Buzzworm news briefs

…And not a drop to drink.

In the aftermath of the massive flooding caused by the remnants of hurricane Frances, the city of Asheville is looking at millions of dollars of damage. According to city officials, flood maps and other data indicate that there are 345 structures flooded. Of those, 30 are residential and 315 are commercial. And on Sept. 8, while home and business owners across the city began to assess the damage, Mayor Charles Worley called a press conference to announce that North Fork Reservoir — which supplies water to four out of five city water customers — had lost all four of its transmission lines due to breakage.

Describing the situation as a “worst-case scenario,” a rain-soaked Worley explained that the line damage resulted in “no water production from the North Fork Reservoir whatsoever.” He requested that all water users in the east, north, west and central parts of the city refrain from using water unless it was “absolutely essential and an emergency.” Residents and businesses south of Biltmore Village were not affected as they draw their water from the Mills River Plant.

Worley explained that the residual water remaining in the lines would be needed by the Asheville Fire Department, but that because no new water was entering the system, the lines could potentially run dry. He also noted that if the lines did run dry, pockets of air could create further line breaks once supply from North Fork resumed.

Complicating matters, the line breaks were still under flooding, and work crews would have to wait at least 24 hours before beginning their work. Water could be released from the Mills River facility for use in other parts of the city (albeit with limited capacity), but the valve that would allow that transfer was located in the Biltmore area, and it, too, was still underwater, Worley explained. Residents who had to use tap water were instructed to first boil the water for three to five minutes.

Shortly after the press conference, downtown restaurants began closing their doors, and shoppers cleared store shelves of bottled water. On Monday, Sept. 13, a “Boil Water Advisory” was lifted except for pockets in east and west Asheville.

Trickle down effects

The Buncombe County Board of Commissioners held a press conference, Friday, Sept. 10, to provide a coordinated overview of the unfolding water emergency. County Emergency Services Director Jerry VeHaun presided, and reports were offered on hospital and health issues, environmental clean-up, and the state of repairs.

Mission/St. Joseph’s Hospital spokesperson David Spillers said that the hospitals were operating at half of normal water pressure and that local fire departments had delivered over 200,000 gallons of drinking water (so far) to overcome the shortfall. All but the most critical surgeries had been cancelled for two days, and he urged citizens to limit visits to hospitalized friends and family members. He urged the community to conserve water aggressively.

County Health Director George Bond emphasized that breaks in the system had “sucked in millions of gallons of contaminated water.” Bond said that his staff had inspected restaurants systemwide and asked those with inadequate water to shut down. He noted that there was only a 50-percent compliance rate, which he described as a serious health risk — given that those restaurants didn’t have water for hand- or dish-washing. Bond said the county had now received authorization from the state to use full police powers to shut down offending restaurants.

Board of Commissioners Chairman Nathan Ramsey urged citizens not affected by the emergency who want to do something for their neighbors to participate in the United Way Day of Caring and Sharing, rescheduled for Thursday, Sept. 16.

For more info call (828) 250-4009, or visit www.buncombecounty.org. Flood victims should call 1-866-438-4636 for Red Cross disaster-relief assistance.

— Brian Sarzynski and Cecil Bothwell

A final choice: Right-to-die author speaks in Asheville

In 1983, a car accident strikes down a young woman in the prime of her life and leaves her in a persistent vegetative state. Five years later, her family makes the painful decision to have her feeding tube removed. But before they can, the legal system steps in and demands “clear and convincing” evidence that she would want treatment to end. A young lawyer takes on her family’s case for free — not knowing that he’ll have to argue it all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court in what would become the first right-to-die case heard by its justices.

It’s a scenario that could easily be the plot of the next John Grisham legal thriller. But it’s not. Instead, it’s the true story of the extraordinary legal odyssey of the Cruzman family of Missouri and their attorney, Bill Colby. In the aftermath of that struggle, Colby penned the critically acclaimed Long Goodbye: The Deaths of Nancy Cruzman, a blow-by-blow account of the Cruzman family’s fight to say goodbye on their terms and the powerful men who tried to stop them — including Missouri Attorney General John Ashcroft, U.S. Solicitor General Kenneth Starr and the U.S. Conference of Bishops.

On Sept. 20, the End-of-Life Care Coalition of Western North Carolina will present “An Evening with Bill Colby,” a community forum designed to raise awareness of end-of-life issues. The free event will take place at Diana Wortham Theatre at Pack Place from 7-9 p.m. and will include a presentation by Colby, followed by a question-and-answer session, book signing and reception.

Lynn Pace of the End-of-Life Care Coalition notes that “The Cruzmans’ tragic case clearly demonstrates the importance of advance-care planning. …This is not just an event for older adults, whom we often think of when talking about end-of-life issues; many of the landmark right-to-die cases involve young people such as Nancy Cruzman, Karen Anne Quinlan and the current tragic circumstance with Terry Shiavo in Florida. People of all ages need to make advance-care plans.”

For more information on the event, contact Jennifer Atkinson at 669-8833, or by e-mail at jennifer17@aol.com; or Lynn Pace at 255-0231, or by e-mail at lpace@carepartners.org. For more information on Bill Colby, visit www.longgoodbye.org.

— Brian Sarzynski

“A City Within” examines the black experience

A discussion series on the history of the black experience in Asheville starts next week at the N.C. Center for Creative Retirement at UNCA.

“A City Within: A People Without” will feature a diverse group of panelists leading discussions about education, desegregation, the Civil Rights movement, urban redevelopment, poverty, economic diversity, businesses, the role of the church and related topics.

The Thursday evening series begins at 5:30 p.m. on Sept. 23 at UNCA’s Reuter Center and concludes on Nov. 11.

Eagle Market Streets Development Corporation (EMSDC) and the Mountain Microenterpise Fund are co-sponsoring the series, which began last year.

Andrea Wright of the Mountain Microenterprise Fund is coordinating this year’s group of panelists, which includes Marvin Vierra, a member of of EMSDC’s board of directors. He will once again lead a panel discussion on Asheville’s early urban experiences with redevelopment.

“Last year, people were surprised to learn that in the early 1970s, the South French Broad area was the largest geographic area ever redeveloped in North Carolina at that time,” notes Vierra.

During that discussion, Vierra and former Buncombe County Commissioners Chairman Gene Rainey recalled how several hundred residents were moved to the Montford neighborhood in an effort that proved unpopular with those who were relocated. People were moved from structures that had been deemed substandard, and the land was sold to redevelopers.

They also recounted how people were able to buy lots for building homes in the South French Broad area for only $1 during this relocation program.

Cost: $50 for the series, plus $30 for a one-year membership to the N.C. Center for Creative Retirement. For more information, contact the Center for Creative Retirement at 251-6140.

— Tracy Rose

211 = Help in Transylvania

Transylvania County residents wanting information about community resources and volunteer opportunities have a new source of help. The United Way’s 211 service, already serving Buncombe and Henderson counties, has been expanded to include Transylvania County.

The 24-hour nonemergency number connects callers to a referral specialist who can help them learn about volunteer opportunities or local agencies that help folks in need, sponsor activities for youth of all ages, or provide health-related services. It’s also a way to obtain general information about the county.

The free, confidential service cannot be accessed via cell phones or pay phones.

— Lisa Watters

American power and global security

Next week, Western North Carolina will join hundreds of communities across the country that are participating in a discussion series called “The People Speak.”

Locally, faculty members from Western Carolina University and UNCA will explore “American Power and Global Security” in a town eeting with audience members.

“In an election year where global policies have taken center stage, we need to bring the discussion of America’s role in the world to the most important decision makers — the American public!” proclaims a promotional flyer for the event.

Panelists will include David Dorondo of WCU’s history department and Alexa Royden, a doctoral candidate at the School of International Relations at the University of St. Andrews. WCU’s Niall Michelsen will moderate the event.

The forum takes place from 7 to 9 p.m. on Monday, Sept. 20 in the hospitality room at the Ramsey Activity Center at WCU in Cullowhee.

The event is a cooperative effort of Western Carolina University and UNCA, with support from the local United Nations Association.

— Tracy Rose

Peace Park rally

Asheville’s Peace Park Project, a grassroots group seeking to create a permanent site in the city dedicated to peace and to draw attention to those killed in Iraq — both soldiers and civilians — will hold a public protest against the U.S. war and occupation in Iraq. The group will hold a rally and march Saturday, Sept. 18 at 3 p.m. in downtown Asheville’s Pritchard Park.

Speaking for the project, Asheville resident Charlie Thomas said: “Our politicians pay little attention to the increasing number of our young people — now more than 1,000 — being killed in this illegal, immoral war against a country that was no threat to us.”

For more information, contact Julie Brandt at 775-3838 or 645-8786, or visit www.iraqwall.org.

— Cecil Bothwell

WNC minority-owned businesses celebrate

While the nation’s average businesses grew at an annual rate of only 3 percent, the nation’s minority-owned businesses raced ahead at 17 percent, according the latest Census Bureau figures.

That’s something to celebrate. And there’ll be numerous opportunities to do this around Western North Carolina, as part of this year’s Minority Enterprise Development Week, scheduled from Friday, Sept. 12 through Thursday, Sept. 23.

Other noteworthy Census facts: Minority-owned businesses account for about 15 percent of the nation’s total, or more than 3 million businesses. These businesses generate $591.3 billion in gross revenue and provide 4.5 million jobs.

A Buy Local Bonanza kicks things off on Friday, Sept. 17, 5:30-8 p.m. at Pritchard Park (corner of College and Haywood streets) in Asheville. This free outdoor event aims to help raise public awareness of the positive economic and environmental impact of buying from locally owned businesses. Speakers, live music, prizes and a shopping tour of local businesses highlight the program.

Music of the Block/Health on the Block takes place Saturday, Sept. 18, noon-2 p.m. at 70 S. Market St. in Asheville’s historic African-American commercial district. Live music performances will showcase the city’s talent, and free health screenings, information and referrals will be available.

The Asheville Business Development Center will hold an open house on Monday, Sept. 20, 4-6 p.m. at 70 Woodfin Place, Suite 31 in Asheville. The public is invited to meet the staff and learn about services available to minority-owned businesses in WNC.

Find out what the law says about customer service at “Customer Relations and the Law,” a free workshop on Tuesday, Sept. 21, 5:30-8:30 p.m. at the Mountain Microenterprise Fund (29 1/2 Page Ave.) in Asheville. Le Von Wilson, J.D., Ed. D., a lawyer, a business consultant and an award-winning educator at Western Carolina University, will lead the workshop.

Learn about credit and its importance in securing financing during Qualla Credit Day on Wednesday, Sept. 22, noon-5 p.m. at the Ginger Lynn Welch Complex (810 Acquoni Road) in Cherokee. Bring your lunch and sit in on a “Credit Awareness” class from noon-1 p.m. During the rest of the afternoon, community members will be able to receive a free credit report and review.

Three events will also be taking place that Wednesday at the Renaissance Hotel (30 Woodfin St.) in Asheville. Learn how to read financial reports and use them to manage your business at “Cash is King,” a free financial statements workshop from 3-5 p.m. The workshop will be taught by Wendy Cagle, director of the Small Business and Technology Development Center.

There will a free business-networking event from 6-7 p.m. (limited to 20 people). This is a structured opportunity to meet other entrepreneurs, government entities and private companies.

The day rounds off with the MED Week Awards Banquet at 7 p.m. (reception at 6 p.m.). Enjoy a feast while outstanding business owners in six categories, as well as the entrepreneur of the year, are honored. Banks will also be recognized for their support of minority businesses, and three winners of the Youth Poetry and Essay Contest (open to grades 6-12) will be presented with an award and cash prize. The cost for this event is $30.

The 2004 MED Week Award winners include: Henrietta “Penny” Huntsman of Cherokee Office Supply in Cherokee (retail); Hilda Deitch of Ad Pro Marketing Corp in Asheville (wholesale); Jonathan and Namurah Blakely of Quality Janitorial Group, Inc. in Asheville (service); DeRotha “Dee” Williams of Dee Williams & Company, Inc. in Asheville (construction); Hector and Minerva “Minnie” Torres of Tropical Dreams in Hendersonville (restaurant); and Minnie Jones of Minnie Jones Family Health Center in Asheville (health-care provider). The Blakelys also garnered the Entrepreneur of the Year award.

For more information about MED Week, call the Asheville Business Development Center at 252-2516.

— Lisa Watters

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