Header

Archive for Local News

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.

Low Income Energy Assistance Program Now Taking Applications

The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services has announced that the state’s Low Income Energy Assistance Program (LIEAP) will be accepting applications beginning Dec. 1, 2014.

LIEAP is a federally-funded program that provides a one-time vendor payment to help eligible households pay their heating bills during the cold-weather months. Citizens interested in applying should review the application process and the eligibility requirements for the LIEAP benefit, which may be found at http://www.ncdhhs.gov/dss/energy/req.htm.

Eligible households containing a person aged 60 and above, or at least one disabled person (receiving SSI, SSA or VA disability) receiving services through the Division of Aging and Adult Services (DAAS) can apply Dec. 1.

If funds remain available after Dec. 31, any other eligible households may apply from January through March 2015, or until funds are exhausted.

For more information, please contact your local county Department of Social Services. A list of these offices and contact information is available at www.ncdhhs.gov/dss/local/.

School Delays On November 18th

The Blue Ridge School District is on a 2 1/2 hour delay

Haywood County Schools are on a three hour delay

Holiday Travel Tips to Prevent Bedbugs

bed-bug-on-hand_2592x1944One present that is not on anyone’s wish list this holiday season is bedbugs. The N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ Structural Pest Control and Pesticides Division encourages travelers to take extra steps to ensure they don’t pick up any hitchhiking pests this holiday season.
“Peak travel time is often when we see an increase in bedbug cases reported,” said Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler. “Bedbugs are excellent hitchhikers. This holiday season I encourage you to be alert and be aware as you travel.”
Eradicating bedbugs from a home can be difficult and expensive. Keeping them out of your home is a better option. Travelers can take these steps to help prevent bedbugs from traveling home in their personal items.
When traveling:
• Inspect mattress and headboard with a flashlight. Bedbugs come out only at night to feed, so unless a room has a heavy infestation, you won’t see them without effort. Use an LED flashlight and look for tiny black spots that look like ink spots.
• Keep bags, luggage and backpacks off the bed. Many travelers set their luggage on the bed to unpack, but it is better to use the luggage rack to keep bedbugs from crawling into your suitcase. For added precaution, keep clothes in the suitcase, not in the provided dresser. Never place clothes or jackets on the bed or couch.
• If you are really nervous about bedbugs, store your suitcase in the bathtub.
If you suspect you have come into contact with bedbugs, or have bedbug bites, these steps should be taken when you return home:
• After travel, seal all items in plastic bags until time for washing or dry cleaning.
• Do not unpack in the bedroom. If you have picked up bedbugs, you do not want to transfer them to your bed at home. Unpack and leave luggage in a laundry area or garage.
• Unpack clothes that can withstand high dryer temperatures directly into the dryer. Dry on high for 30 minutes to kill eggs and other bedbug life stages. Seal all other clothing items in plastic bags and have dry cleaned.
• Inspect luggage closely with flashlight and magnifying glass for bedbugs upon returning home. Then place luggage in a black plastic trash bags, wrap tape around the closed end and store in an area away from sleeping quarters
Day-to-day prevention:
• Reduce clutter, change and wash bedding regularly, and vacuum regularly.
• Do not bring secondhand furniture into your home unless it is thoroughly inspected and cleaned.
• Use bedbug interceptors under all bed posts and check for pests regularly. These interceptors are available at most home improvement stores and online.
Bedbugs do not transmit diseases, but bites do need to be reported to the county health department. If you suspect bedbugs at your home, call a pest control company that is licensed by the NCDA&CS Structural Pest Control and Pesticides Division.

Search for Missing Teen in Jackson County

unnamed[1] (4)The Jackson County Sheriff’s Office is seeking assistance in locating a teenager who walked away from a youth camp for high risk teens. The teen listed was with a group near Cashiers, NC and walked away from the group he was with. The teen was believed to have been seen walking by the Exxon gas station at the intersection of US64 and NC107 several hours after he left his group. He was last seen on November 10, 2014 at around 630pm. We are asking anyone who may have seen this teen to place contact the Jackson County Dispatch Center at 828-586-1911. The teen has been entered as missing.

Alec Sanford Lansing
DOB- 03/12/1997
Description- 5’11” 140 lbs., brown hair, brown eyes, slim build
Last seen wearing a red long sleeve fleece, black pants and grey boots with a backpack.
Has a GA Drivers License #058236282 (valid)

New Jobs Coming to Graham County

Governor Pat McCrory, N.C. Commerce Secretary Sharon Decker and the Economic Development Partnership of N.C. announced today that Oak Valley Hardwoods, Inc. is planning to expand operations into Graham County and create 114 new jobs. The company plans to invest more than $10.1 million over the next five years in Robbinsville.

“Oak Valley Hardwoods is another one of North Carolina’s great homegrown success stories,” said Governor McCrory. “Starting out 10 years ago, this business has steadily grown into one of the country’s major lumber suppliers to overseas markets.”

Headquartered in Charlotte, Oak Valley Hardwoods is a subsidiary of Tides and Times Group USA, Inc., and operates lumber, saw mill and dry kiln facilities and produces an assortment of wood products. It already has operations in locations across North Carolina including Rutherford, Haywood, Caldwell, McDowell and Polk counties employing more than 160 workers.

“Timber is one of North Carolina’s great renewable resources, so the expansion of Oak Valley Hardwoods is important to that industry,” said Secretary Decker. “I am looking forward to seeing even more expansion in the timber sector in the future.”

Salaries will vary by job function and will include accounting, log traders, sales, operators, foresters, and office/clerical positions. The annual payroll for the new jobs created by this expansion will be $3.4 million.

“We are excited about the opportunity to expand our operations into Graham County,” said Oak Valley Hardwoods CEO Jimmy Lee. “It has been a pleasure working with the Town of Robbinsville, Graham County, and the State of North Carolina, and we appreciate the support we have received. We plan on moving into the old Stanley Furniture Building quickly and look forward to a successful 2015.”

The project was made possible in part by a performance-based grant from the One North Carolina Fund of up to $156,000. The One NC Fund provides financial assistance, through local governments, to attract business projects that will stimulate economic activity and create new jobs in the state. Companies receive no money up front and must meet job creation and investment performance standards to qualify for grant funds. These grants also require and are contingent upon local matches.

“Oak Valley Hardwoods’ decision to expand in Graham County is a testament to the high caliber of the county’s people and its leadership,” said Senator Jim Davis. “This is great news for the hardworking citizens of Graham who will soon welcome new jobs and an energized economy.”

“These new jobs will be a welcome addition to Graham County,” said Representative Roger West. “I want to personally welcome Oak Valley Hardwoods to Robbinsville, and look forward to having this company in our community.”

In addition to the N.C. Department of Commerce and the Economic Development Partnership of N.C., other partners that helped with this project include: North Carolina Community College System, Tri-County Community College, Duke Energy, Town of Robbinsville, Graham County, and Graham County Economic Development.

Help In Finding Missing Woman

1110-Regenia-Hendrix_18454Asheville Police requested the public’s help in solving the case of a missing 51 year old woman named Regenia Hendrix. She disappeared 8 months ago and detectives say she hasn’t cashed multiple checks issued to her.
According to authorities, Hendrix was last seen in downtown Asheville in late March, just before she reportedly got a ride to Shelby from an acquaintance. Her family, who says Hendrix mainly stayed in area homeless shelters, has not heard from her since.

Asheville Police say she is 5’8″ tall, and weighs approximately 140 pounds, she may have dyed red hair.

Hendrix is a mother to one son, and a grandmother of four. Family says she is a happy, friendly person and she has never been out of touch with family for this long.

Anyone with information is asked to call the Asheville Police Department at (828) 252-1110 or Buncombe County Crime Stoppers at (828) 255-5050.

NCDOT to Temporarily Close I-40 Ramp in Haywood County During Overnight Traffic Shift

On Monday, Nov. 10, at 7 p.m., the N.C. Department of Transportation will close the westbound on-ramp to Interstate 40 at Exit 37 (Wiggins Road/East Canton Exit). The ramp is expected to reopen Tuesday at 6 a.m.

Motorists trying to access I-40 Westbound at this exit can follow a posted detour using U.S. 19/23 South to N.C. 215 North through Canton, and then back to I-40 at Exit 31. The closure is necessary to move the traffic shift on I-40 back to the original pattern, which was changed this past summer.

The work is part of a $3.9 million project awarded to Harrison Construction Division of APAC Atlantic, Inc. for the construction of a new median wall and resurfacing between the Haywood/Buncombe county line and mile marker 34.

Westbound traffic is currently in a two-lane pattern and shifted onto the shoulder of the interstate. Traffic will be returning to the original three-lane pattern before the Thanksgiving holiday. Additional lane closures are possible until then, but at least two lanes will remain open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. Any lane closures that reduce traffic to one lane will be done at night.

This work will not complete the project. The final layer of asphalt is currently scheduled to be placed in the spring of next year.

Fireworks Fundraiser in Downtown Sylva Saturday Evening

96.5 Band House Band will play on Saturday night.

96.5 Band House Band will play on Saturday night.

The Jackson County Chamber of Commerce is planning an evening of music at Sylva’s Bridge Park Nov. 1 to benefit the return of fireworks to Sylva on July 4, 2015.

The Fall Fireworks Fundraiser will be held at the Bridge Park in Sylva from 5 to 9 p.m., on Saturday, Nov. 1 and feature food and drinks and performances by two of the region’s hottest bands; Soldier’s Heart and the 96.5 House Band.
The 96.5 House Band will perform from 7-8:45 p.m. They will bring the sounds of Jerry Lee Lewis, KC and the Sunshine Band, Van Morrison, Elvis, The Eagles, Hall & Oates, Wilson Pickett, Dion, Queen, The Beatles, Otis Redding and lots more.
The 96.5 House Band has been entertaining audiences around Western North Carolina since November of 2002. The band has earned a reputation for its upbeat live shows.

The 96.5 House Band has performed multiple times throughout the Asheville area and with legendary bands such as the Beach Boys, The Temptations, Gary Puckett, The Drifters, The Rascals and many more. All have praised the band’s performance and ability to work the crowd when it opened up for these acts. The Beach Boys even asked if they’d open the next few shows for them.
The 96.5 House Band is:
Chris Hoffman – Lead vocals.
Phil Smith – Saxophone, acoustic guitar.
Frank Verhaeghe – Lead guitar.
Pat Ryan – Bass guitar, backing vocals.
Steve Stewart – Drums.

The band Soldier’s Heart will bring its Americana music from the front porch to Sylva’s Bridge Park from 5-6:45 p.m., as well.
Formed In the spring of 2012 and founded on the principle of front porch music Soldier’s Heart began to woodshed ideas into songs. The band has honed a new sound that can only and aptly be described as “Porch and Soul.”
Soldier’s Heart is a Southern Appalachian Folk/Roots band. This six-piece seamlessly blends traditional mountain instrumentation with contemporary songwriting to accomplish the goal of “Bringing the front porch to the people.” With influences from the late Doc Watson to Dylan and The Band, there truly is something for everyone to enjoy!
Soldier’s Heart is:
Caleb Burress: vocals, acoustic guitar
Joey Fortner: vocals, banjo
Jeff Mendenhall: fiddle
Rick Shore: drums
Zack Edwards: bass
Chris McElrath: electric guitar

The Jackson County Chamber of Commerce is requesting at least a $5 donation for admission to the Nov. 1 concert, with proceeds to help support financing fireworks in Sylva next summer. There will be food and drinks available for purchase by local vendors. Fans should bring a chair or blanket.

“We’re excited to not only bring these two amazing bands to Sylva for a fun night of music, but we’re also extremely pleased to be working diligently on bringing fireworks back to the downtown Sylva area next summer,” said Jackson County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Julie Spiro. “The community’s support of this event and others this winter will help finance a July 4 fireworks festivity downtown that everyone will be proud of for years to come.”
Citizens and businesses can make donations for fireworks anytime at the Jackson County Chamber of Commerce. Volunteer, vendor and sponsorship opportunities are also available.
For more information, call 828-586-2155 or visit www.mountainlovers.com

Local Gospel Singer Passes Away

norman-wilson-passes-awayNorman Wilson of The Primitive Quartet passed away Wednesday after suffering an apparent massive heart attack while hunting with friends in Graham County. Wilson played mandolin and sang tenor for the band since 1973.

The Primitive Quartet began when two sets of brothers, Reagan and Larry Riddle and Furman and Norman Wilson, carried a guitar and mandolin with them on a fishing trip to Fontana Lake. After the fishing trip, with the encouragement of their parents and pastor, they began to sing together at area churches, calling themselves the Riddle-Wilson Quartet.

The Riddle and Wilson brothers went on the road as full-time musicians in 1978. Now called the Primitive Quartet, in honor of the old-time gospel singing that inspired them.

They have recorded several albums and have toured throughout the United States and abroad. The group was the subject of a BBC documentary in 1984, and Singing News has listed them among the top five nominees for its readers’ Band of the Year award for several years consecutively. All but one of “the Primitives” live in Candler.

You’ve ‘Goat’ to be Kidding: Eradicating NC Kudzu

These goats (and a canine friend) are taking a break on a big job. Wells Farm rents them out to help eradicate invasive kudzu on protected lands. Photo courtesy of Pacolet Area Conservancy.

These goats (and a canine friend) are taking a break on a big job. Wells Farm rents them out to help eradicate invasive kudzu on protected lands. Photo courtesy of Pacolet Area Conservancy.

Goats are known for their insatiable appetite and love of climbing, which makes them the perfect candidates for the job of cleaning up kudzu in North Carolina. Land trusts are using goats to clean up land that’s been overtaken by the invasive plant on several conservation properties.

The Pacolet Area Conservancy in Tryon is wrapping up a project using goats, explains stewardship director Pam Torlina, “I have been really amazed. What’s great about the goats going in, they can get into some really steep areas, where if you were to take machinery or something like that in, it could really start depleting the soil.”

Torlina says the goats visit twice a year, and it normally takes three years for them to make the land kudzu-free. Kudzu was brought to the US from Japan in the late 1800s, but prevents vegetation from growing and spreads quickly. Other kudzu eradication projects using goats are taking place in Roan Mountain and Hickory Nut Gorge.

Ron Searcy and his wife own Wells Farm in Transylvania County, and for the last eight years they’ve rented out their goats to places like the Pacolet Area Conservancy. He says it’s turned into a booming business, and they rent about 300 goats every year to locations in five states, “It’s just perfect browse-land for them. Goats like things that are up high anyway, so kudzu being vines and up in trees, and off the ground a good ways, it’s just desirable for goats.”

Torlina says goats have benefits for the land and community that machinery can’t provide.”They’re really low-impact, they add fertilizer as well, and they’re quiet. And in public places, people just love coming to see them and see the impact that they have on the land in a positive way, as far as getting rid of kudzu.”

By eliminating the kudzu, Torlina says land trusts encourage survival of native plants and animals that are otherwise being pushed out by the invasive plant. She adds it’s part of the long-term commitment to take care of land-trust acreage.

Keeping the Trick Out of Halloween Treats for Food Allergy Sufferers

gr-42236-1-1A bag of Halloween candy isn’t all treats for the one in thirteen U-S kids who suffer from food allergies, which is why one group is working to make this year’s holiday a little less tricky.

Angela Fuller founded Food Allergy Families of the Triad after her child was born with food allergies. She says she really appreciates people who distribute inexpensive items that aren’t going to exclude her child as they trick-or-treat, “Whenever people do offer food-free treats like little spider rings or bouncy balls, those are the things that our kids can enjoy and they get just as much enjoyment out of those things as kids do out of a Snickers bar.”

This year Fuller and other families will be looking for houses with a special pumpkin. The group Food Allergy Research and Education is encouraging houses who participate to paint a pumpkin teal, the color of food allergy awareness, and put it on the porch or doorstep, along with a sign indicating the house is allergy-safe. A free printable sign and more information is online at FoodAllergy.org.

Veronica LaFemina with the group “Food Allergy Research and Education” adds that food allergies can leave many children feeling left out, and she hopes the Teal Pumpkin Project will help create a more inclusive holiday, “It’s empowering for families managing food allergies to know that their neighbors and communities really want to make sure that their children are feeling involved and safe, and able to participate in the same way their friends can.”

Fuller says with candy being such a traditional part of Halloween, her group and others are working hard to realize there are other options that can be found at a comparable cost, “It’s really just getting our generation and previous generations to get on board and recognize that it wasn’t like this when we were kids but this is where we are now. ”

Because of cross-contamination risks for allergy sufferers and other safety concerns for all kids, experts remind parents to carefully inspect Halloween treats, and to set a “No Eating While Trick-or-Treating” policy.

Serena Author to Appear At WCU for reading; book signing

Western Carolina University’s Office of First Year Experience will host “An Evening with Ron Rash” on Wednesday, Oct. 22, in the Coulter Building recital hall at 7 p.m.

Rash, an award-winning writer and WCU’s Parris Distinguished Professor of Appalachian Culture, will read from his novel “Serena,” answer questions about the book and sign copies at the event, which is free and open to the public. Serena has now been made into a motion picture starring Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper which has a February 2015 release date in the US.

Deadline to Register to Vote is Today

Friday is the deadline to register to vote in North Carolina, in order to vote in the November midterm. Late Wednesday the U-S Supreme Court stayed an appeals court order that restored same-day registration and reinstated out-of-precinct provisional voting.

That means voters must register by today in their current home precinct in order to be sure their vote will count – explains Allison Riggs with the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, “The deadline to register to vote is October 10th. They can go to their local county board of elections and register in person or they can mail in their registration application.”

If submitting my mail, your application only needs to be postmarked with today’s date. The new voting provisions that came as a result of North Carolina’s new voting laws were challenged by the American Civil Liberties Union and the Southern Coalition for Social Justice. The case will now be heard in summer 2015 by a federal judge in North Carolina, but it will not be in time for this year’s midterm election. Supporters of the state’s new voting law argue that some portions of the law could prevent voter fraud.

According to the State Board of Elections, more than 21,000 North Carolina voters used same-day registration in the last midterm election. Riggs and others are concerned about the number of people who may have difficulty voting in this election, and hopes the new law makes citizens all the more determined to make their vote count, “It’s complicated because the Legislature acted to keep people from voting and the response to that should be anger and participation, not apathy.”

Riggs says depending on how it impacts turnout, the court’s action could have an impact on the outcome of next month’s election, and even the majority of the U-S Senate. Democratic Senator Kay Hagan has a 2-point lead over her Republican challenger Thom Tillis, according to a recent USA Today poll.

Energy Funds are Available to WNC Schools

WNC Communities is launching a program to fund lighting efficiency projects for public schools in Western North Carolina.

The General Assembly allocated $500,000 of TVA settlement funds in the 2014-15 state budget for WNC Communities to undertake this program.
An implementation program is being developed to ensure maximum use of funds in the most effective way, while seeking matching and/or reimbursement funds that may be available as additional assistance. An advisory committee of school representatives, energy experts and others will be named to assist WNC Communities in the implementation of a fair and equitable distribution process.

WNC communities was selected to serve the state in this collaborative effort as the organization is currently serving in similar successful programs with the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services in the distribution of TVA settlement funds. The organization also has a rich history of serving Western North Carolina in carrying out numerous community service programs over a 65-year period.
For additional information, contact WNC Communities at 252-4783.

US Forest Service Next Round of Plan Revision Meetings Announced

The U.S. Forest Service National Forests in North Carolina today unveiled the schedule for the next round of meetings held as part of the Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests management plan revision. Members of the public are encouraged to attend.

Each of the six meetings will be held from 4:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m. Every meeting will have the same agenda and present the same information, and provide opportunity for public review and comment.

During each meeting, Forest Service employees will share information about the proposed Forest Plan, including potential management areas and desired conditions. The meeting will open with a presentation on significant issues, management areas, and the development of plan components. The Forest Service planning team will share some proposed desired condition statements and information about watersheds and recreation settings during an open poster session.

New Data Shows Staggering Rates of Poverty in North Carolina

Poverty remained high in North Carolina last year, according to new Census Bureau data released last week. The new data highlight that many people have not benefited from the state’s weak economic recovery and that North Carolina must do more to help struggling people afford basics like decent housing, nutritious food, and reliable child care, and transportation.

One in five North Carolinians lived in poverty in 2013, which translates to an income of less than $24,000 per year for a family of four. The median annual income in North Carolina adjusted for inflation did not rise between 2012 and 2013 and is lower now compared to 2009 when the economic recovery from the Great Recession officially began. Yet other sources show that incomes at the top have grown and the gaps between the top and bottom and top and middle have widened. (As an important an aside, it should also be pointed out that hundreds of thousands of North Carolinians whose incomes place them above the official poverty line still do not, as a practical matter, bring home a “living income.”)

Many feel Lawmakers have also dismantled services that help people get back on their feet when they are struggling, including unemployment benefits, job training programs, and the Earned Income Tax Credit that makes work pay and helps parents avoid raising their children in poverty.

The new Census data show that progress towards eliminating poverty in the state is stuck: North Carolina’s poverty rate is 2.1 percentage points higher than the U.S. poverty rate, and is the 11th highest rate in the nation. The state’s poverty rate (17.9 percent) and median income ($45,906) remained statistically unchanged, meaning there has been no progress in fighting poverty or raising middle class living standards for the average North Carolinian since 2009.

Governor, Congressman address UNC Board of Governors at Western Carolina University

District 11 U.S. Rep. Mark Meadows makes remarks to the audience and Board of Governors.

District 11 U.S. Rep. Mark Meadows makes remarks to the audience and Board of Governors.

The University of North Carolina Board of Governors’ three-day visit on the Western Carolina University campus came to a close Friday (Sept. 12) as the board held its regular monthly meeting and heard remarks from District 11 U.S. Rep. Mark Meadows and N.C. Gov. Pat McCrory.
The Board of Governors, the policy-making body for the entire UNC system, joined UNC President Tom Ross and numerous chancellors from WCU’s sister institutions for the gathering in Cullowhee that included board committee meetings on Thursday (Sept. 11) and the meeting of the full board Friday at WCU’s A.K. Hinds University Center.

Congressman Meadows, a resident of the Glenville community in Jackson County, noted in his comments to the Board of Governors that the ambassadors he meets with from around the world are often familiar with the state’s university system.

“North Carolina is known for a lot of things – a lot of great things,” he said. “The one thing that continues to come back when I mention that I’m from North Carolina is our university system. It is something we must protect. It is an asset that we must continue to tout. It transcends everything else.”

McCrory spoke to the Board of Governors about a wide range of issues involving the state budget and the North Carolina economy. He also expressed concern about an issue he said has not been addressed adequately by North Carolina leaders – the long-term maintenance costs of state-owned buildings.

In one of the meeting’s lighter moments, McCrory announced that he is an alumnus of Catawba College, the WCU football team’s opponent for its Saturday (Sept. 13) game. McCrory provided the coin toss during the gridiron matchup at WCU’s E.J. Whitmire Stadium. He thanked WCU Chancellor David O. Belcher for providing a warm welcome to campus and said, despite the fact that he graduated from Catawba College, “I wore my purple tie just for you.”

Ross delivered his report concerning the UNC system to the Board of Governors during the meeting, and he also expressed appreciation to Belcher and his staff for their work in preparing for the board’s visit. The Board of Governors scheduled its meeting on the WCU campus in honor of the 125th anniversary of the founding of the institution.
“We could not have been treated better this week, during this 125th-year celebration of Western Carolina, and we thank all of you for your warm welcome and hospitality,” he said.

During his presentation, Ross introduced WCU engineering technology major Ben Strawn, who spoke about his experiences as an intern this summer with the U.S. Army Special Operations Command. The WCU senior from Peachland said the primary project he worked on during his internship, an electronic explosive initiator, is expected to be produced by the Army and used in the field.

In his comments, John Fennebresque, chairman of the Board of Governors, joined Ross in thanking the WCU community for its hospitality.

“I have noticed for the past three days – there is something about this place,” Fennebresque said. “Everybody seems to have a smile on their face. It’s unbelievable. So if there’s special water or something like that, I want some.”

Belcher’s time before the Board of Governors included the screening of a video produced by Joseph Hader, a WCU alumnus and member of the staff of the university’s Office of Communications and Public Relations. The video focuses on WCU’s service to Western North Carolina.

“It has truly been a pleasure and a privilege for us at Western Carolina University to host the Board of Governors, President Ross, staff of UNC General Administration and chancellors and staff from our sister institutions across North Carolina,” Belcher said. “I hope during your brief visit here you caught a glimpse of who we are and why this little slice of paradise we call Cullowhee is so special.

“We love Western Carolina University, and I think it shows,” Belcher said. “For 125 years, WCU has been in the business of changing lives. I assure you, the best is yet to come.”

Two Convicted In Black Bear Poaching

A federal jury sitting in Asheville convicted on Monday, Sept. 8, Jerry Francis Parker, 63 and Walter Henry Stancil, 66, both of Rabun County, Ga., for their involvement in illegal bear hunting activities and related offenses, announced Anne M. Tompkins, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina.

The defendants are subject to one year in prison, a $100,000 fine, the loss of their hunting licenses for five years, and a period of banishment from the national forests.

According to evidence presented at trial and documents filed with the court, the defendants engaged in a number of illegal hunting activities in 2011, including using chocolate candy as bait at a site that one of the defendants described as “probably the most active bait site in the United States.”

The defendants were convicted of violating the Lacey Act, which criminalizes the interstate transportation of wildlife taken in violation of state or federal hunting laws.

American black bears are a species of special concern warranting federal and state protection. The hunting of American black bears is illegal at any time within the National Parks. Hunting on Forest Service land is only permitted during open season and in compliance with federal and state law. The U.S. Attorney is committed to the protection of natural resources from illegal hunting activities, including baiting, spot-lighting and exceeding hunting limits.

The investigation was conducted by the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the US Forest Service, the NC Wildlife Resources Commission, and the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. The prosecution was handled by Assistant U.S. Attorney Richard Edwards of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Asheville.