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Ask Matt ... How much wood can 
a wood chuck chuck?

Q. What is that large orange machine on the mulch yard near Ingles on NC 280 in Mills River?

It’s a wood chipper. The machine carries the brand name Morbark 6600 Wood Hog and it’s a monster. Unlike the old round tub grinders the Wood Hog employs a steel belt conveyor to push logs, stumps, and trees into the grinder teeth. This baby will chew up and spit out tree trunks 42 inches in diameter.
The Wood Hog was purchased by Riverside Stump Dump for a cool $1,015,000 and was broken in just last month. Ronnie Ray owns two Riverside Stump Dump sites, one in Mills River and another in Asheville, where he keeps an 18-year old tub grinder. Ray needed another chipper in Mills River. He likes the Wood Hog because it’s track-mounted which offers greater mobility. “I can put the new machine on a truck and take it to Waynesville or as far as Boone to do chipping at their own landfills,” said Ray. “It’s good for off-site jobs like clearing trees for a development.”
I asked Ray how long before his million-dollar baby would pay for itself. “I don’t know yet,” he replied with a smile. But Ray was obviously impressed with the Wood Hog’s first day on the job. Anyone driving by the Stump Dump on Highway 280 can see that he has a lot of inventory. Now he just has to move out the mulch.

Q. What competition for Internet and cable TV services is available locally and when do cable franchises expire? 

It’s all changed. In 2007 our state Legislature did away with locally awarded cable television franchises. County Attorney Russell Burrell said that the law now calls for a “one size fits all” statewide franchise. The old city and county agreements are dissolved except that Morris Broadband must still provide a public educational and governmental channel (it’s channel 11). The new law changed how revenue is handled. Now the State collects revenue from the cable company and distributes it to local governments up a population-based formula. Our six local governments in Henderson County have collectively budgeted $716,000 in “cable revenues” for this fiscal year. It should be mentioned that U-verse, AT&T’s fiber optic service, is in the game with the state too. Some revenues come from a telecommunications tax and some from a video programming sales tax. Hendersonville City Manager John Connet pointed out that cable revenues are declining because more subscribers are moving to other Internet-streaming options.
As for what competition is available locally, there is of course, Morris Broadband and U-verse for Internet and cable. Dish Network and Direct TV (AT&T) both offer TV but not Internet. Viasat offers Internet and TV via satellite. Spectrum (Charter Communications) operates in Buncombe County. They could get approved to operate a cable system here but they must bury their own cable lines in the ground or hang them on Duke’s power poles – likely a dealbreaker since Morris Broadband is already there.

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