Swain County Car Crash Kills Man

Troop GA single car crash between Cherokee and Bryson City early Thursday morning claimed the life of 23 year old Travis Squirrel. The Highway Patrol reported the car ran off Coopers Creek Road and down an embankment.

Dustin Taylor, the driver, and another passenger were injured. Troopers believe alcohol was involved and no one in the car was wearing a seatbeat. Charges are pending.


NC Ranked Among Worst For Obesity and Diabetes

mid section view of a man sitting on a bench in a parkOverweight, obesity and diabetes are among the most costly and harmful health problems in North Carolina. Presently, North Carolina has some of the worst rates in the nation. NC is ranked 17th most obese state and 9th for diabetes in this country. The rates are increasing at alarming speed.  65% of NC residents are overweight or obese. 1 in 10 residents is a diabetic. These issues are all closely related. Obese adults are 4 times more likely to be diagnosed with diabetes than healthy weight adults.

Poor eating habits and physical inactivity are among the leading causes of overweight and obesity. In 2011, 86% of North Carolina Adults did not consume 5 or more fruits, vegetables or beans daily the recommended amount by the Center for Disease Control. It was also reported that 56.5% of adults drank one or more sugar sweetened beverages or more a day.

The Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation (CHLPI) of Harvard Law School will release its 2014 New North Carolina State Report: Providing Access to Healthy Solutions (PATHS) – The Diabetes Epidemic in North Carolina: Policies for Moving Forward. The report is funded through a grant from the Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation and was released during the CHLPI Diabetes Leadership Dinner on May 29 and Strategy Forum on May 30 in Raleigh. The report will also be presented to the North Carolina Diabetes Advisory Council (NCDAC) at its spring meeting on Friday May 30. The NCDAC advises the state government on diabetes prevention and management.

NC Writer Maya Angelou Passes On

5 22 2010 Anstiss Krueck PartyA literary voice revered globally for her poetic command and her commitment to civil rights has fallen silent.

Maya Angelou died at her home in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, on Wednesday, said her literary agent, Helen Brann.

The 86-year-old was a novelist, actress, professor, singer, dancer and activist. In 2010, President Barack Obama awarded her the Medal of Freedom, the country’s highest civilian honor.

One of Angelou’s most revered books was “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.”

Writer Julian Mayfield is said to have described the autobiography as “a work of art which eludes description.”

Affectionately referred to as Dr. Angelou, the professor never went to college. She has more than 30 honorary degrees and taught American studies for years at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem.

Webster Announces Proposed Budget

250px-Webster_Baptist_ChurchThe town of Webster released the proposed budget for 2014-2015. Mayor Nick Breedlove sent a memo explaining the budget is actually down from last year coming in at $77,600 when it was previously $79.250. The largest portion of monies would be allocated for Fire protection at $16,800 and law enforcement at $10,000. Other monies would be used for landscaping and sidewalk maintenance, street lights and the Webster cemetery in addition to Administrative costs. The tax remains unchanged at 5 cents for $100 valuation. A public hearing will be agreed upon at the first June meeting.

Fracking Gets More Steam

fracking_17A key committee in the North Carolina House has advanced a bill that would lift the state’s moratorium on fracking for natural gas. The House Public Utilities and Energy Committee passed the Republican-backed measure Tuesday with several Democrats in the minority voting no.

The bill was amended to remove a provision directing the first drilling permits be issued in July 2015, replacing it with language allowing permits to be issued 60 days after the final regulations for the industry are approved.

Fracking is used by the energy industry to extract oil and gas from rock by injecting high-pressure mixtures of water, sand or gravel and chemicals.

The bill was approved by the state Senate last week. The legislation’s next stop is the House Finance Committee.

Jackson County is one of several western counties that will see carbon testing as early as August. If the legislation passes, fracking permits will be issued as soon as July 2015.

NC to Receive $4 Million in Grants for Veteran’s Homeless Shelter

Geary-chartGovernor Pat McCrory announced one of the largest federal community development block grants in the state’s history today, a $4.2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to create a facility for homeless veterans.


An unused state building in Butner will be transformed into the Veterans Life Center, a facility where homeless veterans will find the services they need to become independent once again. The building will provide clean, safe housing, as well as access to life-affirming services such as  vocational education and mentoring.

The center will offer health and wellness services such as counseling for substance abuse and mental health and nutrition services, as well as professional counseling services and life skills development.


The goal of the program is to achieve self-reliance for up to 150 veterans in two years or less. The project will benefit homeless veterans from all areas of the state.

The North Carolina Department of Commerce has awarded these funds to the nonprofit Veterans Leadership Council-CARES of North Carolina, which assists veterans across the state by creating private-public partnerships between government agencies and volunteers.

The VLC is based in Raleigh and has been in operation since 2009. Its executive director, John Turner, is a former Army officer and decorated Iraq combat veteran. Marine veteran Jeff Smith also leads the organization.

Governor McCrory also thanked U.S. Senator Richard Burr for his unceasing dedication to the project. Burr, the ranking member on the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, has been a chief advocate in Washington of the project since its inception.

Second Graders Remember Student Teacher

Reagan Hartley, student teacher at Cherokee Elementary School, was killed in a fatal car crash in April.

Reagan Hartley, student teacher at Cherokee Elementary School, was killed in a fatal car crash in April.


Second grade students at Cherokee Elementary School gathered today to honor their former student teacher, Reagan Hartley. Miss Hartley was killed in April in a fatal automobile accident resulting from a high speed police chase near Greensboro. Ronnie Fichera was fleeing from police and heading the wrong way on the highway when he struck Miss Hartley.


A special page was added to the yearbook, which was also dedicated to Miss Hartley. Students presented books of their art work and writing to the family. They also created a memory wall decorated with butterflies in the hallway near the second grade classrooms.


Miss Hartley’s family and Western Carolina University faculty were present for the event.


Following the presentation, students released red, white and blue ballooons and planted a tree in memorial of their teacher.

Sylva Woman Wins Trip to Macy’s Parade

pride-of-the-mountains-for-webVivian Cleaveland of Sylva had forgotten about the raffle ticket she bought to support Western Carolina University’s Friends of the Arts when Robert Kehrberg, dean of WCU’s College of Fine and Performing Arts, called with some news and asked if she was sitting down.

Cleaveland had won a trip for two to New York City to see WCU’s Pride of the Mountains Marching Band in the upcoming Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. The package includes airfare, a three-night stay in a four-star hotel, limousine services, Grand Stand VIP parade seating, Thanksgiving dinner with the band and a $500 gift card for meals, shows and other expenses.

“I should have sat down,” said Cleaveland, remembering the phone call. “I was absolutely thrilled to death. I’ve never won anything in my life. I was elated and shocked. It’s just awesome.”

A retired federal employee, Cleaveland works part time for dentist Dr. David McGuire and bought the raffle ticket from Jeanne McGuire, a Friends of the Arts silent auction committee member who works in the same building. Jeanne McGuire is the wife of Dr. Patrick McGuire, a dentist and brother of Dr. David McGuire.

A long-time supporter of WCU and Jackson County Schools, Cleaveland has watched the Macy’s parade on television and has enjoyed seeing the WCU marching band perform at football games.

“We have a close connection with the band and love to watch them perform,” said Cleaveland who plans to take the trip with her daughter. “The music is great and the formation of the marching band is just spectacular.”

The raffle and a silent auction were part of a spring fundraiser that generated about $70,000 for College of Fine and Performing Arts scholarships and programming.

Lynda Sossamon, chair of the Friends of the Arts advancement council and the raffle committee, said event organizers wanted to include a trip to New York City in the raffle and were excited when David Starnes, director of the Pride of the Mountains, offered two VIP seats in the stands along the parade route as well as Thanksgiving Day dinner with the band to include in the package.

Elections in North Carolina

election2014The State Board of Elections Thursday authenticated results for the May 6 Primary.

More North Carolinians voted early and within fewer days compared to 2010, the most recent non-presidential primary year. Early voting also formed a greater proportion of overall participation. The May Primary was the first election held under a compacted 10-day early voting schedule. Average votes-per-hour at one-stop polling locations increased 34% over 2010.

Statewide participation increased to 15.8% of registered voters compared to 14.4% in 2010.  More than 148,000 additional voters cast ballots in 2014 than in 2010.

Second primaries will be held Tuesday, July 15 to decide 19 contests in 37 counties.  Early voting begins Thursday, July 3.  No statewide ballot item required a second primary. Republican Candidate for Jackson County Sheriff Curtis Lambert will face challenger Jimmy Hodgins in a run off on the 15th.

The State Board unanimously denied the appeal of an elections protest filed by Bruce Davis, former candidate for the Democratic nomination in the Sixth Congressional District. Board members also voted unanimously to reprimand Jerry Wallin of the Madison County Board of Elections regarding a Facebook “like” of a candidate’s page.

The Agency’s review of county abstracts confirmed that the State Board’s website accurately displayed results submitted for each race.  The site had intermittently displayed an incorrect number of precincts reporting on election night.

Fracking Debate Hits Home in Jackson County

000_480270741.siAn official from North Carolina’s Department of Environmental and Natural Resources confirms experts will take rock samples from areas around Northern Jackson and Graham Counties and the town of Topton, to test for carbon amounts. Jackson, Haywood, Macon, Swain, Cherokee, Clay and Graham counties are the only counties in North Carolina where natural gas may be found.

Carbon can indicate if there could potentially be natural gas to extract from the ground. A bill that would lift the moratorium on fracking has made it through the Senate. Testing would begin on the rock in late August and through the fall, with results coming back in late 2014 or early 2015.

With the passage of the new bill, fracking permits could be issued as soon as July 2015.

K-9 Vests For Local Law Enforcement

385_K-9BakerOPD-vest_Large_The Haywood County Sheriff’s Office and Waynesville Police Department have been awarded ballistic vests for two K-9 officers, thanks to the Western Carolina Dog Fanciers Association and the non-profit organization Vested Interest in K9s, Inc.

On Saturday, June 14, Haywood County Deputy Randy Jenkins will be presented with a ballistic vest for his K9 partner, Lenny, and Waynesville Police Officer Zachary Faulkenberry will be presented with one for his K9 partner, Valor.  The vests will be awarded during the Western Carolina Dog Fanciers Association All-Breed Dog Show, Obedience and Rally Trials at the Haywood County Fairgrounds.

The Western Carolina Dog Fanciers Association donated $1,900 to Vested Interest in K9s, Inc. to enable the Haywood County Sheriff’s Office and Waynesville Police Department K-9s to receive the vests.  WCDFA raised the money at their annual “Bark in the Park” event.  John Havrilla, a North Carolina artist, donated a painting to the winner of the raffle held to raise money for this cause.

North Carolina has lost several service dogs in the line of duty over the past year.  Events like this allow law enforcement agencies to protect K9s who are on the front lines with their handlers.

Asheville Native Wins American Idol

02-top9-portraits-caleb-1170x658Big News for Asheville and Western North Carolina! Native Caleb Johnson won the 13th season of American Idol on Wednesday night. He was named the latest champion of the Fox singing competition over runner-up Jena Irene. Caleb will be awarded a record contract. He’ll release an album on August 12.

Conmet To Add 25 Jobs in Jackson County

SCC-JessicaWaldronMore Good economic news is coming to Jackson County as Conmet will expand and add 25 jobs in the next year. County Commissioner’s approved the plan on Monday.

The plastics company will lease the 60,000 sq ft warehouse space at the former Tuckaseigee Mill for $48,000 annually while investing $350,000 for rennovations for lighting, loading docks and more bathrooms.

As part of the deal, Jackson County must pay $69,400 to remove asbestos. A 5-0 vote on Monday approved hiring NEO Corporation out of Canton to handle the asbestos removal. It expected that as soon as the asbestos is removed from one portion of the building that Con Met contractors will move in with their renovations. It is expected the facility will be in use within 90 days.Con Met has a three year lease with an 18 month escape clause.

County Manager Chuck Wooten described the partnership as a ‘win win’ for Jackson county. According to Wooten other entities had expressed an interest in the building but all has been apprehensive about entering a least because of the potential for health hazards from the asbestos tiles in the building.

Jackson County Fire Departments Dispatched To Haywood Blaze

image (2)A Fire burned a multi-million dollar Haywood County home to the ground. Waynesville Fire Department was dispatched to a home on shining rock trail in Waynesville just before 3AM on Wednesday morning.

The homeowner saw flames coming from the kitchen area of the house. The home was occupied by the homeowners, who are married. The woman made it out of the home along with her husband, but authorities are saying the man is unaccounted for.

When firefighters arrived, flames were coming thru the roof. Departments from across Haywood County and some from Jackson County were on the scene Wednesday morning. The structure was burnt to the ground and crews are worked on getting the remaining parts of the fire out but no other structures were harmed.

The Waynesville Police Department is handling the investigation along with the State Bureau of Investigation and the Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.

Road to Nowhere Funding Hearing

road-to-knowhere-2Republican Congressman Mark Meadows and former Democratic Congressman from the 11th district  Heath Shuler teamed up Tuesday morning in asking the House sub-committee to pay Swain County money set aside for the “Road to Nowhere”.

Shuler released a written statement saying the US Department of Interior has been shortchanging the residents of Swain County over the North Shore Road since 1943.

Congress approved funds in 2012 but they have not been given to the county yet.If the sub-committee on Public Lands and Environmental Regulations agrees, the bill will go to the US House for a vote.

The National Park Service is sitting on 4 million appropriated in 2012 that was meant for the county as part of a settlement with the federal government over a road it agreed to build along the North Shore of Fontana Lake in 1943.

The road was never completed and the government promised to pay the county 52 million instead of building it in 2010 after decades of debate. The county got an initial payment of 12.8 million but the House must approve the other 4 million for release.


Winners 2nd Mountain Youth Talent Contest

heritagealive3In the second traditional Appalachian talent contest this year for mountain youth, the Heritage Alive! Mountain Youth Talent Contest was held at the Bluegrass Festival last Saturday, May 17, 2014, at the Stecoah Valley Center in Stecoah, NC. Youth were drawn from Cullowhee, Bryson City, Leicester, Robbinsville, Topton, and Almond.  The children ranged in age from six to fifteen. The songs they choose to perform brought back memories of yesteryear, from “Blackberry Blossom” to “Cumberland Gap,” to “Jesus is Risen.”  Cash prizes were furnished by Stecoah Valley Center, United Community Bank, Catch the Spirit of Appalachia, and Jackson County 4-H.

Best of Show first place winners chosen from the group of talented youth were the Graham County Line Band, featuring Joshua Jones (12), Jonathan Jones (15), and Daylan Carver (14). They will get the chance to perform on stage at the Mountain Heritage Day held at Western Carolina University in Cullowhee, NC on September 27, 2014.  At this larger venue, with it’s broader audience, it will be terrific to watch the young people from the Talent Contests serve as ambassadors of traditional Appalachian music and heritage.

Best of Show second place winner was Dakota Gatti (13); third place Best of Show was Joshua Jones (12).  A first time ever award, called the Judge’s Choice, went to the family group Mountain Medicine Makers:  Bryan Surat (13), Rylee Surat (10), Sylas Surat (6), from Leicester, NC.

Judges were three in number, including: Judy Rhodes, a musician who holds a Masters Degree in Appalachian Studies;  Ken Walton, a musician and guitar instructor; Bennedene Walton, a musician who holds a degree in early childhood development.

Sponsored by the Jackson County 4-H in association with Catch the Spirit of Appalachia, the talent show was performed at the Stecoah Valley Center in Stecoah, NC, home of the “Appalachian Evening” summer series of eleven great concerts beginning June 28 and continuing through September 6 when Balsam Range returns to the Grand Old Stage. The Bluegrass Festival was sponsored by the North Carolina Arts Council.

Congratulations to this year’s winners:



1st:  Joshua Jones, Robbinsville, NC (12)

2nd: Summer Davis, Bryson City, NC (10)

3rd: Aspen Budden, Cullowhee, NC (9)



1st:   Drey Keener, Robbinsville, NC (11)



1st:  Colby Lovin, Robbinsville, NC (12)



1st:   Joshua Jones, Robbinsville, NC (12)

2nd: Emma Budden, Cullowhee, NC (11)

3rd: Booth Bassett, Robbinsville, NC (12)



1st:   Caleb Turpin, Robbinsville, NC (9)

2nd:  Rylee Surat, Leicester, NC (10)

3rd:  Emma Budden, Cullowhee, NC (11)



1st:    Graham County Line Band, Robbinsville, NC (15,12,14)

2nd:   Mountain Medicine, Leicester, NC  (13,10,6)



1st:   Taylor Douthit, Cullowhee, NC (13)

2nd:  Dakota Gatti, Topton, NC (13)



1st:    Dakota Gatti, Topton, NC (13)



1st: Daylan Carver, Robbinsville, NC (14)



1st: Bryan Surat, Leicester, NC (13)

2nd: Jonathan Jones, Robbinsville, NC (15)

Best of Show

1st:    Graham County Line Band (Group)

2nd:   Dakota Gatti (Song and Dance)

3rd:   Joshua Jones (Fiddle, Mandolin)


Judges’ Choice:  Mountain Medicine Makers  (Group)

Greenway Bridge Gets Approval

The Tuckaseigee River Green-way got a significant boost Monday night when the Commissioners gave approval for the acquisition of a $304,000 pedestrian bridge to cross the Tuckaseigee River to the Green-way from the parking lot at the Rolling Green. The paving of the Green-way path is expected to be completed by the end of May, but it will take several months to complete the installation of the bridge. The Commissioners have heard numerous comments over the past months about the costs factors and the design of the bridge but when it came time to vote the commissioners decided to go to the more decorative design. According to County Manager Chuck Wooten, “since this bridge is going to be a landmark and staple for a long long time we prefer it to be attractive. We only have one time to buy a bridge and over time the small difference in the price makes it a good decision.” Once completed the Green-way will offer foot traffic and recreational access from the Rolling Green area to the University.

Again: More Jobs Coming To Jackson County

The Jackson County Commissioners moved to accept an offer from Consolidated Metco to locate a warehouse and possibly a small manufacturing operation in Sylva in what is known as the Tuckaseigee Mills building. This is a two phase project. First the Commissioners accepted a bid from NEO Corporation of Canton to remove floor tiles containing asbestos. According to County Manager Chuck Wooten, when potential users of the industrial site did a site visit the asbestos question always came up and actually was a deal breaker. Under the current plan NEO will complete the asbestos tiles within two weeks. The project is expected to start immediately. The SECOND PHASE is once the asbestos is removed Con Met will move in behind them with a $350.000 facility upgrade including lighting and bathrooms. There will be other additions including a loading dock and facility upgrades. The lease will be for three years at a base rate of 82 cents a square foot but the improvements make the rent value almost three dollars per square foot. Con Met is expected to have 24 employees at the site by July or early August. Con Met has been on a hiring blitz for the past few weeks and is expected to continue seeking reliable workers for these operations as well as for those in Swain and Haywood counties. The base pay is $12.00 per hour and increases to $15.00 per hour once the trial period is over. The benefits package is worth about one half the base rate once employees are granted full time status.

Jackson County Man Charged in Death

537a24fadaebc.preview-300A Jackson County man is charged in the death of John David Wallis, 23, of Cullowhee. May 12, Mark Richard Franks lost control of the 1995 Ford Pick Up Truck he was driving on Cane Creek. The truck hit an embankment and overturned after going off the road in a curve. Wallis was killed in the single vehicle accident. Another passenger, Stephanie Wallis, along with Franks was transported to Harris Regional Hospital for injuries. Franks is being held under a $50,000 bond in Jackson County Detention Center. The Highway Patrol is awaiting results of a toxicology report but believe alcohol played a role in the accident. Franks is being charged with felony death by vehicle and felony serious injury by vehicle.

Jackson County NAACP Elects Officers

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe new Jackson County Branch of the NAACP held its first election of officers and celebrated the historical event last Saturday, May 17, at the Liberty Baptist Church, in Sylva. Jerry McCombs, the District Supervisor for the North Carolina NAACP, officiated over the election.

A large crowd including elected public officials from both major political parties were present in honor of the occasion. After the election the crowd sang traditional songs of the movement together, including “This Little Light of Mine”, “We Shall Not be Moved”, and “We Shall Overcome.”  There was a barbecue luncheon following the Installation Ceremony.

The Reverend Charles Lee was elected as President of the new branch. Avram Friedman was elected 1st Vice-President, Enrique Gomez is 2nd Vice-President, Mary Sue Casey is the Secretary, Joyce Stratton is the Treasurer, Marion Pryce-White is Assistant Secretary and Lorna Barnett is Assistant Treasurer. Curtis Wood, Tracy Fitzmaurice, Stanley Rogers, Stella Moore, Lucy Christopher, Myrtle Schrader, Marie Cochran and Gene Keldon Austin were all elected to the Executive Committee.

Reverend Lee delivered the keynote address reminding the gathering of the historical role of the NAACP in the civil rights movement and its ongoing effort in the Moral Monday Movement.

A wide range of laws passed in the NC General Assembly in the past two sessions is at the core of reasons that the Moral Monday/Forward Together Movement has materialized inspiring the birth of at least six new branches of the NAACP in North Carolina, including the new Jackson County Branch, #54AB.

The Jackson County Branch of the NAACP will be holding regular meetings, announced publicly.