Author Archive for Cody Phillips

Shooting in Whittier on October 3rd

Yesterday the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office responded to a report of a gunshot wound at 248 Old Glory Ridge Road in Whittier at 12:30 p.m. The victim, Dean Williamson was flown to Mission Hospital and remains in critical condition. Police questioned Williamson’s wife, Debbie Williamson. It is not known at this time if Debbie Williamson is considered a suspect.

EBCI to Inaugurate a New Tribal Council

On Monday, October 7, 2013 the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians will inaugurate a new Tribal Council. The ceremony will take place at 10:00am at the Chief Joyce Dugan Cultural Arts Center at Cherokee Central Schools. Three new representatives and one former council member will join eight incumbents for the next tribal council which will serve a two year term. The tribe will also swear in members of the Cherokee School Board. The event is open to the public.

Public Perception of Park Closing Could Hurt Local Economy

Steve Morse, economist and director of the Hospitality and Tourism Department at WCU is predicting that this fall season could be one of the best for hotels and other local businesses in the mountains due to several factors such as: favorable travel conditions and a drop in hotel and gas prices . October is traditionally the most busy tourist season for “leaf lookers” here in the Great Smoky Mountains. Dr. Morse, as well as many business owners here in the mountains do fear that not enough people know that while the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, along with its trails and facilities are currently closed due to the government shut down, highway 441 from Gatlinburg to Cherokee still remains open.

Government Shut-Down Affects Local Parks

Many public facilities are closing their doors across America today as congress reached a stalemate about the new health act. Many areas are affected but few more so locally than the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Dana Soehn of the Parks Department has told WRGC that they are currently sending word to close down visitor’s centers, campgrounds, and hiking trails to name just a few services. Campers and park goers will have 48 hours to clear out, that’s 6pm Thursday, October 3rd. WRGC would like to remind everyone that highway 441 from Gatlinburg to Cherokee will remain open, however trails, parking lots, and restroom facilities will be closed. Dana Soehn stated that of the 326 government employees, 279 are on furlough, the remaining employees consist of mainly law enforcement officers and water treatment specialists who make sure they stay in compliance with water quality regulations. Dana Sohen had the following to say on the shut down, “We have over one million visitors that come during October alone, so we know we are disappointing people who would normally be filling up our campgrounds. We have 820 campsites scattered across the park.” She also mentioned a few other people who are disappointed due to the park closure, “There are a lot of special uses around the month of October that people don’t traditionally think about, we had 53 weddings scheduled for the month of October and of course they all got the notices that we are closed. You think of our education programs, we were calling teachers today to cancel field trips.”

Affordable Care Act Scam Alert

As reported on in past news stories by WRGC, the first day of enrollment for the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) is October 1. On that day, people will be able to begin shopping for insurance plans on the newly created Health Insurance Marketplaces. Unfortunately, scammers are likely to use these changes as an opportunity to try to rip you off.

While the scammers’ approaches may differ, their goal will be the same: to con you into paying money that you don’t need to pay, sell you a fake product, or trick you into providing private information like Social Security or bank account numbers. They’ll try to get you to rush into action without taking the time to think it through or ask questions.

If someone asks for money to help you sign up for insurance, or presses you for sensitive personal information, here’s the best prescription: Hang up the phone, close the door, or delete that text or email.

Authorities are keeping a close eye on potential scams related to health care reform. For reliable information about the new Health Insurance Marketplaces, visit www.healthcare.gov or call 1-800-318-2596. If you’ve been the victim of a scam, file a complaint with the Attorney General’s office on our website or call us at 1-877-5-NO-SCAM toll-free within North Carolina.

September is Childhood Obesity Month

September is Childhood Obesity Awareness Month. The topic of children and unhealthy eating habits has become a recurring topic on TV and in the halls of congress. Many changes have been proposed in order to fight this epidemic, including changing menus in school cafeterias. Laura Cabe, the Jackson County Director for Child Nutrition had the following to say about our area, “The program we operate here at Jackson County Schools is a federal program, we operate the national schools breakfast and lunch program as well as after school snack program and we have specific guidelines that we have to follow. Last year was the first year we implemented the new guidelines, basically we have increased whole grains, we don’t have any trans-fats in any of our products unless it’s naturally incurring as in meat products. We don’t have any fryers. We serve only skim or 1% milk. We have more fresh fruits and vegetables, children are required to take at least a half a cup of fruit or vegetables in order to have a reimbursable meal. We’re starting up a salad bar in Cullowhee valley in a few weeks. We promote education on what the students see on our menu. The menus have really changed in the past year to year and a half due to the new meal patterns we follow.” Laura Cabe states that while the early indicators are promising regarding health and students lunch and breakfast menu, it is going to take some time to see significant positive change. For more information about the federal school nutrition program or on childhood nutritional health, you can contact Laura Cabe at 586-2311.

Mountain Heritage Day. Saturday, September 28th

Western Carolina University’s 39th Annual Mountain Heritage Day will commence this weekend on Saturday, the 28th. The WCU Mountain Heritage Day festival will be free to the public and feature a full list of mountain music, activities, and many arts & crafts, and food booths. Scott Philyaw had the following to say about the festival’s history, “When this school was started, back in the 1880’s by the people of the Cullowhee valley and Jackson County, they included things that are very similar to mountain heritage day. The very first commencement had music, it had barbecue, it had presentations of the various aspects of the region, much as Mountain Heritage Day does. It attracted a large number at that time of one thousand people for a weekend. In many ways Mountain Heritage day harkens back to those earliest celebrations when what we call Western Carolina University was known as Cullowhee Academy.”

The Mountain Heritage Day will start off with a 5-K foot race at 8 am. The Blue Ridge and Balsam Stages will be playing continuous mountain music, clogging, and southern storytelling. There will be demonstrations of Cherokee stickball among other games from the Cherokee Tribe. Directly in front of the Balsam Stage there will be a new platform, created for members of the audience to show off their dance skills. There will be a children’s tent providing activities for the younger attendees, as well as hayrides. Among all the other mentioned events there will also be demonstrations and competitions for: Chainsaw wood cutting, baked and canned goods, period costumes, and contests for beard and mustaches. Expect to see, blacksmithing, black powder shooting, as well as interpretations of Cherokee hunting capabilities. The festival will be rain or shine. No pets allowed though service animals are welcome. “The festival itself starts at 10:00am, the 5-K Race starts at 8:00am. Registration for the chainsaw contest starts at 9:00am. We are recommending people show up around 9:30 so they can find a place to park. The festival closes down at 5:00pm.”

For more information visit MountainHeritageDay.com or call 828-227-7129

Use of Firearm Suppressors Will Become Legal for Hunting Wildlife

North Carolina will allow the use of suppressors on firearms while legally hunting wildlife effective this coming Tuesday, October 1st. A suppressor, which is sometimes refered to as a “Silencer,” muffles or minimalizes the report of a firearm when it is fired. This statuary change is not reflected in the 2013-2014 North Carolina Inland Fishing, Hunting, and Trapping Regulations Digest, which was published by the N.C Wildlife Resources Commission prior to the legislation being passed. A hunter or trapper must meet federal requirements to own a suppressor, which include registering the device and paying a federal tax, along with a criminal background check processed by the sheriff’s office in the applicant’s county of residence. “The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms administers the procedure to own a firearms suppressor,” said Maj. Todd Kennedy, field supervisor for the Commission’s Division of Law Enforcement. The Wildlife Commission does not have any involvement in the process to obtain a suppressor.

Final Week to Donate to 5th Annual “Coats for Kids” Drive

This is the LAST week to donate to the 5th Annual “Coats for Kids” Drive. Donations are greatly appreciated to help the children of our community stay warm this Autumn/Winter Season. Childrens’ new and good condition used coats, hats, gloves, winter clothing and shoes can be dropped off at the following locations until Monday Sept. 30. Drop-off locations include Cullowhee United Methodist Church, Sylva Walmart (inside store), Sylva First Presbyterian Church, Pathways Thrift Store and Jackson County Public Library.

To make a monetary donation, please send checks to: Cullowhee United Methodist Church, P.O. Box 1267, Cullowhee, NC 28723 with “Coats for Kids” on the memo line.

Distribution day for “Coats for Kids” will be held at Sylva First Presbyterian Church, 46 Presbyterian Drive, Sylva, NC 28779, Saturday, October 5, 9 A.M.-Noon for any family in our community who needs warm clothing for their children. Children will need to be physically present to receive items.


Child Passenger Safety Week

Last week marked Child Passenger Safety Week.  In 2012, 60 children in North Carolina were killed and 107 seriously injured in car crashes. Sixty-two percent of those who died were not buckled in properly. “Buckling up saves lives. As parents and caregivers, we have the responsibility to make sure that our children are properly restrained everytime they ride in a car.” Said Insurance Comissioner Wayne Goodwin, chair of Safe Kids North Carolina.  There are more than 62 available checking stations across North Carolina.  Each of these stations has trained technicians who can teach parents and caregivers how to properly install and use child restraints in vehicles.         toddler_carSeats

Plans for Artisans Complex at Jackson County Green Energy Park

During a recent work session by the Jackson County Commissioners, Jackson County Green Energy Park Manager Tim Muth laid out plans for the artisans complex at the Dillsboro Facility. Muth feels that the artisans complex will be comparable to some of the art venues in Asheville. The Green Energy Park is the only facility of its kind in the world, using land field methane for energy to help create pottery and ceramics, stained glass and even blacksmithing. If you would like to find out more information on the Green Energy Park contact Tim Muth at tmuth@jacksonnc.org.

National Farm Safety & Health Week

This week marks National Farm Safety and Health Week. In Jackson County alone there are over 300 number of farms which attribute to over 13,000 acres of farmland. President Obama has declared National recognition of agricultural safety during this week. “This week we resolve to make farms and ranches safer places to live, work and raise families.” .WRGC had the privilege to talk with North Carolina Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler. As a native North Carolinian and farmer he had great incite on how to keep our farmers safety. Commissioner Troxler discussed how education and awareness were the two biggest factors for keeping the men and women in the agriculture business safe. According to the National Safety Council, farm accidents and other work related health problems claim as many as 1,300 lives and cause 120,000 injuries per year, most of which are preventable. Commissioner Troxler stated that tractor and other machinery accidents on farms cause the highest number of fatalities with tractor overturns accounting for 44% of all tractor fatalities. Always use proper safety equipment, and maintain regular equipment maintenance and have an emergency plan in place to help avoid farming accidents.

SCC Health Fair on Jackson Campus

Southwestern Community College will be hosting a health fair this Thursday from 9 am till 2 pm. The health far will be held in the Balsam Lobby and Myers Auditorium on the Jackson Campus. Many SCC Student Programs, community organizations and business related to health issues will be present on location and will be providing information to the community. Many Groups in attendance will be offering low-cost or free services to the public, including: Cholesterol Checkups, Chair Massages, HIV and Hepatitis C testing. There will be valuable health information and demonstrations for the public. For more information contact SCC at 339-4000.

Funds Allocated for Jackson County School District

Superintendent Dr. Murray is allocating the new funds from the Jackson County Commissioners and planning the final stages of the current building projects in the Jackson County School District. Smoky Mountain High School’s current construction project of the new fine arts building and gymnasium are reaching their final stages. The new allocation of funds from the County Comission will greatly help the School Board progress their construction projects and even adding on more Resource Officers as needed and help in keeping Teacher’s Asssistants in the classrooms.

Haywood County Schools Consider Fees for use of School Facilities

Haywood County Schools are currently in debate over whether or not to begin the institution of fees for the use of school facilities to outside groups. For some time now many clubs such as Scouts, Adult Sports, and Youth Cheerleading groups have used the fields and gyms for practice. An estimated 200 groups use school facilities throughout Haywood County. The Haywood County School Board feels that it is un-fair for the school to pay for the cost of electricity and heat among other things. The Haywood County School Board has not made a decision on whether or not to institute fees for groups using school facilities at this time, but they are working on a plan for next year.

Dale Ditmanson Plans Retirement from Park Service

Dale Ditmanson

Dale Ditmanson

Great Smoky Mountains National Park Superintendent, Dale Ditmanson, announced plans to retire on January 3, 2014 after 36 years with the National Park Service (NPS). He has served in the Smokies as Superintendent since May of 2004 and has been recognized for his exceptional leadership as the 2009 Southeast Region’s Superintendent of the Year and the 2013 Association of Public Lands’ Agency Partner of the Year which he shared with recently retired Deputy Superintendent Kevin FitzGerald. Ditmanson is also a recipient of the Department of Interior’s Honor Award for Meritorious Service. “Dale Ditmanson exemplifies the best of the National Park Service career employees: dedicated to the mission, driven to excellence and willing to fight to protect our National Parks. I appreciate all he has done for the American people throughout his NPS career and wish him well in retirement,” said NPS Director Jon Jarvis.

Among his many accomplishments, Ditmanson provided the vision and leadership, working closely with a tremendous management team and park partners, leading to the construction of facilities that will serve the public well into the future. Ditmanson also worked tirelessly with gateway communities, partner groups, congressional staff, NPS staff, and Park neighbors to secure approval of a Memorandum of Agreement for the future of the Elkmont Historic District, accomplished a resolution leading to the North Shore Road settlement decision with Swain County, and developed the Trails Forever partnership between Friends of the Smokies and the Park. Ditmanson has also championed the protection of natural and cultural resources while serving in the Smokies working closely with Resource Management and Science Staff to support the reintroduction of Elk, pushing for improved air and water quality standards, and helping to secure needed funds for the Hemlock Woolly Adelgid suppression efforts.

More information will follow regarding a farewell celebration for Ditmanson in early January. For more information, please contact Park’s Public Information Office at 865-436-1207 or 865-436-1203.

Gov. McCrory Concludes Sylva/Dillsboro Visit

Governor McCrory Hosts the Roundtable Discussion

Governor McCrory Hosts the Roundtable Discussion

Gorvernor Pat McCrory visited Sylva, North Carolina today, and met with business leaders at local industries as well as had a discussion with regional leaders and citizens. The Governor’s visit began with a tour of Jackson Paper Company where he spoke with both executives and mill workers to get a better understanding on how the company has coped during the recent economic decline. Following the visit at Jackson Paper, the Governor hosted a round table discussion forum at the Jarrett House in Dillsboro. Nearly 40 invited guests were on hand to hear the governor speak and ask him questions. Governor McCrory began the roundtable event with the following opening statement, “You know, what I want to do is first of all, I am here to have conversation with you. I’m not here to give a speech and we’ve got business leaders in here, we’ve got republicans, democrats, and independents here in this room and I want to welcome all of you. This is about governing and this is about leading now.” He went on to say, “For the people of Jackson County and Sylva, I’ve said it in 2008, this is one of my two favorite towns in North Carolina.” “I love the Main Street here.” During the 45 minute roundtable discussion the Governor touched on questions across a wide range of topics, including taxes, spending, state hiring practices, health care for the mentally ill and the tourism industry. When asked about criticism he has received regarding the states education budget, the Governor replied, “I want to also let you know, despite what you read, K through 12 spending is the largest this budget has ever been in North Carolina history.” WRGC’s had the opportunity to sit down with the Governor and ask how hi tour of the Jackson Paper Company went and why he chose to visit. “One is, I went to that company back in 08′ when I was running for governor and I wanted to see what’s changed since 08′ and what some of their challenges are. I want to get feedback from the industries that are making things. We’ve got to continue to be a state where we make and build, innovate and grow things. As Governor I am focusing on the agricultural industry, the manufacturing industry, and travel & tourism. We kind of take those industries for granted, and those industries margin a profit.” “I went there to listen, and not just to the head of the company, I went to listen to the employees. I met with their employees that work on the line and just trying to make it through the day.” At the conclusion of his stay, WRGC asked the Governor what he had learned about the needs of our area during his visit. “There are some very basic things that we can look at to make a positive difference. For example: Signage on state roads, that’s not too complicated. A lot of times its the small details that people are looking for. You just need to listen.”

Governor Pat Mccrory to Visit Historic Dillsboro

It has been announced that NC Governor Pat Mccrory will be visiting Jackson County on Thursday. According to an unofficial schedule he will begin a tour of Jackson Paper Company in downtown Sylva at 10 am and later in the day move to the Jarrett House in Dillsboro to have lunch and host a roundtable discussion with invited guests. Jim Hartbarger confirmed that he and his staff will indeed be hosting the Governor along with several others. Jim had the following to say, “The only thing we know is that he is going to have a round table discussion at lunch. They said that there would be between twenty and twenty-five people in the roundtable discussion.” Even though all details of the trip have not yet been made public Jim said that he and his staff are excited to add Pat Mccrory to the list of Governors that have visited his establishment. “We’ve been here thirty-eight years, so we have had may Governors during that time and we are honored to have him.” WRGC will be continuing coverage of the Governors trip to our area.

ICF Freestlye World Championships Conclude

This past Labor Day, hundreds of kayakers from across the world gathered in our area for a week-long 2013 International Canoe Federation Freestyle World Championships in which over 500 freestyle kayakers from 45 different countries competed. The famous Nantahala River which is renowned for its consistent water levels and complex rapids was the competition’s venue. Freestyle kayaking is a not a race but a judged event where points are awarded for tricks and jumps as well as the choreography of the run. The competition’s three categories were: kayak, closed deck canoe, and open canoe. Each of those categories has four divisions: Men’s, Women’s, Junior Men’s and Junior Women’s. USA took the lead in almost every event, taking in six gold medals, four silver, and three bronze. Great Britain did second best with two gold and two bronze while third best, Japan, took home two silver and one bronze. One of the USA Gold winners was Western North Carolina’s very own 17-year-old, Rowan Stuart. Stuart, who is a native of Stecoah which is in Graham County won gold in the junior women’s ICF Canoe Freestyle World Championships. According to the judges, Stuart was the best performer in aerial moves during the 2013 wave feature. Stuart scored a 233 on her first ride, a 423 on her second, and 396 on the final ride, with the 423 being the best of her freestyle career. The ICF Canoe Freestyle World Championships are held every two years, with this year being the first time the event was held at the Nantahala Outdoor Center. Rowan Stuart expressed that she will most likely stop freestyle kayaking for a little while and concentrate on her school career.

Escaped Inmate Captured in Haywood County

In an update to a story WGRC reported last Friday, escaped inmate John R. Fullwood was captured without incident at about 5:20 p.m. Sunday in Clyde, NC. He has been transported to Mountain View Correctional Center in Spruce Pine and will face a charge of felony escape.

Fullwood walked away Friday morning from a work assignment at the North Carolina Arboretum in Asheville and corrections and law enforcement officers have been searching for him since.