Buzzworm news briefs

For the kids

The Children’s Collaborative of Buncombe County, a coalition of agencies with child-related missions, sent a query to County Manager Wanda Greene concerning Buncombe’s mental-health funding, particularly for children’s needs. The questions, first raised by longtime mental-health activist Jerry Rice, revolved around assets that the county obtained following the dissolution of Buncombe Madison Mitchell Yancey Facilities Inc. BMMY owned and managed property during the era of the now-defunct Blue Ridge Center, which was eliminated during the recent statewide mental-health reform. Several members of the collaborative expressed a sense of urgent need for crisis-intervention facilities for youngsters during a Jan. 12 meeting.

In response, Assistant County Manager/DSS Director Mandy Stone told the group that the $4 million in cash and $12 million in real property that reverted to county ownership have been designated for mental-health treatment. Two properties have been sold to Liberty Corner Enterprises, a state-licensed treatment service, she said.

“Under state law, we could have put that money into the general fund instead of dedicating it for mental health. But Buncombe County did it because it’s the right thing to do,” said Stone.

She added: “Buncombe made a very conscious decision, knowing that in the mental-health field you could burn through $4 million in no time and that a longer view was necessary. The money was set aside pending state action concerning a crisis-care facility. We need to know that there will be money to build and operate that facility before we spend county money, although that is an urgent goal.”

Stone promised to follow up on her oral presentation with a written response to the group’s queries.

Director Vince Newton of the Western Highlands Network (the designated local-management entity under the new state regime) then told the group: “You need to talk to legislators at the state and federal level. They are saying that facilities-based crisis intervention for children will not be funded.” He and Stone agreed that if federal and/or state money is not made available, it will be impossible to establish and operate such a facility with local funds.

— Cecil Bothwell

Troubled Waters

If you’ve ever driven the roadways along the Swannanoa or French Broad rivers and wondered how all those junked car lots and riverside businesses affect the rivers’ water quality, then you might want to check out an upcoming free presentation on that issue slated for 3 p.m. on Jan. 20 at RiverLink’s Warehouse Studios (170 Lyman St. in Asheville).

In fact, you may discover ways in which you have helped degrade the local waters, and how to mitigate your own impact — whether you live stream-side or miles away. RiverLink’s water-quality specialist and Swannanoa watershed coordinator, Michael Miller, will present what he terms a sort of “Hydrology 101″ for those interested in local water-quality issues.

Billed by the nonprofit as a lessons-learned talk on the September 2004 floods that devastated WNC, Miller says that’s actually a misnomer. Instead, the talk will center on issues confronting the 133-square-mile Swannanoa River watershed and the river itself, which serves as the French Broad’s main local tributary. In addition, Miller will broach environmental and development approaches to those issues, including ways in which individuals can help protect and restore the river, the watershed and other area waterways.

Of course, the flood and its effects will be woven into the discussion, but Miller says the talk will focus on the basics: For instance, just what is a watershed? How does land use affect water quality and how does water drain into a stream? Miller also will discuss chemical tests of the Swannanoa and what they’ve found, describe the characteristics of an impaired stream, and explain the differences between nonpoint source pollution and point-source pollution.

“Then, we’ll evolve into things we — and you — can do to improve water quality,” Miller says, including “the restoration efforts going on in the Swannanoa watershed: Everything from Montreat’s efforts to clean up tributaries to the restoration of Azalea Park.” The talk will also touch on what measures government entities are considering, such as flood-plain maps and ordinances, and plans to guide future development in ways that keep local waterways healthy for generations to come.

For more information, contact RiverLink at 252-8474.

— Hal Millard

Downtown residents unite

“There are now 1,300 people living downtown in the business district, and the projection is that once the condos currently under construction are completed and occupied, that will add yet another 350 people,” says Joan Farrell, an organizer with the recently formed group Downtown Asheville Residential Neighbors (DARN). “It’s quite a large number of people.”

With those rising numbers come new opportunities — and new challenges. So last November, a group of downtown residents who would become DARN met to commiserate and create an organization that would represent their concerns. “About 75 people turned out,” Farrell reports. “I thought it was amazing for a first meeting.” Through discussion and informal surveys, the downtowners honed in on issues like security, garbage collection and dog poop in the streets.

Of course, the still-young organization isn’t all about tackling the nettlesome complications of city life. “Another aspect of it is strictly social,” says Farrell. “It’s for downtown people to get to know each other. That’s really important, because we can connect about issues that concern us all, and keep each other informed.”

The next step in creating such connections will be the group’s 2006 Kick-Off Meeting, which will convene at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 19, in Pack Memorial Library’s Lord Auditorium. Asheville City Manager Gary Jackson will be on hand to talk about downtown issues and field questions.

All downtown residents are welcome to attend the DARN meeting. A wine and hors d’oeuvres reception at Everyday Gourmet will follow; a $5 per person charge will cover the cost.

For more information, call Farrell at 252-2934.

— Steve Shanafelt

This side of Camelot

Kenilworth — to many just a convenient cut-through from Biltmore Ave. to Tunnel Road — was actually an independent town from 1891 to 1929. These days, the neighborhood, situated along curving hillsides and plunging ravines, is home to grand houses, tiny cottages, green parks and its own lake.

The area’s first developer, James “Jake” Madison Chiles, was a dreamer. Rumor has it he was inspired by Scottish author Sir Walter Scott’s 1821 novel, Kenilworth, which included a breathtaking lake and a decaying castle (along with an abusive Earl and a long-suffering lady). Ah, romance.

And so, though Asheville locals laughed, in 1912, South Carolina-born Chiles bought the southern end of Beaucatcher Mountain and set about creating his dynasty. He ultimately got the last laugh: By the time the property was buildable, “lots were selling at the rate of one or more per day,” according to the Preservation Society of Asheville and Buncombe County.

Prior to building a 19-acre lake, Chiles construced his castle — a sprawling, two-story Spanish Colonial home that took four years to finish. Inspired by the Mediterranean architecture in Coral Gables, Fla., the Chiles home boasts a stucco and tile framework with stonework and terra cotta trim, and is organized around an open-walled court.

Prior to a 18-month restoration project, completed last fall by Jason Eller and Vanessa Byrd, the house had not changed hands since being purchased in 1959 by Hope Ryan. On Sunday, Jan. 22, history buffs and fans of Asheville’s unique houses can take a peak inside Child’s fantasy castle, now owned by Kevin Gentry. A 2 to 4 p.m. tour is free for members of the Preservation Society, and new members are welcome to join at the door (membership contributions begin at $35 for individuals).

For more information, visit www.psabc.org or call 254-2343.

— Alli Marshall

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