Asheville can keep water system, judge says

Judge Howard Manning JR. (WRAL Photo.)

(Asheville Citizen-Times) A judge on Monday struck down as unconstitutional the 2013 law that would transfer control of the city water system to the Metropolitan Sewerage District. Wake County Superior Court Judge Howard Manning Jr. found that the law violates a prohibition in the state constitution against “local” laws on certain subjects, “lacks a rational basis” and calls for an “unlawful taking.” Even if the law passed the constitutional hurdles, the city would be owed compensation for the water system, Manning wrote, something the law does not provide for. Both sides have predicted that whatever decision Manning made would be appealed, and Manning himself said the same thing in his nine-page decision.

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Supreme Court rules against homeowners in CTS case

(Asheville Citizen-Times) Residents and activists who have fought for 15 years for a cleanup of the CTS site say a Supreme Court ruling issued Monday morning is a “devastating” development that favors corporations to the detriment of residents and homeowners. “It’s unbelievable,” said Dot Rice, who lives a few hundreds yards from the former factory on Mills Gap Road. “With everything else going on right now, this is just another slap in the face.” The Supreme Court said a group of Asheville-area homeowners can’t sue the company that contaminated their drinking water, CTS Corp., because a state deadline has lapsed. The case centered around a state law that established a “period of repose” for pursuing legal action in a pollution case.

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EPA evacuates families near CTS site in South Asheville

(Mountain XPress) WLOS reported earlier tonight, June 6, that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and state officials evacuated three families who live near the CTS superfund site on Mills Gap Road in South Asheville. A few weeks ago, local citizens groups and EPA officials announced that a “significant amount of trichloroethylene (TCE) is dissolved in a mass of petroleum that is floating on shallow groundwater beneath the CTS of Asheville site. ” The contamination was first discovered in the late 1980s, when a resident called to report a large chemical pond on the site. WLOS attributed the June 6 evacuations to highly elevated toxins in recent air samples.

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Local artists, designers wanted for fashion show/benefit for Asheville Community Theatre

(Ashvegas) Calling all local artists and designers! Back for its third year, the celebrated Costume Drama (a fashion show/benefit for Asheville Community Theatre), is looking to add some new talent to its extraordinary cast of competitors. The Project Runway-style show is a runway face-off, where artists compete for a cash prize and the title of “Asheville’s Best in Show Designer” with wearable art in designated categories. This year’s categories are: PAPER, NATURE, UPCYCLED/RECYCLED MATERIAL, and TRANSFORMATION (which includes any garment that begins as one thing and becomes something else on the runway). Models, hair/makeup services and professional photography will be provided to all participants. Registration is free, but only 10 submissions will be accepted in each category, so space is extremely limited.

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Haywood Sheriff: Are people committing crimes to get free medical in prison?

(Smoky Mountain News) A rash of medical complications hit inmates in the Haywood County jail over the past year, socking the county with a $100,000 cost overrun. Blame lies in part with a handful of big ticket procedures — a major stroke, heart bypass surgery, a heart catheterization following a heart attack for another. But there was also a run on more minor hospitalizations. “For the first nine months this year we had 60 people admitted to the hospital that were inmates,” said Haywood County Sheriff Greg Christopher. Haywood’s jail had a streak of bad luck, but medical costs for inmates have been trending upwards year after year. “We only seem to bring in people who are very, very unhealthy. There’s very few marathon runners or people who are in good shape when they come to the jail,” said Christopher. The jail population has its share of drug addicts, alcoholics and smokers. They are more likely to have bad teeth and poor nutrition. And these hallmarks of an unhealthy lifestyle add up to more medical issues. Christopher can’t help but wonder. “Some people might commit a crime to go to jail just so we’ll be there to fix the problem,” the sheriff said.

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Riding to remember: Cherokee cyclists retrace tribe’s forced removal

(Smoky Mountain News) On a muddy Friday afternoon they gathered at Kituwah Mound, the Mother Town.  Preparing for the journey. Offering up prayers for the sendoff. With the surrounding hills looking down on the pavilion, Cherokees recalled the past and spoke of the future. They wished the cyclists well.  “It’s a spiritual event, it’s a historical event,” commented Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians Principal Chief Michell Hicks. “It helps us to remember, ‘Hey, it’s not so long ago that this happened.’” The May 30 gathering at Kituwah Mound kicked off this year’s Remember the Removal bike ride. The annual 950-mile ride commemorates the 1839 Trail of Tears, or forced removal of the Cherokees from their tribal lands in the Southeast. The bike ride begins in New Echota, Georgia — retracing the historic journey over the course of three weeks — and ends in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, the capital of the Cherokee Nation. This year, six members of the Eastern Band will join 12 members of the Cherokee Nation for the ride.

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Downtown Asheville popularity fuels hotel plans

(Asheville Citizen-Times) The old Interstate Motel sign that stood for decades at downtown’s edge used to advertise a night’s stay for a mere $29. Make that more like $290 these days in the bustling downtown district, already flush with hotels and set to get a wave of others. Condos replaced the Interstate Motel in 2003, leading to the iconic sign’s demise four years later. Now developers plan to build more glitzy hotels alongside landmark buildings. Demand for a place to stay downtown is strong enough that the new crop of hotels should be viable, people in the industry say. But the pending addition of 547 hotel rooms in a county with a total of a little more than 7,100 in hotels, motels and other accommodations is likely to put pressure on existing hotels, especially those some distance from the city center, experts say.

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NC House panel wants Common Core replacement

(Charlotte Observer) Nationally developed academic standards used in more than 40 states would be phased out in North Carolina under legislation that cleared a General Assembly committee Tuesday. The House Education Committee voted 27-16 along party lines for the Republican-backed bill directing the State Board of Education to replace Common Core standards for math and language arts with new rules. A special nine-member commission would be formed by September and ordered to recommend new standards by March. Common Core has been used since the 2012-13 school year and would continue to be used until replaced by the board. But the bill orders the board to stop developing Common Core standards beyond what is already in use. A legislative study committee recommended the replacement after hearing concerns recently from parents, teachers and conservative activists who feared the state was losing control of curricula and instruction. “We just don’t feel that Common Core is appropriate for North Carolina,” said Rep. Bryan Holloway, R-Stokes, one of the primary bill sponsors, pointing out that the bill directs the board to come up with academic standards at least as high as the current ones. He said Common Core also can’t be deleted immediately for fear it could mean North Carolina would have to return federal Race to the Top grants.

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I-40 in Haywood County to close Thursday

(Asheville Citizen-Times) The N.C. Department of Transportation will close a portion of Interstate 40 Thursday in Haywood County to try to eliminate potential rock slide hazards. I-40 will be closed at 4 a.m. Thursday until late Thursday night, DOT said Tuesday. Crews will shut down all lanes of I-40 from exit 20 to exit 451, which is in Tennessee, about a mile from the N.C. border. Last week, workers closed a half-mile stretch of one lane of westbound Interstate 40 in the Pigeon River Gorge in northern Haywood County after two rock slides Thursday near mile marker 8. Crews will scale the rock wall between mile markers 7 and 8 to remove rocks that could become a threat to the traveling public. As for detours, motorists traveling westbound on I-40 should take I-26 west to Johnson City, Tenn., and then take I-81 south back to I-40, east of Knoxville, DOT said. Eastbound motorists will reverse the detour.

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An Asheville credit union expands its presence

(Mountain XPress) The merger of the Self-Help and United Services credit unions means that come July 1, members of both institutions will be able to access their accounts at nearly two dozen branches across the region. Both organizations are member-owned nonprofits. It’s the latest step by Self-Help to expand its presence across a market where bank lending remains selective, says Regional Director Jane Hatley, a former longtime loan officer there. “People are still hurting,” she notes, adding that Self-Help has made businesses loans for as little as $500. Announced last October, the merger came after United Services had spent about a year and a half in negotiations with other credit unions in Western North Carolina. “We were looking to partner up with folks who have a similar vision as ours,” says CEO Bill Carrington. United Services has about 11,000 members and seven locations, most of them in WNC. The merger did not result in any layoffs or branch closures by either organization. Under the agreement, United Services will change its name to Self-Help; signs at its branches will be changed in the coming months. In 2009, Self-Help merged with the Carolina Mountains Credit Union, which had about 7,000 members at the time. That institution will also now bear Self-Help’s name.

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