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Dillsboro Artist Frank Brannon Named Regan Residency Grant Recipient

Brannon 1Frank Brannon, a book artist from Dillsboro, has been selected for the first Mary B. Regan Residency Grant for a project to revitalize the Cherokee language through his artistry as a letterpress printer.

Brannon’s one-year project is based on his work with a program he supports at Southwestern Community College in Swain County, near Cherokee, where students are learning the art of printmaking by printing materials using the Cherokee syllabary. The 85-character syllabary was developed in 1821 by Sequoyah – a silversmith, blacksmith and artist – making it possible to read and write the spoken language of the Cherokee.

Working with translations from the Cherokee Studies Program at Western Carolina University, Brannon uses manual printing techniques to preserve the language and its original Cherokee syllables. In a series of public workshops, members of the surrounding communities will produce prints that will culminate in an edition of handmade books. The workshops will be held at the Southwestern Community College printing studio as well as Brannon’s own studio in Dillsboro.

“Like many languages around the world, the Cherokee spoken language is struggling to continue as there are fewer and fewer speakers,” Brannon said. “As a book artist I thought about how we might print in Cherokee in this way to support Cherokee language revitalization.”  His M.F.A. thesis was Cherokee Phoenix: Advent of a Newspaper, which focused on the historical 19th-century newspaper, the Cherokee Phoenix, which was printed in both English and Cherokee.

The Mary B. Regan Residency is a one-year community artist grant named in honor of former N. C. Arts Council Executive Director Mary B. Regan’s 39 years of service to the arts and artists of North Carolina. The $15,000 grant, supported by donations, will allow Brannon to focus on revitalizing the Cherokee language in partnership with students and the wider community in Swain and Jackson counties.

“When I think of myself as a community artist, I think about the ability of a person to use art to support or transform a community, and combined with visual arts, I expect my artwork to be a catalyst for change using a visual approach,” he said.

Brannon focuses his work on three areas: hand papermaking, hand bookbinding and letterpress printing. Working with book artist Steve Miller, Brannon produced the paper for a limited edition print of Voyage by former U.S. Poet Laureate, Billy Collins. He was commissioned to make 200 copies of Absalom, Absalom! celebrating William Faulkner’s birthday. The commission, for Square Books, featured letterpress printing on handmade cotton rag paper.

He has also explored expanding the concept of the book form to include installations featuring imagery and text on handmade paper filling a gallery space and is experimenting with outdoor installations where the paper will interact with the environment.

Brannon has an M.F.A. from the Book Arts Program at the University of Alabama. His work is in almost 50 library collections and he has been in four solo exhibitions and an exhibition that traveled to six venues in the Southeast.

He is a member of the Southern Highland Craft Guild, Southeastern College Art Conference and a past board member of Hand Papermaking, Inc.

For more information about Frank Brannon visit www.speakeasypress.com. The blog,www.speakeasypress.com/news, will feature postings about the project.

For more information on the arts in North Carolina visit www.ncarts.org.

 

 

NC DHHS Confirms Enterovirus D68 Has Reached North Carolina

The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services today confirmed the presence of enterovirus D68, or EV-D68, in six patients from North Carolina.  The specimens that tested positive for EV-D68 were obtained from children ages 10 and under with respiratory illnesses. Testing was conducted at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on specimens submitted from hospitals across the state.

Specific information about the children, including county of residence or hospital location, is not being released in order to protect patient confidentiality.

“DHHS’ Division of Public Health has been monitoring this situation very closely,” said Dr. Zack Moore, a pediatrician and epidemiologist with the Division of Public Health. “The confirmed cases were located in different parts of the state, so it is important for everyone to take necessary actions to protect yourself from EV-D68 and other respiratory viruses. There are no vaccines and no specific treatments for EV-D68, so prevention is the best option.”

There are more than 100 types of enteroviruses and 10-15 million infections across the US each year. Enteroviruses are common viruses that can cause a range of symptoms, include runny nose, coughing, mouth sores, fever and body aches. Some patients will also develop wheezing and difficulty breathing.

“EV-D68 is one of many enteroviruses that can cause illness,” said Dr. Moore. “Enterovirus infections are not generally life-threatening but can sometimes be severe, especially for children with asthma or other underlying respiratory conditions. If you or your child experience cold-like symptoms and difficulty breathing, contact your health care provider right away.”

Enteroviruses are transmitted through close contact with an infected person, or by touching objects or surfaces that are contaminated with the virus and then touching the mouth, nose or eyes. Health officials are recommending that people take the following actions to protect themselves from infection with EV-D68 and other respiratory illnesses:

1. Wash hands vigorously and often with soap and water for 20 seconds, especially after changing diapers. 
2. Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
3. Avoid kissing, hugging and sharing cups or eating utensils with people who are sick.
4. Frequently disinfect touched surfaces, such as toys and doorknobs, especially if someone is sick.

Since people with asthma are higher risk for respiratory illnesses, health officials are reminding everyone with asthma to take their medications as prescribed and make sure their asthma is under good control. Health officials are also recommending getting a flu vaccine as soon as possible to help prevent another important cause of respiratory illness that could be going around at the same time.

Since mid-August, EV-D68 has been linked to clusters of respiratory illness in 27 other states, including some illnesses that have been severe.

For more information, visit the CDC website on Enterovirus D68: http://www.cdc.gov/non-polio-enterovirus/about/ev-d68.html.

New Data Shows Staggering Rates of Poverty in North Carolina

Poverty remained high in North Carolina last year, according to new Census Bureau data released last week. The new data highlight that many people have not benefited from the state’s weak economic recovery and that North Carolina must do more to help struggling people afford basics like decent housing, nutritious food, and reliable child care, and transportation.

One in five North Carolinians lived in poverty in 2013, which translates to an income of less than $24,000 per year for a family of four. The median annual income in North Carolina adjusted for inflation did not rise between 2012 and 2013 and is lower now compared to 2009 when the economic recovery from the Great Recession officially began. Yet other sources show that incomes at the top have grown and the gaps between the top and bottom and top and middle have widened. (As an important an aside, it should also be pointed out that hundreds of thousands of North Carolinians whose incomes place them above the official poverty line still do not, as a practical matter, bring home a “living income.”)

Many feel Lawmakers have also dismantled services that help people get back on their feet when they are struggling, including unemployment benefits, job training programs, and the Earned Income Tax Credit that makes work pay and helps parents avoid raising their children in poverty.

The new Census data show that progress towards eliminating poverty in the state is stuck: North Carolina’s poverty rate is 2.1 percentage points higher than the U.S. poverty rate, and is the 11th highest rate in the nation. The state’s poverty rate (17.9 percent) and median income ($45,906) remained statistically unchanged, meaning there has been no progress in fighting poverty or raising middle class living standards for the average North Carolinian since 2009.

New Hope for Rural Areas Short on Doctors

A new plan to allow multi-state licensing for physicians could help fill the gap in areas without enough health-care services. If at least seven state legislatures agree to what’s known as a multi-state compact, a licensed doctor could easily get permission to practice medicine in any of the compact states.

Kevin Bohnenblust with the Wyoming State Board of Medicine says the compact would be especially useful for bringing specialists from a big city to a rural area with a small number of patients, “They might only have three or four patients, but their services would be critical. What we’re hoping is that, where there are under-served areas, it will give added flexibility.”

The details of the compact were unveiled this month, and Bohnenblust says it’s already receiving interest from across the country. In a report released this month by the website BetterDoctor.com, Raleigh and Greensboro are among the top cities in the country facing a physician shortage, in part because of the growth of population and business in the region.

Under the compact, a doctor could pay a fee and go through a fairly simple process to get an additional license. Bohnenblust says that’s much simpler than getting separate licenses to practice in multiple states, although he says doctors would still have that option. He adds if a license under the compact was suspended in one state, it would be suspended in all of them.

Bohnenblust says the compact is designed to make services such as telemedicine easier to do, “We’re all getting more comfortable with doing things like Skyping and FaceTime. As patients become more comfortable with it, and as physicians and other health-care professionals become more comfortable, you’ll see more and more care driven that way.”

He says the compact should be especially useful for doctors who want to operate a practice on both sides of a state line, “Being able to make it so a physician can move between those two states and be able to provide care on kind of a seamless basis for a patient.”

Because of the anticipated shortage in North Carolina, the N.C. Institute of Medicine has asked medical schools to increase enrollment by 30%.

Department of Public Safety to pitch in during statewide litter sweep

The Department of Public Safety will deploy hundreds of inmates this month to help the Department of Transportation carry out its annual fall sweep to rid the state roadsides of litter.

During the 2014 Fall Litter Sweep Sept. 20 – Oct. 4, state prisons will send minimum-custody litter crews, medium-custody road squads and Adopt-A-Highway participants out to remove trash and debris from along the state’s highways and roads.

“Everyone knows that litter creates an eyesore and an image problem. But littering is not only ugly, it can be dangerous,” said Public Safety Secretary Frank L. Perry. “Motorists who swerve to avoid debris in the road risk losing control of their vehicle.  Litter and debris blowing from unsecured loads on trucks can strike other vehicles, obscure a driver’s vision, damage vehicles and even injure drivers.”

The state spends millions of dollars each year cleaning up roadside trash that fills hundreds of thousands of garbage bags, said W. David Guice, commissioner of the Division of Adult Correction and Juvenile Justice.

“During last year’s Litter Sweeps, inmates picked up more than 425 tons of trash,” Guice said. “In the spring sweep earlier this year, inmates cleared more than 2,300 miles of highway and filled more than 27,500 trash bags.”

“North Carolina is a beautiful state, and Commissioner Guice and I are committed to contributing resources to this worthy initiative,” Perry said.

Sun Shines on NC Power Bills with $500 Million Investment

North Carolina could come closer to living up to its solar power potential with a $500 million dollar investment from Duke Energy. The corporation said this week it will construct three solar farms to generate 128 megawatts of electricity – in Elm City, Fayetteville and Warsaw.

John Wilson with the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy says greater availability of solar could ultimately stabilize consumer electric bills,”The price for these projects doesn’t go up. There’s no fuel cost increase with the sun shining, then if prices of other fuels go up, the customers will be insulated from price hikes.”

Duke Energy also announced it would purchase 150 megawatts of solar power from independent developers. Last year, 335 megawatts of solar capacity was installed in North Carolina, ranking it third in the nation and generating enough electricity for more than 31-thousand homes.

Stephen Smith, executive director of “SACE,” agrees with Wilson’s assertion that solar growth could impact the bottom line for utility customers, “They will serve as a stabilizing effect on fuel prices for North Carolina. So, the benefits will come more and more into the future, as we see these solar facilities run just any time the sun shines.”

State law dictates that North Carolina’s electric power suppliers meet an increasing amount of their customers’ energy needs with a combination of renewable energy resources. The law was passed in 2008, and Wilson says Duke’s announcement is a testament to its success,”This action by Duke is also the culmination of many years of implementation of North Carolina’s energy law, which was a far-sighted effort by the North Carolina Legislature.”

Today, North Carolina has a total of 627 megawatts of solar energy installed, powering the equivalent of more than 68,000 homes. Last year, a total of 787 million public and private dollars was invested in solar power for home and business use.

Nearly 2,800 DWI Arrests Made during Labor Day “Booze It & Lose It” Campaign

The Labor Day holiday ushers in the start of school and football season, and signals the end of summer – marking a time many people decide to celebrate with alcohol. The N.C. Department of Transportation and the Governor’s Highway Safety Program worked closely with law enforcement officers statewide to keep drunk drivers off the road during the Labor Day “Booze It & Lose It” campaign. Today, they announced that 2,757 people were arrested across North Carolina from Aug. 15 to Sept. 1 for making the life-threatening decision to drive after drinking.

“Law enforcement continues to work hard day and night to make our roads safer,” said Don Nail, GHSP director. “Arresting an average of 153 drunk drivers a day is no small feat. However, our goal is zero; zero drunk drivers and zero drunk driving arrests.”

The top five counties for DWI arrests during the Labor Day “Booze It & Lose It” campaign include:
• Wake County with 316 DWI arrests;
• Guilford County with 192 DWI arrests;
• Mecklenburg County with 150 DWI arrests;
• Robeson County with 113 DWI arrests; and
• Forsyth County with 112 DWI arrests.

In addition to DWI arrests, local and state law enforcement officers issued 102,209 traffic and criminal citations statewide at 9,642 checking stations and patrols. They also issued citations for 6,722 safety belt and 1,083 child passenger safety violations; 27,820 speeding violations; 604 work zone violations and 3,137 drug charges. In addition, they apprehended 2,874 fugitives from justice and recovered 217 stolen vehicles.

Farmers should have corn tested for aflatoxin

Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler is encouraging farmers to have their corn tested for aflatoxin to prevent contamination of feeds and food.

Aflatoxin is a byproduct of the mold Aspergillus flavus, and can be harmful to both humans and livestock.

“We have six drop-off locations at research stations across the state to make it easy for farmers to submit samples,” Troxler said. “I encourage farmers to take advantage of our testing service to protect feed and food against this mold.”

Some farmers may need to have corn samples tested for crop insurance or quality assurance purposes. These samples must be submitted to a grain marketing location certified by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The tests cost $22.20 per sample.

For insurance or quality assurance purposes, farmers must submit a 5-pound sample of shelled corn by mail, UPS or FedEx to a USDA-certified grain marketing location. The following locations can conduct USDA-certified testing, and they will accept samples between 6:30 a.m. and 3 p.m. weekdays:

Cargill Soybean Plant
Attn: Ben Honeycutt
1400 S. Blount St.
Raleigh, NC 27603
919-733-4491

Grain Grading Office
Attn: Judy Grimes
407-G South Griffin St.
Elizabeth City, NC 27909
252-337-9782

Farmers who grow or buy bulk corn to feed to their own animals can have it tested for free by the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ Constable Laboratory, 4000 Reedy Creek Road in Raleigh. This Laboratory is not on the Risk Management Agency’s approved testing facility list; therefore, results from this location will not be accepted for insurance claims.

Farmers may drop off 5-pound samples of shelled corn at the Constable Laboratory or at one of six agricultural research stations. Forms for submitting samples will be available at the Laboratory and the following collection sites:

Samples also may be mailed directly to the lab at the following address:

N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services
Food and Drug Protection Division
Attn: Forage Testing
1070 Mail Service Center
Raleigh, NC 27699-1070

For additional information about the aflatoxin testing program, contact Jennifer Godwin or Michelle Powell at 919-733-7366.

 

SBI Announces Prescription Take-Back Day Sept. 27

The State Bureau of Investigation, along with Safe Kids North Carolina and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, is co-sponsoring a national effort to safely dispose of unused prescription medicines in locations across the state from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 27.

 

“Taking expired, unwanted or unused medicines to one of the pill take-back locations is the best disposal method,” SBI Director B.W. Collier said.  “This coordinated effort keeps harmful drugs out of the reach of children and prevents chemicals from ending up in the water supply.”

 

Medications are the leading cause of child poisoning, according to Safe Kids, a non-profit organization that helps parents and caregivers prevent childhood injuries.  Environmental experts say that flushing medicines down the toilet contaminates water supplies and hurts aquatic life.

 

From Aberdeen to Pilot Mountain, law enforcement agencies are participating in U.S. DEA’s National Take-Back Initiative.  The State Highway Patrol is offering drop-off sites at its eight troop offices.  (http://bit.ly/XvPxiF).  For those who do take old medications to drop-off locations, the service is free and anonymous, no questions asked.

 

State and local law enforcement officials oversee the collection of the drugs, the State Highway Patrol provides vehicles to transport the medication and personnel, and the DEA pays to have the medications destroyed at an Environmental Protection Agency-approved incinerator.

 

North Carolinians have safely disposed of approximately 61 million total doses at pill take-back events since 2009.

 

“Through these partnerships we are able to remove potentially deadly drugs from households so that they cannot fall into the hands of unsuspecting young people or drug abusers,” said SBI Special Agent in Charge Donnie Varnell of the Diversion and Environmental Crime Unit.  “This effort provides the safest way to dispose of old medications.”

 

According to DEA, medicines that languish in home cabinets are highly susceptible to misuse and abuse, and a majority of abused prescription drugs are obtained from family and friends, including from the home medicine cabinet.

To find a collection site in North Carolina, go to www.dea.gov. Click on Drug Disposal in the right-hand column, then National Take-Back Initiative / Locate a Collection Site Near You.

NC Rail Projects Get Big Boost Thanks to Federal Grant Awards

Rail in North Carolina is getting a big boost thanks to two federal TIGER grants recently awarded to the N.C. Department of Transportation to improve both freight and passenger service across the state. NCDOT learned last week that it received the grants, following Transportation Secretary Tony Tata’s application submittal in April.

The largest grant, for $5.8 million, will fund a major freight improvement project in northeastern North Carolina to upgrade the North Carolina & Virginia Railroad Company in Bertie, Hertford and Northampton counties currently operated by Genesee and Wyoming. The 52-mile rail line serves Nucor Steel, one of the largest employers in the region. 

“This project will improve the railroad track and allow shippers such as Nucor to utilize modern, heavyweight cars that are more efficient in today’s railroad operations,” said Tata. “The overall improvements will increase mobility and safety while promoting economic development in the northeast region of North Carolina.”

“This grant was possible only through the very strong support of NCDOT, Congressman G.K. Butterfield, and the communities and customers our railroad serves,” said Jim Irvin, president of the North Carolina & Virginia Railroad.  “It will allow for the modernization of the railroad, helping support existing customers and attract new ones to the communities along our line.”

Additionally, NCDOT will invest $2 million in the project through its Freight Rail and Rail Crossing Safety Initiative, funded through dividends from the North Carolina Railroad Company, as well as $800,000 from the North Carolina Mobility Fund. The total cost of the project is $11.6 million, with more than $3 million in private investment coming from the North Carolina & Virginia Railroad Company.  

The second grant for $200,000 will be used to develop transit options along the Piedmont corridor, including terminal projects such as the Gateway Station project in Charlotte. This money will allow NCDOT to continue moving this project forward with its partners on community-based connections along the route. 

TIGER grants – which stand for Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery – provide a unique opportunity for the USDOT to invest in road, rail, transit and port projects that promise to achieve critical national objectives.

SCC to host political debate series

0915_DebateThe mere mention of words like “political debate” may cause some college students’ eyes to glaze over.

That’s not the case with members of Dr. Bucky Dann’s “Social Problems” class at Southwestern Community College.

Since the start of the fall semester, they’ve been studying up on regional and statewide issues in preparation for a series of debates that will be hosted in the Burrell Building conference center at SCC’s Jackson Campus over the next few weeks. Dr. Dann’s students will select and ask all questions of candidates at each event.

“A lot of times, debates are for older people,” said Gabrielle Beam, a 19-year-old Bryson City resident who’s pursuing an Associate of Arts degree at SCC. “I don’t think many people expect a teenager to care, much less know about these kinds of issues. So it’s cool to have this opportunity.”

The first debate, set for 7 p.m. on Sept. 25, will feature the six candidates (Independent Jack Debnam; Republicans Doug Cody and Charles Elders; and Democrats Boyce Deitz, Brian McMahan and Joe Ward) who are vying for three seats on the Jackson County Board of Commissioners. On Oct. 9, Democratic N.C. Representative Joe Sam Queen (D) will debate Republican challenger Mike Clampitt (R). And on Oct. 30, N.C. Senator Jim Davis (R) will face challenger Jane Hipps (D).

The public is invited to attend all three, and WRGC radio (540 AM) of Sylva plans to broadcast each one live.

“It’s really important to be unbiased,” Beam said. “The great thing is that our classmates are really diverse. We all come from different backgrounds, and we’re all going to have input into which questions are asked. I think it’ll be fun.

Another of Dr. Dann’s students, 16-year-old Early College student Kendra Graham, said she and her classmates are taking seriously the responsibility of being granted such significant roles at the debates.

“I’m a little nervous to be honest,” said Graham, who lives in Cullowhee. “But it’ll be nice to surprise people who may not think 16- or 17-year-olds are engaged in the political process.”

“We want to style our questions so that each candidate can answer from a neutral zone and know that they’re not being picked on,” Graham added.

To prepare students for the commissioners’ debate, Dr. Dann has invited Jackson County media to attend a class session and provide insight on some of the critical issues facing Jackson County.

Dr. Dann said he’s been impressed by how his students have embraced this challenge.

“Preparing for this debate has involved a lot of research,” Dr. Dann said. “Having our students ask questions that they’ve prepared and selected for these events is a key element of the learning process, and I’m very proud of their approach to this event. I am confident that everyone who attends will be impressed with our students, and more importantly, we’ll all learn a lot more about the candidates and where they stand.”

Governor, Congressman address UNC Board of Governors at Western Carolina University

District 11 U.S. Rep. Mark Meadows makes remarks to the audience and Board of Governors.

District 11 U.S. Rep. Mark Meadows makes remarks to the audience and Board of Governors.

The University of North Carolina Board of Governors’ three-day visit on the Western Carolina University campus came to a close Friday (Sept. 12) as the board held its regular monthly meeting and heard remarks from District 11 U.S. Rep. Mark Meadows and N.C. Gov. Pat McCrory.
The Board of Governors, the policy-making body for the entire UNC system, joined UNC President Tom Ross and numerous chancellors from WCU’s sister institutions for the gathering in Cullowhee that included board committee meetings on Thursday (Sept. 11) and the meeting of the full board Friday at WCU’s A.K. Hinds University Center.

Congressman Meadows, a resident of the Glenville community in Jackson County, noted in his comments to the Board of Governors that the ambassadors he meets with from around the world are often familiar with the state’s university system.

“North Carolina is known for a lot of things – a lot of great things,” he said. “The one thing that continues to come back when I mention that I’m from North Carolina is our university system. It is something we must protect. It is an asset that we must continue to tout. It transcends everything else.”

McCrory spoke to the Board of Governors about a wide range of issues involving the state budget and the North Carolina economy. He also expressed concern about an issue he said has not been addressed adequately by North Carolina leaders – the long-term maintenance costs of state-owned buildings.

In one of the meeting’s lighter moments, McCrory announced that he is an alumnus of Catawba College, the WCU football team’s opponent for its Saturday (Sept. 13) game. McCrory provided the coin toss during the gridiron matchup at WCU’s E.J. Whitmire Stadium. He thanked WCU Chancellor David O. Belcher for providing a warm welcome to campus and said, despite the fact that he graduated from Catawba College, “I wore my purple tie just for you.”

Ross delivered his report concerning the UNC system to the Board of Governors during the meeting, and he also expressed appreciation to Belcher and his staff for their work in preparing for the board’s visit. The Board of Governors scheduled its meeting on the WCU campus in honor of the 125th anniversary of the founding of the institution.
“We could not have been treated better this week, during this 125th-year celebration of Western Carolina, and we thank all of you for your warm welcome and hospitality,” he said.

During his presentation, Ross introduced WCU engineering technology major Ben Strawn, who spoke about his experiences as an intern this summer with the U.S. Army Special Operations Command. The WCU senior from Peachland said the primary project he worked on during his internship, an electronic explosive initiator, is expected to be produced by the Army and used in the field.

In his comments, John Fennebresque, chairman of the Board of Governors, joined Ross in thanking the WCU community for its hospitality.

“I have noticed for the past three days – there is something about this place,” Fennebresque said. “Everybody seems to have a smile on their face. It’s unbelievable. So if there’s special water or something like that, I want some.”

Belcher’s time before the Board of Governors included the screening of a video produced by Joseph Hader, a WCU alumnus and member of the staff of the university’s Office of Communications and Public Relations. The video focuses on WCU’s service to Western North Carolina.

“It has truly been a pleasure and a privilege for us at Western Carolina University to host the Board of Governors, President Ross, staff of UNC General Administration and chancellors and staff from our sister institutions across North Carolina,” Belcher said. “I hope during your brief visit here you caught a glimpse of who we are and why this little slice of paradise we call Cullowhee is so special.

“We love Western Carolina University, and I think it shows,” Belcher said. “For 125 years, WCU has been in the business of changing lives. I assure you, the best is yet to come.”

Debnams Give to SCC’s Student Success Campaign

Over the 26 years that Jack and Gail Debnam have owned Western Carolina Properties, they’ve noticed the essential role Southwestern Community College plays in the region.

SCC’s ability to quickly adapt to the changing needs of Jackson, Macon, Swain Counties and the Qualla Boundary was the primary reason the Debnams decided recently to give $1,000 to the college’s Student Success Campaign.

“SCC offers a product that’s more agile than the typical higher education,” Jack Debnam said. “They try to meet the demand of what our population and businesses need, and they’re better aligned to do that.”

The most ambitious fundraising effort in the Southwestern Community College Foundation’s history, the Student Success Campaign aims to narrow the gap between scholarship need and availability by raising more than $1 million through community’s generosity and with the help of a federal challenge grant.

Every dollar donated up to approximately $300,000 will be matched, dollar for dollar, by the U.S. Department of Education.

“Generous gifts like the one the Debnams made are going to make it possible for more students than ever before to get a quality education at Southwestern,” said Mary Otto Selzer, director of the SCC Foundation. “We are pleased that Jack and Gail are so keenly aware of Southwestern’s significant impact on the region, and we are thrilled by their support.”

The Debnams’ daughter Cori and son-in-law Jason attended SCC, and Jack Debnam said he’s particularly impressed by the fact that 90 percent of Southwestern graduates remain in the area after receiving their degrees, diplomas and/or certificates.

“As a commissioner, I’m a firm believer in supporting our local community,” Jack Debnam said. “Through SCC, you get more bang for your buck.”

Fracking Hearing Held At WCU on Friday

State officials held their final public hearing on the controversial issue of fracking in North Carolina at Western Carolina University on Friday night. Hundreds of people turned out to voice opinions on both sides of the fracking issue.

Earlier this month, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources said they would not test for natural gas in our western counties since it would be unlikely to find it here and due to budget issues.

Opponents of fracking say they don’t want to see natural gas drilling in our mountains due to environmental issues. Many are concerned about the chemicals used in fracking which do not have to be disclosed. While they worry about new statewide fracking regulations, others see natural gas as a needed energy source for the future and job creator.

Southwestern Community College Hosts Political Debate Series

Southwestern Community College will be hosting a series of political debates over the next few weeks at the Jackson Campus. Students in the “Social Problems” class are studying and researching regional and statewide issues, and they’ll be asking questions in these debates.

 

Thursday, Sept. 25 (7 p.m.) – Jackson County Commissioners

Doug Cody (R)

Boyce Deitz (D)

Jack Debnam (R)

Charles Elders (R)

Brian McMahan (D)

Joe Ward (D)

 

Thursday, Oct. 9 (7 p.m.) – NC House

Mike Clampitt (R)

Joe Sam Queen (D)

 

Thursday, Oct. 30 ( 7 p.m.) – NC Senate

Jim Davis (R)

Jane Hipps (D)

 

Two Convicted In Black Bear Poaching

A federal jury sitting in Asheville convicted on Monday, Sept. 8, Jerry Francis Parker, 63 and Walter Henry Stancil, 66, both of Rabun County, Ga., for their involvement in illegal bear hunting activities and related offenses, announced Anne M. Tompkins, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina.

The defendants are subject to one year in prison, a $100,000 fine, the loss of their hunting licenses for five years, and a period of banishment from the national forests.

According to evidence presented at trial and documents filed with the court, the defendants engaged in a number of illegal hunting activities in 2011, including using chocolate candy as bait at a site that one of the defendants described as “probably the most active bait site in the United States.”

The defendants were convicted of violating the Lacey Act, which criminalizes the interstate transportation of wildlife taken in violation of state or federal hunting laws.

American black bears are a species of special concern warranting federal and state protection. The hunting of American black bears is illegal at any time within the National Parks. Hunting on Forest Service land is only permitted during open season and in compliance with federal and state law. The U.S. Attorney is committed to the protection of natural resources from illegal hunting activities, including baiting, spot-lighting and exceeding hunting limits.

The investigation was conducted by the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the US Forest Service, the NC Wildlife Resources Commission, and the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. The prosecution was handled by Assistant U.S. Attorney Richard Edwards of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Asheville.

Governor McCrory to Visit WCU

Jackson County residents can expect a visit from the Governor on Friday.  N.C. Gov. Pat McCrory will be visiting WCU to deliver remarks to the Board of Governors during its regular monthly meeting, which will begin at 9 a.m. Friday in the Grandroom of WCU’s A.K. Hinds University Center. Other activities scheduled for that meeting are the presentation of a major WCU award to a Western North Carolina political leader and a special 125th anniversary presentation.

The University of North Carolina Board of Governors, the 32-member policy-making body for the entire UNC system, will be gathering on WCU’s campus in Cullowhee on Wednesday through Friday (Sept. 10-12) for a series of meetings and activities. Board members and UNC President Tom Ross are coming to WCU in honor of the 125th anniversary of WCU’s founding.

 

Report: NC Health Coverage Gap Impacts Mom and Dad

Parents in North Carolina are among those feeling the effects of the state’s decision to turn down federal dollars to expand Medicaid. A new report released this week by the Urban Institute examines the impact to the more than 300,000North Carolinians who fall into the coverage gap – they don’t qualify for publicly funded-health coverage, or an insurance policy through the Affordable Care Act.

Genevieve Kenney with the Urban Institute says there’s a growing disparity between parents in states that opted for the expansion, and those that chose not to,”The parents in the states that have not expanded Medicaid have an uninsured rate that is close to 20 percent, where it’s closer to 10 percent for the states that have expanded Medicaid.”

The report says states that have accepted federal funding have seen nearly a 33%drop in the rate of parents without health insurance. North Carolina lawmakers turned down the funding because of concerns over costs to the state. The federal government is paying 100% of the cost until 2016 and will reduce its funding to 90% by 2020.

Adam Linker with the Health Access Coalition says knowing that the expansion could have provided care for thousands of uninsured people is a bitter pill to swallow,  “The most frustrating thing about this is that there’s really no reason that North Carolina is not expanding, other than ideological reasons.”

17% of uninsured parents surveyed reported having fair or poor health, and slightly more said they had mental health concerns. Linker says research indicates when parents have access to preventive coverage and care when they are ill, they’re also able to care for their families, “We know that insured parents are able to be more present in their children’s lives. They’re able to take better care of their children, because they are not themselves sick.”

According to the research, nearly half of the uninsured parents studied lived in southern states and more than half were Latino.

Search Continues for Missing Appalachian State Student

540e241252300.imageThe search continues for a missing Appalachian State student. Today marks one week since 18-year-old Anna Smith went missing. State and local investigators say Smith may now be in danger.

She was last seen at her residence hall room on campus in Boone, around noon last Tuesday, September 2nd. Smith, from High Point, is now classified as a missing and possibly endangered person.

Investigators are actively using all means to locate Anna.  Anna is possibly carrying a bright blue LL Bean backpack that contained a blue ENO hammock. Anna was possibly last seen wearing a red or orange top and black leggings. Anna typically carries a red purse as well.

Anna has short red or blonde hair, blue eyes, and stands 5 feet 9 inches tall with a slender build. She has nose piercings, a black and white sunflower tattoo on her upper right chest near her collar bone and Latin lettering over her lower left ribs.

Investigators are utilizing all means including interviews, forensic examination of records, surveillance video analysis and any other available means to attempt to locate Anna.

Her parents ask anyone with information to come forward. On Saturday morning, university police were joined by Boone police and other personnel in a search of several wooded areas on campus which turned up nothing.

Smith’s friends and family members said they distributed fliers around the campus and elsewhere in the Boone area over the  weekend. The fliers also were distributed among tailgaters outside Kidd-Brewer Stadium prior to ASU’s football game Saturday night against Campbell University.

WNC fall color may be spotty, but last longer, says WCU’s foliage prognosticator

Fall 2013 Color shot by Heather L Hyatt

Fall 2013 Color shot by Heather L Hyatt

The combination of a wet spring and forecasts for above-average temperatures this fall could produce a long-lasting leaf display in the mountains of Western North Carolina, but with spotty color development.

That’s the word from Western Carolina University’s autumnal season soothsayer Kathy Mathews in her annual prediction of how foliage around the region will perform as the sunlight of summer wanes and days become crispy.

Mathews, an associate professor of biology at WCU, specializes in plant systematics and bases her color forecast in part on weather conditions. She believes that the formation of higher levels of pigments in the leaves correlates with dry weather throughout the year, especially in the spring and September.

Predicting the quality of the fall leaf color is a combination of a science and an art, Mathews says. “Forecasters combine knowledge of environmental effects on pigment formation, climate history and forecast, and a healthy dose of observation and experience of past autumns in the region to make their best prediction,” she said.

Rainfall measurements for the Asheville area indicate that April was a very wet month, with about two inches above normal precipitation, and rainfall amounts slightly above normal fell in May and June, Mathews said.

“The rainy spring months this year portend somewhat muted pigments on the leaves in the fall,” said the fearless foliage forecaster. “On the bright side, our abundant tulip poplars, which are typically among the first trees to change color in the fall, perform well in wetter conditions, developing a golden hue that persists longer before browning. Overall, however, trees that produce red leaves, including sourwood, red maple and dogwood, perform best in dry conditions. Therefore, we may see fewer brilliant reds during the peak of fall color change.”

Still, the development of dry conditions in late August and September could improve the overall outlook and produce the best bursts of color, she said.

On the other side of the weather coin, the seasonal forecast from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration calls for slightly above-average temperatures this fall in the Southeast, and if that prediction pans out, the color season could be longer than normal, extending well into November, Mathews said.

Fall foliage fans always want to know when the “peak color” will happen, but the timing of the color change is highly dependent on the decreasing amount of sunlight that comes with the passing days, plus the elevation of a particular location, she said. “The peak of fall color often arrives during the first and second week of October in the highest elevations, above 4,000 feet, and during the third week of October in the mid-elevations, 2,500 to 3,500 feet,” Mathews said. “However, the timing of the first frost is important, as well. Because freezing temperatures quickly degrade the green chlorophyll, leaves peak in color intensity four to five days after a frost.”

Several periods of unusually chilly mid-summer weather in WNC, which included some of the highest peaks of the Smokies dipping into the 30’s, already may have had an effect on some trees in the mountains, Mathews said. “We’ve been seeing very early color change already in individual trees, mainly red maples, around the western part of the state,” she said.

Regardless of all the factors that affect leaf color, visitors to Western North Carolina always will find a pleasing leaf display somewhere in the mountains from September into November, with a smorgasbord of color made possible by the region’s more than 100 tree species, Mathews said.