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Updated: 26 min 5 sec ago

National Spelling Bee ends in tie for second year in a row

Thu, 05/28/2015 - 22:38
OXON HILL, Md. — They couldn't be rattled. They couldn't be denied. Gokul Venkatachalam and Vanya Shivashankar had worked too hard and come close too many times not to win the Scripps National Spelling Bee.
So they shared the title, making history in two different ways.
The bee hadn't ended in a tie for 52 years — until last year. Now it's happened for an unprecedented two years running.
Vanya, 13, of Olathe, Kansas, is the first sibling of a past champion to win. Her sister, Kavya, won in 2009.
Vanya's final word was "scherenschnitte," which means the art of cutting paper into decorative designs. After being informed he'd be the co-champion if he got the next word right, Gokul didn't even bother to ask the definition before spelling "nunatak." For the record, it means a hill or mountain completely surrounded by glacial ice.
Asked what he thought when he got the word, Gokul said, "Me and Vanya were going to be the champions."
Gokul, 14, of Chesterfield, Missouri, finished third last year, behind the two co-champions. He had a gruff on-stage demeanor, asking about the word's roots and definition before chugging through the letters as if he had dinner plans.
"I wasn't nervous," said Gokul, a LeBron James fan who said his priority for after the bee was watching the NBA finals.
Both are eighth-graders, so it was their last chance. Vanya was competing in the bee for the fifth and final time. Her sister, Kavya — now a sophomore at Columbia University — competed four times, which means the Shivashankar family has made the trip nine of the past 10 years.
Vanya, who also acts and plays the tuba and piano, dedicated her victory to her grandmother.
"Everything takes hard work and passion," Vanya said. "That's definitely what I put in and I know Gokul put that into this endeavor as well."
Proving their superiority over even their toughest competitors, Vanya and Gokul went head-to-head for 10 rounds before the list of 25 championship words was exhausted.
The words included: bouquetière, caudillismo, thamakau, scytale, Bruxellois and pyrrhuloxia. Vanya appeared to struggle only with the Fijian-derived thamaku, which is a type of outrigger canoe.
Fourteen-year-old Cole Shafer-Ray of Norman, Oklahoma, making his first appearance in the finals, finished third.
Fourteen of the past 18 winners, including the four champions the past two years, have been Indian-Americans.
Categories: News

NC highway, waterway safety campaign nets 9,000 tickets

Thu, 05/28/2015 - 21:07
A multi-agency campaign to keep travelers on the state's highways and waterways safe resulted in more than 9,000 citations issued across North Carolina over the Memorial Day weekend.
The N.C. State Highway Patrol and the Division of Law Enforcement Wildlife Resources Commission announced the totals of their “On the Road, On the Water, Don't Drink and Drive” campaign in a release Thursday.
The campaign was held from Saturday to Monday “to ensure that all motorists can safely travel on highway(s) and waterways during the summer months,” according to the release.
The Highway Patrol issued a total of 8,887 citations over the weekend.
Statewide, officers reported:
- 289 tickets were issued for driving while impaired;
- 39 tickets were issued for provisional license violations;
- 99 were written for other implied consent violations;
- 23 were issued for drug violations;
- Nine motorists were cited for possessing drug paraphernalia;
- 1,668 were ticketed for seat belt violations;
- 196 were cited for child restraint violations;
- 579 were written up for equipment violations;
- 1,204 were cited for driver license violations;
- 1,061 were cited for registration violations;
- 3,485 other violations were also reported.
The Wildlife Resources Commission issued a total of 756 citations over the weekend. Officers reported that 12 boaters were found operating while impaired; 270 boating citations were issued; 474 boating warnings were issued; and 793 boats were inspected during the campaign.
The totals are reflective of each agency's collaborative enforcement efforts, the release stated.
Troop G, which covers 17 counties in Western North Carolina, including Henderson, Polk and Transylvania, reported a total of 580 citations over the weekend.
Twelve were cited for driving impaired; 11 for other implied consent offenses; nine for drug violations; one for having drug paraphernalia; 84 for seatbelt violations; nine for child restraint violations; 41 for equipment violations; 81 for driver's license violations; 84 for registration violations; and 248 other violations.
Reach Weaver at Emily.weaver@blueridgenow.com or 828-694-7867. Follow Weaver on Twitter at http://twitter.com/EmilyWORDWeaver or on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/EmilyWORDWeaver.
Categories: News

Police ride through county to promote motorcycle safety

Thu, 05/28/2015 - 21:07
BikeSafe bikers hit the streets Thursday morning in a more than 120-mile motorcycle safety awareness ride through two counties for the N.C. Governor's Highway Safety Program and BikeSafe Western North Carolina.
The day's journey led them from the Hendersonville Fire Department's Station No. 2 on Sugarloaf Road to Asheville Harley Davidson in Swannanoa, where the group enjoyed lunch before heading back. But along the scenic path that carried riders past budding flowers and lively school playgrounds, through downtown and Laurel Park, over Mud Creek, Cane Creek and the French Broad River – safety was top priority.
"In conjunction with national motorcycle safety awareness efforts, Gov. (Pat) McCrory issued a proclamation declaring May, Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month. We take this opportunity to remind motorcyclists and other drivers the importance of motorcycle safety and sharing the road," Assistant Director of the Governor's Highway Safety Program Mark Scaringelli told the crowd before they hit the road.
"Motorists need to be reminded that motorcycles will be on the roadways in greater numbers throughout the spring, summer and fall," he said. "Motorists need to be cautious, checking blind spots, using extra care when making left turns and remembering that as motorcycles approach they may be traveling faster than they appear."
Held in support of Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month, the ride featured local and state law enforcement officers from at least five departments, including Hendersonville, Huntersville, Asheville, Columbus and Gaston County.
Hendersonville Police Lt. Mike Vesely, who serves as a western regional coordinator for BikeSafe NC, coordinated Thursday's event. The journey marked his department's first organized motorcycle safety ride.
"We wanted to promote motorcycle safety and bring awareness of the growing number of motorcycles at this time of year in the western region of the state," Vesely said. Dozens of officers showed up to participate.
The BikeSafe journey started after brief announcements from Scaringelli, BikeSafeNC Statewide Coordinator Craig Moss, Hendersonville Chief of Police Herbert Blake and District Attorney Greg Newman.
"According to the Division of Motor Vehicles, North Carolina has over 179,000 registered motor vehicles and more than 443,000 licensed drivers who have either a motorcycle endorsement or learner's permit," Scaringelli said.
"Motorcycles represent less than 3 percent of all of the registered vehicles in North Carolina, but they account for nearly 50 percent of all the traffic fatalities," he told the crowd. "The state currently is reporting 52 motorcycle rider fatalities so far this year."
Hendersonville's latest fatal wreck took the life of 26-year-old Lester Odail Espinoza Najera, who was struck by a car while driving his Yamaha motorcycle on Spartanburg Highway three weeks ago.
Many wrecks could be prevented with greater vigilance among all of the motoring public, speakers said.
"Motorists must adjust their timing for maneuvers, allowing more space between their vehicle and that of a motorcycle," Scaringelli said.
He told the crowd that to be safe, a motorcyclist needs a visible helmet compliant with North Carolina's helmet law, highly visible protective clothing and gear and a motorcycle with properly functioning lights and equipment, with adequate fluid levels and appropriately inflated tires.
"I always say in class, 'Dress for the crash, not for the ride,'" Moss said, reminding the public that BikeSafe NC classes are free and open to the public. "You never know what might happen around the corner. Just be aware of all your surroundings."
Through BikeSafe, riders receive instructions from highly qualified and certified motor officers who critique riding skills and help students understand safer maneuvering practices, Moss said.
Vesely has led many local BikeSafe classes and has trained instructors to help grow the program.
Chief Blake said he was proud of his officers who turned an idea of having a team of motor officers into a hub of BikeSafe motorcycle training in the state.
"Seven and a half years ago when I came here, I asked for input, and one of the things that I wanted to do was to try to make sure these guys' passion could become something that could serve the community," Blake said. "We started out seven years ago with some old BMWs that were donated to us by (former) Sheriff (Rick) Davis, and now I think we are one of the hubs in this state for BikeSafe and motorcycle training."
Offering the final words before the anticipated ride, the district attorney reminded the crowd to be safe.
"One thing people don't know about the District Attorney's Office is … a large part of what we do has to do with traffic safety," Newman said. "All of you officers and the state troopers, as well, are very busy enforcing the traffic laws. … One thing that surprised me when I became district attorney is how many … misdemeanor death by vehicle cases we had that we were having to prosecute."
Traffic fatalities, he said, mark "a real problem. And I appreciate our police department being proactive and getting ahead of the issue and doing everything they can … to help enhance the skills and the attention to the fact that bike safety is important…
"Safety is of paramount importance," Newman told the crowd before they hit the road.
To register for a BikeSafe NC class, sign up online at www.bikesafenc.com.
Reach Weaver at emiy.weaver@blueridgenow.com or 828-694-7867. Follow Weaver on Twitter at http://twitter.com/EmilyWORDWeaver or on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/EmilyWORDWeaver
Categories: News

Airport conducts emergency training

Thu, 05/28/2015 - 21:07
Commuters on Interstate 26 probably saw smoke and lots of emergency vehicles surrounding the Asheville Regional Airport Thursday morning as first responders conducted a regional training exercise.
The exercise was designed to simulate an aircraft incident with injured passengers and crew. Staff walked through their emergency response, which included working with area hospitals and emergency organizations.
The airport public safety department works and trains with area law enforcement, fire and EMS agencies on a regular basis. The simulated event also expanded to area hospitals, and all involved practiced emergency response within the National Incident Management System, also known as NIMS.

The Federal Aviation Administration requires the airport to exercise its emergency plan at least once every three years. This exercise meets that requirement and allows the airport to partner with area hospitals to meet their individual requirements.
Categories: News

Ridership grows on Apple Country transit

Thu, 05/28/2015 - 21:07
Taking the bus is a transportation alternative that has a solid core of fans in the area, where Apple Country Public Transit operates three routes stretching across Henderson County and beyond.
Ridership has been increasing for the transit system, with a surge of 15 percent since 2011.
“People are learning that the system is there and that it's convenient,” said Matthew Cable, Henderson County transportation planner.
Increasing travel efficiency in the past few years has been a boon for riders, as have new vehicles added to system.
“I like riding the bus,” said Jeremiah Eppley, who works at Renzo's restaurant on North Main Street. “I go straight downtown, and it's like I was in a car.”
Eppley likes that he doesn't have to deal with parking or moving his car while at work; he usually gets a ride to his home north of Hendersonville after the dinner shift.
“It's cheaper and more convenient than driving,” said Eppley, who has used Apple Country Transit to get to work downtown for years.
Cable said that WalMart is the busiest stop for the system, which had a formal launch in 2002, when regular routes were established by Western Carolina Community Action (WCCA), the organization that spearheaded area bus service.
Operation of the Apple Country Transit system is now contracted to WCCA by the county. WCCA takes care of dispatch, handling operators' schedules, maintenance and ticketing.
Fees to ride are 75 cents for an adult and free for accompanying children, with 35-cent tickets for seniors. Transfers are free within the system and $1 to Asheville buses.
Monthly passes are $15, and a $10 discount book is good for 20 rides.
Henderson County oversees the contract and handles planning for the system, which has an annual total budget of $933,000.
The money comes from federal grant funding, state funding, and funds from the city of Hendersonville and the towns of Laurel Park and Fletcher.
About 7.5 percent to 8 percent of funding comes from rider fees, Cable said.
“I think the bottom line is that it helps people get to their jobs that have no other means to,” said Bill Crisp, transportation manager at WCCA. “Especially for people in the service industry—we try to get them where they need to go.”
The county provides signage and bus stop shelters, said Cable, who added that five shelters have been purchased for installation in the next year.
The three bus routes intersect at the shelter at Martin Luther King Park on the corner of North Grove Street and Fourth Avenue, near the Henderson County Courthouse.
A fleet of seven vehicles now includes five compressed natural gas (CNG) vehicles, Cable said, with one more CNG joining the fleet soon.
“The CNG has performed really well, with fuel savings,” he said. “The real test of these vehicles is that they age better.”
Cable has estimated that around 108,639 riders will use the system this year, which equals about 12 riders per hour over the 6:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Monday through Friday operation times.
Annual rider surveys give Cable and Crisp a good idea of the issues that come up on the system from an inside perspective.
Riders frequently suggest additions, changes and removal of stops.
“Saturday service is our biggest request,” Cable said. “Grant funding has not increased, so it would have to be a local obligation.”
Tweaking existing service that is under-utilized to accommodate for adding Saturday operation is being considered.
Keith Johnson regularly takes the bus from his home near downtown to work at Cracker Barrel off Upward Road, and he uses the bus for doing errands, as well.
“The bus saves money that you might spend on cabs,” said Johnson, who does not have a car.
The longest riding time — 30 minutes — is on Route 3, which travels to the Fletcher area and the Asheville Regional Airport, and riders can request service to Park Ridge Health.
Direct service to the Asheville airport will be interrupted for an unspecified amount of time while a new service stop is figured out.
A new stop at the Park & Ride at the WNC Ag Center will hook up for transfer service with ART buses from Asheville, which is also adding a stop at the Ag Center.
“I don't want people to cross (Highway) 280 to get to the airport,” Cable said. “It's not a permanent thing that we're not going to the airport.”
A new convenience store adjacent to the airport could provide the solution to locating a stop with sufficient sidewalk access, he said.
“The bulk of our ridership uses that (airport) stop only to transfer,” Cable said.
Para-transit services for riders with disabilities are available on the buses, with 4,860 riders using Apple Country Transit for those purposes in 2014, or about 19 riders per day.
Bicycles may be stored on the front of buses, greater increasing travel options for riders.
Also, a new partnership with Google Maps means riders can estimate their travel times quickly and easily, Cable said.
“Most of our riders have smart phones,” he said.
For more information, visit applecountrytransit.com or call 828-698-8571.
Reach De Bona at beth.debona@blueridgenow.com or 828-694-7890.
Categories: News

Mills River delays action on law enforcement contract

Thu, 05/28/2015 - 21:05
MILLS RIVER -- The Mills River Town Council tabled a decision on a more costly contract with Henderson County for the services of a sheriff’s deputy, saying council members didn’t have enough information Thursday.
The Henderson County Board of Commissioners decided at a May 20 county budget work session to charge Mills River $109,137 per year for the deputy stationed in the town. That’s $38,504 more than the current cost of $70,633 per year.
Town council members said Thursday that the county’s cost estimates are too high and ambiguous, and they want to negotiate with the county further.
They delayed a decision on the contract until June 11, when the Mills River council will hold a public hearing on its fiscal 2015-16 budget.
During Thursday’s discussion, council members expressed concern about costs the county presented for an “average deputy,” including $70,446 for salary, saying the deputy stationed in Mills River doesn’t make that much.
They also questioned heightened costs for equipment that they say the Mills River deputy doesn’t have and $15,000 listed for “indirect costs.”
“There’s something about these numbers that just ain’t adding up,” Councilman Shanon Gonce said.
“There’s just a lot of stuff in there that don’t make sense to me,” he said. “I think the question needs to be asked, ‘Is this just a smokescreen?’ If you need the money, tell me you need the money.”
Council Member Roger Snyder said, “A lot of this fluff is the county trying to recoup some of their administrative costs” that the town hasn’t seen before.
Mills River Town Manager Jeff Wells said in his most recent call to County Manager Steve Wyatt about the council’s concerns, the position from the county was that the new contract is a “take it or leave it” deal.
Mayor Larry Freeman expressed concern over who the parties of the contract would be, saying the town’s contract has always been with the Sheriff’s Office, but the new one will be with the county.
The town’s attorney, Sharon Alexander, recommended the contract be a three-party contract including the town, Sheriff’s Office and county. Council instructed Alexander to confer with County Attorney Russ Burrell on the contract.
Wells introduced a couple of options to pay for the extra law enforcement costs. One alternative would be to tighten the budget by eliminating a new part-time park ranger position included in the town’s current 2015-16 draft budget. The other choice would be a tax rate increase of one-third of a cent per $100 valuation, he said.
Categories: News

Flat Rock man charged with stolen gun possession in Asheville

Thu, 05/28/2015 - 20:28
ASHEVILLE (AP) — A Henderson County man is facing numerous charges in Asheville after police say they found him in possession of more than a dozen stolen guns.
Dwight Morgan Jr., 42, of Flat Rock was charged Wednesday with possessing 14 stolen firearms. According to warrants at the Buncombe County magistrate's office, Morgan also faces marijuana and methamphetamine drug charges, among other charges.
Police say Morgan's cache include 11 rifles, two pistols and one shotgun, all of which were stolen.
Morgan was being held at the Buncombe County Detention Facility. His bond was set at $200,000.
Jail records do not say if Morgan has an attorney.
Categories: News

Sports & Bacon: The great MJ-King debate

Thu, 05/28/2015 - 19:38
I can be very sentimental sometimes. Right now, I'm over-the-moon giddy as I gobble up every tidbit of information that is being released about "Fuller House."
As a kid, I obsessively watched "Full House" when it was on air, and then I watched just about every rerun for at least 10 years after that. The Tanners, along with Uncles Jessie and Joey, were a part of who I was. I can't imagine having grown up in a world where those folks weren't a part of my life.
From a sentiment standpoint, they set the tone for family sitcoms in my own mind. Sure, there were more critically-acclaimed "family" sitcoms through the years, but none stood out as much as "Full House" to me.
So when I first heard that they were going to reboot it with some of the kids all grown up, I immediately felt like it was Christmas morning. I wanted to jump up and run into my parents' bedroom screaming that "Santa had come and left."
That'd be really weird though. For one thing, I'm old and fat now and would probably break their bed if I ran and jumped on it. Secondly, my parents live about 30 miles from my house so I don't think I could quite make it there if I ran.
Speaking of running and jumping, let's segue into the real point of this column.
I say all of that to get to the one question that burns in the mind of all basketball fans — Who's the greatest basketball player of all time? Is it Michael Jordan or is it Lebron James? I'm sure some other names could be bandied about like Kobe Bryant or Wilt Chamberlain, but the hottest debate is Jordan vs. James.
In one corner, you have the champion of champions. Jordan was lights out in the NBA finals. I mean, he won six championships and was the MVP in all six of those. He was a 6-foot, 6-inch shooting guard who was one of the most prolific scorers in NBA history. He weighed in around 220 in his prime.
In the other corner, there's James. Right now, he's more often than not, the villain of the NBA. His whole ESPN announcement where he chose to take his talents to the Miami Heat might be the root of that. James has won two NBA finals and is 6 feet, 8 inches and 250 pounds.
Who's better? That's the question on everyone's mind.
If I were building a team, I'd probably pick James. For some, Jordan is the "Full House" pick. I get the sentimentality. I don't think you could really go wrong with either, but I just think the physical stature of James gives him the edge. The guy is built like an NFL defensive end or linebacker and he can do all the things that Jordan did and more.
And I understand the whole "killer instinct" and "clutch" arguments that are tied to Jordan. I get it, but I'm not a hundred percent sold. I think it's at least debatable. The folks who don't think it is aren't thinking objectively.
I think Bill Laimbeer has laid out the most sensible argument yet. The former Detroit Piston center told ESPN in a radio interview that he'd take James. Laimbeer's Pistons beat the Chicago Bulls in three straight playoff series before the Bulls went on to win Jordan's six rings. Laimbeer said a big part of their dominance over Jordan's Bulls was physicality, but that would be out the window with James, he said in the interview.
"You can't knock him down," he said to Dan Patrick. "He'll knock you down. No one's ever seen a physical specimen like Lebron."
And then there's what James can do on the floor. James can play pretty much every position on the court. His ability to contribute in so many aspects of the game was a big part of Laimbeer's point.
James, Laimbeer said in the interview, "can get you 18 rebounds. Lebron can get you 15 assists if he chooses to, or he can score 50 if he wanted to."
I don't think that this argument will ever be settled. Maybe if James goes on to win another five titles so that he has more rings than Jordan, he could pull ahead in the overall debate. Probably not though, because most Jordan supporters will point to his time in "retirement" (also known as the Chicago White Sox) as missed opportunities for other NBA rings.
I understand there are diehard Jordan believers and diehard James believers. My only true point is that it's at least ... debatable.
What's not debatable though is that I'll take an episode of "Full House" over watching an entire NBA game any day of the week.
Categories: News

Heeeeerrrre, kitty, kitty!

Thu, 05/28/2015 - 18:25
Two passersby heard a cry for help coming from a storm drain on Four Seasons Boulevard Thursday, and they sprung into action.
Lisa McDonald and Joe Dinan had stopped for a traffic signal around 5 p.m. when they heard a cat in distress.
"We were waiting for the light and heard the cat calling," McDonald said.
They pulled into a parking lot and went in search of the feline. Though they could see the cat standing in the storm drain, they couldn't remove the heavy grate, McDonald said. So they called the police.
Officers Garrett Gardin and Robert Merz arrived on the scene, closed one lane of traffic on the busy thoroughfare during rush hour, and removed the grate.
That's when they discovered they'd found a scared-y cat. The animal wouldn't come close enough to the drain opening for anyone to reach it.
So the would-be rescuers placed a trap, with food in it, in the drain in hopes it would lure the cat to safety. The grate was placed back over the opening, and the lane was reopened to traffic.
McDonald planned to come by every few hours to check the trap Thursday evening. If the cat is captured, McDonald said she would call police to move the grate and retrieve the animal.
She has a soft spot in her heart for strays, McDonald said, and the couple has a passion for animal advocacy.
She and Dinan have provided a foster home for more than 25 animals in the past year, and they plan to donate a percentage of the profits from their downtown microbrewery, Sanctuary Brewing, to local animal advocacy groups and shelters. The business is scheduled to open later this summer.
Categories: News

Hands On! seeking young volunteers

Thu, 05/28/2015 - 17:40
Applications for summer youth volunteers are currently being accepted at Hands On!, located at 318 N. Main St., Hendersonville.
Potential volunteers must be going into the sixth grade or older.
For more information, visit handsonwnc.org/support-us/volunteer/playologist. Download and complete application. Completed applications may be emailed to info@handsonwnc.org, dropped off in person or mailed to 318 N. Main St., Hendersonville, NC 28792.
Training will take place from 3:30 to 6 p.m. June 16.
Categories: News

Former youth coach indicted on indecent liberties, assault charges

Thu, 05/28/2015 - 04:01
A Henderson County Grand Jury indicted a former youth league baseball coach last week on two felony counts of taking indecent liberties with a minor and four misdemeanor counts of assaulting a child under 12.
Thirty-three-year-old Jonathan Shawn Russell was accused in January of spanking the bare bottoms of boys on his team during a sleepover at his house.
The case against Russell now moves to Henderson County Superior Court with his first appearance set for June 29.
Russell was charged in January with four misdemeanor counts of assault on a child. Warrants state the former coach pulled down the pants and underwear of four boys, ranging in age from 8 to 9 years old, and spanked their buttocks "multiple times" with his hand.
New charges were filed in the case in March when Russell was cited with two felony counts of taking indecent liberties with children.
The most recent charges stemmed from two separate incidents. One encounter involved a member of Russell's former youth league team, the Henderson County Sheriff's Office told the Times-News in March. The other victim noted in the case was a minor at the time of another alleged incident, but was not a member of Russell's team and is no longer a minor.
A week before his arrest in January, Russell was removed from the Henderson County Youth Baseball Little League program when officials say they learned of the allegations.
Reach Weaver at emily.weaver@blueridgenow.com or 828-694-7867. Follow Weaver on Twitter at http://twitter.com/EmilyWORDWeaver or on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/EmilyWORDWeaver
Categories: News

St. James Charities accepting grant applications

Thu, 05/28/2015 - 04:01
The St. James Charities Foundation currently is accepting grant applications from agencies and organizations serving Henderson County.
Applications are encouraged from organizations that deal with health and education in Henderson County.
Applications requirements have changed. The new application forms are available from St. James Episcopal Church and are downloadable from www.stjamesepiscopal.com.
Applications must be mailed or delivered to the church no later than June 25. For further information, call David Marshall, executive secretary for the foundation, at 694-6927 or email him at david@stjamesepiscopal.com.
Categories: News

Special Olympics adds tennis in Henderson County

Wed, 05/27/2015 - 21:06
The options for Special Olympics in Henderson County are continuing to expand. On Saturday, the latest sport introduced in the county will be tennis.
The first meeting, which will run from 10 a.m. until 11:30 a.m., will be an introduction to the sport for the athletes as well as officially signing each athlete up and getting information to parents and caregivers. The new program will be open to middle school, high school and adult athletes.
West Henderson tennis coach Allen Combs, who will head up the new program, is excited about what it represents for him on a personal level. Combs coaches both West Henderson tennis programs and is also the Executive Director at Vocational Solutions.
Those two passions for Combs are intersecting on Saturday.
"It's exciting," Combs said. "This is a good fit for me."
The interest level is already piqued, Combs said. There should be a good crowd that shows up on Saturday and some of those in the crowd will be the folks that he works with professionally at Vocational Solutions.
"They'll get to see another side of me," he said.
There will be four different areas that athletes can compete in. Athletes will be able to compete in individual skills competitions, short court play, full court match play and level four tennis.
Just in the last year, Special Olympics has added basketball, track and field and bocce ball to its program. Local Coordinator Dylan King is happy to see another sport being added.
"This is going to be great," King said. "I think tennis is going to be very exciting. Hopefully, we'll have a good turnout on Saturday."
Saturday's meeting will take place at the West Henderson High School tennis courts. A permanent home for practice hasn't been determined yet. For more information call King at 828-775-0389 or email him at dking.sohc@gmail.com.
Categories: News

Rector qualifies for N.C. Amateur Championship

Wed, 05/27/2015 - 19:01
Fresh off winning an individual state golf championship last week and earning his high school diploma at Christ School, Hendersonville's Jonathan Rector was back on a golf course qualifying for another big North Carolina tournament this week.
He carded an even-par 72 (37-35) Wednesday at Brush Mountain Golf Club in Taylorsville at the sectional qualifier to earn one of the final spots for the 55th North Carolina Amateur Championship, which will be held June 18-21 at the Country Club of Landfall (Nicklaus) in Wilmington.
Rector, who's headed to Clemson in the fall on a golf scholarship, was one of 15 golfers who qualified in the Taylorsville sectional. Two other golfers also shot even-par to qualify.
Rector's round consisted of three birdies and three bogies on the 6,680-yard course. His first birdie came on the 418-yard, par-4 10th hole. Two holes later on the 515-yard par-5 12th, he hit his next birdie. His final birdie came on the par-3, 172-yard 15th hole.
Rector is currently ranked No. 13 in the state among North Carolina high school seniors by GolfWeek.
Categories: News

Whitmire bill streamlines path from MP to civilian police

Wed, 05/27/2015 - 18:36
Former military police officers now have a clearer, streamlined path to civilian law enforcement jobs in North Carolina, thanks to a bill introduced by Rep. Chris Whitmire that is expected to be signed into law by Gov. Pat McCrory on Monday.
House Bill 595 would allow current or honorably discharged former military police officers to forego certain training when applying to become civilian law enforcement officers.
The bill, which has been approved by the House and Senate, is “certainly good for military members who are transitioning from military active duty to the civilian world,” said Whitmire, R-Transylvania. The measure gives credit where credit’s due so that military members don’t have to duplicate training that may have surpassed what the state requires, he said.
“Why should someone who sometimes has four to five times the training not get some credit?” Whitmire said, adding that he wants to keep those military personnel in the state workforce, especially since North Carolina has the third highest number of active military members in the country.
According to the “Military Experience/LEO Certification Requirements” bill, the North Carolina Criminal Justice Education and Training Standards Commission would review each applicant’s training and decide if it meets or exceeds minimum requirements for the jobs they’re applying for. Applicants would be placed on a one-year probation period if hired.
Whitmire said he has seen support for the bill from law enforcement agencies and received “tremendous support” and help from the military branches.
The North Carolina State Highway Patrol is in favor of the bill, and its recruiting focuses heavily on former military personnel, said Lt. Jeff Gordon, public information officer for the patrol.
The bill will allow qualified incoming state troopers to essentially cut the 29-week “long course” in half, omitting the state’s 16-week Basic Law Enforcement Training course, Gordon said.
The new guidelines could help alleviate stressed police departments across the state that are having a hard time finding qualified applicants, said Whitmire, a U.S. Air Force officer still serving in a reserve capacity.
The bill also adds three members to the N.C. Criminal Justice Education and Training Standards Commission, bringing the total to 34, including the director of the State Bureau of Investigation, commander of the State Highway Patrol and a juvenile justice officer.
Hendersonville Chief of Police Herbert Blake said that as a former military serviceman himself, he was concerned when he learned that he would have to complete the state’s entire 16-week training course. Blake retired from the U.S. Navy in 1995 with classification of law enforcement specialist.
Since Hendersonville isn’t having trouble hiring officers, Blake said he will still require new hires at HPD to complete the North Carolina basic law enforcement course in its entirety.
There are many differences between military policing and civilian policing, he said. In the military, police officers are adhering to the Code of Military Justice and policing only other military members.
When policing civilians, police officers are enforcing the U.S. Constitution.
Blake got his first law enforcement job after the Navy in South Carolina, a state that did accept his military training and only required him to attend the South Carolina academy for three weeks, covering topics such as state laws, domestic violence and juvenile laws.
But when South Carolina didn’t allow him to complete the full training due to space limitations, he “had a gut feeling that it could come back to haunt me if I wanted to go to some other states and receive reciprocity as a police officer.”
Sure enough, when he came to North Carolina in 2008, he wasn’t eligible under state standards and had to take the entire basic law enforcement course.
“The training we received in the Navy at the Joint Law Enforcement Academy at Lackland Air Force Base was good training — suitable for what we did then in the Navy,” Blake said. “But in my opinion, with the exception of the physical training, self-defense and perhaps the firearm training, much of what an officer truly needs to be set up for success as a local civilian police officer in North Carolina is really taught in BLET.”
Blake said he doesn’t know of any other Hendersonville officers who have a history in military law enforcement and that HPD has been fortunate in seeing little turnover during his tenure as chief.
Reach Lacey at 694-7860 or derek.lacey@blueridgenow.com.
Categories: News

East Henderson senior receives National Merit Scholarship

Wed, 05/27/2015 - 18:06
“I love to learn,” East Henderson High School senior and recent National Merit Scholarship Award winner Mitchell Dennison said Wednesday after the official announcement of his award.
Dennison will be heading to Furman University in the fall to study computer science and expound on that love of learning with hopes to one day work as a software developer creating mobile applications.
He'll receive $1,000 a year over four years to go toward his education, thanks to the National Merit Scholarship.
“He's an unbelievable student, but an even better person,” East Henderson principal Scott Rhodes said of Dennison, adding that he's impressed that his student has been able to get his priorities in order at such an early age.
According to Rhodes, Dennison has not only been willing to put in the extra work to reach his goals, but also take the time to share his kindness with, and help, his fellow students.
“He'll do anything to make the school a better place,” Rhodes said.
Dennison's interest is grounded in mathematics, he said, but a stint at the Governor's School of North Carolina introduced him to the world of computer science.
At times he admittedly felt so challenged at the Governor's School that he didn't know quite what to do. But he took it as an opportunity to investigate on his own and work without a lot of help — a type of scenario he said he loves.
Dennison is one of approximately 7,600 high school seniors who will receive a college-sponsored Merit Scholarship this year, according to a release from the National Merit Scholarship Corporation Wednesday. He was the only Henderson County senior on the list released this week.
“Officials of each sponsor college selected their scholarship winners from among the finalists in the 2015 National Merit Scholarship Program who plan to attend their institution,” the release stated. “These awards provide between $500 and $2,000 annually for up to four years of undergraduate study at the institution financing the scholarship.”
Reach Biba at 828-694-7871 or jacob.biba@blueridgenow.com.
Categories: News

Mill Spring couple charged with growing pot

Wed, 05/27/2015 - 17:53
A Mill Spring couple have been arrested and charged with manufacturing marijuana after deputies found a growing operation in and outside their Red Rock Lane home.
The Polk County Sheriff's Office was contacted about suspicious activity in the area of Manus Chapel Road in Mill Spring on April 30, according to a sheriff's office news release issued Wednesday. Patrol officers arrived and located what appeared to be cannabis growing in an unoccupied field.
The Sheriff's PACE (Polk Aggressive Criminal Enforcement) unit began an investigation, which led the team to a home at 20 Red Rock Lane occupied by 37-year-old Kim Elaine Cox and 42-year-old Daniel Edward O'Conner.
“A search of the residence led to the discovery of a small, indoor marijuana grow(ing) operation. Paraphernalia collected at the residence linked the occupants to the marijuana plants growing in the unoccupied field adjacent to the residence,” according to the release. “A total of 12 mature plants were located along with 16 seeded containers.”
Production equipment found at the home, including growing lights, was seized from the residence.
Cox and O'Conner were each charged with a felony count of manufacturing marijuana and both have been released from custody on an unsecured bond.
Categories: News

Court metes out murder, indecent liberties convictions

Wed, 05/27/2015 - 17:07
Ten suspects were convicted of charges ranging from second-degree murder and assault to taking indecent liberties with a child in recent Superior Court sessions in Henderson and Transylvania counties.
In Transylvania County, the following people were sentenced by Judge Mark Powell on May 7, according to a release from the office of District Attorney Greg Newman:
Charles Eugene “CJ” Moore, 22, of Brevard was convicted of felony breaking-and-entering and was sentenced to prison for 94 months (seven years and 10 months) and was ordered to pay $2,657 in restitution to his victims. Detectives linked Moore to 56 vehicle break-ins occurring between Dec. 25, 2012 and Jan. 27, 2013 in Transylvania County.
Jason Wesley Kitchen, 36, was convicted of taking indecent liberties with a child in 22 cases. He was given an active prison sentence of 324 months (27 years). Kitchen was accused of having an alleged sexual relationship with a relative.
In Henderson County, the following people were sentenced by Judge Powell May 4-5:
Brandon Cody Lee Case, 27, of Saluda pleaded guilty and was convicted of second-degree murder for the Feb. 22, 2012, death of 23-year-old Joshua William Lindsay, who detectives say was having an affair with the mother of Case’s child. Case was sentenced to 322 months (26 years and 10 months) in prison.
Philip Estes, 21, of Henderson County was convicted of possession of methamphetamine and was sentenced to spend 19 months (one year and seven months) in prison. Estes was convicted in 2014 of larceny, felony breaking-and-entering and obtaining property by false pretenses. He was still on probation for those charges when he was convicted of possessing meth earlier this month.
Joshua Warner Kamp, 36, of Alexander was found guilty of fleeing to elude arrest and speeding 140 mph in a 65 mph zone on his motorcycle. He was sentenced to 19 months (one year and seven months) in prison.
On March 10, U.S. District Judge Martin Reidinger sentenced Kamp to 33 months (almost three years) in federal prison followed by four years of supervised release for his role in a crystal methamphetamine trafficking ring, according to a recent release from Jill Westmoreland Rose, Acting U.S. Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina.
Kamp pleaded guilty in January to conspiracy to distribute and to possess with intent to distribute methamphetamine. He also faces several charges in Buncombe County, including a felony count of fleeing to elude arrest and felony possession of methamphetamine.
Charles Ricky Coleman Jr., 37, of 62 Alverson Lane, Hendersonville, was convicted of assault causing serious bodily injury and assault on a female. He was ordered to spend 25 months (two years and one month) in prison.
According to police, Coleman assaulted his girlfriend on the way home from Fat Cats Billiards in Arden on May 26, 2014. The victim was later transported to Mission Hospital, where she was treated for a fractured eye socket and concussion, according to facts of the case presented in court.
Coleman was enrolled in an anger management course through Mainstay and had attended seven classes, his attorney told the court before his client was sentenced.
Christopher Daryl Houston, 32, of Hendersonville was convicted of being a habitual felon after multiple break-ins. He was sentenced to 40 months (three years and three months) in prison.
Giovonttay Antawan Monroe, 28, of Lyndhurst Drive, Hendersonville, was found guilty of selling and delivering cocaine and was given an active prison sentence of 54 months (four-and-a-half years). He was also found guilty of felony assault with a deadly weapon, inflicting serious injury.
Eddie Carol Ellenburg, 33, of Hendersonville was convicted of carrying a concealed weapon and was ordered to spend 60 days in the county jail.
Cass McGaha, 41, of Haywood County was convicted of being a habitual felon and was sentenced to 72 months (six years) in prison. His past convictions include taking indecent liberties with a child and incest from offenses dating back to 1989.
“These cases are the ones where the defendants serve their sentences in prison or the county jail,” Newman stated in the release. “There were several cases where guilty pleas were entered and the defendants were eligible for probation or where someone’s probation was revoked and they went into custody to serve their suspended sentence.”
Reach Weaver at emily.weaver@blueridgenow.com or 828-694-7867.
Categories: News

What Is That?: US presidents in Hendersonville

Wed, 05/27/2015 - 14:47
They stand in the first-floor lobby of Hendersonville City Hall — one on a horse, two in chairs — day in and day out without a flinch, speaking volumes to the history of a young, restless country with just their presence.
North Carolina claims three presidents as native sons, and all three are depicted in the statue. “Old Hickory” Andrew Jackson, whose face still draws debate on the $20 bill, came on horseback. James Knox Polk sits to his left with a map sprawled across his lap. Andrew Johnson sits to the right, with the Constitution of the United States partially unscrolled in his hands. A battle shield of stars (13) and stripes rests at guard between them.
The men lived in a time in America's history where conflict was commonplace — fights over territorial expansions, Native Americans, slavery and states' rights. And their very presence stands not only as a tribute to history, but to the determination of a city eager to have them.
There are only two statues like it in the entire state, and Hendersonville has one of them — the last one to be made.
Jackson, Polk and Johnson, all three Democrats, were born in the Piedmont, although Jackson was so close to the border that both Carolinas claim him.
Jackson was the nation's seventh president (1829-1837), credited with the Indian Removal Act that drove Native Americans from their Southeast homes westward on a “Trail of Tears.” He was also the “first and only president to pay off the entire national debt,” which ballooned again two years later in an economic depression, according to insidegov.com.
The nation's 11th president, Polk, served from 1845 to 1849 and was referred to as the “Napoleon of the Stump.” He restored an independent treasury, which lasted until 1913, and reduced tariffs. Advancing the policies of Manifest Destiny, Polk welcomed three states into the new country and helped broker arrangements for land from Mexico that would give the nation at least five more, according to insidegov.com.
Johnson, the country's 17th president serving from 1865 to 1869, was credited as the only U.S. senator from the South to stay loyal to the Union after secession. He rose to the presidency after Abraham Lincoln's assassination and helped usher the war-weary country through Reconstruction. He was the first American president to be impeached, although he wasn't removed from office, according to the History Channel's website.
The stalwart fighters, eyes and brows furrowed from their struggles, are now frozen under a layer of thick bronze in Hendersonville City Hall — and the city is lucky to have them.
The Hendersonville statue was crafted from the molds used to make the original sculpture of the state's three presidents that stands on capital square in Raleigh.
After the original statue's unveiling on Oct. 9, 1948, “an article appeared in the newspaper saying the plaster models were in Providence, Rhode Island begging for a home,” according to the city's website. “Mrs. Sadie Patton, Hendersonville historian, read the article and thought, 'Why not bring them to Hendersonville?' ”
A letter-writing campaign began immediately, and a local trucker was persuaded “to let civic pride and $100 cover the cost” of picking up the crated statue to haul back home, according to the city.
The plaster models came in pieces, an arm here, a leg there, a horse's head — “Godfather” style.
“Those who had worked so hard to bring the statues here sadly agreed to nail up the crates, return them and forget the whole thing,” according to the city. But then, “Ted Conabeer, a talented sculptor living in Hendersonville came to the rescue. He built a special ramp up the City Hall steps; hauled the crates up, opened them, refitted all the disconnected parts, and patched and bronzed the plaster models.
“When renovation of City Hall began in 2003, the plaster model again had to be taken apart and the pieces were stored until the renovation was completed,” according to the city. “Several items of interest were found in the model when it was disassembled, including a newspaper from that time. Local sculptor James Spratt reassembled the statue in the first floor lobby of City Hall.”
The three presidents take their post behind a rail from the mayor's court, once held in City Hall.
Reach Weaver at Emily.weaver@blueridgenow.com or 828-694-7867. Follow Weaver on Twitter at http://twitter.com/EmilyWORDWeaver or on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/EmilyWORDWeaver
Categories: News