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Ask Matt ... about mailing kiosk, Chimney Rock elevator

Q. The new post office location at the mall is missing a self-service kiosk and a drive-up mail drop. What happened?

The plan is to put in a newer model kiosk at the mall location in August. It will be able to issue stamps and mail packages. Drive-up mail drops are not put on two-way public streets and we know of no current plans for one at the mall. I know of two driver’s side mail drops in downtown Hendersonville — one is on Church Street (one-way) between Third and Fourth avenues and another is in the HomeTrust Bank parking lot. At the request of city officials, the Postal Service placed a mail box near the old Fifth Avenue West location. It’s on the north side of Fifth between Economy Drug and the Flower Market. But you can’t access the slot from your car (again, a two-way street). The slot is on the sidewalk side.

Q. I understand that the elevator at Chimney Rock State Park is finally working again after almost three years. What took so long?

Let’s start with some quick history. The elevator was built in 1947. The vertical shaft is 258 feet high and it’s all inside a cliff of solid granite. But before they could build the shaft, they had to blast out a 198-foot tunnel. It took two years before the elevator was finished and opened to the public. That was back when the park was privately owned. The elevator has served well over the years but when the state acquired the park in 2007, the elevator, along with much of the park, had to be upgraded and that work began immediately. The last time the elevator was modernized was in the 1980s so it came as no surprise that many problems were encountered.

One of the first problems was getting reliable power to the elevator — something particularly important for passengers. Chimney Rock officials could not put the public at risk so a back-up generator was installed. Next came the job of bringing the old Otis elevator control unit up to modern standards. A new controller from a different manufacturer was installed but it did not function properly so engineers decided to switch back to an Otis brand controller. Then the elevator motor was replaced and more troubleshooting was needed to find the cause of the “dirty power” they were getting from Duke Energy. All this added to elevator down time.

Finally, there were issues with natural occurring condensation. A 64-story shaft through solid rock is basically a cave – cold and damp. Moisture can wreak havoc on sensitive electrical equipment so a gutter system was designed to remove the water. Finally, air conditioning and a dehumidifier were installed in the penthouse room at the top of the elevator. 

Park superintendant Mary Jaeger-Gale has had her hands full with one elevator problem after another not to mention the damage to the upper parking lot following last May’s storms. Since the upgrades began, the state has expended about $4 million at Chimney Rock State Park, but the elevator is now back in service and eight people can ride to the top (and back down) in just 32 seconds. The walk is cool too – only 499 steps.

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