Asheville – Last month the Buncombe County Commissioners took a step to help further progress on the Woodfin Greenway project when they passed a resolution authorizing the execution of a grant agreement and an inter-local agreement regarding the greenway.
The commissioners, at their October 17 meeting, passed the resolution stating that “Buncombe County desires to support and promote the development of an environmentally friendly system of connected trails and greenways to improve health, alternative travel, economic development, and recreation in coordination with towns, cities, communities, businesses, non-profit organizations, and adjacent counties.”
The document goes on to state the “county has the opportunity to receive a grant from the Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority (TDA) in the amount of $2.25 million for the construction of the Woodfin Greenway & Blueway, which will include five miles of new greenway trails and will be part of a 25 mile-plus network of greenways within Buncombe County.” Read more...
The resolution further stated that Woodfin has requested county aid with the project and to help manage the construction, utilizing the grant funds.
When asked about the $2.25 million from the TDA Woodfin Mayor Jerry VeHaun said, “It’ll help us with that project we’ve got.” VeHaun was referring to the overall Woodfin Greenway/Blueway project, which is expected to cost about $11.6 million when completed.
Woodfin taxpayers last year voted for a $4.5 million bond, which is close to half the money needed for the project. Now with the county kicking in $2.25 million from the TDA and $4 million from the NC Department of Transportation, that nearly completes the money needed.
VeHaun said the greenway will connect with Asheville’s greenway near the French Broad River at Reed Creek and will come down the river to the new Silver-Line Park, then continue to follow the river down to the Metropolitan Sewerage District’s offices and turn up Beaver Dam Creek to end at about Grace Fuel Company on Elkwood Ave.
“From there the city will have to construct a little bit of one in the city from Elkwood Ave up to Beaver Lake. They’ll tie every bit of that together,” VeHaun said. “Now the county is going to build the one also for the city, handle that part of it from Hillside Street to Broadway. It’ll be kind of like a big loop.”
VeHaun also said the blueway part of the project would rely on a lot of private funding.
Last weeks headlines
Community says their goodbyes to teen
Weavrerville - Kayla Dezaray Hensley, 18, of Brinwood Drive was laid to rest Saturday (Nov. 18) as family and friends said their goodbyes. Hensley was murdered Saturday, Nov. 11th at her home off Reems Creek Road. According to reports, her juvenile brother was arrested on Sunday, Nov. 12th for the murder, after the Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office completed its investigation.
According to Hensley’s obituary she “...is survived by her mother, Susan Renee Maltry; step-father, Claude Henderson; brother, Claude Elden Henderson, II; stepsister, Angelena Avery; aunt, Rikki Renee Sealey and grandparents, Betty Turbyfill, Randy and Sandra Maltry, Donna Maltry and John Dykeman.” The obituary went on that “Kayla was the sunshine in many hearts who never knew a stranger. She had a strong will to overcome any obstacle in life that was handed to her. Not only was she a comfort to people but she inspired them. Kayla was an angel on earth for 18 years, she had to fly away but left an impression on all of our hearts.” Read more...
North Buncombe Principal Dr. Samantha Sircey also offered some of her thoughts about Hensley to the Tribune. In a statement Sircey said, “Kayla was a positive, supportive, and caring part of the North Buncombe family. She was a mentor to the underclassmen at the school, and always encouraged everyone to do their best…she would have competed as a team leader at our Buncombe County Schools job skills competition. Her classmates, teachers, and I wore pink and black ribbons in her honor. As a school we have begun the long process of healing, but we know Kayla has a big piece of our hearts.”
The family received friends on Saturday at the North Buncombe First Church of God on Main Street Ext. in Weaverville with a memorial service that followed. Pastor Raymond Cantrell officiated the services.
Two town officials retiring at year’s end
By Clint Parker
Weaverville – Two key personnel are retiring at the end of the year from the Town of Weaverville. Weaverville Police Chief Greg Stephens and Public Works Director Tony Laughter will both be retiring from the town.
Chief Greg Stephens
Chief Stephens started in March 1990 as an officer when he was hired by then Weaverville Police Chief Howard Higgins. “I’d worked part-time with Marshall Police for four months before coming here,” said Stephens. He added that the Marshall job was the first one right after he finished basic law enforcement training.
Stephens took over as chief in 1998 and in the eight years between when he was hired and taking the chief’s position he climbed the ladder making corporal, sergeant and captain before reaching the top job.
“We’ve done a lot of things over the years that certainly made the police department be able to serve the citizens better than what it was in 1998,” said Stephens when asked what he felt his major accomplishment had been as police chief. “The personnel that we have now is the most important thing. Being able to hire and retain quality personnel that can serve the citizens without missing a beat and do it very professionally and very knowledgable. I’ve not done anything by myself, it’s been a team effort.”
Asked if he thought he’d be in Weaverville as long as he had, he responded, “I hoped I’d be here this long. I always told everybody I wanted to stay here and retire from here...over the years I’ve made a lot of good friends here in town, a lot of good friends.” Read more...
“Any time there’s a death,” said Stephens when asked what the worst tragedy he’s seen while being chief. “We’ve had several deaths. No unsolved murders, but anytime you have a death its a tragic event.”
Asked what he was going to do now that he was retiring, Stephens replied, “I’d like to spend more time with my daughter. She was seven months old when I took over as a chief here and I spent a lot of time here, more than the 40 hours I was required to.” Stephens’ daughter, who is now at East Tennessee State University, can be seen all over his office as her pictures adorn the room. “I’ve been on call for the last 19 years.” He also wants to spent more time riding his motorcycle and doing some camping.
While he served those 19 years as chief, he was also the regional director for the North Carolina Chiefs of Police, state representative for the State Association of Chiefs, a past president of the Smoky Mountain Executive Association, coordinator of the WNC Amber Alert, served with four different town managers, five different mayors and worked with four different town attorneys.
He also helped design the current police department, has served as acting town manager, applied for and received over $400,000 in grants, and was the longest running police chief in Weaverville. At one time he was the state’s youngest police chief when he was 29 years old. He’s also the longest serving chief in Buncombe County.
Stephens said the citizens should not see any change in the department just because he’s gone. “They’ll [the police] still be doing the things they come to know and love,” he said, “We’re very community oriented.” Asked what advice he had for the next chief whoever it might be,” Stephens thought and said, “It’s a good department with good personnel. It’s not a department where the chief needs to come in and get rid of all the personnel and start fresh...they’re not taking over a troubled department, but a quality department they can build on.”
Public Works Director Tony Laughter
Tony Laughter first started working for Weaverville back in February 1997 after coming to the town to take over the newly built water treatment plant from the City of Hendersonville. “I was hired to do the start up and oversee the rest of construction...[to] get the water plant up and running,” said Laughter who has been with the town for a little more than 20 years.
Citing personal and health reasons as the factors leading to his retirement, Laughter said, “It is time for me...I’m very vested in Weaverville. I love Weaverville and coming to Weaverville was the best decision I’d ever made in my working career.” Laughter added, “It allowed me and afforded me the opportunity to go to the level that I desired which was public works director.”
Laughter became the town’s interim public works director in 2011 when then-Public Works Director Larry Sprinkles retired. He took the job for good a few of months later in October. “It was real close, my birthday’s at the end of September and it was near the end of September because I remember telling my wife I got my birthday present,” Laughter said. His official date of retirement is January 1 but Dec. 29th will be his last day of work.
Town Manager Coffey praised the retirees
“In my 21 years in local government management, I have consistently encouraged my employees, co-workers and team members to follow their hearts regarding transitions, whether in pursuing new opportunities, advancing in their career, relocating with their families, retiring, etc. In fact, I believe that encouraging others to follow their own arrow is at the core of being a leader. At least this is the kind of leader I want to be,” Weaverville Town Manager Selena Coffey told the Tribune when asked about the retirements.
“Having said this, I will say that Chief Stephens and Tony are two of the best team members I’ve known in my career. They will be missed by me and our other management team members, Town Council, their staff and everyone they’ve impacted in the community,” she went on to say.
Coffey then went on to praise Laughter saying, “Tony, having helped establish the foundation for our water resources, will be remembered for the innovative approaches that he implemented at our water plant. Additionally, his leadership within the various facets of public works will benefit our residents for years to come. Tony has agreed to assist the Town after his retirement with regard to potential water plant expansion, street improvements and the Lake Louise Community Center construction. We appreciate his willingness and look forward to the potential of working with him further going forward.”
“As we look back at town government’s history, Chief Greg Stephens has left a legacy. Although I have only had the privilege of working with Chief Stephens a bit over two years, I have benefited from his knowledge of the town, its history, its people and the values of our small town. Chief Stephens has been my right hand in many ways and has been a solid law enforcement leader. He has been somewhat of a trailblazer in that he was instrumental in helping to establish the state’s Amber Alert program many years ago, he initiated the Town’s involvement in the Pink Patch Program and he has earned the informal designation of being the longest-serving chief in Buncombe County to date. He has been appointed as Acting Town Manager in times of transition and has dedicated himself to serving the town since 1998,” said Coffey of Stephens.
Concluding her comments she said, “It has been my privilege to have worked beside these outstanding public servants. I am very proud of both of them. Retirement is what we work towards. It’s a wonderful time for these two men and their families and a time for the Town to thank and honor them for their service to Weaverville. They exemplify what public service is about and although I and many others will certainly miss them, we are happy for them and wish them nothing but relaxation and reflection on lives well lived.”
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