Header

WCU students to present mock trial based on Ron Rash novel ‘Serena’

Western Carolina University business law students will present a mock trial based on the Ron Rash novel “Serena” at a courtroom in the Jackson County Justice and Administration Building on Tuesday, Dec. 9.

The event, which lasts three hours and begins at 5 p.m., is free and open to the public.

Rash, an award-winning writer and WCU’s Parris Distinguished Professor of Appalachian Culture, authored “Serena,” and the novel set in Western North Carolina is this year’s selection for the WCU Office of First Year Experience’s One Book program. The program is designed to encourage students to have common intellectual conversation about one book. Freshmen were provided with copies of the novel, which was incorporated into transition courses as well as multiple upper-level courses in a range of disciplines.

Jayne Zanglein, professor of business law, assigned her students to develop a trial based on the characters and a legal issue in “Serena.” They crafted a case set in 1930 titled “Susan Harrill, as spouse ‘ad litem’ on behalf of William Harrill, deceased, Plaintiff v. The Pemberton Lumber Company, Defendant.”

In the lawsuit, Harrill alleges that an agent of the lumber company intentionally cut a cable wire in an attempt to injure or kill her husband.

The mock trial will involve a range of witnesses including the book’s title character, Serena Pemberton, as the wife of the lumber company manager. Exhibits include historical images, detailed information and diagrams of log loaders and equipment, and statistics regarding workplace injuries in the southern United States from pulpwood logging.

For more information, contact Zanglein at 828-227-7191.

Nifty Needles Make Warm Items in Jackson County

: Sarah Thompson, left, and Anne Jones continue knitting for the group project. Shown in the forefront are hats which will be given away.

: Sarah Thompson, left, and Anne Jones continue knitting for the group project. Shown in the forefront are hats which will be given away.

For eight years the Nifty Needles group has been knitting and crocheting warm, useful items for those in need. They knit year round in preparation for the cold weather. This group which meets at First United Methodist Church, Sylva has a mission to share God’s love and make winters warm and comfortable.

Nifty Needles distributes these items to those in Jackson County who are less fortunate. This season they will distribute over 300 such items. At one point, they gave to overseas missions, but now focus on the local community. Several years ago, over a two year period, they gave over 1,000 items to people in Bosnia.

When asked what type of items they knit, Anne Rhyne, the group leader, replied, “We make hats, scarves, gloves, stoles, and lap blankets and knee warmers for wheel chair bound patients in nursing homes. We love giving children matching hats, sweaters and turtle necks.” Many of the items are sold through the Christmas Store and others are distributed through referrals from school personnel and agencies. Items can also be picked up at the church office.

These dedicated knitters do take requests from people and try to accommodate the request. Once they got a request to send a warm shrug and a lap robe to an elderly person in Alaska.

As a special Christmas gift, the knitters have made dish cloths which they will wrap with ribbons to give to the Meals on Wheels recipients.

Vivian Wisdom, a longtime member, also leads a group of people called Crafty Needle Time at the Department of Aging.

The group would welcome new people who want to help accomplish their mission. They already have supplies such as yarn and needles. If someone wants to learn the craft, they will be more than happy to give lessons.

Anne Rhyne said, “We really enjoy being able to serve, and the Lord calls us to do this mission. We are just here for Him. We serve Him.”

Marine Sargent Major David Plaster (R) Selected for Jackson County Veterans Service Officer Position

With the recent departure of long time Jackson County Veterans Service Officer (VSO) Brenda DeBose the county selected a committee comprised of three veterans and two non-veterans to locate a person to fill the position of assisting veterans with their benefits from the Department Of Veterans Affairs. Retired Marine Sargent Major David Plaster has accepted the offer to fill the vacant position.  Plaster was one of over two dozen applicants for the position. During the final months of his enlistment Plaster was a Family Support Officer and remained in the position as a civilian contractor for several months after his retirement before relocating to Jackson County of which he is a native. Plaster is expected to assume the duties by the middle of December and will be working closely with the North Carolina Department of Veterans Affairs for training and certification.

Sheila Setzer Wood will continue as the Associate Veterans Service Officer for the County. Wood has been an employee in the office for two years and recently completed the requirements for full state and national certification. She was commended by the Search Committee and will move into a higher pay grade as a result of her certification. “Jackson County is fortunate to have two extremely capable individuals to staff this office,” said County Manager Chuck Wooten.

Cassius Cash Named Superintendent of Great Smoky Mountains National Park

National Park Service Southeast Regional Director Stan Austin named Cassius Cash, a native of Memphis, Tenn., as the new superintendent of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Cash, currently superintendent for Boston National Historical Park and Boston African American National Historic Site, will assume his new post in February.

“We are excited to have Cassius joining our Southeast Region leadership team,” Austin said. “He has a great reputation as a leader and has proven his ability to effectively work with partners, stakeholders and local communities. We know that he will be an excellent steward of the Smokies, one of the crown jewels of the Southeast Region.”

“Cash is an outstanding addition to the senior executive leadership at the National Park Service,” said National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis. “He brings a depth of land management experience with the National Park Service and the U.S. Forest Service, and his commitment to engaging local communities will support the great work that is happening at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.”

“I wholeheartedly look forward to rolling up my sleeves and working with and learning from a group of dedicated employees at the park who have the privilege of and responsibility for preserving and protecting some of the most precious natural and cultural resources in the country,” Cash said. “I also look forward to working with local communities, friends groups, and tribal communities on how the National Park Service can build on innovative ideas to create the next generation of stewards and supporters for this park. The timing for this is excellent because the park service will enter its second century of service to the nation when it observes its Centennial in 2016.”

Cash has served as superintendent at the Boston parks since 2010. While there, he worked with the City of Boston to open a new visitor center in historic Faneuil Hall. That facility now welcomes more than 5 million visitors a year. Cash also worked with several park partners to secure $4 million to reopen the African Meeting House, the oldest black church still in its original location in the country.

Cash began his federal career in 1991with the U.S. Forest Service as a wildlife biologist at the Gifford Pinchot National Forest in Washington State. He went on to work with that agency for 18 years in various leadership positions.

He served as an administrative officer in Nebraska, district ranger in Georgia, and a civil rights officer in Mississippi. Cash was the deputy forest supervisor at the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest in southern Oregon before transferring to Boston. Earlier this year, Cash served as the deputy regional director and chief of staff in the Northeast Regional Office.

Cash holds a bachelor of science degree in biology from the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, and later attended Oregon State University to study wildlife management.

Cash, his wife, Vonda and their youngest daughter plan to reside in the Gatlinburg area. Their oldest daughter is attending school in Colorado.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park is one of the largest protected land areas east of the Rocky Mountains, with more than 500,000 acres of forests and more than 2,000 miles of streams. It spans eastern Tennessee and western North Carolina along the high peaks of the Appalachian Mountains. It is the nation’s most visited national park, with more than nine million visitors a year.

WCU Wrapping Up 125th Anniversary Celebration Today

Paws_RunningWestern Carolina University will wrap up the yearlong celebration of the 125th anniversary of its founding with the It’s a Wrap Party at 3 p.m. Friday, Dec. 5, at the Ramsey Center in Cullowhee.

The event will be highlighted by a cross-campus parade led by WCU’s Pride of the Mountains Marching Band, which will have just returned from participating in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Members of the campus and surrounding communities are encouraged to wear their purple-and-gold apparel and join the band in the on-campus march. The It’s a Wrap parade is scheduled to begin at 4 p.m. at Scott Residence Hall and end at the Liston B. Ramsey Regional Activity Center.

JCDPH to Hold a Public Meeting on Increased Mercury Levels in Fish at Lake Glenville

The Jackson County Department of Public Health is holding a public meeting to discuss and answer questions about the increased mercury levels in Walleye Fish as well as Large Mouth Bass Fish at Lake Glenville. The meeting will be held at the Albert Carlton-Cashiers Library on Monday, December 15, 2014 from 6:00 pm. The physical address for the library is 249 Frank Allen Road, Cashiers, NC 28717

Dr. Kenneth Rudo, NC Division of Public Health’s Toxicologist will be present to share the findings and answer any questions.

Report: The “Other” List Santa Should Check

Before filling the stockings of little loved ones this holiday season, gift givers might want to check out a new annual report that lists potential toy dangers to watch out for on store shelves.

Pam Clough with the US Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) says they’ve released their “Trouble in Toyland” report for 29 years now, and as a result, more than 150 toys have either been recalled or taken out of retail stores, “It is great to see that progress is being made, but it’s evident that there are still dangerous toys on the shelves.”

Clough says the findings highlight the need for consumers to be proactive and do their research before buying, and also examine items that already have been purchased for possible dangers.

Among the 24 toys on the list this year, Clough says they uncovered four main hazards – toxins, choking risks, magnets and excessively noisy toys, “We found toys that contained phthalates that are well over the legal limits. For example, a Dora backpack was 20 percent phthalates, which is ridiculous.”

Clough says the toxic chemicals found in toys can have adverse health effects on a child’s development, and the list includes lead and chromium, among others.

Clough says toy-safety standards have improved with passage of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act. She says one of those “improvements” is a ban that goes into effect next year on small magnetic sets that pose a dangerous threat to children if swallowed, “The magnets have the power to bind through tissue, and so that can really disrupt the digestive system. And it actually can lead to severe injury that has been seen in pediatric emergency hospitals.”

The Toy Industry Association claims PIRG’s past unsafe-toy reports were based on improper testing methods that aren’t approved by the US Consumer Product Safety Commission.

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.