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Residents May Face Fire Tax

No correlation just a coincidence—that’s what Chuck Wooten, County Manager says about the talks to levy a fire tax for the Glenville-Cashiers and Cullowhee area residents. This comes just after Macon County Commissioners discussed asking Jackson County to pay them $160,000 annually for emergency services they offer to home owners in the Highlands area.

The homes are located in Jackson County but without a substation in the area, it takes emergency services from Jackson County nearly 25 minutes to reach the homes in question. Macon County emergency services reaches those homes in about 5 minutes.

Glenville Cashiers and Cullowhee Fire Departments have consistently stated that they cannot continue to rely on the expectation of contributions to cover the majority of their budget through fundraisers and donations.

County dollars are distributed to the departments using a base rate plus additional monies for each substation, a total of $1.5 million. Closing the gaps in Cashiers and Cullowhee would require more taxes.

Due to Lower property values in Cullowhee, residents there would face higher tax than required in Cashiers-Glenville to meet the community fire department’s requirements.

In late fall the county was approached by Highlands Fire Department about providing additional support to offset a portion of the costs to operate a new sub-station that would service a number of Jackson County homes and offer them a substantial reduction in homeowners insurance since they would be in their 5 mile response district.

The county was later contacted by a group of residents in the Cullasaja Club who are residents of Jackson County asking for support to Highlands.

Macon County has now followed up with a similar request. For years elected officials in both Macon and Jackson counties have debated where the county line between Cashiers and Highlands falls. With homes in the area valued at millions of dollars, 332 properties are located in the area in question. Although the properties are currently considered to be in Jackson County, the homes receive services from Macon County such as EMS, police, fire, and solid waste. Macon County estimates Jackson receives about $1.2 million annually in property tax revenue from those homes and they are requesting 13% of that number which comes to $160,000 a year to provide those services.

In an email Wooten says as the county is considering Cashiers and Cullowhee, the county thought it would be appropriate to add the Highlands area as well. Wooten says Randy Dillard, fire chief at Cashiers, supports this concept since these home are more easily served by Macon since Cashiers does not have access to some of these properties without going into Macon County and circling back into Jackson County.

The fire tax was proposed previously but dropped when a majority of the departments did not support the tax. A timetable projects extra taxes levied as soon as July. Before that could happen, residents would be notified by mail about the plan and a public hearing held. Commissioners could choose to establish seven fire service areas but tax only the two in question now.

Jackson County Landowners Work with LTLT to Preserve Parkway Viewshed and Create Conserved Land Corridor

(Franklin, NC)—104 acres of forested land in the viewshed of the Blue Ridge Parkway in Jackson County are now conserved thanks to two local landowners and The Land Trust for the Little Tennessee. LTLT worked with landowners Joan Byrd and George Rector to conserve the tract of land in the Bo Cove area of Speedwell, near Cullowhee. The owners donated a conservation easement on their property, which LTLT holds in trust.

This is the second conservation easement that Byrd and Rector have donated to LTLT. The first was a 40-acre tract in the same area, donated in 2006. The new 104-acre easement connects the Nantahala National Forest to the original 40-acre easement, creating a corridor of conserved lands. The newly conserved tract includes miles of forested streams, including a portion of Bryson Branch. The conservation easement permits forest management, small-scale agriculture and the construction of one home, but ensures that the land will not be subdivided or used for a high-density residential or commercial development.

Byrd, a retired professor from Western Carolina University, and Rector, a potter, reside in Cullowhee and are passionate supporters of conservation in western North Carolina. “We both wanted in some way to help preserve the historical, rural character of Jackson County,” said Rector, who himself grew up on 30 acres of farmland in Andrews. “This is one of the fastest growing counties in the region, and as the population increases, it is essential to protect the resources that people will demand in the future: farmland, clean water and healthy forests.”

John Culclasure, LTLT’s Land Protection Manager, was particularly pleased to work on this project. “This project conserves over a mile and a half of forested streams, whose cool waters are important for fish and other aquatic life. The diversity of forest community types is important for wildlife, and the adjacency to the national forest ensures critters have room to roam. George and Joan have made a tremendous contribution to conservation in Jackson County. ”

This project was made possible thanks to funding support from the Conservation Trust for North Carolina.

LTLT is a regional non-profit dedicated to conserving the land and waters in the six far-western North Carolina counties and northern Rabun County, Georgia. LTLT employs 12 staff members who work to sustain quality of life and economic vitality in the mountains

Applications taken for Greening Up the Mountains

Greening Up the Mountains Festival, which brought between 10,000 to 12,000 people to the mountain town of Sylva last year, is now inviting fine artists, mountain crafters and food vendors to apply for a booth in it’s18th year as the premiere spring festival for Western North Carolina. On April 25, 2015, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., the festival sponsored by the Town of Sylva, will once again take place in downtown Sylva, where demonstrating visual artists and traditional crafters will be joined by a mountain community who honors their artisans & natural environment.
Daylong events will be held on Main Street and in the Bridge Park, beginning with a 5K race sponsored by the Jackson County Recreation/Parks Department. Children’s activities, demonstrations, a youth talent contest and live performances by a wide variety of Jackson County musicians will be featured throughout the day.
Applications can be downloaded from the website, www.greeningupthemountains.com, and will be accepted through April 15, 2015. For more information, call 828.631.4587.

Jackson County Passes Fracking Resolution

The Jackson County Commissioners voted unanimously to pass a Resolution opposing hydraulic fracturing (also known as fracking) after a long debate on the subject. Newly elected Chairman Brian McMahan told WRGC after the mid-term elections that the resolution would be his first action in office. Previous Commissioners felt a 2002 heavy industry ordinance in addition to a resolution protecting natural resources was enough to keep Jackson County safe from fracking.

Heating Assistance Still Available

The Jackson County Department of Social Services has announced that Low Income Energy Assistance Program (LIEAP) funds are still available.

Randal Moss, Supervisor of Emergency Assistance Programs, stated that applications were taken during the month of December for citizens who were either disabled or age 60 or older. However, beginning January 1, all other Jackson County households meeting the income guidelines are eligible for this assistance.

“Only 18% of the available funds have been spent so far,” Moss said. “We feel there are many more people out there who are struggling and who could benefit from this assistance.”

“One-time payments are made to electric companies, fuel oil or LP gas suppliers, firewood providers, and any other source that households use for heat,” Moss said.

Eligibility guidelines for the LIEAP program include the following:
· The household must be responsible for its heating bills.
· The household cannot have financial resources such as checking and savings accounts that are over $2,250.
· The household must include a U.S. citizen or an eligible alien.

Income guidelines are as follows:

No. Eligible In Household
Maximum Countable Income
No. Eligible In Household
Maximum Countable Income
1
$1,265
4
$2,584
2
$1,705
5
$3,024
3
$2,144
6
$3,464

Applications for the LIEAP program will be taken at Social Services through March 31st. For more information, citizens may call 586-5546.

WNC Meth Ring Defendants Sentenced

The last of 18 members of a methamphetamine trafficking ring that operated in Western North Carolina has been sentenced to federal prison.
Angela Leigh Wike, 39, of Bryson City, was sentenced to 46 months in prison and was also ordered to serve three years under court supervision after her release, Anne M. Tompkins, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina, announced Wednesday.

In May of 2013, 18 members of the drug ring were arrested as the result of a joint law enforcement investigation by local, state and federal agencies.

According to filed court documents and court proceedings, from May 2012 to April 2013, the drug ring operated primarily in Jackson, Haywood, Macon, Swain and Buncombe counties

Wike will be transferred to the custody of the Federal Bureau of Prisons upon designation of a federal facility. All federal sentences are served without the possibility of parole. Other sentences in the case ranged from 27 months to more than 12 years in prison.

The investigation was handled by the DEA and ATF, assisted by the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation, Macon County Sheriff’s Office, Jackson County Sheriff’s Office, Swain County Sheriff’s Office, Franklin Police Department, and Cherokee Indian Police Department.
The prosecution is being handled for the government by Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Kent of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Asheville.

Hospitals Limit Visitation

Due to the rising number of flu cases in our surrounding communities and facilities, Harris Regional Hospital and Swain Community Hospital have begun limiting visitors to the hospitals in order to reduce the risk of transmitting the flu to our patients, visitors, and staff. Restrictions will apply to visitors 12 years old and under and any visitor with symptoms of respiratory illness (fever, cough, sore throat, etc.).

According to the North Carolina Division of Public Health, the geographic spread of flu is now considered to be widespread, with four flu-related deaths having already occurred in North Carolina.

Exceptions to the restrictions, such as end-of-life circumstances, will be looked at on a case-by-case basis. Respiratory and hand hygiene stations are located at all entrances and on nursing units for visitors. Restrictions will continue from now until there is a significant decline in cases or flu season is considered over.

Visitors that are not feeling well and those under age 12 are encouraged to call patients rather than visit.

2014 State of the County Health Report

The Jackson County Department of Public Health recently completed the 2014 State of the County Health Report (SOTCH). The SOTCH report is an interim update to the Community Health Assessment (CHA) and is completed each year the CHA is not done. The last CHA was completed in 2011 and the next one will be done in 2015.

From the information presented in the 2011 Community Health Assessment, the assessment team and Healthy Carolinians of Jackson County selected the following health priorities: increase healthy eating (fruit and vegetable consumption), increase physical activity among adults (with a subcomponent of fall prevention with the senior population), and decrease substance abuse in adolescents (with a new focus on prescription drug abuse prevention). Action Teams of the Healthy Carolinians of Jackson County Partnership are currently working on each of these priority areas through their community action plans.

The SOTCH report compares the most recent health trends of Jackson County to Western North Carolina and North Carolina as a whole. Jackson County’s top three leading causes of death—cancer, diseases of the heart, and chronic lower respiratory diseases (CLRD)—are identical to the top three leading causes of death in North Carolina.

Interestingly, other recent trend data shows that the unintentional injury mortality rate (excluding motor vehicles) in Jackson County increased by 23.2% from the 2002-2006 to the 2008-2012 aggregate period. Further alcohol-related traffic accidents in Jackson County increased by 5.6% from 2011 to 2012. More crashes are alcohol-related in Jackson County than in Western North Carolina or North Carolina as a whole.

On a more positive note, Jackson County diabetes mortality rate is lower than both Western North Carolina’s and North Carolina’s as a whole. Jackson County saw an 8.2% decrease in diabetes mortality from the 2007-2011 aggregate period. Another health highlight is that Jackson County’s heart disease mortality rate decreased by 7.2% from the 2007-2011 to the 2008-2012 aggregate period. Males in Jackson County have had a higher heart disease mortality rate than females for the past decade.

Interviews with key leaders and health stakeholders indicated the following new or emerging issues affecting Jackson County’s health status: access to facilities and programs where youth can be physically active, lack of connection to locally grown foods, overweight children, cost of healthy food, violence, heroin use and the increased risk of Hepatitis and HIV from needle use, and alcohol-related traffic accidents. It is important to keep an eye on each of these issues as programs and projects are being planned in the community.

The full 2014 State of the County Health report can be viewed on the health department’s webpage http://health.jacksonnc.org, under the “Community Health Data” section. For any additional information please call Melissa McKnight at 587-8288. Hard copies are also available at the Health Department upon request.

Jackson County rockers Porch 40 to tour with Marshall Tucker Band in NC

t600-Porch 40Cullowhee-based “up and comers” Porch 40 announced that they will be taking part in The Marshall Tucker Band’s Winter Tour for three dates as they travel through North Carolina. Porch 40 will open for the renowned southern rockers at The Ritz (Raleigh Jan. 21), Cone Denim Entertainment Complex (Greensboro Jan. 23) and The Fillmore (Charlotte Jan. 24).

Touring with a group like The Marshall Tucker Band, who originated in Spartanburg, South Carolina with hits like “Can’t You See” and “Heard It in a Love Song,” is an experience that hits home to members of Porch 40.

“It’s a testament to how hard we’ve worked the past two years and very humbling at the same time,” said lead singer and rhythm guitarist Drew Duncan. “The guys have spent a lot of long nights writing original music, and we’ve practiced until our hands bled more times than I can count. I couldn’t ask for a better, more dedicated group of guys to chase my dreams with.”

While only playing together for a little over two years, Porch 40 has trail blazed their way into the area scene, growing into a regionally touring band. Formed while studying at Western Carolina University, the band has developed a bond and a sense of unity that comes once in a lifetime.

“Porch 40 is more like a family than a band,” said electric violinist Mitchell Metz. “Having our home base in a small town, we’ve established a sense of community and togetherness that has shaped the way we handle ourselves in every walk of life. Creating original music that makes people dance and feel good about themselves is what we’re all about.”

While having influences from genres across the board including funk, metal, jazz, folk, hip-hop and many more, southern rock holds a special place in the hearts of multiple members of the band.

While Duncan and drummer Spencer Bradley hail from Sylva and Cullowhee, bassist Carter McDevitt and saxophonist Scott Burr are originally from the Charlotte area.

“We couldn’t ask for a better band to rock with, and we appreciate The Marshall Tucker Band for having the faith in us to perform at a high level and make this the best experience for everyone involved,” Burr said. “Being away from home and going to school at Western Carolina University, I don’t get the chance to head back to Charlotte very often with our busy schedule. It seems like we’re always on the road, and that’s where I want to be.”

Porch 40’s debut album “Spread It Heavy” was released in September and is available on all major digital outlets, including but not limited to, iTunes, Amazon, Rhapsody, Spotify and more.

The members of Porch 40 are all between the young ages of 21-24 years old. Two of them are still attending Western Carolina University and will graduate this May. The band plans to hit the road for a full tour this summer/fall. In the meantime, they will continue to play area Western North Carolina venues on a regular basis while steadily branching out on a regional and national level this winter and spring.

“We’d like to thank all of the fans, venues, owners, booking agents, promoters, writers, DJ’s and everyone else who continues to support our movement. It’s because of their belief that we’re able keep this train rolling,” Duncan said.

For more information on the group’s album “Spread It Heavy,” visit

https://porch40.bandcamp.com/album/spread-it-heavy.

Meeting Upcoming for Cullowhee Community Planning Advisory Committee

As a result of comments received at the community meetings held in October and subsequent meetings and conversations with Cullowhee property owners, the Cullowhee Community Planning Advisory Committee has recommended changes to the proposed Cullowhee development standards and map.

The proposed designations of some properties have changed and the following properties have been removed from the proposed planning area:
• The NCCAT property and adjacent properties located on the west side of NC 107;
• The property occupied by the WCU staff apartments located behind Catamount Travel Center off Little Savannah Road;
• The Rogers family property and the adjacent WCU-owned property located on Monteith Gap Road.

Significant changes to the development standards include:
• A threshold has been established for requiring single family residential development to provide sidewalks. The threshold is 12 homes or lots; smaller developments will not have to provide sidewalks. In addition, trails may be provided in lieu of sidewalks with the approval of the Planning Council.
• Single wide manufactured homes are permitted on individual lots in the single family residential areas. Previously they were permitted only in manufactured home parks.

Cullowhee community will be Tuesday, January 13, 2015 at 6:00 PM in the Hospitality Room at the Ramsey Center on the WCU campus.

Firefighters Limit Damage From Forest Fire

The fire from a burning debris pile got out of control Friday afternoon causing a fire to burn over about ten acres of mountain land  in the Kitchens Branch area of Jackson County. Fighting the fire in a rugged area also know as Queen Caves was strenuous to the volunteer firefighters and North Carolina Forest Service personnel.  Both eyewitnesses and firefighters confirmed that fire lines were  created along the crest of the mountain which allowed the controlled backfire to safely cause the fire to safely burn itself out with.  Several houses in the area were not in immediate danger but could have been threatened had the wind changed. The weather conditions were favorable for the fire to burn but because the winds were basically calm it was easier to keep the fire under control.  Those planning to burn during this season are reminded of the importance of obtaining a burning permit and following the printed regulations. Permits can be obtained either on line or at several area businesses and at the NC  Forest Service headquarters in the Savannah/Greens Creek area on Highway 441 South.

Nifty Needles Make Warm Items in Jackson County

: Sarah Thompson, left, and Anne Jones continue knitting for the group project. Shown in the forefront are hats which will be given away.

: Sarah Thompson, left, and Anne Jones continue knitting for the group project. Shown in the forefront are hats which will be given away.

For eight years the Nifty Needles group has been knitting and crocheting warm, useful items for those in need. They knit year round in preparation for the cold weather. This group which meets at First United Methodist Church, Sylva has a mission to share God’s love and make winters warm and comfortable.

Nifty Needles distributes these items to those in Jackson County who are less fortunate. This season they will distribute over 300 such items. At one point, they gave to overseas missions, but now focus on the local community. Several years ago, over a two year period, they gave over 1,000 items to people in Bosnia.

When asked what type of items they knit, Anne Rhyne, the group leader, replied, “We make hats, scarves, gloves, stoles, and lap blankets and knee warmers for wheel chair bound patients in nursing homes. We love giving children matching hats, sweaters and turtle necks.” Many of the items are sold through the Christmas Store and others are distributed through referrals from school personnel and agencies. Items can also be picked up at the church office.

These dedicated knitters do take requests from people and try to accommodate the request. Once they got a request to send a warm shrug and a lap robe to an elderly person in Alaska.

As a special Christmas gift, the knitters have made dish cloths which they will wrap with ribbons to give to the Meals on Wheels recipients.

Vivian Wisdom, a longtime member, also leads a group of people called Crafty Needle Time at the Department of Aging.

The group would welcome new people who want to help accomplish their mission. They already have supplies such as yarn and needles. If someone wants to learn the craft, they will be more than happy to give lessons.

Anne Rhyne said, “We really enjoy being able to serve, and the Lord calls us to do this mission. We are just here for Him. We serve Him.”

JCDPH to Hold a Public Meeting on Increased Mercury Levels in Fish at Lake Glenville

The Jackson County Department of Public Health is holding a public meeting to discuss and answer questions about the increased mercury levels in Walleye Fish as well as Large Mouth Bass Fish at Lake Glenville. The meeting will be held at the Albert Carlton-Cashiers Library on Monday, December 15, 2014 from 6:00 pm. The physical address for the library is 249 Frank Allen Road, Cashiers, NC 28717

Dr. Kenneth Rudo, NC Division of Public Health’s Toxicologist will be present to share the findings and answer any questions.

Newly Elected Sheriff Sworn In Jackson County Monday

There is a new Sheriff in town. Chip Hall is officially on the job as Jackson County’s new sheriff after 26 years of service.He was elected Nov. 4 to replace Jimmy Ashe who retired after a dozen years.

Hall, former chief deputy for the Sheriff’s Office, won by an overwhelming number of votes over former Sylva Police Officer Curtis Lambert. Hall received 6,921 votes while Lambert got 3,838 votes.

Now that Sheriff Hall has been sworn in, he’s named a new chief deputy Kim Hooper and is looking to build positive relationships throughout the county.

Sheriff Hall says he’ll be meeting with commissioners soon to discuss finances and improving security at the courthouse.

Drug Raid Lands Sylva Man Behind Bars

547f760f90222.imageOn Tuesday, a drug raid at 42 Pathfinder Lane in Sylva has one man in custody and four total arrest warrants issued.

Steven Allen Ross was arrested and charged with Possession of Methamphetamines, Felony of Schedule I Controlled Substance, and Possession with Intent to Manufacture/Sell of IV Controlled Substances, Possession of Marijuana and paraphernalia and possession of stolen goods. A $30,000 secured bond has been set and Ross will have his initial court appearance on December 23rd.

The arrest was made by Sylva Police Department along with members of the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office, the Sheriff’s Office SETT (Sheriff’s Emergency Tactical Team) team and Waynesville Police Department K-9.

Sylva Police Det. Aimee Watson is in charge of the ongoing investigation.

Missing Teen Died from Hypothermia; Broken Hip

On Monday, November 24, 2014, Pathologist Dr. William L. Selby, conducted an autopsy of Alec Lansing, the teenager who walked away from Trails Carolina campsite on November 10, 2014. The cause of death indicated was Hypothermia. An additional significant factor in this autopsy that was noted by Dr. Selby was a broken hip. Investigators who were present on scene where the body of Lansing was found noted evidence of removed moss from a tree which leaned over the small stream in which Lansing was found on Saturday, November 22, 2014. Investigators believe Lansing had scaled the tree and fallen into the shallow stream, resulting in the broken hip rendering him immobile.

Body Discovered in Nantahala Forest; Believed to be Missing Teen

Mid-day on Saturday, November 22, 2014, a body, which is believed to be that of, Alec Lansing, was found in the Nantahala National Forest. Today the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office along with multiple volunteers coordinated by the Jackson County Emergency Management Office conducted further searching of the forest where Lansing was last seen. The body was found in a remote portion of the forest by searchers. The Jackson County Sheriff’s Office investigators along with investigators with the United States Forest Service Law Enforcement are working together to continue to investigate the death. An autopsy has been requested by investigators to determine the cause of death. Lansing has been missing since Monday, November 10, 2014.

Dillsboro Lights and Luminaries

DillsboroLightsLuminariesPressReleasePhotoThe 31st annual Dillsboro Lights and Luminaries event is planned Friday and Saturday, Dec. 5-6 and Dec. 12-13.
There will be free refreshments and entertainment, horse-drawn carriage rides, unique holiday shopping and visits with Santa and Mrs. Claus.
College night will be held on Friday, Dec. 5, kicking off with the WCU Holiday Dancers at 5:30 p.m. There will also be a free paint-your-own ornaments program at Claymates (while supplies last.)
All four nights of the event, there will be a live Nativity scene at Jarrett Memorial Baptist Church. There will be free parking and shuttle transportation from Monteith Park.
Come experience the spirit and splendor as the historic village of Dillsboro is aglow with more than 2,500 candles.
For more information, go to www.visitdillsboro.org or visit them on Facebook at facebook.com/DillsboroNC.

Two Jackson County Employees on Administrative Leave

Two Jackson County employees are on paid administrative leave after reports of a Halloween party surfaced. Dispatcher Maria, employed by emergency services, and her husband Deputy James Henry, were alleged to have been in attendance at the party at Dillard’s Excavating where according to a warrant, a 14-year-old student from Smoky Mountain High School told state agents she was raped at a nearby house after attending the party. Allegations of underage drinking were also in the warrant.

Keith Dillard is the proprietor of Dillard Excavating, and his wife, Michelle, is a former jail nurse. The county terminated her contract Oct. 30th.

The investigation has been turned over to state investigators with the department of alcohol law enforcement, so far no charges have been filed.

Jackson County Election Sees Democrats Sweeping

Tuesday midterm voter participation in North Carolina set a record. 2, 717, 920 voters cast ballots. In Jackson County, voters replaced two incumbent commissioners giving Democrats control of four seats.

Charles Elders maintained his seat as the sole Republican. Brian McMahan replaced Jack Debnam as Chairman while Boyce Deitz won seat formerly occupied by Doug Cody.

Democrats also won the Sheriff’s election placing Chip Hall in the position vacated by Jimmy Ashe who is retiring.