At the outset of 2008, much of the nation’s attention was focused on two things: the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and the presidential elections. As the election got closer, the war receded to the background and the economy and gas prices took center stage. In the opening minutes of 2009, politics and the economy will still be the most important issues to many in the nation — Cumberland County is no exception.
    As 2008 got underway, both the county and the City of Fayetteville were focused on water — clean drinking water. Residents in western Fayetteville were faced with contaminated wells, as were citizens in the western portion of the city. Both governments began researching efforts to get water to the citizens in the affected areas. In Fayetteville, PWC expanded water services to residents in their areas, and just a week before the end of 2008, the county worked out a plan to provide water to county residents via an agreement with neighboring counties.
   {mosimage}In January 2008, the Crown Coliseum celebrated its 10th anniversary with a sold-out concert featuring Kelly Clarkson and Reba McEntire. The concert was the first of several sold-out shows at the coliseum throughout 2008. For much of the year, local resident Paul Beard was at the helm of the Crown; as 2008 drew to a close, Beard, along with marketing director Wind Lawson and Fair Manager Hubert Bullard, came under fire, with Beard and Lawson resigning their positions. Bullard was informed his contract would not be renewed. Going into 2009, the county is looking at a national search to find new management for the facility.
    The state of the less fortunate in our community was discussed throughout much of the beginning of 2008. A new panhandling ordinance passed by the City of Fayetteville in January 2008, drew approval from some segments of the community, but disapproval from homeless advocates. Those who work with the homeless on a daily basis argued that the panhandling ban would have adverse affects on the homeless in the community. At the same time, they took the opportunity to bring the real problems of homelessness in the city to the forefront, asking the city to put as much of a focus on homelessness as it did on panhandling.
    Parking also became an issue, as city consultants brought a comprehensive parking plan to downtown. The plan focused on the cost of parking — not just to the city — but also to those who use parking downtown. As 2009 winds down, not much as has been achieved in this arena, but it’s an area the city will have to tackle sooner rather than later.
    2008 saw the approval of a new landmark in downtown — the N.C. State Veterans Park. In February, the city unveiled plans for the $15 million park. It caused a great deal of excitement in the community, as well as controversy. Part of the park’s plan called for commercial development in Rowan Street Park. Local residents appeared en masse to fight that aspect of the development. Their voice was heard, and with the exception of the Rowan Park development, the Veterans Park proposal moved forward, gaining funding through the N.C. Legislature. The city has received the first half of the funding for the park, and has begun work on plans.
    With veterans gaining much-deserved recognition, a controversy at the VA Medical Center also gained headlines. At the center of the controversy was a debate over the placement of religious paraphernalia in the chapel. A VA administrator from Virginia ordered the removal of the religious accouterments from the chapel, which resulted in the resignation from the center of its chaplain.
    In April, the city took a critical look at the city’s transportation needs. The transit task force tackled the issue of improving the city’s transit system, which could only be described as substandard. With the work of the task force and the hiring of a new management staff, the transit system made strides over 2008. New buses were put into service, routes were shortened and changed, and money — a lot of money — was added to the transit system budget. That, according to city leaders, was only a drop in the bucket of what is really needed to improve the system.     “We are only trying to get to the state average,” said Fayetteville Mayor Tony Chavonne.
    The city also took a hard look at its appearance, with Fayetteville Beauty, a volunteer project headed by City Council Bobby Hurst, making the city’s appearance important.
    Honoring the men and women of the community was also important in 2008 — from the Field of Honor to an AUSA Welcome Home Concert to the Army’s Army Fayetteville embraced its relationship to the military and showed its support to the men and women in uniform.
    As the summer got in full swing, Fayetteville, like the rest of the nation, was held captive by the rising gas prices. With gas near $4 a gallon, many in the community stayed home and took advantage of the many community events sponsored by nonprofits in the community. At the center of many of these events was Festival Park. As the year wound down, Festival Park was still central to community discussion –— but those discussion revolved around the proposed construction of the new Fayetteville Museum of Art. With the year winding down, the Museum Task Force, appointed by the city, took a break for the holidays. When it reconvenes in 2009, the task force will again tackle the finances of the museum as it relates to the sustainability of the facility.
    In the political arena, it was a year of firsts: the first African-American president was elected; the first female North Carolina governor prepares to step into office; and in Cumberland County, a female — Jeannette Council — took over as chairman of the county commissioners.

Contact Janice Burton at






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