IT NOW GOES TO THE STATE SENATE
Rep. Chuck McGrady, (R-Henderson) and chair of the House Appropriations Committee, said in the House Chambers Tuesday that despite the fires' extensive nature, entire towns like Chimney Rock and Lake Lure were spared in some respect, not losing any structures. But that came at a cost, primarily for firefighters, and there is upward of $25 million in the bill related to the fires.
McGrady, one of the bill's primary sponsors, told the Times-News Tuesday that most of the $38 million dedicated to the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services will go to incurred expenses from the firefighting efforts. Firefighters came from all across North Carolina and the U.S. to help. The money will also fund repairs, operational expenses, wildfire response and disaster-related timber restoration.
According to the bill, that money is allocated as such: $25.5 million for the N.C. Forest Service for repairs and expenses at Claridge Nursery in Wayne County, wildfire response and timber restoration, $12.2 million for the Division of Soil and Water Conservation for stream debris removal, farm road repairs and disaster-related farm pond and dam repairs, and $250,000 for dike repairs at the Cherry Research Farm in Wayne County.
McGrady said he's glad the state was able to move so quickly to address the costs related to the wildfires. Looking back at hurricanes Frances and Floyd, the state is a little bit ahead of the curve comparatively and will be in a better place to figure out the next steps when lawmakers return to Raleigh in January.
This bill is step one in a two-step process, he added, a move to make sure the state can match various federal disaster relief funds and begin to pay bills that come due.
The western wildfires burned tens of thousands of acres and destroyed hundreds of structures, burning more than 62,000 total acres, including more than 25,000 acres of public land. The wildfires started Oct. 23, just weeks after Hurricane Matthew and continuing throughout November with a total of 26 major wildfires and dozens of smaller fires, the bill says. More than 2,400 emergency responders worked the fires and related events, including firefighters from 40 states.
McGrady also said it's likely the General Assembly will take up other issues during the special session as well, and said he hopes to be back home Thursday.
HENDERSON COUNTY SCHOOL BOARD MEMBERS VOTED 4 TO 2 MONDAY NIGHT TO ENDORSE THE COUNTY'S PLAN FOR A NEW $53 MILLION HENDERSONVILLE HIGH SCHOOL CAMPUS TO BE BUILT ON THE BOYD PROPERTY AT FIVE POINTS. VOTING IN FAVOR WERE SCHOOL BOARD MEMBERS CORN, WOOD, COREN, AND ABSHER. MEMBERS CRAVEN AND EDWARDS VOTED AGAINST IT. CHAIRMAN HOLT, A STRONG ADVOCATE OF PRESERVING THE HHS STILLWELL BUILDING, COULD NOT VOTE---AS THE NEW CHAIRMAN, BOARD BY-LAWS DO NOT PERMIT THE CHAIRMAN TO VOTE.
In that Henderson County Board of Public Education meeting Monday night in which board members were expected to vote “yay” or “nay” on the county’s proposed new $53 million Hendersonville High School campus, school board members elected Amy Lynn Holt to be their new chairman…she replaces long-time chairman and local attorney Ervin Bazzle who was defeated in the election a month ago.
Holt was elected chairman in a split 5 to 2 vote over long-time school board member and former West High principal Mary Louise Corn. School board member Rick Wood was elected vice chairman.,
Twenty one people had signed up to speak on the issues of a new HHS, Edneyville Elementary School, and over which board---the elected school board or the county commissioners---should be making school decisions.
Among the speakers urging the school board to vote "no" on the new HHS and to put a new Edneyville Elementary School first, were former county commissioner Don Ward, city council member Ron Stephens, former school board member Melissa Mauer...and local atorney Chris Stepp read a letter from former state supreme court justice and 1964 HHS graduate Bob Orr confirming that state law does in fact give authority over county schools and school buildings to the elected school board and not to county commissioners.
Boyce "Blondie" Whitmire also spoke against the commissioner's HHS campus plan. His family has been involved in Hendeson County education for generations, with five members of the family in the local education hall of fame.
According to reports, the public comment period was ended shortly after 8pm and the school board was attending to other business.
The top vote getter in the recent school board election, Mary Louise Corn started the board's discussioin of the HHS plan by moving that the board endorse the new HHS construction.
FROM THE SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT...
The Henderson County Sheriff’s Office is seeking information regarding an altercation that took place in the Green River area on the evening of Sunday, December 11, 2016
If anyone has any information on the whereabouts and well-being of Jesse James Montgomery, they should contact the Henderson County Sheriff’s Office at (828) 697-4911.
FROM THE FLOODS THAT DRENCHED COASTAL AND EASTERN NORTH CAROLINA---TO THE WILDFIRES AND DROUGHT THAT SCORCHED THE WEST
Rep. Chuck McGrady, R-Henderson, who has been in Raleigh this week working on the legislation, said he expects to see some relief targeted for western counties, but the size and scope of the legislation has yet to be established.
Henderson County's Representatrive in the N.C. General Assembly told the Carolina Public Press that “The bill started out a month and a half ago only focused on issues in the east related to Hurricane Matthew, but now we’ve had the fires in the west,” McGrady said in an interview Monday with Carolina Public Press. “My expectation is that the bill will provide enough money to be a down payment toward addressing the damages that have occurred.”
McGrady said it’s still too early to fully assess the damages and costs of the fires, which have burned an more than 55,000 acres in Western North Carolina. The state forest service has been doing a good job tracking its costs, he said, but the impact of the fires on local governments is less clear right now. [Check current status of WNC wildfires, via the NC Forest Service, here.]
McGrady said initial aid offered in the special session is likely to be targeted at the cost of fighting the fires, with an additional aid package coming next year. Once the scope of federal aid is established and local governments in WNC have had time to assess impacts, the legislature could plan additional state assistance.
“Over the next weeks and months as the numbers get clearer, I would anticipate another bill early in the upcoming session that would take care of everything,” McGrady said.
Rep. John Ager, D-Buncombe, said the legislature should make sure some help for the west to recover from drought and fires comes out of the session.
“It is definitely on my agenda that we roll in fire relief,” Ager said. He said he’s worried that local fire departments are tapping their reserves to cover the costs of keeping firefighters in the field. Help from the Federal Emergency Management Agency is coming, Ager said, but time is tight.
“There’s only so many of these paychecks that the local fire departments can cover,” he said.
THE SCHOOL BOARD WILL MEET MONDAY EVENING AT 6:30 IN THE COUNTY SCHOOL'S ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICES AT 414 FOURTH AVENUE WEST
After many months of haggling over which board should make decisions on public school construction, the county commissioners Monday night dumped the whole issue of a new Hendersonville High School campus back into the lap of the county school board.
After commissioners voted unanimously in their last meeting to move forward with building the new $53 million campus on the Asheville Highway at the former Boyd property at Five Points, commissioners unanimously voted Monday night to send a letter to the school board…asking for an “up or down” vote at the school board’s meeting this coming Monday night on moving forward with the new HHS campus.
Should the school board take such a vote Monday night and vote “no”, that could delay or conceivably kill the Clark Nexsen-designed new HHS campus that’s been planned for years…and in the design stage since back in the spring and approved by commissioners in three separate votes.
Added to Monday night’s agenda by Commissioner Bill Lapsley, the letter to the school board and the request for an “up on down” vote was approved unanimously by the commissioners. Lapsley pointed out that $300 thousand has already been invested in the new campus, and if the school board votes “no” on it, about $5 million for every year it’s delayed would be added to the cost of the new campus, if and when it’d ever built.
Much of the controversy over the proposed new HHS campus has to do with preserving the 90 year old Erle Stillwell-designed main building on the current campus, what to do with it, and how to pay for renovations on the old building…all issues that remain unresolved.
The elected school board says a greater priority is a new campus for Edneyville Elementary School…and that’s yet another point of contention between the two boards that remains unresolved.
Local Historical Play Presentation
Tom Orr and the Walk of Fame committee announce the presentation of:
“Unwrapping Local History”
A local history play that opens on December 15th and will include the announcement of the Walk of Fame inaugural class
The play will take place on December 15th, 16th, and 17th at with a matinee on .
All performances will be at The Henderson County Historic Courthouse
The two-act play, compiled and written by Tom E. Orr, is a fundraiser to support the Walk of Fame project initiated this past year.
The Walk of Fame project is jointly supported by the City of Hendersonville and Henderson County, and “Unwrapping Local History” is a part of Hendersonville's “Home for the Holidays” celebration. In addition to the play production seventeen Walk of Fame honorees will be named.
Orr had this to say about the play, “History contains many gifts. It's Christmas time and we unwrap with loving care this present we call Home.”
The play is directed by Pat H. Shepherd and Tom Orr. Local history and heritage are surrounded by music and dance. Kaye Youngblood supervises the screen images that appear throughout the production. She is assisted by Tabitha Brockus and Trish Allen.
“Just as a dance can be viewed as a series of steps, joined together; so a lifetime can be understood as a series of 'time steps.” Orr added. “In our journey we will stop to visit people and places, including The Teen-age Canteen, Freeman's Newsstand, and Brock's Ice Cream Bar. We will take trips by train, visit the Baker-Barber studios, glimpse the beauty of our mountains, learn the Charleston and the Black Bottom, and much more.”
Live music will be provided by J. Larry Keith, Rick McMinn, Sandra McMinn, and Penny Gash Pearson. The Courthouse Players are volunteer actors. The cast, in alphabetical order, includes: Richard Brown, Bryan Byrd, Sandee Carpenter, Aiden Freeman, Mia Freeman, Fletch Griffith, Marcia Kelso Mills, Jay Mullinax, Penny Gash Pearson, Ronnie Pepper, Sabrina Sweeney, and young student dancers from Pat's School of Dance.
Sweeney, an HHS teacher of English, portrays Claudia Holt Oates (1872-1965). Mrs. Oates helped start the Hendersonville Woman’s Club in 1915, and supported the development of the Henderson County Curb Market. Her husband Robert Oates developed the town’s first electric power plant. Mrs. Oates held Christmas parties for needy children where she gave out toys and clothing. The annual event took place in the old City Hall and Opera House but later moved to the 1905 Historic Courthouse.
Play co-director Pat H. Shepherd is assisted by Sheraton Shepherd Phillips, April Freeman, and Carol Ann Baber Surrette. Recently-retired teacher Kaye Youngblood is the Stage Manager and directs screen imagery. She is assisted by Trish Allen and Tabitha Brockus. John Arnett, Hendersonville Community Theater, is creating the set and designing the lighting. John Shepherd and Dustin Phillips supervise sound recording and effects. At each performance, audience members will receive a “goodie poke” filled with a candy cane, wrapped candy, and fruit. The “goodie poke” is a mountain tradition.
Tickets are $10 each, and will go on sale 828-693-9708 or in its Visitor Information Center at 201 S. Main St. Hendersonville.. Performance times are December 15th -17th. There will be a matinee on . The venue is the Courtroom of the Henderson County Historic Courthouse. Play tickets can be purchased from the Tourism Development Authority by calling
The five-member Walk of Fame Steering Committee members are Chairman Orr, Vice-chair Virginia Gambill, Michael Edney, Dr. Amy Pace, and Kaye Youngblood. The Committee began work on December 15, 2015. Incidentally, is the date back in 1838 when Henderson County was created.
For more information contact: Tom E. Orr at 828-606-6874
County commissioners Monday night denied a re-zoning request that would have led to the development of a large scale residential complex proposed to be known as “The Sanctuary at Eagles Nest Horse Shoe Farm”.
Miami developer John Turchin was proposing what he called an alternative to Carolina Village and Lake Point Landing on 85 acres on South Rugby Road stretching all the way to the French Broad River.
Over twenty members of the public spoke on the proposal at Monday night’s meeting, most opposed to the project, and many expressED concerns over increased traffic in the area, greater housing density, and an additional burden on the Cane Creek Water and Sewer District.
Developer Turchin had requested the property be re-zoned from “Residential 2” to “Mixed Use”, which would have permitted the development…and after being turned down Monday night he indicated he might be back with revised plans later.
MEADOWS REPLACES CONGRESSMAN JIM JORDAN...WHO DID NOT RUN FOR RE-ELECTION AS "FREEDOM CAUCUS" CHAIR
On Monday, members of the House Freedom Caucus voted to elect Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC) as Chairman. Rep. Meadows released the following statement:
“I am honored and humbled to receive the support of my colleagues for Chairman of the House Freedom Caucus. It is a position that I take very seriously, and as we look toward the coming year, I am tremendously excited about the opportunities we will have to make a difference for Americans on Main Street. I want to thank my colleagues for entrusting me with their support – especially outgoing Chairman, Rep. Jim Jordan, for his outstanding leadership over our first two years.
The voters of this country sent an abundantly clear message on November 8th that they feel as though Washington does not represent them. Now, it’s time for Washington to do what it has failed to do for decades – listen. With a new administration coming in, the Freedom Caucus is ready to go to work on day one to help lead the fight to give Americans a voice in their government.”
At Their meeting early Monday eveninbg, Henderson County commissioners elected Commissioner Mike Edney as their new chairman.
In his fourth term as a commissioner, Edney takes over from Tommy Thompson,
Edney was elected unanimously. Commissioner Grady Hawkins was elected vice chairman.
The Henderson County Education Foundation has hired county native Summer Stipe to lead the 30-year-old nonprofit as its new executive director.
Stipe, 33, a former Henderson County Public Schools teacher assistant, spent the last eight years working for the Children and Family Resource Center in a variety of management roles.
She has managed the Family Education and Support Center, which serves teenage parents in the Adolescent Parent Program and has helped launch and supervise a number of other initiatives that support families and children.
A graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Stipe earned a BA in Interpersonal and Organizational Communication in 2005 after graduating from West Henderson High in 2001.
A search committee comprised of HCEF board members selected Stipe from an impressive pool of candidates, said Dan Poeta, HCEF board chair and president of Horizon Heating and Air Conditioning.
Stipe stood out because of her extensive relationships in the community and her successful experience grant writing, running events and fundraising, he added.
“Summer brings a wealth of talents to the job,” Poeta said. “Her energy and enthusiasm will ignite a very positive era. Our board is excited and energized to start working with Summer, who we know will help guide the Education Foundation to new heights.”
The HCEF was founded in October 1986 to provide additional financial resources for Henderson County’s schools and scholarships for students