Saving Lake Logan, part II

Last month, this paper reported that U.S. Sen. John Edwards had helped pass an appropriations bill allocating $2 million to buy Haywood County’s Lake Logan. The 4,374-acre tract (including several thousand acres of forested land) is owned by Champion International, which has put it up for sale to the highest bidder. After negotiations with the House, however, the Interior Appropriations Subcommittee came up with only $1 million for the Forest Service — not enough to complete the transaction — and there are reportedly many anti-environmental riders attached to the bill, which could delay its passage for some time.

Now, the Save Lake Logan Committee, chaired by Bob Brannon, is asking concerned citizens to call N.C. Gov. Jim Hunt and ask him to consider all the options for acquiring the property. “We need Bill Holman [secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources] and the governor to take a strong stand at this particular time,” Brannon said in a recent interview. “The governor has been helpful — he wrote a letter to Champion and ask them to keep the land off the market until the money could be raised — but now is the time we really need an all-out effort, the total support of the N.C. administration and DENR. This is a one-time chance for public ownership of the land.”

Though additional money is forthcoming — $3 million from a Clean Water Trust Fund grant, and at least another $1 million from the N.C. Heritage Fund, among others — it’s still not enough to purchase the property. Brannon maintains that Champion has several “bona fide” offers on the table and is considering its options. According to the Save Lake Logan Committee, the acquisition of the land even has a widespread, broad-based support — Republicans and Democrats, businessmen, and environmentalists are behind the acquisition. “[Sen.] Edwards has been a major help to us — he’s been our champion, if you want to think of it like that,” said Brannon. “[U.S. Rep.] Charles Taylor has been the one that has not come around — even Jesse Helms supported us.” But despite all that help, the group fears that — without more money and Gov. Hunt’s full support — the deal may fall through.

“We’re in the final 10 days or two weeks, we don’t really know,” noted Brannon, adding: “We are very close to being able to enact the transaction. But we need just a little final push.”

For more information about the Save Lake Logan Committee, contact Charlotte Lackey at 645-9945, or Bob Brannon at 456-9967. Gov. Hunt’s toll-free number is (800) 662-7952.

Brilliant, just brilliant

Governments are often bashed for their notoriously spendthrift ways with our tax dollars. But every so often, we hear about government employees whose creative suggestions actually save money. To encourage such behavior, the N.C. Department of Administration launched the State Employee Incentive Bonus Program last year. Now, the results are in: According to an NCDA media release, N.C. taxpayers saved $1.3 million in the last year — and many state employees financially rewarded. One team of workers received $100,000, and four individuals shared $20,000. Others received smaller sums for their good ideas.

The $100,000 payoff went to a team of 89 employees in the Ferry Division of the state Department of Transportation, who reportedly saved $641,596 by doing certain steel-fabrication work in-house, instead of jobbing it out to an out-of-state commercial shipyard. By using federal supplies acquired at little or no cost, the division was able to expand its repair facility into a shipyard with steel-fabrication capability.

The $20,000 bonus was paid to four employees in the Department of Corrections, who suggested establishing a medical-claims adjudication unit to ensure that the state was not being overbilled for medical claims involving prison inmates. The result was a savings of $466,601.

A number of other employees were awarded smaller bonuses, including:

• A now-retired management engineer with the State Property Office, who was awarded $4,835 after he suggested refurbishing and re-using surplus work cubicles instead of buying new ones, saving taxpayers $48,350;

• A production supervisor in the Department of Revenue, who earned $4,103 for her suggestion that the state use an on-line data-entry system, instead of an obsolete punch-card system;

• A unit administrator at UNC Hospitals, who received $2,580 for suggesting a switch from waxed-paper to plastic cups;

• A lithographic-press operator with UNC Printing Services, whose idea of using washable rags for cleanup, rather than disposable wipes, saved the state $6,440 — and netted a $1,288 bonus.

To learn more about the Incentive Bonus Program, call Priscilla Smith at (919) 807-2338.

The sweet smell of success

United Way of Asheville and Buncombe County has something truly worth celebrating: the successful conclusion of this year’s fund-raising campaign, which collected a record $5.3 million for local health-and-human-service needs.

“I’m overwhelmed by the tremendous outpouring of support from our community to help those people who need it most,” said General Campaign Chair Jim Stickney in a United Way press release. “I’d like to thank each and every person who contributed to this year’s campaign. Your combined effort means vital programs in our county will continue to make a difference in thousands of lives.” Among those companies recognized for their contributions were Mission St. Joseph’s Health System, which held the largest single employee campaign (bringing in more than $380,000), and Steelcase, which had the highest combined corporate-and-employee pledge (more than $203,000).

In a special ceremony at the Grove Park Inn on Nov. 5, United Way board Chair Charles D. Norvell told the 300 assembled campaign supporters: “We are very fortunate to have volunteers like Jim Stickney, who was the driving force behind the success of this campaign. Volunteers like Jim dedicate huge amounts of time and energy toward helping others through United Way. We were also lucky to have such an outstanding team of Loaned Executives from local companies, who worked long hours to bring in more than half our total campaign donations.”

Nice work, indeed.

For more information on the United Way, or to make a pledge, call 255-0696.

A downtown success story

For 11 years, the Asheville Downtown Association has thrived on promoting center city. As current volunteer chair and board member Rick Ramsey puts it, “We just want to get people excited about downtown.” Looks like they’ve succeeded. The group boasts a volunteer base of 80 to 100 people (ranging in age, as Ramsey puts it, “from 18 to 82”), many of them active since the association’s inception.

Those who’ve enjoyed the stellar Moonlight Over Downtown and Downtown After Five summer concerts at Pack Square (particularly memorable this year were the high-powered sounds of Deke Dickerson and the Ecco-Fonics and Los Straitjackets) know how much fun the ADA can inject into an evening.

The ADA’s other big annual event, A Nouveau Night — the fifth edition of which takes place on Nov. 19 — sold out in record time this year. Not even one stray ticket can be had at the door, for those unlucky souls who didn’t buy early. This festive event celebrates a tradition begun centuries ago in the bars and cafes of the Beaujolais and Lyons regions of France — the sampling of the year’s Beaujolais Nouveaus, which begin their journey to all parts of the world each year at one minute past midnight. Revelers at Nouveau Night can sample the finest of this year’s harvest, plus live music and light hors d’oeuvres from the city’s best restaurants.

Proceeds from all ADA events go to support the continuing effort to revitalize downtown.

And, as of last week, Asheville residents can view the tangible results of the ADA’s efforts. “Shopping Daze,” a whimsical metal sculpture, stands proudly in front of Malaprop’s (55 Haywood St.) — marking the newest stop on Asheville’s Urban Trail. This public art was commissioned solely through the efforts of the ADA.

For information on how you can become involved with the Asheville Downtown Association, call 251-9973.

Dead WRATT, live Partners

After eight years of service, the Waste Reduction and Technology Transfer (or WRATT), a waste-consultation service administered by the Land-of-Sky Regional Council, has temporarily called it quits. Staffed by volunteer retired engineers who perform a wide range of on-site, waste reduction services for WNC businesses and industries, the organization is taking time off to adopt a new name and a new look — with an eye toward becoming a more professional, more comprehensive service.

The new organization, to be called Waste Reduction Partners, will still provide all of the services that WRATT did — helping local businesses conserve water, use energy more efficiently, and reduce solid wastes. But WRP will also help out with ISO 14000, the new environmental-management-system standard. And, to help get the word out, the group also plans to revamp its promotional materials, including a new 30-minute PowerPoint presentation providing a detailed history of the organization and spelling out what it can do for local businesses.

These improvements, however, will mean more work for the organization’s 35 retirees, mostly engineers and scientists. If you or anyone you know would be interested in helping, give them a call.

For more information, to schedule a presentation, or to volunteer, call 252-6622, or e-mail

— co-dominantly compiled by Paul Schattel

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