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Jarrett House Sold

The Jarrett House

The Jarrett House

The Jarrett House in Dillsboro has taken on a new primary owner and major changes are coming to the structure that was built in 1884. Jim and Jean Hartbarger announced yesterday to Constantine Roumel who also owns the Nantahala Village and Resort in Bryson City will become the new primacy partner. The Hartbargers purchased the Jarrett House property in 1975. They will continue as the administrators, oversee renovations, prepare for the opening in late April or early May, and coordinate marketing and brand imaging. Renovations are now under way to the lobby and the two dinning rooms. The parlor is being converted into an English Tea Room. Other renovations include a new face lift to the inn which will start this fall. The menu will also be changing with popular items remaining but new items offered will include pastas, salads, pastries, espresso and a full-service bar. The new owner Roumel is a native of Crete and resides in Europe yet spends much of his time in the US with offices in Atlanta and Orlando. The Jarrett House was penned to the National Register of Historic Places on March 1st, 1984 and is one of the oldest operating inns in Western North Carolina.

Sneek Peek At WCU Facility

WCU Facility ConstructionWestern Carolina University will host a “sneak peek” Wednesday, April 16, of the soon-to-be-opened laboratories and classrooms that will enable the expansion of WCU’s undergraduate engineering program to the Asheville-Hendersonville area.  Nearly 11,000 square feet of space on the ground floor of a building located in Biltmore Park Town Square is undergoing renovations to accommodate the expanded engineering program, with classes scheduled to get underway in August. Expansion of WCU’s engineering degree was made possible through more than $1.4 million in the state budget. The N.C. General Assembly approved roughly $700,000 dollars for start-up costs and laboratory equipment for the 2013-14 fiscal year, with nearly $720,000 in recurring funds to cover faculty positions and ongoing operations. Western Carolina began offering the bachelor of science degree in engineering in the fall 2012 at its campus in Cullowhee as a new stand-alone program. The university had partnered with UNC Charlotte to jointly offer a bachelor of science degree in electrical engineering from 2004 until 2012. The open house will from 4 until 6 p.m on the 16th and will enable guests to observe renovation work at the facility, followed by a reception and optional tour of WCU’s existing instructional site at Biltmore Park.

Tuscola Prom Problems

Tuscola High School

Tuscola High School

Organizers at Tuscola High School moved the prom from the Deerpark Restaurant at Biltmore, to the much smaller Laurel Ridge Country Club in Waynesville. Prom organizer Maggie Melville says the prom was moved because it had gotten too expensive to have in Asheville. She says in February, they limited ticket sales to Juniors and Seniors, and told students about the change. But by mid-March, only three tickets had been bought. Then sales opened up to the whole school and they quickly sold out. Prom organizers say they may consider finding a different venue next year.

Trout Season Opened Saturday

NC Trout WatersA Successful Trout season opened in North Carolina on Saturday. Thousands of anglers flocked to The Mountains to fish. Western North Carolina has over 3 thousand miles of trout waters. “The first warm weather that comes around…people are itching to get out and get at it,” says Josh Garris, a fly fishing guide in Asheville. People from all over the world book fishing trips in and around The Mountains. A license is required to fish in North Carolina. It costs $20 but is good for the entire year.

Haywood County Bank Robbery

Matthew Mark Lloyd

Matthew Mark Lloyd

A local bank was robbed today and the quick thinking of the tellers helped deputies catch the suspect. The robbery happened at the BB&T Bank on Soco Road in Maggie Valley. The suspect, 36-year-old Matthew Lloyd of Lenoir, was arrested just seven minutes later on Highway 276. Deputies say the tellers took down his license plate number and direction of travel which helped deputies locate him. Lloyd is being held on $30,000 bond.

WCU Student Killed in Car Accident In Greensboro

A 22-year-old Western Carolina University student was killed in an automobile accident Thursday night in Greensboro. According My Fox 8 TV News In Greensboro the student was killed when her car was hit head on by a driver driving west on the eastbound lanes of I-40 near the Wendover Avenue exit around ten fifteen last night. The student has been identified as 22-year-old Reagan Hartley who was scheduled to graduate next month from Western Carolina University with her degree in elementary education. Hartley was from the town of Willow Springs NC and a 2010 graduate from West Johnston High School. She was pronounced dead on the way to the hospital.
The driver of the S U V has been identified as 46-year-old Ronnie Fichera. Police said Fichera entered Greensboro on I-40, exited the interstate at the High Point Road exit leading officers around Four Seasons Mall and reentered the interstate again driving west in the eastbound lanes. He struck the convertible about a mile down the highway. Greensboro police were not involved in the pursuit but are investigating the crash. Units were called to assist when Randleman Police initiated the pursuit. “It’s a tragedy, there’s no way around that,” Lt. C.M. Shultheis said. “I don’t know what goes through a drivers mind when they are trying to elude police. I don’t know what the level of impairment was, the driver may not have realized he was going the wrong way.”
540 A-M WRGC Radio shares the grief with the entire University family with the death of this aspiring teacher who is described by her student teaching supervisor “as having all the qualities for being a really great elementary school teacher.”

Resolution Passed

jcpsJackson County’s education leaders passed a resolution March 25 opposing state lawmakers’ mandate to give raises to some teachers, but not others. The 25 percent of teachers who accept four-year contracts and $500-a-year salary increases agree, in return, to forfeit tenure. Like dozens of others, Jackson County has gone on record asking the General Assembly to rescind its law. Jackson County last month announced plans to use a selection system that granted points for evaluations, higher degrees and such; that’s not going to happen. Murray plans to present a lottery scheme to school board members in April. Jackson County’s school board followed up the anti-contract vote by approving a second resolution. It urges the General Assembly to give all teachers more pay, not just beginning ones as proposed, and to reinstate salary step increases and financial bonuses for teachers getting master’s degrees.

Jackson Wins First Place

The beautiful wildflower beds dotting North Carolina’s highways took center stage this week at the Annual Wildflower Awards ceremony in Raleigh. The awards were given to the Department of Transportation staff who cultivated the best-looking flowers of 2013, as voted on by a panel of judges. They also recognize the efforts of all NCDOT crews who help carry out the Wildflower Program and work to enhance the overall appearance and environmental quality of the state’s highways. Jackson County took first place in the Best Regional Wildflower Planing catagory for N.C 107 at Cullowhee. The NCDOT Wildflower Program began in 1985 and is coordinated by the department’s Roadside Environmental Unit, which installs and maintains 1,500 acres of wildflowers along North Carolina’s highways. The program is primarily funded through the sale of personalized license plates.

NCDVA

DVA-logoThe North Carolina Division of Veterans Affairs, is collaborating with the NC Division of Motor Vehicles and the Motor Vehicle Network to build awareness for veterans’ services. This interagency partnership is an example of how the NCDVA is reaching veterans across North Carolina. The MVN is a closed circuit television network located at 124 Driver’s License Offices statewide that broadcasts messages to DMV patrons. The pilot project of the new NCDVA veteran outreach effort has the potential to reach many veterans and their supporters. Current messaging provides veterans with information about the NC Women Veterans Summit and Expo to be held on April 17, 2014 at the North Carolina National Guard Joint Force Headquarters in Raleigh. There, women veterans will have direct access to information and services offered by NCDVA and many others. For more information visit www.ncdot.gov/dmv.

Allergy Season in Full Swing

allergiesGrass pollen starts to bloom in April around Western North Carolina and continues into May and June, followed by ragweed and other weed pollen in late summer and early fall, leaving allergy sufferers facing a warm season filled with pesky allergy symptoms. Some 40 million Americans have indoor/outdoor allergies. The most common triggers are tree, grass and weed pollen. The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America reports allergies account for more than 17 million outpatient office visits each year – primarily in spring and fall. You can develop allergies at any age. You’re most likely to develop allergies if there is a history of allergies in your family. Studies show the average wait time to see a specialist is 20 days. Experts recommend a few tips for reducing allergies. Limit outdoor activity to late afternoon – pollen counts are highest in the morning. Keep car and home windows closed and opt for air condition at night to keep pollen out. Change your bedding and pillow covers often and use a vacuum with a HEPA filter. Spring and fall are the busiest times for Allergy Specialists in Western North Carolina.

12th Annual Green Thumb Day

Nelumno_nucifera_open_flower_-_botanic_garden_adelaide2Whittier community will hold its 12th annual Green Thumb Day Festival on Saturday, April 12, from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. along Main and Church streets. The event will include local artists and crafters, live plants and yard sales. Free tree seedlings and information on plants and planting will be available from County Extension Director Rob Hawk. A historical exhibit on early Whittier will be on display at Stuff-n-Such, located across from the post office. Live bluegrass music will be provided by Keep on Pickin’; mountain songs by fretless banjo maker Joshua Grant; and gospel favorites and old-time favorites by the Mountain Strings Dulcimer Club of Bryson City.

 

Deadline “Reasonably Achieved”

food-stampShawn Rogers is one of the thousands of needy North Carolinians caught up in what was a massive backlog of food stamps cases. He, his wife and four-year-old son have been waiting since December for help, when their food stamps were up for renewal and the family moved to Alamance County from neighboring Guilford County. The family’s months-long wait comes despite a deadline Monday that the U.S. Department of Agriculture set for all backlogged cases to be processed. N.C. Health and Human Services Secretary Aldona Wos announced Tuesday afternoon that the deadline had been “reasonably achieved” with only 375 pending cases left in the state. As of Tuesday, Rogers, who is on disability because of psychological issues, said his food stamps benefits card was still showing a $0 balance. He has turned to area food banks for donated canned goods and family members who buy him meat to help supplement the family’s diet.

ACLU Pushes Mandate

ACLUThe American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of North Carolina sent letters yesterday to 23 sheriff’s departments across the state who to date have failed to produce documents that show they are complying with the federal Prison Rape Elimination Act . Among the mandates for jails and detention centers is a requirement that inmates under the age of 18 be housed separately from adults – a chief concern in North Carolina, where 16 and 17 year olds are treated as adults by the criminal justice system. The ACLU-NC sent letters to North Carolina sheriffs on January 16, 2014, asking for policies and documents related to their compliance and offering assistance in preparing proper guidelines for the treatment of youthful offenders in custody. Of those offices that responded by April 1, 23 said they had no documentation about the compliance, prompting yesterday’s follow-up letter. Among the 23 counties in North Carolina who received a follow-up letter were Haywood and Swain county.

WCU Publishes Study

Western_Carolina_University_sealWestern Carolina University researchers have completed a comprehensive study of major demographic, economic, social and political issues and trends facing Western North Carolina, releasing their findings in a 2014 Regional Outlook Report designed to equip residents and policymakers with the information needed to make informed decisions about WNC’s future. The report is based on in-depth analysis of existing economic and demographic data and on responses to a telephone survey last summer, with nearly 900 randomly selected respondents contacted via both wireless and landline numbers. The 2014 report represents the third installment in a series of reports compiled by a multidisciplinary team of researchers – Kathleen M. Brennan, associate professor of sociology; Christopher A. Cooper, associate professor of political science and political affairs; and Inhyuck “Steve” Ha, associate professor of economics. Among their findings: Although the population of WNC continues to grow, the rate of growth has slowed, with much of the increase in population the result of migration to the region from other parts of the nation. Since 1990, racial minority populations have increased, with the Hispanic/Latino population now the largest racial minority in WNC, followed by African-Americans. Compared to five years ago, fewer respondents report that they own their own place of residence, and more respondents say they are living with family or friends without contributing to rent or mortgage payments. Most Western North Carolinians are satisfied with health care in the region; however, more than half of respondents disagree with the statement that health care is affordable. The majority of respondents say they are “fairly satisfied” with education in the region, expressing the highest level of support for higher education. Only about one-third, however, say higher education in the region is affordable. The majority of respondents support land-use planning, and more than half of respondents support policies restricting ridge-top and steep-slope development. Most respondents do not have a high level of trust in government, with the federal government receiving the lowest marks. Many issues show stark contrasts between the opinions of native Western North Carolinians and those who are newcomers to the region. Buncombe County residents often demonstrate unique patterns from residents of other counties of WNC. In 2012, the top three industries in WNC were manufacturing (28 percent), finance/insurance/real estate (16 percent) and services (15 percent). Manufacturing accounted for more than one-quarter of total economic production in 2012. Between 2000 and 2010, approximately 50.6 percent of jobs in the region’s manufacturing industry were lost. During that same time span, most new job creation occurred in the education sector (with a 66.6 percent increase in new jobs) and real estate (a 58.8 percent increase). Counties included in the survey are Alleghany, Ashe, Avery, Buncombe, Burke, Caldwell, Cherokee, Clay, Graham, Haywood, Henderson, Jackson, Macon, Madison, McDowell, Mitchell, Polk, Rutherford, Swain, Transylvania, Watauga, Wilkes and Yancey. The complete report is available online at regionalreport2014.wcu.edu. A follow-up report examining the economic impact of Western Carolina University on the region is expected to be delivered at a major conference on economic development to be held in October on the WCU campus.

Blue Ridge Bike Plan

cyclingA state Department of Transportation blueprint called the Blue Ridge Bike Plan this month cleared a hurdle required for projects to move from conceptualization to reality. The Rural Planning Organization, made up of local leaders who help the state prioritize road projects, approved the plan; through the addition of lanes, shoulders and bicycle traffic signs, mountain roads could be improved for cycling. In Jackson County, the hope is to make six improvements:

• Open seven miles of U.S. 74, from exits 81 to 74 (Dillsboro to Gateway), to bicyclists (it’s restricted right now) and modify rumble strips where needed. Cost: $4.69 million.

• Add shoulders for biking and signs to five miles of North and South River roads, from U.S. 441 to N.C. 107. Cost: $1.5 million.

• Add shoulders and signs, plus modify the rumble strips, along a 10-mile section of U.S. 23/74 from Balsam to Sylva. Cost: $4.7 million.

• Add a bicycle lane to two miles of N.C. 107, extending what’s there now toward Sylva. Cost: $560,000.

• Work on the shoulders and add signs on the 14.5 miles of N.C. 107 from Cullowhee to Cashiers. Cost: $4.4 million.

• Do the same on a 12-mile stretch between Sylva and Balsam along Skyland Drive and Dark Ridge Road. Cost: $3.7 million.

New state law prohibits DOT from using state dollars as a match for federal funding on most bicycle and pedestrian projects, said Reuben Moore, state division planning engineer. Local matches of 20 percent are now required from counties, cities or universities.

 

Jackson County is Healthier

stethescope_blueJackson is the 22nd healthiest of North Carolina’s 100 counties, according to findings released last week by the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The County Health Rankings list the overall health of counties nationwide, using a formula to measure people’s health and how long they live. Jackson County moved up four places this year; it was No. 26 the past two years. Researchers examined physical environment, social and economic factors, clinical care and health behaviors. They looked at high school graduation rates, access to healthy foods, smoking, obesity and teen births. North Carolina’s healthiest counties are Wake, Watauga, Orange, Union and Camden, according to researchers. Counties with the poorest health were Columbus, Halifax, Scotland, Roberson and Vance. In Western North Carolina, Watauga, No. 2; Transylvania, No. 12; Henderson, No. 15; Buncombe, No. 18 and Macon, No. 19; ranked above Jackson County. The data, which includes a large error margin, shows 22 percent of Jackson County adults smoke; 33 percent are obese; 25 percent are physically inactive; and 15 percent drink too much. There were fewer alcohol-related deaths in the county, 21 percent, than the state, which had 33 percent. The teen birth rate was lower here, at 27 per 1,000, than the state rate of 44 per 1,000. Jackson County ranked 61st in the state for access to clinical care, with 26 percent of residents who are uninsured. There is a ratio of one primary care doctor per 1,033 residents; one dentist per 2,748 residents and one mental health provider per 254 residents.

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Haywood Co. Man Pleads Guilty

James Daniel Sawyer

James Daniel Sawyer

A Canton man faces nearly 30 years behind bars after pleading guilty to sexual assaults that left a 3-year-old boy with a sexually transmitted disease. James Daniel Sawyer, 33, was arrested in October of last year after Sgt. Shawn Gaddis with the Canton Police Department received a report from the Haywood County Department of Social Services involving the little boy. The boy and his then 7-year-old sister were examined and interviewed at Mission Hospital. Though the girl did not have any physical illness, she did speak of Sawyer’s sexual behavior. Authorities believe the crimes occurred on and off between January 2012 and September 2013, based on statements by the mother, children and Sawyer himself. Sawyer has never even had so much as a traffic ticket, comes from a well-respected family, is a lifelong local resident and has a stable employment history.  Sawyer’s father and pastor were present in the courtroom as well. His father teared up as he stood to speak. Judge William Coward did not recognize any mitigating factors and sentenced him to 240 months to 348 months in prison and fined him $10,000 to go to the state. He also granted the defense’s request to allow Sawyer work release so he can help support his 5-year-old daughter, despite adamant disagreement from prosecutors. Upon his release, Sawyer will be a registered sex offender and required to wear satellite based monitoring for life.

Drexel Plant Community Meeting

Old Drexel Plant

Old Drexel Plant

A Public Meeting will be held on April 29th at the Smoky Mountain Elementary School from 6:00 – 8:00 PM in the school cafeteria.  The site is presently being called the “Smoky Mountain Agricultural Development Station.” The purpose of these community outreach meeting is to get the public’s input on the development of the Drexel site, so to meet real community needs for placed based agricultural economic development.  The meeting will listen to individual needs to make the effort site specific in respect to agriculture. Please come to this open community meeting to help Jackson County identify specific agriculture development at the old Drexel Site for the surrounding counties and the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indian. For more information, please contact Robert J. Hawk, County Extension Director at the Jackson County Cooperative Extension Center at 586-4009 or email “robert_hawk@ncsu.edu.” Refreshments will be served.

Voter Suppression Law

voteA federal court has ordered North Carolina state lawmakers to release some e-mails and other documents related to the passage of the state’s sweeping voter suppression law. It also rejected North Carolina’s argument that legislators have absolute immunity to keep their documents from the public.  The American Civil Liberties Union and the Southern Coalition for Social Justice filed a motion to compel the release of that information after lawmakers refused to do so citing “legislative immunity.” ”North Carolinians have a right to know what motivated their lawmakers to make it harder for them to vote,” said Dale Ho, director of the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project. “Legislators should not be shrouding their intentions in secrecy. The people deserve better.” Immediately after Gov. Pat McCrory signed the voter suppression bill into law last August, the ACLU, the ACLU of North Carolina, and the Southern Coalition for Social Justice filed their legal challenge. The suit targets provisions that eliminate a week of early voting, end same-day registration, and prohibit “out-of-precinct” voting. The groups charge that enacting these provisions would unduly burden the right to vote and discriminate against African-American voters, in violation of the U.S. Constitution’s equal protection clause and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. ”Today’s ruling is good news for every North Carolinian who values integrity and transparency in our elections,” said Chris Brook, legal director for the ACLU of North Carolina. “The public has a right to know how and why officials drafted legislation making it harder for North Carolinians to vote, and with today’s ruling, we can hopefully get to the bottom of those questions.” The case, League of Women Voters of North Carolina et al. v. North Carolina, was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina. It was brought on behalf of several North Carolinians who will face substantial hardship under the law, and on behalf of the League of Women Voters of North Carolina, the North Carolina A. Philip Randolph Institute, North Carolina Common Cause, and Unifour Onestop Collaborative, whose efforts to promote voter participation in future elections will be severely hampered. ”Defendants have resisted at every turn disclosing information about their reasons for enacting this discriminatory law.  Today’s ruling will help ensure the court has a fuller picture of why the voting changes at stake are so bad for North Carolina voters,” said Southern Coalition for Social Justice attorney Allison Riggs. The court will hold another hearing to determine whether other categories of documents will be released. The court’s order is available at acluofnc.org.

Haywood Bridge Replacement

NCDOT LogoTheN.C. Department of Transportation will temporarily close part of Hemphill Road in Haywood County beginning next week for a bridge replacement project. During construction, crews will be replacing a bridge over a branch of Jonathan Creek with a culvert. The $331,162 project also includes grading, drainage, paving and installing signage around the new structure. The existing bridge was built in 1955 and is considered functionally obsolete, which means that although the bridge is safe, it was built to design standards no longer in use. The project contractor, NHM Constructors, LLC, will begin installing the detour during the first week of April. The detour will remain in place until mid-July. Motorists will take Hemphill Road to N.C. 276, and then take Grindstone Road back to Hemphill Road. For real-time travel information any time, call 511, visit www.ncdot.gov/travel or follow NCDOT on Twitter at www.ncdot.gov/travel/twitter. Another option is NCDOT Mobile, a phone-friendly version of the NCDOT website. To access it, type “m.ncdot.gov” into the browser of your smartphone. Then, bookmark it to save for future reference.