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Friday, November 30, 2018

Buckeye Reservoir Questions to Town Council

This is an email going around the town of Beech Mountain on our water situation. I wanted to share it with you in case you didn't see it. Big thanks to Urs for getting this moving for the December Town Council Meeting. If you are not on the email chain, let me know and I can forward email addresses.

As discussed with Renee, I have drafted a series of questions, attached, answers to which I believe are the minimum needed for taxpayers to have a better understanding of how this incident happened and how to prevent similar events. While I still believe an outside investigation is needed, I hope that these answers and the documentary evidence will
suffice. If any questions are unclear, please let me know. Urs

In order to better understand the facts and circumstances surrounding the loss of water at Buckeye Lake on November 20, 2018 and to ensure we are better prepared in the future, answers to the following questions are needed. In all cases, any documents supporting the relevant answers need to be provided. Any references to Town employees include contractors working for the Town under pre-existing contracts, such as contracts with West Consultants.

The Valve

1. When was the valve at issue installed?
2. What is the valve’s purpose?
3. What state or federal regulatory agencies have any jurisdiction over the valve or its functioning?
4. When was the last time, prior to the day of the incident, that the valve had been opened and closed?
5. What correspondence has the Town had in the past three years with any state or federal agencies about the valve?

The Dive Contract

1. What prompted the Town to contract with a dive company to inspect the valve?
2. Was there a Request for Proposal issued by the Town?
3. If so, describe the scope of work in the RFP.
4. How many bidders were there for the contract?
5. What was the scope of work in the final signed contract?
6. Who selected the contractor?
7. Was the contractor required to have general liability insurance?
8. When was the contract to be performed?
9. Who was to supervise the scope of work?
10. Was the contractor tasked to open and close the valve?
11. If so, was there any discussion about the possible adverse consequences to water levels at Buckeye Lake if the valve could not be closed?
12. Was there any discussion about using a coffer dam or other method to isolate the valve from the lake to facilitate inspection?

The Incident

1. What employees of the Town were present while the divers were at Buckeye Lake?
2. Describe, using eyewitness testimony, what occurred at Buckeye Lake on November 20, 2018, starting from when the divers arrived until the diver was rescued.
3. What, if any, instructions did the divers receive from any Town employee on November 20, 2018, prior to the diver’s leg becoming entangled?
4. Who decided to open the valve on November 20, 2018?
5. Was there any discussion on November 20 about the possible adverse consequences to Buckeye Lake levels if the valve could not be closed?
6. Was there an emergency plan in place in the event that the valve could not be closed?

Emergency Response

1. Did the Town have a written emergency plan to deal with a sudden loss of water at Buckeye Lake?
2. If so, was that plan executed?
3. If so, what were the parameters of that plan?
4. What was the total cost to the Town to supply water by tanker and to supply bottled water?
5. Has there been an after action meeting of Town employees about the incident and the response?
6. If so, what deficiencies were identified?
7. If so, what changes, if any, were proposed to any Town policies or emergency plans?

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Beech Mountain - Questions and Answers About Our State Of Emergency

As many know and experienced, Beech Mountain had state of emergency over the Thanksgiving Holiday Weekend resulting in water shortages.

Residents pulled together, conserving as much water as they could helping the town get through this emergency! Shout out to the residents!

The town did a fine job of keeping the water flowing, including bringing water up in tanker trucks while working round the clock over a holiday weekend closing the valve and getting our water levels back up to acceptable by Sunday.

I asked Tim Holloman a few questions and thought I would share with you the results.

Many people are asking why this work was done during a holiday week when we knew the mountain was going to be busy. It would be nice for the town to let us know. Was this the only time we could get a diver? Was it a maintenance schedule?
  • "Kelly, thanks for reaching out.  The time for this work was carefully thought out and dependent on the contractor’s work schedule.  The months of September, October and November are the best in regards to surface and groundwater recharge.  The work was supposed to be clean, video and assess. No repair work was planned.  This is just one of many routine projects and we don’t notify the public unless it has any effect on the operation.  If there was no accident, nothing would have been impacted.  The Town uses divers on a regular basis to clean water tanks, etc.  This is part of trying to reduce the amount of water that we have to release on a regular basis and to be in compliance with our existing state permit.  This, in turn, affects the larger project of trying to get a freshwater intake to the Watauga River."

There are many also saying that we had the grant to get this fixed four years ago but the town didn't want to spend the money. Included in this is that the valve hadn't been serviced in 10 years.  
  • "I’m not aware of any grant that we didn’t get or use.  I believe that prior councils had been informed of the work that needed to be done, but was not funded.  If I find out differently, I will follow up."

I heard the diver had broken limbs and surgery and wanted to see if this was true also. All the news reports said just hypothermia.
  • "No broken limbs and he was released Wednesday evening from the hospital."
  • Kelly - I also talked to some of the first responders. The diver was on an umbilical cord type oxygen so there was no worry of air running out. First responders pumped warm water to the diver keeping hypothermia at bay. Another shout out to our First Responders and their hard work saving this man's life!

Also, has this now solved the problem? Or is it part of other items. 
  • "The problem with the gate is not fixed, just closed.  Engineers and staff are working on the fix and there is no document available at this time.  The “looksee” was the purpose of the divers to craft a plan and document for repair at a later date."
I saw most of the Press Releases on Facebook, so if you are not a friend of the town you may want to add them to your friend list.

Make sure, if you haven't, sign up for CodeRed phone calls from the town. This is a great way to stay informed on everything from events affecting traffic to road closures, to public works work to everything that happened this past weekend.

Now go ahead and finish your laundry congratulating yourself and the Town of Beech Mountain for pulling this one out!

Would love to hear your thoughts or other questions?

Monday, November 19, 2018

WTF - Cold Weather Driving

Plan A or B for That Trip

Traveling to ski resorts takes some planning. From getting your equipment together to getting the family in the car on time to get to the slopes on time. I always start my winter season with planning on Plan B, C, or D when it means traveling to the slopes. That means putting together my winter kit for my car.

What is a winter kit? It is a kit for the trunk of your car for winter travel. We all know that driving the roads of ski resorts can be tricky during winter weather and have read news about road closures due to accidents. Keep a few things in your car in case you could get stuck on your way to a ski resort or the time to travel is much longer than expected.

I buy a grocery store cooler type bag for my kit. This is a square bag with a silver lining designed for summer keeping perishables from spoiling. The cooler type bag will keep things dry and separated from the other items of your trunk.

In my box, I keep:

First Aid Kit
Several blankets, if you get stuck and there are several people in the car you may want to conserve gas by turning the car off at times. This provides warmth for each person in the car.
Hand Warmers - there is nothing more comforting than a nice pair of hand warmers.
Several pairs of hats and gloves - you will thank me when changing a tire on a frozen day.
Bottles of water - even if they get frozen, keep several in your car. A car once went off the road during winter and no one saw it down the embankment until a day later. Luckily she had bottles of water!
Granola bars - keep them in a plastic bag so the bears do not smell them during their fall foraging trips. 
Flashlights and extra batteries
Battery Powered Radio
Kitty Litter - I buy the 5 lb bucket. This is perfect if you get stuck, the litter providing traction. The bucket also adds extra weight for travel.
Booster Cables and Flares
Matches and Small Candles
A Fully Charged portable battery for cell phones

A lot of people keep a 2x4 in the trunk of the car for protection if needed but it also becomes a great accessory if a car gets stuck in the snow or mud. Tie the 2x4 to the tire, it will give the tire added traction.

Finally always fill the gas tank prior to climbing a mountain! In my book Views From 5506, I never go up the mountain without at least a 3/4 tank during winter. My son learned it the hard way. He ran out of gas, a local stopped and asked if they were alright. He said he ran out of gas, the guy laughed, called them rookies and left them to figure it out. Lesson learned.

Of course, if you don’t feel like doing all the work, there’s plenty of emergency survival kids available through amazon.com and other outlets. A quick Google search will show many results.

I know this sounds like a lot. But once you move from moderate temperatures to where temperatures can turn extreme it is always a good idea to be over prepared! Keep this kit in the garage and put it in your car for your trips up to the slopes, or simply keep it in there for the winter season. Once summer rolls along, I usually pair it down with summer necessities or switch it out for my summer kit.

Don’t get caught wishing you had a Plan B when Plan A on the road doesn’t work out.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

WTF - Why I Put Up Christmas Decorations Early

12:01 November 1st and as soon as I walk into Lowes Hardware there are Christmas trees everywhere! Seriously, the first truckload of Christmas trees has already traveled down Main Street Banner Elk.

Wait a minute, isn't it still fall?

Don't we have to get past Thanksgiving first?

My son sent me this.
Of course not, Hallmark has already started it's Christmas movies full of matching pajamas, hot cocoa in front of the fire, and of course horse-drawn sleighs.

Not me, I say. I'm keeping my fall decorations!

Until Mother Nature had a better idea.

Two days past Halloween every single flower on my mums was gone.


My hubby looked at the green stalks declaring, "Now that's a plant."

But I wasn't going to give up, I still had my pumpkins.....

Sort of.

I noticed one pumpkin had been attacked that night, the side of it looking like a werewolf from Halloween ripped it open. But that's OK, I just turned it around.

Until the next night, it was split open and someone feasted on its gooey insides.

Still undaunted I moved my last remaining pumpkin up on my deck, figuring that will keep it intact until Thanksgiving, right?


The squirrel was stealthy. I could see the pumpkin outside my kitchen window while I sipped my Pumpkin Spice coffee. Looked normal enough.

Until the head popped out.

Of the hole in the back. The damn squirrel was inside my pumpkin eating!

But that's OK, the outside still looked fine.

For two more days, then the entire thing collapsed.

Mums gone, pumpkins are gone. I put out my fake pumpkins, figuring that will last until Thanksgiving.


Nope, someone took them and made off with them.

I can see the bear looking at my pumpkins thinking, "Wow, those look perfect." Running off with them into the woods only to find they are made of styrofoam.

Oh well, I wonder if the animals eat mistletoe?

When do you officially give up on fall decorations and get out the Christmas tree?