Bill O'ConnorCity - County Gov.HendersonvilleNews Stories

Dana Wells is not a country singer


By Bill O’Connor –

Chairman Messer gaveled in the March mid-month Commission meeting. He noted the absence of Mr. Edney and the rest took up a non-agenda item; a rush approval for the Ag-Development staff and board to apply for a fabulous free money grant. It really doesn’t matter what the grant is for. If it is important to us here, why don’t we spend our money first rather than filter it through Washington where the DC Mob’s cut of our taxes and involuntary debt load is taken before sending what’s left to us? In four months, or maybe thirteen years, we are going to have to do a lot more for ourselves.

There was a time when armed Henderson men would meet a Federal officer at the county line telling him that “we can take care of ourselves”, and skedaddle him back to DC; now their descendents relentlessly with a smile, chase down the devil and his money to grab the food and future from our hard-luck children, grands and great-grands. Greedy? Short-sighted? Compassionate? Selfish? Shameful? What’s the line? “We report, you decide”. Dread the coming of the crisis being built of these bricks.

Dana Wells is not a Country Singer

Here is one thorny and challenging issue. People will come down on both sides of this, probably about 50/50. The hard part of governing is willingness to face hard facts when it affects neighbors. There are private wells in the Dana apple country that are chemically contaminated beyond a number of recommended levels. People in the affected area lived, for many decades, with near constant chemical spraying half the year without notable complaint. Now in crisis, they would like to get on city water, so to assist, the City of Hendersonville (which has a financial stake in getting the new customers) will help with financing half of a $600,000 waterline extension to serve the Dana Community affected by contaminated wells.

The County can participate, and must be the applicant, in order to qualify for a Rural Center grant (to avoid paying our own way) of $300,000 under the Clean Water Partners Infrastructure Program. This is simply not a proper function of government. Citizens who choose to live in proximity to hazards whether it is farming or beach homes, are volunteers. Bailing them out reminds us of the Tammany Democrat, Boss Tweed’s line while on trial: “If you can’t help out your friends, what is government for?” We ought to be better than this. If the Commissioners want to put us in what is not their business, we ought to be creative, like loans from the county at its favorable rates repaid through the affected individual’s property tax, not a free ride on their 95,000 neighbors and 330 million Americans. Is that banking? Sure, but better banker than Santa Claus with our kids money. I don’t recall any discussion of the responsibilities of the apple growers. Personal responsibility goes with freedom and rights. There can be consequences for where we choose to live, and should be for how we manage our business.

We find that The Rural Center above is one of the thousands of “Non Profits” out there distributing the Federal and State largesse. So we decided, as another example, to check them out a bit. I requested basic financial documents (we’ll see if they have studied accountability under state school systems), and was able to get some basic info from the web and a conversation with Rural Center President, Billy Ray Hall. Hall says they are a “public/private operation”; it seems to be about 5% private though there are 20 or donors; they get 90% of their funds (largely federal transfers) through North Carolina government; and 3-5% directly from DC, totaling $18.8 million. Hall says their admin costs are four percent. It’s just more of the wonderful free money that has lubricated going to the devil (and he is grinnin’ and a lickin’ his forked tongue across those cinder lips at the coming financial crisis) these last 80 or so years. As of the deadline we had not received the promised financial data. If the financials turn up, or anything interesting turns up in the financials, we’ll report it; Passed 4-0.

ABC Grant

Also up for money was the Chairman of the new county ABC Board, Beau Waddell; he wants $9,000 for a study of where to put an ABC store. The request comes from a group of the most knowledgeable businessmen and citizens of Henderson County. They could tell you the traffic patterns, and average retail sales by zip code; they know where the population is concentrated and the growth patterns; they know they can learn the sales records of the existing stores; and they know, today, that it will be on US64 between Laurel Park and Horse Shoe, US 25 North close outside the City Limits, or US64 close-in east of I-26, all in the outbound travel side of the road. I’ll take $3,000 to put it in writing and another $1,500 to make the choice. I hope Martin-McGill is good to the ABC Board; they certainly have friends there.

Because Edney was absent, the vote to grant quick cash failed 2-2 with Messer and Thompson voting Aye, and Hawkins and Young, Nay. However, Commissioners passed giving directions to county staff to prepare an ABC budget that includes the $9,000, 4-0, so the previous vote was pretty much lipstick on the pig. (LOP) If you vote against spending the money just before you vote for it, you could be a French-looking Secretary of State; shame on Young and Hawkins; and Messer and Thompson, for that matter..

Athletic Activity Center

While discussing authorization of the contract for the work to renovate the Athletic Activity Center located at the recently purchased Christian School, Commissioner Young noted that too many times the low-bidder becomes the highest bidder after change orders are included. He advised close supervision of the work. He did not mention building a tighter contract with enough definition to reduce the need for change orders. Close supervision runs the danger of being derided as “micro-management”, but it is clearly the board’s responsibility to see that the people get value for their taxes. Authorization passed 4-0 with a requirement for regular change order reports.

A Cease-Fire in The Seven Falls War

William Lapsley & Associates, the engineers working with the County for the Seven Falls subdivision guarantee project recommends that the County immediately advance the necessary $14,800 to obtain digital aerial mapping of the site as it now exists. Considering the erosion, and other physical damage done to the site in the years since the development failed, this seems an absolutely prudent use of the money to insure that the multi-million dollar repairs be done as effectively and economically as can be. This should get the whole-hearted support of environmentalist luddites, and tight-fisted taxpayers; Authorized 4-0. And the rest was pretty much routine.

If you have private concerns on county issues including school security, that need to be aired publicly, contact me with complete confidence in our respect for your privacy at: Bill@tribunepapers.comor or call 828 890-0412.

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