Header

Archive for Local News

Prevent Child Abuse North Carolina recognizes Child Abuse Prevention Month

North Carolina’s future prosperity relies on the healthy growth and development of all children. During April, National Child Abuse Prevention Month, Prevent Child Abuse North Carolina (PCANC) encourages all North Carolina citizens to come together to celebrate community efforts to ensure all children have great childhoods. When children have safe, stable, nurturing relationships with their parents and other adults in their community it builds healthy brain architecture, forming a sturdy foundation for future success.

Adverse childhood experiences such as child abuse and neglect result in toxic stress that damages the developing brain architecture. If left unaddressed, this leads to increased risk of academic failure, chronic long-term health issues, and increased crime rates and violence. One of the most effective ways to prevent these long-term consequences is to ensure children grow up in nurturing, supportive homes and communities. PCANC accomplishes this by raising awareness for effective child abuse prevention efforts, supporting local family support and parenting education programs in all 100 North Carolina counties, providing training and education opportunities for professionals and the public, and advocating for policies that benefit children and families.

“We invite every adult in our community to play an active role in the lives of the children and families they know,” said Bud Lavery, PCANC president and CEO. “By working together we can prevent child abuse and neglect and help all children grow up healthy and ready to make a positive impact on the future of our state.”

Jackson County students win Youth Art Month awards at WCU

More than 60 Jackson County school students received awards for work exhibited at Western Carolina University during Youth Art Month.

The winners were chosen by a panel of judges that included WCU art education students and staff members of the John W. Bardo Fine and Performing Arts Center. Their art was among more than 300 student works selected by local art teachers for the display at the Bardo Center in March.

Several hundred people attended a reception held Sunday, March 22, to honor all of the young artists. The works ranged from painting, drawing, sculpture and ceramics to basketry, printmaking and other visual arts. The exhibit ended Monday, March 23.

Youth Art Month is a national observance and WCU has hosted the exhibit for more than 30 years to celebrate and encourage school art programs.

“The Youth Art Month exhibit at WCU remains as the largest exhibition of children’s art in and from Jackson County,” said Erin Tapley, associate professor of art education who serves as the event coordinator. “It’s always great to watch the children get excited when they’ve found their piece and point it out to their proud families.”

The exhibit sponsors include Jack the Dipper Ice Cream of Sylva, Claymates Pottery of Dillsboro, Jackson County Arts Council, North Carolina Arts Council and WCU’s School of Art and Design, Art Education Club, College of Fine and Performing Arts, Bardo Center, Fine Art Museum and College of Education and Allied Professions.

Participating schools and the winners are:

Blue Ridge School – First place, Brittany Kinsey (grade seven); second place, Cazmarine Jones (grade nine); Teacher’s Choice Award, Jeffrey Burnette (grade 12); honorable mention, Cheyenne Bryson (grade 10).

Cherokee Elementary School – First place, Patricia Armachain (grade five); second place, Kamia Wiggins (grade four); Teacher’s Choice Award, Logan Biddix (grade one); honorable mentions, Hilarie Howell (grade two), Tyruss Thompson (grade two), Ahanu de los Reyes (grade two), Lilliann Bigmeat (grade three).

Cullowhee Valley School – First place, Alex Noltensmeyer (grade three); second place, Enoc Alvarado (grade two); Teacher’s Choice Award, Aliya Mayton (grade seven); Claymates Award, Carter Pastoris (grade six); honorable mentions, Serenity Shook (kindergarten), Kyle Shanklin (grade seven), Sarah Grider (grade seven), D.J. Drakeford (grade eight), Sierra Galayadick (grade eight).

Fairview School – First place, Tashi Hacskaylo (grade five); second place, Ty Howard (grade one); Teacher’s Choice Award, Cheyenne Clayton (grade eight); honorable mentions, Isabel Townsend (grade two), Coco Wells (grade three), Cole Stillwell (grade four), Brenan Martin (grade five), Jeff Stillwell (grade eight).

Jackson County School of Alternatives – First place, Solomon Elam (grade eight); second place, Kenneth Maney (grade 11); Teacher’s Choice Award, Lakota Russell (grade two); honorable mentions, Kim Pannell (grade nine), Tyler Fisher (grade 11).

Scott’s Creek School – First place, Chloe Ledford (grade four); second place, Landon Maloy (grade three); Teacher’s Choice Award, Bethany Cartwright (kindergarten); honorable mentions, Kason Powell (kindergarten), Devlin Bright (grade one), Iriss B. Connoly (grade two), Cadence Medford (grade two), Ryland McCoy (grade three), Georgie Schweinler (grade five), Oswaldo M. Salano (grade six).

Smokey Mountain Elementary School – First place, Laura Alich (grade four); second place, David Chiltowski (grade eight); Teacher’s Choice Award, Abby Branning (grade two); honorable mentions, Amarni Wachacha (grade one), Mason Napier (grade two), Teyha Price (grade six), Corbin Moore (grade seven), Hailey Carter (grade eight), Lucy Miller (grade eight).

Smoky Mountain High School – First place, Heather Mangus (grade 10); second place and WCU School of Art and Design Director’s award, Morgan Carpenter (grade 10); Teacher’s Choice Award, Emily Miller (grade 10); honorable mentions, Morgan Carpenter (grade 10), Amelia Ray (grade 10), Kendall Rhymer (grade 11), Casey Owen (grade 12), Emily Miller (grade 12), Allie Smith (grade 12).

Summit Charter School – First place, Megan Reihmeier (grade six); second place, Chase Coggins (grade eight); Teacher’s Choice Award, Ava Grace Kapdohr (kindergarten); honorable mentions, Benjamin Ball (grade two), Lalo Tepepa (grade three), Braden Collins (grade six), Leah Grace Craig (grade eight).

Study Shows Dangers of Teen Driving Distractions

A study conducted by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety simulated with dash cams what happens when a teen is distracted behind the wheel.

AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety hopes the study will shed light on the magnitude of the dangers in teen driving.

New statistics show the majority, 6 out of 10, of teens who crash were distracted. Those distractions don’t only include texting while driving but also talking to passengers and adjusting the radio.

Those numbers are more than four times the rate that officials previously estimated based on police accident reports.

People with the study, traffic safety groups, and Johnson all hope these shocking numbers are a wake up call for all teens behind the wheel and their parents.

44 states, including North Carolina and D.C., ban texting for all drivers. Now, people want tougher laws on teen driver cell phone use.

Monica Lewinsky and the Scourge of Adult Cyberbullying

A growing awareness of adult cyberbullying was underscored last Friday when Monica Lewinsky adressed it in a TED Talk. Cyberbullying can happen to people of any age, according to author Blair London, who heard some of her adult friends share stories of their experiences on social media.

After researching, she realized they were not alone. She says the “distance” provided by online communication can sometimes make people more cruel than in “real life.” “So, you get the friend of a friend of a friend, who doesn’t really care who this original person is, and so they don’t care if any harm comes to them.”

London recently published “Lure to Death,” a novel that centers on the issue of adult cyberbullying. Former White House intern Monica Lewinsky spoke publicly at a TED Talk in Vancouver last Friday on her experience with bullies who sent cruel messages to her via social media. According to no-bullying-dot-com, cyberbullying or “trolling” can play out with harassment, impersonation, or sharing someone’s secrets online.

In her speech, Lewinsky offered others encouragement as they struggle with cruelty online, “Anyone who is suffering from shame and public humiliation needs to know one thing. You can survive it. I know it’s hard. It may not be painless, quick or easy, but you can insist on a different ending to your story.”

London says while adult cyberbullying may be a growing problem, online cruelty between young people is nothing new. She says it often starts as “tweens” “friend” people for the sake of quantity and not quality, “Young people, I think that they collect friends. They go on the Internet at that young of an age and put things out there and they think nothing of it. They think they’ve got a friend out there.” North Carolina law prohibits anyone from using a computer or computer network to intimidate or torment a minor. The state also makes it a crime to “intimidate or torment” teachers online.

North Carolina Taxpayers Report Leaner State Returns in 2015

If you’re among the North Carolinians who already have filed your taxes, you may have noticed your state tax burden is a little greater this year. Greg Elder, a Spruce Pine tax preparer for H & R Block, says the state’s decision to eliminate tax credits like the earned-income tax credit from the tax system is impacting the budgets of his clients, “Most people, it boils down to a smaller North Carolina refund than they’ve received in the past. So if you’re making a plan prior to getting your taxes done that you’re going to use your North Carolina refund, don’t go buy that refrigerator just yet.”

The new system eliminated the tiered income-tax rates that were tied to income levels, setting the tax rate at 5.8% for 2014 and 5.75% for this year. The tax changes are a result of a tax overhaul passed in 2013 and put into effect for the 2014 tax year.

Alexandra Sirota, director of the NC Budget & Tax Center, says while her organization doesn’t take issue with the necessity of taxes, her analysis indicates the new tax model disproportionately impacts the working class, “The key thing about a tax system is it absolutely has to be adequate to meet the core public-service commitments that we need to be making as a state, but the way in which we raise revenue is really critical. ”

Sirota says taxpayers making less than $67,000 a year, about 80% of the state, will see their taxes increase under the tax plan. Even with that, the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy estimates state tax revenue will be down by about one-billion by the end of this year because of an overall reduction in corporate taxes.

Elder says while a tax refund is never a guarantee, the abrupt change in the state tax system is leaving many of his clients without a much needed boost this spring, “People do count on that money. It’s been similar for years and years and years, and so they had no reason to think that it wouldn’t be for tax year 2014.”

In addition to the EITC, deductions for medical expenses, retirement income, child care expenses and college 529 plans also were eliminated.

Law enforcement involved shooting in Transylvania County

The SBI is the lead investigating agency in a fatal shooting of a suspect in
Transylvania County near Brevard this evening.

The investigation is in its very early stages, but the SBI can confirm that
Transylvania County Sheriff’s Office deputies, Alcohol Law Enforcement and a
federal agent were serving warrants when a suspect was fatally shot. More
information on the law enforcement involved and the person shot will be
shared as promptly as possible.

Information from the Sheriff’s department has not been release whether it was a deputies or another agency’s officers who pulled the trigger.

Public Comment on Murphy Branch Rail Line

The N.C. Department of Transportation (Rail Division) will hold a public meeting to review results of the recent study of reactivating the Murphy Branch rail line between Andrews and Murphy (A2M- Rail Reactivation Study). The meeting will be held on March 11 from 1-2:30 p.m. at the Enloe Building on the campus of Tri-County Community College in Murphy.

In November 2014 NCDOT completed the Draft A2M Rail Reactivation Study which evaluated the market and investment viability of returning rail service to the Murphy Branch rail line.

NCDOT representatives, consultants and public officials will be available during the open-house style meeting to provide information, answer questions and collect comments regarding the study and the project in general. Citizens are welcome to attend at any time during the meeting hours. There will not be a formal presentation.

NCDOT purchased the 14 mile long Murphy Branch between Murphy and Andrews in 1988 from Norfolk Southern Railroad. The Great Smoky Mountains Railroad (GSMR) purchased the segment between Andrews and Dillsboro in 1996, and operates tourist excursions and some freight interchanges in Sylva.

With construction on a new casino resort in Murphy, this expansion could offer direct rail service from the Andrews Aiport.

Match Made in Heaven? NC Researcher Finds Social Class Impacts Relationships

Your compatibility with your partner may come down to dollars and cents, according to the research of a Duke University professor.

Sociologist Jessi Streib studied couples where each partner grew up in a different socio-economic class and found that even if you “marry up”, your upbringing still impacts decisions and behaviors, “People from different class backgrounds often had different ideas of how they wanted to live their daily lives, and this would would shape everything from how they would express emotions to how they wanted to spend their money. ”
Tag: Among her other findings is one that runs contrary to the notion held by many scholars that “strivers” can outrun a difficult childhood by getting a college degree and good paying middle-class job.

A person’s approach to raising children is also impacted by their economic upbringing. Streib says those who grew up in a financially depressed family choose to let their children have more control over their time, while people who grew up in the middle class tend to plan and make decisions for their children, “They wanted to organize and oversee and make sure things were going according to a plan and their partners who grew up with less privilege often had to kind of navigate unstable situations and so they wanted to approach things in a more spontaneous way. ”

Streib adds that the obstacles presented by a socio-economic “mismatch” can be overcome, provided the couple is mindful of their differences.

New regional care center will provide mental health, addiction treatment

A Buncombe County community partnership has succeeded in securing just under $2 million in grant funding from the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services to open a new 24-hour urgent care center and crisis facility for mental health and addiction treatment in Asheville.

The funding was awarded through the department’s Crisis Solutions Initiative, a statewide effort to improve mental health and substance use crisis services. Smoky Mountain LME/MCO (Smoky), which manages public funds for behavioral health and developmental disability services in western North Carolina, led a collaborative effort involving 22 area organizations to develop the new center.

The regional comprehensive care center is set to open later this year adjacent to Mission Hospital at 356 Biltmore Ave., Asheville, a facility currently occupied by Smoky. Smoky is relocating this spring to south Asheville.

Buncombe County owns the facility and has dedicated it for behavioral health functions. Mission Health and the county are partnering to provide a financial commitment for renovations, and Buncombe County Health and Human Services will provide in-kind operational support of $500,000 annually, which includes the cost of space, utilities and a 24-hour-a-day, on-site law enforcement officer.

“This comprehensive care center will operate under a philosophy that recovery from addiction or mental illness is not only possible, it happens,” said Smoky CEO Brian Ingraham. “Staff will offer crisis resolution, support, safety and real options for recovery. The co-location of multiple services at one site reflects a vision of community partners to provide ‘whole person’ care to people in need of medical, clinical and pharmacy services.”

In recent years, Buncombe and surrounding counties have seen unprecedented demand for behavioral health crisis services, stretching local hospital capacity. Many people in crisis feel they have no option except to visit an emergency department, which is not an ideal setting for this type of care to be delivered.

The center will serve both children and adults from Buncombe and surrounding counties and operate 16 beds for people in crisis and who need a secure place to stay while they receive therapy and medication.

The center will offer urgent behavioral healthcare and detox services, mobile crisis care, same-day assessments, outpatient therapy and intensive outpatient treatment for substance use. It will also house community and peer support and treatment teams. The center will also include a community pharmacy.

The center’s multi-disciplinary staff will include physicians, licensed clinicians, registered nurses, qualified professionals and security staff.

Certified peer support specialists will work with individuals receiving care at the center to offer hope and support, build trusting relationships and connect people to aftercare and community resources.

The local chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) will offer on-site family support services.

RHA Health Services, Inc., a local service provider, will operate the facility, and the Asheville-Buncombe Community Christian Ministry will provide pharmacy services. The Asheville Police Department and Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office will provide security, transportation and custody services for individuals under an involuntary commitment order.

One of the most exciting aspects of the development of the regional center is the ability to repurpose the Neil Dobbins Center across the street. Currently, the Neil Dobbins Center is an adult crisis stabilization and detox facility. As these programs move to the new regional comprehensive care center, the Neil Dobbins Center will be used as a facility-based crisis center for children and youth.

The DHHS Crisis Solutions Initiative aims to ensure that people experiencing an acute mental health or substance use crisis receive timely, specialized psychiatric treatment in coordination with available, appropriate community resources.

Each year, there are an estimated 150,000 visits to emergency departments in North Carolina related to an acute psychiatric or addictive disorder crisis, and 13 percent of individuals with a mental health crisis treated in an emergency department will return within 30 days, according to DHHS.

A Jump Start for New North Carolina Farmers

As the interest in locally produced foods grows, an increasing number of young people are looking to make a living farming the land.

Allison Kiehl with the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy says there is a great need in North Carolina to have a successful flow of farmers producing local foods. But she says there are many challenges including the high price of land, which often is prime for development, “Agriculture is one of the biggest economic producers in our state, and farmers are aging and in a lot of cases they don’t have children that want to take over the farm, and sometimes the best option is to sell to development.”

The conservancy’s Farmer Incubator Program is initiating new agricultural businesses in North Carolina by offering new farmers access to land and equipment at reduced rates. Kiehl says farmers in the program also are given support, training and tools to help them run their businesses.
Second Cut: Land outside of Asheville protected by a conservation easement by the conservancy is also helping young farmers.

Gaining Ground Farm is leasing the land, and owner Anne Grier says they’ve doubled their production and expanded their Community Supported Agriculture Program. She says it provides stability because they can plan out what and how much they need to grow for the year, “The people pay ideally between now and March for produce that they’ll be getting from May until October, so it just helps us know what to grow in what volume, so it’s just a very secure thing. ”

The incubator program has allowed Matt Coffay of Second Spring Market Garden in Asheville to expand their CSA year round. He says they have more greenhouses for use, which has increased their winter food production. And aside from providing fresh, local food, he says the CSA is building community, “CSA is the pinnacle of story building with food. You’re able to actually build a relationship between an individual member of a CSA and an individual farmer, and that relationship can last for years.”

The incubator program was launched last year, and applications are accepted on a rolling basis.

Appalachian Trail remeasured, total is 2,189 miles

Re-measurements and relocations of the Appalachian Trail (A.T.) have brought the total mileage of the footpath to 2,189.2 miles, an increase of 3.9 miles from last year’s mileage of 2,185.3. This mileage is carefully documented in the trail’s official guidebooks, which include the Appalachian Trail Data Book and the Appalachian Trail Thru-Hikers’ Companion. Both books are published by the Appalachian Trail Conservancy.

Every year, the latest mileage and shelter information is updated from volunteers who are constantly improving the Trail, with volunteer Daniel D. Chazin of Teaneck, New Jersey, leading the efforts since 1983. This year, more than half of the changes in the mileage are in southwest Virginia, with 2 miles added to the total following a re-measurement by volunteers.

Increases were also reported in New York-New Jersey (0.1 mile); central Virginia (0.1 mile); Tennessee-North Carolina (1.5 miles); and North Carolina-Georgia (0.2 mile).

“The Appalachian Trail Conservancy’s guidebooks are invaluable planning resources for any Appalachian Trail hiker, whether they are out for a day hike or hiking the entire length from Maine to Georgia,” said Laurie Potteiger, information services manager for the ATC. “These guides contain the latest information from volunteers who measure, maintain and manage the Trail and those who hike it regularly.”

Current editions of official A.T. guidebooks and maps are available from the Ultimate A.T. Store at www.atctrailstore.org or by calling 1.888.287.8673.

Volunteers donate more than 200,000 hours to maintain AT

The Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) is pleased to announce that for fiscal year 2014, 5,617 volunteers reported 241,936 hours to maintaining and protecting the Appalachian Trail (A.T.) for hikers to use. Since the ATC began collecting reports in 1983, individuals have contributed more than 5 million hours to the A.T., resulting in a volunteer network that is recognized worldwide.

The number of hours reported, which is the second highest since 1983, reveals a loyal commitment to the trail despite a government shutdown in October 2013 that resulted in volunteers being unable to work on National Park Service or U.S. Forest Service lands. Despite this sequestration, volunteers donated time equivalent to what is completed by 116 full-time workers and contributed to a wide variety of projects, including maintaining the A.T. corridor, monitoring and removing invasive species, supporting teachers in the Trail to Every Classroom (TTEC) program and assisting A.T. Communities near the Trail.

ATC volunteers represent 31 A.T. Maintaining Clubs and Trail Crews; Visitor Center and regional office volunteers; and participants in additional ATC programs, such as TTEC and the Appalachian Trail Community program. Though trail maintainers are perhaps the most visible, volunteers also participate in many other activities, from community outreach to local, regional and trail-wide management efforts.

“The Appalachian Trail Conservancy exists because of the generosity, talents and support of our volunteers – they are the very soul of the Appalachian Trail,” said Ron Tipton, executive director of the ATC. “The impressive number of volunteer hours reported for fiscal year 2014 illustrates a continued dedication to the preservation and management of the trail.”

For more information about volunteer opportunities, visit www.appalachiantrail.org/volunteer.

Register now for Appalachian Farm School

Registration is now open for the 2015 Appalachian Farm School, a pilot program to centralize agricultural business training in a single program for farmers in the seven western counties of North Carolina. The course begins Jan. 29 and ends April 9, 2015, and takes place from 6 to 8:30 p.m. on alternating Thursday evenings.

The AFS is a program of the Western North Carolina Food Policy Council (WNCFPC) with support from the Community Foundation of Western North Carolina. The program’s goal is to build a “one-stop” program in which farmers are able to access low-cost agribusiness resources from around the region.

Courses and workshops will be taught by professionals from the region and by state agency representatives, and will cover topics such as GAP certification and food safety regulations; basic agribusiness planning; marketing; production and pricing for market demand; soil and pest management; agribusiness financing, and legal and insurance issues.

The AFS relies on expert teachers from partners such as Cooperative Extension, the North Carolina Departments of Agriculture and Revenue, North Carolina Rural Entrepreneurship through Action Learning (NCREAL), Southwestern Community College’s Small Business Center, and Western Carolina University’s Public Policy Institute.

The cost for the full three-month program is $75, which includes dinner during each class and all materials. Registration is available online at www.wncfpc.org/appalachian-farm-school. Paper copies can be accessed by calling 399-0297 or at the Small Business Center or Extension office.

WNCFPC, founded in 2011, brings together agriculture and food security representatives in Cherokee, Clay, Graham, Jackson, Macon, Swain and Haywood counties to address regional needs around agricultural and food security issues. A similar program offering training for food banks, soup kitchens, and shelters will be offered later in 2015.

For more information about the Appalachian Farm School, please visit www.wncfpc.org or contact Emily Edmonds at wncfpc@gmail.com.

Planning for Pets: Keep Four-Legged Friends Safe This Holiday

With all the food and festivities, keeping Fluffy or Fido safe during the holidays can be a challenge. But furry family members will be just fine with some simple precautions from their owners.

Director of pet care issues at the Humane Society of the United States, KC Theisen says bowls of candy or snacks that are left sitting out can cause health issues for pets, “Chocolate is a well-known toxin to dogs and to cats. Some nuts are also not healthy for pets to eat, especially if they get a large number of them. It’s best to keep all of those dishes, all those snack trays, kind of above ‘nose level.'”

She says plants also need to be kept out of reach because, if consumed, poinsettias, mistletoe and holly all can be poisonous to pets, or at least cause stomach upset. Pets also can be curious about decorations, so Theisen recommends securely anchoring the Christmas tree and keeping all breakable ornaments, tinsel and garland out of reach.

A houseful of guests not only can cause anxiety for the host but also for some pets. Theisen advises owners to consider their pet’s individual personality when deciding whether or how long to allow them to mingle with guests, “If they’re a social butterfly and they love to see people, and they can stay calm around a large crowd – excellent, they might enjoy the festivities. But a lot of pets feel more confident if they have a safe place to retreat to.”

And before putting your pet outside for an extended period of time, Theisen says keep the weather and temperature in mind. Although cats and dogs do have fur coats, she says leaving them outdoors when it’s freezing can put them at risk of hypothermia or frostbite, “It’s really important to remember that their noses are naked, their ears are mostly naked, and the bottom of their feet that touches the pavement – are naked! So, we have to be extremely careful.”

For those who are taking their cat or dog along for holiday travel, Theisen says it’s a good idea to double up on tags and collars so if a mishap occurs, their pet can be located as quickly as possible.

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.

Marine Sargent Major David Plaster (R) Selected for Jackson County Veterans Service Officer Position

With the recent departure of long time Jackson County Veterans Service Officer (VSO) Brenda DeBose the county selected a committee comprised of three veterans and two non-veterans to locate a person to fill the position of assisting veterans with their benefits from the Department Of Veterans Affairs. Retired Marine Sargent Major David Plaster has accepted the offer to fill the vacant position.  Plaster was one of over two dozen applicants for the position. During the final months of his enlistment Plaster was a Family Support Officer and remained in the position as a civilian contractor for several months after his retirement before relocating to Jackson County of which he is a native. Plaster is expected to assume the duties by the middle of December and will be working closely with the North Carolina Department of Veterans Affairs for training and certification.

Sheila Setzer Wood will continue as the Associate Veterans Service Officer for the County. Wood has been an employee in the office for two years and recently completed the requirements for full state and national certification. She was commended by the Search Committee and will move into a higher pay grade as a result of her certification. “Jackson County is fortunate to have two extremely capable individuals to staff this office,” said County Manager Chuck Wooten.

Tennessee Bans Trucks On The Dragon

14504226781_7b9074378f_nTennessee is banning trucks longer than 30 feet from using a twisty stretch of U.S. Route 129 that is known as The Dragon.

The truck ban is welcome news to motorcyclists and sports car enthusiasts who flock to the mountain road famous for its 318 curves in 11 miles running along the western edge of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Tractor-trailers pulling through tight turns can block both lanes of traffic and force cars and motorcycles off the road.

While trucks have been banned from the North Carolina side of the road for a few years, Tennessee until now only posted a warning to truckers

Tips on Caring for Fresh Christmas Trees

FraserFir1Over the next few weeks, North Carolina families will visit choose-and-cut farms, tree lots, farmers markets and shopping centers in search of the perfect fresh Christmas tree for their holiday decorations. It’s important to know how to care for the tree once you get it home.

“For many families, choosing the perfect Christmas tree is the start of their holidays, and giving your tree proper care will ensure it stays fresh throughout the season,” said Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler. “Keeping your tree hydrated will help prevent accidents that could ruin the holidays.”

The N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services offers the following tips to care for fresh Christmas trees:

If you can’t set up your tree immediately, put it in a bucket of water in a cool, shady place.
Cut off a half inch from the base of the tree before placing it in a stand.
Use a stand that will hold at least a gallon of water.
Check the water levels often. A tree may take up to a gallon of water in the first 24 hours, and a quart per day after that.
Place tree away from heat sources, such as heating vents, fireplaces, wood stoves, radiators and sunny windows.
Check lights and cords for broken bulbs and frayed wiring.
Do not overload electrical circuits.
Turn off lights before leaving home or going to bed.
Remove tree from your home promptly after Christmas and recycle it.
North Carolina is the second-largest producer of Christmas trees in the nation. Plenty of rain and recent cold temperatures have helped the 2014 crop be one of the best in recent years.

To make the search for the perfect tree easier, the department offers an online directory at www.ncfarmfresh.com. Visitors can search by location to find Christmas trees near their home or close to where they might travel over the holidays.

Cherokee Police Search for Missing Children; Mother

Shira Mattocks

Shira Mattocks

Police on the Cherokee Indian Reservation are looking for the public’s help in locating three children and their mother, who was last seen with them.

Police officials said the children’s mother, Shira Raman Mattocks, 26, of Cherokee has “custody issues” involving the children, which range in age from 3 months to 8 years old. Family members have indicated through social media that the children were allowed supervised visits with Mattocks, but she may have taken off with the children at some point earlier in the week.

Police also said that Mattocks was last seen in the company of her mother, Teresa Arneach Arreaga, also of Cherokee.

James Paul Owle

o 8 years old / M / Brown Hair / Brown Eyes / 4’7” / 75 pounds

o Native American from Cherokee, NC

Samuel George Owle

o 6 years old / M / Brown Hair / Brown Eyes / 4’4” / 90 pounds

o Native American from Cherokee, NC

Evelyn Grace Arneach

o 3 months old / F / Brown Hair / Brown Eyes

Police indicated that the fathers of the three children currently have custodial rights.

Police said they have charged Mattocks with failure to obey a lawful order and two counts of custodial interference.

Anyone with any information is asked to call the Cherokee Indian Police Dept. at 828-497-7405.

Harris Regional Hospital and Swain County Hospital provide resources for National Health Insurance Marketplace open enrollment

Health Insurance Marketplaces opened for enrollment across the country on Saturday, November 15 and will remain open until February 15, 2015. Individuals and families can enroll and gain access to affordable, comprehensive healthcare coverage during the open enrollment period.
For those new to the enrollment or re-enrollment process, Harris Regional Hospital and Swain County Hospital can help by providing access to a Certified Application Counselor (CAC) working onsite at the hospitals and assisting with the application process. The CACs are available for phone or personal appointments by calling (828) 586-7735 or toll-free at 1-888-982-9144 or by emailing westcare.cac@medwesthealth.org.
The Health Insurance Marketplace offers expanded access to low-cost healthcare coverage for people without health insurance or for those who are interested in exploring more cost-effective alternatives to their current coverage.
While there are several types of plans and levels of coverage available, there is a core set of essential health benefits that are covered by every plan in the Marketplace. These include:
· Ambulatory patient services (outpatient care you get without being admitted to a hospital)
· Emergency services
· Hospitalization
· Maternity and newborn care
· Mental health and substance use disorder services, including behavorial health treatment such as counseling and psychotherapy
· Prescription drugs
· Rehabilitative services and devices that help people with injuries, disabilities, or chronic conditions gain or recover mental and physical skills
· Laboratory services
· Preventive and wellness services and chronic disease management
· Pediatric services
Coverage options can be reviewed and obtained through the Health Insurance Marketplace online at www.healthcare.gov. Certified Application Counselors (CACs) are available through Harris and Swain’s Patient Financial Services department to help individuals navigate the application process, re-enroll, or make changes to their Marketplace coverage, and understand the options that best match their health care needs.
For those who are re-enrolling, it is recommended that existing plans be reviewed and assessed as to whether the plan still meets the need of the individual, paying close attention to plan changes and premiums, and whether the individual’s physician and preferred hospital are still in the plan. Those who enrolled last year should receive notices from both the Marketplace and the insurance company providing an overview of action steps for re-enrollment.
For those wishing to enroll in coverage that will take effect on January 1, 2015, the enrollment deadline is December 15, 2014. This deadline also applies to those who are reviewing coverage and re-enrolling, as 2014 coverage ends on December 31, 2014.
For more information, contact Harris Regional Hospital or Swain County Hospital at 586-7355 or our toll-free enrollment line at 1-888-982-9144, visit www.westcare.org, or email westcare.CAC@medwesthealth.org.