Archive for Haywood County

Waynesville Man Arrested in 22 year old murder

A man is arrested in Haywood County for a murder that happened 22 years ago.

Michael Haim is accused of killing his wife, Bonnie, back in 1993 at their home in Jacksonville, Florida. The investigation into Bonnie Haim’s disappearance, a 23-year-old mother, began after a local resident found her purse in a dumpster on the northside of Jacksonville, the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office said.

Police questioned Bonnie’s husband, Michael Haim, 49, who told investigators he did not know where his wife was and that she’d left the night before her disappearance after an argument.

Deputies say skeletal remains were found last December after workers were digging out an old pool in the backyard of their former home in Florida.

The remains were just confirmed to be Bonnie.

On Aug. 21, an arrest warrant for Michael was obtained and was served by Haywood County Sheriff’s Office on Aug. 24.

Haim is currently in the Haywood County Detention Center on no bond, awaiting extradition to Florida.

Write-in candidacy for Maggie Valley mayor by Mayor Pro Tem

Maggie Valley Mayor Pro Tem Saralyn Price will be a write-in candidate for mayor in the November election.

Price, a native of Maggie Valley, if a 30 year-veteran of law enforcement and served as the former Maggie Valley police chief. She was elected as an alderman in 2007.

“Due to the untimely death of Mayor Ron DeSimone, and since I love and believe in Maggie Valley, I felt that it was necessary for me to seek this office,” Price said. “Over the past two years, the board has been working in harmony trying to better Maggie Valley. I want to see continued improvements for businesses and residents alike.”

Price stated that within the next 10 days, she will comply with state laws regarding campaigns and will provide detailed background information as well as goals, objectives and vision for continued positive improvements for Maggie Valley and the surrounding community.

Spending by domestic visitors up by 4 percent in WNC

Visit North Carolina has announced that domestic visitors to and within Haywood County spent 161.59 million in 2014, an increase of 4 percent from 2013.

Tourism impact highlights for 2014

— The travel and tourism industry directly employees more than 1,640 people in Haywood County

— Total payroll generated by the tourism industry in Haywood County was $33.09 million.

— State tax revenue generated in Haywood County totaled $8.63 million through state sales and excise taxes, and taxes on personal and corporate income. Approximately $5.97 million in local taxes were generated from sales and property tax revenue from travel-generated and travel-supported businesses. Gov. Pat McCrory announced in May that visitors to North Carolina spent a record $21.3 billion in 2014, an increase of 5.5 percent from 2013.

These statistics are from the 2014 Economic Impact of Travel on North Carolina Counties. The study was prepared for Visit North Carolina by the U.S. Travel Association.

“All eight regions of the state had spending growth of 4 percent or more and 90 percent of the state’s counties saw direct tourism employment growth from 2013 to 2014,” said Wit Tuttell, executive director of Visit North Carolina. “As the sixth most visited state in the country, tourism continues to be major driver of economic development across North Carolina.”

Statewide highlights include:

— State tax receipts as a result of visitor spending neared the $1.1 billion mark in 2014. The figure represents 4 percent in growth over 2013’s $1.0 billion.

— Visitors spend more than $58 million per day in North Carolina. That spending adds more than $4.6 million per day to state and local tax revenues (about $2.9 million in state taxes and $1.7 million in local taxes).

— The travel and tourism industry directly employees more than 200,000 North Carolinians.

Haywood Art Studio Tours Announced

A Studio Tour Show is being held at Haywood County Arts Council Gallery & Gifts, 86 N. Main St. in Waynesville, from Oct. 1-29.

An opening reception will be held at Art After Dark on Friday, Oct. 2 from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.

A self-guided driving tour of artist studios and creative centers in Haywood County will be held from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 23 and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 24.

The 2015 Haywood Art Studio Tour includes 38 artists at 22 locations in central and north-central Haywood County.

A wide range of artistic endeavors in all media and many expressions within each media category will be available for the public to experience. The tour will include nine clay artists, two fiber artists, nine wood artists, three jewelry artists, two glass artists, seven two-dimensional artists working in watercolor, acrylic, oil, encaustic, and gold and silver leaf. Four mixed-media artists use a wide range of materials including wood, steel, leather, gourds, natural materials, paper, encaustic and clay.Two sculpture artists complete the roster making large scale steel sculptures and surrealistic construction incorporating found objects.

Brochures of the tour, including maps, may be picked up at Haywood County Arts Council Gallery & Gifts on Main Street, Waynesville, and Art on Depot and Grace Cathey Sculpture Garden on Depot Street in Waynesville.

Maps for the tour will be available for download from the web – details to follow.

The 2015 Tour has been organized by a group of Haywood County artists to introduce visitors and county residents to the depth of creative talent alive in Haywood County in all media, and to benefit the artists in the county by adding another venue for artists to introduce their work to the public.

Gunman in Haywood County Church Identified; Father of 9

Investigators said Thursday that multiple law enforcement agencies responded to a 911 call claiming that four people had been shot at about 3:15 p.m. at Maple Grove Baptist Church on Stamey Cove Road in Waynesville.

Sgt. Heidi Warren of the Haywood County Sheriff’s Office said there was a man alone in the church when law enforcement crews arrived. The man exchanged gunfire with the officers, she said.

The man has been identified on Thursday as Wade Allen Baker, 44, formerly of Marshalltown, Iowa. He was living in Clyde, N.C.

Shannon O’Toole, assistant special agent in charge, said the four law enforcement officers involved in the shooting were: officer Brennan MeHaffey, of Maggie Valley PD, deputy Jamie McEntire, of the Haywood County Sheriff’s Office and officers Heath Presley and Tyler Howell, of Waynesville PD.

He died from injuries sustained in the shooting.

“Wade was a husband and father, son and brother. Wade is survived and will always be loved by 6 sons and 3 daughters: Nicholas, Mason, Jackson, Jakobi, Tanner, Gage, Kyla, Dana and Kayla; his wife Michelle; loving parents Candy and Daryl; a sister Laura, and his service dog Honor,” reads a statement from his family.  “Like other members of our community and family, we are struggling to understand these events. We are grieving for our loss. We appreciate your thoughts and prayers in the coming days, and hope that others will respect our privacy.”

Investigators contacted Paw & Effect after finding a dog with Baker. He is a 6-year-old service dog. The dog is safe and healthy. The group helps place therapy dogs with veterans.

The dog was reportedly placed with  Baker in March 2012. Baker served in the U.S. Army from August 1989 to Nov. 1998




Canton Officer Hit By Car

A Canton Police Officer was assisting a motorist just east of Exit 104 on U.S. 19/23 when he was struck and injured by a passenger car that had apparently lost control.

Around 1.p.m. Wednesday, Officer Darren Joppa was assisting the driver of a Ford pickup truck who had been pulling a trailer that was hauling a trenching machine. The trenching machine had fallen off the trailer into the roadway.

Joppa was struck while trying to move the equipment out of the travel lanes. No one else was injured in the accident.

The identities of the passenger car driver and pickup truck driver have not been released at this time pending investigation.

The officer was transported to Mission Health by Haywood EMS.

U.S. 19/23 was closed down to one lane while the investigation was conducted.

Stepmother sentenced in Haywood Child’s Death

A Haywood County woman was sentenced Friday to a minimum of six years in prison for her part in the murder of her stepson, 4-year-old Jake Russell, on Aug. 16, 2012. Julia Marie Phillips, 25, is the former wife of Michael Swayngim.

Swayngim pleaded guilty to the murder and was sentenced to life in prison without parole in March 2015.

Phillips, who has since divorced Swayngim, took an Alford Plea. The Alford Plea is a guilty plea by the defendant who proclaims he or she is innocent of the crime, and admits that the prosecution has enough evidence to prove that he or she is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

She was sentenced for the crime of aiding and abetting felony child abuse.

Church Shooting In Haywood County

Maple Grove Baptist Church

Maple Grove Baptist Church, Waynesville


UPDATE: 01:12pm (08/20/15)

The State Bureau of Investigation was requested to investigate the officer involved shooting that occurred at a Haywood County church yesterday.

The incident took place at the Maple Grove Baptist Church located at 2501 Stamey Cove Road, in Waynesville.  Officers from Multiple law enforcement agencies responded to a 911 call claiming four people were shot. After a brief standoff, Wade Allen Baker, 44, of Clyde, was pronounced dead at the scene. Four law enforcement officers were involved in the shooting.  They have been identified as officer Brennan MeHaffey, of Maggie Valley PD, deputy Jamie McEntire, of the Haywood County Sheriff’s Office and officers Heath Presley and Tyler Howell, of Waynesville PD. There were no other individuals or shooting victims located at the church, as the caller had claimed. As with all officer involved shooting investigations, the investigative report will be delivered to the District Attorney’s office once complete.

(07:38pm 08/19/15)

At approximately 3:15pm on Wednesday, Haywood County Sherriff Dispatchers received a 911 call concerning shots being fired from the vicinity of Maple Grove Baptist Church on Stamey Cove Road. Officers responded and found a lone gunman inside church. Gunfire was exchanged between the suspected gunman and law enforcement. No law enforcement or personnel were injured. EMS were called in to render aid. It is believed that the gunman is deceased, but that is not confirmed at this point. The SBI has been called in to investigate. No one else was injured in this incident.

Sheriff Offers Back to School Safety Tips

Christopher_3519 3504 Hi JpegSheriff Greg Christopher of Haywood County offers some safety tips for those youngsters who will be walking back and forth to school this year.

“Parents can teach their children the following safety tips which will inform the youngsters of the danger signs to watch for and avoid when walking between school and home,” Sheriff Christopher said.

“Drivers should be cautious of children walking back and forth to school,” added the Sheriff. “We can all learn from the safety tips below and abide by them to make Hyawood County safer for all.”

• While walking, remember to always travel with a friend. Two heads are better than one, especially if there’s an emergency.

• A stranger is anyone you or your parents don’t know well.

• You or your friend must never take candy, money, medicine or anything else from a stranger.

• If a stranger in a car asks you questions, don’t get close to the car (you could get pulled in) – and never get in the car.

• Strangers can be very tricky – they can ask you to walk with them to “show” them something; they can offer to pay for your video game, or ask you to help them find a lost dog or cat. Don’t be fooled!

• Don’t tell anyone your name or address when you’re walking and don’t think that because someone knows your name that they know you – they may just be looking at your name printed on your lunch box, school bag or T-shirt.

• If you think you’re in any danger, yell, and run to the nearest store or “safe house” or back to school.

• Always tell your parents or teacher if a stranger has approached you.

“By taking the time to carefully prepare your child on how to handle these situations, you can insure your child’s safety whether they are on their way to school or home, playing on a playground or riding their bikes,” Sheriff Christopher concludes.

Haywood Community College Celebrates 50 years

Haywood Community College is pulling out all stops to celebrate its 50th anniversary on Saturday, Sept. 19.

The day will begin at 8 a.m. with the Freedlander 5K and Fun Run, then continue with many activities throughout the day.

To satisfy attendees of all ages and interests, the celebration will have something for everyone.

Following the 5K, there will be live music beginning at 10 a.m., headlined by Joe Lasher Jr. and the Jeff Santiago Band, a classic car show, bounce houses, putt-putt golf, creative arts activities for adults and children, a photo booth, and a fishing tournament with cash prizes at the Millpond.

Adding to the festivities, the event will host a Timbersports demonstration featuring HCC’s Collegiate National Champion, Ben Kniceley, as well as a flag raising ceremony to honor HCC alumni.

“The goals of this event were defined early on and really drove the decision making process as to what we wanted to feature,” said Aaron Mabry, director of marketing and communications for the college. “We (HCC) wanted to celebrate the 50th Anniversary, invite the community, make every aspect of the event family friendly, honor the heritage and the alumni of the college. More than anything, outside of food and the 5K registration, we wanted the event to be free to the community.”

For the food, HCC has invited Dickey’s BBQ of Canton to cater the event. As a thank you from the college, HCC alumni who attend and provide their most up to date contact information (name, address, e-mail), will receive a $5 voucher for the purchase of food at the event. Also in attendance will be HCC’s Waynesville Soda Jerks, serving up their local, handcrafted artisan beverages.

“We’re extremely excited to invite the community to our campus and celebrate this community-wide milestone. Our mission began in 1965 and remains intact to this day- providing accessible, affordable, and high-quality education, workforce training, and lifelong learning. This event celebrates fifty years of achievement for the college, our alumni and ultimately, Haywood County,” said HCC President Barbara Parker.

Freedlander 5K, Fun Run
The Freedlander 5K is open to runners and walkers for both individuals and teams of four. All registrants in the 5K and Fun Run will receive a race t-shirt. To honor the heritage of the college, the T-shirt is a replica of the shirt given to runners of an HCC 5K in 1980.

The Fun Run is a .44 mile-walk/run that is designed for kids and older adults. All children completing the Fun Run will receive a finisher’s medallion at the finish line and race t-shirt. The Fun Run will start at 9:15 a.m.

Regular Registration for the 5K through Aug. 31 is $25. Late Registration is $30 from Sept. 1 – 19. Registration for the Fun Run is $15. Online registration at haywood.edu ends at midnight on September 17. Race day registration on-site is Sept. 19.

Heritage and Growth
HCC opened in August 1965 as Haywood Industrial Education Center with one curriculum program, nursing and 39 students. Today, HCC offers over 23 curricular programs to over 2,200 students.

More than 5,000 more students attend classes through the Workforce Continuing Education division, including College & Career Readiness, occupational courses, and community service programs.

The college offers some unique programs that are known not only throughout the state but nationally. The Professional Crafts programs of clay, fiber, jewelry and wood combines a unique blend of studio experience, classroom education, and hands-on business experience. Students gain the skills needed to start their own business or become valued, skilled employees in the craft industry.

Another unique area of study for HCC is the Arts, Sciences, and Natural Resources Department. With Associate degrees available in Fish and Wildlife Technology and Forest Management Technology, students come from many counties to be a part of these leading programs. The hands-on style gets students out of the classroom and allows them direct application of the skills learned, often making ties with professionals in the field.
Oftentimes, HCC alumni have jobs before finishing their programs of study.

Graduate Success
According to HCC 1999 Fish and Wildlife Management Technology graduate Shawn Martin, “As a student at HCC, you are able to build your resume while you are still in college. You get job offers before you finish the program. It’s a tough program. A lot of four-year programs don’t give students this kind of exposure.”

Martin is Sergeant of District 9 for the NC Wildlife Resources Commission. He enjoys being able to give back to HCC by teaching some classes and speaking to the Natural Resources students. In addition, Martin is an adjunct Basic Law Enforcement instructor. He is certified in the state as a general law enforcement instructor and specialized firearms instructor for law enforcement.

For Donna Forga, 1991 HCC Business Administration graduate, the college was a stepping stone to continuing her education. She received a Bachelor’s degree in Literature and Language from UNCA. In 2000, she finished law school at Chapel Hill.

Forga is a District Judge for seven counties including: Cherokee, Clay, Graham, Haywood, Jackson, Macon, and Swain. She was first elected as District Court Judge in 2010 and was re-elected in 2014.
Forga says that HCC taught her that she could succeed and overcome obstacles. “Without coming to HCC first, I would not have continued my education to become a lawyer then a judge. HCC showed me I could make the grades and balance being a parent while going to school.

Ben Kniceley, HCC 2014 Fish and Wildlife Management Technology and 2015 Forest Management Technology graduate, recently became the STIHL USA Collegiate Champion in Timbersports. He won the title competing in Central Park in New York against five other national qualifiers. This is the fourth HCC student to go to the nationals.

The next stop for Kniceley will be in Austria in November for the world championships. He will spend 2016 competing in the professional series. Kniceley works at the Lumberjack Feud in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee.
He has worked for the Lumberjack Feud for three years. He also spent a summer working in Alaska for the company’s sister attraction, The Great Alaskan Lumberjack Show.

“Being a community college, no one thinks any good can come out of it,” Kniceley says. “But travelling with the school’s timbersports team, Haywood is the team everyone wants to beat.”

At HCC, we know education changes everything. Graduates from the college work throughout Haywood County in many offices such as medical, accountants, and cosmetologists. They also work on cars, build houses, and make a living from their creative artistry. The college would love to hear from these graduates and know what they are doing now.

For more information about HCC’s 50th Anniversary Celebration, please visit haywood.edu/50. If you would like to share your HCC story with us, please call 828.627.4679 or email dconard@haywood.edu.

Haywood County High Speed Motorcycle Chase

Monday Waynesville Police and Highway Patrol were led on a high speed chase involving a stolen motorcycle. They are still looking for the driver who was involved in a high-speed pursuit along U.S. 23 /19 and U.S. Business 23.

Trooper Hunter Hooper attempted to stop a pair of motorcycles for speeding as they were headed east on U.S. 19/23. One of the riders fled, reaching speeds in excess of 140 mph.

During the chase, a car got between the trooper and the motorcycle who was fleeing and the officer lost sight of it near the 100 mile marker. Another trooper picked up the chase near the 102 mile marker and followed it.

The motorcyclist turned off on Howell Mill Road, which is in the midst of construction renovations. The driver, described only as a white male wearing a white full face helmet and black vest, ditched the bike in a motorcycle-parking shed behind the Evergreen Packaging plant.

He left the cycle running with the keys in the ignition and took off on foot. Despite an extensive search of the surrounding area by Waynesville police officers and Highway Patrol troopers, the suspect could not be found.

The blue Yamaha sport bike was reported stolen from Tennessee, and carried Florida plates set to expire in August 2015.

The incident is still under investigation.

Missing Haywood County Man’s Body Found in Creek

Searchers found the body of a missing Haywood County Man in a creek on Monday afternoon.

Johnnie Rathbone, 67, of Mauney Cove Road was reported missing by family on Monday after not having heard from him since Saturday.

During a routine patrol, a Haywood County deputy found Rathbone’s car around 2:45pm at a parking area off US 19 near Lake Junaluska. Search and Rescue personnel found Rathbone’s body at about 5pm in Richland Creek, about 200 yards away from his car.

An autopsy will be performed to verify his cause of death.

Harmful Algae Bloom Surfaces in Waterville Lake in Haywood County

U.S. Forest Service officials announced today that an algae bloom has been discovered in Waterville Lake on the Appalachian Ranger District, Pisgah National Forest in Haywood County near I-40. The predominant bloom species has been identified as Microcystis aeruginosa, a known toxin-producing harmful alga in North Carolina. It is unknown if it is currently producing toxin. Samples have been sent to the N.C. State Laboratory for Public Health for microcystin toxin testing.

The U.S. Forest Service and public health officials are asking visitors to avoid swimming or wading near bloom waters, especially young children and dogs. Warning signs have been posted where visitors access the lake. No public water supplies are affected and no closures are in effect. Cooperating agencies include the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services, N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources and the Haywood County Health Department.

State health and water quality officials recommend the following steps to safeguard pets and children from any potentially harmful algal bloom:
Keep children and pets away from water that appears very green, discolored or scummy.
Do not handle or touch large mats of algae.
Avoid handling, cooking or eating dead fish that may be present.
If you come into contact with an algal bloom, wash thoroughly. Also, use clean water to rinse off pets that may have come into contact with an algal bloom.
If your child appears ill after being in waters containing an algal bloom, seek medical care immediately.
If your pet appears to stumble, stagger or collapse after being in a pond, lake or river, seek veterinary care immediately. Warning signs have been posted where visitors access the lake. No public water supplies are affected and no closures are in effect. Cooperating agencies include the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services, N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources and the Haywood County Health Department.
For information on the bloom please contact Carmine Rocco, Haywood County Health Director at (828) 452-6675.

Haywood County Meth Bust

On July 15, agents with Haywood County Multi-Agency Drug Task Force, The U.N.I.T., along with the North Carolina S.B.I., executed a search warrant at a residence located at 55 Brookside Drive in Canton.

In March agents with the U.N.I.T. began investigating and gathering evidence on individuals living at this location. Upon execution of the search warrant, an active methamphetamine lab was located on the property.

Three men and one woman were arrested and charged with manufacturing methamphetamines, including Phillip Heath Kent, 46; Melanie Creson, 42; Terry Glance, 38; and Justin Hensley, 35.

U.N.I.T. would like to thank the Center Pigeon Fire Department for their assistance during the execution of the search warrant and seizure of evidence.

Maggie Valley Mayor Remembered

On Tuesday, a memorial service was held to remember Maggie Valley Mayor, Ronald DeSimone.

DeSimone was killed in a tragic construction accident on Friday.

DeSimone was a contractor by trade and on Friday, he was helping build a garage onto a friend’s home when a heavy bundle of plywood fell on him.

The 62-year-old mayor was a New York native and moved to Haywood County in 1999, where he established a construction company.

He won the seat as mayor of Maggie Valley in 2011 and was currently holding that position.

Evergreen Foundation announces half-million grant funding

The Evergreen Foundation board of directors voted at its June meeting to provide funding to seven agencies providing programs and services for individuals with behavioral health, substance use and intellectual/developmental disabilities in Haywood County.

— The Arc of Haywood County: $9,000 to provide continuation and expansion of their community living and supported employment programs serving adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities and $1,000 to support their Arctoberfest fund raising event.

— LifeSpan: $6,260 to provide furnishings and equipment for their sensory room, TEACCH training for staff and parent resource materials to enhance their services for individuals with autism.

— Meridian Behavioral Health: $150,000 to provide continuation funding for the Patient Assistance Program and associated psychiatric services which assists consumers in receiving over $2,000,000 worth of free medications annually; $100,000 to support the merger of Meridian and Jackson/Haywood/Macon Psychological Services; $3,000 for promotional materials to support the National Safety Council program to decrease the use of opiates by substituting a combination of over the counter medications for pain management; $3,500 toward the cost of training for the Sexual Offender Services Team; and $27,000 to provide for the continuation of the jail assessment and treatment programs in Haywood and Jackson Counties.

— Southwestern Child Development Commission: $50,000 to continue the implementation of the Nurse Family Partnership program which provides visiting nurses for first time, high-risk mothers below poverty level in Haywood, Jackson, Macon and Swain counties.

— Mountain Projects: $23,497 to set up distribution sites for Naloxone kits throughout WNC and provide biohazard boxes for IV drug use needle collection throughout WNC.

— Youth for Christ Outdoor Mission Camp: $2,225 to provide art supplies, recreation equipment, boat rides and horseback riding for the Camp Ability program serving individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

— Family Resource Center of Cherokee: $20,000 to provide transportation for voluntarily committed consumers from throughout WNC who need to have a plan in place for transportation home after discharge from an inpatient psychiatric hospital; $39,366 to provide for the continuation of an alternative service for consumers with behavioral health and substance abuse, replacing the formerly state funded community support team; and $67,500 to provide funding for the jail assessment and treatment programs in Cherokee, Clay, Graham, Macon, and Swain counties.

Applications from nonprofit organizations are accepted on a rolling basis, with the next award cycle in September. The mission of the Evergreen Foundation is to improve access to and public awareness of quality prevention, treatment, and support services by the provider community to individuals and families with intellectual/developmental disabilities, behavioral health, and/or substance abuse needs in Cherokee, Clay, Graham, Haywood, Jackson, Macon and Swain counties.

Property reappraisal is under way in Haywood County

The Haywood County’s County Assessor’s Office has begun the process of reappraising all 50,000 residential, commercial/industrial, vacant land, farm and forest properties in Haywood County for the tax year 2017.

Appraisers will be verifying the physical condition of buildings and any additions or deletions to the property since it was last inspected. Most of these inspections are conducted from the exterior of the property.

North Carolina law requires all counties to reappraise real property at least every eight years. Haywood County’s last reappraisal was done in 2011. Due to market conditions, the 2015 reappraisal was postponed until 2017 since there was not a considerable market change from 2011.

County staff will be gathering data and reviewing the activity in the local markets. Market value is not determined by the tax office but is reflective of the sales activity, building and cost data for the county.

To value 50,000 parcels, the county uses different uniform standards to develop estimates of value to complete a mass appraisal from the standards a single fee property appraiser uses; even though techniques may be similar.

All Haywood County Assessor personnel will be driving marked vehicles and carrying Haywood County identification. The Haywood County Assessor’s office is open Monday to Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and can be reached at 452-6654 if you have any questions.

Blasting Set to Start on I-40 in Haywood County

Starting Friday, July 10, blasting operations will cause temporary morning closures on a rural stretch of Interstate 40 in Haywood County near the Tennessee border. The North Carolina Department of Transportation continues a project to make the rockslide-prone area safer, blasting unstable boulders from the mountainside near mile marker 7.

“The contractor can block the road for up to one 30-minute period between sunrise and 10 a.m.,” says Aaron Powell, NCDOT resident engineer. “We initially plan on blasting six days a week to minimize the length of the total project.”

When the contractor is ready for the daily detonation, westbound travelers will encounter a “rolling roadblock” at exit 20 near Maggie Valley. Eastbound travelers will encounter one at Tennessee exit 447, Hartford Road.

“Law enforcement cruisers and contractor vehicles will lead drivers at 10 miles per hour,” Powell explains. “Once crews determine the blasting area is safe, traffic can continue through and resume regular travel.”

During the rolling roadblocks, the on ramps at exit 15 and the I-40 westbound rest area will be closed, to make sure no vehicles end up approaching the blast area before crews give the “all clear”. Travelers should stay alert for stopped or slowed traffic from westbound exit 20 to exit 7, and from Tennessee exit 447 to North Carolina mile marker 5 on I-40 East.

“We appreciate drivers’ patience as we work to make the highway safer. It’s obviously dangerous to be near the area during the blast, so the delays are necessary. While there will be congestion and backups likely at blast time, we are working to get drivers through the rolling roadblocks safely and back up to speed as quickly as possible,” says Powell.

The project is scheduled to be finished in October.

NCDOT improvements in Haywood County

You might think of NCDOT crews tackling jobs such as patching or paving, but there’s also plumbing. Workers are focusing on making the I-40 rest areas in Haywood County more water efficient.

“With an increase in travelers coming through this summer, we want to make sure there’s enough supply to meet the demand,” says Richard Queen, roadside environmental engineer with the North Carolina Department of Transportation.

The eastbound North Carolina Welcome Center and westbound rest area, nestled in the Pisgah National Forest near the Tennessee border, are unique for more than their scenic surroundings.

“Those facilities are 15 miles away from the nearest municipal water system,” says Queen. “We have to use six wells that pump into a reservoir to serve both sides.”

Crews are working to keep those reservoir levels up. That means isolating some flush valves, and replacing fixtures that are using more water than they should. The work may occasionally require one of the two rest areas to temporarily close. “We want to get that reservoir as full as we can going into weekends,” says Queen, “when we know there are even more people coming through.”

For westbound travelers, the next closest rest area is the Tennessee Welcome Center, 15 miles away. Eastbound travelers who continue through Asheville will come to another rest area on I-40 near Marion, or on I-26 East just beyond the Asheville Regional Airport.

Haywood County Sheriff offers tips for a safe Fourth of July weekend

With the July Fourth weekend approaching, Haywood County Sheriff Greg Christopher asks all citizens to join him in making this Fourth of July holiday happy, enjoyable and safe for everyone.

Citizens should remember that fireworks, as enjoyable as they are to watch, can be dangerous and should only be handled by professionals. According to the U.S. Consumer Product and Safety Commission, there are nearly 9,000 emergency room-treated injuries associated with fireworks each year. You can enjoy a safe Fourth of July by following these safety tips:

Never give fireworks to small children, and always follow the instructions on the packaging.
Keep a supply of water close-by as a precaution.
Make sure the person lighting fireworks always wears eye protection.
Light only one firework at a time and never attempt to relight “a dud.”
Store fireworks in a cool, dry place away from children and pets.
Never throw or point a firework toward people, animals, vehicles, structures or flammable materials.
Stay at least 500 feet away from professional fireworks displays.
Leave any area immediately where untrained amateurs are using fireworks.
Sheriff Christopher also wants citizens to use caution when swimming at a lake, river or pool.

Sheriff Christopher said, “Sadly, most deaths from drowning occur within a few feet of safety.”

The best thing anyone can do to stay safe in and around the water is to learn to swim. The Red Cross has swimming courses for people of any age and swimming ability. To find out where lessons are offered, or to enroll in a CPR/AED or first aid course, contact your local Red Cross chapter.

At a swimming pool, take the following precautions:

If no lifeguard is on duty, do not let children swim unless they are accompanied by a responsible adult who knows lifesaving techniques and first aid.
Post CPR instructions and directions to call 911 or your local emergency number in the pool area.
Look around the pool area to be certain lifesaving devices are readily available for emergency use.
Be sure covers are installed on all drains of a swimming pool or in a wading pool. The suction created by the pool’s circulating pumps can be very dangerous unless it is reduced by covers.
Take frequent breaks (about once an hour) where everyone gets out of the water, drinks water, reapplies sunscreen (SPF 15 or higher) and rests.
If a child is missing, check the pool first. Go to the edge of the pool and scan the entire pool, bottom and surface, as well as the surrounding pool area.
To reduce the risk of eye, ear, nose or throat infection from contaminated water, swim only in pools in which water quality is properly maintained. The water should appear crystal clear, be continuously circulated and be maintained at a level that allows free overflow into the gutter or skimmer. There should not be a strong odor of ammonia or chlorine.
At the lake or river, take the following precautions:

Swim in a supervised area and swim with others. Never swim alone. Life vests are always recommended.
If you are caught in a strong current, swim parallel to the riverbank until you are out of the current. Once you are free, turn and swim toward land. If you can’t swim to the bank, float or tread water until you are free of the current and then head toward land.
Watch out for the “dangerous too’s” – too tired, too cold, too far from safety, too much sun and too much strenuous activity.
Look for movement in the water; it helps keep the water clean. Do not swim in stagnant or still water.
Do not swim right after a heavy rain. Runoff following a heavy rain may result in strong currents and a high bacteria level.
Do not dive into lakes or rivers.
Avoid getting lake or river water in your mouth or nose.
Sheriff Christopher said, “Following these precautions will help the children and citizens of Haywood County stay safe and healthy this holiday weekend and throughout the summer.”

Traditionally during the July Fourth holiday, highways experience one of the highest traffic flows of the year. The Sheriff reminds all Haywood County residents to follow these safety tips:

Always shift your attention every few seconds, constantly scanning the road ahead and behind you. Never blankly stare ahead nor fix your gaze on one point on the road.
When passing an automobile, always glance at the ground beside the front wheel of the car you intend to pass. You will know instantly if the car is about to veer – giving you an extra few seconds to respond.
You should pull out into the opposite lane of traffic when passing while you are still well behind the car in front. This should give you some time and space to build up speed and will enable you to pull back into your own lane should the need arise. Never cut abruptly out of your lane into the opposite lane when passing.
Always signal your intentions with your brake lights, turn signals, horn and/or headlights so that other drivers will see you well before you change course.
Drivers should always “aim high” in steering. That is, you should glance frequently at points well ahead of you. Not only will this help your steering, but it will also help you check the position of vehicles in front of you as well as on-coming ones.
Never follow too close. Remember that, as your speed increases, it takes you substantially longer to stop. Also remember that it’s good to have an extra cushion of space in front of you if you’re being tail-gated, on a slippery road or in low visibility conditions.
“Lastly, I would remind all motorists to practice the Golden rule when driving. Be courteous and tolerant of other drivers. Please don’t get angry with bad drivers or reckless ones – just get out of their way,” Sheriff Christopher said in closing. “Let’s make this summer a safe one on the roads in Haywood County.”