Header

Author Archive for Roy Burnette – Page 2

Winter Storm Blasts Western North Carolina

Mother Nature was in a teasing mode for much of Wednesday with light and variable snow showers but as evening approached and the temperatures dropped a couple of degrees the snow has increased in intensity and is no longer melting on contact. Roads that were mostly clear all day have become treacherous, schools have already announced their closure for Thursday. County Emergency Services Director Todd Dillard said that plans are being made to have a shelter open should conditions worsen and the power go off. Dan Shaffer, Director of Maintenance for the town of Sylva reported that at 5:00 o’clock there were no power outages and no fallen trees were reported and all streets are open. He also reported that crews would be working all night to respond to emergencies. WestCare EMS Services have responded to numerous calls. Citizens are reminded that when shoveling snow to not overdo it, especially if one is not accustomed to such physical labor. This is one of the leading causes of heart attacks in the winter. Fire Departments have had a busy day mostly with traffic control around wrecks. Wrecks on Catamount Gap has kept several departments busy. A wreck in the Whittier area caused damage to a utility pole which required a replacement. An chemical spill in Webster led to the call out of the local Has Mat team. Highway crews have been staged since Tuesday afternoon to work the highways with chemicals and truck mounted scrape blades to try to keep snow from accumulating on the major highways. The storm has also forced the rescheduling of the WCU versus Chattanooga men’s league basketball game from Thursday till Friday.

Agriculture Commissioner Troxler Announces Damage Assistance To Farmers

RALEIGH — The N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services has activated its toll-free hotline to help farmers affected by the winter storm to connect with resources that can assist with recovery. Farmers who have an agricultural emergency can call 1-866-506-6222. The hotline will be staffed 24 hours a day through Friday, Feb. 14. Operating hours will be re-evaluated at that time. “This storm is bringing a potentially nasty mix of snow and ice,” said Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler. “Possible impacts to farms include power outages, damage to agricultural buildings and animal health emergencies. We are prepared to work with our state and local partners to help our agricultural community in the storm’s aftermath.”

Brace For Winter Storm To Intensify

Forecasters have called for lighter amounts of snow during the day time hours on Wednesday, and in Sylva the snow actually stopped for about an hour late Wednesday morning. However the weather bureau seems to be pretty much on target as the storm continues to strengthen with additional moisture being pulled off the Gulf of Mexico. The conditions in Sylva have further deteriorated as midday approaches and the probability of snow that was lingering around 60 Percent will be increase to 100 percent by mid-afternoon. The intensity of the snowfall is expected to increase and as much as two inches an hour could be recorded by around nightfall and continue overnight.
Jackson County Emergency Preparedness Coordinator Todd Dillard has declared the county to be under a Code Red Emergency and reminds everyone this is a serious storm and conditions are expected to deteriorate rapidly this afternoon. Residents are encouraged to prepare to settle in for the long haul. Fill the bathtub and the the automatic washer with water, bottle water, if the freezer has extra room put bottles of water in those spaces so the frozen water can help keep the temperature low should the electricity go off. DO NOT use a generator inside your home or a closed space occupied by humans or pets. DO NOT use a charcoal grill to cook inside your home or on your covered porch or deck. Check the batteries in your smoke detector and carbon monoxide detector. Find your portable radio and dial it to 540 on the A-M band and test it before conditions deteriorate. WRGC Radio will be on the air all night and make emergency announcements as needed, if the power goes off WRGC Radio is now equipped to operate off emergency power.

Jackson County Emergency Services Declares Code Red Conditions Tuesday

EOC1The Jackson County Emergency Preparedness Director Todd Dillard has announced that Jackson County is now in Code Red Emergency conditions and that an Emergency Operations Center was opened at 7:00 p.m. on Tuesday. Dillard urged all citizens to immediately prepare for emergency conditions by gathering food and water, a manual can opener, flashlight and battery powered radio with extra batteries. He also recommended that all smoke and carbon monoxide detectors be checked and that supplies for pets be assembled as well. During this Code Red Emergency all calls are to be directed to the Emergency Operations Center at 586-7500. DO NOT CALL 911 UNLESS IT IS AN ACTUAL EMERGENCY.

WRGC will be broadcasting any emergency announcements and is equipped to stay on the air should the electrical power fail. Forecasters are predicting the main force of the storm to arrive early Wednesday morning with a 24 hour snow event possible dumping up to a foot of snow in some of the higher elevations.

North Carolina Department Of Transportation personnel have been staged at strategic locations throughout the county with trucks loaded with salt and other equipment needed to battle the snowfall.

In addition to the Jackson County Emergency Operations Center a new app for smart phones is available at Ready NC.com. It provides up-to-date information for all state departments and services which are affected by severe weather conditions.

Board Of Elections Has A Busy Monday

The Jackson County Board Of Elections got the 2014 election season off to a quick start on Monday with eight candidates filing for the upcoming campaign season. Incumbent Jackson County Clerk of Court Ann Melton completed the paperwork to seek another term in that position. She was joined at the new Jackson County Board Of Election offices in the renovated Skyland Office Center by incumbent Republican Commissioners Doug Cody and Charles Elders. Also filing on Monday were current School Board members Ken Hinkey, Allie Laird Large, and Margaret McCray. The race for a new Jackson County Sheriff is unexpected to be hotly contested this year since incumbent sheriff Jimmy Ashe has announced his retirement. Steve Lillard who is currently on the Western Carolina University Police Department, and Jackson County Chief Deputy Chip Hall both filed on Monday. Several other individuals have placed campaign signs in the at various occasions but did not file on Monday. Also on Monday no one filed for the Jackson County Register Of Deeds Office currently held by Joe Hamilton. Candidates have 25 days to file for the May 6th Primary. Board of Elections Director Lisa Lovedahl encouraged candidates to go to the State board Of Elections website and download the documents which can be completed in advance making the filing process quicker. Also Lovedahl reminded voters in the Dillsboro area that their votes would be cash in the jack son County Justice Center starting in 2014 because the Dillsboro precinct voting station at the Dillsboro Town Hall was to small to continue to accommodate the increased number of people voting in that location.

Winter Storm Warning

The National Weather Service has issued a WINTER STORM WARNING for Southwestern North Carolina, North East Georgia and Upstate South Carolina. The first of the storm is expected to arrive late Tuesday afternoon then turn to snow by nightfall. Eight inches of snow or more are now predicted for Sylva and the surrounding higher elevations will likely see more than eight inches of snow overnight Tuesday and into Wednesday. The National Weather Officials are expecting widespread power outages to occur due to broken utility poles, downed power lines, and falling timber crashing down on utility services. Stay tuned to 540 a-m WRGC Radio for the latest in the development of this storm. On line at wrgc.com you can check on the latest closings and delays should you not be able to hear the over the air broadcast. WRGC Radio has been saturating the airwaves for the past few weeks with information urging families and individuals to prepare for all emergencies. Individuals are warned to make preparations now. First of all know how to contact all family members even in case the cell phone service goes out (which is likely). Make certain there are extra batteries for your radio and flashlights, fill your bathtub with water, and have alternative sources for heating your dwelling. WRGC has installed an emergency generator and special transmitter to provide critical emergency information to Jackson and surrounding counties and can operate for up to 20 hours should the utility service be interrupted. The station can be heard at 540 on the a-m radio bandwidth which is normally the first option on most radios. Should a state of emergency be declared the station will operate at 5000 watts as long as needed. Should there be a power failure the station will operate on emergency power at 1000 watts. Local citizens are encouraged to call WRGC Radio at 586-9742 or 586-2221 with closing and delay information and to report road conditions and closings.

WCU Enrollment Continues At A Record Pace

Information released this week by Western Carolina University shows the Spring 2014 student population to be over 9600 students which is a new record for the Spring Semester. This follows the record breaking Fall 2013 Enrollment which exceeded 10,000. Why the drop in the Spring enrollment compared to the Fall? University administrators report that a Spring drop in enrollment is expected because some students enter the fall semester and choose not to return for the Spring semester for various reasons. WCU also received in influx of students transferring from other institutions. The additional number of students transferring in was sufficient to keep the overall enrollment number at record levels.

Ginsing Poachers Get Jail Time

ASHEVILLE, N.C. – U.S. Magistrate Judge Dennis L. Howell sentenced Charles R. Nash, of Whittier, N.C. to serve 10 days in jail for the illegal possession or harvesting of American ginseng from the Nantahala National Forest, announced Anne M. Tompkins, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina and Kristin Bail, Forest Supervisor of the U.S. Forest Service National Forests in North Carolina. According to the January 30, 2014 sentencing hearing and other documents, on October 12, 2013, Nash admitted to illegally possessing 24 American ginseng roots he had dug from the Mosses Creek and Wayehutta Off-Road Vehicle areas in Jackson County. He pleaded guilty to the poaching charge. Staff of the Forest Service replanted the recovered viable roots. American ginseng is on the list of the Convention of International Trade of Endangered Species. The U.S. Attorney’s Office reminds the public that gathering ginseng on the Nantahala National Forest without a permit is illegal. U.S. Forest Service lands have been severely impacted by ginseng poachers in western North Carolina. American ginseng was formerly abundant throughout the eastern mountains, but due to repeated poaching, populations have been reduced to a point that they can barely reproduce. The roots poached in this park are usually young, between the ages of 5 and 10 years, and have not yet reached their full reproductive capacity. In time, the plant’s populations could recover if poaching ceased. The Division of Scientific Authority, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service is the regulatory agency that evaluates the biological and management status of wild American ginseng throughout its native range. The Division issues an annual or biennial report detailing if any harvest conditions need to be modified to ensure the sustainable harvest of wild native ginseng. Permits to collect ginseng root in National Forests are issued through the U.S. Forest Service in early September. Permits are not available in National Park lands such as the Blue Ridge Parkway and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, where even the possession of American Ginseng is prohibited.
The investigation of the case was handled by the U.S. Forest Service. The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Asheville handled the prosecution.
To report illegal harvesting activities of American ginseng, please call 828-257-4200.

WCU Receives Estimates On The Structure Fire Damages

Western Carolina University Chancellor Doctor David Belcher on Wednesday published an update on the status of the buildings damaged by the fire which damaged several on campus buildings occupied by private businesses during December 2013. Belcher’s report included estimated costs to replace or repair the three structures. The estimates were provided by the independent Clark Nexsen Architectural and Engineering firm. The cost of replacing the seventy year old buildings with new structures meeting current building codes was one-point-five million dollars. There was also an estimated cost of over six-hundred-thousand dollars to demolish and remove the structures and debris. The property is owned by the Board of trustees of the Endowment Fund of WCU who are now evaluating the information to determine the next steps. According to jackson County tax records the property is listed for taxes at $254,430.00

Commissioners Take Action On Board Of Elections Issues

The Jackson County Commissioners voted on Monday to allocate two-hundred-thousand dollars for the upgrading of the Skyland Services Center which was formerly occupied by the Jackson County Transit. With the crunch for space at the Jackson County Justice Center it was decided to relocated the Board Of Elections to the Skyland Services Center and make several upgrades to make the facility more user friendly for the Board Of Elections and other future community events. In addition to securing the storage area for the voting machines, construction of private office space for Board Of Elections staff, and other materials pertaining to elections, the improvements will also include a large classroom and community room space for training poll workers and other elections related personnel as well as having a space to accommodate community meetings. The Commissioners also set aside over $16,000 in the budget for salary and benefits for an additional employee for the Board Of Elections. With the passage by the North Carolina legislature of HB 589 numerous changes to the voter registration process are mandated by state law. The Board of Elections had requested additional staffing several years ago, and with the new requirements of the law the need for the additional staff person became more critical. It is expected a new staff member will be on board in immediate future.

WNC Slowly Returns To Normal

This weeks bitterly cold temperatures and Tuesday’s snowfall have snarled schools, sports, and business activities in western North Carolina. While other services will enjoy profits to make up for several seasons of slow economy. Some examples include wrecker services, roll back operators, and auto body shops will continue to have enjoy the payday in car repairs caused huge number of wrecks and automobile breakdowns. Grocery stores have racked up on sales of milk, bread, and snacks, the ski resorts will see booming business this weekend with a huge snow base and warmer temperatures and open roads will push operations to the capacity. The utility companies will see profits rise as a result of the increased demand for electricity. The other fuel providers from firewood and gas to petroleum have seen supplies dwindle and profits grow. The storm and cold weather has a huge negative as well. The Community Table which depends heavily upon the Blue Plate Special for an infusion of mid winter cash came up empty this week when the event sponsored by Harrah’s was canceled due to the snow. Local high schools have scrambled to make up basketball schedules. Schools have used up their built in snow days and will be forced to schedule schools to operate on Saturday should the snow and cold bring conditions which force additional school cancellations.

NC Senate Candidate Ron Robinson Speaks In Sylva

Jackson County businessman Ron Robinson brought his campaign home on Saturday morning with a campaign stop in Sylva. His talk was proceeded by four local supporters who addressed four key issues which will be key components of the campaign. Eric Hendrix spoke from a small local business person’s perspective. His contention is that legislation needs to better address the needs of the thousands of small businesses in the state. His contention is the corporate interests have fared better with tax breaks and incentives at the expense of local entrepreneurs. The Canary Coalition President, Sylva resident Avram Freeman addressed the needs of the environment and pointed out that much of the recent legislation coming out of Raleigh had resulted in more pollution and expressed concerns over the fracking legislation which passed the last state legislative session. Western Carolina University Doctor Craig Pointed out that North Carolina had previously operated a model Medicaid program which was rejected by the last legislation with what he felt was not a fair review of the service. “While some feel they are sticking it to Obama on health care they are really sticking it to the citizens of North Carolina.” He stated that many of the problems with the current insurance options is that the North Carolina Insurance Commissioner was legislatively barred from negotiating with other insurance companies who wanted to start offering their insurance services in North Carolina. Before Candidate Robinson spoke Johnny Dill who is a high school teacher in Macon County pointed out that while the claims are that charter schools are performing better that public schools that in fact the research does not support that claim. He expressed concerns that cuts to the public education program and the greater allocations to private schools is not good because both systems are not subjected to the same review process and fears that private schools will engage in a process of “cherry picking” students in order to embellish their test scores.

When candidate Ron Robinson addressed the group he contention was that the trend of legislation coming out of Raleigh was not going to change and addressed concerns that many of those who had been elected as state representatives had allowed themselves to become a patsy to those who had put the millions of dollars into the candidate’s campaign. He sited several cases of his speaking to the representative who pledged to do one things when in their district but a few days later voted against their promise because they would not break with their party voting block. He urged those present to become involved with voter registration and take the responsibility of getting voters to the polls.

Hearing on Hillside Development Ordinance Scheduled

The Jackson County Planning Board has completed its review of the Mountain and Hillside Development Ordinance (steep slope ordinance). At the Board’s meeting January 9, the proposed revisions to the ordinance were approved and a public hearing was scheduled to receive public comments on the proposed revisions. A copy of the ordinance with proposed revisions and a summary of the revisions are available from Gerald Greene who’s office is in the Jackson County Administration Center. The public hearing is scheduled for Thursday February 13, at 6:00 PM in the Commissioners’ Board Room on the second floor of the Jackson County Administration Building. Please plan to attend the hearing to provide your comments regarding the proposed revisions. You also may provide your comments in writing, via email or mail, prior to the hearing.

WCU Hires Rusty Marts As Director Of Employee Relations

CULLOWHEE – Albert “Rusty” Marts, director of employee relations and
affirmative action officer at the University of North Carolina Asheville,
has been named director of employee relations, training and development at
Western Carolina University.

Marts will begin his new role effective Feb. 1. Kathy Wong, WCU director of
human resources, announced the appointment Tuesday, Jan. 21.

“Rusty brings a wealth of experience to Western Carolina. His background
includes work in the areas of vocational counseling, employee relations and
employee assistance programs, as well as experience with professional
development and training programs. His combination of experience and
education will greatly enhance our employee services goals,” Wong said.

“His focus on services aimed directly at supporting our staff and faculty
will be invaluable, and it aligns well with our commitment to ‘invest in our
people’ as outlined in the university’s strategic plan,” she said.
A new position at WCU, the director of employee relations, training and
development was identified by Chancellor David O. Belcher in his Opening
Assembly address to start the fall semester as among the top priorities for
the 2013-14 academic year toward the goal of improving the work-life
environment for faculty and staff.

“This individual will assist managers on campus by providing training and
information to promote a better understanding of the university’s goals and
policies, and the policies, laws and regulations applicable to the
workplace,” Belcher said in August. “Broadly and generally, this person will
work toward the prevention and resolution of conflict and other issues
between employees and managers. This position represents a real need on our
campus.”

Marts has been director of employee relations and affirmative action officer
at UNCA since January 2008. He previously worked as an employee assistance
regional consultant and account manager for the Employee Assistance Network;
owner/operator of two private counseling services providers; a counselor and
area supervisor for the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation for the state
of New Mexico; and programs manager and unit director for Mental Health
Resources Inc.

“I am very much looking forward to joining the Western Carolina University
community,” said Marts, a resident of Cullowhee who passes WCU every day on
his way to his current position in Asheville. “I will now have a much better
opportunity to become involved in the culture of campus life. WCU is a
dynamic, growing institution, and I look forward to being a part of this
vibrant institution.”

Marts said he is eager to serve as WCU’s first director of employee
relations, training and development, which he said is an important position
for the institution.

“The employee relations component provides a safe, confidential environment
for management and non-management employees to discuss issues ranging from
the work site to the more personal,” he said. “The training and development
component demonstrates the university’s commitment to the professional
development and advancement of the work force. Truly, investing in training
and development is an investment in the excellence of the work force.”

Marts holds a doctorate in Christian counseling from Bethany Theological
Seminary, a master’s degree in psychology and personnel services from
Eastern New Mexico University, and a bachelor’s degree in psychology and
Christian service from Manhattan Christian College.

“Play On” Moving Forward

The new chairperson of the Jackson County Tourism Development Authority, Robert Jumper reported to the Jackson County Commissioners on Tuesday that a trio of marketing firms including Pineapple Public Relations and Marketing firm has been retained to help the TBA move forward with the next phase of the tourism marketing plan for Jackson County. Jumper explained how some local citizens did not favorably view the “Play On” marketing theme adopted by the County.  Jumper stated that the terminology had tested well in the market research centered on the desired tourist population. One of the firms selected is Pineapple Marketing and Public Relations firm has plenty of tourism centered marketing experience in western North Carolina and north Georgia. While increasing the number of tourists coming to Jackson County is important Jumper further emphasized the importance of having the infrastructure in place to accommodate those coming to spend their vacations in the area. The infrastructure must not only include places to stay, but access to the rivers and lakes, and the means to enjoy all the resources including trails, hiking and the natural resources. Jumper was in agreement with comments made by Business and Industry Director Richard Price that all the messages coming out of Jackson County in recruiting tourism traffic need to be coordinated and consistent.

Western Carolina University Celebrates their 125th Birthday With A Bold Vision

Western Carolina University Chancellor David Belcher and Melissa Wargo unveiled their long term and short term Comprehensive Master Plan Tuesday in a special presentation to the Jackson County Commissioners. Wargo explained how the process to develop a plan to serve as a blueprint for future campus access and building construction was developed. Nor only is the campus poised for growth, the area around the campus is on the verge of significant development as well with several residential and commercial on the drawing boards. Wargo and Belcher stressed the critical need for a significant upgrade to the mid campus area adjacent to the Natural Sciences Building, McKee, and Killian. The plan calls for the construction of a facility which would replace the Niggli Theater property and attach to the Natural Sciences Building which is now forty years old and in need of an upgrade. The road through that property would be closed in order to create a better pedestrian friendly center of campus. While Western Carolina University swelled to over ten thousand students this year Chancellor Belcher pointed out that the University’s future growth would be contingent upon the availability of additional classroom space especially in the sciences. The WCU  Millennium Campus is a large acreage tract of real estate about two thirds of that property is not suitable for development. The plans show how several smaller structures to accommodate the new Health Sciences building could fill out that campus. Also the need to connect the two campuses with pedestrian and shuttle service are in the plans. Two other significant projects were shown one if the eventual change of the main entrance to adjoin the Little Savannah Road intersection which would also connect in with a new road to connect the current road around Belk Building and the Bardo Center with the oldest part of the campus near the chancellors dwelling. The property now known as the camp building would be converted into a 1200 car parking deck. The University has a busy day planned for Thursday with the kickoff of the observance of the 125th anniversary celebration. Activities will take place at the University Center. Also the first 500 fans at the WCU and Davidson basketball game on Thursday will receive a WCU white T shirt to celebrate the anniversary celebration.

Four Forty One Corridor Development Creeping Forward

The Director of the Jackson County Planning Department  Gerald Greene and Jackson County’s new Business and Industry Development  Director, Richard Price gave positive reports on Tuesday about the growth possibilities along what is identified as the 441 Corridor between Dillsboro and Cherokee. Green reported that several plans are emerging which show the property in the vicinity of the Old Mill being the focal point for development in the near future. Several design images were shown which show how the new shopping areas could have more of a town approach rather than a traditional shopping center characterized by a huge asphalt slab surrounded by big box stores. According to Green, one elusive fact is the potential buying power of those passing through the corridor. The second detail is designing a shopping facility which will have the power to attract the motoring public. While several property owners in that area are making long range plans for development. Green added that some other near by property owners have expressed a desire to sell property for future development along the 441 Corridor. Richard Price added that the Whittier property which was once occupied by Drexel is getting more attention from those looking for development opportunities. He also pointed out that his meetings with Swain County and Eastern Band officials have expressed an interest is forming a collaborative entity to move forward with an Agricultural venue. The Commissioners suggested that it might be time to involve the Tuckaseigee Water And Sewer Authority in the planning since the potential for a substantial use of their service could easily be envisioned.

FIREWORKS A GO FOR TONIGHT

Word was received at 3:45 that the fireworks are loaded and ready to go tonight at 8:30 from the Dillsboro Quarry.

Sylva Parade Canceled

The weather system moving through the mountains stalled long enough to create headaches for those in Sylva who had their fingers crossed in hopes the rain would clear out in time to keep on schedule with the Sylva Christmas Parade. The weather did not cooperate and the parade was canceled at 11:30.  WRGC Radio was notified by Police Chief Davis Woodard and the message was also published on the Sylva Downtown Merchants Association website concerning the cancellation. Word has been received at 2:00 concerning the Dillsboro Fireworks display.

Jackson County Transit Now In Their New Home

If you are looking for Jackson County Transit you will not find them in their former location on Skyland Drive in Sylva. Jackson County Transit has completed the move to their new home on Haywood Road just west of Dillsboro next to the Green Energy Park. The Transit Department has operated in the County Services Building that once was the home of Southern Lumber Company. The property was collateral for a loan used to open a full service building supply which was not able to survive with the arrival of the big box stores. Once the County took control of the  building  several departments relocated into the facility including Jackson County Transit and the Driver’s License Office. The property was also a county vehicle and equipment depot. The new home of Jackson County Transit in located next to the Green Energy Park and the Dillsboro Landfill in the former home of Western Builders. The property was purchased from Western Builders several years ago when the well on the property was found to be contaminated by leakage from the landfill. Once a water and sewer line was installed to the property and connected to the Tuckasegee Water and Sewer Authority the building and grounds were used to house portions of the Jackson County Maintenance Department. The former home of the Jackson County Transit Authority will be converted into the Jackson County Board of Elections. Part of the building will contain a classroom, and the county’s voting machines will be stored there. Some county offices now located in the Justice Center may be relocated to the County Services Center to create addition space for the court system.