The Buncombe County Board of Commissioners met briefly on July 28 to conclude a formal session left open a week earlier.
During the barely half-hour session, commissioners approved the fiscal year 2005-06 budget, granted GDS a rate increase for residential trash collection in the county, and approved a financial contract to fund building a new firehouse for the Barnardsville Volunteer Fire Department.
County Manager Wanda Greene gave a brief overview of the budget proposed by staff and discussed at some length during a June 7 public hearing (see "Hot Water Battle," June 15 Xpress). The county property-tax rate will remain at 59 cents per $100 of valuation, and the general fund budget totals $206,408,000. This represents a $4.3 million increase over last year's budget. (When non-general-fund items are included, total county spending is expected to exceed $210 million this year.)
The commissioners also endorsed a contract between the Barnardsville Volunteer Fire Department and RBC Centura bank to finance construction of a new firehouse. Chief Kevin Mundy explained that the Fire Department has been in its current home for more than 40 years. "There's a lot of foundation damage, and the building is beginning to fall," he said. "Engineers have examined the building and determined that repairs would be expensive. Even then, we would be left with a building too small for our current needs, so we believe it is best to build a new one."
Greene interjected, "This [approval] doesn't cost the county anything, but it helps Barnardsville get a better loan rate." She added that Barnardsville's fire district tax rate will increase by 1 cent to repay the loan.
Contacted later, Greene told Xpress that RBC Centura had said the Fire Department could obtain a better loan rate if the county formally recognized it as an official government agency.
In the only other substantive move at the meeting, the board approved a rate increase for GDS, which holds the contract for residential trash collection in the county.
GDS Manager John O'Neal pointed out that there's been no rate increase in four years. "During that time, our fuel cost has gone from 95 cents to above $2.20 per gallon for diesel fuel; our annual insurance has gone up by $200,000; and the city has annexed more of the county," he said. "When the city annexes dense areas, it takes the cheaper places to haul garbage." All told, the company's cost per household has increased by $1.40 per month, he noted.
O'Neal went on to cite GDS' involvement in the community, including: free service to Eliada Homes; annual donations to the YMCA and Junior Achivement; free pickup after RiverLink cleanups; support for the Chamber of Commerce; and job creation. "We're working with Curbside Management," he said. "We keep blue bags in county instead of processing them on the other side of the state -- creating five jobs in Buncombe County alone." O'Neal also reported that GDS is launching a grassroots effort with the Land-of-Sky Regional Council to establish recycling at all county schools beginning this fall. The program will also have an educational component.
Noting that this is part of GDS' effort to keep material out of the landfill, he said, "We generate about 200 to 220 tons per month in our blue-bag program, and it could be a lot higher."
Vice Chairman David Gantt asked, "What do you recycle now?"
"Newspaper, No. 1 and 2 plastic, glass, cardboard, paper," O'Neal replied. "We need to do more stuff about public relations to encourage recycling."
Gantt asked, "Is there anything you're not recycling that you could be?"
O'Neal explained that although plastics numbered 1-8 are theoretically recyclable, there isn't much of a market for Nos. 3-8. "We could do more with cardboard," he said.
The commissioners unanimously approved a $1 increase in the monthly base charge (currently $12.10). Coupled with an increase in the landfill tipping fee (which GDS passes through to residential customers), the new fee will be $13.50 per month.