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Updated: 15 min 52 sec ago

Seventh Avenue stakeholders brainstorm ideas for district

Tue, 07/29/2014 - 18:20
A brain trust of downtown stakeholders, bubbling over with ideas and dreams for Seventh Avenue, met with city leaders Tuesday to share their thoughts of the historic district’s future.
From a new affordable housing haven giving new purpose to a vacant plant, to new streetscapes changing the district’s perception from the ground up, ideas infused the community room at the city’s Operations Center with a vibe of excitement.
The city of Hendersonville hosted the day-long Seventh Avenue Community Workshop to gather public insight and creative solutions to develop a long-range plan for the downtown district. The city called in Charleston-based Liollio Architecture, which operates an office in Asheville, to help the city envision the redevelopment goals and recommendations that have been raised.
“I think this has been very, very informative,” Mia Freeman said during a lunch break. Owner of Mia’s Marketplace of Antiques & More and member of the city’s Historic Preservation Commission, Freeman said the workshop generated good ideas and “a lot of good discussions.”
The preservation architecture firm heralds a community-based design approach as key to a quality environment.
Liollio principal and market leader Cherie Liollio started the workshop around 9 a.m., offering visual images of recommendations, some derived from a recent redevelopment study by the UNC School of Government’s Development Finance Initiative.
“We’ve been doing our research on the area,” Liollio said. “We didn’t repeat the work that UNC School of Government did. We developed sort of a menu of goals, a menu of recommendations, and that’s where we’ve had a lot of fun input. When we show visually an idea or a goal and talk about it, we try to take clues from other things we’ve read in the newspaper and from talking to other folks trying to stay true to what the main issues have been — the empty buildings and getting outside interest to come in with development, the perception of security.”
Goals offered during the morning PowerPoint presentation included calls to: develop gateways to the district; infill or renovate blighted buildings; improve the perception of security; improve the streetscape; increase building occupancy; encourage development; improve adjacent housing; create unified and improved signage; create Main Street connection; expand community outreach and promotions; and enhance current amenities.
Liollio recommended the city:
--Consider expanding its municipal service district along Seventh Avenue.
--Create an Urban Redevelopment District as proposed by the School of Government.
--Conduct building assessments to give developers a true look at a property and create “before and after” concepts to give developers a taste for a property’s potential.
--Complete a traffic and parking study; design and construct new streetscapes.
--Increase civic or promotional activities.
--Engage an arts and crafts community.
--Create a storefront art program to liven up vacant properties.
--Add city ordinances or initiatives for enhancement.
--Increase media coverage of efforts along Seventh Avenue.
--Create a retail incubator.
--Create a city presence with a possible satellite police station.
--Create outreach to private investors.
“Perception is key,” Liollio’s Michael Edwards told a group of stakeholders in a breakout session after lunch.
Developers, architects, business owners, missionaries, public servants and representatives of one of the newest kids on the block — Park Ridge Health, which bought the former Four Seasons Cinemas building — gathered around three tables to hammer out details and action plans for a new streetscape, regulations and architecture.
Edwards’ table discussed the possibility of a local historic designation to bring properties up to code in the district, but with the designation comes more regulation that drives up costs for renovations, according to City Manager John Connet.
“We don’t want to go down any avenue that would discourage development,” Edwards said.
Graham Fields, assistant to the president for External Relations at Park Ridge, told the group that they want to be a good neighbor in the district. He said they will be happy to work with the city to create a new home at the site that will serve as an anchor and possibly promote more development.
“It’s informative,” added Denis Dunlap, owner of Dunlap Construction. “It’s like we need to take a new look at what we’ve already tried. We’ve tried most of that in there, we just didn’t get it done.”
Reach Weaver at Emily.weaver@blueridgenow.com or 828-694-7867.
Categories: News

Details of state budget agreement disclosed

Tue, 07/29/2014 - 17:58
State legislative leaders held a joint news conference Tuesday to announce details of the $21.25 billion budget agreement they reached over the weekend, including what they call the "largest teacher pay raise in state history."
House Speaker Thom Tillis (R-Mecklenburg) and Senate Leader Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) said the state budget will provide public school educators with an average raise of 7 percent, about $3,500 per teacher on average.
Other state employees will get a $1,000 pay raise and five bonus vacation days under the budget, which also increases pay between 5 and 6 percent for "step-eligible" troopers with the N.C. Highway Patrol.
The $282 million investment will be the largest teacher pay raise in North Carolina's history, legislative leaders said, moving the state from 46th to 32rd in national teacher pay rankings. Unlike an earlier Senate version, teachers will not have to give up tenure to be eligible for raises.
"It's going to vary depending on whether you're a starting teacher or a veteran teacher," said Rep. Chuck McGrady (R-Henderson). "Not every teacher will get a 7 percent raise, but everybody is getting a real raise and functionally, they'll be no TA cuts."
House and Senate leaders said the budget will preserve teacher assistant positions, while continuing to give local school boards and superintendents broad flexibility in how they utilize state allocations.
Sen. Tom Apodaca (R-Henderson) said that in some of the state's 100 school districts, local superintendents and school boards have used portions of their TA allotments to hire teachers, "so we wanted them to keep that flexibility."
McGrady said while it may appear that the allotment for TAs has gone down, "you have to look at the allotment for teachers and see that's gone up. Since there's complete flexibility for school systems to use their allotments, the total money for TAs and teachers will not cause anyone to lose their jobs and will fund all these increases in salary."
Gov. Pat McCrory has previously said he would veto a budget with a teacher raise over 6 percent. Berger said McCrory still has some concerns, but has been updated as the plan has taken shape.
Although it won't be finalized unt il both houses appro ve the budgets, likely on Thursday and Friday, Apodaca said the budget still includes $15.4 million for construction of a new Western Regional Crime Laboratory in Edneyville.
"I think we've still got it," he said. "It's still there, last I saw."
In addition to the teacher pay raise and preservation of classroom funds, Senate and House leaders said the budget agreement will reform and replace an archaic 37-step teacher pay system with a six-step schedule and a transparent compensation package.
Berger and Tillis said the budget will boost early-career teacher pay by 14 percent over the next two years to $35,000, "making North Carolina a leader in the Southeast."
The budget will "fulfill the commitment to extend supplemental pay for teachers with master's degrees who have completed at least one course in a graduate program as of Aug. 1, 2013," the leaders said.
The new budget will preserve current Medicaid eligibility, but does make a 1 percent cut to the Medicaid reimbursement rate for health care providers.
A major overhaul of Medicaid pushed for by the Senate will wait until after November's election, Apodaca said. He said senators want to take a harder look at eligibility requirements for the aged, blind and disabled.
"We're going to come back after the elections and deal with Medicaid reform," he said. "You are going to see some kind of Medicaid reform, but we're going to take the politics out of it."
The full budget compromise bill will be posted to the North Carolina General Assembly website at www.ncleg.net on Wednesday.
Staff Writer Nathaniel Axtell contributed to this report.
Categories: News

Highway, bridge money at risk: Senate to vote

Tue, 07/29/2014 - 17:35
WASHINGTON — Racing to adjourn for the summer, the Senate scheduled major votes Tuesday on proposals to keep federal highway funds flowing across the nation — billions of dollars to avert layoffs for construction workers and shutdowns of road and bridge projects just before the November elections.
A smooth trip through the Senate was anything but guaranteed, and votes were expected to last into the night.
The House passed a $10.8 billion bill last week that would pay for highway and transit aid to states through the end of May 2015 at current spending levels, and the Senate was taking up that legislation. But some senators, complaining that the House version depended on budgetary gimmicks and wanting to force action on a longer-term solution, were expected to offer amendments. And if any amendments passed, that would set up a showdown between the House and Senate on how to resolve the differences.
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, declared his chamber would not accept any changes in the way transportation programs are paid for in its bill.
"I just want to make clear, if the Senate sends a highway bill over here with those provisions, we're going to strip it out and put the House-passed provisions back in and send it back to the Senate," he said.
By Aug. 1 — this Friday — the federal Highway Trust Fund will no longer have enough money to cover promised aid to states, the Transportation Department says, and the government will begin to stretch out payments. Congress has kept the trust fund teetering on the edge of bankruptcy since 2008 through a series of temporary fixes because lawmakers have been unable to find a politically acceptable, long-term funding plan. States have been warned to expect an average reduction of 28 percent in aid payments.
Without action from Congress, the balance in the fund is expected to drop to zero by late August or early September. And, separately, the government's authority to spend money on transportation programs expires on Oct. 1. Some states already have cut back on construction projects because of uncertainty over federal funding, and President Barack Obama and state and local officials have complained that the uncertainty over funding is costing jobs.
Federal aid pays for about 52 percent of the cost of road and bridge capital projects undertaken every year, said Dave Bauer, a lobbyist for the American Road and Transportation Builders Association.
"So if you have 52 percent of your market that on an almost annual or every-other-year basis is subject to Congress not shutting everything down when there isn't a great track record on doing that, would you be making long-term investments and hiring people?" he said.
An amendment sponsored by Democratic Sens. Tom Carper of Delaware and Barbara Boxer of California and GOP Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee would provide only $8.1 billion, just enough to keep highway programs going through Dec. 19. They say their aim is to force Congress to come up with a long-term solution on how to pay for transportation programs after the election when partisan fervor supposedly will have cooled.
"I remain deeply concerned that if we kick this can into next year that the next Congress — like so many Congresses before it — will be unable to summon the courage necessary to write a long-term plan for our nation's infrastructure," Carper said.
The trust fund is in its current straits because the federal 18.4-cent-a-gallon gas tax and the 24.4-cent-a-gallon diesel tax— the fund's chief source of revenue — haven't been increased in more than 20 years, while the cost of maintaining and expanding the nation's aging infrastructure has gone up. The fuel-efficiency of cars and trucks is also increasing while people are driving less per capita.
One solution would be to raise fuel taxes, but lawmakers are reluctant to do that in an election year — especially Republicans for whom a vote in favor of any tax increase could trigger a backlash from their party's base.
"I haven't heard of a single person that doesn't realize this issue has got to be dealt with, and the way we've been dealing with it is totally irresponsible," said Corker, who has bucked his party by introducing a bill to raise the gas tax.
Under an agreement worked out between Reid and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., any amendments require 60 votes for passage — a high hurdle.
Another amendment would replace the House bill with a nearly identical bill approved by the Senate Finance Committee. The key difference is the Finance Committee bill relies less on money raised by allowing companies to defer funding pension plans and more on steps to make sure certain tax credits are used only by people who qualify for them. Funding pensions plans normally results in a tax savings for companies, and deferring those payments means they will pay more in taxes and increase federal revenue.
Some lawmakers have complained such "pension smoothing" will cost the government money in the long and undermine the financial stability of pension funds.
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Follow Joan Lowy on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/AP_Joan_Lowy
Categories: News

Water system pressure advisory for Kenmure rescinded

Tue, 07/29/2014 - 17:35
A boil water advisory issued for Kenmure residents Monday has been rescinded.
Based on laboratory analysis of water samples collected from the city of Hendersonville’s water distribution system inside Kenmure on Monday, city water customers in the neighborhood no longer need to boil water used for human consumption, city officials said in a news release Tuesday.
Anyone with questions can contact the Hendersonville Water and Sewer Department at 828-697-3073 or 828-891-7779 after regular business hours, weekends and holidays.
Categories: News

Tractor-trailer with electrical problems catches fire

Tue, 07/29/2014 - 16:59
A tractor-trailer with an electrical malfunction caught on fire and shut down the westbound lanes of Interstate 26 near mile marker 62 in Polk County for about an hour Tuesday afternoon.
Saluda Fire & Rescue Capt. Nicholas Edwards said they received the call for a vehicle fire around 12:20 p.m. and found the tractor-trailer fully involved in smoke and flames.
Edwards said the driver told first responders he was having electrical problems and the lights inside his cab were flashing before he suddenly lost power to his truck, and flames started shooting up from the right side.
The driver escaped the truck and no injuries were reported.
Edwards said two lanes were shut down while crews worked to extinguish the blaze and clean up a fuel spill of about 100 gallons that leaked from the truck.
Jackson's Wrecker towed the vehicle from the roadway and the Saluda department was back in service around 2:30 p.m.
The Columbus Fire Department, Tryon Fire Department, N.C. Department of Transportation and the N.C. Highway Patrol responded with Saluda.
Categories: News

Panel hears ideas for helping city businesses

Tue, 07/29/2014 - 15:51
Hendersonville has garnered a reputation for being bad for business among developers and building contractors who say they are plagued with hurdles in getting new projects off the ground. But a new committee, composed of business owners and developers, is trying to change that stereotype, and gave the city a lot to think about during its second meeting Monday.
The Hendersonville Business Advisory Committee, formed by City Council earlier this year, brainstormed a list of regulation reforms in the city's Operations Center that zeroed in on some common complaints.
One of the complaints is that project review time takes too long. Tom Cooper, president and CEO of Cooper Construction Co. Inc., said the city has a tendency to review projects, find things wrong, send them back for correction, then review again, find more things wrong, and send those back for correction.
“What we are recommending is that the review process be (a) onetime (deal),” he said.
“Stormwater review by the city engineering department needs to be expedited,” he added. “I don't know if that's the amount of staff, workload or what, but it is, comparatively speaking, very slow.”
City Manager John Connet asked how the city could improve the process, which relies heavily on licensed engineers who aren't always the easiest to reach or get information from.
“Sometimes there's a gap there,” he said.
Cooper said he was referring to delays generated after the city has already received all of the designs and information it needs for a project. In “getting those plans reviewed, it just seems like they sit on somebody's desk longer than they should,” Cooper said. “I can't speak to what people's workloads are, but I can say that the timeline is longer than it typically is with other municipalities and other governments that we deal with.”
Councilman Jeff Miller asked Cooper what would be a reasonable expectation for a turnaround in stormwater plan reviews.
Two weeks, he said, for a project the size of the new Boyd Chevrolet location on Spartanburg Highway. The review should have been complete in two weeks, he said, but in reality it took “far too long.”
City Councilman Steve Caraker, who is a licensed contractor and was a county inspector for 16 years, suggested the city look into allowing developers to start projects while they wait for approval for certain aspects that may still be pending.
“If you find a way to turn them loose and let them start building pending the rest of their review, I think that makes them a little bit happier, right, Tom?” Caraker said.
“Yeah,” Cooper said. “When you have cooperation, you can get a lot of things done.”
Cooper said his company was sweating under a fivemonth deadline to finish a new $2.2 million building for Edneyville-based chocolatier Mona Lisa Foods earlier this year.
“If we hadn't had the county working with us to get that thing done it would have never gotten permitted, we would have never got the project going, we would have never finished in the timeline that we were given,” Cooper said. “I'm just saying they are there to do that, not to try to slow it down. They're there to speed it up. They didn't cut us any slack, they just tried to help with speeding up the process.”
The city hasn't always been so helpful, Cooper said.
“There's two municipalities in Western North Carolina that have the reputation in the contract community to be hard to work with, and this is one of them, the city of Hendersonville,” Cooper said.
A development group in Charlotte, looking to buy and renovate a building downtown, contacted Cooper two weeks ago, he said, to ask him if what they heard about the city was true.
“I said, 'It's been difficult, but they're working on it,' ” he said. “ 'We've got a new city manager and he's got the right kind of attitude. It's already having this effect. It's already getting better and it will only get better, but right now as we're dealing with it today, there can be problems because certain personalities are harder to get along with.' ” The board suggested the city revamp its prequalification process that seemed to preclude many local contractors from getting in on recent big-dollar city projects such as the Main Street redesign and new sewer lines.
The Main Street prequalification standards seemed to rule out contractors who only had one or two streetscape projects under their belt, regardless of the number of other construction projects they may have done, Cooper said.
Connet said that cities across the state started prequalifying contractors after several municipalities were left high and dry by secondrate outfits before the Great Recession.
“We had a lot of problem contractors, so the city started pre-qualifying people. The state does, too. We were pre-qualifying everybody,” he said, but added that since Cooper brought the concern to him after Main Street's redesign, the city has been looking at revamping its pre-qualification process.
“We're going to put a pretty high threshold and it has to be a pretty sizable project to do pre-qualification, otherwise we're just going to do a regular formal bid process,” Connet said.
Connet asked the group if the average resident and business professional would know where to go and how to start the journey of opening a business.
“The heart of the matter with all of this stuff is it's so complex that it's almost got to be customer-service driven,” said John Mitchell, Henderson County's business and community director who oversees planning and code enforcement.
First, developers need to find out if their properties are in the city or county limits. Then, which regulations they will have to follow and who will be their inspectors before talks of zoning, permitting, environmental health or a host of other issues begin, Mitchell said.
“It is a tough process, and that's why we try to be a onestop shop because folks who are risking their livelihood on business, you know, they don't have time to spend six months trying to figure out where they need to start,” Mitchell said. “So we try to set it up that you walk into the front door of our development building and you are met by somebody who will hold your hand through the process.”
Connet said they have looked at the possibility of joining the county planners and zoning officers in one central location.
“I want our folks to know, or make it easy for them to find out, how to get in the door,” Connet said. “Once we get you in the door, we want to be able to lead you through the process. Now, no one likes regulations. It's going to be bureaucratic, but we're going to try to make it as easy as we can. We can't make the regulation go away because we're protecting the public health and safety of everybody around us, but what I want to have the conversation here is how do we make it easy for y'all to get in the door and get into the door at the right place at the right time.”
“We need a concierge,” Miller said, to guide the public through the regulation process like the county aims to do. “We need somebody with the knowledge and personal skills to begin the journey,” someone who can cut through the red tape, he said, so that if you want to open a business you aren't greeted with a list of things you can't do.
Mayor Pro tem Ron Stephens agreed: “We need somebody at city hall so that when you walk in we say, 'I am your friend. How can I help you?' ” Board Chairman Chuck Edwards, former chair of the Henderson County Chamber of Commerce, offered three tips: address the “personalities” by encouraging them to be a part of the solution, not the problem in fixing the city's reputation; streamline the permitting process with a flow chart and a concierge to lead the way; and conduct post-project follow-ups, asking the business developer how they thought the process went to use the feedback for positive change.
The Business Advisory Committee will continue its discussion at its next meeting in October. The committee meets once a quarter.
Reach Weaver at emily.weaver@blueridgenow.com or 828-694-7867.
Categories: News

Got A Minute? with Richard Arell

Tue, 07/29/2014 - 15:51
Richard L. Arell
Age: 70
Occupation: Retired lieutenant with the Hendersonville Police Department
Hometown: Dedham, Mass.; has lived in Hendersonville for more than 25 years.
Family: My wife, Sara, and I have been married for 48 years this December, and have four children, eight grandchildren and one great-grandson.
After serving with the Hendersonville Police Department in various roles for 25 years, Richard L. Arell recently retired. Before he joined the local police department, he served in the United States Air Force for more than 26 years.
What first attracted you to work in law enforcement?
Having served 26-and-a-half years in the United States Air Force and upon my retirement from the Air Force and to Hendersonville, I was attracted to law enforcement and the Hendersonville Police Department, as it represented the paramilitary lifestyle to which I was accustomed and it seemed like a good fit. I met then-Chief Donnie Parks and, with his encouragement and support, attended basic law enforcement training and went to work for the department.
What were some of the jobs you held while working for the department? Which was your favorite?
After three years as a patrol officer, I moved up to the position of a detective and from there became a patrol lieutenant and, upon retiring from active service, became a reserve lieutenant. I think my favorite position was as a reserve lieutenant, as I liked the variety of working with different teams and individuals and being appreciated for supporting those teams when they were short on manpower.
What are some common misconceptions people have about what it means to work in law enforcement?
I think that sometimes people believe we have all the answers and can fix or solve anything when, in fact, we are governed by the laws themselves and have to pursue problems within those limitations. However, during my 25 years, I gained so much empathy for the public and I like to think I practiced it while on duty.
How has law enforcement work changed in the past 25 years?
When I first started in law enforcement, the primary focus was on physical security of businesses and residences. In later years, there became an increased focus on motor vehicle violations as well.
Can you tell a story from one of the first few years you were working at the department?
Every officer has a thousand stories to tell. Some of them are small, some of them are funny, some of them are sad and serious. I think my humorous stories might not be appropriate for print, and the sad and serious stories are really not ones I want to tell; and so I think my story is that I simply totally enjoyed every single day of being a police officer and getting to know and enjoy the people of our community.
Being privileged to work with so many different agencies and individuals during my 25 years was a great experience and left me with many good memories of good people. Just walking the beat on Main Street, chatting with business owners and passing by citizens made my day!
What was the hardest day you ever had?
The most difficult day I had while with HPD was the death investigation of an elderly woman who lived alone and had been deceased in her residence for about a week before she was found. Death is sad on its own without the unfortunate circumstances of her being alone and not found for such a long time, and it did have a lasting effect on me.
What has been the easiest part of retiring, and what has been the most difficult?
The easiest part of retiring from the HPD is just knowing that my phone isn't going to be ringing and there is no need to be at a particular place at a particular time; and that's also the most difficult thing, since I have to remind myself not to become complacent, but to stay involved with the things I like to do.
When did you serve in the Air Force? What was your job assignment?
I was in the USAF from October of 1962 until my retirement as a senior master sergeant in April 1989. I was an aircraft control and warning radar repairman, and that involved maintaining what was called heavy ground radar systems used to monitor the periphery of the United States and guard against intrusion of our airspace by enemy aircraft and if that occurred, control the intercept by friendly aircraft. I was also a recruiter in the USAF for several years, which was extremely rewarding.
What lessons or experiences from your time in the Air Force did you take with you to the police department?
Policing is a paramilitary type endeavor, and that discipline and maturity the military instills in individuals is most beneficial in working as a law enforcement officer. As a law enforcement officer, being both a follower and a leader is part of both the military and police work.
Between your time in the Air Force and the Hendersonville Police Department, you have dedicated your life to service. In your own words, how do you define what it means to serve your community?
Serving my community just means putting community before self.
For anyone considering joining the military or law enforcement, what advice do you have?
These careers will benefit them in life, whether they make it a career or lesser-duration commitment. Both the military and law enforcement will make one a more disciplined and mature person and, I believe, more appreciative of their community and our country.
Categories: News

Food Network show featuring Tryon BBQ fest to air Sept. 1

Tue, 07/29/2014 - 15:51
The Food Network's new show “Eating America with Anthony Anderson” premiered at 9 p.m. Monday, and an episode featuring the local Blue Ridge BBQ Festival and State Championships is scheduled to air Sept. 1.
The show, unofficially called “Food Fest Nation” in previous reports, follows Anderson as he visits food festivals across the country, partaking in local food and culture. Monday's premiere took Anderson to the World Championship Steak Cook-off in Magnolia, Ark., and his trip to Tryon will be part of the Sept. 1 episode, “BBQ Festival.”
In June, film crews from the show visited the Flat Rock Wood Room, where owners Wayne and Kim Blessing were gearing up for the Blue Ridge BBQ Festival. They have been competing in barbecue contests for eight years under the team name “Midnight Burn,” and were just a couple of the local entrants who made it out to Tryon last month.
Whether or not the scenes filmed at the Flat Rock Wood Room will make it into the “BBQ Festival” episode remain to be seen, said a Food Network spokesperson, since the network usually doesn't see the final version of an episode until the day it's aired.
According to the episode's description, Anderson will be shown tasting elk burgers, deep-fried pickles and Asado goat at the Blue Ridge BBQ Festival, where he also meets rival chefs.
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Reach Molly McGowan at molly.mcgowan@blueridgenow.com or 828-694-7871.
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Follow Molly McGowan on Twitter at https://twitter.com/TNmollymcgowan
Categories: News

Register now for BRCC's fall semester

Tue, 07/29/2014 - 15:51
Blue Ridge Community College is encouraging all new students to apply and register early​ for fall semester​. Students who complete their application process early, including pre-enrollment placement testing, can register early through Aug. ​14​. After Aug. ​14​, students may participate in final registration on Aug. 19 ​from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. The fall semester begins Aug. ​20​.
New and expanded programs include ​advanced manufacturing, welding, 3D printing, health science, criminal justice and automotive. Broad offerings in online classes are available, including the accounting, criminal justice​, banking and finance, marketing and retailing, and fire protection associate degree program​s, ​which ​are​ available 100 percent online. A wide range of new continuing education courses will also be offered in the fall.
Prospective students with questions should call Student Services at Blue Ridge Community College at 828-694-1800 or 883-2520 or e-mail admissions@blueridge.edu.
Categories: News

Gay marriage supporters push for quick NC ruling

Tue, 07/29/2014 - 14:35
RALEIGH, N.C. — Lawyers challenging North Carolina's same-sex marriage ban say they will press for quick legal action after a federal appeals court found a similar law in Virginia is unconstitutional.
American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina legal director Chris Brook said Tuesday the group will file motions within days asking a U.S. District Court judge in Greensboro to rule based on Monday's decision by the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia. The ACLU represents same-sex couples in two of the four cases challenging the ban that are currently pending in the state.
The 4th Circuit includes North Carolina. Attorney General Roy Cooper says it would be futile for his office to continue defending the law following the Virginia ruling. Supporters of the ban are vowing to continue the fight.
Categories: News

Poplar Leaf Cafe to open in Flat Rock next month

Tue, 07/29/2014 - 11:56
FLAT ROCK — A new, locally owned cafe and coffee shop is set to open in Flat Rock next month, and will offer more expanded breakfast and lunch menus than traditional coffee shops.
The Poplar Leaf Cafe, scheduled to open Aug. 11 at 576 Upward Rd., is the brainchild of Steve and Diana Spitzer of Hendersonville.
“My husband and I had actually talked about doing this for some time now,” Diana Spitzer said.
The couple had tossed around several business plans, including a diner-style restaurant, but when they settled on leasing the Upward Road building in March, Diana Spitzer said the location lent itself perfectly to a cafe and coffee shop.
When it came to naming their new venture, the Spitzers searched for something native to the area, but thought the “Blue Ridge” theme was overused.
“We had these beautiful poplar trees in our backyard,” said Diana Spitzer. “The shape of the leaves really intrigued me. They're really unique.”
And since the Spitzers' goal is to create a unique coffee shop/cafe hybrid, they went with the Poplar Leaf Cafe, even incorporating poplar wood in the menu board behind the counter.
The roughly 1,800-square-foot space has been repainted a cheery green, decorated with local art and vases of wildflowers, and equipped with a commercial kitchen.
“We don't have a fryer,” said Diana Spitzer. “There's not a need for more fried food.”
She said the cafe isn't going to “reinvent the wheel,” but will focus on providing its patrons with fresh breakfast and lunch options beyond a typical coffee shop's muffins and pastries.
There will be a quiche of the day — made crust-less for those with gluten intolerance — as well as smoothies, sandwiches, soups and salads. Diana Spitzer said the menu will fluctuate, to respond to customer favorites, and will include “trendy” healthy foods like quinoa and kale salads, and white chicken chili.
In addition to offering espresso drinks, the Poplar Leaf Cafe will brew three coffees regularly — a house blend developed for the coffee shop by West End Coffee in Greenville, decaf, and a flavored blend.
The Spitzers had hoped to open Poplar Leaf Café earlier than their projected opening date, but Diana Spitzer said that, in hindsight, the timing will be perfect.
“The road construction's finished; Blue Ridge (Community College) starts in a couple weeks,” she said. “Hopefully the students will want to be here. I think they'll be a good part of our lunch crowd.”
The cafe will be open from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays, and the drive-through will offer faster service for customers on-the-go, with a limited menu from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m.
For updates on the cafe's official opening, check out “Poplar Leaf Cafe” on Facebook, or call 828-595-9727 for more information.
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Reach McGowan at molly.mcgowan@blueridgenow.com or 828-694-7871.
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Follow Molly McGowan on Twitter at https://twitter.com/TNmollymcgowan
Categories: News

NCAA settles head injury lawsuit

Tue, 07/29/2014 - 11:54
CHICAGO — The NCAA has agreed to settle a class-action head injury lawsuit by creating a $70 million fund to diagnose thousands of current and former college athletes to determine if they suffered brain trauma playing football, hockey, soccer and other contact sports, The Associated Press has learned.
College sports' governing body also agreed to implement a single return-to-play policy spelling out how all teams must treat players who received head blows, according to a Tuesday filing in U.S. District Court in Chicago obtained by the AP. Critics have accused the NCAA of giving too much discretion to hundreds of individual schools about when athletes can go back into games, putting them at risk.
Unlike a proposed settlement in a similar lawsuit against the NFL, this deal stops short of setting aside money to pay players who suffered brain trauma. Instead, athletes can sue individually for damages and the NCAA-funded tests to gauge the extent of neurological injuries could establish grounds for doing that.
The filing serves as notice to the federal judge overseeing the class-action case that the parties struck a deal after nearly a year of negotiations. In addition to football, ice hockey and soccer, the settlement also applies to all men and women who participated in basketball, wrestling, field hockey and lacrosse.
There is no cutoff date for when athletes must have played a designated sport at one of the more than 1,000 NCAA member schools to qualify for the medical exams. That means all athletes currently playing and those who participated decades ago could undergo the tests and potentially follow up with damage claims.
To keep the NCAA from having to hold unwieldy talks with multiple plaintiffs, 10 lawsuits filed from Georgia and South Carolina to Minnesota and Missouri were consolidated into the one case in Chicago, where the first lawsuit was filed in 2011. Combined, the suits identified several dozen athletes by name as having suffered brain trauma.
The lead plaintiff is Adrian Arrington, a former safety at Eastern Illinois. He said he endured five concussions while playing, some so severe he has said he couldn't recognize his parents afterward. Subsequent headaches, memory loss, seizures and depression made it difficult to work or even care for his children, filings said.
Another named plaintiff is former Central Arkansas wide receiver Derek K. Owens. After several concussions, he said he found he could no longer retain what he had just studied. His symptoms became so severe he dropped out of school in 2011, telling his mother: "I feel like a 22-year-old with Alzheimer's."
Among other settlement terms, all athletes will take baseline neurological tests to start each year to help doctors determine the severity of any concussion during the season; concussion education will be mandated for coaches and athletes; and a new, independent Medical Science Committee will oversee the medical testing.
The NCAA admits no wrongdoing in the settlement and has denied understating the dangers of concussions. As proof it has tried to mitigate the risks, it has cited recent changes in equipment, medical practices and playing rules, including ones prohibiting football players from targeting an opponent's head or neck.
The NCAA also announced in May a three-year, $30 million concussion study co-funded by the U.S. Defense Department. Plans call for initial data collection on about 7,200 athletes from 12 colleges, increasing to 37,000 athletes at 30 sites, with the aim of better understanding concussions and developing better prevention methods.
The settlement is still subject to approval by U.S. District Judge John Lee, in a process that could take months. He must grant preliminary approval and then, after affected athletes weigh in, give a final OK.
Plaintiffs' filings say the number of athletes who may require testing to learn if they suffered long-term damage runs into the tens of thousands. They cite NCAA figures that from 2004 to 2009 alone, 29,225 NCAA athletes suffered concussions — about 16,000 in football, 5,751 in women's soccer and 3,374 in men's soccer.
Internal emails unsealed in the lawsuit illustrate how pressure mounted on the NCAA over the issue.
In a Feb. 23, 2010, email, the NCAA's director of government relations, Abe Frank, wondered about debates elsewhere, including in Congress, about recommended new safeguards for young children playing contact sports.
"Do you think this renewed emphasis on youth sports will increase the pressure on the NCAA to do more at the college level?" he asks in the email sent to the NCAA's then-director of health and safety.
David Klossner responded bluntly a few hours later. "Well since we don't currently require anything all steps are higher than ours," he wrote.
Later that year, the NCAA did establish a new head-injury policy that requires each school to have a concussion management plan on hand and it states that athletes should be kept from play for at least a day after a concussion; it also requires players to sign a statement "accepting responsibility for reporting their injuries."
But plaintiffs argued schools put too much of the onus on athletes with little understanding of concussions to self-report injuries. And they blamed a tendency of some teams to hurry concussed players back into games according to patchy, uneven plans and the NCAA's lax enforcement of the concussions policy.
In a 2012 deposition, Klossner conceded the NCAA provides virtually no oversight of concussion management plans and that schools aren't required to submit them to the NCAA. Asked if any schools had been disciplined for having subpar plans, Klossner said, "Not to my knowledge."
Prior to the settlement, plaintiffs were scathing about how the NCAA handled the head injury issue for decades.
Instead of adopting stricter protections for athletes, the lawsuit said the NCAA chose "to sacrifice them on an altar of money and profits," an approach that occurred even though the NCAA had known for at least a decade "of the correlation between concussions and depression, dementia and early onset Alzheimer's disease."
The plaintiffs cited a 2010 internal NCAA survey that found almost half of college trainers put athletes with signs of a concussion back into the same game.
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Follow Michael Tarm on Twitter at http://twitter.com/mtarm
Categories: News

Brewery supplier moving to area

Tue, 07/29/2014 - 09:38
The Country Malt Group is moving its southeastern operations from its Hickory location to a Fletcher warehouse at 145 Cane Creek Industrial Road, which will have new milling capabilities.
The company provides brewing and distilling products to breweries of all sizes, “from macrobrewers down to brew pubs and nano-size breweries,” said Bryan Bechard, managing director of Country Malt Group and Brewcraft USA.
In a news release distributed by the Henderson County Partnership for Economic Development, Patrick La Zelle, Country Malt Group eastern territory manager, said, “Our brewery customers in North Carolina and the surrounding states have experienced tremendous growth over the last three years since we set up our Hickory distribution warehouse ... and we are pleased to grow with them.”
Bechard said the company wanted to move its southeastern operations closer to Asheville.
“We already sell into many of the local breweries,” he said. “(Being in) Fletcher also allows us to service the southeast corridor, from Florida over to Texas, with a one- to two-day lead time.”
While Country Malt Group worked well with distribution partner Consolidation Services in Hickory, Bechard said the company wanted to be able to manage its southeastern warehouse itself — and offer a new service to smaller breweries.
Unlike Oskar Blues, Sierra Nevada and Highland Brewing Company, nano-breweries don't mill their own malt, Bechard said.
“The grain itself needs to be cracked,” he said. “That was not an option where we were prior. As we see more and more small breweries come into the market, we need to offer that service.”
Bechard said he was aware of nearby Blue Ridge Community College's relatively new Applied Science degree program in Brewing, Distillation and Fermentation.
“We would definitely hope to work with Blue Ridge to help educate brewers and be a source of product for them,” he said, adding that Country Malt Group has working relationships with similar programs at Olds College in Calgary, Canada, and Niagra College in Toronto, Canada.
Steve Magee, who has served as on-site warehouse lead in Champlain, N.Y., will be the warehouse manager for the new location, scheduled to open Sept. 2.
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Reach McGowan at molly.mcgowan@blueridgenow.com or 828-694-7871.
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Follow Molly McGowan on Twitter at https://twitter.com/TNmollymcgowan
Categories: News

Study: More than 35 percent in US facing debt collectors

Tue, 07/29/2014 - 09:28
WASHINGTON — More than 35 percent of Americans have debts and unpaid bills that have been reported to collection agencies, according to a study released Tuesday by the Urban Institute.
These consumers fall behind on credit cards or hospital bills. Their mortgages, auto loans or student debt pile up, unpaid. Even past-due gym membership fees or cellphone contracts can end up with a collection agency, potentially hurting credit scores and job prospects, said Caroline Ratcliffe, a senior fellow at the Washington-based think tank.
"Roughly, every third person you pass on the street is going to have debt in collections," Ratcliffe said. "It can tip employers' hiring decisions, or whether or not you get that apartment."
The study found that 35.1 percent of people with credit records had been reported to collections for debt that averaged $5,178, based on September 2013 records. The study points to a disturbing trend: The share of Americans in collections has remained relatively constant, even as the country as a whole has whittled down the size of its credit card debt since the official end of the Great Recession in the middle of 2009.
As a share of people's income, credit card debt has reached its lowest level in more than a decade, according to the American Bankers Association. People increasingly pay off balances each month. Just 2.44 percent of card accounts are overdue by 30 days or more, versus the 15-year average of 3.82 percent.
Yet roughly the same percentage of people are still getting reported for unpaid bills, according to the Urban Institute study performed in conjunction with researchers from the Consumer Credit Research Institute. Their figures nearly match the 36.5 percent of people in collections reported by a 2004 Federal Reserve analysis.
All of this has reshaped the economy. The collections industry employs 140,000 workers who recover $50 billion each year, according to a separate study published this year by the Federal Reserve's Philadelphia bank branch.
The delinquent debt is overwhelmingly concentrated in Southern and Western states. Texas cities have a large share of their populations being reported to collection agencies: Dallas (44.3 percent); El Paso (44.4 percent), Houston (43.7 percent), McAllen (51.7 percent) and San Antonio (44.5 percent).
Almost half of Las Vegas residents— many of whom bore the brunt of the housing bust that sparked the recession— have debt in collections. Other Southern cities have a disproportionate number of their people facing debt collectors, including Orlando and Jacksonville, Florida; Memphis, Tennessee; Columbia, South Carolina; and Jackson, Mississippi.
Other cities have populations that have largely managed to repay their bills on time. Just 20.1 percent of Minneapolis residents have debts in collection. Boston, Honolulu and San Jose, California, are similarly low.
Only about 20 percent of Americans with credit records have any debt at all. Yet high debt levels don't always lead to more delinquencies, since the debt largely comes from mortgages.
An average San Jose resident has $97,150 in total debt, with 84 percent of it tied to a mortgage. But because incomes and real estate values are higher in the technology hub, those residents are less likely to be delinquent.
By contrast, the average person in the Texas city of McAllen has only $23,546 in debt, yet more than half of the population has debt in collections, more than anywhere else in the United States.
The Urban Institute's Ratcliffe said that stagnant incomes are key to why some parts of the country are struggling to repay their debt.
Wages have barely kept up with inflation during the five-year recovery, according to Labor Department figures. And a separate measure by Wells Fargo found that after-tax income fell for the bottom 20 percent of earners during the same period.
Categories: News

NC Attorney General: Courts likely to overturn gay marriage ban

Tue, 07/29/2014 - 07:20
RALEIGH — North Carolina’s attorney general said Monday his office will no longer defend the state’s voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage in court after a federal appeals court ruled a similar prohibition in neighboring Virginia unconstitutional.
At a news conference about two hours after the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling was announced in Richmond, Va., Attorney General Roy Cooper said the ruling made it highly likely North Carolina’s ban will be overturned. North Carolina is part of the 4th Circuit.
Cooper, a Democrat, said further opposition to the four federal lawsuits challenging his state’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage would be “futile.”
“Our attorneys have vigorously defended North Carolina marriage law, which is their job,” Cooper said. “But today we know our law almost surely will be overturned as well. Simply put, it is time to stop making arguments we will lose and instead move forward, knowing that the ultimate resolution will likely come from the U.S. Supreme Court.”
Cooper had previously stated his personal opposition to the marriage ban, but said it was his duty as an elected official to defend the state constitutional amendment approved by voters in 2012. He said his decision Monday doesn’t mean same-sex marriages in North Carolina can begin immediately. That would take a judge’s ruling. But since the 4th Circuit includes North Carolina, he said any federal judge in the state would be bound by the ruling out of Virginia.
Gay marriage proponents have won more than 20 legal decisions around the country since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act last year. Nineteen states and the District of Columbia allow same-sex marriages.
“Our office, along with other attorneys general and state attorneys across the country, have made about every legal argument imaginable,” Cooper said. “Since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the Windsor case, all the federal courts have rejected these arguments each and every time. So it’s time for the state of North Carolina to stop making them.”
The U.S. Supreme Court could have at least five appellate decisions to consider if it takes up gay marriage again in its next term, beginning in October.
The American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina represents same-sex plaintiffs in two lawsuits challenging the North Carolina law now pending before a federal judge in Greensboro. Chris Brook, the group’s legal director, agreed that the new ruling means the state’s ban is likely to be overturned.
“This is the 4th Circuit very clearly indicating that marriage bans such as North Carolina’s do not comport with our Constitution’s promise of equality,” Brook said. “We’re reviewing our options right now in light of the 4th Circuit’s very encouraging opinion.”
Cooper’s decision was quickly condemned by Republican officials and groups that campaigned for the amendment approved two years ago. Cooper is widely expected to seek the Democratic nomination to challenge GOP Gov. Pat McCrory in 2016.
“North Carolinians overwhelmingly voted to put the marriage amendment into our state constitution and expect their attorney general to uphold his oath of office by defending that constitution,” said Senate leader Phil Berger Sr., R-Rockingham.
Tami Fitzgerald, executive director of the pro-ban North Carolina Values Coalition, strongly disagreed that it is a forgone conclusion that the law would be overturned.
“It is outrageous that federal judges put themselves in the place of God by seeking to redefine the very institution that He created,” Fitzgerald said. “Anyone who believes that this decision in Virginia somehow strikes down North Carolina’s Marriage Amendment is wrong.”
Categories: News

Community Briefs: July 29

Tue, 07/29/2014 - 03:01
NASA scientist coming to PARI
The public is invited to a discussion of the sun and solar activity by NASA solar scientist Mitzi Adams at 7 p.m. Aug. 8 at PARI, 1 Pari Drive, Rosman.
At NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center, Adams studies the magnetic field of the sun and how it affects the upper layer of the solar atmosphere, the corona. The event will begin with the presentation, followed by a campus tour, a trip to the Exhibit Gallery and an observing session. Each participant will also have the opportunity to have a photo taken with a PARI telescope and will receive a subscription to the PARI newsletter and a 10 percent discount on PARI merchandise.
Reservations are required and will be accepted until 3 p.m. the day of the event. Cost is $20 per adult, $15 for seniors/military and $10 for children under 14. Register and pay online at www.pari.edu or call 862-5554.
Public hearing scheduled for Aug. 19
The Laurel Park Town Council will hold a public hearing at 9:30 a.m. Aug. 19 at Laurel Park Town Hall, 441 White Pine Drive, Laurel Park, to consider amending the Laurel Park Zoning Ordinance as follows: Article 13 to update the operations of the Board of Adjustment; Section 902.12 to update the criteria for a sign variance; and Section 902.4(6) to adjust the time and size regulation of political signs.
A copy of the proposed ordinance is available for public inspection during normal business hours at the Laurel Park Town Hall or by calling 693-4840.
Meetings
The Mills River Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee's meeting scheduled for 7 p.m. today in the conference room of Town Hall has been canceled.
Events
Arden Seventh-day Adventist Community Life Center will kick off its CREATION Health seminar at 7 p.m. Thursday at 35 Airport Road, Arden. Info: 684-6700.
WNC Alliance and Oskar Blues will celebrate the launch of the French Broad River Paddle Trail App and their partnership from 5:30-8 p.m. Wednesday at the brewery, 342 Mountain Industrial Drive, Brevard. Info: wnca.org.
Categories: News

NC Senate leaders say final budget is coming soon

Mon, 07/28/2014 - 23:31
RALEIGH, N.C. — North Carolina's Senate leader said Monday that he hopes to have a final budget to vote on this week.
Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, said both chambers are working together to finalize the budget and he says he hopes the Senate will have a draft to consider by Thursday. Both he and House Speaker Thom Tillis, R-Mecklenburg, announced Saturday after a work session that there was an outline for a deal. The House and Senate have been caught in an impasse for weeks as they try to adjust spending in the second year of the two-year budget approved last summer.
"The speaker and I were able to have some productive and frank discussions. I credit him and his willingness to meet with me and work on these things," Berger said. "They're moving pretty quickly."
The budget does include some changes to the pay structure for teachers, but Berger would not go into details.
"The thing that the Senate said was its No. 1 priority was a teacher raise and making sure the teacher pay plan was a play plan that represented reform in how we pay our teachers," he said.
In response to a question about a 7 percent raise for teachers, a long-fought compromise between the chambers, Sen. Harry Brown, R-Onslow, said that the budget is tight, but will work. Some money to fund teacher pay raises and teacher assistant positions will come from non-recurring revenue sources, he said.
The budget also uses $25 million in non-recurring money from the lottery to preserve teacher assistant positions, he said.
Gov. Pat McCrory has previously said he would only support a 6 percent teacher pay raise and has criticized lawmakers for their handling of the budget. But Berger said Monday that he hopes McCrory can support the compromise. Staffers from the governor's office have been asking questions and receiving information on the progress of the budget from legislative staffers, Berger said.
"I am confident once we have all of those pieces put together the governor will review it," he said. "I would expect that he would be in a position to sign it. I think it's going to be a good bill. I think folks when they see it will be pleased with what we've done."
Berger said the budget does not include Medicaid reform. The Senate approved a Medicaid reform in a separate bill last week and took a final vote on it Monday. The plan would create a new state agency to oversee the program and introduce both private companies and provider-led health plans to manage how much the state spends on Medicaid patients statewide.
It will now be sent to the House, which will likely reject it and send it to a conference committee to come up with a compromise bill.
Categories: News

Medicare's own health looking better, report says

Mon, 07/28/2014 - 22:59
WASHINGTON — Medicare's financial future is looking brighter despite a growing wave of baby boomers reaching retirement.
Getting relief from a slowdown in health care spending, the program's giant hospital trust fund won't be exhausted until 2030, the government said Monday. That's four years later than last year's estimate.
As for Social Security, its massive retirement program will remain solvent until 2034, although disability benefits are in more immediate danger. The disability trust fund now is projected to run dry in just two years. At that point, unless Congress acts, the program will collect only enough payroll taxes to pay 81 percent of benefits.
Trustees issued their annual report Monday on the financial health of the government's two largest benefit programs, which together accounted for 41 percent of all federal spending last year. Though both are "fundamentally secure," said Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew, "The reports also remind us of something we all understand: We must reform these programs if we want to keep them sound for future generations."
Meanwhile, the trustees are projecting a 1.5 percent increase in monthly Social Security payments to beneficiaries next year. That would be among the lowest since automatic adjustments were adopted in the 1970s. The increase will be based on a government measure of inflation.
Medicare's Part B monthly premium for outpatient care is expected to remain unchanged for 2015, at $104.90. Average premiums for prescription coverage are expected to increase by less than $2 a month.
Medicare's hospitalization deductible is projected to rise to $1,248 in 2015, an increase of $32 from this year.
On balance, the report could help Democratic candidates in the midterm congressional elections. Republicans won the House in 2010 campaigning hard on a message that President Barack Obama's health law would gut Medicare. But that's not what has happened. White House spokesman Josh Earnest pointedly noted that Medicare's hospital trust fund has gained 13 years of solvency since Obama took office.
Still, both Medicare and Social Security continue to face long-term financial problems. Benefit reductions, tax increases or a combination of both will be needed to avoid sharp cutbacks in the future.
There is little appetite in Congress to tackle such big issues. However, the longer Congress waits to act, the more difficult it will become to avoid either large tax increases or significant benefit cuts, said economist Charles Blahous III, one of two public trustees.
"What is changing is that we are rapidly running out of time," Blahous said.
If Congress acts quickly, Social Security could be shored up for several generations through relatively modest changes to benefits and revenues. However, many Medicare advocates oppose any cuts to benefits, while many Republicans in Congress oppose any increase in taxes.
"The president will not support any proposal that would hurt Americans who depend on these programs today, and he will not support any effort that slashes benefits for future retirees," Lew said.
In 2030, when the hospital trust fund is expected to be depleted, Medicare will collect enough payroll taxes to pay 85 percent of inpatient costs.
Medicare is adding 10,000 new beneficiaries a day as baby boomers reach age 65. But the report said that costs per beneficiary were essentially unchanged in 2013, for the second year in a row. That is a contrast with previous years, when both per-person costs and overall enrollment were growing.
Experts debate whether the health-spending slowdown is the result of a sluggish economy or represents a dividend from the health care overhaul, which cut program spending to finance coverage for the uninsured. Congress and the administration later agreed to more cuts.
The health law also tried to restructure Medicare to create incentives for doctors and hospitals to keep patients healthier by closely managing those with chronic health conditions. But the effects of those changes may take years to discern.
At the same time, private insurers have been shifting more costs to patients. That's happening with employer coverage and with private plans through Medicare, including its prescription drug program.
When faced with higher costs out of their own pockets, patients often will switch to less expensive generic drugs, or maybe postpone a test or an elective procedure.
How all those trends converge, "no one knows and there is an active debate going on," Blahous said. "That debate is certainly not one that the trustees are going to settle."
The trustees are the secretaries of the Treasury, Health and Human Services, and Labor Departments, as well as the Social Security commissioner and two public trustees — a Democrat and a Republican.
Social Security's disability program could be shored up in the short run by shifting tax revenue from the much larger retirement program, as Congress has done in the past. However, that would slightly worsen the retirement program's long-term finances.
Lew endorsed such a move Monday.
If the two trust funds were combined, they would have enough money to last until 2033, the report said. That's the same exhaustion date as in last year's report.
About 58 million people receive Social Security benefits, including 41 million retired workers and dependents, 11 million disabled workers and 6 million survivors of deceased workers.
More than 50 million retirees and disabled people get Medicare. The hospital trust fund is only part of the program. Coverage for outpatient care and prescription drugs is covered by premiums and other government spending.
The trustees cautioned that the outlook for Medicare could change rapidly if health costs start to take off again, or if hospitals, doctors and insurers succeed in reversing some of the recent cuts to program spending.
Categories: News

Water advisory issued for parts of Kenmure development

Mon, 07/28/2014 - 21:46
After lightning damaged a nearby water main, Hendersonville Water and Sewer water customers in the northern portions of the Kenmure development will likely experience low- to no-pressure conditions until after lunch Tuesday.
“The line split about 13-15 feet long, and a joint of pipe is only 20 feet long. It almost split the entire piece of pipe,” said Utilities Director Lee Smith. “It's pretty catastrophic, and you can't just put a Band-Aid on that; you have to take the pipe out.”
City crews were working on repairing the pipe Monday morning and afternoon. Smith said he anticipates the advisory will be lifted after lunchtime Tuesday, with pipes fully restored and healthy drinking water flowing from the taps.
Smith said lightning damaging a waterline is not as rare of an occurrence as people may think.
“It's not uncommon; it does happen from time to time,” he said.
In the meantime, Smith said residents who live in the northern parts of the Kenmure development should continue to boil their water.
The affected streets are: Maple Hill Drive, Chestnut Way, North Windsong Lane, East Rock Court, Scenic Drive, South Windsong Lane, Old Poplar Lane, Ivy Lane, Glenroy Court, Poplar Loop Drive, Claymoor Court, Candlewood Lane, Overlook Drive, Dawnbrook Drive, Blossom Lane, Hickory View Lane, Broadmoor Drive, South Overlook Way, Red Maple Drive, Ledgemont Court and Coblestone Lane.
Periods of low- to no-pressure in this area increases the potential for back siphonage and the introduction of bacteria into this portion of the city's water distribution system. Hendersonville Water and Sewer staff will be collecting bacteriological samples in the affected area as the system is restored.
Check BlueRidgeNow.com throughout the day for updates on this story.
Check back to BlueRidgeNow.com for updates.
Categories: News

Turf installation complete at Brevard High

Mon, 07/28/2014 - 18:47
When the Brevard High Blue Devils take the field this summer, they will be tackling, passing and running on a new home turf.
The turf installation at Brevard Memorial Stadium was completed on Friday.
The project, which was approved in March, began in May. The sod that was on the field was torn up and fencing was taken down, and the turf was placed.
The newly installed turf is complete just in time for the fall sports season.
The first event on the turf will be on Aug. 15. The Brevard football team will be hosting Hendersonville and Robbinsville in a scrimmage that begins at 6 p.m.
A ribbon-cutting ceremony will take place on Aug. 18 as the Blue Devil soccer team hosts Enka with the junior varsity beginning at 5 p.m. and varsity at 7 p.m. The first football game on the turf will be against Owen on Aug. 29.
To see the new turf in real-time, check out the Transylvania County Schools' live-stream of the Brevard High School football field <a href="http://www.ustream.tv/channel/tcschools">here.
Categories: News