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Author Archive for Roy Burnette – Page 2

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.

Jumper Appointed To Chair Tourism Board

The Jackson County Commissioners selected Robert Jumper to preside as Chairman of the Tourism Development Authority for the next year. Jumper has a long resume of positions in which he has served in connection with the tourism industry in Jackson County and surrounding area. Jumper has held leadership positions with the Cherokee Tribal Travel and Tourism  Authority in Cherokee which gave him access to hundreds of businesses and vendors who operate in western North Carolina. He was responsible for coordinating numerous festivals in Cherokee from those with local traditional emphasis to those developed to enhance the flow of tourists into the local area.

Sylva Business Group Introduces New Marketing Image

Dig Sylva Buy LocalA group of Sylva merchants have published a new marketing logo for Sylva and backed up with the marketing message of “Plant your $ where your roots are”. Local businesses have struggled for the past five years while the economy has languished in recession. However, numerous economic indicators are showing significant stock market gains, increases in building permits,  and increases in home prices.  Also, local retail sales are increasing, and Jackson County’s unemployment rate is dropping. With these improving conditions, local businesses are making a much stronger appeal to Jackson County residents to shop at their local retailers. Across the nation awareness has been rising of the value of supporting local businesses. One such movement called “Small Business Saturday”, is a grassroots effort to encourage buyers to visit their local retailers, instead of the big box stores, during the upcoming holiday shopping season. With their own take on the message, Sylva merchants are spreading the word to “Dig Sylva, Buy Local”.

The D-S-S Low Income Energy Assistance Program Starting In December

The Low Income Energy Assistance Program in Jackson County will start accepting applications on December 2, 2013. This program gives  the elderly and people with a disability a one time payment to their vendor/provider to help pay cost of heating their home. The program is open to all residents of Jackson County who meet the eligibility criteria, and applications will be taken at the Jackson County Department of Social Services building beginning on December 2, 2014 through January 31, 2014 or until the funds are exhausted. Applications may be made Monday through Friday between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. Everyone must complete an application to receive the assistance; there is no automatic eligibility to receive this assistance. Households using coal or wood will receive $200.00.

Cullowhee Business Buildings On Fire Thursday Morning

Several businesses located along Central Drive on WCU’s campus were engulfed in flames Thursday morning. According to early reports the fire started at Subway and quickly spread to other businesses located in that same structure. According to Bill Studenc, WCU’s Director of News Services,  the fire was contained to the one structure at 11:00 a.m. with every effort being made to keep the fire from spreading to other buildings.  Fire departments from Jackson County are working to control and extinguish the blaze with mutual aid being provided by fire departments from neighboring counties.  There are no reports of injuries from the fire or from those who are battling the blaze. Once the fire has been extinguished the investigation as to the cause of the fire will commence. For a video of the blaze go the wrgc facebook page.

Chamber Of Commerce Publication Wins Major Award

SYLVA, N.C. – The Jackson County Chamber of Commerce recently won Best Relocation-Visitors Guide with Our Town magazine at the Annual Management Conference for CACCE, the Carolinas Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives.  Chambers of Commerce in North and South Carolina competed in the two state area.   CACCE is the premier association for leadership and organization development of Chambers of Commerce in the Carolinas.  The awards were judged by Chamber peers across the state region. Jackson County Chamber’s Executive Director Julie Spiro (right) was presented the award by incoming CACCE President, Patrick Coughlin. Julie stated, “Our members make our magazine interesting, and help make Jackson County, our town, a wonderful place to live and work each day. I am happy for the attention this brings to our membership and Jackson County. It’s great to be recognized on the state level!” Our Town magazine is published annually by the Jackson County Chamber of Commerce and is offered free of charge to people relocating to the area, as well as visitors and area businesses. The magazine is also disbursed in select NC Welcome Centers. (Story by Julie Spiro)

Jackson County Transit Vehicles Now Converted To Natural Gas

Several months ago the Jackson County Commissioners voted to move forward with the conversion of the vehicles used by Jackson County Transit to propane and stop using gasoline for fuel. The Commissioners received a report this week the conversions had been completed. While it is too early to determine the savings of the conversion it is expected that the fuel costs will be about a dollar and a half cheaper than gasoline per gallon. Other counties having made similar conversions report the vehicles have a longer life expectancy, are less polluting, and have no drop off in power with the use of propane. The payback for the conversion is expected to be in between three and five years thus rendering a savings for the remaining life of the vehicle.

The Sale Of The Harris Regional Hospital Property Has A County Property Tax Angle

The Jackson County Tax Collector has been called upon to report on the tax potential which could arise from the sale of the property now owned by Medwest should that property be sold as has been reported by the WRGC Radio News Department. The Jackson County Tax Department reported the property evaluation for the hospital and affiliated property and buildings to be $74 million. Should this property be sold to Lifepoint which is a for profit organization as reported, the property would then become taxable rather than continue to qualify for tax exempt status. Since the property is situated inside the city limits there would be both a city tax and a county tax assessment. The county tax assessment is estimated to be $207.000. The city tax would likely be that much or more. Also as a for profit business Lifepoint would also no longer be exempted from paying taxes on purchases. If the sale closes in 2014 as expected the taxes assessment would become applicable in 2015.

Commissioners Considering A New 9-1-1 Facility And Emergency Operations Center

The Jackson County Commissioners were updated Monday by Architect Odell Thompson on the planned new 9-1-1 Facility and Emergency Operations Center to be constructed on Highway 441 South on the same property where the current 9-1-1- Dispatch Office and Emergency Management Offices are located. This is the property formerly occupied by Duke Power Maintenance Operations. The proposal is for the construction of a new facility to allow for the consolidation of all communications and emergency services in one location. The facility would be constructed to a standard sufficient to withstand most any terrestrial condition so communications and emergency services would not be disrupted during the most severe weather conditions. The the design process which is now underway will include additional drainage issues for the property and security enhancements. The finals are expected to be approved early in 2014 with a targeted date of May 2014  for construction to begin. It expected to take one year for the construction to be completed.

Commissioners Approve Road Priority List

The Jackson County Commissioners Monday approved their priority list of local road projects for the next three years. Commission Chairman Jack Debnam serves on the Regional planning Organization (RPO) which is comprised of commissioners and officials from adjoining counties who review the recommendations from local citizens and the NC DOT for determining the priorities for road upgrades and improvements for the multiple county area. The Jackson County Commissioners identified: The upgrade of  NC 107 from US 23  Business to NC 116 to boulevard status  with a median, improvement of intersections, and the construction of access management improvements; replace the two lane US 64 from NC 107 to Lance Road with a three lane road and construct a round about at the intersection of US 64 and NC 107; construct a westbound ramp at US 74 at US 23 Business; US Business from Hospital Road to NC 107 to be widened to four lane divided boulevard; Old Settlement Road from  NC 107 to NC 116 to be widened to a minimum of 22 feet; Ledbetter Road/Monteith Gap Road to be widened with multi-use paths/bike lanes, extend Ledbetter Road to connect Monteith Gap Road as a loop road; and finally to replace Wilmont Bridge and modernize the intersection.  Commissioner Debnam will meet with the RPO next week to establish the priorities for the region. The list will then be turned over to the North Carolina Department of Transportation for further review. After the review process is completed the recommendations will be turned over to the Highway Commission for approval and funding.

Brenda Anders Receives Duke Energy Citizenship And Service Award At Chamber of Commerce Event.

Brenda Anders who is the Executive Director of the Dogwood Crafters Cooperative in Dillsboro was the recipient of the Annual Duke Energy Citizenship and Service Award presented Thursday night at the Jackson County Chamber of Commerce Holiday Reception. This award is a tribute to individuals or groups who make a difference in their communities or places of work by using their time, talents and compassion to positively impact the lives of others. Recipients of the award help foster a culture of citizenship and service that acts as a catalyst for others to become involved in civic and social activities. Brenda Anders was nominated by the Dillsboro Merchants Association, as well as Carolyn Wiggins, for her continued commitment,  passion, and enthusiasm for the township of Dillsboro. Anders has provided key leadership to the Dogwood Crafters Cooperative which has given hundreds of local and regional artisans the opportunity to market their craft products in a viable way with a Cooperative with a reputation for having sustained uncompromising quality workmanship for a long period of time. Brenda has also led the Dogwood Cooperative toward their long term goal of having their own property in a key Dillsboro location which is critical for the long term success of the organization and opportunities for future artisans from the region. The crystal award was presented by Lisa Leatherman who is the Manager of the Nantahala Division of Duke Energy.

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