Buzzworm news briefs

Water Authority takes stock after floods

Repairs to the area drinking-water-supply system will cost about $1.25 million, according to estimates presented Sept. 21 to the Regional Water Authority of Asheville, Buncombe and Henderson, at the group’s first meeting since flooding from Hurricane Frances left most of the Authority’s customers without water for several days.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency will reimburse the city for much of that sum, predicted David Hanks, interim director of Asheville’s Water Resources Department. But in the meantime, the Authority unanimously approved a budget amendment to pay for the repairs using cash reserves.

During the storm, 20 inches of rain fell at the city’s main reservoir and 22 in its watershed, causing water to back up behind a narrow gorge of the Swannanoa River’s North Fork below the reservoir dam, Hanks told Authority members. The rapidly rising water then spilled over the nearest ridge, where the two principal mains from the reservoir were buried under a road and 8 feet of earth. About 200 feet of these lines ended up getting washed out.

Hanks explained that the city used all of its own dump trucks, as well as those of its contractors, to bring in 3 million pounds of rock to cover the lines after they replaced them. In the event of another major flood, “It should not wash out there,” Hanks asserted.

Authority Chairman Bill Lapsley said that the flooding “highlighted weak spots in the system,” which would now be easier to diagnose and address. But the flooding also demonstrated the system’s strengths, he continued, such as unimpeded operations at the Mills River Plant, where the control rooms were built high above the flood plain. With the lines from North Fork out of commission, the state had allowed Mills River to increase its output capacity to 7.5 million gallons a day, which the facility handled flawlessly.

After the flooding, some local business owners criticized the city for not releasing more water from the reservoir before the storm, which might have reduced the ensuing flood. After the meeting, Lapsely defended the city’s handling of the disaster. Noting that only 7 inches of rain had been forecast, he stressed that Hanks had kept Authority members informed and had acted in accordance with recommendations made by consultants several years ago. The recommendations are based on models that seek to balance the need to prevent flooding with the need to protect the system’s water reserves. Asked whether releasing more water earlier would have substantially reduced flooding, Lapsley, who is a certified water and sewer-systems engineer, replied, “You could write a Ph.D. dissertation tryin, City Manager Jim Westbrook commended the work of the city’s Water Resources Department, whose staff had been on duty for 21 days straight. Likewise, Asheville City Council and Authority member Joe Dunn described city staff’s response to the flood as “impressive,” saying “I know we’re in good hands.”

But during public comment, Hazel Fobes, chair of Citizens for Safe Drinking Water and Air, criticized the city for dragging its heels on appointing a permanent water resources director. “David [Hanks] has done an amazing job,” she said, “but we need an engineer.”

Westbrook later told Xpress that it would be difficult to attract well-qualified candidates to apply for the position of water resources director until governance issues clouding the future of the Authority are resolved. On July 1, Asheville gave Buncombe County a year’s notice that it plans to withdraw from the water agreement, which will dissolve the Water Authority itself.

— Jonathan Barnard

Of home and hearth

A house is something sold in a newspaper’s real-estate section. A home, on the other hand, is what you make of that structure.

In October, the Asheville section of the American Institute of Architects will present their fall lecture series, Timeless Homes, an in-depth discussion of how to create comfortable, beautiful homes that will last for generations. Noted architects, designers and authors Jeremiah Eck and Russell Versaci will lead the series.

• On Oct. 5, AIA Asheville, in conjunction with Neighborhood Housing Services, will screen the film Rural Studio as part of the lecture series. The film chronicles Auburn University students who worked in impoverished sections of Alabama designing and constructing homes and community spaces that embrace architecture as a social art form.

• On Oct. 6, Eck will draw from his recent book The Distinctive Home: A Vision of Timeless Design. He’ll show homeowners how to achieve a home with lasting character (without an unlimited budget) and share ways to find balance among the four essential features of every home.

• On Oct. 21, Versaci will talk about building a new home that looks like it’s always been there, drawing from his most recent book Creating a New Old House: Yesterday’s Character for Today’s Home. Versaci’s approach will highlight the trademarks of classic homebuilding, giving practical guidelines to new homebuilders who want to recover the practices that were intuitive to master builders in the past.

All three events will take place at the Asheville Community Theatre (35 E. Walnut St.). The film begins at 6 p.m., and the lectures start at 7 p.m. Admission to the film is a suggested $5 donation to Neighborhood Housing Services. Tickets cost $10 for the lectures and may be purchased at the theater or by calling the box office at 254-1320. For more information, visit www.aiaasheville.org or call 285-8713.

— Brian Sarzynski

A home of one’s own

When Asheville Buncombe VISION initiated a community dialogue around housing last year, resident Joe Mincozzi, one of the participants, discovered that he might be eligible for some special housing loans.

And Mincozzi realized that there were probably a lot of other people out there who weren’t aware of the resources available to them either, explains Sarah Uminski, executive director of the Affordable Housing Coalition, who was also involved in those discussions. “Because he was a part of these dialogues and he’s a consumer, he said, ‘We should get more information out to people. How can we do that?'”

Over the past year, says Uminski, a small but dedicated group of people have been getting together to discuss just that. Along the way, Charlotte Caplan, Asheville’s community development director, expressed an interest in getting the city involved.

Thus, the Affordable Housing Fair was born, a free event that will bring together all the service and information providers that anyone wanting to buy, rent, improve or build an affordable home may need. These include mortgage lenders, home builders, realtors, credit counselors, fair-housing advocates, housing counselors, landlords, housing-assistance agencies, housing-rehab specialists, healthy-home specialists, neighborhood associates and real-estate investors.

Sponsored by the City of Asheville, Asheville Buncombe VISION, and the Affordable Housing Coalition, the fair will be held on Oct. 2, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. at the Asheville Civic Center.

For more information, call the Affordable Housing Coalition at 259-9216 or e-mail sarahu@ahcabc.org.

— Lisa Watters

Rallying recovery

Recovery from any kind of addiction is never an easy path — so celebrating the journey and hearing from other travelers can make all the difference.

That’s exactly what will happen at the fifth annual Recovery Rally on Saturday, Oct. 2, 1-6 p.m. at City-County Plaza in Asheville. Sponsored by the Asheville-based nonprofit Voices for Recovery, the free event will feature music, speakers, free hot dogs (from 1-2:30 p.m.), free T-shirts to the first 200 attendants, and a raffle.

The rally is aimed at raising awareness that there’s hope for people affected by the disease of addiction, explains Voices for Recovery Director Doug Michaels.

“Recovery is a matter of life or death, and the most important thing I can do as a recovering alcoholic and addict is to share the message that recovery is possible for everyone and that it is OK to be in recovery,” declares Michaels.

This year’s rally will feature several North Carolina singer/songwriters who will perform and share their personal stories of recovery. Among these are Asheville-based Andrew Hart and Tyrone Greenlee, who will offer their mix of blues, R&B, rock (and even some gospel), and Michael Kramer, who will perform a solo acoustic set. The Redeemed, of the Evergreen Rehabilitation Center in St. Pauls, led by Captain Dezi Stanley, will sing inspiring harmony. And Trip Rogers and Bruce DeBoer, former members of The Dry Dogs, of Charlotte, will share their “clean and sober rock ‘n’ roll.”

Headliner Billy Joe Shaver will step on stage at 4 p.m. One of the originals in the Texas outlaw-country movement, Billy Joe Shaver started out with Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson and Kris Kristofferson back in the early ’70s. By the admission of all his peers, Shaver was the most promising of the bunch. However, after penning all but one of the songs for Waylon’s 1973 landmark Honky Tonk Heroes album and recording three successful solo albums of his own, Shaver hit bottom with drugs and alcohol. It took him until the early ’90s, when he started recording with his son, Eddy, to get his musical career back on track. He had six critically-acclaimed albums under his belt when, in 2000, he lost his wife and mother to cancer. That the same year, Eddy died of an accidental heroin overdose. But in the face of tragedy, Shaver kept on the road of recovery and focused on his music to get him through. Today, Billy Joe has recorded 17 albums and is the subject of the mesmerizing documentary called The Portrait of Billy Joe, which was produced by Robert Duvall and premiered at the Oxford Film Festival.

Additionally, Basketball Hall of Famer David “Skywalker” Thompson, who has been clean and sober for 15 years, will speak at 3 p.m. Thompson, a childhood hero of Michael Jordan, went from college basketball star to the highest paid NBA player ever until drug and alcohol abuse eventually ended his career and landed him in prison. He will share how recovery has changed his life.

For more information, call Voices of Recovery at 252-9022 or email brucegrooms@aol.com.

— Lisa Watters

Local voices

In an era of rapid consolidation of media ownership, independent news sources could be called an endangered species. In Asheville, both the daily paper and the broadcast network TV station are owned by out-of-state corporations, and a single mega-company owns one-third of the local radio outlets.

The Mountain Area Information Network has been bucking that trend for 10 years now, creating a community-based nonprofit Internet service with subscribers in 14 WNC counties. MAIN’s latest entry into alternative media is WPVM FM 103.5, a low-power radio station that serves a substantial portion of Buncombe County and has plans to expand its footprint as rapidly as funding and the Federal Communications Commission will allow (the station is also Webcast at wpvm.org).

Like most other community-radio projects, however, WPVM subsists on listener support. The station’s second such effort kicks off Saturday, Oct. 2 with an open house from 1-4 p.m. at its offices on Haywood Street in downtown Asheville.

Christopher Fielden, who coordinates the listener-support fund drives, told Xpress: “WPVM provides its listeners with the ability to hear the voices that are largely unheard in the corporate media. Through our programming, we air independent voices doing investigative journalism covering under-reported stories. This is absolutely essential for a healthy democracy in America — and in Asheville.” Referring to new shows that will debut during the fund-raiser, Fielden added, “We are about to start local programming on WPVM, which is also extremely exciting.”

Steering Committee Chair Leah Ferguson observed: “PVM is more than just community radio. PVM is a public space for discourse and discussion. … We don’t need fewer sources for information — we need more.”

But numbers, said Ferguson, don’t tell the whole story. “We also need news sources that are not invested in profits, to ensure that the news we get is a search for truth rather than an aid for a particular viewpoint. Community elements help us to preserve who we are and to grow in productive directions. PVM, as a vehicle for locality, will do that.”

The fund drive runs Monday, Oct. 4 through Friday, Oct. 8.

Listeners can make contributions by calling 258-0085 between 8 a.m. and 7 p.m. On-air donation hours will be extended on Wednesday, Oct. 6 during the “Take Back America” concert at the Asheville Civic Center. Donations will be accepted any time at the station’s Web site (www.wpvm.org).

— Cecil Bothwell

Shining the Spotlight on Domestic Violence

October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and Helpmate is planning several events to commemorate those who have lost their lives through domestic violence, to honor those who have survived and to educate the public:

• At an open house at Helpmate’s office on Oct. 4 from 4-6 p.m., the National Coalition Against Family Violence will present an award to State Rep. Wilma Sherrill of Asheville. Sherrill co-sponsored a bill that has brought sweeping reforms to the state’s domestic violence laws, strengthening penalties against abusers and supporting victims and law enforcement.

• The Silent Witness Project, an educational memorial that honors women and children who lost their lives to domestic violence, will rotate among several Asheville locations throughout October. This free exhibit, which features life-size silhouettes of women who were domestic homicide victims in North Carolina, will be presented with information about Helpmate’s services at the UNCA Ramsey Library, the A-B Tech Coman Student Center, the Stephens-Lee Center, and the YWCA, as well as at the Helpmate open house on Oct. 4.

• Helpmate and the Asheville Buncombe Coalition for Prevention of Family Violence (ABCPFV) will sponsor a silent candlelight vigil and walk on Thursday, Oct. 28. Beginning at 5:15 p.m. in Pritchard Park, the vigil is free and open to anyone who wishes to honor the victims and survivors of domestic violence in North Carolina as well as those emergency personnel who lost their lives responding to domestic violence calls. Candles will be provided. Following the vigil, participants will walk to the YWCA, where they will hang purple ribbons on an oak tree planted in October 2002 in honor of the victims.

A local domestic violence agency that works with the community to eliminate abuse, Helpmate is Buncombe County’s primary provider of crisis services to victims of domestic violence and their children. Its administrative office is at 68 Grove Street, Suite C, in downtown Asheville.

For more information, contact Valerie Collins at 828-254-2968.

— Megan Shepherd

Art for health’s sake

A chronic disease that infects about 1.5 million Americans, lupus causes the immune system to attack the body’s own tissues and organs, including the joints, kidneys, heart, lungs, brain, blood, or skin. Arising from unknown causes, lupus is neither inherited nor contagious.

As part of lupus awareness month this October, LupusAdvocacy.org, a local non-profit group, will host a fashion show and silent auction. Dubbed “Metamorphosis,” the event will be held on Saturday, Oct. 2, 7-10:30 p.m. at the Screen Door, 115 Fairview Rd. (near Biltmore Village).

The auction will feature wearable art fashioned out of recycled and unusual materials. An art show will offer handcrafted fashion accessories and other treasures created by area artists. Raffle items will include one week at a Mexican hacienda.

Proceeds will go to the Lupus Foundation of America (Piedmont chapter), which funds research and information services for both victims of the disease and doctors. The latter is important because lupus symptoms frequently mimic other diseases, making diagnosis difficult.

For more information, phone 277-3667 or visit www.lupusadvocacy.org for directions and a map.

— Cecil Bothwell

Playing the game

Checkers, Battleship and Scrabble, make room. Welcome Ashevillopoly, the newest addition to family game night.

Success Through Education and Motivation (STEAM), a local after-school program for teens, is releasing Ashevillopoly as part of its current fundraising drive. Modeled after the familiar Monopoly game, the local edition will feature board locations, money, and playing cards sponsored by area businesses.

In achieving its goal of motivating teens to pursue higher education, STEAM emphasizes practical business skills. At its “Motivational Mondays,” students meet with professionals, college-admissions officers and other successful individuals, who engage and encourage them, providing practical lessons for the future. STEAM also offers over 4,100 hours of tutoring each year and a “Power Up” fitness program to improve body image and self-esteem.

STEAM students build upon these lessons with community service activities, and creative enterprises. STEAM participants have previously compiled and published five books of their own short stories and poems.

By marketing Ashevillopoly to local employers, STEAM students have both raised money to support STEAM and gained entrepreneurial experience.

Stephon Hall, STEAM’s director of public relations, emphasized the benefits of the fundraiser for both the program and the community. “All proceeds go to keep our organization funded and running, but it is also a great way for businesses to get exposure,” Hall explains. “This board game will last as long as people keep playing it and won’t just be recycled like a newspaper ad. Businesses will see the benefits of their sponsorship for much longer than with traditional advertising.”

Hall happened upon the idea while searching the Internet for creative fundraising options. “Conventional ways of fundraising are overused,” Hall observes. “Our program needed something new and different to attract people’s attention.” Local businesses have already grabbed more than half of Ashevillopoly’s sponsorship opportunities.

Property spots cost $300, deed cards $650, and community chest cards $500. Individual patron ads can be purchased for $60. The deadline for submissions is October 5, and the deadline for graphics is September 29.

For more information, call STEAM at 253-3600.

— Amelia Pelly

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