County short takes

Young heroes

“You played as a team: That’s why you won,” Buncombe County Commissioner David Gantt told local high-school football players and coaches on Dec. 21.

At their last regular meeting of the century, commissioners congratulated the A.C. Reynolds Rockets on their 4-A state football championship and the Asheville High Cougars on their 3-A Western region championship (and, almost, state championship). Reynolds received a standing ovation from commissioners and the assembled audience, prompting head coach Bobby Poss to joke, “Usually you have to wait halfway through this meeting to get your stretch break.”

During the football discussion, Buncombe County Manager Wanda Greene played a smooth move on Gantt: She had the camera crew display a 1970s photo of a much younger, long-haired Gantt in his Sanford High football getup (prompting a round of teasing from Commissioner Bill Stanley). Gantt, it happens, played on two state-championship teams in eastern North Carolina, in ’72 and ’73. He praised the Reynolds and Asheville teams, observing that folks will remember their accomplishments for years to come.

In another special presentation, Reynolds quarterback Chris Mott — diagnosed with lupus this past year — received an autographed Carolina Panthers helmet.

Jason the hero

At 12:01 a.m. on New Year’s Eve, Jason Summey Day dawned — an honor Buncombe County Commissioners had proclaimed at their Dec. 21 meeting.

In the past few years, Erwin High senior Summey has made his mark: He started the “Be Cool, Stay in School” program, which has resulted in the largest number of Erwin juniors ever making it to their final year. That effort gained Summey national recognition — an appearance on the CBS Evening News, a chapter in the popular Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul, a guest-speaker spot on Dr. Robert Schuller’s Hour of Power, the J. C. Penny Golden Rule Award, recognition as Western North Carolina’s Citizen of the Year (1996) and, more recently, the President’s Service Award (out of thousands of nominations, only 18 earned this level of recognition for their volunteer spirit).

Stuffed stocking for officers of the law

What would you do with $82,839.37?

The Buncombe County Sheriff’s Department asked for a host of goodies — mostly high-tech stuff like the Nikon Super Coolscan LS-200 with Slide Feeder (for photographing crime scenes) and five S-D2 hand-held intoxilyzer units (for nabbing drunk drivers). But the department also requested D.A.R.E. program graduation T-shirts, spare batteries for their new two-way radios, a new security camera for the Buncombe County Detention Center … and a dog (that is, a “patrol, tracking and drug detection canine, $8,000,” according to Lt. Thomas Hill‘s report).

Funds for the department’s long list of requested items — presented to Buncombe County Commissioners at a public hearing held at their Dec. 21 meeting — come from 1999 Block Grant Funds from the federal Bureau of Justice Assistance, Hill indicated. After receiving no public comment on the request, commissioners unanimously approved the department’s acquisition of the items.

Ready for Y2K

“This will be the last meeting of the 1900s,” Buncombe County Board of Commissioners Chair Tom Sobol observed at the start of the Dec. 21 regular meeting.

So, is the county ready for the year 2000? “In eight or nine days, we’ll know,” Sobol remarked.

The county’s ready, Emergency Management Services Director Jerry Vehaun assured commissioners. He brought them up to date on countywide preparations for Y2K, mentioning a Dec. 10 meeting with emergency personnel and officials from all over the county, and a comprehensive contingency plan for dealing with possible glitches (not to mention unpredictable winter weather).

Buncombe Information Technology Director John Richard emphasized, “All our systems are Y2K-ready.” From the safety of the county’s emergency-operations center, key county personnel will be watching Y2K as it rolls around the world, to see if anything significant happens, Richard noted.

And Buncombe Physical Facilities Director Ray Redmon added, “As far as we can tell, we’re ready.” He predicted that Y2K will be a big non-event for the county: “We’re going to watch the clock [tick], then [at midnight] we’ll go out and watch the fireworks, since nothing will happen.”

A strategy for the next millennium

“A plan starts with a vision,” Buncombe County Health Center Director George Bond declared at the commissioners’ Dec. 21 regular meeting. Women’s-rights advocate Susan B. Anthony had a vision. Civil-rights activist Martin Luther King Jr. had a dream. And Buncombe County has a Strategic Plan, Bond noted. The heart of that plan, crafted in the past few months by county staff, reads, “Buncombe County is a caring community in harmony with its environment where citizens succeed, thrive and realize their potential.”

Bond and a roomful of county staff presented commissioners with the revised plan — first created four years ago, Greene mentioned. Staff came up with a SERVE slogan: “Show pride in our work; exhibit caring in all we do; respect others; value and practice honesty; and exercise responsibility.”

They also drafted a mission statement, read by Minority Affairs Director Mamie Scott: “We will promote a healthy, safe, well-educated, and thriving community with a sustainable quality of life. We will provide effective and efficient government our citizens can trust. We will deliver needed service through a responsive work force committed to excellence, integrity and teamwork.”

Other staff detailed other goals of the plan — including human services, culture and recreation, the environment, public safety, economic and physical development, and education.

“We all love this county. … It makes me optimistic that we’re [implementing] a Strategic Plan,” said Asheville-Buncombe Youth Council Co-Chair Craig Hay, a senior at Asheville High School. But he cautioned commissioners to follow through on the vision: “[The young people of Buncombe County] will inherit what you do today.”

On a motion by Commissioner Patsy Keever, seconded by David Young, the Board of Commissioners unanimously adopted the new plan, which will be distributed at local libraries and schools, and published on the Web at www.buncombecounty.org.

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About Margaret Williams
Editor Margaret Williams first wrote for Xpress in 1994. An Alabama native, she has lived in Western North Carolina since 1987 and completed her Masters of Liberal Arts & Sciences from UNC-Asheville in 2016. Follow me @mvwilliams

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