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DMV Plate Agency Second Call

dmv_vehicle_plates_replace_headerThe North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles is making a second call for applications for a Canton area license plate agency since a February posting did not yield qualified applicants. The current agency operates under a contract that will expire in July. The policy of the Division is to open applications to operate a license plate agency whenever a contract expires or ends. The current agency, located at 478 Champion Dr., will continue to operate during the application process and its contractor may reapply to operate the business. Routinely, it takes about four months to complete the application process. Plate agency applications are located on the Connect NCDOT website. Interested applicants are invited to download an application online. Visit www.connect.ncdot.gov

U.S. Forest Service Next Phase

NC-Forest-LogoKristin Bail, forest supervisor of the U.S. Forest Service National Forests in North Carolina, today announced that the agency has begun the next phase of revising the Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests Land and Resource Management Plan (the Forest Plan). ”We’ve received a large number of comments from the public since the assessment for the Plan began in the fall of 2012, and we’re hoping that trend will continue as we move into the next phase of plan revision,” said Bail. “I encourage anyone interested in the two national forests to submit comments on the Notice of Intent to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement by April 28, 2014.” The plan development phase officially began with publication of a Notice of Initiation, which was published in the Federal Register on Oct. 3, 2013. This next phase involves beginning the work on the Environmental Impact Statement that will accompany the development of the revised plan. The public has 45 days to comment on the Notice of Intent, the Preliminary Need for Change and the Proposed Action, which was published in the Federal Register on March 12, 2014. Comments or questions about plan revision can be sent by email to NCplanrevision@fs.fed.us. For those who prefer regular mail, written comments can be mailed to National Forests in North Carolina, Nantahala and Pisgah Plan Revision, 160 Zillicoa St. Suite A, Asheville, NC 28801. The Notice of Intent (NOI) states that the Forest Plan will be revised to address direction within the current management plan that is in need of change. The NOI includes a summary of these preliminarily identified needs for change; a more extensive Preliminary Need For Change document is available on the plan revision website. Comments submitted by the public over the past year helped the Forest Service identify these preliminary needs for change. Among many other topics, the Preliminary Need for Change recognizes the important role that the Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests play in sustaining the forests of western North Carolina and supporting local economies. During this plan development phase, the Forest Service, with input from members of the public and representatives of other governmental and non-governmental organizations, will determine the management practices necessary to accomplish the desired goals, and the effects those practices may have on the land. The Forest Service will then draft the proposed revised Plan and draft Environmental Impact Statement. ”We have seen stakeholders from all sides of the political spectrum come together over the past year-and-a-half to help with the assessment and identify what needs to be changed,” said Bail. “With the high level of involvement we’ve seen so far, I am optimistic that we will meet our goal of having a new Forest Plan in place by September 2016.” The Assessment Phase, the first phase of plan revision, began in Fall 2012. In 2013, the agency hosted 14 public meetings to solicit comments, opinions, data and ideas from members of the public as well as representatives of other governmental and non-governmental organizations. Approximately 800 people attended the meetings, and more than 1,000 written comments were received at these meetings, as well as by mail and email. Information gathered during the assessment phase is compiled in an Assessment Report and the need for change document. Once the Plan is completed, the monitoring phase will begin as the Plan is implemented and will continue until the next forest plan revision. Each national forest has a management plan that is updated about every 15 years. The 2012 Planning Rule guides the planning process. The rule includes protection for forests, water and wildlife, while supporting the economic vitality of rural communities. It requires the use of the best available scientific information to inform decisions. The 2012 rule strengthens the role of public involvement and dialogue throughout the planning process. More information about the plan revision process is available online at: www.fs.usda.gov/goto/nfsnc/nprevision.

NC Broadcast Pioneer Dies

James B. Childress

James B. Childress

Long time North Carolina broadcasting pioneer James B. Childress died unexpectedly Friday at Mission Hospital. Childress was instrumental in starting numerous radio stations during the 1950′s including the Sylva and Murphy radio stations in 1957. Childress had a practice of naming his radio stations after his family such as WMSJ which stood for is wife Mickey, daughter Susanne and himself. The station was also referred to as Wonderful Macon, Swain and Jackson. After the death of Childress’ oldest son the call letters were changed to WRGC. Childress was an active member of the Sylva Rotary Club and supported Southwestern Community College’s New Century Scholars program, along with the Western North Carolina University Foundation. Childress would have been ninety on his next birthday in June. The WRGC Family extends our condolences to the family. He will be missed.

ABC Board-Merger Negotiations

liquor-1221-1280x960Sylva town leaders want to restart the ABC board-merger negotiations with county commissioners that stalled a year ago, and they plan to send a proposal this week. An ABC store will open this spring in Cashiers. Once it does, the town stands to lose significant revenue from its ABC store in the East Sylva Shopping Center. Country clubs, restaurants and other establishments in the Cashiers area get their liquor through the Sylva ABC store, a $320,000 boost that’s about to evaporate. Jackson County voters approved the countywide sale of alcoholic beverages in May 2012; commissioners then pushed forward with opening a liquor store in the southern end of the county. There’s been talk of opening a store in the Qualla area as well.

DENR Duke Energy Lawsuit

de_logoInternal emails between staff at North Carolina’s environmental agency show state regulators were coordinating with Duke Energy before intervening in efforts by citizens groups trying to sue the company over pollution leeching from its coal ash dumps. In February, DENR Secretary John Skvarla refuted reports the department intervened. The emails show a Duke lobbyist contacted the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources, where staff exchanged messages discussing “how Duke wants to be sued.” The emails were provided Thursday to The Associated Press by the Southern Environmental Law Center, which had filed notice in January 2013 of its intent to sue Duke under the Clean Water Act. The agency used its authority to intervene in the lawsuit, quickly negotiating a proposed settlement where the billion company would pay a ,100 fine but be under no requirement to stop its pollution. This information comes on the same day Democrats at the North Carolina legislature say Duke Energy should be forced to move all of its coal ash to lined landfills away from water and make shareholders – not customers – pay for the cleanup. House and Senate Democrats unveiled Thursday the framework of a bill they intend to introduce when the General Assembly reconvenes in May. They want Republicans in charge of the legislature to join them given last month’s coal ash pond rupture along the Dan River. Durham Democratic Representative Paul Luebke says the spill is Duke’s responsibility.

National Historic Register Designation

Downtown Sylva

Downtown Sylva

Sylva town leaders are seeking the a seal for National Historic Register designation for downtown Sylva. Town leaders say it would help attract tourists and aid in getting grants. Sylva town Manager Paige Roberson says the designation would not restrict property rights: She says designation would act as a promotional tool for Sylva. Distinctive brown signs would highlight the National Historic Register areas. Sylva will hold a public hearing in May; the town manager said she wants to counter possible fears about restrictions well before that meeting is held.

Experience Your Smokies

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials, in conjunction with the Friends of the Smokies and the Great Smoky Mountain Association, are announcing an opportunity to immerse yourself in the national park. The program, Experience Your Smokies, is a unique opportunity to get to know the park and the employees in a whole new way. Experience Your Smokies is a program designed for local residents, business, community and educational leaders to get a behind the scenes look into the national park, while networking with others from western North Carolina. Participants will attend five full day sessions at a variety of locations in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, accompanying park employees in activities that may include radio-tracking elk, participating in a fish survey, and assisting with trail restoration. This is a perfect way to get an insider’s look at park operations as we explore areas like Cataloochee Valley, Deep Creek, Oconaluftee, Clingmans Dome, and Purchase Knob. Experience Your Smokies will be on Tuesdays March 25th, April 8th, April 29th, May 6, and Saturday May 17th. Visit www.friendsofthesmokies.org For More Information.

Key Appointed To Crime Commission

800px-Eastern_Band_CherokeeCalling it an “important milestone,” Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians Principal Chief Michell Hicks applauded Gov. Pat McCrory’s appointment of tribal member Iva Key to the N.C. Governor’s Crime Commission. She is the first member of the tribe to serve on the commission that advises the governor’s office on crime and public safety policy ”Ms. Key has made great strides on behalf of our tribe as manager of the EBCI Domestic Violence program and we are gratified to know she will take her exceptional talent and experience to Raleigh,” Hicks said. Chief Hicks went on to say that appointment also “signals a commitment by our state to address the issue of violence against women which has long been a pressing problem for Native people in America.” He cited data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reporting violence against women in Native American tribes is the highest among any group in the nation. Ms. Key’s appointment follows sweeping expansion of the national Violence Against Women Act in 2013 that gave Indian courts greater jurisdiction in domestic violence cases.”It is gratifying that Ms. Key can now expand her commitment to saving lives and improving the ways we treat victims of abuse on a statewide level,” Hicks said.

Demolition Begins

WCU Business Strip

WCU Business Strip

NEO Corporation began demolition on three fire-damaged restaurants – Subway, Mad Batter and Rolling Stone Burrito – on the WCU campus Tuesday afternoon while students are on spring break. The University Endowment Fund, which owns the buildings on the campus commercial strip, has decided against rebuilding, which officials said is cost-prohibitive, and plans to construct a mixed-use commercial/residential facility in its place.

More Charges For Macon County SRO

David Peterson

David Peterson

A mountain SRO accused of having sex with a 15-year-old girl in Macon County is now charged with the same crime in Swain County. 32-year-old David Peterson was arrested Tuesday and charged with statutory rape. Court documents are shedding more light on this case. Investigators with the SBI have searched Peterson’s home and they’ve also seized cell phone’s belonging to him and the 15-year-old. The sheriff office says Peterson was only two weeks on the job as an SRO at East Elementary School, but was previously a science teacher at Swain County High School. Court documents say detectives collected bedding from Peterson’s Bryson City home, which were tested for DNA. The 15-year-old girl also admitted to texting Peterson several naked photographs of herself. Peterson was initially charged with statutory rape when evidence of an affair popped up in Macon County. But was was then arrested Tuesday in Swain County. Peterson is being held on $200,000 bond in Swain County. Macon County officials have revoked his bond and have requested he be held until a hearing next week.

Litter Free NC Campaign

LitterFreeNClogo-150hState officials want to get rid of the litter on North Carolina roads, and save taxpayer dollars to clean up the mess. State troopers and the Department of Public Safety have started an education and enforcement campaign called “Litter Free NC.” Patrol spokesman First Sgt. Jeff Gordon says one issue involves unsecured loads being blown to the sides of the road. The effort will include highlighting the harm litter causes to the environment, wildlife and public safety. The state Department of Transportation says it spent more than a million to remove about 7 million pounds of roadside litter last year. Law enforcement is stepping up this way to stomp put littering on the highways. Kick-Off Litter Free NC Highway week across the state, which is a combined enforcement and education effort to reduce the amount of trash which winds up on roadsides. There are penalties for tossing those cigarette butts and soda cans. The Department of Public Safety and the State Highway Patrol  are cracking down on offenders. Patrol first sgt. Jeff Gordon littering is costly.

Tag & Tax Together

dmv_frontpage_tagtax_pageUnder a new North Carolina law, the DMV now collects vehicle property tax and license plate renewal fees at the same time…in one bill. Lawmakers say the “Tag and Tax Together” program will increase county revenues.   While Wake County says it’s seeing 1.9 million dollars less, they say western counties are expecting an improvement.   Haywood County leaders say revenue collection rates have increased from the mid to high 80′s to the low 90′s. They say while there may have been some initial inconvenience, the benefits outweigh any costs.  Surrounding counties say the Tag and Tax program is working out fine. But Swain County says it’s having to issue refund checks to Cherokee residents living on the Reservation who’ve paid for vehicle tags so they can drive…when…as Native Americans, they’re exempted from the tax.

Thick Smoke In Sylva

NC-Forest-LogoWRGC received numerous phone calls on Tuesday from citizens expressing concerns over the thickening smoke settling over Sylva and surrounding area. According to North Carolina Forest Service Spokesman Ron Hollifield, there were several sources of smoke including a controlled burn in the Big Laurel area of Swain County. Additionally, there were loose fires on the Qualla Boundary along with Controlled and Uncontrolled fires in Upstate South Carolina which fed additional smoke into our area. The Forest Service reminds everyone to exercise caution due to the rapidly drying conditions even after the rain.

Jackson County Tourism Development

SCC-JessicaWaldronThe Jackson County Tourism Development met Tuesday in a planning session to consider several actions for moving the work plan of the Authority forward. One of the most discussed topics was whether the authority needed to hire an executive director. Chairman Robert Jumper stated he sensed a desire by elected officials that an executive director be hired. Several members of the authority stated that volunteer members had given a significant amount of time in marketing and other essential areas. Some members also indicated an executive director could be vital to budgeting strategic planning and general administration. Jackson County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Julie Spirio reported that several neighboring counties had similar positions in addition to two or three active Chamber of Commerce in those counties. A committee will be appointed at the next regular meeting of the authority to study the issue further.

WCU To Hold Open House

Western_Carolina_University_sealWestern Carolina University will welcome prospective students and their families and friends to campus as the university holds Open House on Saturday, March 22. Open House gives visitors a chance to tour the campus, learn about the university’s wide array of academic programs, and find out the important details of topics such as financial aid. For interested students who cannot attend the March 22 event, campus tours also are available year-round by appointment for students and their families. For more info call 828-227-7317.

NC To Designate Veterans On License

Example Of NC-DL

Example Of NC-DL

Beginning this week, qualified North Carolina military veterans will be able to carry the designation “VETERAN” on their driver licenses and identification cards.Thanks to a law passed by the General Assembly, veterans who have been honorably discharged from the U.S. Armed Forces who present their DD-214 discharge form can apply at a driver license office for the new designation. Veterans who are interested in applying for the designation should take their DD-214 discharge form to their local driver license office to show they been honorably discharged. They can request the designation be added to their license at their next renewal at no additional charge.

Grandparent Scam

ScamsMany seniors have been ripped off in recent years by scam artists posing as grandchildren. In most versions of the scam, the phony grandchild claims to have gotten into trouble while traveling overseas and needs cash to get out of the jam. But some seniors knew that their grandchildren weren’t overseas, so the crooks came up with a new variation of the scam. Now the phony grandchild pretends to have caused an accident that injured a foreign tourist visiting the U.S., and claims to be in a local jail until he or she pays the tourist’s medical bill. The money needs to be sent overseas because the tourist has returned home to recover. In both versions of the grandparent scam, the con artist is using a common scam technique: playing on the emotions of a potential victim, in this case a grandparent who wants to help their grandchild. And in both versions the goal is the same: to get the grandparent to wire a large amount of cash overseas. Remember, once you’ve wired money to another country, it’s gone. Be skeptical anytime someone asks you to send money overseas, no matter who they claim to be. If you think you or someone you know might have been scammed or contacted by a scammer, report it to the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division by calling 1-877-5-NO-SCAM.

 

Sylva Officer Terminated

sylva-police-3_15312A former Sylva police officer wants to see on paper why he was fired last week. Curtis Lambert lost his job as a patrol officer last Monday. The next day, he wrote the town manager requesting to see all documents involved in his termination. Town leaders say North Carolina is an “at-will” state and anyone can be fired without providing information. They say only general information can be released under state law without Lambert’s written consent. Lambert said he intends to go through his due process rights. Lambert is running for Jackson County Sheriff and speculates this might have been a reason for his termination. Sylva town leaders flatly deny politics had anything to do with his termination.

Duke Energy Coal Ash Ruling

de_logoA North Carolina judge says Duke Energy must take immediate action to eliminate the source of groundwater pollution at its coal ash dumps. The ruling stems from legal action taken by the Southern Environmental Law Center in 2012. Frank Holleman, with the Southern Environmental Law Center, said “there is no way the current status will protect the environment”. A statement issued from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources said “these interpretations were made under the Perdue administration”. Wake County Judge Paul Ridgeway says state regulators failed to properly apply the law.  The group asked the Environmental Management Commission to force Duke to take immediate corrective action when groundwater problems were discovered at the state’s 32 ash dumps. But the commission ruled against the environmental group in December 2012 and they appealed the ruling. The judge’s ruling comes a month after a massive coal ash spill from a Duke facility in Eden coated 70 miles of the Dan River in toxic gray sludge.

Sen. Nesbitt Funeral Scheduled Tuesday

Mark Nesbitt

Mark Nesbitt

Members of the General Assembly are pausing to remember Sen. Martin Nesbitt who died Thursday after being diagnosed last week with stomach cancer. Wake County Sen. Josh Stein says “Nesbitt was one of the kind”. Funeral services are scheduled in Buncombe County. Nesbitt died just three days after he relinquished his post as Senate Minority Leader due to the illness. Wake County Sen. Josh Stein says “Nesbitt was an advocate for the environment”. Nesbitt’s funeral will be held Tuesday afternoon at Biltmore Baptist Church in Arden, with a private burial to follow. A visitation will be held before the service at the church.