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Archive for June, 2011

People – What a Concept

There is a call for people – not government – but people to help with the Big Dig. Volunteers are sought to help construct five miles of “missing link” in the Mountains-to-Sea Trail. The project is organized by the Friends of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail, Watauga Task Force. Work will start at 8:30 both days and continue until the leaders say so. Volunteers are to assemble at Thunderhill Overlook (milepost 290.3, 1.5 miles north of US 321 on the Blue Ridge Parkway). Tools will be provided, but not lunch. Volunteers of all abilities are welcome, as long as they are at least twelve years old.

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Hear, Hear

The NCGA released a report recommending the merger of certain community colleges. Affected would be community colleges within thirty miles of each other, provided at least one had a fulltime student population of less than 3000. No schools would close, but the larger would take over the administrative functions of the smaller. The report estimated the elimination of separate administrative bodies for twenty-two schools would save the state $5.1 million annually, or 0.5% of the amount currently budgeted for community colleges.

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Education Dollars to Demystify Complicated Formulae

If you have not heard, the gas tax will increase from 32.5 to 35 cents per gallon July 1. Proceeds are to go toward education (replacing the 0.75% general sales tax the legislature allowed to expire). Could the following be a clever ploy to trick us into believing we need it?

State gas taxes will increase from 32.5 cents to 35 cents the same day, a new record for North Carolina. The state gas tax is based on a formula – the higher the wholesale price for gas the higher the tax. The new rate will make it the third highest in the nation.

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Interpretive Signage Blocking Your Panorama Creates Jobs

Grants approaching $5 million from the US Department of Transportation’s will go toward improving upon mother nature for nature lovers in National Scenic Byways in North Carolina. Funds will be split between the Graveyard Fields overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway and the Outer Banks National Scenic Byway.

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Gossip for Your Inner Child

Somebody started a rumor that Heath Shuler (D-NC) is going to quit his job as Congressman and start working as the athletic director of the University of Tennessee – Knoxville. I’m not buying it.

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“There’s a Financial Crisis in Our Country”

Fred Dorsey, 81, quit the Henderson County Parks and Recreation Board in protest of misguided spending. He believed $750,000 should be transferred to the Board of Education for paying educator salaries, or at least spent on park service personnel.

“I told (the board), ‘You don’t realize that there’s a financial crisis in our country, and we have to let things like paving and soccer fields take a back seat for a while and let the employees and the teachers get paid before we think about those.’ ”

Parks and Recreation Director Tim Hopkin disagreed. The funds were coming out of the current budget, and improvements are overdue – for safety purposes. Board Chair Jeff Donaldson argued the funds were allocated and not taken from anybody else. Donaldson and Dorsey had a falling out when Donaldson voiced his suspicions that Dorsey was “not really a recreation advocate.”

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Moving Rivers: The Latest on the List of Basic City Services

Meanwhile, across the street in Asheville City Hall, city council approved plans for Phase I of what is known as the Lake Craig Project. It synthesizes multiple problems into a major solution. The project likely started with recommendations from Brown and Caldwell, a consulting firm hired to make recommendations for flood mitigation following the aftermath of Hurricanes Frances and Ivan. The city was awarded $1,778,888 in hurricane relief from the state, and it is banking on receiving another $374,351.

The money will go toward cleaning up a riverway and using fill thus obtained to improve traffic circulation. Rather than widening the main entrance to Azalea Park, the city will make traffic one-way and construct a route of egress. Since the park has a very popular soccer field, the city will connect it to the municipal water system. In doing so, the road work will become eligible for Sullivan Act funds. (Special state legislation requires the city to use water system revenues for only water system operations and improvements. Another special law allows the city to divert up to 5% of water system revenues toward infrastructure improvements associated with laying water lines.) $2,000,877 will be made available from the diversions. Besides the little stuff, the city would like to move the portion of the Swannanoa River that runs through the property.

Phase II of the project will involve either the renovation or reconstruction of the Lake Craig Dam. Studies are needed first, and funding sources have not been identified. The US Army Corps of Engineers and the NC Division of Water Resources have joined multiple private consultants in partnering with the city for Phase I of the engineering feat.

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Yo, Peasant, Look What We’re Going to Buy

Buncombe County taxpayers were committed to spend $7 million on the purchase of a manufacturing plant formerly owned by Volvo. In addition, the county commissioners have met in closed session to discuss what they might offer, by way of economic development incentives, a company that would create 400 jobs and produce $125 million in economic multipliers. Mum was the word amongst county commissioners and staff last night, but rumors are circulating indicating the county has a buyer. It could be a bluff to boost sealed bids for all the paying public knows; if not, why is the county intervening? Sure, the county could net $3.5 million if it were to flip the property and sell it at list price; but if no buyer exists, it may be stuck paying five or six digits a year for security on property taken off the tax rolls. The commissioners only indicated they wanted to buy the building to create jobs. They didn’t want a strip mall or condos to go on prime manufacturing real estate.

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Tables Massacre Innocent in Lethal Whaling

Mark Redbond owns a general store and deli at his gas station. His business did well on its health inspections for years until one revealed his picnic tables, that had been there even during the initial permitting, were evil. Redbond would either have to get rid of them or shut his business down. As Redbond fought to give the tables a chance to repent before being cast into outer darkness, the health department tested Redbond’s water positive for fecal coliform. Now, they had their reason to shut him down. Unfortunately, unlike the enforcers, Redbond read the law and found out he couldn’t be shut down until a second positive test was completed. The second test, performed by an independent, albeit licensed, lab, produced negative results. To make amends, Graham County is proposing Redbond get rid of only two of his four picnic tables.

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Decrying Spending Cuts As Debt

Sense . . .

. . . and incense.

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June 2011
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