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Avoiding Snake Bites in NC

Folks living in North Carolina have a better chance of getting bitten by a snake than people living anywhere else, according to new research. North Carolina’s estimated rate of snake bites is nearly five times the national average.

Of the 37 species of snakes throughout North Carolina, only six are venomous, 3 of which are found in the Western counties: Copperhead (found throughout NC), Canebrake Rattlesnake (found throughout NC), Cottonmouth or Water Moccasin.

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, about 8,000 people a year receive venomous snake bites in the United States, and only 9 to 15 victims (.2%) die. In fact more people die from wasp and bee stings than from snake bites. Most of the fatalities received no medical treatment or first aid. The same simple care one takes around wasp nests and busy roads also suffices to keep the risk of snake bite to acceptable levels. Nonetheless, venomous snakes must be considered dangerous and even non-fatal bites can cause severe pain and long-lasting tissue damage.

Some bites, such as those inflicted when snakes are accidentally stepped on or encountered in wilderness settings, are nearly impossible to prevent. But experts say a few precautions can lower the risk of being bitten:

  • Leave snakes alone. Many people are bitten when they try to kill a snake or get a closer look at it.
  • Stay out of tall grass and remain on hiking paths as much as possible.
  • Keep hands and feet out of areas you can’t see. Don’t pick up rocks or firewood unless you are out of a snake’s striking distance. (A snake can strike half its length.)
  • Be cautious and alert when climbing rocks.

What do you do if you suddenly encounter a snake? If you must walk around the snake, give it some room–at least six feet. Otherwise, walk away. Leave it alone and don’t try to catch it.

Though venomous snakes can be dangerous, snake venom may have a positive side. Clinical trials are presently under way to test the therapeutic value of a venom-derived product called ancrod in treating stroke. Earlier proposals, using snake venom to treat neuromuscular disorders such as multiple sclerosis, never reached the clinical trial stage.

Living with venomous snakes is really no different than living with hornets, or other minor risks of daily life. If one finds a hornet nest, one does not disturb it. The same caution should be applied if one sees a snake. Injury may result if hornets or snakes are disturbed or harassed. However, in North America human injuries from playing sports or slipping in the bathtub are far more common than are injuries from snakes. Venomous snakes are simply not a significant human health issue in North America. The appropriate response to encountering a snake is to simply walk away. Do not attempt to capture or kill it, as 70-80% of bites occur in this manner.

Stanley Furniture to Close

Stanley Furniture in Graham County will close doors at the end of this month. Stanley Furniture is the largest employer in Graham County and will be laying off 400 workers. In a town with a population of 8600, that’s a large chunk of the work force. The county currently has 513 unemployed. Only 3,569 residents are currently counted as holding jobs.

Joblessness in the county is expected to double. Graham County already has one of the highest numbers of unemployment in the state but it is expected to jump from 10.6% to 22.1% after the lay offs.

Smokies Deputy Superintendent Mourned

Great Smoky Mountains National Park staff are mourning the loss of Deputy Superintendent Patty Wissinger, age 55, who passed away Friday night of cancer. Wissinger was recently selected as the Smokies Deputy Superintendent last August.

Wissinger began her National Park Service career in 1980 as a seasonal campground ranger on the Blue Ridge Parkway and moved up through the Park Service ranks. Before coming to the Smokies, she was the Superintendent of Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area. She also served at the Blue Ridge Parkway, Shenandoah National Park, Cape Hatteras National Seashore, Wright Brothers National Memorial, Vicksburg National Military Park, and Fort Raleigh National Historic Site.

She is survived by her husband, Gordon Wissinger, three daughters, three grandchildren, and five siblings. A memorial service will be held at 2:00 p.m. on Wednesday, June 25, 2014 at Central United Methodist Church in Asheville, NC

NC Sluggish Economy And Low Wage Jobs

North Carolina’s economic recovery is marked by slow job growth and challenges for working families to make ends meet as costs rise. Job growth has concentrated in low wage industries.

According to the Living Income Standard released by the Tax and Budget Center, North Carolina needs to create about 482,000 jobs to replace the ones lost during the recession and to keep up with population growth.  Living Income Standard for one adult with one child is approximately $16.21 an hour to meet basic needs which equals $33,709.00 a year in pay. 80% of the jobs created in NC between 2009 and 2013 are in industries paying far below the $33,709 target.

On average in North Carolina, male workers can expect to make $16.93 an hour while females earn an average of $14.03 an hour. Workers in NC have actually seen their wages fall according to the Tax and Budget Center. There is a  3.3% increase in the output of worker with a decrease of 5.5% in wages which means workers are not being compensated for their increased productivity and efficiency.

WCU Listed as Top Performing Arts Center

The John W. Bardo Fine and Performing Arts Center at Western Carolina University was recently included on a list of “The 25 Most Amazing University Performing Arts Centers” by the website BestValueSchools.com.

The website authors listed the Bardo Arts Center at No. 19 and said the facility “combines a state-of-the-art space with a naturally beautiful setting to promote the arts and arts education throughout the region.”

The Bardo Arts Center, which houses WCU’s School of Art and Design, opened in 2005 with a performance by Jay Leno of NBC’s “Tonight Show.” The facility includes a 1,000-seat performance hall that provides a venue for visiting performers and entertainers, and it also houses WCU’s Fine Art Museum, widely considered to be the premiere showcase for contemporary art in Western North Carolina.

Beat the Heat as Temperatures Rise In Area

New York Hit With Earlier Summer Heat WaveThe North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services and other health officials are urging everyone to take caution as extreme temperatures arrive in North Carolina. Older North Carolinians are very susceptible to complications from extreme heat. The North Carolina Division of Aging and Adult Services is encouraging frequent checks on older family members and neighbors to be sure they are protected from the heat but of course encourage safetey measures for people of all ages.

The Center for Disease Control estimate about 650 deaths occur each year as a result of extreme heat. In 2012, one large scale heat event claimed 32 lives in a two week period as temperatures in the mid-atlantic states rose above 100 degrees.

Steps such as drinking plenty of water and juice to stay hydrated are vital. Limiting time outdoors especially in the afternoon when the sun and temperatures are at their peak. Children should be monitored for symptoms such as muscle cramps, fatigue, dizziness, headache and nausea. If you live in a home without air conditioning and fans, opening windows for air flow and closing blinds, shades and curtains during the hottest part of the day or when windows are in direct sunlight help, cool showers can help and do not use a fan if the temperature is above 95 degrees, the hot air can add to heat stress. Never leave children, disabled or older persons, or a pet in unattended cars. Ask your doctor if medications you may be taking can impede heat loss which can include kidney, diabetes and some mental health medications.

Last week across the state, 95 heat related illnesses were reported in emergency rooms across the state. The National weather services is forecasting heat up to 103 and 105 degrees in some parts of the state. People who are exercising, doing yard work or recreational activities, and those who have outdoor jobs should take proper precautions to avoid illnesses when temperatures are high.

 

Debit Card Scams

With many banks offering fraud alerts for credit and debit cards, It can be easy to fall for fake versions. The Better Business Bureau of Asheville and Western North Carolina warns to watch out for automated phone calls or text messages that claim your cards has been deactivated. It’s really an attempt to get you to share your banking and personal information.

The scam works by getting a call or text alerting you that your credit or debit card has been deactivated. Reactivating your card is easy you just need to call customer service number and confirm some information. When you dial the number it instructs you to enter your 16 digit credit card number. Better Business Bureau warns not to do it because it’s a scam.  Some ways to spot this scam are to call your bank and check their website. Find the phone number from your bank’s website, never use the number that has been text to you. Ignore instructions that tell you to reply STOP or NO to unsubscribe from future texts. This is often a ploy for scammers to confirm they have a real working number. Forward texts to 7726. This service alerts your cell phone provider to block future texts from this number. Be familiar with your banks communications methods. Did you sign up for text messaging alerts? Be aware of how your bank communicates with you because anything out of the ordinary could be a scam

Jackson County Transit Receives Grant

Jackson County Transit received grant funding which will enable transportation services to be provided at a reduced rate for residents who are disabled or who are 60 years of age or above for Door to Door Services beginning July 1, 2014.

As long as funding is available for qualifying individuals, fares will only be $1 each way for scheduled trips within the county and $1 added for each additional stop. The reduced fare can add up to big savings for many elderly and disabled residents in Jackson County. For example, Kim Shuler, Mobile Coordinator for Jackson County Transit, explained a ride from Cullowhee to Sylva usually costs around $3 one way. Riders from Little Canada could pay $4 for one way rides into Sylva. The grant which is offered annually will pass along savings to residents. Shuler told WRGC, the Jackson County Transit will certainly reapply for the federal grant again in 2015.

Medical trips to Swain, Haywood, and Macon will be only $5 round trip, and $10 round trip to Asheville.  Trips to destinations outside of Jackson County must be scheduled five days in advance. Rides within Jackson County and extra stops must be scheduled at least 24 hours in advance.  It will not be possible to make stops that have not been scheduled.

For more information or to register for this program come by the office at 1148 Haywood Road in Sylva (past the Dillsboro Huddle House) or call the Jackson County Transit office at 828-586-0233.

Folkmoot USA to Celebrate New Home

DSC0263Folkmoot USA will host an Open House on Thursday, June 26, from 4:30 to 8:00 p.m., to celebrate Haywood County’s generous donation of the historic Hazelwood School to the cultural organization.

 

On June 16, the Haywood County Board of Commissioners approved the donation of the historic Hazelwood School facilities to Folkmoot USA. According to county tax records, the facility is worth approximately $1.3 million. This marks the first time that Folkmoot USA has had a permanent home in its 31-year history of offering its annual summer festival and other events celebrating international culture.

 

“We have operated as tenants in this facility for more than a decade,” explained Karen Babcock, Executive Director of Folkmoot USA. “Ownership opens the door to both new responsibilities and exciting opportunities.”

 

By fixing the roof, renovating the auditorium, and making other facility changes, Folkmoot USA can achieve its goals of offering events year-round and operating a center that brings the local, regional and international communities together. Some of the possibilities include hosting guests and creating venues for community and international events and performances. Folkmoot USA has already secured $167,000 in cash support to help initiate these changes.

 

“We are very grateful to Haywood County for providing the largest donation in Folkmoot USA’s history,” said Rose Johnson, president of the board of Folkmoot USA. “The Open House is an opportunity to celebrate this amazing gift and also start the conversation about the future. We are thoroughly committed to utilizing this historic school facility to serve the community. We’re eager for people to come see the center and offer their ideas.”

 

Folkmoot USA supporters, former teachers and students at the historic Hazelwood School, Hazelwood neighbors, and the general public are all welcome to attend the Open House, which will take place at 112 Virginia Avenue in Hazelwood (Waynesville), from 4:30 to 8:00 p.m. on Thursday, June 26. This free event will include light refreshments.

 

Nominations for new Folkmoot USA board members are now being accepted. Terms will begin in September, 2014. Forms may be picked up during the Open House or requested via phone or email.

 

For more information about the Open House or board member nominations, please call 828-452-2997 or email info@folkmoot.com

Information Sought in Haywood County Burglary

John Cleveland Meris is wanted in connection with a robbery in the Hemphill community in Haywood County.

John Cleveland Meris is wanted in connection with a robbery in the Hemphill community in Haywood County.

One Canton man has been arrested and another is wanted in a breaking and entering that resulted in the theft of more than $150,000 in money and jewelry from a home in the Hemphill community Wednesday.

 

James Cleveland Meris, 32, of Canton was arrested and charged with felony breaking and entering, larceny, conspiracy, and possession of stolen property.  He was also charged with felony obtaining property by false pretense and misdemeanor resisting arrest.

 

James Meris was jailed Thursday night in lieu of $50,000 secured bond.  He was released from custody after posting bond Friday afternoon.  His court date is set for June 25.

 

Also wanted in the incident is 56-year-old John Cleveland Meris, of Carson Street, Canton. He is described as a white male, approximately 5’9” tall, weighing about 140 pounds, with gray hair and brown eyes.  He is believed to be driving a green Ford F-250 4×4 truck.  Anyone with any information as to his whereabouts is asked to contact the Haywood County Sheriff’s Office at (828) 452-6666.

 

The case remains under investigation, and additional arrests and charges are expected.

Trooper Blanton Memorial Scholarship Winners

Recipients of the Trooper Blanton Memorial Scholarship

Recipients of the Trooper Blanton Memorial Scholarship

On Saturday June 14 the Trooper Shawn Blanton Memorial Scholarship Fund held their 7th annual fund raiser at Sequoyah National Golf Club in Jackson County.  At the conclusion of the fundraiser, the 2014 Scholarship winners were announced.  The winners were selected among numerous applications received from multiple counties across Western North Carolina.  To qualify for the scholarship, each applicant must be participating in their high school softball program, be a senior, be accepted to a university or a college, and present a letter requesting consideration for the scholarship.  Each winner received a $1000 to go towards the expenses related with furthering their education.  Trooper Blanton was shot and killed on I-40 in Haywood County while conducting a traffic stop on June 17, 2008.  After his death, his father, David Blanton organized a Scholarship Fund for young ladies who played high school softball that wanted to further their education.  Trooper Blanton was the head JV softball coach at Smoky Mountain High School and an avid recreational softball player.  Since beginning the scholarship, there has been $32,000 given to help these ladies pursue their education. Winners from our area include Ashley Doolin from Smoky Mountain High School, Kendra Kirland from Swain County High School and Tristan Woodall from Tuscola High School and Erin West from Andrews High School.

Possum Drop to Remain NC tradition

possumintroduced_GJCThe marsupial star of a New Year’s Eve tradition in a North Carolina mountain town can remain the center of attention.

The Senate agreed Wednesday without discussion on a bill excluding opossums from state wildlife laws between December 26 and January 2 in Clay County, where the annual Possum Drop celebration is held.

The Possum Drop involves lowering a possum in a clear plastic box at midnight and then releasing it.

The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has tried to stop the event, saying the animal is cruelly treated. A judge last year dismissed a PETA lawsuit, but another hearing is expected.

The bill is considered local legislation, which means it takes effect without the governor’s signature.

 

Feud Heats Up Over Good Discount Driver Bill

The rates North Carolina drivers pay for car insurance could go up, and it wouldn’t be because of a person’s driving record under legislation being proposed in Raleigh.

State Insurance Commissioner Wayne Goodwin isn’t a fan of what’s being called the “Good Driver Discount Bill” circulating in State Assembly committees. He’s convinced it wouldn’t offer anything but increased insurance rates for motorists.  “My experts and a number of the larger insurance carriers here agree with me – instead of lowering premiums for North Carolina drivers, it actually will cause their premiums to go up.”

North Carolina has the lowest car insurance rates in the Southeast, due in part to Commissioner Goodwin’s ability to set a cap on rates charged by insurance companies. The Good Driver Discount Bill would allow insurers to bypass the cap requirement. The bill’s supporters say the commissioner would still have the power to approve or reject rates proposed by individual companies.

Supporters of the bill say it will allow companies to offer car insurance discounts that aren’t currently available in North Carolina.

Goodwin says he’s worried with the cap removed, there’s nothing to stop rates from increasing. “That’s a tremendous concern of mine, is that I want to make sure that our drivers, our families, our small businesses are not hit with some increases in their car insurance bills.”

More than 150 companies write insurance policies in North Carolina. The state Insurance Department says there are already two-thousand discounts available to drivers.

Armed Robbery in Jackson County

David Earnest Frizzell

David Earnest Frizzell

On Sunday, June 8, 2014, the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office investigated an armed robbery on Buff Creek Road in Jackson County involving an 86 year old victim.  The crime was perpetrated by using a firearm at the victim’s residence as he returned home.   The suspect, David Earnest Frizzell,was known and identified by the victim and investigators believe this was an isolated incident involving the armed robbery.  Deputies located and arrested the suspect a short time after the incident occurred and is currently being held in the Jackson County Detention Center.  The suspect had previous outstanding warrants at the time of his arrest for other property crimes.

NC to Host Championship Golf Tournament

 

Pinehurst No.2 will be the site of the US Open and US Women's Open this year.

Pinehurst No.2 will be the site of the US Open and US Women’s Open this year.

With tens of thousands of golf enthusiasts descending on North Carolina over the next two weeks for the 2014 U.S. Open and the U.S. Women’s Open, the state has worked hard to make sure they will have a great and unique experience.  Several of the state’s cabinet level agencies have coordinated their effort to put North Carolina’s best foot forward for visitors.  It is estimated that more than 400,000 people will attend the U.S. Open and the U.S. Women’s Open in Pinehurst during the unprecedented back-to-back events.

Departments including Commerce, Public Safety, Transportation and Cultural Resources have spent more than a year going over the smallest details to get ready for the events. From coordinating meetings with international businesses to improving transportation infrastructure, North Carolina is going all out to be an outstanding host.

N.C. Commerce Secretary Sharon Decker sees the tournament as a great vehicle to market the state to businesses that might be considering locating here.  The N.C. Department of Commerce is coordinating a number of the state’s events surrounding the U.S. Open Championships, including a special “North Carolina Night” performance by the N.C. Symphony on Friday, June 13, to highlight the various amenities North Carolina offers. The concert is free and the public is invited to attend.

The local convention and visitors bureau estimates the total economic impact of the two championships will be $169 million.  That includes money spent on lodging, food, beverages, transportation and shopping.

The U.S. Open will take place at the historic Pinehurst No. 2 course June 9-15, followed by the U.S. Women’s Open June 17-22. Staged by the United States Golf Association (USGA), the U.S. Open is the annual open golf tournament of the United States. It is the second of the four major championships in golf, and is on the official schedule of both the PGA Tour and the European Tour.

Jackson County Sheriff’s Office Seeking Suspects

Elliott Neal Mattox DOB 09/05/1992 195 Black Hill Road Bryson City, NC   28713

Elliott Neal Mattox
DOB 09/05/1992
195 Black Hill Road
Bryson City, NC 28713

The Jackson County Sheriff’s Office is seeking information regarding a June 2, 2014 break in at the Cashiers Valley Pharmacy in Cashiers, NC.  During the theft two masked individuals entered the store and were captured on video surveillance.  Taken from the store were multiple pharmaceutical drugs and firearms.  A large portion of the drugs were recovered during another investigation but the firearms have not been located.  A named person of interest in this case is listed below.  The Sheriff’s Office is offering a reward up to $500 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the suspects in this case.  Please contact Detective Andi Clayton at (828) 586-1392 oramclayton@jacksonnc.org

 

 

FDA Wants to Limit Antibiotics on NC Farms

hogFarm-dmtmNorth Carolina’s hundreds of livestock farms – including poultry and swine – soon will have to look for other means to keep the meat we eat free of disease. The Food and Drug Administration has asked pharmaceutical companies to limit the availability of some antibiotics to farmers, because of concerns it may be promoting antibiotic resistance.

Barrett Slenning is a professor at the NC State University College of Veterinary Medicine. He says our increasing use of antibiotics has impacted the natural development of bacteria over time. “We are kind of pushing our thumb on the scale, changing that battle because we can now manufacture these compounds and use them, and so we are going to be potentially affecting the environment.”

Slenning says he still believes human overuse of antibiotics – not livestock – is the biggest threat to the spread of diseases such as MRSA. He points out that the MRSA strains often found in livestock are different than those found in humans.

A North Carolina company has developed an alternative to antibiotics in farming. Clearstream – based in Harrisburg – has created a treatment that is applied to an environment to kill the source of bacteria.

While not in use by farms, Clearstream’s products are used in medical facilities, schools, athletic venues and even cruise ships.

Tony Daddona with Clearstream explains why their product may provide a healthy alternative.  “Antibiotics are a band-aid in every situation, so what we try to do is go to the source of the bacteria, before it’s ingested into their bodies.”

In a recent study, Johns Hopkins University found a connection between factory farms and MRSA, particularly in communities with swine-production facilities. According to the state Department of Agriculture, North Carolina ranks second in the nation when it comes to number of hogs in livestock production.

Jim Praechtl is Clearstream’s CEO stated “You’re starting to see more and more community-acquired infections taking place with people that normally would not have been exposed to it. It isn’t like these people all made trips to the hospital and came back out with MRSA.”

The FDA  is recommending veterinary oversight of antibiotic use in livestock farming.

Jackson County Sees Changes at WIC Program

131011123051-wic-north-carolina-620xaThe North Carolina Women Infants and Children Program (WIC) is changing to a new computer system to better serve WIC participants across the state. The new computer system, known as Crossroads, will improve the WIC process and make the WIC experience more efficient for families.

The Jackson County WIC program is in the first group across the state to implement Crossroads. Not everyone in the state will start using the new system at the same time. This means family and friends in other parts of North Carolina might not get the new WIC checks at the same time as clients in Jackson County.

Clients will see changes in the appearance of their WIC checks which will be explained at their first appointment following the implementation of Crossroads. Food packages will better meet family needs and clients should eventually have quicker times for food instrument pick-up. Clients will also have easier scheduling, more education options, fewer questions at check-in and quicker in-state transfers.

The first time a client comes into WIC after Crossroads, WIC staff may ask you some new questions. The things WIC will need to know are as follows: 1) First name, last name and birthday of the parent/guardian, caretaker and/or proxy 2) Physical address 3) Contact information, like phone numbers 4) Voter registration status 5) Language spoken and read. If a parent/guardian should send a proxy to the appointment, please give them this information.

Changes to NC’s Unemployment Laws

NorthCarolinaSealProposed changes to North Carolina’s unemployment insurance laws require recipients to show photo identification and show more effort in their job search to keep receiving benefits. The House gave tentative approval Thursday to the measure that addresses unemployment insurance laws overhauled since 2011. Dramatic changes occurred last year, when maximum benefit levels and benefit weeks were reduced and some business taxes were raised to more quickly eliminate $2.6 billion the state owed the federal government. The bill demands benefit recipients make five employer contacts weekly, up from two. The photo ID requirement affirms a new state policy required when someone visits a workforce development office after receiving their initial benefit. Thursday’s 77-39 vote was largely along party lines in favor of Republicans. A final House vote is expected next week.

Jackson County Woman Sentenced on Child Porn Charges

510ae4a99c3a2.imageA Jackson County woman was sentenced on Tuesday, June 3,
2014, to serve 210 months in a federal prison for producing, receiving, possessing and
distributing child pornography, announced Anne M. Tompkins, U.S. Attorney for the Western
District of North Carolina. In addition to the prison term, U.S. District Judge Martin Reidinger
also ordered Kimberly Rachael Moore, 31, of Tuckasegee, N.C. to serve under court supervision
the rest of her life upon release from prison and to register as a sex offender.

Brock D. Nicholson, Special Agent in Charge of U.S. Immigration and Customs
Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in Georgia and the Carolinas and
Sheriff Jimmy Ashe of the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office join U.S. Attorney Tompkins in
making today’s announcement.

In December 2012, a federal criminal indictment charged Moore with one count of
production of child pornography, one count of possession of child pornography, one count of
receipt of child pornography and four counts of distribution of child pornography. Moore
pleaded guilty to the charges in May 2013. According to court filings and proceedings, during
the investigation detectives discovered an extensive collection of child pornography, as well as a
computer hard drive, an email account, and online photo sharing accounts.

Moore is in federal custody and will be transferred into custody of the Federal Bureau of
Prisons upon designation of a federal facility. Federal sentences are served without the
possibility of parole.

The investigation into Moore was handled by HSI and the Jackson County Sheriff’s
Office.