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GOOD JOB!/NEEDS WORK: Morehead winner, water wars, hazard pay

Good job!

Architects, the general contractor Vannoy, the county’s construction manager and its business and community development director announced in April that the new Hendersonville High School will be ready for students in August 2022, a full year ahead of schedule and up to $500,000 under budget. The $60 million new construction/renovation project has produced one of the finest public school buildings anywhere in Western North Carolina. In the new school year, students will move in to the new facility while the original Stillwell classroom building and auditorium are renovated. “These people have done amazing work together,” County Manager Steve Wyatt said. “To be clear, we’re talking about delivering this school a school year ahead of schedule at a half a million dollar savings to the taxpayer.”

Needs work … In stark contrast to the cooperative spirit that produced the HHS construction project, the Health Sciences Center and Comprehensive Cancer Center at Pardee and the Ecusta Trail agreement, county commissioners continue to resist a common sense, fair solution to fund SROs in county public schools in the Hendersonville city limits. Commissioners this week rejected a compromise negotiated by Commission Chair Bill Lapsley to appropriate $205,000 to cover half the annual cost of the school resource officers. As four commissioners who rejected the idea made clear on Monday night, it’s all about the ongoing water wars. Commissioners sounded as if they won’t cooperate with the city on any subject unless the city immediately cedes control of its water and sewer system to the county, equalizes rates and drops its policy requiring annexation in exchange for sewer service. There’s a need for discussion, yes, on the very big topic of utility service, especially considering that the county has just launched a comprehensive land-use rewrite. Holding smaller, achievable, unrelated goals hostage is a poor signal to send on their willingness to cooperate.

Good job! Speaking of HHS … A high school’s quality is based not on its physical attributes — impressive as they will soon be — but on its classroom rigor and faculty dedication and its graduates’ success in life. By that measure, HHS claimed another A-plus with the news that class of ’21 graduate Jake Patterson is heading to Chapel Hill on a prestigious Morehead-Cain scholarship. “I’m a little biased but I think it’s one of the best high schools in the nation,” Jake told the Lightning. “It’s just a great high school because there’s something for everyone and there are people for everyone.”

Needs work … The Henderson County Elections Board has made a convincing case in its appeal of the county commissioners’ decision to block $16,000 in Covid-related hazard pay for elections office employees. The federal CARES Act money came through the state Elections Board to all 100 counties by the authority of the General Assembly. The state Elections Board’s associate general counsel made clear to Henderson County commissioners that county elections boards’ authority to grant the bonuses is clear, especially given that “no county money is being appropriated and the use of the funds in no way impacts the county government’s budget.” Fortunately, the commissioners' bad call before they had all the information is easily fixable. They should simply reverse their denial of the bonus checks and turn them loose.