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GOOD JOB!/NEEDS WORK ... Rescue Squad, Democratic Party, new hotel

Henderson County Rescue Squad answered 2,821 calls in 2019. [LIGHTNING FILE PHOTO]

Good job!

The Henderson County Rescue Squad has dropped its annual fundraising letter, the main engine of the emergency responders’ money raising effort for the year. Made up of a few paid but mostly volunteers who race toward the flood, the fire, the interstate highway pileup or the search for a lost hiker, the Rescue Squad last year responded to 2,821 calls for service, nearly eight per day. As with all first responders, the more miserable the conditions — a torrential downpour, blizzard, ice storm, toxic spill — the more likely they are to be dispatched. The squad is made up of 64 volunteers, 36 part-time and six full-time members — many of whom log 100-300 hours of training every year. The crew includes 69 EMTs and 65 rescue technicians. The squad’s chief is Kathy Morgan, who rose to the top job just as Covid-19 was spreading in the community. Along with the public health department and the emergency services leadership of Jimmy Brissie and Mike Barnett, the Rescue Squad formed a strike team that helps prepare, educate and rapid-test nursing home personnel when a coronavirus outbreak occurs. (The effort was highlighted in the New York Times and NBC news.) Although the Henderson County Board of Commissioners provides a headquarters and underwrites some equipment costs, the Rescue Squad itself raises money for most other needs. “It is past time to replace our 23-year-old Technical Rescue Truck that has responded to thousands of calls,” Morgan says. “Our capital needs for this year include protective equipment for water and wilderness rescue and a hydraulic ram.” The Rescue Squad also took over the Blue Angel medical transport service from a defunct provider — at insurance reimbursement rates that remain far below cost. The Rescue Squad asks for a donation from all the county’s households of just $35 apiece. It’s a good investment in our health and safety and a well-deserved expression of gratitude for first responders who risk their own safety to protect us all.

Needs work … It’s unfortunate that the two-party system remains an illusion in Henderson County, where Democrats whiffed across the board last week despite fielding credible candidates for the state Legislature, Board of Commissioners and a judgeship. For three straight election cycles, the Democratic Party has tried to flip a state House or state Senate seat yet failed to move the needle from a baked-in 3-2 margin. A self-styled “Proud Democrat,” Stacey Caskey was the exception, although her win was in the nonpartisan School Board election. Everywhere else, red tide swamped the blue wave. If it’s not fundraising, hard work and devotion to the cause, it must be messaging. If they want to win, Democrats in Henderson County, like those across the state, ought to consider a platform that ratchets closer to the middle and further away from defunding police, ignoring the destruction of cities by rioters and gambling our economic future on an overly ambitious climate change agenda.

Good job! The Hendersonville Planning Board wisely disregarded irrelevant objections and unanimously endorsed a rezoning request for a five-story, 50-room boutique hotel in the 100 block of North Church Street behind the Historic Courthouse. Tentatively dubbed the Courthouse Inn, the facility would include a small restaurant and bar, a meeting room seating 30-40 people and a two-story parking garage. B&B owners and others expressed concern that the hotel — along with potentially two others on the drawing board — would install a glut of rooms downtown. As Planning Board members noted, forecasting the market for hotel rooms is not an appropriate factor in their evaluation of a rezoning request. Nor is it their responsibility to force a developer to provide more parking than the city code requires just because there is occasionally a parking shortage downtown.