Wednesday, 14 June 2017 06:05

Celebrate, not hate all our differences

A few months ago, I stood on the steps leading up to the sanctuary entrance at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston. There was a small collection of colorful bouquets placed in front of the bright, stonewashed wall near the archway beneath the stairs, a lone but stark reminder of the nine murders at the church in June 2015.

Last Saturday, I stood with my daughter as we watched the raucous and ridiculously fun and gaudy New Orleans Pride Parade enter the French Quarter, dance by our balcony overlooking Toulouse Street and slowly proceed toward a lavish reception and extended celebration on Bourbon Street. Music blared, people laughed, strings of colorful beads soared through the air and cheers welcomed the waving passengers on each colorful float. The official part of the parade ended an hour later, but I’m sure the party — as it always does in New Orleans — kept going until at least 2 a.m., just 24 hours before services across the nation began to commemorate the one-year anniversary of 49 murders at the Pulse gay bar, dance club and nightclub in Orlando.

“Volume 9, No. 1.”

There are few words on the cover of this newspaper, but to some of us, those are the most important.

Those words mean that this week’s edition of the Lake Norman Citizen is the first of our ninth year; eight full years in the books since a handful of enterprising folks created from scratch a community newspaper with the intention of becoming the de facto paper of record.

In 2009.

Wednesday, 10 May 2017 06:30

It might be time to clean house again

“Honey, what’s this?”

It’s a question I’ve asked my husband several times throughout our nearly 30 years of beloved togetherness, but never more than in the last few weeks. We’re getting ready to list our Huntersville house for sale, and the mind-numbing task of sifting through 15 years of life’s accumulations is under way.

Moving was a lot simpler when my husband was still on active duty — when the Navy insists on sending you off for yet another adventure every two to three years or so, you get pretty good at traveling light. But once Ray retired and we moved here in 2002, a mild case of hoarding gradually set in.

A town meeting in Davidson on April 4 addressed the presence of asbestos in parts of the Davidson community. As reported in the Davidsonian, the student newspaper of Davidson College, the Environmental Protection Agency and the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality were present at the meeting in order to add to the discussion on remediating the concerns about asbestos in the community.

Ultimately, the EPA has stated that it is the responsibility of individual property owners to contact the agency with a request for an asbestos assessment and clean up of the site. The hilly property across the street from several of the affected houses has also been found to have significant amounts of asbestos, yet since the property is under the ownership of Metrolina Warehouse LLC, a private corporation, it is up to the owner to decide to what extent the asbestos issue will be addressed.

Putting together this week’s boating on Lake Norman special section took me back a few years. Almost 30 of them, in fact.

It was the year 1987 when I first considered moving from Mint Hill, my first home in the Charlotte area since 1984, to a new construction neighborhood west of I-77 and the Huntersville town limits. There was talk that the innermost possible route of I-485 would border my back yard and, even though it eventually took the outermost path, I decided to get while the getting was good to a place with no traffic and little development, an area north of Charlotte called Lake Norman.

Tuesday, 04 April 2017 17:37

OM testing vote a curious exercise

These are some facts to consider as the effort to learn more about ocular melanoma (OM) cases in the Huntersville area continues.

• Despite the Town of Huntersville’s eagerness to invest part of a $100,000 research grant in initial environmental testing at and around Hopewell High School and other areas in town, the highly regarded Hart-Hickman consulting firm in Charlotte — the company in position to be paid for the work no matter what they did or did not find — concluded that digging holes and taking samples would not be an efficient use of the town’s funds without more information about exactly what to look for

• Despite initially being ignored when they recommended a direct evaluation of and communication with OM patients and their families — through personal interviews, geospatial analysis, tissue sampling and other research-based practices — would be the best first steps to create a baseline of information about the local cases, a vast network of cancer, eye care and research specialists stayed committed and continued their voluntary efforts to expand their network to incorporate more insight and professional opinions about the Huntersville cases

Wednesday, 29 March 2017 17:52

Planting seeds for our harvest of hope

Spring! It’s the time of year I look forward to most of all. While I spend my weekdays working at the Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce, I look forward to those weekends when I can travel down to our family farm in Rock Hill, S.C., and work in the garden that I have toiled in for almost five decades.

My passion for gardening began as a little boy, when my Grandfather Russell first had me plant watermelon seeds in his garden. At the age of 7, I was creating little mounds with my small hands, dropping in my precious seeds and waiting for that day when I could plunge my fingers into a delicious Crimson Sweet.

Granddaddy didn’t confess up front all the work that went into harvesting that plump juicy melon. Instead, over the years, he broke me in slowly. By the age of 16, I was helping both grandfathers with their gardens. Typically, on Good Friday, we planted our seeds and sometimes our plants that yielded the corn, tomatoes, beans, melons, squash, cucumbers and peppers that we hopefully harvested later that summer.

A few weeks ago, I listened as a couple of local entrepreneurs shared the challenges they faced with their small business and I couldn’t help but recognize the similarities between those aspiring entrepreneurs and any determined farmer.

First and foremost, it all starts with that single seed. For many entrepreneurs, it might begin with at a kitchen table with a credit card and a dream. I still remember Jim Engel, the president of Aquesta Bank, sharing how the Lake Norman-based bank started in the basement of his home. Like most entrepreneurs, he began with a vision, surrounding himself with a close-knit team, facing challenge after challenge, on their journey to success.

Both the farmer and the entrepreneur will put in long hours and hard work, and for a farmer the heat, weeds and critters will challenge you every step of the way.

Farmers can usually recount the one good year versus all the bad. They must be patient and optimistic, realizing that perhaps next year can be better than this one.

As a farmer, you pray for good weather, and in some years it seems, the sweat and tears were about the only moisture that kissed the soil that whole summer. Yet, the risks should never be obstacles in pursuing your dream. They are merely steps along the way and we learn from each and every one.

Entrepreneurs face a new challenge every day — challenges that require perseverance and creativity. There are no shortcuts to success. Instead, they toil each day, creating new relationships and nurturing existing ones.

Perhaps there is no better example of entrepreneurship than Tom and Vickie VanWingerden, who immigrated to Huntersville from The Netherlands. They started their business in 1972 with a 20,000-square-foot greenhouse on Old Statesville Road. That 1-acre plastic covered structure has blossomed today into Metrolina Greenhouses, which employs 725 people year-round and another 600 seasonally. It is also the largest single-site heated greenhouse in the United States at 162 acres under roof. Quite an accomplishment for a farmer and entrepreneur!

My grandfather was never a wealthy man, just an old country farmer who toiled from sunup to sundown. Yet, he taught me a great deal — not just about farming, but about life. Anyone can plant a seed, but it takes a farmer or an entrepreneur to envision what it can become. It takes passion, perseverance, and yes, luck. But in the end, the fruit of our labor is the harvest of hope.

Bill Russell is the president of the Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce.

Tuesday, 21 March 2017 17:06

Brennan has kept focus on OM probe

It isn’t about anger anymore, it’s about answers.

For several years, local individuals and families devastated by ocular melanoma diagnoses screamed for attention, shouted that something was wrong and demanded that someone, anyone, look for clues to explain why an extremely rare cancer that statistically strikes five to six people each year in the country had been found in 10 or more people with connections to southwestern Huntersville in a five-year period.

The tragedies of losing their daughters Kenan Colbert Koll, 28, and Meredith Legg Stapleton, 26, to ocular melanoma (OM) in 2014 made reluctant spokespeople out of Kenny and Sue Colbert and Basil and Robin Legg. They led the charge to expand awareness and discovered that several other OM victims had ties to Huntersville (14 cases are now included in the study) and at least one other, Summer Heath, was, like Kenan and Meredith, a former student at Hopewell High School.

Tuesday, 28 February 2017 17:09

Take time to mentor a mind of the young

The uncharacteristically warm days these past few weeks had me climbing into the attic to retrieve my summer clothes in anticipation of the spring and summer days ahead. Grabbing what I thought to be a box of summer shirts turned out instead to be old scrapbooks and albums.

Feeling nostalgic, I found myself perusing through a worn binder filled with photos from grade school and most of my early report cards. I laughed when I read the comments from my first and second grade teachers who cited “Billy is much too talkative,” and “Billy is a really busy boy,” which was polite Southern speak for “Billy simply cannot stay in his seat!”

Tuesday, 21 February 2017 16:51

Extra scrutiny is worth the wait

We have covered local government proceedings enough to know that sometimes those who fought to get elected must sit back and wonder why. The seemingly simple but lingering process of considering one rezoning request is driving home that point for members of the Huntersville Town Board.

The size of the property, just over nine acres, is not monumental. And the proposed change from a rural designation to special purpose is apparently appropriate for a project expected to turn vacant land into a mini storage yard bordered by a key-man office building. But coping with the tangled web of issues affiliated with the decision, and being fully aware of the awkwardness or public outcry the consequences of a ruling — no matter how the vote goes — will trigger, has put commissioners in a position where they probably wish the matter would just go away.

Tuesday, 31 January 2017 17:04

Don’t get between me and my salad

Why is it that the smallest irritants in life are often the things that can tip you immediately right over the edge, with no warning to the poor souls around you who otherwise had no clue that you were just one twist shy of your panties being where you really don’t want them?

Like a rock in your shoe, it’s the small stuff that can really grate and grind on that last nerve you had left after the others were thoroughly frayed by family, friends and life in general.

If you still don’t get what I’m referring to, consider yourself fortunate. But I really don’t want to be in this state of borderline high dudgeon alone, so here’s a sample of something that regularly and absolutely pegs my irritation meter for no rational reason whatsoever.