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ABC Board-Merger Negotiations

liquor-1221-1280x960Sylva town leaders want to restart the ABC board-merger negotiations with county commissioners that stalled a year ago, and they plan to send a proposal this week. An ABC store will open this spring in Cashiers. Once it does, the town stands to lose significant revenue from its ABC store in the East Sylva Shopping Center. Country clubs, restaurants and other establishments in the Cashiers area get their liquor through the Sylva ABC store, a $320,000 boost that’s about to evaporate. Jackson County voters approved the countywide sale of alcoholic beverages in May 2012; commissioners then pushed forward with opening a liquor store in the southern end of the county. There’s been talk of opening a store in the Qualla area as well.

Swain County Man Arrested on Several Charges

According to the Swain County Sheriff’s Department, on Friday , February 14, 2014, Swain County Sheriff’s Deputies and Bryson City Police Officers arrested Dennis Allen McGaha of Swain County on several charges resulting from an incident that occurred in Bryson City on the same date. McGaha was charged with:

  • Felony Flee to Elude
  • assault with a Deadly weapon on a Government official
  • Resisting Public official
  • Possess Drug Paraphernalia
  • Possess Marijuana Greater then 1/2oz to 1 1/2oz
  • Injury to Personal Property
  • Breaking and or Entering
  • Larceny of a Motor Vehicle
  • Felony Larceny
  • Break or Enter a Motor Vehicle
  • First Degree Burglary

He is currently being held in the Swain County Detention Center on a $150,000.00 secured bond.

Mountain Hillside Development Ordinance Hearing On Thursday

The history of the Mountain Hillside Development Ordinance goes back about seven years when the first hillside development regulations were adopted. Opponents suggest the regulations were so restrictive that the construction and building business along with the collapse of the nationwide housing bubble hit Jackson County especially hard. Proponents of the regulations say the slowing of the development has protected existing homes and views, helped with sedimentation control and water quality, and requires better planning for the protection of the beauty of western North Carolina. Opinions range from those who feel there should be no ordinances controlling what a person can do on their property while others feel that every change or construction needs to be done within the broader view of the whole neighborhood. Director Gerald Green urges citizens bring their opinions to the hearing. There will be a time to speak or persons can present their opinions in written format. The ordinance hearing will be in the Commissioners Board Room on the second floor of the Jackson County Justice Center starting at 6:00 p.m.

Jackson County Commissioners To Meet Monday

Even though it will celebrated as President’s Day the Jackson County Commissioners will have a busy day on Monday. For the afternoon work session the commissioners will take a road trip to see the improvements to the new Jackson County Transit Authority location on Haywood Road just outside Dillsboro. The Transit Authority relocated to the facility several months ago but the building and the associated grounds and parking area needed improvements. The Commissioners will also check on the renovation taking place at the Skyland Office Complex which includes the upgrades to the Board of Elections, The facility will also have a community room which will be available for local meetings as well as for training for poll workers and other election personnel.

Jackson County Tourism Development Authority To Meet Tuesday

The Jackson County Tourism Development Authority Board Of Directors will meet on Tuesday at the North Carolina Center For the Advancement Of Teaching In Cullowhee. The meeting will be called to order by Robert jumper who is now the Chairman of that Board. The meeting will be proceeded by an opportunity for public comment beginning at 12:50. Numerous state agencies and local entities who track tourism rates are reporting that the number of tourists coming into southwestern North Carolina is on the upswing. Such growth has a positive and broad based impact. The board will hear several reports including the financial report, as well as Governance, Finance, and Marketing. Also the Cashiers and Jackson County Chambers of Commerce will present their reports as well. After the meeting there will be an additional opportunity for public comment. The North Carolina Center For the Advancement Of Teaching is located at 276 NCCAT Drive in Cullowhee.

Great Smokies Mountains National Park Closed Thursday

Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials announced that Sugarlands Visitor Center, Oconaluftee Visitor Center, and Park Headquarters will remain closed all day, February 14, due to inclement weather.

Currently all roads are closed in the park except for the following: Newfound Gap Road from Gatlinburg to Sugarlands Visitor Center, the Spur between Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg, and Newfound Gap Road from Cherokee to Smokemont Campground.

For more information about current road conditions, please visit the Park’s website at www.nps.gov/grsm, call the Park’s Road and Weather Information Line at 865-436-1200, or follow road updates on Twitter at http://twitter.com/smokiesroadsnps.

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.

Agriculture Commissioner Troxler Announces Damage Assistance To Farmers

RALEIGH — The N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services has activated its toll-free hotline to help farmers affected by the winter storm to connect with resources that can assist with recovery. Farmers who have an agricultural emergency can call 1-866-506-6222. The hotline will be staffed 24 hours a day through Friday, Feb. 14. Operating hours will be re-evaluated at that time. “This storm is bringing a potentially nasty mix of snow and ice,” said Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler. “Possible impacts to farms include power outages, damage to agricultural buildings and animal health emergencies. We are prepared to work with our state and local partners to help our agricultural community in the storm’s aftermath.”

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.

Avoid IRS imposters

With the April 15th tax filing deadline coming up, watch out for criminals and con artists posing as the Internal Revenue Service to try to win your trust and steal your money. We’ve warned you before about phony calls from the IRS. Some North Carolina consumers recently reported getting threatening calls from someone claiming to be with the IRS. The fake IRS agent told them a warrant had been issued for their arrest and, if they did not pay his taxes immediately, police would jail them within hours. The caller continued to harass one victim and intimidate him until he felt he had no choice but to pay more than $8,000 to the scammers.

If you get a call that claims to come from the IRS, look for warning signs that it’s scam:

  • The IRS will not threaten arrest, deportation or license revocation if you don’t pay back taxes immediately.
  • IRS agents will never demand immediate payment by credit card, pre-paid debit card or wire transfer.
  • Typically, the IRS communicates with consumers about tax issues via mail, not by phone, email or text message.
  • Ask for the caller’s call back number and employee badge number, and then call the IRS directly at 1-800-829-1040 to check them out.
  • Don’t rely on Caller ID to identify who is calling you, since scammers can manipulate it to make it appear they are calling from the real IRS.
  • Never share personal information, such as your Social Security Number or bank account number, with anyone you don’t know who contacts you, even if they claim to be with the IRS.  Identity thieves can use this information to open up accounts in your name and even claim your tax refund.

If you spot a tax related scam, report it to the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division by calling 1-877-5-NO-SCAM or filing an online complaint at ncdoj.gov.

Phone Scam Alert

Don’t Recognize the Number? Don’t Return the Call.

Phone-based crooks are always on the lookout for a new way to take your money. In their latest scam, they use computers to place calls to thousands of phones, including to numbers in North Carolina. After your phone rings one time, the computer ends the call but your phone captures the number of that incoming “missed” call.

Even though the number is unfamiliar, some people call back to see who called them. However, calling the number may connect you to an adult entertainment line overseas and trigger charges of $19.95 plus $9 for each minute of the call. These calls usually come from area codes in the Caribbean including 473, 809, 284, 649, or 876.

Remember, if the call you missed was legitimate and important, the caller would have left you a voicemail message or will call you back.

To protect yourself from the one-ring scam:

  • Don’t automatically return calls from numbers or area codes you don’t recognize.
  • If you don’t know the number but think the call may be legitimate, check it out by typing the number into an online search engine.  You can also search the area code to see if it’s an overseas call.
  • To avoid accidentally calling the number and falling victim to a scam, delete it from your phone.
  • Check your cell phone bill carefully, and if you get billed for one of these calls report it to your cell phone carrier.
  • If you believe that you‘ve been scammed or if you have trouble getting the charges removed from your bill, report it to the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division by calling 1-877-5-NO-SCAM or file a complaint at www.ncdoj.gov.

Haywood County Missing Persons Located

The Haywood County Sheriff’s Office reports two people who were reported missing in separate incidents have been located.

Family members who had reported 38-year-old Robert Douglas Parks missing said today that he has spoken with them and is fine.  His name has been removed from missing persons.

Also, because of news alerts in the local media, a person recognized James Christopher Franklin at a fast-food restaurant in the Oteen area of Buncombe County last night and notified police.  Asheville police officers positively identified Mr. Franklin, and he was in good condition.

Sheriff Ashe Announces Retirement

Sheriff Jimmy Ashe

Sheriff Jimmy Ashe

Below is the retirement announcement released by Sheriff Jimmy Ashe’s office.

 

After much prayerful thought and reflection, I am today announcing my decision to retire as your Sheriff in December of 2014.  Serving three terms as Sheriff, and many years more as a member of the Department, has been the most rewarding experience in my life.  Serving with and leading the men and women of the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office has been a privilege and an honor and the citizens of the County can be proud of the law enforcement professionals who answer the call of duty everyday.

During a career that has spanned nearly thirty-five years, I have witnessed great changes in the County.  While we have grown in population, we have also maintained the remnants of days gone by, with neighbor knowing neighbor and citizens supporting the greater good.

I am proud of what we have accomplished at the Sheriff’s Office.  We have worked diligently to enhance our crime fighting skills with new equipment, robust training, and meaningful relationships with our colleagues at other agencies; local, State and Federal.  I would like to think that we have created the foundation for sustainable relationships with our law enforcement partners.

As I reflect on my many years with the Sheriff’s Office, as a Deputy, Supervisor, Commanding Officer, Chief Deputy and elected Sheriff, I cannot help but recall the many changes we have seen in both the Sheriff’s Office and the communities we serve.  Once a sleepy hamlet imbedded in the mountains of Western North Carolina, we have emerged as a hub of social activity, cultural diversity, educational greatness, and the destination of many, be they tourists or those who have decided to become our neighbors.

Many have served the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office during my tenure, and I would like to thank them for their commitment to our community and the strengthening of our values.  Together we have worked to assimilate our department into the mainstream lives of our citizens; being there when needed and providing for a sense of safety and well-being.

This has not been an easy decision.  I have been humbled by the breadth of your support and the measure of your resolve to help me make Jackson County all that it can be.  But there does come a time when the reins of leadership must be passed to others and I have determined that this is the time.

To my friends, supporters, and all citizens of Jackson County, please accept my most sincere thank you for your trust, confidence, and faith.  I shall always cherish my service with the County I love and its magnificent people. (Press Release from the office of Sheriff Jimmy Ashe)

 

Commissioners Take Action On Board Of Elections Issues

The Jackson County Commissioners voted on Monday to allocate two-hundred-thousand dollars for the upgrading of the Skyland Services Center which was formerly occupied by the Jackson County Transit. With the crunch for space at the Jackson County Justice Center it was decided to relocated the Board Of Elections to the Skyland Services Center and make several upgrades to make the facility more user friendly for the Board Of Elections and other future community events. In addition to securing the storage area for the voting machines, construction of private office space for Board Of Elections staff, and other materials pertaining to elections, the improvements will also include a large classroom and community room space for training poll workers and other elections related personnel as well as having a space to accommodate community meetings. The Commissioners also set aside over $16,000 in the budget for salary and benefits for an additional employee for the Board Of Elections. With the passage by the North Carolina legislature of HB 589 numerous changes to the voter registration process are mandated by state law. The Board of Elections had requested additional staffing several years ago, and with the new requirements of the law the need for the additional staff person became more critical. It is expected a new staff member will be on board in immediate future.

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.

ECU Dental Clinic Near Completion

 

ECU Dental Clinic

ECU Dental Clinic

Back in December of 2012, Local officials and Administrators from East Carolina University broke ground for the news Community Service Leaning Center for ECU’s School of Dentistry. The $3 million, 7,700-square-foot center, located next door to the Jackson County Rescue Squad just above the Jackson County Senior is nearing completion and should be ready for occupancy within the next 60 days. The center is the third of ten centers that East Carolina University plans to open across the state. Each center contains 16 dental chairs and state-of-the-art general dentistry facilities.

ECU School of Dental Medicine faculty members, post-doctoral residents and dental students will provide patient care, giving the residents and students experience practicing in a community setting. The center will also employ local staff members. Medicaid and other forms of insurance will be accepted by the center.

Paula Carden, director of the Jackson County Health Department, stated at the ground breaking, “Dental health is essential for overall health, and many are being left out. I’ll be happy when we can refer patients to the center.”

The School of Dental Medicine intends to place fourth-year dental students in rotations in community service learning centers throughout the state. Also, the centers will provide various state of the art dental services to a wide range of patients. They will also serve as opportunities to encourage graduating dental students to set up a practice in rural areas of the state upon completion of the program.

“We are proud to be a part of this initiative by East Carolina,” said Chuck Wooten, Jackson County Manager. “Our hope is that the dental center will help more students in our region consider dental professions and that some of ECU’s dental students who work here will fall in love with the mountains and want to stay.”

WCU Kicks Off 125th Year Celebration

wcu 125 imageA yearlong celebration of Western Carolina University’s 125th anniversary kicked off on Thursday as students, faculty, and community members gathered in the school’s University Center for the first of several such events that will be held throughout the year. WCU Chancellor David O. Belcher began the celebration with some remarks reminding the crowd of the many changes that have occurred at the institution over the years. In 1889, a one room school house with one teacher and eighteen students was the founding of the Cullowhee Academy. Over the past 125 year that school has evolved into the multi campus Western Carolina University with an enrolment of over 10,000.

 “In the two-and-a-half years Susan and I have been at Western Carolina, one of the things that has struck me the most is how, despite the remarkable changes this university has witnessed here in Cullowhee over the decades, the fundamental mission of this institution remains the same. Through all of the changes, a strong mission to serve the people of Western North Carolina has been the foundation of this strong institution,” said Chancellor Belcher.

Following his remarks, the celebration continued with a fashion show of clothing from throughout the university’s 125 years of history, along with apparel adorned with WCU’s commemorative 125th anniversary logo. Highlights of the fashion show included Will Peebles, director of WCU’s School of Music, wearing 19th-century vintage overalls; Sylva Town Manager Paige Roberson in an Edwardian bustle dress; Susan Belcher, wife of the WCU chancellor, in a purple 1930s May court dress; and Paws, the Catamount mascot, dressed in a 1940s football uniform with padded pants. Various University musical and dance groups also performed.

The official 125th birthday bash will be held in August, the month in which the school that became WCU was founded in 1889. The event is scheduled for Tuesday, Aug. 26, with a picnic on the University Center lawn, old-fashioned games and music all in the theme of the late 19th century. The final celebration event is set for Friday, Dec. 5, in the Ramsey Center, with music from the Pride of the Mountains Marching Band (which will have just returned from its appearance in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade), refreshments, remarks from the chancellor. Other events will be designed around traditional highlights of WCU’s annual calendar, such as spring commencement ceremonies, Mountain Heritage Day, the Spring Literary Festival, and Homecoming. For more information, about the school’s history or the 125th anniversary events visit the website at celebrate125.wcu.edu.

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 Property Evaluation Process On Schedule With No Rate Increase Projected.

The Jackson County Commissioners heard reports from a number of county agencies Tuesday during the annual Planning Retreat which was held at the NC-CAT facility at Western Carolina University. Bobby McMahan and Kevin Ford with the Jackson County Tax Department reported that the property re-evaluation field review of the real estate in Jackson County is about fifty percent complete with all the current data now entered. Also the data for all property sales in Jackson County in 2013 are now entered into the system. With the property reevaluation process underway and the report by Jackson County Finance Officer Darlene Foxx that the county fund balance at the end of the fiscal year was at 35% with just under a million dollars more than the prior year, and Jackson County having the lowest tax rate in the state it was projected by the commissioners that no tax rate increase is anticipated for this year. The Commissioners also felt it was not necessary to move forward with a Fire Tax until an additional review can take place.

Winter Storm Watch In Effect For Much Of Western North Carolina

9!/20/2014)  A winter storm watch has been announced for most of Western North Carolina.  The watch is in effect through late Tuesday night.  Heavy snowfall and cold temperatures could cause roadways to be quite slippery or even impassable. Also, strong wind gusts could cause downed trees and power lines.   A winter storm watch means there is a potential for significant snow, sleet, or ice accumulations that may impact travel.  For up-to-date weather information and a complete list of closings and delays you can check out wrgc.com.