THE PROSPECT OF A NEW REGIONAL WATER AUTHORITY, TO BE OPERATED IN CONJUCTION WITH THE METROPOLITAN SEWAGE DISTRICT (MSD), INVOLVES NOT ONLY THE CITY OF ASHEVILLE AND ITS WATER SYSTEM. (PHOTO IS OF ASHEVILLE'S NORTH FORK WATER RESERVOIR.) NORTHERN PARTS OF HENDERSON COUNTY, AS WELL AS THE COUNTY ITSELF AND THE TOWN OF MILLS RIVER, ALSO HAVE A STAKE IN THE NEW AUTHORITY MANADATED BY THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY LAST YEAR. A SUPERIOR COURT JUDGE HAS RULED AGAINST THE NEW AUTHORITY, BUT THE STATE APPEALED...AND THE APPEAL WAS HEARD THIS WEEK. CAROLINA PUBLIC PRESS HAS PUBLISHED THESE DETAILS ON THE APPEAL AND ON THE STATUS OF THE AUTHORITY:
Asheville Mayor Esther Manheimer said Wednesday that she remains cautiously optimistic that one of the state’s highest courts will again vindicate the city in its fight against the N.C. General Assembly over control of the city’s water system.
After attending oral arguments at the N.C. Court of Appeals in Raleigh yesterday, Manheimer said that if the state’s appeal is successful, it would have sweeping consequences for cities and towns across North Carolina.
“I think there’s a concern that, if the state prevails, it means that cities don’t own their proprietary assets,” she told Carolina Public Press. That, she said, would impact the financing of projects and improvements. “I think banks would be very interested to learn we don’t have all the collateral we think we have.”
Despite a malfunctioning A/C unit and the high-stakes venue, court arguments over the fate of the Asheville water system appeared to be at their coolest and calmest in years, as both sides made their case over The Water Act, as the bill is known. The law — and the lawsuit that followed — is the latest episode in an almost century-long battle over control and direction of the water system.
In slightly more than an hour of presentations interspersed with questions from a trio of justices, the court reviewed the state’s appeal of Judge Howard Manning’s June 2014 decision. In that decision, Manning had sided with the city of Asheville in its challenge to a 2013 session law that transferred the city-owned system to a new regional water and sewer authority. In addition to finding that the bill violated constitutional restrictions, Manning ruled that the legislation would amount to an unlawful taking of the water system without just compensation.
Even though the legislature was successful in passing the 2013 law, the ensuing lawsuit wasn’t the only reaction. The bill’s two main sponsors, former Buncombe County Reps. Tim Moffitt and Nathan Ramsey, both Republicans, were defeated in their bids for reelection last November after their opponents, Reps. Brian Turner and John Ager, both Democrats, accused them of, among other things, running roughshod over the city.
But in court, most of the discussion focused on who really owns the water system in the first place, a point that formed a key part of the state’s appeal.
I. Faison Hicks, a special deputy attorney general arguing for the state, asserted that since the water system and the city itself are charted by the state, the water system doesn’t belong just to Asheville and its citizens.
“Municipal public water systems belong to the state,” he said.
He also argued that the city would not be harmed in the utility’s transfer because the system would go on as it is, continuing to serve “exactly the same people in exactly the same way.”
Because the city would not have to replace the system, he said, it can’t claim it is a loss.
“The state does not see that as a loss,” he said, “but rather the achievement of a greater good.”
That brought a strong rebuttal from Asheville’s attorney, Dan Clodfelter, who is now the mayor of Charlotte and who was a state senator when the bill was passed.
Clodfelter called the state’s argument that the city doesn’t actually own its water system a “peculiar contention.”
He said the other local governments represented on the new authority set up under the direction of the Water Act would not necessarily run the system in the way the state asserted. It was clear, he said, that Asheville would lose a valuable asset as a result.
Hicks also responded to Judge Manning’s ruling asserting that the act was unconstitutional because it was really a local bill disguised as a statewide act. The constitution prevents the state legislature from approving local bills that relate to “health, sanitation and the abatement of nuisances” and non-navigable streams.
Hicks said the transfer related to improving the governance structure of the system and did not directly impact health and sanitation. He said that if the court interpreted the effect of the bill too broadly, the legislature would be unable to write any law influencing water and sewer systems.
“Yes, this will affect non-navigable streams. Yes, this will affect health, sanitation and the abatement of nuisances,” Hicks said. “But that effect is incidental. It’s not the primary concern of the law. The primary concern of the law is governance, good governance.”
In an interview with Carolina Public Press after the hearing, Clodfelter said he also remains positive on the potential outcome.
“But you never know until they rule,” he said.
Clodfelter’s co-counsel, Ron Payne, of Asheville, added that if the court sides with state, it would have a chilling effect.
“Any city this would apply to would have second thoughts about spending large amount of funds for any proprietary function’” he said, such as parking deck or water infrastructure. Payne said local governments could find it difficult, or at least more expensive, to secure bonds for projects.
Sen. Tom Apodaca, R-Henderson, one of several members of the local legislative delegation in attendance at the hearing, said he’s unsure how the case will end up.
“Some of it seemed to be on point on one side, some on the other,” he said. “I’m glad I’m not a judge having to decide it.”
Apodaca said there has not been a lot of discussion on what might happen on the water system issue going forward.
“There is some communication,” he said, “but, after the last election, that kind of got put that to the side.”
A decision on the case is expected to take 90 days or longer, according to Asheville’s attorneys.
Leading up to Wednesday’s arguments, Manheimer said that she has heard from a number of towns that are monitoring the case because of how it might affect investments like the expansion of water and sewer services.
“I know Boone is watching this case carefully as it looks at some significant upgrades,” she said. “Towns want to understand (that) if they build something they can hold on to it.”
Growers in the area have been concerned about the lack of “general” rainfall for weeks...and the actual rainfall totals so far the year back them up.
While scattered showers and storms have brought needed rain to some areas, the weather reporting station at the Asheville Regional Airport closed out May on a dry note and extended an overall dry pattern that started over the winter.
The airport recorded only 1.35 inches of rain for May, which was 2.31 inches below normal for the month, according to National Weather Service records.
Since Jan. 1, the airport area has received 14.25 inches of rain, which is 4 inches below normal, according to the Weather Service.
Starting in December, the airport has recorded only one month — April — with above-average rainfall.
Hendersonville’s rainfall deficit at WHKP, Hendersonville’s official weather observation station is closer to 6 inches for the year.
Fifty-five of the state's 100 counties — essentially the western half of the state extending as far east as Greensboro — are listed as abnormally dry by the N.C. Drought Management Advisory Council.
Some relief may be on the way, as a 40-60 percent chance of showers and storms is in the forecast every day this week, according to the Weather Service.
Popular Concert Series Returns to Downtown Hendersonville
Music on Main concert series offers free music, car show at the Visitors Center
Music on Main Classic Car Shows
June 5-August 14 June 5, 19
Every Friday Night July 3, 17, 31 & Aug 14 July 10, 24 & Aug 7
Visitor Center Visitor Center block Visitor Center block
Audiences will once again be treated to one of Hendersonville’s favorite summertime events at the 17th Annual Music On Main concert series. Music on Main is the premier outdoor concert series held every Friday evening from June 5 through August 14 at the Visitor Center, located at 201 South Main Street in Historic Downtown Hendersonville, NC. Concerts begin at 7pm, and admission if free.
Music on Main provides a quality, family-oriented event showcasing regional musical talents. The diverse line-up ranges from pop, oldies, rock, to contemporary music- there’s something to please everyone! These concerts are consistently one of the most popular summer events in Hendersonville, drawing thousands of people to downtown. You won’t want to miss it.
Two special Saturday concerts will be held on May 16 and July 4th. The concert on Saturday, May 16, will be a fundraiser for HonorAir, featuring the music of Simple Folk. The Special Fireworks Celebration Concert on Saturday, July 4th, features a Patriotic Tribute by 96.5 House Band. Enjoy the concert and Jackson Park fireworks (at dusk) from the comfort of your chair,
The Hendersonville Antique Car Club hosts several classic car shows in conjunction with Music on Main during the season. A variety of antique cars will be featured on June 5, 19,
July 3, 17, 31, and Aug 14. Classic Corvettes will be shown June 12, 26, July 10, 24 and Aug 7. The car show is located in front of the Visitor Center, between Allen Street and Caswell Street, which will be closed to traffic. For more information about the classic car shows or the Hendersonville Antique Car Club call (828) 697-8344.
Bring a chair and enjoy an evening of live music and beautifully restored cars from 7pm-pm. The audience seating area opens after 5:30pm, early admission is prohibited. Please leave your pets comfortably at home, Hendersonville City ordinance prohibits animals in the event area. Admission is free. No alcoholic beverages, backpacks, or coolers allowed.
In case of inclement weather the concert will be postponed until 8pm. If the weather does not improve by 8pm the performance will be cancelled.
For additional information, a concert schedule or lodging and travel information call the Visitor Center at (828) 693-9708, or 800-828-4244, or visit our website at www.historichendersonville.org
Concert Series Sponsors:
Burger King, Firehouse Subs, Fastmed Urgent Care & Henderson County Tourism Development Authority
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