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Park Receives Annual Poinsettia for Rescue 40 Years Ago

120314_Poinsettia_MediaForty years ago, on December 3, 1974, park rangers from Great Smoky Mountains National Park rescued 15-year old Eric Johnson and a companion who had been trapped deep in the park’s backcountry by a chest-deep snow storm. Today Eric’s mother traveled from Johnson City to park headquarters in Gatlinburg to thank the park rangers for saving her son’s life. A trip she has made every December 3rd since 1974.

Each December Mrs. Wanneta Johnson selects the biggest, finest poinsettia she can find in Johnson City and delivers it to park headquarters and thanks everyone she meets. This year Eric joined his mother as she met with Acting Superintendent Clayton Jordan and several members of the park staff including current members of the park’s search and rescue team, none of whom were working at the Smokies in 1974. Over the past four decades hundreds of park rangers have come and gone, but Mrs. Johnson treats each one as if he or she had a hand in saving Eric’s life.

When asked why Mrs. Johnson comes back to the park every year, she responded, “How could I not!” In 1974, several rangers spent hours attempting to search for the boys on foot and by ATV, but made little progress because of conditions. They were finally able to locate the boys at Tricorner Knob Shelter from a helicopter.

Once the boys were found, a larger U.S. Army helicopter was brought in to hoist the boys out of the backcountry. Eric Johnson and his friend, Randy Laws, had been held up at the backcountry shelter for three days without adequate food, water or equipment. Both young men suffered from dehydration and exposure and Eric had some frostbite, but otherwise they were in good condition.

Acting Superintendent Clayton Jordan, the seventh superintendent to accept Mrs. Johnson’s gift said, “It is humbling for us on the park staff to be honored every year by Mrs. Johnson’s visit back to the Smokies. Her recognition means a great deal to our rangers who are sometimes tasked with going out in rough weather to come to the aid of visitors like Eric and his family.”

Tennessee Bans Trucks On The Dragon

14504226781_7b9074378f_nTennessee is banning trucks longer than 30 feet from using a twisty stretch of U.S. Route 129 that is known as The Dragon.

The truck ban is welcome news to motorcyclists and sports car enthusiasts who flock to the mountain road famous for its 318 curves in 11 miles running along the western edge of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Tractor-trailers pulling through tight turns can block both lanes of traffic and force cars and motorcycles off the road.

While trucks have been banned from the North Carolina side of the road for a few years, Tennessee until now only posted a warning to truckers

Newly Elected Sheriff Sworn In Jackson County Monday

There is a new Sheriff in town. Chip Hall is officially on the job as Jackson County’s new sheriff after 26 years of service.He was elected Nov. 4 to replace Jimmy Ashe who retired after a dozen years.

Hall, former chief deputy for the Sheriff’s Office, won by an overwhelming number of votes over former Sylva Police Officer Curtis Lambert. Hall received 6,921 votes while Lambert got 3,838 votes.

Now that Sheriff Hall has been sworn in, he’s named a new chief deputy Kim Hooper and is looking to build positive relationships throughout the county.

Sheriff Hall says he’ll be meeting with commissioners soon to discuss finances and improving security at the courthouse.

Drug Raid Lands Sylva Man Behind Bars

547f760f90222.imageOn Tuesday, a drug raid at 42 Pathfinder Lane in Sylva has one man in custody and four total arrest warrants issued.

Steven Allen Ross was arrested and charged with Possession of Methamphetamines, Felony of Schedule I Controlled Substance, and Possession with Intent to Manufacture/Sell of IV Controlled Substances, Possession of Marijuana and paraphernalia and possession of stolen goods. A $30,000 secured bond has been set and Ross will have his initial court appearance on December 23rd.

The arrest was made by Sylva Police Department along with members of the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office, the Sheriff’s Office SETT (Sheriff’s Emergency Tactical Team) team and Waynesville Police Department K-9.

Sylva Police Det. Aimee Watson is in charge of the ongoing investigation.

Smokies Hosts Meetings on Firewood Pests

Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials are hosting public meetings to provide information about firewood pests and forest threats. Meetings will be held on Monday, December 8 from 5:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. at the Oconaluftee Visitor Center Administrative Building near Cherokee, NC and on Tuesday, December 9 from 5:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. at the Sugarlands Visitor Center Training Room near Gatlinburg, TN.

Non-native, tree-killing insects and diseases can unknowingly be introduced through firewood transported from infested areas. A variety of destructive pests lay eggs or stowaway in firewood. These insects from Asia and Europe have the potential to devastate over 30 species of hardwood trees native to the park. Movement of untreated firewood has been implicated in the spread of gypsy moth, Dutch elm disease, emerald ash borer, thousand canker disease, Asian longhorned beetle, Sirex woodwasp, golden spotted oak borer, and other native and non-native insect and disease complexes. New infestations threaten our forests with widespread tree mortality that could devastate wildlife habitat, biodiversity, and scenic views. The use of firewood that has been heat treated eliminates the threat posed by these pests through the movement and use of wood in campfires.

Park officials will present information at the meetings about forest pest threats, certified heat-treated wood availability, and how the park proposes to address the threat through a new firewood regulation change. The public will have an opportunity to visit staffed information stations, ask questions, and provide comments. Park rangers have been working over the past year with numerous partners representing federal and state agencies, conservation organizations, and universities to mitigate the risks associated with movement of firewood including a public education campaign. The working team developed an informational handout that was provided to all Smokies campers throughout the summer along with providing information through public programs and regionally placed billboards. The team also identified and mapped over 80 locations near the park that provide heat-treated firewood.

The park is proposing to reduce the threat of forest pests by changing park regulations to allow only heat-treated firewood to be brought into the park. If the proposal is adopted, beginning in March 2015, only firewood that is bundled and displays a certification stamp by the USDA or a state department of agriculture will be allowed for use in park campgrounds. Heat-treated wood will be available to purchase from concessioners in many of the campgrounds as well as from private businesses in the communities around the park. In addition, visitors may still collect dead and down wood in the park for campfires.

National parks throughout the Appalachian region have taken action to limit the spread of insect pests in firewood including, in many cases, the banning of imported firewood. For the past three years, the Smokies has prohibited the importation of firewood from areas quarantined by the USDA Animal Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) in accordance with federal law. Current park regulations prohibit the importation of wood and wood products from states (or specific counties in states) quarantined for insects such as emerald ash borer or tree diseases such as thousand canker disease.

A final decision on adopting the new regulation is expected by the end of the year. The public may continue to submit comments by: mail at 107 Park Headquarters Road, Gatlinburg, TN 37738; e-mail at grsmcomments@nps.gov; or comment cards available at visitor centers and campgrounds.

For more information about firewood and forest and insect pests in the park, please visit the park website at http://www.nps.gov/grsm/planyourvisit/firewood-alert.htm.

WCU To Host Fall Commencement Ceremony

Western Carolina University will hold commencement exercises Saturday, Dec. 13, to honor its fall graduating class and some newly minted WCU alumni who received degrees after this year’s summer school sessions.

The 1 p.m. ceremony at the Ramsey Regional Activity Center is open to everyone and no tickets are required for admission. Chancellor David O. Belcher will preside over commencement and deliver his charge to the fall semester degree candidates and summer graduates.

Graduating student Jill Haley West White of Andrews, a secondary English education major, will deliver the primary commencement address.

WCU’s fall class includes about 800 students who currently are working on final academic requirements to receive their degrees and who qualify to participate in the ceremony. Approximately 140 WCU graduates who completed degree requirements during summer school and who already have been conferred degrees also will be eligible to don caps and gowns for the event.

Individuals attending WCU’s commencement should enter the Ramsey Center through one of four upper concourse doors. Those with physical disabilities should use the northeastern upper entrance, adjacent to the stands of E.J. Whitmire Stadium.

#GivingTuesday Offers North Carolinians a Chance to Give Back

gr-43162-1-1Now that the flurry of Black Friday and Cyber Monday is behind us – nonprofits in North Carolina are reminding people about the chance to give to the greater good. Today is #GivingTuesday – and its goal is to inspire consumers to contribute to their communities in the form of charitable donations to improve the lives of others. The Southern Coalition for Social Justice – which provides assistance to people trying to get back on their feet after a criminal conviction – has joined the effort.

Anita Earls with the organization says a gift to SCSJ provides life changing opportunities to others, “So you’re really helping someone in the community who is trying to get back on their feet, get a job, provide for their families and communities.”

Other charities across North Carolina are also participating in the effort. Before donating, make sure you are giving to a recognized charity and you have a good understanding of how the money will be used. The Better Business Bureau does report increased instances of charity scams during the holiday season. Websites like charitynavigator.org can help you make sure your donation is going to a legitimate nonprofit.

Because many nonprofits like SCSJ are able to get donations matched, Earls says even a gift of a few dollars can make a huge difference, when pooled with the donations of others, “The value of this kind of campaign is that if we reach a lot of people then each person giving a little bit together makes a huge difference.”

More information is available at givingtuesday.org Last year Americans contributed $19,000,000 to charities – almost double than the year before. The average contribution is $142.

WCU marching band to headline closing event of 125th anniversary celebration

There’s one more parade left on the itinerary this year for members of Western Carolina University’s Pride of the Mountains Marching Band, who opened the 2014 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade just a few days ago.

And the remaining route will be quite a bit different than the trek through the concrete canyons of New York City, as the band will march across the bucolic WCU campus to help wrap up the university’s yearlong celebration of its 125th year of existence.

Titled the “It’s a Wrap Party,” the event is scheduled for Friday, Dec. 5, as the Pride of the Mountains will lead a parade of students and campus organizations from Scott Residence Hall to the Liston B. Ramsey Regional Activity Center, where the band will reprise its Macy’s parade performance.

The “It’s a Wrap Party” also will include remarks from WCU Chancellor David O. Belcher to bring the 125th anniversary year to a close, along with prizes, giveaways, refreshments and special recognition of alumni and students.

Members of the campus and surrounding communities are invited to wear their own sports uniforms, letter jackets or other purple-and-gold apparel and join the band in the cross-campus march. Those who do not wish to participate in the parade may watch the band and others march across campus, or simply arrive at the Ramsey Center and be seated no later than 4:15 p.m. The doors to the Ramsey Center will open at 3 p.m.

The yearlong celebration of WCU’s 125th anniversary began in January as hundreds of people crowded into the Grandroom of the A.K. Hinds University Center for a kickoff event highlighted by a fashion show of clothing from throughout WCU history, modeled by students, faculty, staff and community members.

The official 125th anniversary bash was held Aug. 26, the month in which the school that became WCU was founded in 1889. The event, attended by thousands, included a picnic on the University Center lawn, remarks from elected officials, a concert on the Central Plaza and old-fashioned games.

The majority of the year’s celebration was designed around traditional highlights of WCU’s annual calendar, such as spring commencement ceremonies, Mountain Heritage Day, the Spring Literary Festival, Homecoming and alumni receptions across the state and the Southeast.

Scott Baker named SCC’s vice president for information technology

Scott Baker will become SCC’s vice president for information technology on Jan. 1.

Scott Baker will become SCC’s vice president for information technology on Jan. 1.

After serving Southwestern Community College in dual roles the past few months, Scott Baker has been named Southwestern Community College’s vice president for information technology.

Baker has been the dean of career technologies for four years, and he’s led the information technology department since Dr. Ryan Schwiebert left in August to become the vice president for information technology services at Wake Technical Community College in Raleigh.

A Jackson County native, Baker will become SCC’s permanent vice president for information technology on Jan. 1. A search is underway to find a new dean of career technologies.

“Scott has done an exceptional job guiding our information technology department on an interim basis these past few months, and we’re pleased to move him to that position on a permanent basis,” said Dr. Don Tomas, president of SCC. “He has an extensive background in information technology from a professional and instructional standpoint. I expect him to be able to reach across all sectors of the College to provide leadership, service and expertise in Information Technology to faculty, staff and students.”

Baker earned his bachelor’s of science degree from UNC Charlotte (1992) and his master’s of science from East Carolina (2007). He was a full-time faculty member at SCC from 2004-2010.

Now in its 50th year of serving Jackson, Macon, Swain Counties and the Qualla Boundary, Southwestern has been a part of Baker’s life since he was a young boy growing up in Webster.

His father, Bob Baker, taught adjunct upholstery classes at Southwestern. Heather Baker, Scott’s wife, also served as an adjunct instructor at SCC.

And Renee Cohen, Scott’s mother-in-law, served as career technologies division chair. She retired from SCC before Scott started at the college. They even worked with the same administrative assistant, Claudia Buchanan.

“I am very honored to be selected for this position at SCC,” said Baker, who attended Fairview Elementary and graduated from Sylva-Webster in 1988. “There has been an overwhelming level of support from faculty, staff, and administration shown towards me in this position. I really appreciate the opportunity to keep our college as one of the top in the state and the nation. … It is great to be part of a place that makes such a difference in our community and people’s lives.”

Help with Failing Septic Systems

Since 2006, Haywood Waterways and the Haywood County Environmental Health Department have worked together to fix 38 failing systems. The repairs have prevented as much as 14,000 gallons per day of untreated human wastewater from flushing into local waterways. As a result, bacteria levels have significantly reduced in several streams.

The partnership recently received two more grants to continue the program. They received a $50,000 NC Division of Water Resources 319 Program grant for repairs in the Richland and Raccoon Creek watersheds, and a $30,000 grant from the Pigeon River Fund of the Community Foundation of Western North Carolina for all other areas in the county.

The partners are currently seeking homeowners in Haywood County who need assistance. Clues of a failing system include slow plumbing, foul odors, excessive grass growth, soggy soil, and standing ground water near the system.

When a septic system fails, everything dumped in sinks and toilets can leak into groundwater and waterways, including laundry detergents, cleaning chemicals, and pharmaceuticals. The largest concern is human fecal waste. Bacteria and viruses from the human digestive tract can cause ear infections, typhoid fever, hepatitis A, viral and bacterial gastroenteritis, dysentery, and other serious health problems.
Homeowners needing assistance should contact the Environmental Health Department at 452-6682. Grant funds are used to pay 75 percent of the total repair cost. Projects are prioritized by severity of failure and proximity to a waterway.

Missing Teen Died from Hypothermia; Broken Hip

On Monday, November 24, 2014, Pathologist Dr. William L. Selby, conducted an autopsy of Alec Lansing, the teenager who walked away from Trails Carolina campsite on November 10, 2014. The cause of death indicated was Hypothermia. An additional significant factor in this autopsy that was noted by Dr. Selby was a broken hip. Investigators who were present on scene where the body of Lansing was found noted evidence of removed moss from a tree which leaned over the small stream in which Lansing was found on Saturday, November 22, 2014. Investigators believe Lansing had scaled the tree and fallen into the shallow stream, resulting in the broken hip rendering him immobile.

Tips on Caring for Fresh Christmas Trees

FraserFir1Over the next few weeks, North Carolina families will visit choose-and-cut farms, tree lots, farmers markets and shopping centers in search of the perfect fresh Christmas tree for their holiday decorations. It’s important to know how to care for the tree once you get it home.

“For many families, choosing the perfect Christmas tree is the start of their holidays, and giving your tree proper care will ensure it stays fresh throughout the season,” said Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler. “Keeping your tree hydrated will help prevent accidents that could ruin the holidays.”

The N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services offers the following tips to care for fresh Christmas trees:

If you can’t set up your tree immediately, put it in a bucket of water in a cool, shady place.
Cut off a half inch from the base of the tree before placing it in a stand.
Use a stand that will hold at least a gallon of water.
Check the water levels often. A tree may take up to a gallon of water in the first 24 hours, and a quart per day after that.
Place tree away from heat sources, such as heating vents, fireplaces, wood stoves, radiators and sunny windows.
Check lights and cords for broken bulbs and frayed wiring.
Do not overload electrical circuits.
Turn off lights before leaving home or going to bed.
Remove tree from your home promptly after Christmas and recycle it.
North Carolina is the second-largest producer of Christmas trees in the nation. Plenty of rain and recent cold temperatures have helped the 2014 crop be one of the best in recent years.

To make the search for the perfect tree easier, the department offers an online directory at www.ncfarmfresh.com. Visitors can search by location to find Christmas trees near their home or close to where they might travel over the holidays.

North Carolina Economy Recovery? Analysts Question Governor’s Assessment

North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory said on Friday the state has had job growth to compensate for jobs lost during the Great Recession. Some economists say there is more to the story. Photo credit: North Carolina Governor's Office.

North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory said on Friday the state has had job growth to compensate for jobs lost during the Great Recession. Some economists say there is more to the story. Photo credit: North Carolina Governor’s Office.

Not everyone is buying Governor Pat McCrory’s claim of success after October’s unemployment numbers indicated the state has recovered the jobs lost during the Great Recession.

While it is true that the number of people employed last month is slightly above pre-recession levels, John Quinterno with South By North Strategies in Chapel Hill says that’s not the whole story, “Just because we have the same number of payroll jobs that we did almost seven years ago is not the same thing as recovery and in no way, shape or form should be taken as a sign that we won the battle against unemployment in North Carolina.”

Quinterno said a healthy economy needs to add jobs to support population growth. Analysts estimate more than 280-thousand workers are not counted in the unemployment data because they have given up on finding a job. If they were included, the unemployment rate would be 12.5%, versus the 6.3%.

Quinterno says North Carolina has more than 400,000 jobs to add to accommodate the 11% rate of population growth the state has experienced since 2007, “Replacing the number of jobs lost during the recession is not enough. You have to replace those jobs and you need to be creating jobs each month to accommodate the growth and the size of the workforce.”

According to South by North Strategies, the state has more than 28% more unemployed residents than it did seven years ago.

AAA Carolinas: Falling Gas Prices Fuel Increase in Thanksgiving Holiday Travel for North Carolinians

Almost 90 percent of North Carolinians traveling this Thanksgiving holiday will be celebrating with a road trip, while enjoying the lowest gas prices in five years.

A total of 1,345,000 North Carolinians are expected to travel 50 miles or more from home. About 1,210,500 of those travelers will drive, an increase of about 48,600 than last year.

Gas prices in North Carolina have dropped dramatically in the past two months. The statewide average is $2.77 today, down 57 cents from Labor Day, Sept. 1, when they averaged $3.34. North Carolinians are paying 46 cents less at the pump compared to last Thanksgiving, when they paid $3.23.

“Lower prices at the pump have encouraged more people to hit the road this Thanksgiving holiday to spend time with their family and friends,” said David E. Parsons, president and CEO of AAA Carolinas. “With Thanksgiving being the busiest travel weekend of the year, we want to remind families to take extra measures to ensure safety on the highways.”

Thanksgiving is one of the most dangerous holidays for motorists due to its five-day length and the heavy traffic caused by the high number of travelers on the road. Last year, 12 people died in crashes on North Carolina highways during the holiday weekend.

The Thanksgiving holiday period is defined as Wednesday, Nov. 26 through Sunday, Nov. 30. The highest number of travelers on the road will depart for their destinations on Wednesday and most will return on Sunday.

The top five driving destinations this time of the year for people living in the Carolinas are Charlotte, Charleston, Asheville, Orlando and Myrtle Beach, according to AAA Carolinas.

Those driving through North Carolina will encounter the highest average price per gallon of unleaded gas in Asheville at $2.92; the least expensive average price is in the Charlotte-Gastonia area at $2.73.

North Carolina motorists can expect to see lower gas prices in the bordering states of South Carolina ($2.59), Virginia ($2.66), Tennessee ($2.62), and Georgia ($2.76).

Despite a small increase in airfares, up 1% from last year, more travelers are taking to the skies this year, about 92,700 or 7% of all travelers. The busiest departure date for air travel is Monday, Nov. 24, with the highest number expected to return the following Monday, Dec. 1, or later.

An estimated 40,300 (3%) will use other modes of transportation such as train, bus or boat.

Travelers not staying with relatives or friends will encounter a moderate increase in hotel rates compared to last year. AAA Three Diamond hotels average $154 per night, compared to $142 last year, while the average hotel rate for AAA Two Diamond hotels has risen 9% with an average cost of $114 per night. AAA rates hotels from one to five Diamonds based on standards in physical attributes, hospitality and amenities. AAA Three Diamond hotels represent the largest number of AAA rated accommodations.

Weekend daily car rental rates have increased 10% this year to average $55 per day.

For the latest on construction delays, go to the North Carolina Department of Transportation website, www.ncdot.org. Click on Travel & Maps and then on the Traveler Information Management System for up-to-date traffic information related to closed travel lanes, accidents or expected congestion due to special events.

South Carolina Department of Transportation prohibits lane closures on interstate highways and high-volume multilane routes during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, considered to be from noon on Wednesday, Nov. 26, until 6 a.m. Monday, Dec. 1.

Survey data is taken from AAA’s Leisure Travel Index, AAA/HIS Global Insight holiday travel forecast and AAA Carolinas data.

To estimate fuel costs, travelers can go to www.fuelcostcalculator.com to input starting city, destination, and the make and model of their car.

The free AAA Mobile app for iPhone and Android devices uses GPS navigation to help travelers map a route, find updated gas prices, view nearby member discounts and access AAA Roadside Assistance.

AAA Carolinas, an affiliate of the American Automobile Association, is a not-for-profit organization that serves more than 1.9 million members and the public with travel, automobile and insurance services while being an advocate for the safety and security of all travelers.

Cherokee Police Search for Missing Children; Mother

Shira Mattocks

Shira Mattocks

Police on the Cherokee Indian Reservation are looking for the public’s help in locating three children and their mother, who was last seen with them.

Police officials said the children’s mother, Shira Raman Mattocks, 26, of Cherokee has “custody issues” involving the children, which range in age from 3 months to 8 years old. Family members have indicated through social media that the children were allowed supervised visits with Mattocks, but she may have taken off with the children at some point earlier in the week.

Police also said that Mattocks was last seen in the company of her mother, Teresa Arneach Arreaga, also of Cherokee.

James Paul Owle

o 8 years old / M / Brown Hair / Brown Eyes / 4’7” / 75 pounds

o Native American from Cherokee, NC

Samuel George Owle

o 6 years old / M / Brown Hair / Brown Eyes / 4’4” / 90 pounds

o Native American from Cherokee, NC

Evelyn Grace Arneach

o 3 months old / F / Brown Hair / Brown Eyes

Police indicated that the fathers of the three children currently have custodial rights.

Police said they have charged Mattocks with failure to obey a lawful order and two counts of custodial interference.

Anyone with any information is asked to call the Cherokee Indian Police Dept. at 828-497-7405.

Body Discovered in Nantahala Forest; Believed to be Missing Teen

Mid-day on Saturday, November 22, 2014, a body, which is believed to be that of, Alec Lansing, was found in the Nantahala National Forest. Today the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office along with multiple volunteers coordinated by the Jackson County Emergency Management Office conducted further searching of the forest where Lansing was last seen. The body was found in a remote portion of the forest by searchers. The Jackson County Sheriff’s Office investigators along with investigators with the United States Forest Service Law Enforcement are working together to continue to investigate the death. An autopsy has been requested by investigators to determine the cause of death. Lansing has been missing since Monday, November 10, 2014.

Sylva: National Register Adds 17 North Carolina Historic Places

The North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources is pleased to announce that 17 individual properties and districts across the state have been added to the National Register of Historic Places. The properties below were reviewed by the North Carolina National Register Advisory Committee and were subsequently approved by the North Carolina State Historic Preservation Officer and forwarded to the Keeper of the National Register.

“Architecture is among North Carolina’s rich cultural treasures,” Governor Pat McCrory said. “These selections are North Carolina’s adaptations of classic American styles of architecture ranging from a plantation house to a downtown auto dealership. I’m pleased these sites have merited selection to the National Register so they can be preserved, enjoyed and studied by future generations.”

“The National Register is a vital tool in the preservation of North Carolina’s historic resources,” said Susan Kluttz, Secretary of the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources. “North Carolina is a leader in the nation’s historic preservation movement. When all of the buildings in historic districts classified as contributing to the districts’ significance are counted, it is estimated that North Carolina has approximately 73,300 National Register properties.”

The listing of a property in the National Register places no obligation or restriction on a private owner using private resources to maintain or alter the property. Over the years, various federal and state incentives have been introduced to assist private preservation initiatives, including tax credits for the rehabilitation of National Register properties. As of Jan. 1, 2014, 3,000 rehabilitation projects with total estimated expenditures of $1.7 billion have been completed.

Downtown Sylva Historic District, Sylva, Jackson County, listed 9/03/14

Located in the county seat of Jackson County, the Downtown Sylva Historic District covers approximately 13 acres and includes 44 contributing buildings and structures primarily along Main, Mill, Landis, and Jackson streets. The period of significance begins in 1900, with the construction of the Sylva Pharmacy at 596-600 West Main Street, and extends to 1964, when the Modernist United States Post Office building was completed. The Downtown Sylva Historic District is locally significant in the areas of architecture and commerce.

Prescribed Burns in Cheoah Ranger District

The U.S. Forest Service plans to conduct a prescribed burn today on approximately 28 acres in the Cheoah Ranger District, Nantahala National Forest. The burn will take place off of FS Road 2630, near the Panther Creek and Duck Branch communities, which are approximately 15 miles east of the District Office.

The purpose of this burn is to reduce hazardous fuels and prepare the ground for planting seedlings.

Public safety is the highest priority during a prescribed burn. The public should beware of smoke and fire engines in the area.

NC Urged to “Keep Pedal to the Metal” with Solar Growth

On Thursday, Environment North Carolina released a report outlining the reasons North Carolina should continue its brisk pace for solar-energy development, and generate 20 percent of its power from solar by 2030. Photo courtesy of Environment North Carolina.

On Thursday, Environment North Carolina released a report outlining the reasons North Carolina should continue its brisk pace for solar-energy development, and generate 20 percent of its power from solar by 2030. Photo courtesy of Environment North Carolina.

North Carolinians have the power of the sun to be thankful for as the Thanksgiving holiday approaches, according to a new report from Environment North Carolina. The analysis found the state has one of the fastest-growing solar industries in the country, growing by 127% in recent years. It also recommends a goal for North Carolina to generate 20% of its energy from the sun by the year 2030.

Maya Gold with Environment North Carolina says it is within reach, “North Carolina is definitely a leader when it comes to solar on a national level. So, to take solar power to the next level, our leaders just have to keep their foot on the accelerator, and certainly not put on the brakes.”
Tag: Gold says for the state to reach the goal, it will need to maintain a solar installation growth rate of 26% a year. She adds North Carolina’s solar tax credits are playing a large role in the growth and are some of the most generous in the country.

However, the state’s solar tax credits are set to expire at the end of 2015. Gold says the economic benefits that come as a result of creating cleaner energy are one reason to renew them, “The solar industry is definitely a huge contributor to the economy. You can’t have solar energy in North Carolina without jobs for North Carolinians.”

According to Environment North Carolina, the state’s solar industry employs 3,100 people. Gold says a 20% reliance on solar would eliminate the equivalent of carbon pollution from 4,500,000 vehicles each year, and put the state close to reaching the EPA’s Clean Power Plan benchmark. That proposal requires cutting carbon pollution from power plants 40% by 2030.

Harris Regional Hospital and Swain County Hospital provide resources for National Health Insurance Marketplace open enrollment

Health Insurance Marketplaces opened for enrollment across the country on Saturday, November 15 and will remain open until February 15, 2015. Individuals and families can enroll and gain access to affordable, comprehensive healthcare coverage during the open enrollment period.
For those new to the enrollment or re-enrollment process, Harris Regional Hospital and Swain County Hospital can help by providing access to a Certified Application Counselor (CAC) working onsite at the hospitals and assisting with the application process. The CACs are available for phone or personal appointments by calling (828) 586-7735 or toll-free at 1-888-982-9144 or by emailing westcare.cac@medwesthealth.org.
The Health Insurance Marketplace offers expanded access to low-cost healthcare coverage for people without health insurance or for those who are interested in exploring more cost-effective alternatives to their current coverage.
While there are several types of plans and levels of coverage available, there is a core set of essential health benefits that are covered by every plan in the Marketplace. These include:
· Ambulatory patient services (outpatient care you get without being admitted to a hospital)
· Emergency services
· Hospitalization
· Maternity and newborn care
· Mental health and substance use disorder services, including behavorial health treatment such as counseling and psychotherapy
· Prescription drugs
· Rehabilitative services and devices that help people with injuries, disabilities, or chronic conditions gain or recover mental and physical skills
· Laboratory services
· Preventive and wellness services and chronic disease management
· Pediatric services
Coverage options can be reviewed and obtained through the Health Insurance Marketplace online at www.healthcare.gov. Certified Application Counselors (CACs) are available through Harris and Swain’s Patient Financial Services department to help individuals navigate the application process, re-enroll, or make changes to their Marketplace coverage, and understand the options that best match their health care needs.
For those who are re-enrolling, it is recommended that existing plans be reviewed and assessed as to whether the plan still meets the need of the individual, paying close attention to plan changes and premiums, and whether the individual’s physician and preferred hospital are still in the plan. Those who enrolled last year should receive notices from both the Marketplace and the insurance company providing an overview of action steps for re-enrollment.
For those wishing to enroll in coverage that will take effect on January 1, 2015, the enrollment deadline is December 15, 2014. This deadline also applies to those who are reviewing coverage and re-enrolling, as 2014 coverage ends on December 31, 2014.
For more information, contact Harris Regional Hospital or Swain County Hospital at 586-7355 or our toll-free enrollment line at 1-888-982-9144, visit www.westcare.org, or email westcare.CAC@medwesthealth.org.