THE ICONIC HHS BUILDING: ”THERE’S NOTHING WRONG WITH A LITTLE MORE DELIBERATION”
A WHKP Station Editorial
What to do with old public buildings, certainly those that have stood long enough to distinguish themselves as being “historic”, is always a challenge. Sometimes the challenge is met successfully, like with the Historic Courthouse and the old train depots here and in Saluda. Other times what to do with them is not handled at all, like with the old Gray’s Hosiery Mill eye-sore that continues to crumble virtually in the center of town after well over a decade of being the property of the City of Hendersonville.
What to do with the 90 year old Erle Stillwell designed Hendersonville High School main building though…near and dear to the hearts of Hendersonville folks for almost a century…is a situation, we believe, that is as unique, fundamental down to the roots of this community, and understandably emotional, as the Historic Courthouse. After all, a whole generation began their education in that hallowed old building when the ground floor was Eighth Avenue Elementary School. And hundreds more, in the four score and ten year life-span of that community “centerpiece”, have started their adult lives climbing its senior steps, accepting a diploma on the stage of its auditorium, then waving good-bye to its impressive façade and majestic columns.
It looks like whatever is done will cost the taxpayers between 50 and 60 million dollars, at least. And we agree with the president of the HHS Alumni Association, that “…when you’re spending that much money, there’s nothing wrong with a little more deliberation.”
Laurel Park Mayor Carey O‘Cain, who holds a degree in architectural construction and who spent 35 years in the business, is also a graduate of Hendersonville High who wants not only to save the old building, but keep it in use. Under his plan, the Stillwell building would be renovated; a second 65,000 square foot classroom building would be added; and the Boyd property at Five Points would be used for parking, a 15,000 square foot gymnasium, and a 13,000 square foot vocational building.
We understand that the commissioners, the school board, county staff and a lot of others have spent a long, difficult, even gut-wrenching time looking at the situation…and that at some point, a decision has to be made and you move forward. Otherwise, you wind up with an un-resolved protracted mess like the old hosiery mill building on Grove Street.
But, like the alumni president said, when you’re spending this much money…the debt service for which will be a big part of the county’s new $130 million budget at a cost of ten per cent more in our tax bills…there’s nothing wrong with a little more deliberation.
And it’s not like the Stillwell building is going to collapse tomorrow. That building has been handling its age WELL, even since we were in it exactly half a century ago.
So we hope the commissioners will back up a little; put their commitment to a whole new campus “on hold” for now; take a look at the O’Cain proposal and others; deliberate a little more; possibly cut the cost of whatever is done or at least spend the taxpayer’s money more to the liking of local taxpayers …and save and possibly renovate a building that is, as this whole issue has clearly shown, part of the very soul of this community.
By WHKP News and Program Director Larry Freeman (HHS Class of 1966)
June 24, 2016
A presentation on a new location for the post office has been set for Thursday July 7 at 5:45 in City Council Chambers in Hendersonville City Hall....during the July City Council meeting.
As WHKP News has been reporting for about a month, the Hendersonville First Baptist Church is purchasing the current Hendersonville Post Office property on Fifth Avenue West. The church, which is scheduled to “close” on the purchase of the property July 1st, plans to level the post office building and construct a 141 space parking lot on the one and as half acre site.
As we’ve reported, current postal services will be temporarily re-located by October 1st to the larger postal service sorting facility near Sam’s Club at Highland Square. So far, no decision has been made on where to locate a new post office for Hendersonville…and it’s being reported this week that a public hearing has been set for Thursday July 7th in city council chambers in Hendersonville City Hall to inform the public on postal service plans and accept public comment on a new permanent location for the Hendersonville Post office.
Postal officials are quoted as saying the re-location project will involve a full continuity of post office services, obtaining a suitable location as close to the current location as possible for use as a post office, preparing that new site, then transitioning Hendersonville post office services to that new permanent location. Reports have indicated that new post office will be a smaller, more “store-front” type facility.
Postal officials are saying there will be no impact on letter carrier delivery and that post office box numbers and zip codes will remain the same.
First Baptist Church members approved the $1.4 million investment in the post office property in a meeting earlier this month.
Written public comments on a possible new location can also be sent to Richard Hancock, Real Estate Specialist, U.S. Postal Service, P.O. Box 27497, Greensboro, N.C. 27498-1103
EDITORIAL FOLLOW-UP ON THE ENCRYPTION ISSUE, WITH LOCAL SCANNERS GOING SILENT BY THE END OF THIS SUMMER
June 23, 2016
Following up on a series of station editorials opposing the encryption of all local emergency communications, or “scanner traffic”, WHKP and other news media in the area participated in a meeting with local sheriff’s, EMS, fire department, rescue squad, and other county emergency service officials on Wednesday to express our concern with this loss of public access to public information.
Those officials, who are definitely moving forward with this “encryption”…in which all scanner traffic will go silent by the end of this summer…say the county will providing those of us in the media, at a nominal cost, with a small hand-held device that will enable us to monitor emergency communications for news purposes. That may work, it remains to be seen, AND we’re willing to give it a try.
That may satisfy the news media’s part of this, but the public will still be denied access to public information, transmtted over public air waves, at the public's expense…and their scanner will still go silent.
While agreeing with us that scanner traffic and emergency communications is PUBLIC information and the public is entitled to it, these county officials maintain that the public is not entitled to it in “real time”. In other words, if members of the public request that information, it will be provided…maybe in transcripts or some other “still to be determined” form, but the public will have no access to it as its transmitted, through the air waves, in “real” time.
Emergency Services Director Rocky Hyder, backed up by County Attorney Russ Burrell, told us this encryption is mostly to protect the “victims”…of crimes and other emergency situations; to keep their names, addresses, and other identifiable information off the public air waves and out of the public’s hands. We understand their concern for victims and their right to privacy. But as we pointed out, EMS has been successfully protecting patient’s identity and privacy rights for years, while transmitting vital signs and other personal information, by radio, back and forth with local hospitals…all without encryptions, and without the loss of public access to public information.
Still, it’s clear that total encryption of emergency communications is coming, it’s already here for some local emergency services and will be for all by the end of summer, they tell us. That’s a $1.7 million “train” that’s already left the depot and it looks like there is no “return” trip.
There are a lot of “should have beens” here: the public, and the media, should have been told about this and kept in the loop from the beginning…not at the last minute when it’s too late for even a public conversation on the whole issue. As we’ve said since learning of this encryptions, it’s the PUBLIC’s right to know, access to PUBLIC information, transmitted on PUBLIC air waves, and all at the PUBLIC’s, or taxpayer’s, expense.
And as we pointed out in the meeting this week, the fact that this is only coming to us and to the public now, that it’s already planned, in place, and going into operation, can lead to skepticism, even suspicion, about the real motives behind it.
As we start down this road of encryption, we’ll be watching and listening…and trusting our local emergency officials…that it’s truly all about protecting the victims and not about secrecy.
As always, we invite your comments…on our comments.
By WHKP News and Program Director Larry Freeman
ANNOUNCEMENT MADE THIS WEEK BY BOOKFEST LEADER BILL RAMSEY
It is with a mix of happy memories and regret that we must announce the demise of the Blue Ridge Bookfest. A post-event assessment made it clear that the event cannot continue. The reasons are many and varied. Below are just three.
Attendance has not lived up to expectations. The public seems less interested in meeting authors than in the early years. Internet, e-books and audio books have grown strong.
Donor and sponsor funding have declined while the expense of bringing in authors has increased. The financial gap grew each year. The event did not charge admission.
Volunteers have not come forward in sufficient numbers.
Over the eight years we hosted more than three hundred talented authors and workshop leaders. We will never forget their presentations and their books. Their comments regarding the event were always positive and helpful. We send our thanks to each of them.
We have enjoyed some strong partnerships. Blue Ridge Community College and its Education Foundation have always provided space and support staff. The Henderson County Public Library has provided staff support and has made copies of the participating author’s books readily available. The Times-News and other local print publications and radio outlets got the word out. Malaprops served as our dedicated event bookseller. Local B&Bs donated many nights of lodging for visiting authors. Shipman Catering was always ready to serve good food. Blue Ridge Literacy Council, the Carl Sandburg Home and the Henderson County Education Foundation shared our interest in literacy and lent their support along the way. The event required a team effort and we had that team. Without them there would never have been a Bookfest in Henderson County.
Our remaining fund balance of $1,515.29 will be donated to the BRCC Student Creative Writing Program for use in publishing their annual book of prose and poetry.
It was a great run of eight years. We made many friends and had many mountain-top literary experiences along the way. As we move on, we would like to urge all in the community to support literacy.
TIME IS RUNNING OUT FOR PUBLIC ACCESS TO PUBLIC INFORMATION
A WHKP Station Editorial
June 21, 2016-06-20
Time is quickly running out to STOP county officials from taking away your access to public information , whether on your own police scanner or through those of us in the news media who rely on and monitor “scanner traffic” to learn about breaking news stories. In fact, the decision to take your rights, and ours, away has already been made by some…and the only way to stop it may be by appealing to your ELECTED local officials who answer directly to the voters.
The plan is, and starting almost immediately, all sheriff’s, fire department, rescue Squad, and EMS communication, or radio traffic, will be “encrypted” and for you in the public and for us in the media, our scanners…our access to what state law and public policy has long said is PUBLIC information…will go silent on scanners. Some department’s communication is “encrypted” already, other’s will be soon.
We expressed our opposition to this heavy-handed attempt to deny the public our right to public information last week, but understanding that county officials plan to try and smooth this over in a meeting with the local media and others this week, a few more point should be made.
Point one: This isn’t the first time local officials have tried to keep scanner traffic from the public. Probably close to thirty years ago, they began “scrambling” police, fire and EMS and Rescue Squad calls. Before the taxpayer’s money had been spent buying and installing all that “scrambling” equipment, DE-SCRABLERS were already available, on the market, and in use throughout the community. As we said last week, anything that can be scrambled eventually can and surely will be UN-SCRAMBLED by technology…and the same goes for encryption.
Point two: What most of us heard on that “scrambled” radio traffic all those years ago, was chatter totally unrelated to law enforcement, some of it unprofessional, much of it unnecessary, and almost all of it unworthy of being “scrambled” at the taxpayer’s expense…and at the expense of the public’s right to public information. As we said last week, not that it’ll happen…but the potential for abuse always increases with secrecy.
Let’s be clear: we fully support and highly value our local law enforcement and their commitment to protecting lives and property. But we do NOT believe it’s appropriate or justified that our first knowledge of a breaking story or law enforcement, fire, or rescue incident should come ONLY from some “public information officer” or department “spokesman”….who, more than likely is going to tell us and you only what they want us to know. The public is entitled to more speed, openness, detail, and objectivity than that.
Those who are pushing encryption will tell us that in this age of terrorism and high-tech criminals, encryption is next to perfect, can’t be UN-encrypted, and is our best protection. We do not believe that ISIS is in our community yet…and if they are, the technology they’ll have is far more advanced than anything our $1.7 million taxpayer’s dollars being spent on this whole thing can buy…which leaves it of little or no value in protecting local lives and property in 2016.
Supporters of encryption will likely offer the media SOME access to emergency communications…but probably not in “real” time, and the public won’t have the same access to it, which is not fair to the public on the face of it.
To our knowledge, and we’ve been in this business a long time…and monitoring scanner traffic almost as long as there have been scanners…no law abiding scanner listener, not in the news media or in the public, has abused access to that scanner traffic.
All the more reason to scrap the whole idea…and spend the $1.7 million on common sense things like better, clearer, open emergency communication, on adequate manpower, and on good neighborhood policing….all while safe-guarding the public’s right to public information.
This has been a WHKP station editorial…as always, we invite your comments…on our comments.
By WHKP News Director Larry Freeman
HENDERSONVILLE, HENDERSON COUNTY, MILLS RIVER, LAUREL PARK AND FLAT ROCK ALL PARTICIPATE IN "AMERICA IN BLOOM"
America in Bloom Judges to Visit Henderson County, NC
Professional volunteer judges from the America in Bloom (AIB) national awards program will visit Henderson County, NC on. This is Henderson County’s third year as an America in Bloom participant, and is one of the many proud and passionate communities across America working on local revitalization programs with an eye to receiving a prestigious America in Bloom national award.
Henderson County joins Saratoga, CA; St. Charles, IL; and Midland, MI in the 30,000 to 50,000 population category.
In addition to a receiving detailed written evaluation from the judges citing strengths and opportunities for improvement, participants receive a bloom rating and special mention for what the judges deem to be an extraordinary project or program. Additional awards that can be earned are as follows:
- Population category winner
- Outstanding achievement award – the “best of the best” over all participants in each of the six evaluated criteria
- Special awards
- Community Champion
- YouTube Video Award
Population category winners are invited to participate in international competition via the Communities in Bloom program in Canada.
Judges will be evaluating the community’s efforts in the areas of overall impression, environmental efforts, heritage, landscaped areas, urban forestry, floral displays, and community involvement in the municipal, commercial and residential sectors.
The judging team members are Karin Rindal and Pam Turrell.
Karin Rindal. Her wide ranging business career in manufacturing and government includes time involved in international trade program evaluation and training in Total Quality Management ﴾TQM﴿ and Malcolm Baldridge Criteria for Performance Excellence. In 2004 Karin discovered the New Jersey Master Gardener program. She was appointed to the Board of Directors at the Frelinghuysen Arboretum in Morristown, NJ, where she organized annual plant sales and coordinated activities of volunteer committees including donations, raffle, and publicity and print materials.
Karin has won awards at the New Jersey Home and Garden Show for container design and for horticultural entries at the Newport, RI Flower Show. For two years she wrote a regular weekly garden column for the Millburn/Short Hills Patch. Since 2005 she has taught gardening and cooking classes to adults and children. After a trip to Germany to do on‐site research and photography, her most recent lecture involves the herbs and gardens of medieval cleric, Hildegard Von Bingen.
Karin currently volunteers at the US Botanic Garden where she has assisted with a broad variety of educational events, including presenting a class on sustainable container gardening. Through her work at the Botanic Garden on the Sustainable Sites Initiative she completed the requirements for the New Jersey Environmental Stewardship program.
Karin’s career began with a degree in Political Science and German, with a minor in French, followed by a Master’s Degree from Johns Hopkins University‘s School of Advanced International Studies.
Pam Turrell holds a Sustainable Landscape Certificate from Dawes Arboretum in Newark, Ohio, and is studying Landscape Design and Maintenance at Columbus ﴾OH﴿ State Community College. She worked in partnership to launch “Greenhope”, a web based business selling native trees and shrubs as gifts. Pam is a passionate home gardener, interested in backyard wildlife, native plants in the landscape, and attends many horticulture‐related conferences.
To date, nearly 250 communities from 41 states have participated in the program and more than 22 million people have been touched by it. Awards will be announced onat AIB’s National Symposium and Awards, held this year in Arroyo Grande, CA.
America in Bloom is an independent non-profit 501c3 corporation. America in Bloom envisions communities across the country as welcoming and vibrant places to live, work, and play – benefiting from colorful plants and trees; enjoying clean environments; celebrating heritage; and planting pride through volunteerism.
TRAFFIC IN GLENBROOK AND ON BLYTHE STREET AND FIFTH AVENUE WEST TO BE IMPACTED
The City of Hendersonville will begin a project for the Glenbrook area subdivision on . This project will involve Sanitary Sewer Improvements. Below is a detailed timeline of the project and the projected effect on 5th Avenue and Blythe Streets. We understand this project will cause a temporary inconvenience to area motorists and we apologize. We ask that the public be patient with us as we work as quickly as possible to complete these necessary improvements to the sewer system in this area.
Glenbrook Sanitary Sewer Improvements
The purpose of the above referenced project is to abandon a notoriously problematic pump station serving the Glenbrook Subdivision, located in Hendersonville, NC.
The project consists of:
Successful completion of the project will eliminate an existing pump station the does not conform to current standards. This pump station has a history of frequent clogs; has limited access; and lacks a lifting system for removing pumps, creating safety issues. Execution of the project will require the closure of Blythe St., including the intersection of Blythe St. and 5th Ave. Closure of the intersection shall be limited to a maximum of 2 weeks. The remaining portion of Blythe St. shall be closed for a maximum of 80 days.
Duration: 120 days
Duration of the road closure: 80 days
Duration of Impact to 5th Ave: 14 days
Should you have any questions/concerns please fill free to contact:
Alvin Fuller Jr., PE
305 Williams St.
Hendersonville, NC 28972
(828) 233-3207 (office)
(828) 243-4430 (mobile)
“Hopefully the weather will be great. We do have two rain dates (7/23 and 7/30) but we sure don’t want to have to use them,” said Barbara Hughes, owner of Narnia Studios, sponsors of the beloved event.Response shows that “Chalk It Up!” has become the crown jewel in the line up of the summer events. Hughes says the innocence and charm of the event are the reasons. “One hundred fifty artists from under 5 years old to 75 years old plus come together to create an al fresco art experience” Hughes said. “It gives everyone who is lucky enough to reserve a space a chance to feel ownership of that square of Main Street for whatever length of time their artwork lasts, weather-wise!” observed Hughes.“Chalk It Up!” draws thousands of visitors to downtown Hendersonville to witness the makeover of the city sidewalks from blank canvas to a panoramic artistic expression.Categories for the contest are 5 & under, 6-8 years old, 9-12 years old, 13-20 years, 21 & over, professional. The event is free and registration begins June 4th and lasts until the spaces are filled. The chalk is provided with each artist receiving 20 different colors. No outside medium is allowed. There are 5 winners in each age category and the local merchants donate the prizes for those winners. The professional category has one ‘best of show’ winner.A limited number of commemorative t-shirts will be available for sale for $12.00 starting at the opening of registration. Individuals and corporate sponsors are welcome to contribute by going to:www.narniastudios.com/
chalk_it_up_contribute.html .For more information, call Hughes at 697-6393. To register for “Chalk It Up!” go to Narnia Studios located at 315 N. Main Street . To view images of last year’s contest, go to www.narniastudios.com .
WITH LOCAL SCANNERS OF EMERGENCY RADIO "TRAFFIC" ABOUT TO GO SILENT
ENCRYPTION VERSUS THE PUBLIC’S RIGHT TO KNOW
A WHKP Station Editorial
June 16, 2016
HendersonCounty is about to take a giant step backwards, literally back to the days before radios and wireless communication.
Very soon, maybe as soon as the end of this summer, all analog scanners capable of monitoring sheriff’s, EMS and local Rescue Squad communications will go silent. A new system of “encrypting” emergency radio traffic will prevent any private citizen or member of the news media from listening to it.
The roll-out of a new radio system in the county already covers EMS and the Rescue Squad and will soon block out fire department and sheriff’s department radio communications…and Hendersonville Police are looking at signing on to it soon as well.
Even though we’re sure the county’s legal heads have found a way around it, state law is very clear…police radio traffic is PUBLIC information. With the encryption of public information, say good-bye to transparency…and to holding the people we pay in our emergency services accountable through PUBLIC access to PUBLIC information.
The total cost to the taxpayers of keep all this local emergency radio traffic secret will be about $1.7 million…just to start. This technology changes literally over-night and starting down this road of keeping public information secret, will almost immediately require updating and will become an on-going, ever-growing expense to the taxpayers.
Much of the “news” you hear and see on radio and TV and read about in the newspapers and on the internet now, starts with scanner traffic Once encryption is fully implemented, what you’ll get will be “filtered” through so-called public information officers and media specialists who conceivably, will tell us only what their department heads want us in the media, and you in the public, to know…and that’s all. Period. Not that it’ll happen, but the potential for abuse always increases with secrecy
Supporters of this new encryption argue that in this age of terrorism and in the interest of homeland security, encryption is necessary…terrorists and the more sophisticated criminals are already doing it. The fact is, what the “bad guys” have is probably light-years ahead of anything local agencies will be able to provide, keep up, with or afford.
So when we start down this endless path of fighting crime and terrorism more with costly technology that deprives citizens of their right to information than with manpower, citizen support and common sense , there is no end to it or to the cost of it….or to the loss of the public’s right to public information
And in the end, we would argue the public is no safer or better off because of it.
When we sign on to this practice of keeping legitimate public information secret and filtering it through the special interests of internal department staff people, the public’s right to know and access to the same information that you and I pay law enforcement, fire, EMS, and rescue squad personnel to have, is not only diminished but will be sacrificed and gone…in spite of state law, and long-standing public policy, which says such information is PUBLIC information…
Which of course is a MAJOR victory for the terrorists and criminals.
This has been a WHKP station editorial. As always, we invite your comments…on our comments.
By WHKP News Director Larry Freeman
A deep dis-agreement between Henderson County Sheriff Charlie McDonald and Hendersonville Police Chief Herbert Blake has been going on for a while...and has now effected the make-up of inter- agency co-operation.
That disagreement between the two departments led Sheriff McDonald to announce to officers at the sheriff’s office that there will no longer be active participation by Hendersonville Police on the county’s SWAT and Drug Task Force teams.
The rift between Sheriff McDonald and Chief Blake apparently goes back to an East Flat Rock woman mental patient who was shot to death by three county deputies in April of this year. Kay Campbell was shot to death by the three deputies while they were waiting for involuntary commitment papers to arrive and she, according to deputies, pulled what appeared to be a weapon which placed them in fear for their lives.
A “Letter to the Editor” in the local newspaper, critical of the way the incident was handled, then led to a response from Police Chief Blake, who is quoted (on the WLOS-TV web site) as saying, among other things, “I disagree completely with the actions of law enforcement.” Chief Blake is also reported as saying to the letter writer that the first mistake they made was to send an officer to negotiate with a mentally disturbed person.
Upon learning of Blake’s response, Sheriff McDonald announced to his own department there would no longer be active participation between the two departments on the joint SWAT and narcotics teams, due to what the sheriff calls “philosophical differences” on the use of force.
Chief Blake now says his response to the letter writer was a targeted reply by e-mail to the writer, retired Judge Steve Franks…and the chief says someone, apparently in the police department, forwarded that e-mail to the sheriff’s department. Chief Blake says, “I have apologized several times and my true intent was only to explain our department’s policies and was not intended, the chief says, in any way to criticize the sheriff or his department’s policies.
Deputies were called to Ms. Campbell’s home in East Flat Rock one afternoon back in April by her caregiver who initially reported an assault. Ms. Campbell had apparently threatened to commit “suicide by cop”.
The three deputies were recently cleared by an SBI investigation and by the local district attorney.
By WHKP News Director Larry Freeman Updated 3am 06/17/15