Archive for Jackson County – Page 2

Great Smokies Health Foundation Announces Grants

The window for the first round of the 2015 Thrift Shop Grant Program is now open for applications.  The Great Smokies Health Foundation announced Wednesday that proceeds from the two Thrift Stores  operated by the Foundation will be used to fund one time $5,000.00 grants to non-profits,  government entities, and educational institutions in the specific service area of Jackson and Swain County.  The grants are to used for projects that will impact the health and wellness services in these counties.  The deadline for the applications is July 3, 2015 at 4:00 p.m..

Over the years the Hospital Volunteer Auxiliary has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars from Thrift Store sales in Jackson and Swain Counties to fund projects at both Harris Regional Hospital and Swain County Hospitals. As a result of the Hospital sale, they now have a new name “Great Smokies Health Foundation Thrift Shop”  and a new mission “to raise money to support the health needs of our community by selling, at an affordable price, items donated by and sold to our customers. “The 2015 Thrift Shop Grant Program is a way to continue their legacy and make an even bigger difference in the health and wellness of the community,” said Michele Garashi-Ellick, Executive Director of the Great Smokies Health Foundation.

To receive an application or get answers to questions regarding the grant program and application questions, and/or application process contact Michelle Garashi-Ellick, Executive Director of the Foundation at 828-5o7-2270 or email greatsmokieshealth@gmail.com

Crimes Targeting Elderly in Jackson County

The Jackson County Sheriff’s Office is seeking information on individuals who are targeting the elderly possible posing as telephone workers or potentially state workers. Suspects lure victims outside, and usually behind their home while another suspect enters the home. The suspect that is with the victim behind the house then receives a phone call and says he has to leave. (This is possibly the other suspect calling to let him know he has gained the cash he was looking for).

Suspects described as two white males; both in their 50’s; one with a grey beard; operating a tan or light colored pickup truck, maybe 2005 model GMC Canyon, with a ladder and black plastic in the bed of the truck.

The Jackson County incident took place on May 3, 2015 around 530pm in the Glenville Community. Investigators are in contact with Habersham County, Georgia who also may have similar incidents.

If anyone has further information or may have been a target of these suspects, please contact Jackson County Sheriff’s Office Detective Andi Green at 828-586-1392.

Jackson County Planning Director Resigns

Jackson County’s Planning Director Gerald Green has submitted his letter of resignation. Read his words below:

Good Day,
I have submitted my resignation as Planning Director for Jackson County to pursue opportunities that will allow me to better use my talents and abilities. My last day of work will be Friday, May 15, 2015. I appreciate all the time, support, and assistance you have provided as we have worked to make Jackson County a better place for all. Some of the things we have achieved in the past four and a half years include:
· Revision of the Jackson County Subdivision Ordinance to incorporate development standards that allow development while protecting our fragile natural resources.
· Drafting and adoption of an award winning water recharge ordinance that, if properly implemented, will help protect the County’s groundwater supplies.
· Obtaining $435,000 in grant funding for the construction of Jackson County’s first greenway and the management of the construction of the greenway trail.
· Preparation and adoption of a the Village of Cashiers Transportation Plan, which will aid in obtaining funding for the projects deemed important by the Village.
· Management of the transition of the County’s Community Development Block Grant program from one that cost the County substantial funds to one that cost no local funds while continuing to help provide Jackson County’s most needy residents, especially the elderly, with decent housing.
· Drafting of a new cellular telecommunications ordinance that balances the need to protect Jackson County’s natural resources with the need to provide communications service throughout the County.
· Initiation of efforts to turn the former Drexel manufacturing factory from a liability into an asset for the Whittier community and the County.
· Preparation of the Cashiers Creek hydrologic study, which is the first step in addressing the flooding of Frank Allen Road and surrounding properties by Cashiers Creek.
· Designation of three properties, the Hooper House, Webster Methodist Church, and the Mordecai Zachary House, as local historic properties in an effort to recognize the importance of these properties and the people associated with them in the history of Jackson County.
· Development of a Well@Work program that both helps manage health insurance rates for Jackson County employees and provides employees with opportunities to improve their health.
· Revision of the US 441 Corridor Development Ordinance to manage development along the corridor while better reflecting the character of the corridor and the goals of the community.
· Drafting of the Cullowhee Development Standards and zoning designation map, which, if adopted, will manage the development and growth of Cullowhee and provide a safer environment for property investments.
· Revisions and updates to the Cashiers Development Ordinance to guide the development of this unique community.
· Updates and revisions to the Sylva and Dillsboro zoning ordinances to prepare these communities for continued growth and development.
· Participating as a member of the WCU Master Plan steering committee, helping to create a plan to guide the growth of this great institution.
· Obtaining funding for and designing a trail that connect the sidewalks in Mark Watson Park to Savannah Drive, providing a view of the wetlands and interpretive signage to educate the public of the importance of wetlands in our ecosystem.
· Designation of downtown Sylva as a historic district on the National Register of Historic Places, providing the ability for property owners to obtain tax credits for property improvements while imposing no restrictions, and recognizing the history of the downtown.
· Continued revisions to the Mountain and Hillside Development Ordinance to assure the provisions of the ordinance can be enforced objectively and fairly while protecting the people and natural resources of Jackson County.
· Creation of a professional planning department that treats everyone fairly and objectively while enforcing standards and regulations uniformly and as intended by those who worked for their adoption..

Addressing the opportunities and challenges that face Jackson County will require leadership, vision, and tough decisions on the part of the Jackson County Board of Commissioners and others. I urge you to provide them support and input as you all continue to work to make Jackson County an even greater place.

Announcing the Winners of the Youth Talent Contest at Greening Up The Mountains Festival

The 18th Heritage Alive! Mountain Youth Talent Contest was held at the Greening Up the Mountains Festival in Sylva, NC on Saturday, April 25th. This contest provides an opportunity to discover, develop, and encourage talent in the youth of Western North Carolina and to provide an opportunity for local youth to perform on stage before an audience. In hopes of encouraging a continuing “sense of place” for our young musical mountain youth, Jackson County 4-H and Catch the Spirit of Appalachia (CSA) co-produce this contest that was held on the Signature Brew sponsored stage. Many thanks to our Judges: Julianna Warner, Ron Smith, and Judy Rhodes!

Congratulations to this year’s winners:

Youth: Mandolin
1s: Caleb Turpin, Robbinsville, NC (10)
2nd: Emma Budden, Cullowhee, NC (12)

Youth: Fiddle
1st: Haven Bryant, Sylva, NC (9)
2nd: Sayumi DeSilva, Sylva, NC (9)
3rd: Abby Sparks, Whittier, NC (9)
4th: Aspen Budden, Cullowhee, NC (10)

Youth: Guitar
1st: Caleb Turpin, Robbinsville, NC (10)

Youth (age 5-9): Vocal
1st: Ella Ledford, Sylva, NC (9)
2nd: Kadence Simpson, Easley, SC (7)

Youth (age 10+): Vocal
1st: Lindley Wyatt, Whittier, NC (10)
2nd: Emily Franklin, Bryson City, NC (12)
3rd: Caleb Turpin, Robbinsville, NC (10)

Teen: Vocal
1st: Iris Deyman, Pisgah Forest, NC (14)

Teen: Banjo
1st: Sean Crowe, Cleveland, SC (13)

Teen: Mandolin
1st: Cole Rogers, Central, SC (13)
2nd: Trey Pate, Cullowhee, NC (14)

Teen: Fiddle
1st: Jenna Eyler, Sylva, NC (14)

Teen: Group
1st: “Saluda Flavor,” Sean Crowe (13) & Cole Rogers (13), SC

Best of Show:
1st Place: Ella Ledford (9)
2nd Place: “Saluda Flavor,” Sean Crowe (13) & Cole Rogers (13)
3rd Place: Caleb Turpin (10)

The first place Best of Show winner will get the chance to perform on stage at the Mountain Heritage Day held at Western Carolina University on September 26th in Cullowhee. At this larger venue, with it’s broader audience, it will be terrific to watch the young people from the Talent Contests serve as ambassadors of traditional Appalachian music and heritage.

The Jackson County Tourism Development (JCTDA) Awards Grants Totaling $15,600 to Area Businesses

This summer, the Jackson County Tourism Development Authority will award individual grants to area businesses to help fund events and activities planned for the 2015-16 calendar year. These events and activities, known for driving local tourism and supporting economic development in Jackson County, will support the county’s Play On branding and will showcase some of the best resources the county has to offer visitors.

“It is the desire of the JCTDA to assist with programs and projects that generate overnight guests and increase tourism, while enhancing the visitor’s experience in Jackson County,” said Robert Jumper, chairman of the Jackson County TDA. “This is the second year that we have conducted this grant program and it is an excellent example of how we provide support for the community, non-profit organizations, and area townships which conduct events to bring additional visitors from outside our area.”

The following proposals for grants were submitted by the Cashiers and Jackson County Chambers and have been awarded $1,200.00 each:

Webster Historic Tour, Ongoing
http://townofwebster.org/ Webster, NC

Annual Tuckasegee River Cleanup, April 18, 2015

Greening Up the Mountains Festival, April 25, 2015,
www.mainstreetsylva.org, 828-586-2719 Sylva, NC

Sapphire Valley Master Association Summer Fun, May thru September 2015 www.sapphirevalley.com, 828-743-7663, Sapphire, NC

3rd Annual GCAMA Blues Brews & BBQ Festival, May 23, 2015
www.visitcashiersvalley.com, Cashiers, NC

Annual Groovin’ on the Green Concert Series, June thru October 2015 (select Fridays)
www.visitcashiersvalley.com, 828-743-8428, Cashiers, NC

Annual Front Street Arts and Crafts Festival, June 20, 2015
www.visitdillsboro.org, 828-506-8331, Dillsboro, NC

The Village Green Plein Air Festival, July 2016
http://www.villagegreencashiersnc.com/calendar.php, Cashiers, NC

Sapphire Wildlife Days, July 17-18, 2015
http://www.mountainwildlifedays.com, Sapphire Valley, NC

Annual Colorfest, October 3, 2015
www.visitdillsboro.org – 828-586-5391, Dillsboro, NC
7th Annual GCAMA Cashiers Valley Leaf Festival, October 9-10, 2015
www.visitcashiersvalley.com, 828-743-8428, Cashiers, NC

Annual WNC Pottery Festival, November 7, 2015
www.wncpotteryfestival.com – 828-631-5100, Dillsboro, NC

Annual Dillsboro Lights and Luminaries – December 4 & 5, 11 & 12, 2015
www.visitdillsboro.org – 828-586-2155, Dillsboro NC

The Jackson County TDA was developed in January 2013 in an effort to create a strategic marketing plan to enhance the tourism industry in Jackson County. As the number one industry, tourism brings jobs and visitors to the county which has a significant impact on the county as a whole. The strong impact of travel and tourism has ranked Jackson County as 26 in travel impact among North Carolina’s 100 Counties.

Greening Up the Mountains Festival Grows to over 160 Booths

Eighteen years ago, three groups sat down and talked about collaborating to produce a new festival for downtown Sylva. Sylva Partners in Renewal was in the early stages of revitalizing downtown Sylva. Joyce Moore, then owner of City Lights Bookstore and president of Sylva Partners in Renewal, had invited Avram Friedman, who was producing an “Earth Day Celebration,” and the Ammons sisters of the nonprofit organization Catch the Spirit of Appalachia, producer of an October “Festival of Many Colors,” to the roundtable discussion. All present agreed to bring their energies to one new larger festival, and decided upon the last Saturday of April as the date. Joyce Moore is the one came up with the name, “Greening Up The Mountains.”
“For years I had watched the greening of the mountains,” she says, “with the leaves turning green at the lower elevation and then climbing on up. It is such a visual thing! And the best place to watch this changing of the seasons is in the mountains surrounding downtown Sylva. At the time, I had not heard this particular description before, so I thought it would bring together the theme of the festival and our celebration. It really pleases me to see how the festival has prospered…how it brings people into town who say ‘this is great, I’ll come back.’”
This year, the Town of Sylva and the Greening Up The Mountain Festival committee wished to acknowledge and honor Joyce Moore for selecting this very fitting name for a festival which has grown tremendously in celebration of the town and spring. On April 14, Paige Dowling, Town Manager of Sylva, presented Joyce with a Certificate of Appreciation.

Also, this year the Greening Up the Mountains Festival, scheduled for April 25 from 10am until 4pm, has broken all records by hosting a record-breaking160 booths representing arts, crafts, demonstrators, local schools, business, community, environmental, health, safety, kid’s activities, and so much more! The festival will provide fun and food, and opportunities for purchasing what your heart desires, not to mention receive a wealth of education.
On Main Street, near It’s By Nature, will be Razorfly Studios of Whittier who will have a special display of three cars—Time Machine from Back to the Future, the Jeep from Jurassic Park and the police cruiser from Blues Brothers. Razorfly Studios is an award winning custom costume, prototyping and prop house. Razorfly designs, creates and replicates iconic pieces from movies and TV, plus builds props for private collectors and production studios in Hollywood.

Starting the festival off at 9am at Mark Watson Park will be Jackson County Parks & Recreation’s 5K Run and Walk. $15 pre-registration will end April 21st. Register online at www.imathlete.com or stop by the Recreation Center in Cullowhee. Race day registration begins at 8:00am, cost will be $20.
Also at 9am will be a Cub-mobile Downhill Race, hosted by the Boy Scouts of America, Cataloochee District. The race will be at Schulman Street, in Sylva. Open to all registered Cub Scouts. Registration at 8am.
Music will begin at 9:30am with the Mountain Youth Talent Contest at the Signature Brew Stage in the Sun Trust Lot on Main Street.
9:30 a.m.-11:00 a.m. – Mountain Youth Talent Show
11:00 a.m.-11:30 a.m. –Jackson County JAM
11:30 a.m.-12:00 p.m. – Triple Threat Dance Troupe
12:00 p.m.-1:00 p.m. –Ian Moore & the Jackson County Roots Brigade
1:00 p.m.-1:05 p.m. – Lions Gate Kung Fu Academy
1:05 p.m.-2:00 p.m. – Rye Baby
2:00 p.m.-3:00 p.m. – Three Creeks Over
3:00 p.m.-4:00 p.m. – Through the Hills

One of the bands featured on the Signature Brew stage is Rye Baby. Based out of Chattanooga, Tennessee, this high energy folk/americana duo has been hard at work traveling and playing their brand of back-to-the-basics folk/roots/blues/country music all over the southeast since early 2014. Consciously taking elements from the aforementioned styles and creating something distinctly their own as-opposed-to rehashing a particular sound.

Featured on the Bridge Park Stage on Railroad Avenue will be:

10:00 a.m.-10:20 a.m. –Betty Collins Brown & Company
10:20 a.m.-10:30 a.m. – Lions Gate Kung Fu Academy
10:30 a.m.-11:00 a.m. – Encore Dance Troupe
11:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m. – Subluminous
12:00 p.m.-12:05 p.m. –Lions Gate Kung Fu Academy
12:05 p.m. – 1:00 p.m. – French Broads
1:00 p.m.-2:00 p.m. – Positive Mental Attitude (PMA)
2:00 p.m.-2:45 p.m. – Porch 40
3:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. – Darren and the Buttered Toast

The band Porch 40 from Cullowhee, NC, is featured on the Bridge Park Stage. With their “grab your attention and won’t let go” style, Porch 40’s high energy sets quickly whip crowds into a frenzy. Combine that with their unequaled instrumentation, which include an electric violin and saxophonist, the band brings crowds a rejuvenating sound they won’t find anywhere else.
Over thirty arts and crafts booths and displays will be on Railroad Avenue, plus a full Farmer’s Market. Be sure and visit the “Kid’s Zone” where the kids will enjoy an inflatable slide, a wooden spoon class, a candle-making workshop, balloons, arts & crafts workshop, a “Go Fish” tent, and much more! Law Enforcement of Jackson County will be out to meet the public, and share some shaved ice, the “DARE” car display, and more in the “Safety Zone.”

Indictment Charges Florida Man With Passport Fraud

Jose Salvador Lantigua, 62, of Jacksonville, Florida, has been charged with passport fraud and aggravated identity theft, announced Jill Westmoreland Rose, Acting U.S. Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina. His wife, Daphne Sylvia Simpson, 57, of Sapphire, N.C., has also been charged with one count of making false statements to a federal agent in connection with the case.

Scott Moretti, Special Agent in Charge of the Washington Field Office, U.S. Department of State, Diplomatic Security Service; B.W. Collier, Acting Director of the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation (NC SBI); Steven M. Watkins, Director of the North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles License and Theft Bureau (NC DMV L&T); Sheriff Chip Hall of the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office; and Chief Phil Harris, of the Brevard Police Department join Acting U.S. Attorney Rose in making todays’ announcement.

According to allegations contained in the federal indictment, on or about November 18, 2014, Lantigua lied on his application for a U.S. passport, falsely representing that his name was “Ernest Allen Wills.” According to court records, to support his passport application, Lantigua allegedly provided a birth certificate in the name “Ernest Allen Wills,” and, as proof of identity, Lantigua allegedly used a fraudulently-obtained North Carolina license issued in the victim’s name but bearing Lantigua’s photo. Court records show that Lantigua is the subject of an ongoing investigation in Florida, for allegedly faking his own death to fraudulently obtain life insurance money. The indictment charges Lantigua with one count of knowingly making a false statement on a passport and one count of aggravated identity theft. Law enforcement arrested Lantigua in Brevard, N.C., on March 21, 2015, and he remains in federal custody.

Lantigua’s wife, Daphne Simpson, has also been charged with one count of making a false statement to law enforcement. According to allegations contained in the indictment, Simpson lied when she told a special agent that the man who was with her at the time was “Ernest Wills” who was her “friend,” when Simpson knew that the man was actually her husband, Lantigua. Simpson was arrested in Florida on March 21, 2015, by the Florida Division of Insurance Fraud and currently remains in state custody. Simpson is facing insurance fraud and related state charges for filing fraudulent insurance claims and receiving a $500,000 payout from one of Lantigua’s life insurance policies. The federal court in Asheville will schedule Simpson’s initial appearance on the federal charges in the coming days.

If convicted of the offenses, Lantigua faces a maximum of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for the passport fraud charge. The aggravated identity theft charge carries a minimum mandatory sentence of two years to be served consecutively with any other sentence imposed. Simpson faces a maximum of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine for the false statement charge.

The charges contained in the indictment are allegations. The defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

The investigation is being handled by the U.S. Department of State’s Diplomatic Security Service, assisted by NC-SBI, NCDMV&T, Jackson Co. Sheriff’s Office and Brevard PD.Assistant U.S. Attorney Don Gast, of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Asheville, is prosecuting the case.


Harris Regional Hospital and Swain County Hospital today announced that the hospitals’ identities will change. They are now Harris Regional Hospital, a Duke LifePoint Hospital, and Swain Community Hospital, a Duke LifePoint Hospital.

Harris Regional Hospital has been a fixture in Sylva and surrounding communities since 1925. Swain Community Hospital has been caring for people in Bryson City and the surrounding areas since 1950. Their new names honor the hospitals’ legacies in the region and highlight their connection to Duke LifePoint Healthcare, which acquired both facilities in August 2014.

“I am excited to officially unveil our new brands and share our exciting plans for growth with the communities we serve,” said Bunny Johns, Chair of the Harris Regional and Swain Community Board of Trustees. “Our new names distinguish us as Duke LifePoint hospitals and provide an opportunity to share our vision for the future. In partnership with Duke LifePoint, we have exciting plans to strengthen local healthcare delivery for the future and make our communities healthier.”

Duke LifePoint has committed to investing $43 million in capital improvements at Harris Regional and Swain Community Hospitals over the next eight years. These investments will enhance services and help the hospitals grow. Since joining Duke LifePoint in August, investments have already been made involving new equipment, technology, and support to improve patient care and enable the expansion of services. This has included new ultrasound machines, new computers and laptops, new flooring in operating rooms, new arthroscopic equipment for sports medicine and orthopedic procedures, and support for physician recruitment, strategic planning and marketing.

In the coming months, Harris Regional and Swain Community Hospitals have many new projects on the horizon, including the construction of a new Emergency Department at Harris, completing the New Generations Family Birthing Center at Harris, and restoring operating room capabilities at Swain Community Hospital.

“Harris Regional Hospital and Swain Community Hospital have been integral to the health and wellness of this region for many years,” said Steve Heatherly, President and CEO at Harris Regional and Swain Community Hospitals. “As Duke LifePoint hospitals, we already have been able to enhance the care we deliver and strengthen our hospitals’ abilities to work together and positively impact the community. Our partnership is bringing unparalleled expertise in clinical excellence and quality care to this region, which is why we have developed the tagline ‘Together making communities healthier.’”

As a part of their new identity, Harris Regional and Swain Community Hospitals have unveiled new logos that highlight the partnership with Duke LifePoint. These will be featured on new hospital signage as well as on refreshed websites. The hospitals also will begin a new awareness campaign that highlights their deep roots in the community and their commitment to making communities healthier together.

Additionally, Harris’ Franklin campus, formerly the WestCare Medical Park of Franklin, will now be called Harris Regional Hospital Medical Park of Franklin. The facilities also have launched a new Physician Referral Line to ensure that patients have easy, convenient access to care throughout the region: 1-844-414-DOCS.

The name changes were made official on April 1, 2015.


Drinking too much alcohol increases people’s risk of injuries, violence, drowning, liver disease, and some types of cancer. This April, during Alcohol Awareness Month, the Jackson County Department of Public Health (JCDPH) encourages you to educate yourself and your loved ones about the dangers of drinking too much and drinking underage.

According to the NC State Center of Health Statistics, more traffic crashes are alcohol-related in Jackson County than in Western North Carolina or North Carolina—29% more than Western North Carolina and 42% more than in North Carolina. To spread the word and prevent alcohol abuse, JCDPH is joining other organizations across the county to honor Alcohol Awareness Month.

If you are drinking too much, you can improve your health by cutting back or quitting. Here are some strategies to help you cut back or stop drinking:
· Limit your drinking to no more than one drink a day for women or two drinks a day for men.
· Keep track of how much you drink.
· Choose a day each week when you will not drink.
· Don’t drink when you are upset.
· Avoid places where people drink a lot.
· Make a list of reasons not to drink.

If you are concerned with underage drinking, a new tool is available. Talk it Out NC is a statewide initiative launched by the ABC Commission to fight back against underage drinking by starting the conversation between parents and youth. Statewide, underage drinking is not only a financial burden to the state, but also results in lives lost, crimes committed, and hundreds of teen pregnancies. This initiative reports that the average age that children in North Carolina take their first drink is 13.9 years and more teens will die as a result of alcohol use than all other illicit drugs combined. Further, in 2009, underage drinking led to 60 murders, 26,800 violent crimes, and 67,400 property crimes. Finally, alcohol use by teens is one of the strongest predictors of teen injury, fighting, academic problems, truancy, unprotected sex, unwanted sexual advanced, illegal activity, and other illicit drug use. These statistics, while alarming, only scratch the surface of the physical, social, and emotional damage that can weigh down teens for the rest of their lives.

For more information on Talk It Out NC, visit the initiative’s website at http://www.talkitoutnc.org/.

SBI Investigation Results in Four Arrests From October Underage Drinking Party in Jackson County

Four people, including a former Jackson County deputy and a jail nurse, were arrested by the State Bureau of Investigation Tuesday in connection with alleged rapes and underage drinking during a Halloween party at a Sylva business in October, 2014.

Michelle Watson Dillard, 40, and James Wesley Henry, 39, both of Sylva, were each indicted Monday by a Jackson County grand jury on one count of obstruction of justice in relation to the alleged incidents.

Dillard was a jail nurse and Henry was a K-9 officer for the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office at the time of this party held at Dillard’s husband’s business, Dillard Excavation.

Dillard and Henry surrendered themselves to SBI agents at the county jail where they were processed. They both appeared before Superior Court Judge Marvin Pope who set their bonds at $10,000 each, though their attorneys argued for unsecured bonds. No court dates have been set for them.

Austin Trent Davis, 19, and Cody Jacob Scott Jenkins, 24, were also indicted by the grand jury yesterday for one count each of felony statutory sex offenses. Their bonds will be set later today and their court date is April 15.

Sheriff Jimmy Ashe requested the assistance of the state Alcohol Law Enforcement Branch to investigate the initial reports of underage drinking received by his department and then later requested the SBI investigate after learning that employees from his department may be involved. The sheriff’s office cooperated fully in this investigation.

Wintry Mix Hits the Region

Snow and Ice hit the region on Monday leaving some without electricity. Photo by Heather L Hyatt

Snow and Ice hit the region on Monday leaving some without electricity. Photo by Heather L Hyatt

As grey skies turned to snow, snow turned to sleet, and sleet turned to ice pellets across the region Monday, area residents stocked up on groceries and essential supplies for the storm.

A layer of ice began to build up on the streets by mid-day Monday, leaving both pedestrians and drivers skidding along the sidewalks and streets.

The State Highway Patrol investigated more than 1,000 accidents since midnight Monday across the state. 31 wrecks were reported in Jackson County on Monday.

According to Duke Energy, power outages were reported across the region:

HAYWOOD – 394 without power
JACKSON – 53 without power
MACON – 531 without power
SWAIN – 79 without power

North Carolina Emergency Services estimated customers without power at noon today: 52,000; down from 63,000 at 10 am. Majority in eastern part of NC.

On Wednesday,temperatures are predicted to drop to single and negative digits. There will be a chance of snow showers throughout the day on Wednesday.

Jackson Neighbors in Need has successful fundraiser

Jackson Neighbors in Need (JNIN) raised more than $8,700 at the second annual Charlie’s Challenge fundraiser on Saturday, January 31.

More than 200 people gathered in the Sylva First Baptist Mission Hall for the event to remember JNIN Founder Charlie McConnell and raise money for the organization’s heating assistance program, an emergency shelter, and weatherization services. All money raised came from generous donations from local residents, community organizations and businesses from the surrounding area.

Jackson Neighbors in Need’s heating assistance program works to ensure that area residents are able to afford heating their homes during the winter. Over the past several years, prices for electricity, fuel oil, and natural gas have risen sharply. At the same time, unemployment has risen and government assistance has fallen. The heating assistance program provides up to $400 worth of assistance per household, per cold weather season.

The organization’s weatherization program is another way local residents in need can get help with heating costs. Weatherization assistance includes minor improvements like installing insulating film to windows, to major projects like replacing rotten floor joists and repairing failing ceilings.

Jackson Neighbors in Need also operates an emergency shelter each year from November 1 – March 31.

NC Schools: Are they making the grade?

All public schools in North Carolina got letter grades from A-F from the State Board of Education Thursday.

Eighty percent of the grades are based on how students performed on standardized tests. Twenty percent of the grades are tied to how much academic growth students showed while enrolled at the school.
About 29 percent of schools got a “D” or “F”. All schools assigned those grades must send a letter to parents informing them.

The statistics show traditional public schools both fail less and shine less than public charter schools. They also show that schools where a majority of students fall below the poverty line overwhelmingly got Ds and Fs.

State education officials said another way to look at the numbers is over two-thirds of schools got a C or better.
On Average Jackson County schools saw a C average with a few exceptions. Jackson Early College received an A while Mountain Discovery saw a B grade.

— Blue Ridge Early College: D.
— Cullowhee Valley School: C.
— Fairview Elementary: C.
— Blue Ridge School: D.
— Scotts Creek Elementary: C.
— Smokey Mountain Elementary: D.
— Smoky Mountain High: C.
— Summit: C

Sheriff’s Office Seeks Help Locating Suspects

Recently the Sheriff’s Office requested assistance from the public in regards to several breaking and enterings and larcenies in the Qualla/Whittier communities of Jackson County. The Sheriff’s Office has obtained arrest warrants for suspects in some of these break ins. Tara Renee Pheasant, aka Tara McCoy, DOB 08/24/1976, and Frank Joseph McCoy, DOB 08/27/1993, have not been located at the time of this release, but the Sheriff’s office is asking for anyone with information about the suspect’s whereabouts to contact our crime stoppers at 828-631-1125 or crimestoppers@jacksonnc.org Frank is the son of Tara Pheasant and both have been charged in Haywood County on similar charges and are out on bond.

Developer sought for medical office building project at WCU

The Board of Trustees of the Endowment Fund of Western Carolina University has issued a request for qualifications for a project to develop a medical office building to be constructed near the university’s Health and Human Sciences Building.

The building will be the first privately developed structure to be built on WCU’s 344-acre West Campus as part of the university’s Millennial Initiative.

Expected to encompass at least 30,000 square feet of space, the building will become home to a mix of office space for health care professionals, along with space for health-related businesses, said Tony Johnson, executive director for the Millennial Initiative.

“We envision this building as a hub of collaboration, where WCU faculty and students will work alongside health care professionals,” Johnson said. “The health care practitioners who locate there will help meet the medical needs of the people of the region, and simultaneously will provide hands-on learning experiences for our students and opportunities for professional practice and research for our faculty.”

The request for qualifications is the initial step in the process of selecting a full-service developer to design, finance, construct and manage a medical office building or similar specialty medical center. Selection of the developer is expected to take place in June, with construction to begin as early as January 2016 and occupancy of the building in early 2017.

The medical office building is anticipated to be the first of five phases of building projects designed to complement the Health and Human Sciences Building as part of the long-range planning for the development of the West Campus, Johnson said.

The area around the HHS Building is expected to become the hub of a health sciences cluster, which will expand collaborative opportunities with partners such as private clinics, medical device companies and other health-related businesses. The partnerships will be intended to enhance hands-on student learning, foster collaborative research and promote development of scientific and technological innovations with potential commercial applications, and provide needed services to the community.

Completion of the medical office building will represent an additional collaboration between WCU and private health care partners. Last September, WestCare Health launched a new full-time primary care clinic in the HHS Building. The clinic occupies 2,000 square feet within the 160,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art facility.

In December 2013, WestCare opened a rehabilitation and sports medicine clinic in the building, joining Carolina West Sports Medicine, which provides care to the community and collaborates clinically with WCU rehabilitation and sports medicine faculty, staff and students.

Opened in the fall of 2012, the Health and Human Sciences Building is the first facility built on 344 acres across N.C. Highway 107 from the main campus that were acquired by WCU in 2005 as part of the Millennial Initiative. A comprehensive regional economic development strategy, the Millennial Initiative promotes university collaboration with private industry and government partners to enhance hands-on student learning and collaborative research.

The medical office building project is made possible because the WCU Board of Trustees in December 2013 endorsed a proposal to lease the “millennial campus” tract to the university’s Endowment Fund, a move designed to enable WCU to respond rapidly and nimbly to potential public-private economic development opportunities.

The lease proposal was subsequently approved by the University of North Carolina Board of Governors, the governor and the Council of State. It enables WCU to follow a strategic economic development model similar to what is in use at other UNC institutions, including N.C. State University for its Centennial Campus and UNC Charlotte for its Charlotte Research Initiative, where institutional endowment funds already owned tracts prior to their designation as “millennial campuses.”

For more information about the Millennial Initiative, contact Tony Johnson at 828-227-2596 or tonyjohnson@wcu.edu.

Developers interested in the medical office building project can find the request for qualifications online at www.wcu.edu/WebFiles/PDFs/RFQMOBFINAL11215.pdf.

2015 WNC Beer Guide Now Available

The winter/spring release of the WNC Beer Guide has hit the shelves around Western North Carolina.

The WNC Craft Beer Guide is the original “go to” guide for locals and tourists looking to visit the breweries in Asheville and the surrounding areas. It includes maps to the brewery locations, as well as pubs that carry local beer, beer tours, and beer retailers. The guide is an informative resource for those seeking to get a “taste” of Beer City.

The WNC Beer guide is a printed and online resource for visiting beer lovers and Western North Carolina residents. View the online version at http://wncbeer.com.

WNCBeer.com is a resource for reviews, directions, and upcoming events. The beer-curious can search by area, by brewery, by event, or by type of beer and download the beer guide app.

50,000 guidebooks are distributed bi-annually and are available for free at area chambers, hotels, retailers, restaurants and pubs in Asheville, Hendersonville, Black Mountain, Waynesville and Bryson City. For information, call Jami Daniels at 277-8250.

Heating Assistance Available

As winter weather makes headlines nationally, N.C. DHHS wants to remind North Carolinians about the Low Income Energy Assistance Program (LIEAP). Applications are still being accepted through March 2015 or until funding is exhausted.

LIEAP is a federally-funded program administered in North Carolina through the Department of Health and Human Services. It provides almost $51 million toward helping eligible households pay their heating bills.

Since Dec. 1, the Low Income Energy Assistance Program has provided approximately $24 million to help more than 80,000 households pay their heating bills and stay warm this winter.

“LIEAP is truly a life-saver for many vulnerable North Carolinians,” said David Locklear, Acting Chief for Economic and Family Services for N.C. DHHS’ Division of Social Services. “Energy assistance is critical for homes with someone at risk for a life-threatening illness or death in the cold winter months.”

Nearly half of the households receiving assistance include an occupant aged 60 and above. Others include at least one disabled person (receiving SSI, SSA or VA disability) who receives services through N.C. DHHS’ Division of Aging and Adult Services (DAAS).

To be eligible, households must meet income requirements, have reserves at or below $2,250 and be responsible for paying its own heating bills.

Sheriff’s Office Seeks Assistance in Identifying Male

10942460_868184906565760_8306161362118663428_nThe Jackson County Sheriff’s Office is seeking assistance in identifying a male subject who was involved in passing stolen checks at both the Sylva and Cullowhee State Employee’s Credit Unions on Jan. 14. The subject was driving a black newer model car, seen in the photos. The male was accompanied by an unknown female subject in the passenger seat. Anyone with any information is encouraged to contact Crime Stoppers at 828-631-1125 or crimestoppers@jacksonnc.org

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