Nights at the Roundtable

Last year, Mayor Leni Sitnick held the first Mayor’s Roundtable discussion, wherein a group of interested residents took up the problem of litter, and ways to combat it.

Now, Sitnick is hosting a second roundtable, this one focused on the future of downtown — and particularly, how to manage its success. This gathering will address three specific questions: “What do you love about downtown Asheville?” ;”What are your concerns about the downtown area?”; and “Where would you like to see our downtown in the next five years?”

The meeting will be held Thursday, Oct. 7, from 7-8:30 p.m. in the Civic Center Banquet Room.

“The idea for this roundtable surfaced from many phone calls and messages that I receive from people concerned and interested about issues and future plans for downtown,” says the mayor. “It’s obvious that there’s a wealth of knowledge and creative energy surrounding this subject, and I want to make sure that we capture the best of these ideas.”

Responses from this year’s roundtable will be compiled and distributed to city planners and the 50-member committee overseeing the Center City Planning Process, a community-based effort to chart a future course for downtown.

Another public meeting on the Center City Plan will take place sometime before next spring.

For more information, contact Terry Clevenger at 232-4502.

Walk a mile in their shoes

Think twice before you joke about mental illness. Besides the very real difficulties faced by people with a mental illness, they also have to suffer those jokes — plus discrimination and, sometimes, even outright hostility.

To help bring home this message, the Asheville City Council proclaimed Oct. 3-9 Mental Illness Awareness Week, in conjunction with a number of activities and exhibits that will culminate with a one-mile walk, appropriately titled Walk a Mile in Our Shoes, which starts at St. Mark’s Lutheran Church).

The week began with a candle lighting and prayer offerings at several area churches on Sunday, Oct. 3. Other activities during the week include an exhibit at Pack Memorial Library about severe and persistent mental illnesses, and a reading of Where the Roots Reach for Water by former Asheville resident and sufferer of mental illness Jeffery Smith, to be held at Malaprop’s, Thursday, Oct. 7 at 7 p.m. In his presentation, Smith will relate his own devastating — but ultimately enlightening — experience. [For more details, see this week’s Smart Bets section.]

National Depression Screening Day (Thursday, Oct. 7) will be held at various locations. Anyone can learn for free about the signs and symptoms of depression, and find out if they might benefit from a more complete evaluation and, possibly, treatment. (Call Mission St. Joseph’s, Charter Asheville, Park Ridge and Pardee hospitals for the time and place of their screenings.)

Finally, try walking a mile in their shoes, and wind up at the Mental Health Fair at St. Mark’s Church, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., with lots of information available from various community health providers. This event is sponsored by: the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill Western Carolina; the Blue Ridge Center; Charter Asheville; and the psychiatric services of Mission St. Joseph’s Health System, Pardee and Park Ridge hospitals. The first 100 walkers will receive a free NAMI T-shirt.

For more information, contact any of the organizations listed above, or call NAMI-WC at 298-1847. Their free HELPLINE is also available at 1-800-451-9682.

The family of the year

With terms like “family values” and “family-friendly” being bandied about with such vein-popping passion lately, it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that families — no matter what their political or religious persuasions — all share common trials and joys. That may be why the Family Services Center of Buncombe County is currently gathering nominations for its annual “Family of the Year” honor, in which it celebrates a WNC family who is … well, the “familiest” of them all.

The Family Services Center asks that you peruse your congregation, classroom and place of work, to see if certain families stand out as inspirational. Maybe it’s a family that has impressed you because of thy way they continually support each other — or one whose members simply seem to truly enjoy being together.

The family with the most nominations will make a special appearance at the Asheville Community Christmas Parade and the Light Up Your Holiday kick-off ceremony.

The center is distributing nomination forms, and its selection committee promises to do its best in choosing the Family of the Year.

To learn more about the nominations, contact the Family Services Center at 253-9314.

Saving Lake Logan

Last year, when Champion International announced it would sell its 4,374-acre Lake Logan tract, adjacent to the Pisgah National Forest, WNC environmentalists and literary types alike were alarmed — the former due to obvious reasons, and the latter due to the fact that the property is also home to the western shoulder of Cold Mountain, made famous in Charles Frazier’s celebrated novel of the same name.

Happily, the U.S. Senate recently approved spending $2 million, twice what the Senate Appropriations Committee had approved earlier this summer, to acquire Lake Logan and the surrounding forest.

The amendment to increase the funding for this project was introduced by Sen. John Edwards, and passed 89 to 10; the bill next goes to a conference committee to iron out differences with the House version of the Interior Appropriations bill, which failed to include any funds for Lake Logan, according to an Edwards’ office. “This land is vital to the economic and environmental health of Western North Carolina,” Edwards said in a prepared statement. “It is critical that we do all we can to convince the House conferees and the administration to support this project.” Edwards’ staff, along with Canton Mayor C.W. Hardin toured the Lake Logan area in July, at the request of SELC and the Southern Appalachian Forest Coalition.

Other partners in the effort to preserve the land for future generations include the North Carolina Clean Water Management Trust Fund, the Nature Conservancy, the Conservation Trust for North Carolina, the National Heritage Trust Board, and the Save Lake Logan Committee. Also working to preserve the land are the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy, the Western Carolina Sportsmans’ Club, the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission and the N.C. Department of Environmental and Natural Resources.

To learn more, contact Michael Briggs at (202) 224-1545.

Contents under pressure

First the good news: The Regional Water Authority of Asheville, Buncombe & Henderson has announced the impending opening of its new “state of the art” water-treatment plant, located on the Mills River in north Henderson County. The new plant, which is expected to start producing treated water in early October, will increase the maxed-out system’s capacity by more than 20 percent.

Now the bad news: When the new plant comes on-line, it will cause a slight increase in water pressures in homes and businesses located in south Buncombe and north Hendersonville counties. While officials say that’s not a cause for alarm, it is time to check on your plumbing system, to see if can handle the new load.

“Every customer in the water system who has a tap should maintain their plumbing system at water pressures designed for that plumbing system,” said Director of Water Resources Tom Frederick. “That means installing a pressure-reducing valve where appropriate. And that’s the responsibility of the customer.”

Pressures in the affected areas — specifically homes and businesses near the facility and near Airport Road, in south Buncombe — will range from a high of about 200 psi nearest the treatment plant, to around 140 psi at the intersection of Airport Road and Interstate 26.

This represents a modest increase of approximately 25 psi, Frederick says. While that won’t cause any problems for properly operating plumbing systems, he stressed that this is a good time to locate your home’s pressure reducing valve, and make sure it is adjusted properly. Typically, but not always, the valves are located inside the customer’s building, but before any other water connections.

“It should be between the meter and the house somewhere,” Frederick explained. “But unless someone is knowledgeable about the plumbing system, the best thing to do is probably call a licensed plumber.”

For more information, call Frederick at 259-5955.

— cognominally compiled by Paul Schattel

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