BPR News

Jeremy Loeb/BPR

Controversial legislation forcing the city of Asheville to have districts for city council members could pick up the support of Buncombe County Democratic Senator Terry Van Duyn if the bill is amended on the Senate floor.  An elections committee advanced SB813 this morning.  Van Duyn says the bill will be on the Senate floor on Monday.

BPR

The Tryon birthplace of singer, song writer and Civil Rights activist Nina Simone has been named a “National Treasure” by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.  The nonprofit is teaming up with the four New York City artists who bought the small wooden cottage in 2017.  The organization will devise a plan to rehabilitate the house so that it might be used by future artists.

Credit Courtesy of Western Carolina University

Chancellor David Belcher passed away on Sunday, June 17, at the age of 60 after more than two-years of battling brain cancer.

 

Belcher was chancellor at Western Carolina University from 2011 until he took medical leave at the end of 2017. The native of Barnwell, South Carolina is beloved by his WCU family.

 

Matt Bush BPR

30 years ago Friday, the movie Bull Durham premiered.  The film merged baseball and romantic comedy, all while showcasing the state of North Carolina.  Filming locations in the state included Durham, Raleigh, Greensboro, Wilson, Old Fort, and Asheville.

Jeremy Loeb/BPR

Anticipated legislation forcing the city of Asheville to have districts for city council members has been officially filed.  Republican Senator Chuck Edwards of Hendersonville filed the bill mandating 5 city council districts.  One council member would be elected at large.  The mayor would still be elected at large.  The move towards districts was opposed by all other state lawmakers representing Buncombe County, as well as the Asheville city council and a large majority of Asheville voters in a Nov

WUSF

North Carolina Republicans are proposing changes to early voting, including doing away with the popular last Saturday before the election.  The House gave final approval to the measure 61-40 Friday.  It now goes to the House.  Rollout of the proposal, Senate Bill 325, prompted an emergency meeting of the North Carolina State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcment.  The board's chairman Andy Penry said they had no input in the bill and received less than a day's notice of it.  The House also quickly passed HB717 with little debate, which makes a slew of changes to judicial districts statewide.

Matt Bush BPR

Following a closed session meeting Monday morning, Buncombe County commissioners announced manager Mandy Stone will retire on July 1st after just 11 months on the job.  Her decision comes after a whirlwind of actions - and responses to those actions - following the announcement of further federal charges against her immediate predecessor Wanda Greene last Tuesday.  Stone took over the position when Greene retired last June.

Rejuvenated Lake Junaluska Looks Toward Second Century

Jun 11, 2018
Cory Vaillancourt

For generations, Methodists from across the United States have converged on a small community in Haywood County that’s been a place of renewal and transformation.  But Lake Junaluska has undergone some transformation of its own over the past few years, and as the historic Christian retreat emerges from funding cuts and the Great Recession, it’s poised remain an important economic engine well into its second century.  

Why The Chief Pontiac Statue Is Coming Down

Jun 8, 2018
Matt Bush

Controversy has erupted in West Asheville over the removal of “Chief Pontiac” the 23-foot-tall Native American statue that looks down on the town from car dealership Harry’s On The Hill.

hia.org & Donnie Rex

Farmers and fans of Industrial Hemp are gathering across the country this week to rally support for the once illegal plant.  North Carolina is one of forty-two states that allows the crop through pilot programs or for research. 

A small farm here in the mountains was chosen to help kick off the week long national campaign. BPR’s Helen Chickering reports.

On a sunny breezy morning, Just outside of Asheville, in the scenic countryside of Leicester, a crowd gathered on a farm.  They were here to celebrate a plant come.

Former Buncombe County manager Wanda Greene faces 23 new charges including wire fraud, federal program fraud, and money laundering.  Those charges were announced in a federal indictment this week.  They're in addition to the fraud, conspiracy, and embezzlement charges that were already filed against her in April for allegedly misusing county-owned credit cards to purchase personal goods.  Her son Michael, also a former Buncombe County employee, was also charged in that case.

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper vetoed the state budget bill Wednesday for the second year in a row, blaming legislative Republicans for a spending plan he says doesn't do enough for teacher pay, school safety and the environment.

The GOP-controlled General Assembly approved last week its $23.9 billion proposal, which adjusts the second year of the two-year budget approved in 2017. Cooper had until Monday to sign the bill, veto it or let it become law without his signature.

Matt Bush BPR

The French Broad River winds its way through Asheville and provides some of the most picturesque scenery in the region. It’s also a major driver of Western North Carolina’s booming tourism industry. 

So how healthy is this vital asset?  Hartwell Carson has a short answer and a long explanation to the question of how healthy is the French Broad River.  First, the short answer.  “It’s good.  It could be a lot better," says Carson.

Former Buncombe County manager Wanda Greene faces a new round of federal charges including  money laundering and wire and federal program fraud.  Shortly after the new charges were announced Tuesday evening, Buncombe County announced it would sue Greene and her son Michael to recover money the county lost due to her alleged actions.

UNC-Asheville

Dr. Nancy Cable has been named the new chancellor of UNC-Asheville.  She replaces Dr. Mary Grant, who left at the end of 2017 after three years on the job.  Dr. Joe Urgo served as the interim chancellor of the school since Grant's departure.  Cable will be the 8th chancellor in the school's history.  She starts the job on August 15th.

Matt Bush BPR

For the first time in several days, Western North Carolina is under no weather warning.  But thunderstorms are in the forecast Friday and over the weekend, leaving authorities to urge residents to stay alert and vigilant for flash flooding and landslides.  During a break in the rain Thursday morning and afternoon, cleanup efforts were able to take hold, but a major water leak in Black Mountain lead to a boil water advisory being issued.

WYFF Twitter Account

 

TRYON, N.C. (AP) — A TV news anchor and a photojournalist were killed Monday when a tree fell on their vehicle in North Carolina as they reported on flooding and severe weather associated with Subtropical Storm Alberto, the television station said.

WYFF-TV Anchor Mike McCormick and photojournalist Aaron Smeltzer both worked in the Greenville, South Carolina, market for more than a decade, anchor Carol Goldsmith said on air, breaking the news.

"Mike and Aaron were beloved members of our team — our family," Goldsmith said.

With heavy rains expected to return over the holiday weekend, authorities in Polk County are urging residents in certain areas to voluntarily evacuate.  This comes after last weekend's flooding and landslides that killed one person in the county, and authorities say they're worried should another catastrophic event occur, it might take them days to reach those affected.

Storied Breakfast Spot Re-Opens In Maggie Valley

May 24, 2018
Cory Vaillancourt

For more than five decades, an iconic eatery in Maggie Valley served up healing helpings of homey charm and a hash brown casserole that can’t be beat.  That all changed last summer, when owner Brenda O’Keefe closed the restaurant, citing health concerns. Residents worried that it would be the end of an era, but a year later, under new ownership, Joey’s Pancake House is set to reopen.

In a move that supporters believe will aid in reducing racial disparities in the city, Asheville police will soon have to get written consent to search vehicles they’ve pulled over instead of just asking for it as is done currently.  City council approved the switch Tuesday by a 5-2 vote.  Cases where police have ‘probable cause’ to search a vehicle that’s been stopped will not be affected. 

Health officials have confirmed four cases of pertussis, (whooping cough) in Buncombe County. Three other cases have been identified, which health officials say are connected to the four lab-confirmed cases.           BPR's Helen Chickering spoke with Buncombe County Department of Health and Human Services medical director Dr. Jennifer Mullendore about pertussis, the cases and what health officials are doing to help stop the respiratory illness from spreading.  

Here’s more from Buncombe County Health and Human Services:  

The Community Foundation of Western North Carolina held its annual 'Power of the Purse' luncheon Tuesday.  Award-winning journalist and Latino USA host Maria Hinojosa was the keynote speaker for the event.  She spoke about immigration, the changing demographics of the U.S., and women in philanthropy.  The last part is the focus of 'Power of the Purse' (BPR is a media sponsor of the event), and its organizers announced that $450-thousand in grants will be awarded to groups that work to prevent domestic and sexual violence.

Jeremy Loeb/BPR

North Carolina Democrats are calling on the legislature to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2022.  They plan to re-introduce legislation that stalled in the long session that would raise the minimum wage in phases over five years.  Buncombe County Rep. Susan Fisher is among the Democrats taking the lead on the effort.

BPR News

Among the thousands of teachers who filled the streets of North Carolina's capital Wednesday, were hundreds of educators from Western North Carolina.  Many who were unable to make the trip to Raleigh attended satellite rallies, including one in Asheville. 

“Thank you so much for coming today”

Around 10 o’clock Wednesday morning, teachers and supporters who couldn’t make the rally in Raleigh, gathered at THE BLOCK off biltmore in  downtown Asheville to make posters and phone calls to lawmakers

Blue Ridge Public Radio is continuing to expand its news coverage of Western North Carolina.  After a national search, BPR has hired a full-time regional reporter that will be based in Jackson County. The station has also expanded partnership with the Smoky Mountain News.

Cory Vaillancourt

Every corner of the United States has its own special, niche ingredient that’s as much a part of the culture as it is of the cuisine.  For Western North Carolina - love ‘em or hate ‘em – it’s ramps. 

Jeremy Loeb/BPR

Two Buncombe County Democrats took the lead in laying out the Democratic agenda in one of 6 news conferences held across the state.  BPR's Jeremy Loeb reports it primarily centered on expansion of Medicaid.

JIM WARREN, ASSOCIATED PRESS

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — The North Carolina Supreme Court on Friday quickly rejected a challenge to regulators who decided a clean-energy advocacy group broke electric-service rules by selling solar power to a church.

The justices heard oral arguments less than four weeks ago in the case involving NC WARN, which installed solar panels on a Greensboro church's roof and sold electricity to the church at rates below what Duke Energy Corp. subsidiaries charged.

Buncombe County Schools

Buncombe County schools on Friday announced they will be closed on Wednesday, the same day teachers from across North Carolina will rally at the state capitol in Raleigh.  The district joins several other large public school systems in the state in closing that day, including Asheville City schools, which announced earlier this week it would be closing Wednesday.

ASPCA

A one of a kind dog shelter has opened its doors in Buncombe County.  The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, ASPCA – unveiled its new  Behavioral Rehabilitation Center in Weaverville.  The Center is the first-ever permanent facility dedicated to the rehabilitation and study of fearful, anxious – often unadoptable dogs. Most are the victims of cruelty or neglect.   BPR’s Helen Chickering reports.  

Pages