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.

NCHP announce #Move Over campaign

Troop GThe North Carolina State Highway Patrol is joining thousands of law-enforcement agencies across the country in promoting the “Move Over Law”. The “Move Over” awareness campaign comes in the wake of a crash this past weekend that killed a Nashville, TN Metro Officer while he was working an accident on I-65. A tractor trailer struck and killed Officer Michael Petrina, 25, even though drivers had a two-mile notice.

To bring more awareness to each state’s “Move Over” law, the Tennessee Highway Patrol just recently launched a massive social media campaign. As a result, law enforcement agencies across the country, including the North Carolina State Highway Patrol, have joined forces in spreading the message through Facebook and Tweets. The outpouring of support has resulted in hundreds of people holding small signs with the hashtag #MoveOver.

Just like Tennessee, North Carolina is not immune to these types of incidents. On August 7, 2013, Trooper A. G. Knight was conducting a traffic on US 64 in Wake County, a practice he had done time and time again. But this day would be like no other day.

As he spoke to the driver on the shoulder of the roadway, he suddenly heard the sound of skidding tires and smelled burning rubber. With 80,000 pounds of metal bearing down on him, he ran for cover out of harm’s way. Thankfully, in this case, everyone walked away without a scratch.

However, not all law enforcement officers have been so lucky. Since 1999, more than 164 U.S. law enforcement officers have been struck and killed by vehicles along America’s highways. Since the Highway Patrol’s inception in 1929, six troopers have been struck and killed while conducting a traffic stop.

Originally enacted in 2002, the Move Over law directs motorists to change lanes or slow down when passing a stopped emergency vehicle with flashing lights on the roadside.  In the fall of 2012, the law was revised to include “public service” vehicles. Public services vehicles are described as any vehicle that is being used to assist motorists or law enforcement officers with wrecked or disabled vehicles, or is a vehicle being used to install, maintain or restore utility service, including electric, cable, telephone, communications and gas. These vehicles must display amber lights.

NCCAT in Cullowhee Could Close

aef31910-39e0-408d-9723-2e2b37cdeb73In the midst of a 445 million budget crunch in Raleigh, North Carolina Center of the Advancement of Teaching  in Cullowhee could close it’s doors on June 30th unless it can secure state funding.

NCCAT isn’t funded in the Governor Pat McCrory’s  proposed budget.

35 workers in Cullowhee will be out of work if the center closes. The 36.7 acre campus would be turned over to Western Carolina University.

Recount In Jackson County GOP Sheriff’s Race

election2014The GOP race for Sheriff is heating up in Jackson County! Tuesday, Jimmy Hodgins requested a run off after the canvass ballots were certified. There was no clear winner in the election meaning no candidate received the 40% plus one vote to be declared the party’s winner.

Curtis Lambert received 424 votes. Hodgins received 376 votes and Mary Rock 375.

Immediately, Hodgins requested a run off. However, Mary Rock has requested a recount of the ballots. According to Rock, she was told all day Tuesday that she was tied with Hodgins for second place. Later one ballot made the difference.  On Monday at 8:30 am there will be a recount of ballots. During the canvass, Rock picked up 5 votes and Hodgins 2 creating the 1 vote gap between the two candidates.

The run off race is slated for July 15th.

Macon County Teacher Jailed

handcuffsA seventh grade math teacher from Macon County is suspended from his job and in jail. He’s accused of preying on at least one underage student. Deputies say 24 year-old Jeffrey Rousselle was exchanging explicit text messages with an underage female student at Macon Middle School.

He faces two counts of indecent liberties with a child and one count of indecent liberties with a student. A tip by the girl’s relative led to an investigation into a second alleged victim and the current charges.

A search warrant says victim two sent Rousselle at least 50 nude photos of herself and exchanged numerous texts. According to the  warrant, Rousselle and the student kissed on school grounds after hours. Hard drives and other evidence have been seized from the teacher’s house. Warrants indicate the alleged crimes took place from January 2012 until now. The alleged victim was 13 years old at the time, but no longer attends the middle school.

Rousselle has been a teacher for two years and a teacher trainee before that

210th Military Police Unit Set To Return Home On Friday

The NC National Guard has announced the return of the 210th Military Police Company (Forward Detachment) unit with Armories in Franklin, Sylva, and Murphy NC will be greeted with “Welcome Home” ceremony on Friday May 16th at 1:00 p.m at the lake Junaluska Terrance Hotel and Conference Center. The ceremony is open to the public and veteran’s groups are encouraged to attend. This Unit comprised of 30 soldiers was deployed in May 2013 in a ceremony at Southwestern Community College. Their mission was law and order operations and were equipped to provide those services at their assigned base. The 210th National Guard unit is commanded by Captain James Rossi and the Non-Commissioned Officer in Charge is First Sargent Timothy Schwab. Their rear Detachment commanders are Captain Jason Porter and First Sargent Willard Lackey. Their primary assigned duty station while deployed was the Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan.

The accomplishments of the 210th MP unit from the North Carolina National Guard were: Conducted Law and Order operations on the largest strategic base in the Afghanistan theater of operations. Worked directly for the Garrison Commander (O-6), NATO Installation Commander (O-7), and the Division Commanding General (O-8) to protect over 32,000 resident Service Members and Civilians from criminal threats. Deterred criminal activity, which interferes with combat readiness, provided community assistance, developed crime prevention programs, and promoted a safe environment. Directly supported the Base Defense Operations Center by locating and cordoning over 90 Indirect Fire attack Points of Impact. Also operated the only Field Detention Site in Regional Command-East, allowing for the successful detention of several named targets. The unit received numerous awards and commendations including the BSM x3, MSM x3, ARCOM x21, AAM x7. There no Purple Hearts issued during the mission which indicated all the soldiers served their tour of duty with no combat related injuries and no loss of life of any member of the unit. Many felt this was a dangerous mission with the deployment in May 2013, but the fact that the unit returned with no injuries nor loss of life speaks highly of their units leadership, training, and superior service. One of the interesting stories from the deployment is the Unit was co-located at Bagram Airfield with sister NC-ARNG unit, the 211th MP CO. for a portion of deployment. Two brothers SGT Marc Cook(210th) and SSG Brandon Cook (211th) served together.
Special thanks to area businesses and institutions supporting the individuals during deployment included Hayesville American Legion Post #532, and the Western North Carolina Veterans Council.

Lambert And Hodgins Face Run-Off In Republican Race For Sheriff

The Jackson County Board Of Elections on Tuesday released the certified results of the Primary Election held on Tuesday May 6th 2014. The canvas showed that neither of the three Republican candidates for sheriff exceeded the 40% plus one vote threshold to be declared the winner. Curtis Lambert was the top vote getter with 424 votes. He was followed by Jimmy Hodgins with 376 and Mary Rock had ONE VOTE fewer with 375. This election shows that ONE vote makes a difference. As reported on WRGC Radio News last week Jimmy Hodgins said that he would exercise his right for a runoff election if he was the number two vote getter. Hodgins trails Lambert by exactly 50 votes. According to Jackson County Board Of Elections Director Lisa Lovedahl, Hodgins immediately filed the form required for a run-off. Lovedahl further reported that a 2nd primary has been called in a federal office (congressional district)
and all 2nd primary dates have been moved to July 15 (federal election date). All of the precincts will be open on a regular election day schedule. Early voting will be offered at the Board Of Elections during the week prior to the run-off election. In the initial vote tally Hodgins had led Mary Rock by four votes 374 to 370 but when the additional ballots were counted and the certification process took place Rock gained five voted and Hodgins gained two votes. The outcome of the Democrat races were unchanged. Democrat Chip Hall who won the Democrat primary outright will face the winner of the run-off race between Curtis Lambert and Jimmy Hodgins.

Cherokee Man Charged with Meth at Huddle House

SCC-JessicaWaldronRobert John Ayen, 36, of Cherokee was arrested Sunday at the Huddle House in Whittier. Jackson County Sheriff’s Deputies responded to a call from Huddle House employees regarding a man who was unresponsive and sleeping in the restaurant.

Jackson County Sheriff’s Deputies attempted to revive Ayen who became agitated. An altercation broke out. Ayen was charged with resisting arrest and assaulting a government official. Upon arrest, it was discovered he had in his possession Methamphetamine.

He was charged with resisting arrest, assault on a government official, trespassing, possession/concealing a weapon, as well as possession of Methamphetamine and possession of a schedule IV.

His bond has been set at $22,000.


Sylva License Plate Agency Closed Until Thursday

dmv_vehicle_plates_replace_headerAs part of its customer service emphasis and reform, the North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles is holding statewide customer service training next week. The Division will provide two days of training to license plate agency staff located in the Murphy, Robbinsville and Sylva license plate agencies, requiring their closure on Tuesday and Wednesday, May 13 and 14. Nearby agencies will remain open to provide vehicle registration services.

The following nearby LPAs will be open during the training: Bryson City – 101 Mitchell St., (828) 488-8247 Franklin – 118 Depot St., (828) 369-8165 Canton – 478 Champion Dr., (828) 646-3406 Pisgah Forest – 69 New Hendersonville Hwy., Suite 8, (828) 883-3251 Northeast Asheville – 85 Tunnel Road, Suite 16-B, (828) 252-8526 South Asheville – 780 Hendersonville Road, Suite 8, (828) 277-7767 Hendersonville – 145 Four Seasons Mall, (828) 692-0648

LPAs offer vehicle registration services and title transactions, as well as vehicle license plate renewals, replacement tags and duplicate registrations. Currently, about 120 license plate agencies operate across North Carolina.

Galaxy of the Stars Series Returns to WCU

Western_Carolina_University_seal The Galaxy of Stars Series at Western Carolina University will celebrate its 10th anniversary with a lineup highlighted by a return engagement of country-western icons Riders in the Sky, a Grammy Award-winning group that performed during the inaugural season of the series.

The only professional entertainment series in Jackson County, the series debuted in 2005, with all performances taking place in the 900-seat John W. Bardo Fine and Performing Arts Center.

The 2014-15 schedule comprises:

Riders in the Sky, 3 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 14 – Back by popular the band, the group founded in 1977 and featured in the motion picture “Toy Story” is known for its award-winning harmonies, wacky cowboy wit and high-yodeling adventures.

“Broadway’s Next Hit Musical,” 7:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 24 – “Broadway’s Next Hit Musical” is billed as “the only unscripted theatrical awards show,” as master improvisers gather made-up hit song suggestions from the audience to create a spontaneous evening of music and humor.

“Cinnamon GRITS: Christmas in the South,” 7:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 12 – A follow-up to the popular show “GRITS: The Musical,” this production is a mix of storytelling and music that provides a Southern-style look at the holidays.

Elvis impersonator Travis Ledoyt, 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 31 – Hailed by critics as “the world’s best young Elvis,” Travis Ledoyt captures the music and moves of Elvis Presley in his prime in a show that focuses on the hits and ambience of the era from 1954 through 1959.

“Man 1, Bank 0,” 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 28 – Patrick Combs tells the true story of a man who deposited a junk-mail check labeled “non-negotiable” into a bank account only to see things erupt into an adventure pitting a “David” regular guy against the “Goliath” of the banking industry.

Ventriloquist Lynn Trefzger and comedian Glenn Singer, 7:30 p.m. Friday, March 27 – Comedienne and ventriloquist Lynn Trefzger incorporates audience participation into her show that features a trunk full of zany characters as Glenn Singer supplies visual comedy using optical illusions.

“We’ve Only Just Begun: Carpenters Remembered,” 3 p.m. Sunday, April 26 – Vocalist Michelle Berting Britt, accompanied by a seven-piece Nashville band, re-creates the original easy listening sound of the Carpenters, one of the most successful recording acts of all time.

Western_Carolina_University_sealThe Galaxy of Stars Series is presented by the WCU College of Fine and Performing Arts with support from the WCU Friends of the Arts organization.

Season subscriptions go on sale Monday, May 5, offering substantial savings over individual ticket prices. Patrons can enjoy all seven shows in the season for $120 for adults and $45 for students and children. Subscriptions for WCU faculty and staff are available for $110.

Subscriptions allow patrons to select and keep preferred seats and also are an affordable way for families to enjoy live entertainment, said Paul Lormand, director of the Bardo Arts Center.

Single-show tickets for the 2014-15 series go on sale Aug. 12. Those prices are $21 for adults; $16 for WCU faculty and staff; and $7 for students and children. Ticket prices are $15 per person for groups of 20 or more.

For tickets or more information about Galaxy of Stars events, contact the Bardo Arts Center box office at 828-227-2479 or go online to bardoartscenter.wcu.edu.

175th Trail of Tears Anniversary Exhibit

Trail-of-Tears-LogoOur area has a rich history. During the month of May, Fontana Regional Library is hosting “Fewer Footprints and More tears” exhibits at all six library branches commemorating the 175th anniversary of the Trail of Tears. Each of the six branches offers unique pieces of history so  Sylva Branch Librarian Tracy Fitzmaurice recommends visitors visit each branch to get the full experience.

The exhibit is provided by Dr. Michael Abram and his wife Susan Abram in conjuction with the North Carolina Chapter of the Trail of Tears Association.  The comprehensive exhibit will highlight different aspects of the Trail of Tears.

In addition, Thursday May 15th at 6pm, The Trail of Tears program will feature Dr. Michael Abram, who has generously donated his private collection for the exhibit. He will give a presentation on the history and culture of Cherokee relating to the Trail of Tears at the Sylva Library. The event is free and open to the public.

Proposal to Increase County Employee Pay

SCC-JessicaWaldronCounty Manager Chuck Wooten recommended approval of a pay raise for Jackson County in the upcoming budget. Wooten’s budget proposal will include a 1.5 percent cost of living increase and 20 additional hours of bonus leave. The leave and pay combined would give Jackson County employees an increase of 2.5 percent relative to the time they spend on duty.

The raises would cost the county $250,000 in salaries and benefits.

In the current 2013-14 budget, all employees received a 2 percent raise, and in 2012-13, all employees making less than $40,000 per year were given a one-time increase of $650.

Verizon Wireless Shooting

4314-RANDOLPH-SHOOTING_19467A cell phone outage across Haywood County Thursday afternoon resulted in a shooting. Just before 5am, Waynesville authorities were called out to the Verizon Store after Lawrence Martin, apparently upset about his phone & cable being out, shot 15 rounds at the building from his vehicle.

Martin’s family members called the Haywood County Sheriff’s Office Thursday evening to report his plans to target the police department and communications companies.9-1-1 calls came in later from people at the Huddle House who said a man was shooting at the Verizon Wireless building across from Best Buy and Wal-Mart.

Waynesville officers were vigilant and found Martin still in the parking lot. A chase ensued as the suspect led officers to Main Street where he eventually crashed his truck.

Martin was arrested and charged with felony fleeing to elude, going armed to the terror of the public and several counts damage to property. Martin was transported to the hospital with non-life threatening injuries.

Dog Shooting

Lewin Devoe BurrellHaywood County deputies arrested a man today accused of shooting a dog near Canton.

Lewin Devoe Burrell, 70, of Canton was arrested and charged with felony cruelty to animals and misdemeanor going armed to the terror of the people.  Mr. Burrell is accused of shooting a mixed-breed terrier in the face with a gun.  The warrants also charge Mr. Burrell with firing the gun in close proximity to a house.  The incidents are alleged to have occurred Wednesday.

At the time this story was published, the dog was still alive.

Mr. Burrell was arrested without incident and jailed in lieu of $2,000 secured bond.  His court date is slated for May 28.