Header

Jackson County Getting New Outdoor Recreation Area

Jackson County will add to it’s growing number of outdoor recreation sites along the Tuckasegee River. The Barkers Creek put in was approved by County Commissioners this week. The lease is on a 3-acre piece of property owned by Duke Energy which the county will get for the bargain price of  $10 a year.

The property sits along U.S. 74 known as the Tuckasegee Gorge. It already has a boat put-in and small parking lot, but Jackson County plans to expand the area for more recreational users. A parking lot expansion, picnic shelter and the addition of 6 picnic tables will be added. Also, there is discussion about a basketball court which County Manager Chuck Wooten compares to East LaPorte Park. The county would be responsible for making these other improvements.

Wooten says the county will be able to build the park amenities with money set aside in a special county recreation fund provided by Duke Energy though some additional local funds may be required.

Wooten adds that Duke Energy will also be responsible for the property taxes on the site.

Fires in Western NC

It seems inevitable that every summer wildires are making headlines. Wildfires are sometimes called “wildland fires.” Wildfires can originate from a dropped match, cigarette embers, campfires, exhaust sparks from a train, or arson. Many wildland fires are ignited by lightning, according to the US Forest Service NC sees about 2 or so lightening fires a year in the region.

Benji Reece with the US Forest Service says so far there have been 24 fires in our region destroying over 100 acres of property.

Wind, temperature, and humidity all influence wildfires. Strong winds push flames toward new fuel sources. Wind can pick up and transfer burning embers and sparks, starting “spot fires.”

During the day, sunlight heats the ground and warm air rises, allowing hot air currents to travel up sloped landscapes. At night, the ground cools and air currents travel down the slopes.

Large fires can create their own winds and weather, increasing their flow of oxygen.

A really large fire can generate hurricane-force winds, up to 120 mph. The high temperatures preheat fuels in the fire’s path, preparing them to burn more readily.

Fires can be expensive. Reece estimates the suppression cost on the 24 fires in our region are about $11,000 or $463 per acre. This cost is actually down from previous years.

Several firefighters from WNC including Reece will be mobilized to assist with wildfires in the Pacific Northwest this week.

Asheville Named Most Beautiful Place To Live by Good Morning America

No need for mascara or lipstick, Asheville, North Carolina’s acres of mountain terrain won the ultimate beauty contest in 2011. ABC’s Good Morning America, announced its list of “Ten Most Beautiful Places to Live” and this little city nicknamed Land in the Sky near the Blue Ridge Parkway topped the charts at #1. But beauty is not only what’s Asheville’s know for. In 2013, Conde Nast Traveler named Asheville on the list of Friendliest Cities in the World. More recently, Purina ONE selected Asheville in May 2014 as a “perfect dog-friendly city” after touring the country to find the best place to kick off its 28-Day Challenge. In June 2014, Livability.com placed Asheville at #4 on its “Top 10 Foodie Cities 2014″ round-up. Asheville, North Carolina beat Aspen, Colorado with flying colors for the top beauty title.

Macon County Sheriff’s Ask People to Be on Alert

Police are asking residents to lock their doors and windows after a report of a prowler who fired a gun at a resident Saturday night.

The incident happened at about 11 p.m. Saturday at a home at 697 West Palmer St. near the downtown, Franklin police chief David Adams said.

The resident reported to police “that an unknown white male had fired several bullets from a handgun at him while he was outside looking around for what he thought was a prowler,” Adams said.

At the request of Franklin police, the Macon County 911 center at 1:30 a.m. Sunday sent out a Code Red message to all residents within a two-mile radius of the West Palmer Street incident. The automated phone message urged residents to lock their doors and windows.

Franklin officers and deputies with the Macon County Sheriff’s Office searched Saturday night and Sunday for the suspect but have not been able to locate him, Adams said.

The suspect was described as having a medium build, in his 20s, wearing a white tee-shirt and blue jeans and carrying a white bag, Adams said. He was last seen running along Forrest Hills Drive with a handgun.

Investigators are looking into the possibility that the prowler may be a prisoner who escaped from the Macon County Detention Center, Adams said.

The inmate, Charles Andrew Cochran, 21, of Franklin, is still on the loose after his escape last Wednesday night.

Anyone with information about the suspect should call the Franklin Police Department at 524-2864 or Macon County Crime Stoppers at 349-2600.

WCU Named Top Adventure School

Results from an online poll have been tallied, and Western Carolina University has been announced as the No. 1 college for outdoor adventure in the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic by a leading outdoors magazine.

Western Carolina captured the title of “top adventure college” over the second-place school, Garrett College in Maryland, following several rounds of voting in which WCU also came out on top against Emory University, the University of Tennessee-Knoxville, Virginia Tech and Appalachian State. Representatives of Blue Ridge Outdoors magazine said that more than 115,000 visitors to its website cast votes during the competition held earlier this summer, and results are listed in the publication’s new August issue.

In her story about the poll results, magazine staff member Jess Daddio wrote that “WCU’s stunning campus is home to some serious adventure. Both the Parks and Recreation Management (PRM) department and the Base Camp Cullowheeouting program offer students a chance to get the quintessential experiential education experience.”

Base Camp Cullowhee has long offered dozens of outdoor recreation trips for students and equipment rental, but in recent years the staff has increased its experiential education services to integrate outdoor activities with students’ classroom curriculum, said Josh Whitmore, WCU’s associate director of outdoor programs. “For example, a professor might approach us about including a climbing wall session, a group development team-building activity or a guided hike to a geologic feature in a class,” Whitmore said.

When it comes to total student participation in Base Camp’s programming, numbers have skyrocketed in the last decade, Whitmore said. “When I first started here nearly 10 years ago, we would run about 300 to 400 touches (student participations) for a year, and we have about 7,000 to 8,000 now,” he said. The growth has followed along with improvements in the university’s recreational facilities, such as the indoor climbing wall at the Campus Recreation Center, which sometimes averages up to 800 student visits per month, he said. Also, WCU’s on-campus trail system – with seven miles of pathway for mountain biking, hiking and running – opened last year.

A decade ago, the Base Camp staff included Whitmore and about half a dozen student workers, but now it takes three full-time staffers and 20 to 25 students to keep the outdoor program going, he said.

Accordingly, the university’s reputation among the general public and prospective students as an epicenter of outdoor adventure has grown over the years, Whitmore said. “Certainly, the mountain lifestyle is a big draw for folks. This (“top adventure college” title) is a big part of building that reputation and will help with that for sure.”

In its rundown of the top eight vote-getting schools, the magazine also included profiles of two accomplished alumni from each institution. WCU’s featured students, both graduates of the Parks and Recreation Management Program, are Glenville native Bobby Bryson and Laurinburg native William Butler. Bryson is now a captain for the Charlotte Fire Department, and as a member of the North Carolina Helicopter and Aquatic Rescue Team, takes part in search and rescue operations that utilize Blackhawk helicopters for swift-water, flood, urban and wilderness rescue. Butler is an educational technician for Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and in that position he introduces visitors to outdoor adventure and educates them about using the wilderness responsibly.

In addition to parks and recreation management, other academic programs offered by WCU for students interested in careers in the outdoors are forest resourceshospitality and tourism and natural resource conservation and management.

Blue Ridge Outdoors’ coverage of the “top adventure college” competition is available online at http://www.blueridgeoutdoors.com/biking/alumni-souths-best-adventure-colleges/.

Haywood Regional Hospital Now Owned By Duke Lifepoint

It was announced Friday Morning that MedWest Haywood and Duke Lifepoint Healthcare have finalized Duke LifPoint’s acquisition of the 169 bed medical center and its affiliated assets. Duke Lifepoint will invest a minimum of $36 million in capital improvements at Haywood facilities over the next eight years and provide resources that will help it enhance and expand its services. Medwest Haywood will n ow be known as Haywood Regional Medical Center.
“As part of Duke LifePoint, Haywood Regional will be better able to meet the changing needs of our community,” said Frank Powers, Chairman of the Haywood Regional Board of Trustees. “We are delighted to finalize this acquisition and begin our collaboration with Duke Lifepoint to improve the health and well being of people throughout this region, create new opportunities for our staff and physicians, and strengthen our medical center for the future ahead.”

Created in 1927, Haywood was the first county hospital in North Carolina. It offers a comprehensive array of services including orthopedics, spine services, cardiology, general surgery, women’s care, emergency medicine, and behavioral health. In addition to its medical center its campus is home to a health and fitness center, the Haywood Outpatient Care Center, and the Homestead, an inpatient hospice facility. Haywood Regional also operates two urgent care centers located in Hazelwood and Canton.
Duke LifePoint is honored to welcome Haywood Regional to our system,” said Lifepoint Chairman and Chief Executive officer William Carpenter III. The physicians and staff at Haywood Regional have shown inspiring dedication and commitment to their patients and community. We look forward to working with them to build on a great tradition of care that exists here and transform health care delivery in Clyde and beyond.”
As part of Duke Lifepoint, Haywood Regional will support its local community by becoming a local taxpayer. A local board of trustees will be established to ensure a strong community voice in Haywood’s long-term strategic direction. “Haywood regional has played a central role in the health care infrastructure of Haywood County for nearly 90 years,” said William J. Fulkerson, Jr., MD, executive vice president of Duke University Health System.” “The Duke LifePoint team is pleased to partner with the medical staff and employees to further strengthen Haywood Regional’s ability to advance Health care throughout the region.”

Duke LifePoint’s acquisition of Haywood Regional was approved by the Haywood County board of Commissioners and the local Hospital Authority Board.

Duke LifePoint Announces The Purchase Of Westcare Health Health System

Sylva, NC (August 1, 2014) – The WestCare Health System Board of Trustees and Duke LifePoint Healthcare today announced that the acquisition of WestCare by Duke LifePoint has been finalized.

Under the terms of the acquisition agreement, which was reviewed by the Attorney General of North Carolina, Duke LifePoint purchased Harris Regional Hospital, an 86-bed hospital in Sylva; Swain County Hospital, a 48-bed hospital in Bryson City; and WestCare Medical Park, an outpatient medical facility in Franklin. Duke LifePoint will invest a minimum of $43 million in capital improvements over the next eight years and provide new resources to help the system grow, recruit new physicians, enhance services and improve health care delivery throughout the region.

“As we have explored this acquisition over the last several months, Duke LifePoint has shown that it shares WestCare’s commitment to our hospitals, our patients and our communities,” said Bunny Johns, Chair of the WestCare Board of Trustees. “We are excited to begin our future as part of Duke LifePoint and to explore the great opportunities we have to enhance health care services to make our communities healthier.”

Becoming part of Duke LifePoint offers many benefits to WestCare’s hospitals, medical staff, employees and communities. Proceeds from the acquisition will retire WestCare’s financial obligations and fund a locally governed charitable foundation to support community needs. WestCare also becomes a local taxpayer, providing a source of new tax revenue to support the local economy.

“Harris Regional Hospital and Swain County Hospital have been a critical part of the health care infrastructure in western North Carolina for many years,” said LifePoint Chairman and Chief Executive Officer William F. Carpenter III. “We are proud to partner with these hospitals to strengthen quality care across this region and look forward to working with their teams to better position the hospitals to grow and prosper in the changing health care environment.”

WestCare’s hospitals now have access to Duke University Health System’s top-ranked patient safety, quality and education programs and LifePoint’s financial and operational resources and expertise.
“We are pleased to welcome WestCare to Duke LifePoint,” said William J. Fulkerson Jr., M.D., executive vice president of Duke University Health System. “Generations of people in this region have relied on WestCare’s hospitals and, together with WestCare’s board, executives, medical staff and employees, we will work together to further enhance health care in this region.”

WestCare will be governed by a regional board of trustees comprised of members of WestCare’s communities, local physicians and representatives from Duke LifePoint.

“WestCare’s relationship with Duke LifePoint marks a new beginning for our hospitals in Sylva and Bryson City and our outpatient center in Franklin,” said Steve Heatherly, CEO of WestCare Health System. “I look forward to working with Duke LifePoint to strengthen health care in our community by providing exceptional experiences for patients and families and growth opportunities for our staff,”

About WestCare Health System
WestCare Health System was formed through a partnership of Harris Regional Hospital and Swain County Hospital in 1997 and serves Jackson, Swain, Macon and Graham counties with primary and subspecialty care, outpatient facilities and urgent care.

About Duke LifePoint Healthcare
Duke LifePoint Healthcare, a joint venture of Duke University Health System, Inc. and LifePoint Hospitals® (NASDAQ: LPNT), was established to build a dynamic network of hospitals and healthcare providers. The joint venture, which brings together LifePoint’s experience in community-based hospital management and Duke’s world-renowned leadership in clinical service, is strengthening and improving healthcare delivery by providing community hospitals the clinical, quality and operational resources they need to grow and prosper. For additional information, visit www.dukelifepointhealthcare.com.

John Luke Carter To Enter American Idol Competition

Webster’s John Luke Carter is expected to compete in the qualification rounds of this season’s American Idol Competition. Carter is planning to enter the competition in New York and if he makes it past the qualifications then he will have the opportunity to appear before the celebrity judges and a chance at a national tv appearance in September in Brooklyn. Carter graduated from Smoky Mountain High School in 2009 and is a member of the Praise and Worship Team at Webster Baptist Church where his father is the pastor. North Carolina has been quite successful in American Idol competition with the last winner being an Asheville resident.

WCU to Host Political Debates

Candidates vying for elected office in three races to be decided by Western North Carolina voters in November have agreed to take part in a series of debates sponsored by Western Carolina University’s Public Policy Institute and Department of Political Science and Public Affairs.

The WCU Political Debate Series will begin Thursday, Sept. 4, with opponents for the U.S. House of Representatives District 11 – incumbent Mark Meadows (R-Jackson) and challenger Tom Hill (D-Henderson). The debate will be held in the Grandroom of A.K. Hinds University Center on the WCU campus.

Next up Tuesday, Sept. 23, will be the candidates in the N.C. House of Representatives District 19 race pitting incumbent Joe Sam Queen (D-Haywood) against Mike Clampitt (R-Swain). The debate will be held in Room 204 of the Health and Human Sciences Building on WCU’s West Campus.

Wrapping up the series Thursday, Oct. 2, will be the contenders for the N.C. Senate District 50 seat, with incumbent Jim Davis (R-Macon) and opponent Jane Hipps (D-Haywood). That debate also will be held in Room 204 of the Health and Human Sciences Building.

All debates will begin at 7 p.m. and will be broadcast live online by WLOS-TV on www.wlos.com. All three debates are open to the public free of charge.

Topics discussed during each of the debates will be selected from questions submitted in advance to the PPI. Questions should be submitted by Friday, Aug. 15, to receive priority consideration. Questions must be submitted by registered voters in the district, should be emailed to ppi@wcu.edu, and must include the name of the sender and the county of residence.

Todd Collins, associate professor of political science and public affairs, and director of the Public Policy Institute, said that hosting the debates is in keeping with WCU’s mission as a regional comprehensive institution.

“As a regionally engaged university, we are excited to offer citizens in our area the opportunity to learn more about the candidates through our debate series,” Collins said. “We encourage all voters to learn about the issues and the candidates, to participate in the debates by submitting questions, to watch the debates in person or online, and to make an informed choice when they go to the polls in November.”

Mountain State Fair Tickets

The N.C. Mountain State Fair will return to the Western N.C. Agricultural Center for another run of family fun Sept. 5-14, and advance tickets are now available.

“There’s no time like fair time, and with savings of $2 on admission tickets and 50 percent on ride tickets, there is no time like right now to buy advance tickets,” said fair manager Matt Buchanan.

Advance tickets are available through Sept. 4 at the WNC Agricultural Center, WNC Farmers Market and area Ingles stores. Advance tickets are not available online this year; however, additional Ingles ticket locations have been added in the mountains and upstate South Carolina.

Advance tickets are $6 for adults 13-64, and $2 for children 6-12 and seniors ages 65 and older. Groups with 30 or more people can purchase advance tickets for $5 per person. Ride tickets are available in advance for $7.50 for a sheet of 12 tickets. Family Fun Packs are also available for $35. The cost includes five admission tickets, tickets for four rides and food coupons for a selection of fair vendors.

“With more than 100 acts performing throughout the fair, we’re one of the best entertainment values in the area,” Buchanan said. “Buying in advance or as a group makes it even more affordable.”

This year’s entertainment lineup will feature a mix of new attractions and traditional favorites. Stilt Puppets, a roaming band of acrobatic stilt walkers, will make its fair debut. Other new acts include illusionists Josh Knotts and Lea, dog stunt show K9s in Flight, and naturalist Carlton Burke. Sea Lion Splash, which debuted in 2013, will return for another year of playful antics.

In addition, there will be live music on the Heritage Stage, racing pigs at the Hogway Speedway, newborn calves in the Mooternity Ward, and other fan favorites during the fair’s 10-day run. More information is available at www.mountainfair.org or by calling 828-687-1414.

Ribbon Cutting at Graveyard Fields

Middle Falls at Graveyard Fields

Middle Falls at Graveyard Fields

Graveyard Fields is one of the most popular spots on the Blue Ridge Parkway and on Aug. 4, you can join the National Park Service, U.S Forest Service and Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation to celebrate its official reopening after extensive trail improvements, construction of new restrooms and expanded parking area.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony will take place at 2 p.m. at Graveyard Fields at Milepost 419 on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

The vision for this project started over five years ago with a partnership between the National Park Service, Forest Service and Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation. Although the conversation and planning started with these three partners, the final result was only possible because of the dedication and contribution of many of the Foundation’s Community of Stewards members.

The Foundation secured a Scenic Byways grant of $261,000 and committed to raising over $65,000 in matching funds.  To date, The Foundation’s Community of Stewards has contributed over $25,000 to the project, leaving almost $40,000 still to raise. The project is supported by individual donors both large and small, local community groups such as the Fund for Haywood County and the Asheville BMW Riders and significant in-kind contributions from Bonesteel Films and the Steep Canyon Rangers who joined together to create a music video to raise awareness around the needs at Graveyard Fields.

 

 

Swain County Joins Anti-Fracking Movement

safe_imageSwain County has gotten on board with the anti-fracking movement by passing a no fracking resolution. In addition to Swain County, other mountain communities such as Jackson County have also passed anti-fracking resolutions. In July, first Webster and then Sylva town boards passed resolutions. In August, Forest Hills officials will consider a similar resolution.

Proponents contend that fracking is safe and will provide a source of both energy and jobs. Critics — which include a unanimous Swain commission — argue that the practice raises environmental concerns about issues such as groundwater contamination.

The resolutions are entirely symbolic. The newly passed state law stipulates that local governments have no authority to ban fracking.

Senate, House Budget Agreement Provides Largest Teacher Pay Raise in North Carolina History

House Speaker Thom Tillis (R-Mecklenburg) and Senate Leader Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) held a joint press conference Tuesday to announce details of the $21.25 billion budget agreement reached between Senate and House conferees this past weekend.

 

The budget will provide public school educators an average seven percent raise – averaging $3,500 per teacher. The $282 million investment will be largest teacher pay raise in state history – moving North Carolina from 46th to 32nd in national teacher pay rankings.

 

It will also preserve teacher assistant positions, protect classroom funding and continue to give superintendents broad flexibility to tailor classroom spending to their districts’ needs.

 

“Making positive and historic changes to the status quo isn’t easy – and we commend our Senate and House colleagues for their hard work, patience and perseverance in crafting a plan that provides the largest teacher pay raise in state history without raising taxes,” said Senate Leader Berger and Speaker Tillis. “Investing $282 million in pay raises will make North Carolina competitive nationally and encourage the best and brightest teachers to make a long-term commitment to their profession, our students and our state.”

In addition to the teacher pay raise and preservation of classroom funds, the budget agreement will:

  • Reform and replace an archaic 37-step teacher pay system with a six-step schedule and a transparent compensation package;
  • Preserve current Medicaid eligibility;
  • Provide most state employees a $1,000 pay raise and five bonus vacation days;
  • Increase pay for step-eligible Highway Patrol Troopers between five and six percent;
  • Maintain funding at current levels for the state’s university system; and
  • Fulfill the commitment to extend supplemental pay for teachers with Master’s degrees who have completed at least one course in a graduate program as of August 1, 2013.

The budget will also boost early-career teacher pay by 14 percent over the next two years to $35,000 – making North Carolina a leader in the Southeast and fulfilling a promise made by state leaders in February.

The full budget compromise bill will be posted to the North Carolina General Assembly website at www.ncleg.net on Wednesday.

NC Attorney General Comments on Same Sex Marriage Appeal

North Carolina’s attorney general said Monday his office will no longer defend the state’s voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage in court after a federal appeals court ruled a similar prohibition in neighboring Virginia unconstitutional.

At a news conference about two hours after the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling was announced in Richmond, Va., Attorney General Roy Cooper said the ruling made it highly likely North Carolina’s ban will be overturned. North Carolina is part of the 4th Circuit.

Cooper, a Democrat, said further opposition to the four federal lawsuits challenging his state’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage would be “futile.”

Public Hearing on Fracking at WCU

The N.C. Mining and Energy Commission recently agreed to hold a public hearing on proposed fracking regulations in Western North Carolina, in addition to three previously scheduled hearings in the Piedmont.

The meeting is tentatively scheduled from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 12, at the Bardo Fine & Performing Arts Center at Western Carolina University in Cullowhee.

The N.C. Division of Energy, Mineral and Land Resources, on behalf of the N.C. Mining and Energy Commission, is seeking public comments from July 15 through Sept. 15 on a set of proposed rules to regulate oil and gas exploration and development.

Additional public hearings are scheduled for Aug. 20 in Raleigh, Aug. 22 in Sanford and Aug. 25 in Reidsville.

An organization called Clean Water for North Carolina was among those that lobbied for a hearing to be held in the western part of the state.

Tickets for WCU’s Mainstage season go on sale Aug. 6

The students and faculty of Western Carolina University’s School of Stage and Screen soon will raise the curtain for their Mainstage season for the 2014-15 academic year.

The playbill includes two plays and two musicals. Season subscriptions and individual tickets for the productions will go on sale Wednesday, Aug. 6, at the box office in WCU’s John W. Bardo Fine and Performing Arts Center.

The Mainstage season will kick off in October with “Elemeno Pea,” a comedy written by Molly Smith Metzler and directed by D.V. Caitlyn, a professor in the School of Stage and Screen. The play, exploring the themes of status, ambition, regret, mistakes and life-defining choices, contains adult language and content.

Show times are 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 1, through Saturday, Oct. 4, plus a 3 p.m. matinee on Oct. 4, at Hoey Auditorium.

The next production on the playbill is the musical “42nd Street,” book by Michael Stewart and Mark Bramble, and lyrics and music by Al Dubin and Harry Warren. The production will be directed by Terrence Mann, WCU’s Phillips Distinguished Professor of Musical Theatre, with assistance from music director Katya Stanislavskaya and choreographer Karyn Tomczak. Based on the novel by Bradford Ropes, the musical follows an aspiring chorus girl on her journey through Broadway. Music will include “You’re Getting to Be a Habit with Me,” “We’re in the Money” and “Lullaby of Broadway.”

Show times are 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 13, through Saturday, Nov. 15, plus a 3 p.m. matinee on Sunday, Nov. 16, at the Bardo Arts Center.

The season also includes the musical comedy/horror production “The Rocky Horror Show” in February. Written by Richard O’Brien, the musical will be directed by Mann with help from music director Stanislavskaya. The sci-fi gothic musical about a transvestite and his motley crew includes audience participation and cascading toilet paper. The New York Times said the musical “that deals with mutating identity and time warps becomes one of the most mutated, time-warped phenomena in show business.”

Show times are 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 19, through Saturday, Feb. 21, plus a special showing at 10:30 p.m. on Feb. 21, at Hoey Auditorium.

Director Brenda Lilly of WCU’s School of Stage and Screen will present J.M. Barrie’s “Peter Pan: The Boy Who Would Not Grow Up” in April. The fantasy play follows the adventures of Peter, Wendy, Michael and John in Neverland. This new adaptation of the classic play that will be performed at WCU is based on the work of John Caird and Trevor Nunn, who researched and restored Barrie’s original intentions. The London Times considers the play “a national masterpiece.”

Show times are 7:30 p.m. Thursday, April 16, through Saturday, April 18, plus a 3 p.m. matinee on Sunday, April 19, at the Bardo Arts Center.

Subscriptions for the musicals and plays are available Wednesday, Aug. 6, through Sunday, Sept. 28, and are priced at $50 for adults, $40 for seniors and WCU faculty and staff, and $20 for students.

Individual tickets for the two musicals, “42nd Street” and “The Rocky Horror Show,” are $21 for adults, $16 for seniors and WCU faculty and staff, and $7 (in advance) and $10 (day of show) for students.

Individual tickets for the two plays, “Elemeno Pea” and “Peter Pan,” are $16 for adults, $11 for seniors and WCU faculty and staff, and $7 (in advance) and $10 (day of show) for students.

Preceding the regular Mainstage season is the special event “Through the Looking Glass: Celebrating 125 Years of Arts at WCU.” Chancellor David O. Belcher and wife Susan Belcher will host this celebration of the arts throughout the university’s 125-year history. Show time is 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 2, at the Bardo Arts Center. WCU Friends of the Arts can reserve seats through Friday, Aug. 22, when remaining seats will be released to the general public. Reservations are required for this event.

Following the regular Mainstage season is the seventh annual Controlled Chaos Film Festival. The event, which will feature the best films written, directed and produced by students in WCU’s Film and Television Production Program, is set for 7 p.m. Friday, May 1, at the Bardo Arts Center. All seats are $10, with cash only accepted at the door.

For more information about the Mainstage season and the two special events, contact WCU’s School of Stage and Screen at 828-227-7491. To order season subscriptions and individual tickets, call the Bardo Arts Center box office at 828-227-2479 or go online to bardoartscenter.wcu.edu.

WCU Grant To Increase Nursing Care in WNC

A federal workforce diversity grant of more than $1 million will enable the School of Nursing at Western Carolina University to partner with Mission Health in an effort to increase the quality of nursing care provided to patients in rural Western North Carolina.

The funding marks the second $1 million grant awarded to WCU in the past year that is intended to improve the diversity and quality of nursing professionals in the region.

The latest grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will provide approximately $350,000 annually over a three-year period to create a program designed to increase the number of nurses with four-year degrees working in mountain hospitals and health care settings.

The project will support development of nurses qualified as “advanced rural generalists” competent in meeting a variety of health care needs across diverse specialties and in different health care settings. The program will include courses addressing the unique health care needs found in the rural environment.

The project will focus on registered nurses with two-year degrees who are ethnic minorities and/or from economically and educationally disadvantaged backgrounds who work at the Mission Hospital campus in Asheville or at its rural affiliate hospitals – Angel Medical Center in Franklin, Blue Ridge Regional Hospital in Spruce Pine, Highlands-Cashiers Hospital in Highlands, McDowell Hospital in Marion and Transylvania Regional Hospital in Brevard. It will provide scholarships, stipends and mentorship opportunities to allow them to receive the additional education and training offered by obtaining their bachelor’s degrees.

Participants in the project are expected to include people of African-American, Native American, Hispanic and Appalachian descent – segments of the population that typically seek advanced education at lower numbers than the rest of the population.

WCU has been at the forefront of efforts to increase the number of nurses with bachelor’s degrees in North Carolina. The Regionally Increasing Baccalaureate Nurses Program – or RIBN – started as a partnership between WCU, Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College and the Foundation for Nursing Excellence six years ago. The program allows students to be dually accepted and enrolled in both the university and a community college. Since its inception, the program has expanded across the state, with seven universities and 30 community colleges now involved.

Waynesville Teen Dies

Randy Tyler Jenson, 18, of Waynesville

Randy Tyler Jenson, 18, of Waynesville

A Waynesville teen died after falling out of the bed of a moving pickup truck around 330 am on  Wednesday morning in the Fines Creek area of Clyde.

Emergency workers and law enforcement responded to the call on Shelton Laurel where Randy Tyler Jensen, 18, had been riding in the back of a pickup truck when he fell out.

Jensen was pronounced dead at the scene. No others were injured. The incident remains under investigation.

ConMet Returning to Jackson County

Jackson County officials have announced an expansion agreement with Consolidated Metco (ConMet) that will utilize 60,000 sq. ft. of the former Tuckasegee Mills facility located on Skyland Drive in Sylva. The company’s investment will approach $500,000 in facility upgrades, equipment, and lease payments to the county over a three year period, with the potential of creating 25 new jobs during the first 12 months of operation. ConMet will primarily utilize the Jackson facility for warehouse operations and some product assembly as well.

The announcement marks the return of ConMet to Jackson County, as the company formerly operated Cashiers Plastics as a custom injection mold facility. With the growth of the plastic injection molding market in the mid-90’s, ConMet relocated to a 292,000 sq. ft. facility in Bryson City in 1996, and then followed with the addition of a 380,990 sq. ft. plant in Canton in 2006. Those combined facilities employ over 1,100 associates. ConMet back to Jackson County after many years

Local Students and Teachers Learn Value in Park Service

Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials announced the completion of two unique summer programs involving select high school students, college students, and teachers. Participants learned about park resources through on-site training that enabled them to perform ranger duties during their six-week, paid work experience and also to return to the classroom this fall with a wealth of knowledge and experience gained by working in a national park.
“These programs are mutually beneficial,” said Park Education Specialist Karen Ballentine. “The students and teachers get an in-depth study of resource education techniques, scientific methods, and field research to enhance their skills and talents, and, in turn, the park creates advocates through better understanding of and appreciation for the Smokies. Teachers will bring the knowledge into their classrooms and the interns will share their education and experience with the local community through their friends and family.”
Participants worked alongside park rangers in the field assisting with education programs and resource management activities gaining hands-on experience and exploring career opportunities in wildlife biology, fisheries science, botany, forest and stream ecology, geology, Cherokee history and culture, Appalachian history, and park management. When not in the field, teachers worked with park staff to develop elementary, middle, and high school park-based curriculum for the Parks as Classrooms program.
These successful programs were made possible through public and private funding sources. Grants were received from Alcoa, Friends of the Smokies license plate funds, and the federally-funded Youth Partnership Program (YPP). These funds supported five teachers, 25 high school students, and five college students. Additionally, the YPP grant supported four teacher-naturalist positions based out of Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont who assisted with summer camp and research projects.
Student interns will make presentations about their summer experience in North Carolina on Thursday, July 24 at 12:00 p.m. and in Tennessee on Friday, July 25 at 5:00 p.m. The events are open to the media. Please contact the park public affairs office for more information.
The following high school students were selected for the program:
In North Carolina: Aidan Galloway, Jackson County Early College; Alec Wells, Buncombe County Early College; Alex Treadway, Swain County High School; Annie McDarris, Cary Academy; Chace Morgan, Smoky Mountain High School; Holli Whittle, Robbinsville High School; Joshua Jimison, Pisgah High School; Kayla Humphrey, Buncombe County Early College; Orion Holmberg, Cherokee High School; Sydney Schulhofer, Tuscola High School; Todd Allred, Haywood Christian Academy, Ben Ogletree, Smoky Mountain High School; and Allie Dinwiddie, Tuscola High School.
In Tennessee:  Isaac Adams, Cosby High School;; Caleb Downey; Gatlinburg-Pittman High School; Daniel Hatcher, Pigeon Forge High School; Natasha Henderson, Cocke Co High School; Sarah Ottinger, Maryville High School; Zachary Parker, Seymour High School; Jared Rumple, Heritage High School; Sarah Stewart, Homeschool; Austin Valenzuela, Sevier County High School; Caden Watson, Walker Valley High School; Summer Wegwerth, Gatlinburg-Pittman High School; and Madeline Wimmer, Maryville High School.
The following teachers were selected for the program:
In North Carolina: Rich Harvey, Swain West Elementary and Cindy Bryon, School of Inquiry and Life Sciences at Asheville High School.
In Tennessee: Charles Slawson, Fulton High School; Amanda Hendricks, South Doyle Middle School; and Mark Andrews, Heritage High School.
The following college students were selected for the program:
Jarred Burcham, Western Carolina University; Lauren Bartl, State University of New York; Zach Copeland, University of Tennessee; Grant Fisher, Carson Newman; and Victoria Becerra, Oconlauftee Job Corps.
Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont Teacher-Naturalists:
Simon Carbone, Gretchen O’Henley, Wyatt Moore, and Amy Wilson.