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Debnam Gets GOP Support

Jack Debnam

Jack Debnam

The Jackson County Republican Party will back incumbent county Commission Chairman Jack Debnam, an unaffiliated candidate, in this Novembers general election against former chairman and Democrat Brian McMahan. Debnam unseated McMahan in 2010 by 68 votes; he had the GOP’s support in the last election. The endorsement does not include financial help, according to local Republican Party Chairman Ralph Slaughter; nor did it during the election four-years ago. Debnam said he appreciated the GOP’s endorsement. Voter registration records show Debnam has voted in both Republican and Democrat primaries in past elections. Four years ago, Debnam gathered the signatures necessary for unaffiliated candidates to get their names on the ballot. He must do the same again, needing 1,008 signatures by June 27.

Local Salary Supplements For JCPS

jcpsJackson County school leaders are pushing for teachers and other employees to get local salary supplements this upcoming year. And to help with recruitment, new talent would be offered $1,000 signing bonuses. In North Carolina, commissioners approve education budgets and raise revenues for school systems, making local educators fiscally dependent on the county. Jackson County commissioners, for the most part, have given local school leaders what they’ve asked for, with the exception of School Resource Officers. Across the state local officials are caught in the same feud over school funding. State law allows school boards to demand mediation to resolve financing arguments, and if talking fails, school systems can sue. School system Finance Officer Gwen Edwards has calculated that about 19 percent of the projected $35 million school budget in 2014-2015 would be funded through local tax dollars. School leaders plan to pay for the salary supplements and a  3-percent state salary increase by pulling $860,000 from the school system fund balance, leaving $1.6 million.

New Complex Nearing Completion

New Complex Cad Drawing

New Complex Cad Drawing

The new performing arts center and gymnasium at smoky mountain high school is moving ever closer to a mid April opening. According to county manager chuck Wooten the construction is completed with most of the work now being done is in the final finish work stages. The striping to the lines to the basketball court were being completed on Tuesday. The fire and sprinkler inspections to the auditorium area are complete, and only correction issues remain. This eleven point four million dollar facility will seat fifteen hundred spectators for sporting events in the gymnasium  and 754 seats for a performance in the theater. It is expected the facility will be open in time to host several end of the school year performances.The Jackson county commissioners earmarked a portion of the local sales tax revenue to go toward the debt retirement of the of the ten million dollar construction loan.

Jackson County Schools Budget Request

jcpsJackson County Schools superintendent Dr Michael Murry, financial officer Qwen Edwards and several other school administrators appeared before the commissioners at the monthly work session Monday to present their budget request for the 2014 through 2015 school year. Dr Murry stated that school needs have not declined but the school board had voted to ask for six and three quarters of a million dollar allocation. ($6,779,482) the Jackson County portion of the budget represents 20 percent of the total school budget while state public school funds contribute 62 percent.  79 percent of the school’s budget is for salaries and benefits. Seven percent for instructional services, five percent for maintenance, and three percent for administration, and two for transportation. During the coming year it is projected that the salaries and benefits will increase to cover expected increases in health insurance and a growing number of retirements. The school board proposed that local funds would be used to fund local teacher assistant positions, and for retention and signing bonuses for new licenses staff. There was also a request for two hundred thirty five thousand dollars for capital improvements and two hundred and around seven hundred thousand dollars for technology and one on one computing.

Judaculla Rock Controversy

Judaculla Rock

Judaculla Rock

A state archaeologist won’t help a film company prepare a documentary on Judaculla Rock out of fears the History Two Channel program will consist of unscientific programming that inaccurately distorts the ancient site’s origins. Pisgah National Forest Archaeologist Scott Ashcraft, who also serves as director of N.C. Rock Art, urged Jackson County in a Monday, March 10, email to “scrutinize” a request by Committee Films to visit Judaculla Rock. Judaculla Rock is a large soapstone boulder in the Caney Fork community containing hundreds of mysterious, carved symbols. Commissioners issued at filming permit to “Committee Films” the production company working on the project for History Channel. County Leaders said although there is controversy twards filming of the episode, this could be good publicity for Jackson County. Two years ago, 133 acres of land around Judaculla Rock were placed into a conservation easement. The J.B. Parker family donated the property to Jackson County in 1959.

Lottery or Point System?

jcpsJackson County Schools could use a lottery to determine who gets four-year contracts and raises and not the point system announced last month. Teachers will be surveyed this week on whether they prefer the current plan or a lottery. There are 182 teachers in Jackson County eligible for contract offers. That means they have three years or more experience and proficient ratings or higher on job evaluations. Twenty-five percent, will get four-year contract offers and the promise of a $500 a year raises. Teachers relinquish tenure, if they have it, in lieu of contracts. Haywood and Buncombe Counties are among 27 of the 115 school systems in the state that have passed resolutions condemning the contracts. A list of selected teachers must be provided to the school board by May 31. By law, the names of those approved for contracts and raises are public record.

WCU’s Online Programs Receives High Marks

Western Carolina University

Western Carolina University

Western Carolina University’s online master’s degree programs in human resources and project management have received high national rankings in affordability and “Best Buy” designations from the distance education information clearinghouse GetEducated.com. WCU’s human resources program was ranked No. 3 in affordability following a national survey of 37 regionally accredited higher education institutions that offer online master’s degrees in that academic field, said Melissa Eubank, director of information services for GetEducated.com. The survey showed that the average cost of an online master’s degree in human resources nationwide is about $23,500. The cost of WCU’s program is $9,339 for North Carolina residents. Earlier this year, GetEducated.com gave WCU’s online bachelor’s degree program in entrepreneurship a No. 2 national ranking in affordability. Other WCU online master’s programs that have received high rankings from the clearinghouse in recent years are nurse educator, nurse administration and health sciences.

NC Broadcast Pioneer Dies

James B. Childress

James B. Childress

Long time North Carolina broadcasting pioneer James B. Childress died unexpectedly Friday at Mission Hospital. Childress was instrumental in starting numerous radio stations during the 1950′s including the Sylva and Murphy radio stations in 1957. Childress had a practice of naming his radio stations after his family such as WMSJ which stood for is wife Mickey, daughter Susanne and himself. The station was also referred to as Wonderful Macon, Swain and Jackson. After the death of Childress’ oldest son the call letters were changed to WRGC. Childress was an active member of the Sylva Rotary Club and supported Southwestern Community College’s New Century Scholars program, along with the Western North Carolina University Foundation. Childress would have been ninety on his next birthday in June. The WRGC Family extends our condolences to the family. He will be missed.

National Historic Register Designation

Downtown Sylva

Downtown Sylva

Sylva town leaders are seeking the a seal for National Historic Register designation for downtown Sylva. Town leaders say it would help attract tourists and aid in getting grants. Sylva town Manager Paige Roberson says the designation would not restrict property rights: She says designation would act as a promotional tool for Sylva. Distinctive brown signs would highlight the National Historic Register areas. Sylva will hold a public hearing in May; the town manager said she wants to counter possible fears about restrictions well before that meeting is held.

Demolition Begins

WCU Business Strip

WCU Business Strip

NEO Corporation began demolition on three fire-damaged restaurants – Subway, Mad Batter and Rolling Stone Burrito – on the WCU campus Tuesday afternoon while students are on spring break. The University Endowment Fund, which owns the buildings on the campus commercial strip, has decided against rebuilding, which officials said is cost-prohibitive, and plans to construct a mixed-use commercial/residential facility in its place.

More Charges For Macon County SRO

David Peterson

David Peterson

A mountain SRO accused of having sex with a 15-year-old girl in Macon County is now charged with the same crime in Swain County. 32-year-old David Peterson was arrested Tuesday and charged with statutory rape. Court documents are shedding more light on this case. Investigators with the SBI have searched Peterson’s home and they’ve also seized cell phone’s belonging to him and the 15-year-old. The sheriff office says Peterson was only two weeks on the job as an SRO at East Elementary School, but was previously a science teacher at Swain County High School. Court documents say detectives collected bedding from Peterson’s Bryson City home, which were tested for DNA. The 15-year-old girl also admitted to texting Peterson several naked photographs of herself. Peterson was initially charged with statutory rape when evidence of an affair popped up in Macon County. But was was then arrested Tuesday in Swain County. Peterson is being held on $200,000 bond in Swain County. Macon County officials have revoked his bond and have requested he be held until a hearing next week.

Jackson County Tourism Development

SCC-JessicaWaldronThe Jackson County Tourism Development met Tuesday in a planning session to consider several actions for moving the work plan of the Authority forward. One of the most discussed topics was whether the authority needed to hire an executive director. Chairman Robert Jumper stated he sensed a desire by elected officials that an executive director be hired. Several members of the authority stated that volunteer members had given a significant amount of time in marketing and other essential areas. Some members also indicated an executive director could be vital to budgeting strategic planning and general administration. Jackson County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Julie Spirio reported that several neighboring counties had similar positions in addition to two or three active Chamber of Commerce in those counties. A committee will be appointed at the next regular meeting of the authority to study the issue further.

Downtown Sylva Closing

Downtown Sylva

Downtown Sylva

Portions of Main and Mill streets downtown will be closed this Sunday, March 9, as part of a fire and emergency services training drill. The closures will be from 1:30 until 6 p.m. Main Street will be closed from Spring Street to the Sylva Fire Department; Mill Street will be closed from Allen Street to its east intersection with Main Street. Eastbound traffic on Main will be detoured onto Spring and then use Allen Street to access Municipal Drive, returning to Main Street near the firehouse. Westbound traffic, which will be diverted near the Fire Department, will also use Municipal Drive to access the unclosed portions of Main and Mill streets. The simulation will involve all county fire departments, the Jackson County Rescue Squad, Sylva Police and the Sheriff’s Office. Crews will simulate a large fire breaking out in the former Carolina Hotel. There will be no fire lit as part of the drill; emergency vehicles will also not use sirens. Foot traffic will not be allowed in the block where that building is located. There’s also a possibility of the drill to cause some discolored water because of the high flows through the hydrants. Officials chose Sunday because it’s the least busy day downtown.

Another Wintry Blast

Another Blast Of Winter

Another Blast Of Winter

Another blast of wintry weather has come to the North Carolina Mountains . NCDOT Says they began work on the roads late last evening spraying salt brine on roadways in preparation. The warmer forecast for today give high hopes to officials for faster melting and less accidents.

95th Anniversary for American Legion

American LegionThe American Legion will observe its 95th anniversary March 15-17, and Legionnaires of Jackson and Swain counties are planning a celebration at their regular Monday, March 10, meeting at the William E. Dillard Post 104 in Sylva. Local festivities will take place along with those at more than 16,000 American Legion posts located across the United States and other parts of the World, whose members are proud to be “Veterans Still Serving America.” The nation’s largest veterans service organization, The American Legion successfully promoted the creation of the GI Bill of Rights at the end of World War II, used over the years by millions of veterans for education, technical training, and assistance in becoming homeowners. The American Legion continues to be a strong advocate and friend for all veterans, their spouses and children, and their fellow citizens, sponsoring an array of programs nationwide. Post 104 extends an invitation to all eligible veterans in Jackson and Swain counties to join.

Steep Slope Update

Hearing Draws Crowd

Steep Slope Hearing

A vote next month by commissioners could determine whether Jackson County continues to control how and where people build on steep slopes within the county. The 6 of the 11-member planning board will be reappointed or newly appointed in April. Democratic Commissioner Vicki Greene succeeded in postponing a board vote until then. She received support during Monday’s commissioners meeting from fellow Democrat Mark Jones and Chairman Jack Debnam, who isn’t affiliated with a political party. The planning board’s membership surfaced as an issue following a Feb. 20 public hearing on proposed steep-slope revisions. Around 200 people attended the room to oppose changing the steep-slope ordinance. No one who spoke supported the planning board’s proposed revisions.

Summer Concert Series Announced

SCC-JessicaWaldronJackson County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Julie Spiro announced the schedule for this summers Concerts by The Creek at the Sylva Bridge Park Pavilion.  The Concerts by the Creek run each Friday evening from May 23 through August 29th and feature a variety of musical genre’s and are sponsored in part of the Town of Sylva, the Chamber Of Commerce, The Tuckaseigee Water And Sewer Authority, and the Parks and Recreation Department. Kicking off the summer schedule is the popular Lisa Price Band. The Act for memorial day has not yet been announced but Eddie Rose and Highway 40 will appear on June 6th. They are followed by local favorites The Buchannan Boys. On June 20th The Johnny Webb Band will travel over from Franklin to perform. Mountain Faith will wind up the month on Junes performance schedule on the 26th. the highlight of the Fourth Of July will be a show by the ever popular Dashboard Blues. If you like beach music and the rhythm and blues sound then Emporium will be the show to see on July 11th. Soldiers Heart is a new group for this year. This group comes highly recommended for more of a blues sound. The second Bluegrass show will be Whitewater Express on August first. hey are followed in August by Asheville’s 96.5 House Band, Sundown, Porch 40, Mangas Colorado, and Remnants will wrap up the schedule on August 29th. This Saturday night Darren Nicholson and Summer McMahan will present a special program to help the Chamber raise funds for the Summer Concert Series. The admission is ten dollars. The artists will also have copies of their current CD’s for sell.

First “Airport Assault” Bike Race

cyclingThe very first “Airport Assault” bike race will take place March 22nd & 23rd in Cullowhee. The events will be split between Saturday and Sunday and will all take place in the Cullowhee area. “The airport assault” will feature a time trail and road race which are short races less than a mile. The road race will start at 1 p.m. and will broken out by tiers and distances. The race will begin at WCU’s Health and Human Services facility on Little Savannah Road. Depending on the tier, the race will be anywhere from 18 to 63 miles in length. The course will go up Little Savannah, turn right onto Old Settlement, and proceed on N.C. 107 back to the Health & Human Services building. That course is nine miles long, and racers will do multiple laps with participants and the number of laps will be determined by their tier. Registration for each of the three events is $15, with on-site registration to be available on race day at $18 per event. An awards ceremony will be held after Sunday’s final event. The race will be held rain or shine, and cyclists may complete their registration online at www.usacycling.org

 

Severe Weather Awareness Week

swawSevere Weather Awareness Week begins in North Carolina. The National Weather Service and FEMA are highlighting the importance of planning and practicing how and where to take shelter before severe weather strikes. They say it’s important to be prepared to act quickly, and take it upon yourself to be ready at work, school or home. A statewide tornado drill will take place Wednesday morning across North Carolina, activated on the “emergency alert system” and local radio broadcasts.

Hearing On Scattered Site Housing

SCC-JessicaWaldronJackson County is holding a public hearing to discuss a Community Development Block Grant scattered site housing application submitted to the NC Department of Commerce. The scattered site housing project proposes housing repairs and renovations for five eligible homeowners and emergency home repairs using the $225,000 in grant funds. The Public Hearing will be held before the Jackson County Board of Commissioners on Monday, March 17 at 5:50 PM in Room 201 of the Jackson County Administration Building Any interested citizens are encouraged to attend this Public Hearing.