise, but until it is actually repealed, the Affordable Care Act is still the law of the land.  The next enrollment period comes later this year.  The only insurer offering plans under the ACA in Western North Carolina, Blue Cross Blue Shield, announced premiums during the timeframe will rise on average almost 23%.  Jackie Kiger of Pisgah Legal Services spoke with BPR's Matt Bush and says while that premium rise is alarming, it doesn't mean many who buy their insurance through the ACA exchange will be paying more.

Wikicommons

Few would argue the polarization of politics isn’t causing some kind of problem.  One of the reasons for that polarization is redistricting – how individual Congressional districts are drawn.  Western North Carolina saw the immediate effect of partisan redistricting more than anywhere else in the state.  But reforms are unlikely to occur.

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Homeowners in Buncombe County are receiving their property tax bills, which arrive with this paradox – tax rates are going down, but the amount each homeowner must pay is almost universally going up.  Asheville Citizen-Times reporter Emily Patrick joined BPR’s Matt Bush in studio to explain how that’s possible.  She also touched on how taxes may end up increasing because of the brewery that did not relocate to Asheville aka Beer City U.S.A - Deschutes Brewery, which decided to build it's East Coast location in Roanoke, Virginia.  It's scheduled to open in August of this year.

Matt Bush BPR

The first Democrat has jumped into the race to seek the party’s nomination to take on Republican Congressman Mark Meadows next year.  While Democrats see enthusiasm growing thanks to strong election showings in Kansas and Georgia, they didn’t win either Congressional  race.  And winning Western North Carolina’s 11th district seat will be an extremely difficult task.

North Carolina Department of Commerce

Buncombe County’s unemployment rate stands at just over 4%.  But the same rate for the county’s African-American community is several times higher.  Efforts to bring that down have been slow moving.

****A previous version of this story only included 2016 numbers***

On Tuesday, the Asheville city council will discuss the results of a poll it commissioned regarding the creation of districts for future elections.

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The hotel boom in Asheville thanks to ever rising number of tourists visiting the city has been well documented  (though maybe the boom is coming to an end or at the very least slowing down).  But another surge in hotel construction has been happening right to the south of Asheville.

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'Sustainability' is the big buzzword in Buncombe County government this year.  This week, county commissioners passed three measures dealing with sustainability.  They include creating a county government office focusing solely on sustainability efforts, as well as replacing of 47-thousand light fixtures at schools and a new solar energy farm near a landfill in Woodfin.

Matt Bush BPR

As Republican leadership in D.C. introduce their plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, supporters of the law in Western North Carolina are clinging to hopes nothing to it will change.

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Asheville’s restaurant scene is one of the big reasons why the city’s national profile continues to rise.  African-American restauranteurs, chefs, and cooks will be honored at an event Wednesday afternoon showcasing the role Asheville’s black population has in the industry.

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Love has been the in the air in Buncombe County in recent years.  The marriage rate in the county has increased as the national average has fallen.  Two reasons are largely why - a marketing push showcasing Buncombe County as a wedding destination has led to a drastic rise in out of state marriages taking place here, as well as the legalization of same-sex weddings in North Carolina in 2014.

Matt Bush WCQS

NPR will be in Asheville on Tuesday February 7th for the latest 'Going There' event.  Weekend All Things Considered host Michel Martin will lead a night of performances and discussion on the topic 'What Happens When Your Hometown Gets Hot?' at the Diana Wortham Theater.  Tickets for the event have sold out but there will be a live stream that night to watch.  You can also join the conversation on Twitter by following @NPRMichel and @WCQS using the hashtag #HotHometown.

Parks Hospitality Group

Tuesday night the Asheville city council rejected a major hotel project in downtown along Haywood Street.  An 8-story Embassy Suites hotel would have occupied the former spot of the Buncombe County Sheriff's office.  By a unanimous vote the council voted down the plan, one of the few times a hotel project has been stopped in Asheville during the boom of the area's tourism industry.

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Its future is very much in doubt, but the Affordable Care Act is still the law of the land.  In North Carolina, signups for health insurance thanks to the law are at their heaviest pace since it took effect.  More than 530-thousand North Carolinians have signed up for coverage during this enrollment period under the Affordable Care Act according to Pisgah Legal Services.

makezine

There's the pile of old electronics that got replaced with the newest version over the holidays.  The  toaster that no longer works, and the dead computer that's been collecting dust for years.  Random items that shouldn’t go in the trash, and can’t go into the recycling bin.  Items Eric Bradford says fall into the hard to recycle category.

The North Carolina Supreme Court has ruled in favor of the city of Asheville, allowing it to retain control of its water system.  The decision seemingly ends a years-long struggle over the issue that pitted Republicans in the General Assembly against Democrats that run the city.  The full decision can be read here.

Buncombe County District Attorney's Office

Buncombe County District Attorney Todd Williams announced Thursday there will be no charges filed against the Asheville police officer who shot and killed Jai Williams at the Dearview Apartments on July 2nd.  Todd Williams said  Sergeant Tyler Radford was 'justified' in shooting Jai Williams, who reportedly had been firing a rifle from his vehicle at the Pisgah View Apartments and leading police on a high speed chase prior to the shooting.  His death came as the national debate over police-involved shooting deaths of black men was reaching a fever pitch.

More Rain This Week Could Return Air Quality To Normal

Dec 7, 2016
U.S. Forest Service

More rain expected late Monday and early Tuesday could return air quality conditions in western North Carolina to normal for the first time since a rash of wildfires broke out at the beginning of November.  

Buncombe County

Monday will be a very busy day or Buncombe County commissioners.  New commissioners, but not all of them, will be sworn-in at a meeting of the board Monday.  Two spots will likely remain open, but a second meeting of the Buncombe County Democratic party will fill of those empty seats later Monday evening.  Emily Patrick, a reporter for the Asheville Citizen-Times and the paper's Buncombe County government watchdog, stopped by the WCQS studios to give a preview of the day's events.

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