Periods of rain with falling temperatures
HI: 47 LOW: 23
The Maple Parking Lot Renovation is underway. The project is an effort by the city to modernize the form and function of one of our more active public parking lots. Located on the corner of 5th Avenue East and King Street, the lot serves City Hall and a variety of businesses on the north end of Main Street. The renovation will focus on improving three primary components of the lot; Vehicular & Pedestrian Safety, Ease of Use, and Maintenance.
The renovation will achieve these improvements through enhancements to the layout of the lot, including the addition of van accessible handicap spaces and pedestrian aisles all while maintaining existing lot capacity. In addition, new landscaping selected for its adaptability to the urban environment along with improved lighting and signage will enhance the visibility and safety of the lot.
Of significant interest to our downtown visitors will be the introduction of the first parking pay station. Designed to provide additional options for payment and facilitate the improved management of our parking resources, the pay station will allow visitors to the lot to use coins, bills, credit cards and potentially a pay by phone option. We are excited to be testing this new technology and look forward to your feedback regarding its use in the lot.
We plan to complete most of the work during the morning hours and open the parking lot for use by the public in the afternoons. We will follow this process as long as possible in hopes of lessening the impact on nearby businesses while completing the work.
The anticipated schedule is as follows (weather permitting):
Feb. 9th - Duke Energy will be replacing a power pole at the corner of 5th Avenue and Edwards Alley. They will also be working with the City to replace the Sweet Gum trees along 5th Ave. and King St.
Feb. 16th – Finish removal of Sweet Gum Trees and stumps, backfill holes
Feb. 23rd – Remove curbs and sidewalks around the lot, remove parking meters
March 2nd – Prep for new trees and shrubs, install conduit for new decorative lights
March 9th – Install bases for new lights, install new curb and driveway on King Street and new driveway on Edwards Alley – close 5th Avenue driveway
March 16th – Install new sidewalks on King Street and 5th Avenue, install new pay station
March 23rd –Resurface the parking lot and restripe the parking spaces, install new signage
March 30th – Reserved for weather delays
AS WHKP NEWS REPORTED OVER A WEEK AGO, THE CITY OF HENDERSONVILLE'S $25,000 DOWNTOWN PARKING STUDY WILL RESULT IN NO ADDITIONAL PARKING SPACES...BUT THE STUDY HAS RECOMMENDATIONS FOR MAKING BETTER USE OF THE CITY SPACES THAT NOW EXIST.
THE STUDY WAS OFFICIALLY RELEASED TO CITY COUNCIL MEMBERS IN THEIR BUDGET RETREAT ON FRIDAY. AND THE TIMES-NEWS WEB SITE PUBLISHED THIS REPORT:
CITY COUNCIL'S BUYDGET RETREAT
In their first unveiling Friday of results from a parking study that began in September, traffic analysts from Dixon Resources Unlimited brought a mixed bag of suggestions to curb parking complaints to the city during a day-long planning retreat Friday.
Topping the list was a push for the city to increase the enforcement of its parking laws, after researchers learned the locals know when the city's only parking attendant isn't working.
“Anita (Lockhart) is your parking enforcement unit, but Anita also does a lot of other things for the agency including managing the crossing guard program” and other responsibilities, said Dixon President Julie Dixon.
“You have parking policies but they're not enforced consistently and everybody knows it. The one thing that really came out of our focus groups is, No. 1, everybody knows Anita, which is awesome because she has a personality and she definitely has a positive impact on the downtown parking area, but they also know when Anita works,” she said. “They know what time she's going to be on Main Street and they know what her other job duties are.”
Knowing her schedule, Dixon said, gives some the advantage to “know how to game the system.”
Whether meters are added to Main Street or parking decks are raised in the future, Dixon recommended the city beef up enforcement patrols first to see how traffic improves.
Julie Dixon and David Cooker of Dixon Resources Unlimited, a company with more than 25 years' experience in parking and transportation management, shared a few surprises in what they found.
Most of the cars taking up spaces all day in front of businesses were driven by business owners, employees and downtown residents, the study found. Main Street and side streets were operating over the industry standard set at 80 percent capacity for parking occupancy from lunchtime into the evening hours. Main Street was operating at 90 to 100 percent capacity during the busy times.
The study found that 90 percent of visitors parked on-street instead of using off-street lots, but a majority of parkers said they would consider walking farther instead of paying for parking if Main Street were metered. Use of venues with parking meters has continued to increase over the past five years, and Dixon representatives predicted it would continue to climb with consistent enforcement and updated technology.
People, on average, were spending more than 20 minutes in 15-minute spaces, according to the study, and Dixon representatives said they thought the city's parking fines were too cheap. A woman in one of their focus groups admitted she saved money by racking up a couple of parking tickets a month instead of paying for a leased space.
Dixon and Cooker said they were able to identify the locals from out-of-town guests during a Rhythm and Brews concert by where they parked. The locals seemed to know where to go, Cooker said, while there were others who kept circling the blocks.
The analysts also noticed in their study that some of the leased spaces in lots appeared to be underutilized. They suggested a plan to overhaul the program by opening up some of the leased spots to the public when not in use.
Dixon recommended the city consider:
-Increasing enforcement of the city's parking laws.
-Publishing the laws for all to see.
-Employing better signage for visitors to navigate parking options with uniformity in the downtown's branding.
-Making the 15-minute spaces loading zones.
-Overhauling the permit parking program, stripping the names from spaces to give the public a chance to use some of the under-utilized leased spots.
-Increasing the fines on parking citations.
-Revisiting the idea for parking along King Street, recently nixed by city council.
-Employing a documented special event parking procedure so people can know in advance which lots and spaces will be off-limits instead of learning about the tow-away zone that morning. The procedure could also establish signs to use in special events to let visitors know when a lot is full.
-Adding parking kiosks to lots and/or smart meters to Main Street that allow a visitor to pay for parking electronically with a credit or debit card.
-Reaching out to other lot owners like the Curb Market for public/private sharing opportunities.
-Creating a Parking Ambassador program by employing others to help enforce the city's parking laws with a customer-service oriented approach to enforcement, supplementing Lockhart's efforts.
-Letting customer service support take over the debt collection for parking tickets.
-Adding lighting, signage and safety improvements to parking lots and walkways to tie in with Main Street and the downtown's appeal.
-Publishing parking rules on signage at lots, the city's website and in road maps.
-Approving a setback policy consistent with NCDOT, which, Dixon said, could free up more room for parking.
In the future, the Dixon study suggested the city could also look to find more potential parking lots, particularly on the east side of Main Street; consider hosting a transit center with public bathrooms for busloads of tourists; and consider making Main Street a pedestrian mall during peak periods or special events.
Skate Park 'bullies'
Before the parking study results were unveiled, City Council and staff addressed concern around the city's skate park at Patton Park.
“We've got this email from a person who uses the skate park who's concerned about drug activity, concerned about bullying,” City Manager John Connet said. More trash and a little vandalism has also been found at the park.
“I've already talked to the police department about beefing up the enforcement for the drugs,” he said, but other conversations have raised the idea of staffing an officer at the park.
“I can say ditto to that first letter and email that ... talked about his child, who didn't like it because of the big kids there,” said Mayor Barbara Volk. “Last summer, our older grandson, that's all he wanted to do, so I would go over with him.”
But right before Christmas, she said, her grandson told her husband “'those big boys are talking bad and they're being mean and I want to go.' He never asked again to go back to the skate park,” Volk said.
Councilman Jerry Smith said he responded to the letter writer, saying that the park in Asheville has a full-time attendant and suggesting that may be the way to go.
Hendersonville Police Department Chief Herbert Blake said he has asked the city to fund a police officer specifically for the parks.
Other suggestions included having a monitor to keep an eye out and call police when things come up, and closing and locking the park at night. Connet said he would work with the police department and Public Works to come up with a plan to present to City Council in the future.
In other action, city staff and council members:
Heard an update on plans shaping up for the Historic Seventh Avenue District, including an idea to buy an unused lot to add off-street parking to the busy west end to alleviate concerns about on-street parking spots recently gobbled up by bulbouts.
Heard an update on the application submitted to the N.C. Parks and Recreation Trust Fund Grant program for Berkeley Mills Park. City Planning Director Sue Anderson said they hope to hear the grant selection results in July. The city applied for a $250,000 PARTF grant, which would be supplemented by a city match budgeted for $300,000 to help renovate the park. Anderson said they are also seeking a grant to study the former mill's baseball field, which is still in use, for inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places
Congressman Mark Meadows (R-NC) introduced the Eliminating Pornography from Agencies Act on Wednesday, which would prohibit federal employees from accessing pornographic or explicit material on government computers and devices.
Last year, an Inspector General report revealed that one Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) employee was viewing as much as 6 hours of pornography a day in his office on his government computer. The same federal employee was found to have downloaded as many as 7,000 pornographic files onto his government computer. To date, this employee has yet to be fired and we continue to learn of similar bad actors.
“It’s appalling that it requires an act of Congress to ensure that federal agencies block access to these sites,” Congressman Meadows said.
“While there are rules in place at most agencies to ban this kind of unprofessional and potentially hostile workplace behavior, it continues to take place. There is absolutely no excuse for federal employees to be viewing and downloading pornographic materials on the taxpayers’ dime,” Meadows added.
“Further, downloading these files, which are often ridden with viruses and malware, poses a cybersecurity threat at our federal agencies. This commonsense legislation ensures that federal workers have a comfortable, safe work environment and protects taxpayer resources from being misused,” Meadows said.
Mark Meadows serves on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee where he chairs the Subcommittee on Government Operations.
St. James Episcopal School for Little Folks has implemented a new program called LifeCubby. LifeCubby is a highly-organized online portfolio that offers parents and teachers a simple and new way to electronically chronicle all aspects of a child’s life, from birth through the teen years.
LifeCubby is a parent planning tool and early childhood teacher journaling tool different from any other online portfolio, child’s historical record book or social networking site because of its breadth of capabilities and ease of use.
“LifeCubby is all about leveraging the Internet and the electronic age to simplify the lives of parents and teachers,” said LifeCubby founder Sue Testaguzza. “Parents crave opportunities to capture special moments in the lives of their children. Teachers are looking for easy and convenient ways to document the progress of students. We bring all these elements together in real time.”
Parents become “cubby managers” by creating a private and secure "cubby" to organize and store information electronically for their children. Parents store everything from journal entries, medical records, keepsakes and school papers to videos and photos. With mobile apps, LifeCubby can be accessed anywhere, anytime. Parents can restrict their child’s cubby to themselves, or they can grant others access to share in creating the child’s biographies through inviting "cubby pals."
“We are so excited about having Life Cubby and our parents are, too,” said Denise Purcell, Executive Director of St. James School for Little Folks. “It’s a great organizational tool for us and a convenient way for parents to stay tuned in to their children’s progress.”
St. James Episcopal School for Little Folks, an outreach ministry of St. James Episcopal Church, is a Christian pre school, child care and day care for ages 12 months to 5 years for St. James Parish and the greater Hendersonville, NC, area. The program has been awarded a 5-star rating by the North Carolina Division of Child Development and Early Education. The academic preschool program prepares children for the future by building a solid foundation of Christian values and school readiness skills.
TO EASE CONGESTION AROUND WEST HENDERSON HIGH AND RUGBY MIDDLE SCHOOLS
Steve Cannon, who is the District Engineer for NC DOT in Henderson County, tells WHKP News that some major improvements are coming to Highway 191 in the vicinity of West High and Rugby Middle Schools to ease the traffic back-ups especially in the hours just before and after school each day.
Cannon said the traffic back-ups are obvious and have resulted in numerous rear-end collisions.
So NC DOT plans to construct a third lane in 2016 that will stretch from Mountain Road to the intersection with North and South Rugby Roads. Cannon said bids for the project will likely be let in January of 2016, and the whole project may take a year to a year and a half to complete.
In addition to the third lane, Cannon said longer turn lanes into both schools will be constructed, along with a walking trail along Highway 191 that will connect the two schools.
Traffic typically backs up along that stretch of Highway 191 between 7 and 8am and between 3 and 4pm on school days.
By WHKP News Director Larry Freeman
ON PROPERTY WHERE THE 55 YEAR OLD, 13,000 SQUARE FOOT ATHA PLAZA IS NOW
A Publix store is more than likely coming to the south end of Hendersonville in the not too distant future…and with it a new shopping center where the 55 year old Atha Plaza is now. City Council members were told Thursday night that to make this happen, Publix will need a small parcel of floodplain land along Mud Creek behind the El Paso restaurant.
Acting on the advice of the city attorney, the city has started the open bid process for selling that land…they hope to Publix.
The site for the new Publix, if it happens, is at the intersection of Greenville Highway and White Street…and its currently owned by Mr. and Mrs. Larry Baber, their daughter and son-in-law Scott and Carol Anne Surrette, by Gerald Rhodes of Saluda, and by Pro-Source Land Holdings of Greenville, South Carolina.
Negotiations for the property have been under way for some time involving the city, Publix attorneys, and the property owners.
This spring, folks in Henderson County can expect to see Bold Rock Hard Cider begin to zero in on the Mills River area as a new local “home base”, and on the county’s annual multi-million dollar apple crop in particular to produce Bold Rock’s product that is daily growing in popularity and that’s already on the shelves of local grocery stores.
With craft beer and wine already becoming local products, hard cider seems like the next logical step for a promising and booming beverage industry in Western North Carolina and centered in Henderson County.
John Washburn is the founder and chairman of Bold Rock, whose original facility is in rural Nellysford, Virginia. As plans were unveiled in 2014 by Washburn, by the local Partnership For Economic Development, and by the Town of Mills River for Bold Rock to locate a facility here, Washburn told WHKP News that “we go where the apples are…and Henderson County has some of the best apples we’ve ever tried”. Washburn is no stranger to Western North Carolina. He has a family history and strong ties just a few miles down the road in Rutherford County. So, with that in his background, with an already successful hard cider product, and with Henderson County’s leadership in the apple industry it was inevitable that Washburn and Bold Rock would find a home here.
Way out in front in the hard cider industry, Bold Rock produced over 200,000 cases of hard cider in 2014 and is on track to make more than 350,000 in 2015.
Washburn teamed up with international cider maker and consultant Brian Shanks, who serves as Bold Rock’s president and CEO. Under their direction, Bold rock has made a significant land purchase for a local site in Mills River and is negotiating for another…as Washburn puts it, to get up and running as soon as possible this spring.
Describing his developoing relationship with Mills River, Washburn says “…Mills River has this wonderful blend of moving forward but it also has ties to the past in agriculture so it’s just a perfect scenario. I think it’s unique, I really do, and I think it’s going to become more unique”.
Bold Rock Hard Cider, in several varieties, is already available in local stores…and Washburn and Shanks hope to be “in production” making more, in co-operation with local Henderson County apple growers such as Greg Nix, by this summer and fall.
By WHKP News Director Larry Freeman
Photo of John Washburn and Bold Rock Hard Cider by the Times-News
As Henderson County commissioners begin work on a budget for the 2015-16 fiscal year that starts on July 1, the commissioneres are apparently considering the possibility of charging the municipalities in the county for some sheriff's department services. The City of Hendersonville and the Towns of Laurel Park and Fletcher have their own police departments. The Town of Mills River has a contract with the county sheriff's department for a deputy and additional patrols, and apparently commissioners are discussing a similar contract...for a fee...with the Village of Flat Rock.
On WHKP's local news this week, Flat Rock Mayor Bob Staton, a retired lawyer, says there is no way he knows of that Flat Rock can be forced into such a contract with the sheriff and the county. Staton says this has been discussed by the Village Council before with the sheriff and the commissionersm, and Council members are "adamantlly" opposed to it.
Such a contract, says Staton, would cost the Village about $100 thousand per year, which would require a substantial tax increase for Flat Rock taxpayers and he says the citizens and taxpayers continue to be opposed to it.
County Commission Vice Chairman Charlie Messer, though, tells WHKP News this week there are several ways the county can go about this. Messer indicates that the commissioners will be looking at "call volume"...the number of calls-for-service" in each municipality. Then, he says, the commissioners and the municpalities will "work something out".
The property owners in the county, including those in all five municipalities, currently pay for all the county services they receive, including sheriff's services, with the property, sales, and othes taxes and fees they pay. What Hendersonville, Fletcher, Laurel Park, and Mills River receive in additional law enforcement services are paid for by their individual muniucipal tax levies.
In its budget request for the 2015-16 fiscal year, the sheriff's department is asking for a significant increase...at least in part for additional personnel.
At their first budget retreat earlier this month, the county commissioneres turned "thumbs down" on the Town of Fletcher's request of a new county library facility, implying that if Fletcher wants a new library, the Town and its taxpayers will have to pay for it. On a WHKP newscast last week, Fletcher Town Manager Mark Bieberdorf countered that libraries are a "county service." That request from Fletcher for a library to replace their current aging facility had been pending for some time, and Mayor Pro Tem Eddie Henderson had asked the commissioners for a decision. Bieberdorf said Fletcher was grateful the commissioners had considered the request, but was disappointed with the decision.
The county commissioners will continue discussing the 2015-16 budget this month.
Preparations for preservation work on the Sandburg Home at Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site is underway. Throughout 2015 most of the furnishings inside the Sandburg Home will be inventoried and packed away. During this packing process visitors on tour will have an opportunity to see museum object preservation in person. The home’s interior will start to look more like the Sandburg’s are just moving in with boxes still packed as the year goes on. This will be a fun time to visit the home to see the activity and to feel like the Sandburg’s when they first moved to Connemara. After the furnishings are packed and removed visitors will really have an opportunity to “go behind the scenes” and see the home in a very unique way. During this time exhibits inside the home will help to recreate the feel of how the Sandburg’s lived at Connemara.
The furnishings are being packed to prepare the interior for several preservation treatments. Windows in deteriorated condition will be repaired, the conservatory or greenhouse attached to the east side of the house will be rebuilt, walls will be painted, some of the wood floors will be refinished, and a dehumidification and air ventilation system will be installed. There will not be a cool air conditioned system installed, but a system that will dehumidify the air and push it through the house. This will better protect the furnishings from mold and mildew and provide a cooling effect for summer visitors to the home.
The park’s information center and bookstore in the ground floor of the Sandburg Home will remain open throughout the work. The upstairs will remain open for tours as much as possible during the next three years. The home will only close to tours for short periods when safety issues arise from the painting or installation work. To best plan your visit, please check the park’s website and facebook page for up-to-date information on work that is underway and any changes in tour schedules.
Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site, is a unit of the National Park Service. The park is located three miles south of Hendersonville off U.S. 225 on Little River Road, and is open from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., daily. For further information, please telephone 828-693-4178, or visit our website at www.nps.gov/carl
The Henderson County Chamber of Commerce, Morris Broadband, and Judy Stroud/State Farm Insurance are pleased to announce the 8th annual ATHENA Leadership Award® in Henderson County in memory of Vanessa Y. Mintz. Nominations are ow
being accepted for the ATHENA Leadership Award®, which will be presented during Small Business Week at the Professional Women's Luncheon on May 14 to an exemplary leader who has achieved excellence in their business or profession, served the community in a meaningful way and, most importantly, actively assisted women to achieve their full leadership potential.
The program is facilitated locally by the Henderson County Chamber of Commerce, a licensed ATHENA host organization. Nominations are sought throughout the community and recipients are selected by a diverse group of community leaders based on the criteria above. Past Henderson County ATHENA Recipients Include:
Caroline Long, St. Gerard House (2014)
Annie Fritschner, First United Methodist Church (2013)
Myra Grant, Pardee Hospital Foundation (2012)
Joyce Mason, Four Seasons Compassion for Life (2011)
Pat Shepherd, Pat's School of Dance (2010)
Ragan Ward, Carolina Alliance Bank (2009)
Robin Reed, Bares It All (2008)
Deadline for 2015 nominations is April 17. A nomination form can be downloaded below. For more information, call the Chamber at 828.692.1413.