Asheville Man

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Product: ASH_Broad PubDate: 04-06-2011 Zone: Main

Edition: First Page: frontpage

User: CSwaney Time: 04-05-2011 21:51 Color: K Y M C

75 cents Wednesday, April 6, 2011

2,500 in WNC losing jobless aid
NC lawmakers not revising formula
By Joel Burgess
[email protected]

Roughly 37,000 North Carolinians, including 2,500 mountain residents, will lose unemployment benefits this month, an outcome some other states have avoided by changing calculations that make them eligible for extended federal funding. North Carolina lawmakers have shown no interest in revis-

ing the state’s formula, which critics say risks adding to the misery of people caught in stagnant job market. “I’m looking for anything, any kind of work,” said Robert Matusik, who is one of those who was hoping for extra help from the federal program while he searches for a job. The 45-year-old Fairview resident was laid off about two years ago from an Arden cabinet-making shop. Jobs are out there, but none pay like his previous one, and he’s not qualified for many, he said.

“I went to a job fair at the Biltmore Estate and applied for dishwasher, buffet attendant, room service attendant,” he said. In sixteen Western North Carolina counties, unemployed residents are set to lose about $717,000 in weekly benefits. Statewide, that total is near $11 million. The state Employment Security Commission was notified by the federal government late last week that the extended benefits program has to stop paying out by April 16. A recent three-month aver-

age of the state’s unemployment rate didn’t equal or surpass 110 percent of three-month averages from 2010 or 2009. That’s the formula the government uses to determine which states can pay out the extended benefits, which kick in after 26 weeks of initial benefits followed by 53 weeks of emergency federal benefits. The 20 weeks of the extended program brings people to 99 weeks of benefits, or nearly two years. The program is needed, supporters say, to cover the linger-

ing effects of the Great Recession, including a job market that’s been slow to recover. Without it, people who were just getting by or on the verge of getting a job could suddenly become homeless, said Scott Rogers, executive director of Asheville Buncombe Community Christian Ministry. “They would be coming in our crisis ministries the quickest because without that money they will have utility cut-offs or be at risk of losing their homes
Please see JOBLESS on A6

Bending over backward for art

Counties spar over Fontana payments
Graham sues Swain for bigger chunk
By Jon Ostendorff
[email protected]

BILL SANDERS/[email protected]

The Viver Brasil dance company, from Los Angeles, rehearses for shows at the Diana Wortham Theatre. Gustavo Caldas and Ulisses de Oliveira perform the capoeiristas, a martial arts dance. The dance company has one final performance at Diana Wortham tonight. Visit for a photo gallery.

Asheville man buys first electric car in WNC
By Nanci Bompey
[email protected]

ASHEVILLE — James Brazell probably isn’t what most people have in mind when they think of an early adopter — the first one to have the latest new thing. And the 84-year-old retired oil company executive says of himself: “I’m not a tree-hugger type.” But the great-grandfather became the first person in Western North Carolina to own a Chevrolet Volt when he drove the electric car home from a Virginia dealership in February. The electric-gasoline hybrid vehicle gets the equivalent of 93 miles per gallon when operating in battery-powered mode. Brazell is one of only a handful of people in the state driving

Email Progress Energy at [email protected] for information on the utility’s charging station program. Visit or call 800-979-9145 for information on Duke Energy’s charging station program.
a Volt, and his red model was one of the first 500 sold in the U.S. Today, the car, with a handicapped placard dangling from the rearview mirror, sits charging in his one-car garage, right in front of a giant Texaco sign.
Please see ELECTRIC on A4

SABIAN WARREN/[email protected]

James Brazell says he is enjoying his electric Chevy Volt, which he recharges by plugging into a special charger at his South Asheville home. GOTTFRIED TO PACK: N.C. State’s new basketball coach is Mark Gottfried, who previously coached at Alabama. Page C1 DEADLY STORMS: The same line of damaging thunderstorms that passed through WNC left a trail of death and destruction elsewhere in the South. Pages A3, B1

STECOAH — The massive Fontana dam — the tallest concrete dam east of the Rockies — has generated power for more than six decades and, more recently, a lot of friction between two counties. Graham and Swain counties are locked in a rare legal battle over federal tax payments tied to the dam, which is shared by both, as is Fontana Lake. And it’s not the first argument that has split the counties and raised ill will for some. For Karen McCracken, who spent part of Tuesday at the Wolf Creek General Store in Graham County, the issue comes down to money for basic services. There are few activities for the youths in this county of 8,000 two hours west of Asheville and near the Tennessee line — and even fewer jobs, she noted. Graham’s unemployment rate of 19 percent ranks as North Carolina’s highest. The Sheriff’s Office is in a rented former bank building after someone firebombed its downtown headquarters last year. The county has tightened government spending to protect a dwindling fund balance. The old jail in the basement of the courthouse is so small it can’t house women, McCracken said. “We could use that extra money for the county to build a new jail over here,” she said. Graham County has filed a lawsuit claiming Swain is taking more than its fair share of payment-in-lieu-of-taxes, or PILT funds, from Fontana Dam. The dam and its powerhouse
Please see DAM on A9

A GANNETT NEWSPAPER | VOL. 142 | NO. 96 | 32 pages | © 2011



High 66, Low 36 Weather, C12



FISH FEARS: Japan set radiation-safety limits in fish in response to high levels of radiation outside the crippled nuclear plant. Page A2

Product: ASH_Broad PubDate: 04-06-2011 Zone: Main

Edition: First Page: main_4 User: CSwaney Time: 04-05-2011 21:52 Color: K Y M C


Motors announced it was coming out with the Volt in 2008. Last summer, Brazell found out the Volts would first be sold in six states and Washington, D.C. He got back his deposit in Asheville and put his name down at a dealership in Virginia. He was No. 4 on the list. In February, Brazell donated his 1998 Buick Park Avenue — “a real gas guzzler” — and went to Woodbridge, Va., to pick up his new, $43,500 Volt. “At 84, you don’t know how long you’ll be around,” Brazell said. “I wanted to get an electric vehicle and enjoy it while I can.” Brazell said the Volt, an electric hybrid, suits his lifestyle. A full electric charge gives him 35-40 miles, enough to get around town to run his daily errands. When he heads over to UNCA, he brings an extension cord and plugs into an outdoor socket. Brazell also plugs in the Volt anytime he is at home. He upgraded to a 220-volt charger shortly after getting the car, allowing him to get a full charge in about four hours. The gasoline engine hasn’t been needed since he drove the car home from the dealership, Brazell said. His first electric bill since he’s had the car was lower than previous bills, mostly due to the change in the weather, but he said it will cost him $1.50 for a full charge — about $2 less than a gallon of gas. tions to commercial and residential customers in North Carolina. Both are intended as research programs. “We want to understand home charging and this charging station technology: what is out there, how they work and how it impacts our grid,” said Progress Energy spokesman Scott Sutton. In Arden, Eaton Corp. has already shipped hundreds of its commercial electric charging stations. The company plans to release units with additional accessories like card readers and Web portals later this month. Supporting the com-


ELECTRIC: Area will have 25 charging stations soon
Continued from A1

He uses it for daily visits with his wife at a nearby nursing home and trips to classes at UNC Asheville’s Center for Creative Retirement. “I worked for 40 years for an oil company, and they do a good job of supplying energy to the public, but it is a finite resource,” Brazell said. “I am very sympathetic and interested in trying to do just a little bit to help the environment for my kids, my grandchildren and my great-grandchildren.” Having an early adopter like Brazell in the community helps boost Asheville’s reputation as a place that’s interested in technology that cuts reliance on foreign oil and reduces greenhouse gas emissions, said Bill Eaker of Land-ofSky Regional Council’s Clean Vehicles Coalition. The Asheville region has already been identified as one of a handful of North Carolina cities that could become an electric vehicle hot spot. Brazell can also help groups decide where to put electric vehicle charging stations, which should start popping up around town later this year. “We’ll be picking his brain quite a bit,” Eaker said. “We have to get in the head of the driver: where they are going to be commuting to, where they are coming to while they are in Asheville, where they are charging while they’re here.”

Asheville is preparing for more people like Brazell. Electric cars are expected to show up in North Carolina later this year. The city could be a hub for the vehicles, and it may also be a destination for people living in Tennessee and the Triangle, two areas that will be first on the list to get the cars. “We’re right in the middle of them,” Eaker said. A $500,000 federal grant will pay for installing 25 charging stations in the Asheville metropolitan area by the end of September. The locations, which will likely be at parking decks, shopping malls, tourist attractions and hotels, will be announced in the next couple of months, Eaker said. Duke Energy recently won approval from state regulators for a pilot program that will distribute low- or no-cost electric chargers to 150 residential customers in the Carolinas. Progress Energy is using federal stimulus funds to do a similar project, distributing 300 charging sta-

Gearing up for electric cars

SABIAN WARREN/[email protected]

James Brazell says the Chevy Volt suits his lifestyle, helping him get around town to run errands. pany’s products locally will help, said Tracee Humes, product manager for electric transportation infrastructure. The company has already installed two of its charging stations at Biltmore Park. “Not only are we making these stations, but there are customers right in our own neighborhood that are going to be looking for it,” she said.

Brazell’s Volt is a long way from his first car, a 1940 Ford two-door sedan. He said he first got hooked on electric cars after driving one in 1996. His daughter worked for a California electric company that was installing charging stations for GM’s EV1. He put down a $1,000 deposit at an Asheville dealership after General

Hooked on electric cars

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