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Enjoying early fall and hoping for a good neighbor

Well, it happened this week.

On Monday fall officially fell -- into place, and right on time -- although in typical North Carolina fashion, you might not know it from the weather.

Bright sunshine, temperatures still flirting with the 90s and typical dry weather that will likely end in dramatic fashion with either a hurricane or the change of seasons that usually brings plenty of rainfall.

But there are strong indications that the seasons are changing. Trees and shrubs are beginning to drop leaves and there is a hint of color in some. Farmers have fired up the combines and have been harvesting corn rapidly -- and it won't be long until the soybeans are being brought in.

But perhaps the biggest indication of a change of season is that many -- and we mean many -- groups have planned outdoor events to take advantage of the slightly cooler weather and humidity that is well below August levels.

This coming Saturday you won't have to hunt very far to find outdoor events that offer food and entertainment and last Friday night the Third Friday event in downtown Louisburg drew a good crowd for music and food trucks. It must have been a good time to eat outdoors, too, because prior to 8 p.m. two of the three food trucks had run out of their main dishes -- barbecue at one and hamburgers and cheeseburgers at the other! Fortunately, the folks making Cuban sandwiches planned ahead a little better.

Hopefully, by the time Louisburg's OcTARber fest rolls around next month, food truck owners will recalculate their food orders 'cause that event should draw a crowd if the weather is nice. It drew a crowd last year, even though it rained fairly heavily through most of it.

Bottom line, it's a great time of the year to get outside and enjoy whatever strikes your fancy. Even "hot" days in fall are a lot more enjoyable than hot days in July and August -- and as the days tick away, we're headed for cooler and cooler temperatures until the dreaded white stuff becomes a possibility.

Remember, once we get past the funny costumes and kids seeking sweet treats at the end of October, it's a short scamper to Turkey Day and the inevitable Christmas parades that will follow.

Enjoy the sunshine and nice days because before you can turn around twice we'll be talking about holiday decorations, Christmas trees and what the Jolly Old Gent from the North Pole will be bringing for the youngsters!

Good news, we hope

If you read last week's edition, you know that the Louisburg town council cleared the way for a company to slide into the now-vacant Advanced Metal Products building on T. Kemp Road, a move which is supposed to create up to 30 new jobs in the next couple of years.

If that all works out, that's very good news because if central Franklin County needs anything, it's more good jobs so many local residents don't have to leave the county every day to find work.

Two and a half-dozen jobs aren't much -- but it's a good start and maybe one success will beget another. I suspect companies are like car dealers, they feel most secure and more likely to expand when they are surrounded by their own kind.

The company that is planning to reopen the building is Activated Carbon Innovation, LLC, and is based in Bedminster, New Jersey, although the actual parent company appears to be based in Great Britain.

According to what the town council was told by company executive Richard Williams, the firm will be making activated charcoal from coal, wood or coconut shells which are heated to extreme temperatures to remove any volatile materials and which creates a "char" material that is then subjected to high pressure steam which opens the cells of the charcoal, effectively activating it.

The finished product is often used in filters -- and most people may be familiar with it if their kids ever had an aquarium that used charcoal pellets in the filter. Obviously there are lots of other uses, too.

Town officials say they have done their due diligence and that the company, if it lives up to its promises, will be a good neighbor and a good fit.

But -- and call me a cynic -- my ears perk up when heating coal and wood chips to high temperatures is involved.

As I've said before, I grew up in coal-mining country and cut my reporting "teeth" writing about the coal industry. If I learned nothing else, it was that if a coal official tells you something, it's likely a half-truth and probably closer to an outright lie.

Coal is an incredibly dirty fuel -- and both mining and burning it release many chemicals that are harmful and some of which pollute both our air and water.

Burning wood is not exactly environmentally friendly, either, but it's not nearly as bad as coal.

So, when someone tells me they can super-heat coal to drive off the volatile materials, my first question focuses on where those volatile materials are going to go.

Duke Power, for example, badly polluted the Dan River -- and some of Franklin County's water supply -- when water stored with burned coal ash escaped into the environment, carrying with it all sorts of dangerous chemicals which eventually made it to Kerr Lake where some Franklin Countians get their water.

There ain't much about this stuff that's safe if it gets into the environment.

Of course, the town and this company say that the process will be carefully monitored and regulated by the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality.

Fine, if that department is up to the task. Remember that former Governor Pat McCrory and his cronies decimated DEQ during his term in office -- and I doubt it has had time to recover.

I have serious concerns about whether there are enough state inspectors -- and inspectors who have enough time -- to keep a close eye on a single plant way out here in Franklin County.

As a nod to potential problems with this process, the town is concerned that wastewater that has been used by this company may need additional treatment before it enters the town's treatment plant.

The company says if that is the case, it will, at its cost, pre-treat the wastewater so that it can be accepted by the town's plant.

All this sounds great -- unless you're a cynical old reporter who has been taught by both education and experience to expect the worst.

I sincerely hope my concerns are over-wrought and misplaced because we need good-paying jobs here in Franklin County. But it never hurts to keep a close eye on what's happening before serious problems develop.

Where was that?

On a more positive note, I thought I had gotten lost one evening last week even though I never left Franklin County and even drove!

We went to the grand opening of the Winslow Homes Design Center in Youngsville and by the time I got inside, I was totally discombobulated!

I've known Matthew Winslow for a few years and figured he would do things up right, but honestly I wasn't expecting it would be quite this right!

He and his company have done something incredible with the old Woodlief Supply building in downtown Youngsville.

They took the 4,000-square-foot structure and converted it into a complete home design center.

The first display I walked into was unlike anything I would have expected in Franklin County and, to be honest, in the bigger, more affluent cities of the state.

For example, one display has dozens of examples of faucets and other plumbing hardware, all displayed so that you can not only see them but pick 'em up and handle them.

Remembering the days when we were trying to figure out what to use in our house, I was jealous. Instead of spending Saturdays driving around from supplier to supplier or, worse, trying to figure out what stuff shown on the "web" would actually be like, here were dozens of options in one place and set up so you could actually handle them and ask questions.

And that was just the beginning. Also on display were just about all the items you'll need if you're building a new house -- from floor coverings, to weatherboard, to kitchen cabinets to even a high-tech security system that pushes state-of-the-art controls into the house.

They also have large screens to help you visualize your dream house -- and create so many options that the old "I wish I had thought of that sooner" lament should be a thing of the past.

For a few moments, we almost considered the possibility of a new house with all the 21st Century options but we'll probably stay firmly rooted in the 18th century!

But if you visit the Design Center, you may find yourself as I did, wondering for a moment where you are 'cause it's not what you're expecting to find in Franklin County.

And if you're seriously considering a new house, it might be a good idea to follow the Parade of Homes event this year. In fact, I think Winslow Homes has at least four houses open during that event so you can get a handle on some of their ideas as well as learn about what other builders are creating all around us.

At best, you might learn something from the "parade." At worst, you will have fun learning, as my mother would have said, "about how the other half lives!"

All the information you need to know about this year's Parade of Homes is elsewhere in this edition. The parade begins this weekend and will continue for the two following weekends.

You'll get a first-hand view of what many local builders are creating and, who knows, you may find some ideas you'd just love to live with! Good luck and have fun.

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Members Opinions:
September 26, 2019 at 9:42am
Now that that "Dan River" lie has succeeded in getting GOVERNER COOPER elected we can drop it. There is no proof that the ash in Dan River was contributing to the demise of our environment. However, that has little to do with politics and this is about politics. As for as I know Dan Forest hasn't dumped any ash in any rivers but it's early yet and I'm sure you guys are working on it

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