Emergency responders: Grady Brooks, Mark Ferris, Bob Triplett and Mike Ball voluntarily plunged into 14 feet of raw sewage filling the basement floor of a dark pump station on April 30. photos by Max Cooper

Code Red: How this team helped stop MSD’s record April 30 sewage spill

Many more millions of gallons of sewage might have flowed into the French Broad River on April 30, but the Metropolitan Sewerage District’s “code red” team — staffers Mark Ferris, Mike Ball, Bob Triplett, Grady Brooks — had not voluntarily plunged into the pool of raw sewage surrounding the pumps to find the missing closure plate and shut off the culprit valve. (Photos by Max Cooper)

MSD receives notice of violation for April 30 French Broad spill

A notice of violation has been issued to the Metropolitan Sewerage District of Buncombe County by the N.C. Division of Water Quality, pertaining to the April 30 spill of raw sewerage into the French Broad River. The overflow of almost 6 million gallons was the result of a pump accident during a construction operation at the plant, resulting in the shutdown of its main pumps.

Legislation moves forward to award scholarship grants for private or religious schools

The Opportunity Scholarship Act (House Bill 944) was approved by the N.C. House Committee on Education today on a 27-21 vote, and moves on to the House Committee on Appropriations. The bill would give taxpayer money for scholarships to assist low-income students in attending private or religious schools. Ten million dollars is earmarked for the […]

Paying the piper

Passing a new budget resolution and agreeing to hire additional legal counsel were the two top items at the May 15 meeting of the board of the Metropolitan Sewerage District of Buncombe County. The preliminary budget for the public agency, totaling roughly $40 million, includes a 2.5 percent rate increase for domestic users, a $16.7 […]

Local environmental controls  likely to  be whittled down by regulatory reform bill-attachment0

Local environmental controls likely to be whittled down by regulatory reform bill

Rich Ducker calls Senate Bill 612 “a real Christmas tree of a bill – all sorts of things hung on it.” But the biggest issue, says the public law and government specialist, may be a “sleeper issue to some people.” And that’s language that could prevent local environmental ordinances that are any more stringent than state law—something that would likely do away with Buncombe County’s steep-slope ordinance and other regionally specific rules.

Attendance—and arrests—at “Moral Mondays” increases at N.C. Statehouse

Monday protests at the N.C. Legislature, organized by the state NAACP president, Rev. William Barber, under the label of “Moral Mondays,” have grown over the course of three weeks to nearly 200 protestors yesterday with 49 arrests. The April 29 demonstration saw 17 arrested; on May 6, 30 were arrested. Yesterday’s round-up included Ashevillean Leslie […]

Separate charter-school board for state could have negative impact on public education

A legislative bill that establishes a North Carolina Public Charter School Board, removing most charter-school oversight from the State Board of Education, could have a negative impact on both the original intent for charter schools in this state and the funding of conventional public schools. Opposed by Bill Cobey, the current administration’s board of education […]

Statehouse versus local control: Test cases or politics as usual?

Both North Carolina and Georgia are seeing local governance erode in the face of legislative mandates — with the Asheville water system being just one of several major examples. N.C. Sen. Bob Rucho, Republican from Mecklenburg County, claims it’s “just local politics that we’ve always seen.” Mike Berlon, Georgia Democratic Party Chair, says the two […]

“Blunt instrument” bill would prevent LEED certification for state government buildings

WNC Rep. Michele Presnell is a primary sponsor of the Protect/Promote NC Lumber bill moving in the N.C. House, joined by Buncombe County’s Nathan Ramsey as co-sponsor. The bill (HB 628), just passed in the Agriculture Committee, promotes the use of North Carolina timber in state construction and renovation of state buildings. According to an […]

“Being second-guessed on what is good for this town by one or two people — our elected legislators here, and the others in Raleigh who don’t live here —  is very frustrating.” — Barbara Volk, mayor of Hendersonville photos by Nelda Holder

Close in miles, but worlds apart

The mayor of Hendersonville, just 29 miles down Interstate 26 from any-way-you-like-it Asheville, describes her city as a “sophisticated small town,” enjoying itself and its more leisurely pace while sharing a lot of the same regional amenities. And right now Barbara Volk is keenly aware that her town, population 13,277, is also sharing some of […]

Back to school: Advocates see threats to public education in current legislation

They had to keep rolling out chairs April 23 for what was billed as a “Conversation about Public Education in North Carolina,” held at the Asheville City Schools board room on Mountain Street. A larger-than-anticipated audience of 60 people — educators, elected officials, parents, advocates — came to talk about the status of public education, and to offer some opinions.

Legislative protest brings 17 arrests at N.C. Statehouse

Seventeen protestors, including N.C. NAACP’s president, William Barber, were arrested this evening just before the N.C. Senate’s 7 p.m. session convened. The protestors were shouting “We fight” in an act of civil disobedience that Barber said was aimed at a legislative agenda that is “hurting poor and minorities.” Barber, in an interview on national television […]

Advocates see threats to public education in current legislation

They had to keep rolling out chairs Tuesday night for what was billed as a “Conversation about Public Education in North Carolina,” held at the Asheville City Schools board room on Mountain Street. A larger-than-anticipated audience of 60 people — educators, elected officials, parents, advocates — came to talk about the status of public education, and to offer some opinions. And in a nutshell, the program message was that the status of public education in the state — which has been quantifiably climbing for years — is about to take a drastic plunge. (photos by Max Cooper)