Franklin Apartment Fire

FireAn adult and two children are without a home after a fire at an apartment complex in Franklin. Firefighters were called to the Panther View Apartments on Ulco Drive just after 9:00PM Sunday night. One apartment suffered heavy damage, and is a complete loss. Three other apartments nearby were evacuated, but those residents were allowed to return to their homes. There were no reports of serious injuries. The cause of the fire is under investigation.

Haywood County Church Fire

Sutton Town Baptist Church

Sutton Town Baptist Church

The Haywood County Sheriff’s Office says a man accidentally burned down the historic Sutton Town Baptist Church in Waynesville Friday. Deputies say the fire started when the man’s burn pile got out of control. Deputies say dry conditions and wind helped the fire spread quickly. The church hadn’t been operational in several years and was destroyed by the flames. Deputies say the fire was ruled accidental and no charges will be filed.

Haywood County Murder

Crystal Brook Howell

Crystal Brook Howell

A 17-year-old MaggieValley teen has been charged as an adult with first-degree murder in the shooting death of her father. Crystal Brooke Howell was arrested Sunday in Richmond County, Georgia, on a HaywoodCounty warrant initially charging her with concealing the death of her father, 50-year-old Micheal Joseph Howell. Mr. Howell’s body was discovered by potential renters of his property at 497 Pless Underwood Road in the SheepbackMountain community near MaggieValley.  Local law enforcement received information about the incident Saturday afternoon. According to this morning’s preliminary autopsy findings, Howell died from a single shotgun wound to the head.  A murder warrant for Crystal Howell was issued a short time later. “This tragic event appears to have been an isolated incident,” said Haywood County Sheriff Greg Christopher.  “There is no evidence to suggest any risk to other HaywoodCounty citizens.” The investigation unfolded quickly as Haywood County officers worked together on the case with Waynesville Police Department, North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation, District Attorney’s office and Maggie Valley Fire Department, as well as sheriff’s offices in Richmond and Columbia counties, Georgia. “Hard work and cooperative effort brought this matter to a rapid conclusion,” said Sheriff Christopher.  Ms. Howell is being held in jail in Georgia while awaiting extradition proceedings.

GSMA Releases Report

gsma_logo-14527_185x185Closing the books on one of the organization’s most vexing years in its 61-year history, Great Smoky Mountains Association officials released details this week of its contributions to Great Smoky Mountains National Park for 2013. “Aid-to-park for 2013 was $1,524,784, which represents another strong year of support, especially considering the circumstances,” said Executive Director Terry Maddox. He said they experienced a massive rain event that washed out a portion of the main park road in mid-January and kept that important transportation artery closed until April 15. Then, during their organization’s busiest month for sales by far, the federal government shutdown Oct. 1-16 that shuttered all our in-park retail operations.” While most visitors may not realize how often they interact with the many GSMA-supported projects ongoing in the park, Maddox said, visitors time in the park would be less fulfilling if the endeavors of GSMA were not pursued. Since its inception in 1953, Great Smoky Mountains Association has given nearly $32 million to support the ongoing educational, scientific and preservation efforts of Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Candidates Forum Held Thursday

Thursday's Candidates Forum

Thursday’s Candidates Forum

The six democrat candidates for sheriff of Jackson county appeared before a packed room of voters on Thursday evening in the community room at the Jackson County Public Library Complex in Sylva. They were joined by the Ron Robinson and Jane Hipps who are competing for the opportunity to take on incumbent State Senator Jim Davis. Also present were Democrat candidates for commissioner, clerk of court, register of deeds, district attorney, and NC House District 119. The forum was coordinated and moderated by the Democratic women of Jackson County.

Debnam Gets GOP Support

Jack Debnam

Jack Debnam

The Jackson County Republican Party will back incumbent county Commission Chairman Jack Debnam, an unaffiliated candidate, in this Novembers general election against former chairman and Democrat Brian McMahan. Debnam unseated McMahan in 2010 by 68 votes; he had the GOP’s support in the last election. The endorsement does not include financial help, according to local Republican Party Chairman Ralph Slaughter; nor did it during the election four-years ago. Debnam said he appreciated the GOP’s endorsement. Voter registration records show Debnam has voted in both Republican and Democrat primaries in past elections. Four years ago, Debnam gathered the signatures necessary for unaffiliated candidates to get their names on the ballot. He must do the same again, needing 1,008 signatures by June 27.

NC Food Stamps Back-Log

ncsealcolorNorthCarolinaSealJust a week after North Carolina’s health secretary said it would be difficult to erase a backlog of outstanding food stamp applications by the end of the month, she now says it’s possible. Health and Human Services Secretary Aldona Wos said Wednesday the backlog is just over 1,000 cases, down from about 1,700 a week ago. She says she expects to meet the March 31st deadline set by federal regulators. The state already met a Feb. 10 deadline to handle more than 20,000 applications and renewals pending for more than 90 days. The U.S. Agriculture Department had threatened the loss of $88 million to continue administering the program unless the deadline was met. It still must resolve applications older than 30 days and emergency requests for assistance older than seven days.ncsealcolor

Poison Prevention Week

0511_prescription-drugs-500x333The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently named poisoning as the leading cause of accidental death in the United States. This week marks National Poison Prevention Week, which urges the public to check their homes for hidden poison dangers. Kate Carr– President of Safe Kids Worldwide– says there has been an increase in the number of grandparents living with their grandchildren full-time, which means kids may have easier access to medication. North Carolinians are encouraged to safely dispose of old prescription and over-the-counter drugs as part of the fifth annual Operation Medicine Drop.For more information visit www.ncdoj.gov It’s time to clean out those medicine cabinets! North Carolinians are encouraged to safely dispose of old prescription and over-the-counter drugs as part of the fifth annual Operation Medicine Drop. This is just one of the prescription drug take-back events being sponsored across the state during National Poison Prevention Week, which runs through Saturday. Kate Carr– President of Safe Kids Worldwide– says that older adults tend to take more medication than younger adults.  Approximately 52.8 million total doses of old prescription and over-the-counter drugs have been turned in since Operation Medicine Drop started in 2009.

Stolen Puppy Recovered

Fish & More Pet Store

Fish & More Pet Store

Police have recovered a puppy that was stolen from a Sylva pet store safe and sound. They also picked up two juveniles in the case. The owner says they are still considering whether they will file charges in the case. Surveillance video at Fish and More Pet Store shows one of the juveniles putting the all black pomeranian/chihuahua puppy in her purse and then walking out of the store. One of the co-owners says the theft happened at the close of business Monday. The puppy would have cost $250. Sylva Police are investigating.

Local Salary Supplements For JCPS

jcpsJackson County school leaders are pushing for teachers and other employees to get local salary supplements this upcoming year. And to help with recruitment, new talent would be offered $1,000 signing bonuses. In North Carolina, commissioners approve education budgets and raise revenues for school systems, making local educators fiscally dependent on the county. Jackson County commissioners, for the most part, have given local school leaders what they’ve asked for, with the exception of School Resource Officers. Across the state local officials are caught in the same feud over school funding. State law allows school boards to demand mediation to resolve financing arguments, and if talking fails, school systems can sue. School system Finance Officer Gwen Edwards has calculated that about 19 percent of the projected $35 million school budget in 2014-2015 would be funded through local tax dollars. School leaders plan to pay for the salary supplements and a  3-percent state salary increase by pulling $860,000 from the school system fund balance, leaving $1.6 million.

Haywood County Video Gambling Busts

Video Gambling Machine's

Video Gambling Machine’s

Haywood County Sheriff’s Office, in conjunction with the Waynesville Police Department, served two search warrants on business establishments believed to have been housing electronic video gaming machines in violation of state laws. The searches were conducted at 1190 Asheville Highway outside Canton and at 1659 South Main Street in Waynesville.  A total of 34 machines were seized from the locations, as well as U.S. currency and related business records. The investigation was prompted by numerous complaints to law enforcement from citizens throughout the county concerned about illegal video gaming and the negative impact it has had on the community. There have been no arrests made at this time, but individual cases are being forwarded to the grand jury.  The investigation is ongoing.

New Complex Nearing Completion

New Complex Cad Drawing

New Complex Cad Drawing

The new performing arts center and gymnasium at smoky mountain high school is moving ever closer to a mid April opening. According to county manager chuck Wooten the construction is completed with most of the work now being done is in the final finish work stages. The striping to the lines to the basketball court were being completed on Tuesday. The fire and sprinkler inspections to the auditorium area are complete, and only correction issues remain. This eleven point four million dollar facility will seat fifteen hundred spectators for sporting events in the gymnasium  and 754 seats for a performance in the theater. It is expected the facility will be open in time to host several end of the school year performances.The Jackson county commissioners earmarked a portion of the local sales tax revenue to go toward the debt retirement of the of the ten million dollar construction loan.

Jackson County Schools Budget Request

jcpsJackson County Schools superintendent Dr Michael Murry, financial officer Qwen Edwards and several other school administrators appeared before the commissioners at the monthly work session Monday to present their budget request for the 2014 through 2015 school year. Dr Murry stated that school needs have not declined but the school board had voted to ask for six and three quarters of a million dollar allocation. ($6,779,482) the Jackson County portion of the budget represents 20 percent of the total school budget while state public school funds contribute 62 percent.  79 percent of the school’s budget is for salaries and benefits. Seven percent for instructional services, five percent for maintenance, and three percent for administration, and two for transportation. During the coming year it is projected that the salaries and benefits will increase to cover expected increases in health insurance and a growing number of retirements. The school board proposed that local funds would be used to fund local teacher assistant positions, and for retention and signing bonuses for new licenses staff. There was also a request for two hundred thirty five thousand dollars for capital improvements and two hundred and around seven hundred thousand dollars for technology and one on one computing.

Judaculla Rock Controversy

Judaculla Rock

Judaculla Rock

A state archaeologist won’t help a film company prepare a documentary on Judaculla Rock out of fears the History Two Channel program will consist of unscientific programming that inaccurately distorts the ancient site’s origins. Pisgah National Forest Archaeologist Scott Ashcraft, who also serves as director of N.C. Rock Art, urged Jackson County in a Monday, March 10, email to “scrutinize” a request by Committee Films to visit Judaculla Rock. Judaculla Rock is a large soapstone boulder in the Caney Fork community containing hundreds of mysterious, carved symbols. Commissioners issued at filming permit to “Committee Films” the production company working on the project for History Channel. County Leaders said although there is controversy twards filming of the episode, this could be good publicity for Jackson County. Two years ago, 133 acres of land around Judaculla Rock were placed into a conservation easement. The J.B. Parker family donated the property to Jackson County in 1959.

Lottery or Point System?

jcpsJackson County Schools could use a lottery to determine who gets four-year contracts and raises and not the point system announced last month. Teachers will be surveyed this week on whether they prefer the current plan or a lottery. There are 182 teachers in Jackson County eligible for contract offers. That means they have three years or more experience and proficient ratings or higher on job evaluations. Twenty-five percent, will get four-year contract offers and the promise of a $500 a year raises. Teachers relinquish tenure, if they have it, in lieu of contracts. Haywood and Buncombe Counties are among 27 of the 115 school systems in the state that have passed resolutions condemning the contracts. A list of selected teachers must be provided to the school board by May 31. By law, the names of those approved for contracts and raises are public record.

State Troopers Contract Lawsuit

NC Highway Patrol

NC Highway Patrol

Some attorneys say North Carolina State Highway Patrol troopers are facing severe financial hardships because the state has broken a promise to give them pay raises. A breach of contract lawsuit was filed Monday in Cherokee County, with nearly 40 state troopers as plaintiffs. Attorney David Wijewickrama says troopers were promised graduated or step pay raises when they completed training at the academy. But he says that hasn’t happened in years. He says that has created financial hardship for some troopers who are having trouble making ends meet. A beginning trooper makes about 35,000 a year.

SCC Small Business Competitions

SCCMountainLogoSouthwestern Community College is holding small business competitions where everyone wins. Roughly 20 aspiring entrepreneurs have regularly attended the free weekly sessions at SCC’s Macon Campus. They’ve covered a range of topics during the sessions. Organized by SCC’s Small Business Center, the series was a result of the collaboration between the Macon County Certified Entrepreneurial Community Leadership Team, Western Carolina University, the Dillsboro/WCU Partnership Committee and SCC. The winning business plan will yield $5,000. The grand prize in each contest will be announced in April. Throughout the series, students work through real-life scenarios and learn how to make their business ideas come to life. For more information about the Small Business Center at SCC call 399-4211.

WCU “Dash In Disguise” 5K

Western_Carolina_University_sealWestern Carolina University will host the “Dash In Disguise 5-K and fun run March 29th. The run encourages participants to wear a costume. The fun run starts at 10 a.m. and the 5-K at 11 a.m. near A.K. Hinds University Center. Racers should arrive an hour early to check-in for the event. The cost to participate in the 5-K is $15 for students and $20 for all others. The fun run will be $5 for children. Prizes include gift cards to local eateries and will be awarded in categories such as best dressed and fastest time. Proceeds from the event, which is sponsored by WCU’s Department of Physical Therapy, will benefit the Good Samaritan Clinic along with others. To pre-register CLICK HERE For more information, contact physical therapy student Chris Garcia at cjgarcia1@catamount.wcu.edu

March Is Kidney Cancer Awareness Month

1922156_10152314110539874_2068128171_nMarch is National Kidney Month, a time to raise awareness of the most common type of kidney cancer, renal cell carcinoma (RCC), which accounts for approximately 80 to 85% of cancerous kidney tumors. Dr. Janice Dutcher, a medical oncologist, runs through how many Americans are affected by the disease each year. “There are about 65,000 new cases in the United States annually, with about 14,000 deaths from kidney cancer annually.” She says kidney cancer has been associated with environmental toxins, certain occupations and cigarette smoke.

WCU’s Online Programs Receives High Marks

Western Carolina University

Western Carolina University

Western Carolina University’s online master’s degree programs in human resources and project management have received high national rankings in affordability and “Best Buy” designations from the distance education information clearinghouse GetEducated.com. WCU’s human resources program was ranked No. 3 in affordability following a national survey of 37 regionally accredited higher education institutions that offer online master’s degrees in that academic field, said Melissa Eubank, director of information services for GetEducated.com. The survey showed that the average cost of an online master’s degree in human resources nationwide is about $23,500. The cost of WCU’s program is $9,339 for North Carolina residents. Earlier this year, GetEducated.com gave WCU’s online bachelor’s degree program in entrepreneurship a No. 2 national ranking in affordability. Other WCU online master’s programs that have received high rankings from the clearinghouse in recent years are nurse educator, nurse administration and health sciences.