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Author Archive for Heather Hyatt

Public Comment on Murphy Branch Rail Line

The N.C. Department of Transportation (Rail Division) will hold a public meeting to review results of the recent study of reactivating the Murphy Branch rail line between Andrews and Murphy (A2M- Rail Reactivation Study). The meeting will be held on March 11 from 1-2:30 p.m. at the Enloe Building on the campus of Tri-County Community College in Murphy.

In November 2014 NCDOT completed the Draft A2M Rail Reactivation Study which evaluated the market and investment viability of returning rail service to the Murphy Branch rail line.

NCDOT representatives, consultants and public officials will be available during the open-house style meeting to provide information, answer questions and collect comments regarding the study and the project in general. Citizens are welcome to attend at any time during the meeting hours. There will not be a formal presentation.

NCDOT purchased the 14 mile long Murphy Branch between Murphy and Andrews in 1988 from Norfolk Southern Railroad. The Great Smoky Mountains Railroad (GSMR) purchased the segment between Andrews and Dillsboro in 1996, and operates tourist excursions and some freight interchanges in Sylva.

With construction on a new casino resort in Murphy, this expansion could offer direct rail service from the Andrews Aiport.

NC Child Poverty Rate Would Double Without Intervention Programs

North Carolina has numerous programs that aim to improve the lives of children and their families living in poverty, but how do you quantify the difference the programs make? A report released today by the Annie E. Casey Foundation – “Measuring Access to Opportunity in the United States” – demonstrates that without interventions, the state’s child poverty rate would be more than double from 17% to 35%.

Laila Bell with NC Child says the value in the report is an understanding of how programs can enact change in the lives of children, “What it’s really showing us is that we have the tools that can really help make sure that we are keeping kids out of poverty and really helping to avoid some of those preventable long term costs.”

Today’s report uses the Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM) developed by the U.S. Census, which Bell says provides a more complete picture of how families fare, when compared to the current method of measuring the impact of programs. According to the nonpartisan NC Child recent changes to the state’s child care subsidy program represent one example of how recent policy decisions in the state are making it difficult for families living in poverty to get ahead or even survive.

The current method used to measure poverty was developed in the 1960s, and according to the U.S. Census sets a standard of $24,000 dollars a year for a family of four, regardless of where that family lives or accounting for inflation.

Laura Speer with the Annie E. Casey Foundation explains better measurement tools, such as the SPM, help make improvements in public programs, “Using the Supplemental Poverty Measure we can really see the successes and the limitations of the safety net resources that we’ve put into place. We can also see that these resources don’t go far enough. We still see that there are 13 million children below the poverty line.”

The SPM takes into account living costs such as medicine, housing, food and utilities and how those costs affect disposable income. It also accounts for how government programs such as SNAP help offset those costs. Bell says gaining a better picture of poverty in North Carolina helps to improve the economic future of the entire state, “We know that children really do their best when they live in financially secure families, and we all shoulder the burden when our children don’t have the opportunity to grow up and become productive citizens and members of our community. ”

The Annie E. Casey report recommends state and federal governments expand access to early childhood education, change tax credit policies to keep more money in the hands of struggling families, and streamline food and housing subsidies.

State Prepares for More Snow to Hit North Carolina

Back-to-back winter storms will bring measurable snowfall to much of the state twice in three days, a rarity for North Carolina. By the weekend, two separate winter storm systems will have moved across the state. Today’s band of snow showers is expected to bring 1-2 inches of snow in the Triangle and Triad areas, 2-3 inches of snow in the Fayetteville and Sandhills areas, 3-6 inches of snow in the foothills and mountains, and up to 2 inches in parts of eastern North Carolina. Snow showers will taper off mid-afternoon, but will not melt until Wednesday afternoon when temperatures briefly rise above freezing.

A more significant winter storm will move through the state Wednesday evening and through Thursday bringing more snow. Accumulations from the second snow storm are forecast to bring an additional 3 to 6 inches of snow across most of the state. The extreme southeastern portion of the state will likely see a wintery mix of snow, sleet and rain.

“While today’s snowfall has caused hazardous driving conditions in several areas from the mountains to the coast, we’ve seen relatively few power outages, downed trees or other impacts typically associated with winter storms,” said Governor Pat McCrory.

Governor McCrory said he will activate the State Emergency Operations Center Wednesday afternoon and is prepared to declare a state of emergency and waive certain vehicle weight and serve hour requirements once needed. This morning, the governor implemented the Adverse Weather Policy for state employees enabling those workers who are not essential to storm response or daily operations to remain home.

Since 6 a.m., State Highway Patrol troopers have responded to 2,060 calls for service. Of those, 1,727 were collisions. Troopers typically respond to approximately 1,000 calls in a 24-hour period.

One person was killed earlier today in a single-vehicle collision when the driver’s car slid off the road and ran into a tree. Preliminary indications are that the accident was due to slick road conditions.

“We urge motorists to stay off the roads adversely impacted by weather unless it is absolutely necessary to travel,” said Public Safety Secretary Frank L. Perry. “Our state troopers are ready to assist stranded motorists as needed, but the best way to remain safe is to stay off the roads.”

NCDOT crews across the state have been working throughout the day to clear roads and treat slick areas with sand and salt, as well as brine roads where possible in advance of winter precipitation. The department will monitor conditions overnight and crews will be on standby to respond as needed. Full crews will be out in force again on Wednesday to continue addressing roadways and preparing for the next round of winter weather forecasted for this week.

“The safety of both motorists and our team members continues to be our top priority as we work to stay ahead of this storm and its impact to travel throughout the state,” Transportation Secretary Tony Tata said. “Our crews have worked hard today to address quickly changing weather and road conditions, and we urge travelers to use caution and avoid driving if possible as we continue our response efforts and prepare for the arrival of additional snow and ice.”

Real-time weather and road conditions and shelter openings, as well as winter safety tips, can be found on the free ReadyNC mobile app or online at www.readync.org web site.

Travelers are urged to call 511 or go to www.ncdot.org for up to date roadway conditions. Motorists are reminded to call 911 for emergencies only and refrain from calling the State Highway Patrol Communication Centers for roadway conditions.

WCU has $511 million impact on WNC economy, statewide study of education says

Western Carolina University was responsible for injecting an estimated $511.3 million into the Western North Carolina economy during the 2012-13 fiscal year through the combined impact of payroll, operational, construction and research expenditures by the university and the spending habits of its students, visitors and alumni.

That is among the findings of a comprehensive study conducted by Economic Modeling Specialists International to examine the impact of higher education on North Carolina. The EMSI study examined the combined impact of the University of North Carolina system, North Carolina Community College system and private institutions, and also assessed the impact of individual UNC campuses, private colleges and community colleges on their local economies.

Western Carolina’s estimated impact of $511.3 million represents approximately 2.7 percent of the total gross regional product for the 10 counties examined in the WCU regional study – Buncombe, Cherokee, Clay, Graham, Haywood, Henderson, Jackson, Macon, Swain and Transylvania. The added regional income created by WCU is equivalent to creating 10,475 new jobs, the study indicates.

In addition, the study calculates the return on investment in WCU for students, society and taxpayers, finding that for every dollar students invest in their educations, they will receive $2.90 in higher future income. From a statewide societal perspective, for each dollar that society spent on education at WCU in the year analyzed, North Carolina will receive a cumulative value of $10.60 in benefits such as savings related to reduced crime, lower unemployment and increased health and well-being across the state.

For every dollar invested by state and local taxpayers to support the operations of WCU in the 2012-13 fiscal year, those taxpayers gained $5.40 in added tax revenues collected and public sector savings, the EMSI researchers said. Specifically, taxpayers contributed $85 million toward WCU that year, while the added tax revenue stemming from students’ higher lifetime incomes and increased output of businesses totaled $358.6 million, with another $103.6 million in benefits because of reduced demand for government-funded services, the study revealed.

“It has been no secret that Western Carolina University and our UNC system, community college and private institution partners in higher education are engines of economic and community development for the communities and regions we serve,” WCU Chancellor David O. Belcher said.

“It is heartening to read the results of this study, which clearly demonstrates the incredible value that WCU and other institutions bring to the state and to the region. I trust that elected officials, taxpayers, students, parents, alumni, donors, and the business community will appreciate the exceptional return on investment our state and region receive when they invest in higher education, whether through appropriations, tax dollars, tuition and fees, or charitable contributions,” Belcher said.

Other findings from the EMSI report about the impact of WCU on the regional economy in the year of the study:

* Research at WCU generated $849,700 in added regional income, which is equivalent to creating 15 new jobs.

* Construction spending by WCU was $2.3 million, equivalent to 79 new jobs.

* About 67 percent of the undergraduate and graduate students at WCU originated from outside the 10-county region. Spending by those students who relocated to the region added approximately $39.9 million to the regional economy, equivalent to 895 new jobs.

* Out-of-region visitors attracted to WNC because of activities at WCU spent about $34.8 million at hotels, restaurants, gas stations and other regional businesses, equivalent to creating 897 new jobs.

* The accumulated contribution of WCU alumni who are employed in the 10-county region amounted to $266.7 million in added regional income, equivalent to creating 5,643 new jobs.

Leaders from WCU, UNC Asheville and Asheville Buncombe Technical Community College gathered Friday, Feb. 20, at the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce to discuss the impacts of their respective institutions – and of Blue Ridge, Haywood, Southwestern and Tri-County community colleges – on the communities that that they serve.

Belcher, UNC Asheville Chancellor Mary K. Grant and A-B Tech President Dennis F. King announced that public higher education institutions in WNC were responsible for injecting at least $2 billion into the state and regional economy during the 2012-13 fiscal year through their institutional expenditures and the spending habits of their students, visitors and alumni. Of that $2 billion, roughly 75 percent ($1.52 billion) stays in the 11 counties of WNC (Buncombe, Cherokee, Clay, Graham, Haywood, Henderson, Jackson, Macon, Madison, Swain and Transylvania), they said.

“I am a proud product of North Carolina’s public higher education system, as are my wife and my children, so I know first-hand of the value that the UNC system and the North Carolina Community College system bring to the people of North Carolina,” said N.C. Sen. Tom Apodaca, a 1980 graduate of WCU.

“From laid-off factory workers seeking retraining at their local community colleges so they can re-enter the workforce of the 21st century to first-generation college students finding a welcoming environment at our regional universities, the people of our communities benefit tremendously from public higher education,” Apodaca said. “The results of this economic impact study also show the impact that these institutions are having on our state and regional businesses and on society as a whole.”

The meeting of regional leaders of public higher education followed on the heels of a Feb. 18 announcement of the statewide impact of the UNC and community college systems and private institutions. That statewide study reported the UNC system alone, including campuses and affiliated medical institutions, created $27.9 billion in added state income, which is equal to approximately 6.4 percent of the total Gross State Product of North Carolina and is equivalent to creating 426,052 new jobs.

Looking at the statewide picture, WCU created $901.8 million in additional income in North Carolina during the 2012-13 fiscal year, an economic impact equivalent to creating 15,381 new jobs.

The EMSI researchers say that initial spending by colleges and universities on payroll, operations or goods and services creates a multiplier effect across other businesses throughout the state and regional economy. Data and methods used in the study are based on several sources, including the 2012-13 academic and financial reports from the campuses, industry and employment data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics and U.S. Census Bureau, and a variety of studies and surveys relating education to social behavior.

Researchers say the study applies a conservative methodology and follows standard practice using only the most recognized indicators of investment effect and economic impact.

For a copy of the full report, including a description of the data and methods used, visit the University of North Carolina website at www.northcarolina.edu/economic-impact-2015.

For more information about WCU’s regional economic impact, a printable PDF is available at www.wcu.edu/WebFiles/PDFs/15-123-Economic-Impact-Report-Western-Version.pdf.

Obamacare Enrollment Up 56%; Deadline Extended

Almost 560,000 North Carolinians bought or renewed health policies on the Affordable Care Act market by the time enrollment closed Sunday, the federal government reported Wednesday.

The total of 559,473 is a 56 percent increase over the number who signed up for 2014, the first year federally subsidized coverage was offered.
North Carolina saw a surge of sign-ups in the final days of enrollment, perhaps prompted by tax penalties for remaining uninsured.
National enrollment went from 6.7 million for 2014 to an estimated 11.4 million this year, up about 59 percent.

Taxpayers facing fines for not having health insurance in 2014 will get another chance to sign up for benefits on the Obamacare exchanges this year, federal officials announced Friday.

From March 15 through April 30, individuals who learn when they file tax returns that they must pay a penalty under the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate can return to HealthCare.gov to choose a plan for the current year

Child Injury Under Investigation in Haywood County

Haywood County emergency responders were called to 11 Wildwood Way in the Jonathan Creek area of the county at approximately 6:15 p.m. Thursday evening in reference to a traumatic injury, possibly from a gunshot.

According to a law enforcement report at the Haywood County Sheriff’s Office, deputies arrived on scene to find EMS workers treating a three-year-old girl for an injury to her right index finger. The child was transported to Mission Hospital for further treatment.

The Haywood County Sheriff’s Office is investigating the incident.

Conditions Improving, But Temperatures/Ice Still Pose Danger

While the threat of a major snow and ice storm may have passed, State Emergency Response Team officials say they are remaining vigilant and responsive.

“The situation is improving, but that does not mean that conditions have returned to normal,” said Public Safety Secretary Frank L. Perry. “People still need to be cautious whether they are out driving or walking. The black ice is a very real threat and should be taken seriously.”

Perry said state and local emergency management officials are still coordinating response to the storm and State Highway Patrol troopers will continue to have increased patrols at least through Saturday to ensure no motorists are left stranded in the dangerously low temperatures.

While ice accumulations were not as severe as predicted, most of the state remains under a Winter Weather Advisory due to dangerous black ice. Temperatures are expected to rise above freezing this afternoon allowing some of the ice to melt. But a brief chance of scattered snow showers combined with below freezing temperatures statewide for the next few days will leave many secondary roads, streets, driveways and yards in ice skating rink-like condition.

Law Enforcement Commissioner Gregory K. Baker also thanked state agencies for a tremendous job coordinating together to respond to the winter storm and for their extra efforts to ensure that no motorists were left stranded overnight in freezing temperatures.

“North Carolinians largely heeded our warnings to stay off the roads,” said Highway Patrol Commander Bill Grey. “Following that advice has greatly reduced the number of wrecks and injuries from what we’ve seen in previous storms.”

Overnight, Highway Patrol troopers responded to nearly 100 calls for service statewide, well below average. Troopers typically respond to approximately 1,000 calls daily.

National Guard soldiers, Wildlife officers, Alcohol Law Enforcement agents and DOT roadside assistance patrols also have assisted motorists.

By 11 a.m., the utilities reported about 12,200 power outages statewide, mostly in the Southeastern and Sandhills areas.

Governor McCrory lifted the State of Emergency late Tuesday. The truck weight and hours of service restriction waivers that also were signed earlier this week are still in effect as companies continue to move fuel, propane and other goods to recover from the winter storm. The waiver is in effect for 30 days or until it is canceled.

NCDOT has scraped or treated with salt and sand nearly all the interstates and four-lane divided highways. Crews will finish the primary routes today then shift their focus to secondary roads. Even with treatment, icy spots will remain especially on bridges and overpasses.

The department currently has 2,474 NCDOT employees responding to the effects of the winter storm statewide. They are using 1,316 trucks loaded with plows and spreaders and 213 motor graders to clear the roads of snow and ice. Since Monday, crews have put down 38,555 tons of salt and 9,061 tons of salt-sand mix on the roads.

Real-time weather and road conditions, as well as winter safety tips, can be found on the free ReadyNC mobile app or on line at www.readync.org web site.

Travelers are urged to call 511, follow NCDOT’s Twitter accounts or go to www.ncdot.org for up to date roadway conditions. Motorists are reminded NOT to call 911 or the State Highway Patrol Communication Centers for roadway conditions; those lines must remain clear for emergency calls.

Legal Help Available to Clear Records

Attorneys will be on hand next week in Canton to help those with a criminal record find out if they’re eligible for a court order that clears their record.
Attorneys from Legal Aid of North Carolina will be in Canton on Monday, March 9 and Tuesday, March 10 to help people find out if they’re eligible for expunction.
Expunction is a court order that clears past offenses from a criminal record that may get in the way of potential jobs, renting an apartment or getting a loan.
Past mistakes prevent individuals from being able to rent a suitable place or get a job or loan. Under certain circumstances, the criminal record can be cleared.

Those eligible for an expunction include:
• A first-time, nonviolent offense committed more than 15 years ago;
• A first-time offense committed under the age of 18
• A first-time drug offense committed under the age of 22
• A charge that was dismissed or you were found “not guilty” of
Colwell encouraged individuals to call Legal Aid so their records can be researched to determine eligibility. For more information or to schedule a free meeting with a Legal Aid attorney, call (828) 586-8931 and press number 2 and then number 6. The line is open weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Record Visitation Continues in 2015 at Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Record setting visitation to Great Smoky Mountains National Park continues in 2015, with 351,670 visitors enjoying the park in January. The National Park Service has maintained monthly visitation records since 1979. Since that time, visitation has never exceeded 351,000 in the month of January.

Visitation was up at all major park entrances as well as the park’s outlying areas. This increase was noticeable at the park’s visitor centers, especially at Oconaluftee in North Carolina. The staff at the Oconaluftee Visitor Center welcomed 12,658 visitors in January, a 51% increase over 2014. Sugarlands Visitor Center staff saw a 13% increase in visitation compared to 2014.

The record month comes on the heels of the park’s busiest year in 14 years. In 2014, 10,099,275 visitors enjoyed the national park, an 8% increase over 2013. The numbers were spurred by strong July and August visitation as well as the highest October visitation in 27 years.

“I am honored to join the Smokies staff in welcoming visitors to enjoy this special place,” said Superintendent Cassius Cash. “In my short time here, I’ve been able to see firsthand just how much people care about the park and I look forward to continuing to work with our communities and partners to serve our visitors and protect these mountains for the next generation to enjoy as we have.”

The national park not only welcomed a record number of visitors in January 2015, it also officially crossed a milestone in visitation. Since 1931, when the park’s first Superintendent, Major J. Ross Eakin arrived in the Smokies, over 500 million visitors have enjoyed Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Only the Blue Ridge Parkway and Golden Gate National Recreation Area have hosted more visitors during their existence.

Wintry Mix Hits the Region

Snow and Ice hit the region on Monday leaving some without electricity. Photo by Heather L Hyatt

Snow and Ice hit the region on Monday leaving some without electricity. Photo by Heather L Hyatt

As grey skies turned to snow, snow turned to sleet, and sleet turned to ice pellets across the region Monday, area residents stocked up on groceries and essential supplies for the storm.

A layer of ice began to build up on the streets by mid-day Monday, leaving both pedestrians and drivers skidding along the sidewalks and streets.

The State Highway Patrol investigated more than 1,000 accidents since midnight Monday across the state. 31 wrecks were reported in Jackson County on Monday.

According to Duke Energy, power outages were reported across the region:

HAYWOOD – 394 without power
JACKSON – 53 without power
MACON – 531 without power
SWAIN – 79 without power

North Carolina Emergency Services estimated customers without power at noon today: 52,000; down from 63,000 at 10 am. Majority in eastern part of NC.

On Wednesday,temperatures are predicted to drop to single and negative digits. There will be a chance of snow showers throughout the day on Wednesday.

Report Examines North Carolina Economic Incentive Programs

A bill is expected in the State Assembly as early as this week for a new jobs plan at the urging of Governor Pat McCrory. But it comes on the heels of a new report that 60% of those projects under the Job Development Investment Grant (J-DIG) Program have failed to deliver what they promised.

That’s according to the North Carolina Justice Center and the report’s author, Allan Freyer, who questions the allocation of additional funds, “If there were any other program in state government that failed 60% of the time, the Legislature would have eliminated it already.”

The J-DIG program has a spending cap of $22,500,000 annually. Recently, more than half the money was awarded to MetLife in Charlotte, which Freyer points out reduces availability of funds for other, smaller companies in rural communities where jobs are badly needed. The report says 90% of J-DIG dollars have gone to urban communities and more than 77% of projects approved in rural communities have failed.

Supporters of the J-DIG program say it enables the state to compete with others for new projects or expansions with existing employers. The money is not awarded to companies until they fulfill their promise of added jobs, but Freyer points out the money for J-DIG is still a line item in the budget and cannot be allocated to other proven programs, “It’s less money that’s available for the real building blocks of economic growth like education, job training, industrial and transportation infrastructure. These are the types of investments that actually promote broadly shared economic growth that benefits everyone in the state.”

The report recommends the state examine why so many incentive programs are failing, improve the evaluation process before projects are approved, and focus incentives in industries predicted to experience the largest growth.

Jackson Neighbors in Need has successful fundraiser

Jackson Neighbors in Need (JNIN) raised more than $8,700 at the second annual Charlie’s Challenge fundraiser on Saturday, January 31.

More than 200 people gathered in the Sylva First Baptist Mission Hall for the event to remember JNIN Founder Charlie McConnell and raise money for the organization’s heating assistance program, an emergency shelter, and weatherization services. All money raised came from generous donations from local residents, community organizations and businesses from the surrounding area.

Jackson Neighbors in Need’s heating assistance program works to ensure that area residents are able to afford heating their homes during the winter. Over the past several years, prices for electricity, fuel oil, and natural gas have risen sharply. At the same time, unemployment has risen and government assistance has fallen. The heating assistance program provides up to $400 worth of assistance per household, per cold weather season.

The organization’s weatherization program is another way local residents in need can get help with heating costs. Weatherization assistance includes minor improvements like installing insulating film to windows, to major projects like replacing rotten floor joists and repairing failing ceilings.

Jackson Neighbors in Need also operates an emergency shelter each year from November 1 – March 31.

Two Arrested in Waynesville Meth Bust

An investigation into drug activity at a house in Waynesville led to charges against two people living at 222 Lewis Drive.
Brian S. Shuler, 32, and Shana Nicole Dills, 30, were charged with possession of immediate precursor chemicals for the manufacture of methamphetamine.

According to a press release, the Unified Narcotics Investigative Team executed a search warrant at their home on Lewis Drive on Feb. 11 where investigators found several chemicals used in the clandestine manufacture of methamphetamine.
The Haywood County Sheriff’s Office stated these chemicals individually are not illegal to possess, but as a totality of circumstances and combined make them illegal to possess.

The drug task force team had been investigating the house after reports of alleged drug activity.

The Unified Narcotics Investigation Team, or U.N.I.T., is a multi-agency task force consisting of investigators from the Haywood County Sheriff’s Office, Waynesville Police Department, Canton Police Department and Maggie Valley Police Department.

Shuler remains in Haywood County Detention Center on $20,000 secure bond. Dills posted her $20,000 bond and has been released.

Both Shuler and Dills are expected to appear in Haywood County District Court on Feb. 25.

Highway Patrol Offers Simple Winter Driving Tips As Potential Winter Weather Approaches

With the potential of winter and the possibility that motorists may
have to drive in inclement weather, the Highway Patrol is offering simple
and safe driving tips. The weather in North Carolina is often times
unpredictable and this time of year you never know when to expect black ice,
snow, icy roads or a mixture of road conditions. The Highway Patrol is
asking motorists to be prepared as the potential winter storm approaches.

“Winter weather brings new obstacles and responsibilities that the motoring
public will experience anytime inclement weather moves into our state.
Despite a rather mild winter so far, North Carolina’s weather can often
change from one day to the next,” says Patrol spokesman, Lt. Jeff Jeff
Gordon. It’s important that we monitor this weather system and plan
accordingly.”

Here are a few simple steps to help keep you on the road and less anxious:

Avoid travel unless necessary when winter weather is in your area.
Decrease speed.
Wear your seatbelt.
Driving Considerations

Leave Early- allow more travel time; expect delays.
Increase distance between vehicles – it takes significantly longer to stop
on snow covered or icy roadways.
Clear all windows on your vehicle prior to travel – having unobstructed
vision is vital to avoid running off of the road or having a collision.
Illuminate your vehicles headlamps.
Use caution on bridges and overpasses as they susceptible to freezing before
roadways. Avoid using cruise control – cruise can cause the vehicle’s wheels
to continue turning on a slippery surface when speed needs to be decreased.

Be Prepared – ensure your vehicle has a full tank of gas in the event you
are stranded for an extended period of time.
Charge your cellular phone prior to departure.
Take a blanket.
Notify a family member or a friend of your travel plans prior to departure –
if you travel is interrupted, someone will know.

Collision Information- first, be patient. Winter weather also limits our
capabilities and increases our response time; also, keep in mind that we
will be experiencing a high volume of requests for service. Attempt to move
your vehicle out of the roadway if you are involved in a minor, non-injury
traffic collision; especially if you are in a dangerous area such as a curve
or a blind hill. If your vehicle is stranded or wrecked but not in the
roadway, attempts to recover your vehicle will have to wait until conditions
improve for safety considerations.

Road Conditions – to check the status of road conditions, motorists are
asked to go to the Department of Transportation’s website at
http://www.ncdot.gov/travel/. The public is not advised to dial 911 or the
Highway Patrol Communication Centers for road conditions.

However, citizens can contribute to highway safety by reporting erratic
drivers to the Highway Patrol by dialing *Hp or *47 on their cellular
phones. Callers will remain anonymous and should give a description of the
vehicle, location, direction of travel and license number if possible.

Match Made in Heaven? NC Researcher Finds Social Class Impacts Relationships

Your compatibility with your partner may come down to dollars and cents, according to the research of a Duke University professor.

Sociologist Jessi Streib studied couples where each partner grew up in a different socio-economic class and found that even if you “marry up”, your upbringing still impacts decisions and behaviors, “People from different class backgrounds often had different ideas of how they wanted to live their daily lives, and this would would shape everything from how they would express emotions to how they wanted to spend their money. ”
Tag: Among her other findings is one that runs contrary to the notion held by many scholars that “strivers” can outrun a difficult childhood by getting a college degree and good paying middle-class job.

A person’s approach to raising children is also impacted by their economic upbringing. Streib says those who grew up in a financially depressed family choose to let their children have more control over their time, while people who grew up in the middle class tend to plan and make decisions for their children, “They wanted to organize and oversee and make sure things were going according to a plan and their partners who grew up with less privilege often had to kind of navigate unstable situations and so they wanted to approach things in a more spontaneous way. ”

Streib adds that the obstacles presented by a socio-economic “mismatch” can be overcome, provided the couple is mindful of their differences.

WCU College of Health and Human Sciences opens pro bono physical therapy clinic

The College of Health and Human Sciences at Western Carolina University has launched a pro bono clinic to provide physical therapy services to underserved and underinsured populations of Western North Carolina.

The clinic, operated by students in WCU’s doctoral program in physical therapy under the supervision of faculty members, is open from 6 until 8:30 p.m. on the first and third Wednesdays of every month. It is located in Carolina West Sports Medicine clinic space on the first floor of the Health and Human Sciences Building on Little Savannah Road on WCU’s West Campus.

The physical therapy clinic is among several clinics located in WCU’s Health and Human Sciences Building that are designed to provide much-needed health care services to WNC residents while giving students in the health care professions valuable hands-on learning experiences, said Doug Keskula, dean of the College of Health and Human Sciences.

“Through the new physical therapy clinic and other clinics in our building, we are able to deliver exceptional health services to our community while simultaneously supporting the education and development of the highly skilled health professionals of the future,” Keskula said.

“The truly extraordinary aspect of this clinic is that it is a student-led initiative,” he said. “Our physical therapy students have been involved in creating and implementing every aspect of this much-needed clinic. Under the guidance of faculty member and clinic director Dr. Ashley Hyatt, our students are learning the professional roles of patient advocacy and social responsibility firsthand.”

Hyatt, who joined the WCU faculty in 2013, has previous experience working in a pro bono clinic during her years in graduate school. “I participated both as a student and as a supervising clinician, and I was able to see firsthand how beneficial the clinic was to the community,” she said.

Soon after her arrival on campus, Hyatt began working on a proposal for a clinic at WCU. Students in the physical therapy program formed a student board to develop plans for the clinic, under the supervision of an advisory board composed of faculty and staff from WCU as well as community partners.

“It has been very exciting to see all of the hard work that these students have put into this clinic come to fruition. It is also really rewarding to see our students apply what they have learned in the classroom to actual patients who truly need their help,” Hyatt said. “We all learn something each clinic night, and this will be a constant work in progress. We would like to start expanding the clinic to other professions in the college once we get a bit more comfortable.”

Last September, WestCare Center for Family Medicine launched a new full-time primary care clinic in the building. That clinic occupies 2,000 square feet within the 160,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art facility.

In December 2013, Carolina West Sports Medicine opened a rehabilitation and sports medicine clinic in the building, providing services to the community and clinical practice opportunities for WCU faculty and students. The building’s interdisciplinary clinic also hosts WCU’s nationally recognized Speech and Hearing Clinic, the Balance and Fall Prevention Clinic, and Vecinos Farmworker Health Program.

Opened in the fall of 2012, the Health and Human Sciences Building is the first facility built on 344 acres across N.C. Highway 107 from the main campus that were acquired by WCU in 2005 as part of the Millennial Initiative. A comprehensive regional economic development strategy, the Millennial Initiative promotes university collaboration with private industry and government partners to enhance hands-on student learning and collaborative research.

In addition, the Board of Trustees of the Endowment Fund of Western Carolina University recently issued a request for qualifications for a project to develop a medical office building to be constructed near the university’s Health and Human Sciences Building.

The office building will be the first privately developed structure to be built on the West Campus as part of the Millennial Initiative. Expected to encompass at least 30,000 square feet of space, the building will become home to a mix of office space for health care professionals, along with space for health-related businesses.

The Mountain Area Pro Bono Physical Therapy Clinic is available to individuals who do not have insurance coverage for physical therapy.

Golden LEAF commits $50 million to entice auto manufacturer

The Golden LEAF Foundation Board of Directors announced today that it reserved $50 million to provide support for the location of an automobile manufacturing facility within the borders of North Carolina.

“The state is readying itself to win and host this type of manufacturing industry,” said Johnathan Rhyne, Chair of the Golden LEAF Board of Directors. “The Golden LEAF Board took this action to demonstrate its commitment to this emerging opportunity. An automobile manufacturer and its suppliers can create thousands of jobs and serve as a catalyst for long-term economic advancement.”

Since its inception, Golden LEAF has been committed to using the funds entrusted to it for projects with the most potential for bolstering North Carolina’s long-term economy, especially in tobacco-dependent, economically distressed, and/or rural communities.

“The committed Golden LEAF funds are not earmarked for a specific site or company, but to a site that an automobile manufacturer has indicated is its preferred North Carolina location,” said Dan Gerlach, Golden LEAF President. “The Foundation generally does not make a single grant of this magnitude, but recognizes the transformative potential of attracting this industry. The Board’s commitment is equal to a year and a half of our current grantsmaking budget, conveying the seriousness and aggressiveness that will be required to be successful.”

As a public charity, Golden LEAF funds can be used for costs associated with project needs such as public infrastructure and workforce training.

Taken for a Ride? Subprime Auto Loans Driving Consumers to Bad Credit

Trends have been found in auto lending that look an awful lot like the mortgage market prior to the meltdown that resulted in the recession. Those trends are featured in a new report from the Center for Responsible Lending. The report focuses on the growth of subprime lending … loans to people with poor credit scores.

The center’s Chris Kukla explains there are several issues at play – cars are more expensive and wages are stagnant. Plus, he says dealers are rewarded for issuing loans at inflated interest rates – an undisclosed practice called a dealer markup, “You’re already underwater by 40 percent to half the minute you drive off the lot, but you’ve also got a depreciating asset. Most people, they’re going to be underwater the entire time that they’re in the loan.”

Kukla contends that subprime loans are not only dangerous to a family’s economic health, but in the long run it hurts car dealers as well, because consumers upside-down in long-term loans aren’t repeat customers.

The report found the use of subprime loans for cars has grown quite suddenly, and there’s been a corresponding uptick in car and truck repossessions.

Kukla says consumers may think they have protections, but the industry has been aggressive in averting regulation – especially at the state level, “This is an area where there has been very little, if any, real consumer protections put in place, when you compare it to any other lending market.”

Those against regulations say stricter rules could make it tougher for people with sub-par credit to find auto loans with payments that work within their budget.

NC Schools: Are they making the grade?

All public schools in North Carolina got letter grades from A-F from the State Board of Education Thursday.

Eighty percent of the grades are based on how students performed on standardized tests. Twenty percent of the grades are tied to how much academic growth students showed while enrolled at the school.
About 29 percent of schools got a “D” or “F”. All schools assigned those grades must send a letter to parents informing them.

The statistics show traditional public schools both fail less and shine less than public charter schools. They also show that schools where a majority of students fall below the poverty line overwhelmingly got Ds and Fs.

State education officials said another way to look at the numbers is over two-thirds of schools got a C or better.
On Average Jackson County schools saw a C average with a few exceptions. Jackson Early College received an A while Mountain Discovery saw a B grade.

— Blue Ridge Early College: D.
— Cullowhee Valley School: C.
— Fairview Elementary: C.
— Blue Ridge School: D.
— Scotts Creek Elementary: C.
— Smokey Mountain Elementary: D.
— Smoky Mountain High: C.
— Summit: C

New regional care center will provide mental health, addiction treatment

A Buncombe County community partnership has succeeded in securing just under $2 million in grant funding from the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services to open a new 24-hour urgent care center and crisis facility for mental health and addiction treatment in Asheville.

The funding was awarded through the department’s Crisis Solutions Initiative, a statewide effort to improve mental health and substance use crisis services. Smoky Mountain LME/MCO (Smoky), which manages public funds for behavioral health and developmental disability services in western North Carolina, led a collaborative effort involving 22 area organizations to develop the new center.

The regional comprehensive care center is set to open later this year adjacent to Mission Hospital at 356 Biltmore Ave., Asheville, a facility currently occupied by Smoky. Smoky is relocating this spring to south Asheville.

Buncombe County owns the facility and has dedicated it for behavioral health functions. Mission Health and the county are partnering to provide a financial commitment for renovations, and Buncombe County Health and Human Services will provide in-kind operational support of $500,000 annually, which includes the cost of space, utilities and a 24-hour-a-day, on-site law enforcement officer.

“This comprehensive care center will operate under a philosophy that recovery from addiction or mental illness is not only possible, it happens,” said Smoky CEO Brian Ingraham. “Staff will offer crisis resolution, support, safety and real options for recovery. The co-location of multiple services at one site reflects a vision of community partners to provide ‘whole person’ care to people in need of medical, clinical and pharmacy services.”

In recent years, Buncombe and surrounding counties have seen unprecedented demand for behavioral health crisis services, stretching local hospital capacity. Many people in crisis feel they have no option except to visit an emergency department, which is not an ideal setting for this type of care to be delivered.

The center will serve both children and adults from Buncombe and surrounding counties and operate 16 beds for people in crisis and who need a secure place to stay while they receive therapy and medication.

The center will offer urgent behavioral healthcare and detox services, mobile crisis care, same-day assessments, outpatient therapy and intensive outpatient treatment for substance use. It will also house community and peer support and treatment teams. The center will also include a community pharmacy.

The center’s multi-disciplinary staff will include physicians, licensed clinicians, registered nurses, qualified professionals and security staff.

Certified peer support specialists will work with individuals receiving care at the center to offer hope and support, build trusting relationships and connect people to aftercare and community resources.

The local chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) will offer on-site family support services.

RHA Health Services, Inc., a local service provider, will operate the facility, and the Asheville-Buncombe Community Christian Ministry will provide pharmacy services. The Asheville Police Department and Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office will provide security, transportation and custody services for individuals under an involuntary commitment order.

One of the most exciting aspects of the development of the regional center is the ability to repurpose the Neil Dobbins Center across the street. Currently, the Neil Dobbins Center is an adult crisis stabilization and detox facility. As these programs move to the new regional comprehensive care center, the Neil Dobbins Center will be used as a facility-based crisis center for children and youth.

The DHHS Crisis Solutions Initiative aims to ensure that people experiencing an acute mental health or substance use crisis receive timely, specialized psychiatric treatment in coordination with available, appropriate community resources.

Each year, there are an estimated 150,000 visits to emergency departments in North Carolina related to an acute psychiatric or addictive disorder crisis, and 13 percent of individuals with a mental health crisis treated in an emergency department will return within 30 days, according to DHHS.