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Culvert Work At SCC Continues

mapWork on a Culvert continues on at Southwestern Community College’s campus in front of the National Guard Armory as part of R-5000, a new road segment that will link N.C. 107 with N.C. 116 through the SCC campus.Within the next couple of weeks the contractor will remove the dike to turn the water back into the culvert, back-fill the culvert and stabilize the inlet and outlet slopes, NCDOT says Once the sides have been back-filled, a new sewer line will be laid over the culvert and the temporary aerial crossing, above, will be removed. The area will then be back-filled and the driveway paved.

NCDOT “Internal Mistake”

NCDOT LogoThe Department of Transportation says the Southern Loop/N.C. 107 Connector project isn’t underway, and that letters sent Feb. 24 to property owners informing them otherwise were the result of an internal mistake. The DOT says it does not know how the mistake occurred, but their working to find out. Work on the 107 connector has been suspended for over a year, and NCDOT says it has no plans to change that. Residence say that the timing of the letter couldn’t have been worse since the commissioners plan to Kill the bill at the March 17th public hearing.

Southern Loop Survey

NCDOT LogoNorth Carolina DOT is starting to survey for the Southern Loop, a controversial proposed highway that, if built, would bypass Sylva. Letters dated Feb. 24 were sent to some Jackson County property owners notifying them to expect engineers, surveyors and geologists “collecting data” to help determine a bypass location and design. The letters come as commissioners prepare to vote down the project Monday, March 17, following a public hearing. Commissioners want the project killed. “It may be too late,” county Manager Chuck Wooten said.

NC DOT Attacking Pot Holes

Pot Holes

Pot Holes

The recent cold, wet weather we have experienced across the state, means that more potholes will be popping up over the coming months. NCDOT’s top priority is safety. That’s why the N.C. Department of Transportation has its patching crews out in full force attacking potholes. “Potholes are common during the winter months when moisture that seeps into cracks in the pavement gets in between the layers of asphalt, freezes, expands and then thaws,” explained NCDOT’s Chief Engineer Mike Holder. “When the ice expands, it causes the cracks to widen and the asphalt layer to rise. Traffic then loosens the pavement, which eventually creates a pothole.”Because potholes can quickly form without warning, we urge motorists to pay special attention to the roadway and be on the lookout for potholes. Motorists can also help the department by reporting potholes. If you see a pothole on a state-maintained road, report it to NCDOT at 1-877-368-4968, or online at www.ncdot.gov/contact. Click on “County Contacts” on the left of your screen and then choose the county. The email form will be sent to the local NCDOT office. To help our crews locate the pothole, be sure to provide as much information as possible about its location, including the city or county, road name, nearest intersection, which lane the pothole is in, and the size and depth of the pothole. If a pothole is in a work zone, the contractor will be notified and is responsible for fixing it. You should contact your local municipality to report a pothole on a road that is not maintained by NCDOT. “We do ask that motorists be patient with road crews,” Holder added. “They will fill the potholes as quickly as they can, but will first address the ones that are the greatest safety concerns.” The location, size and depth of the pothole determine its priority. Potholes within travel lanes of major routes will be first priority. Potholes on shoulders will be less of a priority, as will shallow ones. Since most asphalt plants are not operating during winter months and “hot mix” asphalt is not available, crews will use “cold patch,” as well as spray patchers, to fix the holes as an interim treatment. “Cold patch” is a premix that NCDOT stockpiles for winter pothole response. Crews will perform permanent patches with hot mix when it is available.

AAA offers the following tips when encountering a pothole:

  • Avoid swerving. Swerving can cause loss of vehicle control;
  • Slow down. Carefully avoid impact with potholes. If a pothole can’t be avoided slow down. Hitting a pothole at a high speed increases the chance of damage to the vehicle, and losing control;
  • Roll through. Rolling through the pothole is better than braking rapidly;
  • Properly inflate tires. Over-inflated and under-inflated tires increase risk of tire and wheel damage; and

Avoid puddles that may conceal a deep pothole

Ledbetter Road Accident

Tuckaseigee River Accident

Tuckaseigee River Accident

A driver ends up in the Tuckaseigee River Monday morning. It happened around 8:30am on Ledbetter Road in Jackson County. The driver of the SUV told troopers a car traveling in the opposite direction, came into her lane. That’s when she over-corrected and went into the river. The driver was taken to the hospital with non-life threatening injuries. Troopers say it isn’t the first time an accident has happened on this road. A deadly accident has previously occurred in this same spot. The winter weather also played a part in seavral accidents off Ledbetter Road last week.

Bridge Contract Awarded

CasinoThe North Carolina transportation department has awarded a contract to build a bridge to the site of a casino under construction in Cherokee County. The bridge is being constructed just off U.S. 19-23-74 east of Murphy. The transportation department says construction is to begin next month and should be finished by mid-November. The agency will later award a contract for a road near the casino. The Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians broke ground on the casino in October. The casino and a hotel are expected to create 900 jobs. The new complex is about an hour southwest of Harris Cherokee Casino and hotel in Cherokee.

107 Connector Controversy

NC 107

NC 107

Commissioners are attempting to put to rest what remains of the Old Southern Loop, a proposed road that would bypass the town of Sylva. This will make the third time they’ve attempted to kill the proposed project. County Commissioners have scheduled a public hearing for Monday, March 17th to gather public comment on the project. The strategy would be following the public hearing commissioners would vote to remove the 107 Connector from the county’s offical transportation plan. Commissioners have omitted the bypass from their road priorites list assembled for the DOT at that departments requests. Following the NO vote, commisioners would ask the Rural Planning Organization to approve this amended county transportation plan. Chairman Jack Debnam expresses confidence that the Rural Planning Committee would endorse Jackson County leaders wishes in this matter. Commissioners plan to replace the 107 Connector with proposed road improvements to Ledbetter Road in Cullowhee and to Wilmot Bridge near Whittier. Which in the last two weeks Ledbetter road has seen it’s share of accidents. Citizens have already spoken publiclly about wanting guard rails placed on Ledbetter Road. Supporters of the proposed connector road have said it would ease traffic congestion on current N.C. 107; opponents cite studies that show this isn’t a likely outcome.

Winter Storm Blasts Western North Carolina

Mother Nature was in a teasing mode for much of Wednesday with light and variable snow showers but as evening approached and the temperatures dropped a couple of degrees the snow has increased in intensity and is no longer melting on contact. Roads that were mostly clear all day have become treacherous, schools have already announced their closure for Thursday. County Emergency Services Director Todd Dillard said that plans are being made to have a shelter open should conditions worsen and the power go off. Dan Shaffer, Director of Maintenance for the town of Sylva reported that at 5:00 o’clock there were no power outages and no fallen trees were reported and all streets are open. He also reported that crews would be working all night to respond to emergencies. WestCare EMS Services have responded to numerous calls. Citizens are reminded that when shoveling snow to not overdo it, especially if one is not accustomed to such physical labor. This is one of the leading causes of heart attacks in the winter. Fire Departments have had a busy day mostly with traffic control around wrecks. Wrecks on Catamount Gap has kept several departments busy. A wreck in the Whittier area caused damage to a utility pole which required a replacement. An chemical spill in Webster led to the call out of the local Has Mat team. Highway crews have been staged since Tuesday afternoon to work the highways with chemicals and truck mounted scrape blades to try to keep snow from accumulating on the major highways. The storm has also forced the rescheduling of the WCU versus Chattanooga men’s league basketball game from Thursday till Friday.

Brace For Winter Storm To Intensify

Forecasters have called for lighter amounts of snow during the day time hours on Wednesday, and in Sylva the snow actually stopped for about an hour late Wednesday morning. However the weather bureau seems to be pretty much on target as the storm continues to strengthen with additional moisture being pulled off the Gulf of Mexico. The conditions in Sylva have further deteriorated as midday approaches and the probability of snow that was lingering around 60 Percent will be increase to 100 percent by mid-afternoon. The intensity of the snowfall is expected to increase and as much as two inches an hour could be recorded by around nightfall and continue overnight.
Jackson County Emergency Preparedness Coordinator Todd Dillard has declared the county to be under a Code Red Emergency and reminds everyone this is a serious storm and conditions are expected to deteriorate rapidly this afternoon. Residents are encouraged to prepare to settle in for the long haul. Fill the bathtub and the the automatic washer with water, bottle water, if the freezer has extra room put bottles of water in those spaces so the frozen water can help keep the temperature low should the electricity go off. DO NOT use a generator inside your home or a closed space occupied by humans or pets. DO NOT use a charcoal grill to cook inside your home or on your covered porch or deck. Check the batteries in your smoke detector and carbon monoxide detector. Find your portable radio and dial it to 540 on the A-M band and test it before conditions deteriorate. WRGC Radio will be on the air all night and make emergency announcements as needed, if the power goes off WRGC Radio is now equipped to operate off emergency power.

Jackson County Emergency Services Declares Code Red Conditions Tuesday

EOC1The Jackson County Emergency Preparedness Director Todd Dillard has announced that Jackson County is now in Code Red Emergency conditions and that an Emergency Operations Center was opened at 7:00 p.m. on Tuesday. Dillard urged all citizens to immediately prepare for emergency conditions by gathering food and water, a manual can opener, flashlight and battery powered radio with extra batteries. He also recommended that all smoke and carbon monoxide detectors be checked and that supplies for pets be assembled as well. During this Code Red Emergency all calls are to be directed to the Emergency Operations Center at 586-7500. DO NOT CALL 911 UNLESS IT IS AN ACTUAL EMERGENCY.

WRGC will be broadcasting any emergency announcements and is equipped to stay on the air should the electrical power fail. Forecasters are predicting the main force of the storm to arrive early Wednesday morning with a 24 hour snow event possible dumping up to a foot of snow in some of the higher elevations.

North Carolina Department Of Transportation personnel have been staged at strategic locations throughout the county with trucks loaded with salt and other equipment needed to battle the snowfall.

In addition to the Jackson County Emergency Operations Center a new app for smart phones is available at Ready NC.com. It provides up-to-date information for all state departments and services which are affected by severe weather conditions.

Winter Storm Warning

The National Weather Service has issued a WINTER STORM WARNING for Southwestern North Carolina, North East Georgia and Upstate South Carolina. The first of the storm is expected to arrive late Tuesday afternoon then turn to snow by nightfall. Eight inches of snow or more are now predicted for Sylva and the surrounding higher elevations will likely see more than eight inches of snow overnight Tuesday and into Wednesday. The National Weather Officials are expecting widespread power outages to occur due to broken utility poles, downed power lines, and falling timber crashing down on utility services. Stay tuned to 540 a-m WRGC Radio for the latest in the development of this storm. On line at wrgc.com you can check on the latest closings and delays should you not be able to hear the over the air broadcast. WRGC Radio has been saturating the airwaves for the past few weeks with information urging families and individuals to prepare for all emergencies. Individuals are warned to make preparations now. First of all know how to contact all family members even in case the cell phone service goes out (which is likely). Make certain there are extra batteries for your radio and flashlights, fill your bathtub with water, and have alternative sources for heating your dwelling. WRGC has installed an emergency generator and special transmitter to provide critical emergency information to Jackson and surrounding counties and can operate for up to 20 hours should the utility service be interrupted. The station can be heard at 540 on the a-m radio bandwidth which is normally the first option on most radios. Should a state of emergency be declared the station will operate at 5000 watts as long as needed. Should there be a power failure the station will operate on emergency power at 1000 watts. Local citizens are encouraged to call WRGC Radio at 586-9742 or 586-2221 with closing and delay information and to report road conditions and closings.

WNC Slowly Returns To Normal

This weeks bitterly cold temperatures and Tuesday’s snowfall have snarled schools, sports, and business activities in western North Carolina. While other services will enjoy profits to make up for several seasons of slow economy. Some examples include wrecker services, roll back operators, and auto body shops will continue to have enjoy the payday in car repairs caused huge number of wrecks and automobile breakdowns. Grocery stores have racked up on sales of milk, bread, and snacks, the ski resorts will see booming business this weekend with a huge snow base and warmer temperatures and open roads will push operations to the capacity. The utility companies will see profits rise as a result of the increased demand for electricity. The other fuel providers from firewood and gas to petroleum have seen supplies dwindle and profits grow. The storm and cold weather has a huge negative as well. The Community Table which depends heavily upon the Blue Plate Special for an infusion of mid winter cash came up empty this week when the event sponsored by Harrah’s was canceled due to the snow. Local high schools have scrambled to make up basketball schedules. Schools have used up their built in snow days and will be forced to schedule schools to operate on Saturday should the snow and cold bring conditions which force additional school cancellations.

“Play On” Moving Forward

The new chairperson of the Jackson County Tourism Development Authority, Robert Jumper reported to the Jackson County Commissioners on Tuesday that a trio of marketing firms including Pineapple Public Relations and Marketing firm has been retained to help the TBA move forward with the next phase of the tourism marketing plan for Jackson County. Jumper explained how some local citizens did not favorably view the “Play On” marketing theme adopted by the County.  Jumper stated that the terminology had tested well in the market research centered on the desired tourist population. One of the firms selected is Pineapple Marketing and Public Relations firm has plenty of tourism centered marketing experience in western North Carolina and north Georgia. While increasing the number of tourists coming to Jackson County is important Jumper further emphasized the importance of having the infrastructure in place to accommodate those coming to spend their vacations in the area. The infrastructure must not only include places to stay, but access to the rivers and lakes, and the means to enjoy all the resources including trails, hiking and the natural resources. Jumper was in agreement with comments made by Business and Industry Director Richard Price that all the messages coming out of Jackson County in recruiting tourism traffic need to be coordinated and consistent.

Western Carolina University Celebrates their 125th Birthday With A Bold Vision

Western Carolina University Chancellor David Belcher and Melissa Wargo unveiled their long term and short term Comprehensive Master Plan Tuesday in a special presentation to the Jackson County Commissioners. Wargo explained how the process to develop a plan to serve as a blueprint for future campus access and building construction was developed. Nor only is the campus poised for growth, the area around the campus is on the verge of significant development as well with several residential and commercial on the drawing boards. Wargo and Belcher stressed the critical need for a significant upgrade to the mid campus area adjacent to the Natural Sciences Building, McKee, and Killian. The plan calls for the construction of a facility which would replace the Niggli Theater property and attach to the Natural Sciences Building which is now forty years old and in need of an upgrade. The road through that property would be closed in order to create a better pedestrian friendly center of campus. While Western Carolina University swelled to over ten thousand students this year Chancellor Belcher pointed out that the University’s future growth would be contingent upon the availability of additional classroom space especially in the sciences. The WCU  Millennium Campus is a large acreage tract of real estate about two thirds of that property is not suitable for development. The plans show how several smaller structures to accommodate the new Health Sciences building could fill out that campus. Also the need to connect the two campuses with pedestrian and shuttle service are in the plans. Two other significant projects were shown one if the eventual change of the main entrance to adjoin the Little Savannah Road intersection which would also connect in with a new road to connect the current road around Belk Building and the Bardo Center with the oldest part of the campus near the chancellors dwelling. The property now known as the camp building would be converted into a 1200 car parking deck. The University has a busy day planned for Thursday with the kickoff of the observance of the 125th anniversary celebration. Activities will take place at the University Center. Also the first 500 fans at the WCU and Davidson basketball game on Thursday will receive a WCU white T shirt to celebrate the anniversary celebration.

Four Forty One Corridor Development Creeping Forward

The Director of the Jackson County Planning Department  Gerald Greene and Jackson County’s new Business and Industry Development  Director, Richard Price gave positive reports on Tuesday about the growth possibilities along what is identified as the 441 Corridor between Dillsboro and Cherokee. Green reported that several plans are emerging which show the property in the vicinity of the Old Mill being the focal point for development in the near future. Several design images were shown which show how the new shopping areas could have more of a town approach rather than a traditional shopping center characterized by a huge asphalt slab surrounded by big box stores. According to Green, one elusive fact is the potential buying power of those passing through the corridor. The second detail is designing a shopping facility which will have the power to attract the motoring public. While several property owners in that area are making long range plans for development. Green added that some other near by property owners have expressed a desire to sell property for future development along the 441 Corridor. Richard Price added that the Whittier property which was once occupied by Drexel is getting more attention from those looking for development opportunities. He also pointed out that his meetings with Swain County and Eastern Band officials have expressed an interest is forming a collaborative entity to move forward with an Agricultural venue. The Commissioners suggested that it might be time to involve the Tuckaseigee Water And Sewer Authority in the planning since the potential for a substantial use of their service could easily be envisioned.

Jackson County Transit Now In Their New Home

If you are looking for Jackson County Transit you will not find them in their former location on Skyland Drive in Sylva. Jackson County Transit has completed the move to their new home on Haywood Road just west of Dillsboro next to the Green Energy Park. The Transit Department has operated in the County Services Building that once was the home of Southern Lumber Company. The property was collateral for a loan used to open a full service building supply which was not able to survive with the arrival of the big box stores. Once the County took control of the  building  several departments relocated into the facility including Jackson County Transit and the Driver’s License Office. The property was also a county vehicle and equipment depot. The new home of Jackson County Transit in located next to the Green Energy Park and the Dillsboro Landfill in the former home of Western Builders. The property was purchased from Western Builders several years ago when the well on the property was found to be contaminated by leakage from the landfill. Once a water and sewer line was installed to the property and connected to the Tuckasegee Water and Sewer Authority the building and grounds were used to house portions of the Jackson County Maintenance Department. The former home of the Jackson County Transit Authority will be converted into the Jackson County Board of Elections. Part of the building will contain a classroom, and the county’s voting machines will be stored there. Some county offices now located in the Justice Center may be relocated to the County Services Center to create addition space for the court system.

NCSHP to Participate in Nationwide Thanksgiving Highway Campaign

Research indicates that the Thanksgiving holiday period is one of the most heavily traveled times in the United States, heaviest of which are 12 p.m.-12 a.m. the Wednesday before and 9 a.m.-9 p.m. the Sunday following.  To promote a safe and uneventful driving environment, the North Carolina State Highway Patrol will join forces with numerous highway patrol and state police agencies across the nation in an enforcement campaign concentrated solely on I-40. During the two-day operation, North Carolina troopers, along with other states, will be patrolling along the I-40 corridor every 20 miles from coast to coast.  It is hoped that the constant visibility of law enforcement from state to state will create a safe driving environment for all motorists but more importantly save lives and prevent injuries. Last year during the Thanksgiving holiday, the highway patrol investigated 11 fatal collisions, 432 injury collisions and 1,457 property damage collisions. Many of these collisions were attributed to excessive speed. Speed remains the leading cause of traffic collisions and fatalities in North Carolina as well as across the country. Last year the Highway Patrol investigated 1,801 fatal collisions on North Carolina. Of those, 245 deaths were contributed to speed, compared to 244 deaths in 2011. Motorists who are travelling the highways this Thanksgiving holiday are urged to contact the State Highway Patrol should they observe motorists who are driving in a careless and reckless manner. The Highway Patrol can be reached on any cellphone by dialing *HP or *47.

Chamber Of Commerce Publication Wins Major Award

SYLVA, N.C. – The Jackson County Chamber of Commerce recently won Best Relocation-Visitors Guide with Our Town magazine at the Annual Management Conference for CACCE, the Carolinas Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives.  Chambers of Commerce in North and South Carolina competed in the two state area.   CACCE is the premier association for leadership and organization development of Chambers of Commerce in the Carolinas.  The awards were judged by Chamber peers across the state region. Jackson County Chamber’s Executive Director Julie Spiro (right) was presented the award by incoming CACCE President, Patrick Coughlin. Julie stated, “Our members make our magazine interesting, and help make Jackson County, our town, a wonderful place to live and work each day. I am happy for the attention this brings to our membership and Jackson County. It’s great to be recognized on the state level!” Our Town magazine is published annually by the Jackson County Chamber of Commerce and is offered free of charge to people relocating to the area, as well as visitors and area businesses. The magazine is also disbursed in select NC Welcome Centers. (Story by Julie Spiro)

Jackson County Transit Vehicles Now Converted To Natural Gas

Several months ago the Jackson County Commissioners voted to move forward with the conversion of the vehicles used by Jackson County Transit to propane and stop using gasoline for fuel. The Commissioners received a report this week the conversions had been completed. While it is too early to determine the savings of the conversion it is expected that the fuel costs will be about a dollar and a half cheaper than gasoline per gallon. Other counties having made similar conversions report the vehicles have a longer life expectancy, are less polluting, and have no drop off in power with the use of propane. The payback for the conversion is expected to be in between three and five years thus rendering a savings for the remaining life of the vehicle.

Commissioners Approve Road Priority List

The Jackson County Commissioners Monday approved their priority list of local road projects for the next three years. Commission Chairman Jack Debnam serves on the Regional planning Organization (RPO) which is comprised of commissioners and officials from adjoining counties who review the recommendations from local citizens and the NC DOT for determining the priorities for road upgrades and improvements for the multiple county area. The Jackson County Commissioners identified: The upgrade of  NC 107 from US 23  Business to NC 116 to boulevard status  with a median, improvement of intersections, and the construction of access management improvements; replace the two lane US 64 from NC 107 to Lance Road with a three lane road and construct a round about at the intersection of US 64 and NC 107; construct a westbound ramp at US 74 at US 23 Business; US Business from Hospital Road to NC 107 to be widened to four lane divided boulevard; Old Settlement Road from  NC 107 to NC 116 to be widened to a minimum of 22 feet; Ledbetter Road/Monteith Gap Road to be widened with multi-use paths/bike lanes, extend Ledbetter Road to connect Monteith Gap Road as a loop road; and finally to replace Wilmont Bridge and modernize the intersection.  Commissioner Debnam will meet with the RPO next week to establish the priorities for the region. The list will then be turned over to the North Carolina Department of Transportation for further review. After the review process is completed the recommendations will be turned over to the Highway Commission for approval and funding.