Letters to the editor

Keep the cards on the table

I read with some interest the article by Brian Sarzynski about the Aces’ recent proposal for changes to the relationship between the Aces and the City of Asheville [“Ace in the Hole?”, March 9]. First of all, I’d like to thank Dr. Hoodenpyle and the other prospective Aces owners (a change in ownership is scheduled to take place in late March) for taking a creative approach to addressing some of the problems of the Civic Center arena. As Dr. Hoodenpyle stated many times during the Civic Center Commission meeting on Feb. 28, the proposal laid out a starting point for discussion with the city — not a final position.

The Commission asked Mr. Pisha to take a look at the proposal and give us feedback based on his perspective as director of the Civic Center, and his knowledge of the history of hockey (attendance, concession sales, etc.) at the Civic Center. In his opinion, the initial proposal from Dr. Hoodenpyle, if accepted as proposed, would cost the Civic Center (read: the citizens of Asheville) several hundred-thousand dollars a year. However, that was only one aspect of the proposal — an operational view. The proposal went quite a bit further than base-level operational considerations.

The proposal called for the city and the prospective owners of the Aces to enter into a partnership, with the city making major investments toward that end. The sum quoted by Dr. Hoodenpyle was an investment by the city of $1.8 million. An investment of this size goes far beyond the purview of Mr. Pisha. It lies with the city manager and the City Council. Both entities are currently reviewing the proposal. In addition, a Civic Center Commission subcommittee, headed by Commissioner John Broadbooks, is meeting with the parties and plans to publish a recommendation on the proposal in the next several weeks.

Everyone concerned with this proposal understands the status of the Civic Center and its many needs. In fact, the Civic Center [Commission] recently completed a White Paper which contains a compendium of the problems of the entire complex and a proposed priority for addressing them. Our study shows that the Thomas Wolfe Auditorium is in much greater need of repair than the arena, but if folks are willing to invest in the arena now, then we need to carefully consider that offer. We do need to keep in mind that negotiations mean give-and-take, with both parties eventually receiving benefit from the transaction.

— Max Alexander, Chairman
Asheville Civic Center Commission

The buck hasn’t stopped yet

To the editor and “reporter”: I did not start my letter to you with “Dear” because I find nothing endearing about either of you. As of this week’s issue of the Mountain Xpress, I am a former reader. I also have changed my mind about advertising my new business in your paper. I am enraged over the article about the spa owners and their supposed plight [“The Buck Stops Where?”, March 9].

I am the sister as well as a client of Mr. Arrowood, and the claims made against him in the article are totally false. Mr. Arrowood takes great pride in his work, as well as the work of his employees. Inspectors know and respect him. I have been on-site when they come for inspections, and no matter how well they like him, he is not exempt from the rules. If a problem is found, it is corrected — no matter what the cost.

It hurts me to see a local publication ruin the reputation of one of our area’s best builders. I thought that respectable reporters checked all sources before they wrote an article, and the editors questioned them on the information before it went to print. I am asking for an immediate retraction … and an apology to Mr. Arrowood. I [and] other friends and acquaintances are urging him to sue your publication for slander and defamation of character.

Until this week, I had not realized that Mountain Xpress was such a one-sided publication. I will live without reading “News of the Weird” (my reason for getting the paper) from this point on.

If this type of “reporting” continues, your publication will cease to exist due to legal actions, and I cannot see how that would be a bad thing. I urge you as the editor to encourage your reporters to check their sources and not believe the first whiner that cries foul.

— Michaelle Norton

[Editor’s note: Although Ms. Norton makes serious charges, her letter does not provide the specifics that would enable us to evaluate her statements. The story was thoroughly researched, and we stand by the facts as presented. Reporter Cecil Bothwell contacted Mr. Arrowood by both phone and letter during the past six months, offering him opportunities to respond to information provided by the spa owners, Bunnell-Lammons Engineering, Buncombe County and the state of North Carolina. Both his and his lawyer’s responses are included in the story.]

Did they fall, or were they pushed?

I am writing this in response to your article “The Buck Stops Where?” [Xpress, March 9]. Thinking on Mac Swicegood’s remark that the spa owners … “fell on their own damn sword” because they are the ones who wanted to do the project in the first place makes me wonder if the consumer is not at fault in many other situations.

For instance, a few years ago a medical manufacturer sent out thousands of artificial hips that were placed in thousands of patients who … [then] had to have the new hip removed and replaced because the manufacturer forgot to clean manufacturing solutions off the parts before packaging them for consumer use. The … manufacturer [was held] responsible and liable for this failure to meet the industry standard. Was that really fair? After all, it was the patients themselves who decided to have this major surgery done in the first place.

Or, how about those parents who bring their children to a restaurant only to have them die, or nearly die, from eating foods contaminated with E. coli due to the restaurant’s … blatant disregard for food-handling safety practices. Who is really at fault — the parents who chose to take their children to the restaurant, or the children who decided to eat the food they were served? That one is trickier.

Now, I agree that the spa-owner wannabees definitely had the choice to become licensed contractors and architects and do the work themselves, but foolishly chose to hire others who were licensed by the state of North Carolina to be knowledgeable and accountable. … But, the spa-owner wannabees did not have a choice about paying a required fee to the Buncombe County inspectors to come out and sign off [on] the work as being competent, up-to-code and done as outlined in the building plans. The question is: If the county inspectors are not to be held accountable for their work because of “sovereign immunity” and their work can be shown to be false [or] absolutely made-up, then is the county inspection a measure designed to uphold industry standards to protect the public at large, or is it just a quasi-mafia [operation] that demands a cut from every project done in the county while offering nothing in return? … [With] no accountability, then isn’t it just a form of extortion and organized crime?

In a world of Enron, WorldCom, cheating and lack of personal responsibility, it will be surprising if the infrastructure of the whole world — not just a few buildings — doesn’t come crashing down on us. Will we fall on our own damn swords?

— Amy Holquin

Quit going to the dogs

On a recent Sunday, I took my dog to the Dog Park, a fenced area within the French Broad River Park designed specifically for dogs to run freely to play and socialize with other dogs. On this Sunday, and with increasing regularity over the last six months or so, some parents decided that this fenced area was also a great place for their 1- or 2-year-old toddlers to run and play freely among 30 to 40 dogs that they do not know. In addition, on this Sunday there were another five or six children between the approximate ages of 5 and 10 who were running and playing within the dog park area, sometimes with dogs chasing after them.

Aggressive dogs are not allowed in the park, and I have never witnessed a truly aggressive dog in the park. However, sometimes dogs do show normal “dog” behavior by getting in a pack, growling and nipping with teeth bared, to determine dominance hierarchy. Some dogs run full speed ahead, being free to exhibit their herding instincts, while other dogs — many of whom are rescued dogs — are being “socialized” and huddle close to the fence, full of anxiety. Any of these natural dog behaviors could result in a devastating event if a small child were to wander into their path at just the right moment. I have already seen a small toddler accidentally tossed several feet in the air by three dogs running and playing at the park.

Not only do I have great concern for the imminent harm of one of these children, as well as the dog owner who will be left to defend her/himself and her/his dog should a child be bitten or maimed in some other way, but also for the loss of the Dog Park should there be a public outcry following such an incident. It would be so sad, because this clearly is one of those incidents that so easily could be avoided.

There are numerous parks in the city designed for children (including one just on the other side of the dog park fence), but there is only one dog park in Asheville, and I am hopeful that the dogs of Asheville and Buncombe County can continue to enjoy the use of this space without anyone being injured. Therefore, I would like to suggest that parents consider the possible implications of bringing their children into the bounds of a park designed specifically for dogs. If parents are unable to demonstrate this wisdom, could the city not help them out by placing a sign prohibiting small children from playing in the confines of the Dog Park?

— Brenda Chapman

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