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Parts of Jackrabbit Recreation Area Closed

The U.S. Forest Service has closed certain areas of the Jackrabbit Recreation Area near Chatuge Lake in Clay County. The closures are an effort to promote public safety after an escaped felon from Georgia was allegedly seen near the recreation area. Law enforcement officials are searching for the felon at this time.

 The day-use area, swimming beach and trailheads are closed; however, the campground remains open. Campers have been notified about the escapee. Forest Service law enforcement officials are providing security at the campgrounds. The Jackrabbit Recreation Area is located on the Tusquitee Ranger District, Nantahala National Forest.

Low Voter Turn Out In Jackson County

More than 105,000 North Carolinians cast ballots Tuesday to decide 19 runoff contests across 37 counties.   For the first time since 2006, no statewide race required a second primary.

Turnout was higher than any second primary over the past decade. One-stop early voting accounted for 23% of overall turnout.  Polling places remained open throughout the day Tuesday, despite severe weather

The race to watch in Jackson County was the race for GOP Sheriff Candidate. Curtis Lambert received 129 votes and Jimmy Hodgins 106 votes. Lambert will be facing off against Democratic Chip Hall in November. Jackson County saw a low voter turn out for the run off race.  There was a total of 239 votes cast or 1.57% of the 15,243 registered voters.

Have You Seen This Man?

Freddie LopezThe Haywood County Sheriff’s Office is seeking assistance from the public in locating a Haywood County man charged with sexually assaulting a woman yesterday.

A warrant has been issued for 20-year-old Kaiser Israel Lopez, who goes by the name “Freddie,” for felonious second degree sexual offense. Lopez is described as a Hispanic male, approximately 5 feet 6 inches tall, weighing about 140 pounds, with black hair and brown eyes.

Anyone with information as to Mr. Lopez’s whereabouts is asked to contact the Haywood County Sheriff’s Office at (828) 452-6666 or the CrimeStoppers line at 1-877-92-CRIME (877-922-7463).

North Carolina Has Greatest Increase in Poverty

A new Census Bureau report finds a dramatic surge in the past decade in the number of Americans living in communities with concentrated poverty, with the greatest increase in North Carolina. Other states that experienced big jumps include Tennessee, Arkansas, Georgia and South Carolina.

 

Nationally, about 77 million people or 25.7 percent of the U.S. population lived in poverty areas in 2010. Of the 45 million U.S. residents in poverty, more than half lived in high-poverty areas in 2010.

 

Among the four main U.S. regions, the Midwest had the greatest increase in people living in poverty areas from 2000 to 2010, at 9.8 percent. It was followed by the South at 9 percent, the West at 5.9 percent, and the Northeast at 3.3 percent.

 

Franklin Seeing Stars

zachgStarting last Wednesday, film crews flooded into Macon County and closed down some streets in town for the filming of a movie garnering national buzz. Although the movie has no official title, it is being deemed “Loomis Fargo,” and is currently being filmed all over Western North Carolina. Before Franklin, the streets of Saluda, North Carolina hosted film crews.

The film’s location manager, Tom Parrish, contacted the Town of Franklin last week to inform them that letters had been sent out to residents around the Green Street area of Franklin informing them of the film’s production this week.

Newly hired Town Manager Summer Woodard confirmed Wednesday morning that both she and Mayor Bob Scott were informed that the movie would be shooting scenes in Franklin this week and would need the aid of Franklin Police Department to mark of streets during filming.

The film stars North Carolina native Zack Galifianakis, Kristen Wigg and Owen Wilson. The movie is based on the Loomis Fargo robbery in 1997 in Charlotte by an armored car driver.

Helicopter and Aquatic Rescue Team Training in Jackson County

On Tuesday, July 15, 2014 from 8:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m., Emergency Service Units from Jackson, Macon, Swain and Transylvania Counties along with members of the North Carolina Helicopter and Aquatic Rescue Team, NCHART, will practice helicopter-based rescues in the area of the Lake Thorpe Dam and Spillway in Jackson County.

NCHART is a highly specialized team consisting of N.C. National Guard and N.C. State Highway Patrol air assets matched with N.C. Emergency Management and local Emergency Services personnel that form a mission-ready package for helicopter-based rescues.

Examples of NCHART missions include swift water rescue, lost persons, severe injuries and wilderness high angle rescues.  NCHART trains on a monthly schedule.  Partnership through NCHART has resulted in a number of successful mountain rescues, including this past December a stranded rock climber at Margarette Falls near the Tennessee-North Carolina border.

NCHART came to “Paradise Falls” area in the Canada Community of Tuckasegee in Jackson County in March, 2008 when a rock climber fell approximately 50 feet while climbing.  Due to the remoteness of the area in which the subject was located, along with the dangerous terrain, low temperatures, time of day/night and the length of time it would take to extract the patient were the determining factors to bring NCHART to Jackson County.

 

Compromise Reached on Teacher Pay

Senate Republicans offered a compromise proposal in open budget negotiations Tuesday that would provide North Carolina public school teachers an average 11 percent permanent pay raise – without requiring them to make a choice on whether to keep tenure.

The $468 million increase would be the largest in state history and would boost North Carolina from 47th in overall teacher pay to the middle of current national rankings and from 9th to 3rd in the Southeast, propelling the state ahead of Virginia, Tennessee and South Carolina.

The plan, which reforms and replaces the archaic 37-step system with an entirely new base pay scale designed to attract and keep the best teachers in the classroom, would provide more than a $5,800 average salary increase per teacher in the first year of implementation.

Haywood County Sheriff’s Office Seeks Help

Jeremy Ryan ClarkThe Haywood County Sheriff’s Office is seeking assistance from the public in locating a local man accused of using community ties in attempts to defraud citizens.

Warrants have been drawn on Jeremy Ryan Clark, 28, of Canton, charging him with two counts of feloniously attempting to obtain property by false pretense. He is accused of approaching residents at their home, claiming to be the son of a locally well-known citizen or friend, then asking for money or claiming money is owed him.

Clark was arrested last November and charged with defrauding $200 from a 93-year-old man by claiming his child was sick and needed medication.  He was arrested in January and February this year and charged with similar crimes.  His court date on those pending matters is slated for July 30.

Haywood County Sheriff Greg Christopher cautions citizens about similar fraud schemes, and warns against giving money to strangers or even casual acquaintances.

Clark is described as a white male, approximately 6’5” and weighing about 160 pounds with short, curly brown hair and brown eyes.  He was last known to have sideburns and a goatee.

Anyone who has had a similar encounter or has information as to Jeremy Clark’s whereabouts is asked to immediately contact the Haywood County Sheriff’s Office at (828) 452-6666, or the CrimeStoppers line at 1-877-92-CRIME (877-922-7463).

Keith Dean Installed As AMVETS Commander For North Carolina

Keith Dean of Sylva was installed at the Commander of the AMVETS Department of North Carolina on June 8th in Greensboro. Dean has been a member of the AMVETS for fourteen years and has held positions as the local Post 441 Chaplain and Post Commander for eleven years. At the State level Dean served as the Chaplain, then progressed through the leadership ranks from Third Vice Commander to the position of the First Vice Commander which he held last year. Dean will officially take office on July first and will oversee the operations of the 32 hundred member organization in North Carolina. To be a member of the AMVETS a person must have served in the military and received either an honorable discharge or a general discharge under honorable conditions. The AMVETS National Service Officers are trained to assist local veterans with preparing their documentation for enrollment into the Department of Veterans Affairs and to file a claim. AMVETS also has an hold an essay contest for high school students and a recognition program for JROTC students. They also volunteer at VA Hospitals and long term care facilities. For information about AMVETS call Keith Dean at 586-6170 or by cell 506-9957.

Teachers Waiting For Details Of Senate Compromise Pay Bill

Raleigh, N.C. – Senate Republicans offered a compromise proposal in open budget negotiations Tuesday that would provide North Carolina public school teachers an average 11 percent permanent pay raise – without requiring them to make a choice on whether to keep tenure. The $468 million increase would be the largest in state history and would boost North Carolina from 47th in overall teacher pay to the middle of current national rankings and from 9th to 3rd in the Southeast, propelling the state ahead of Virginia, Tennessee and South Carolina. The plan, which reforms and replaces the archaic 37-step system with an entirely new base pay scale designed to attract and keep the best teachers in the classroom, would provide more than a $5,800 average salary increase per teacher in the first year of implementation. “The Senate’s number one priority in this budget is to provide teachers with a dramatic pay raise – one that will truly move the needle and make North Carolina competitive,” said Senate Leader Phil Berger (R-Rockingham.) “By cutting the strings attaching the raise to voluntarily giving up tenure early, we’ve proven just how serious we are about giving teachers the largest pay raise in state history,” said Senate Education/Higher Education Co-Chairman Jerry Tillman (R-Randolph.)

Graveyard Fields Reopens

A popular spot along the Blue Ridge Parkway has reopened. Graveyard Fields is ready for visitors after being closed for about three months. The popular site was closed to expand parking and add restrooms back in April, there are now 40 parking spots. Officials encourage visitors to use new parking spaces, and if those are full park at overlooks just to north or south and walk down to access trails. Improvements were also made to trails including installing boardwalks and improving drainage.

Voter Turn Out Numbers: Not Just Black and White

Turnout was up for black voters overall in the state’s May primary, but further analysis reveals plenty of shades of gray in the data. Statewide, 44-thousand more African-Americans cast their ballot, but turnout is actually down in more than half of the counties in North Carolina where blacks make up a large portion of registered voters. Democracy North Carolina – a nonpartisan group – analyzed turnout county by county.

Executive director Bob Hall explains “We can’t brag about any of that and we really ought to be helping make voting more accessible and more exciting to people. They need to recognize that people that are elected have a tremendous impact on their lives.”

Attorneys representing the state in a lawsuit regarding the recent voting-law changes are using the increased turnout to argue that the new laws are not causing voter suppression. According to the analysis by Democracy NC, 82-percent of the increased black vote occurred in the 12 counties where there were highly contested races.

Mecklenberg County saw the biggest increase in African-American votes, but the county was the center of a highly anticipated Democratic primary in the 12th Congressional District. Hall says it’s important to understand the overall statewide increase is influenced by a handful of counties.

“The bulk of the increase happened in a handful of counties where there were African-American candidates in the D1emocratic primaries running against white candidates generally, and it galvanized the communities,” said Hall

Recent voting law changes in North Carolina decreased the number of early voting days and will require voters to provide a government-issued photo ID in 2016.

 

Weekend Drowning of WCU Student

On July 5, 2014 The Jackson County Sheriff’s Office was dispatched to a possible drowning in the Tuckasegee River, near the East La Port Recreation Park in the Cullowhee Community of Jackson County.  When deputies arrived on scene, Cullowhee Fire Department, Med West EMS, and the Jackson County Rescue Squad were already on scene providing aid to the victim.  The victim was transported to Med West Hospital where he was pronounced deceased a short time later.  The victim was swimming in the area with friends when the event occurred.   The victim has been identified as 18 year old Timothy Michael Adams of Wake Forest. Adams had been enrolled at Western Carolina University for 5 days prior to the drowning. The circumstances surrounding the drowning are still under investigation.

White House Recognizes NC Program That Helps Formerly Incarcerated

Two-decades ago, when Daryl Atkinson served 40-months in prison for a first-time, non-violent drug crime, he never imagined he would later be invited to the White House for recognition of his work to help others with a criminal record get jobs. Atkinson now works as an attorney for the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, where he helps others find work after they’ve paid for their crime. “America is a land of second chances. Within our country, America had not been giving second chances to people with criminal records.”

Atkinson was recently recognized by the White House as a “Champion of Change” for his work. According to the Second Chance Alliance – in which Atkinson plays an active role – one-point-six million North Carolinians have a criminal record. Alliance data indicates that someone with a criminal record is 50-percent less likely to receive a call back after filling out a job application.

The “Ban the Box” campaign is one program that got the White House’s attention. With the help of the Durham Second Chance Alliance, Atkinson succeeded in getting the city of Durham to remove the box asking about criminal convictions from their employment application.  “Since the policy was passed, the hiring rate for the city has increased every year, and these numbers and these increases have occurred without any increases in workplace crime.”

The Southern Coalition for Social Justice also offers help to people convicted of crimes to regain the ability to work, obtain professional licenses for their skills, and vote

39th Annual Pow Wow on Qualla Boundary

powwow1For almost four decades, the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians has hosted its annual Pow Wow on the Qualla Boundary and this year’s promises to be the best ever.

This year’s event, July 4-6, features world-champion dancers and drums competing for prizes. Vendors from across the country will offer food and arts and crafts items. The Pow Wow attracts thousands of visitors each year from all over the world.

Dance competitions are open to participants in five groups and several categories including Traditional, Grass, Fancy, Straight, Jingle and Buckskin. There will also be Northern and Southern Singing prizes and a Hand Drum special. Age groups include “Golden Age” contestants (age 50+), men and women (age 18-49), teens (13-17), Junior (6-12), and tiny tots (under age 5). Specials include Men’s Fancy and Straight, Women’s Jingle, Old Style Fancy Shawl, Cowboy/girl and two Junior specials.

The Pow Wow opens at the Acquoni Expo Center (formerly Cherokee High School) Friday, July 4, at 5 p.m. with a grand entry at 7 p.m. and a fireworks show at 10:00 p.m. The event begins Saturday, July 5 at 10 a.m. and grand entry at 1 p.m. and 7 a.m., and Sunday, July 6, at  gates open at noon with grand entry at 1 p.m. Admission is $10 per day with a weekend pass for $25.

Higher Gas Prices, Heavy Traffic This Holiday

North Carolina highways are expected to be unusually busy over the Independence Day holiday despite relatively high gas prices.

More than a million North Carolinians are expected to hit the road for the holiday, the highest number in more than a decade, according to AAA Carolinas.

North Carolina gas prices, averaging $3.56 a gallon, are 16 cents higher than over the July 4th holiday last year, with prices this year the highest since 2008. Asheville’s average price is $3.64, tied with Durham for the highest in the state.

The Fourth of July holiday typically is dangerous on the roads. Traffic deaths soared last year over the holiday weekend, with 18 deaths, the highest in eight years in North Carolina. In seven of those deaths, alcohol was involved.

The N.C. Highway Patrol began its “Booze It & Lose It: Operation Firecracker” campaign targeting drunken drivers June 27 and will continue it through Sunday.

According to AAA, the number of North Carolinians traveling more than 50 miles from home is expected to be 1,175,000, with 1,015,000 choosing to drive — up from 988,000 last year.

Airplane trips are estimated at 90,400. Other types of travel — bus, rail, watercraft — are estimated at 70,000.

North Carolina will suspend most construction projects along interstates, secondary and primary routes from 4 p.m. Thursday to 9 a.m. Monday.

Celebrate the 4th of July in Our Region!

Bryson City

• Freedom Fest begins at 8 a.m. in downtown with the Rotary International Firecracker 5K. Riverfront Park will hold the Strut Your Mutt pet show and the Explore Kids’ Street children activities will run from 6 to 9 p.m. Also at the park will be the Smoky Mountain Rollergirls dunking booth from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The Bridge Stage on Everett Street will have live music throughout the day, with the fireworks show beginning at 10 p.m. Free. www.greatsmokies.com/freedomfest.

• NOC’s Sizzlin’ 4th of July will run July 4-6 and the NRC Family Whitewater Weekend will run July 5-6 at the Nantahala Outdoor Center in the Nantahala Gorge. Nantahala Racing Club’s adventure race will be at 4 p.m. July 5, with live music at 7 p.m. at Big Wesser BBQ. Slalom races will be at noon July 6. Free. 828.232.7238 or www.noc.com.

• Singing In The Smokies Independence Weekend Festival will run July 3-5 at Inspiration Park. Hosted by Appalachian/gospel group The Inspirations, the event features live music from The Kingsmen, Troy Burns Family, Dixie Echoes, Chris Smith, Daron Osbourne, Evidence of Grace, and many more. $20 per day, per adult. Children ages 12 and under free. www.theinspirations.com.

• Freedom Train at the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad will depart at 7:30 p.m. July 4 at the Bryson City Depot. The trek will head to the Fontana Trestle and return just in time for the fireworks in downtown Bryson City. First Class, Crown Class and Coach Class seating available. All ticket purchases of any class include a meal. 800.872.4681 or www.gsmr.com.

Canton

• The town’s 4th of July Celebration begins at 6 p.m. July 5 at Sorrells Street Park. Live music, dancing, food and craft vendors. Watermelons will be provided for free, with children’s watermelon rolls and seed spitting contests to commence. Fireworks at dusk. Free. www.cantonnc.com.

Cashiers

• Fireworks Extravaganza on the Green begins at 6:30 p.m. July 4 at the Village Green Commons. Live music will be provided by rhythm and blues band The Extraordinaires. The Cashiers Farmers’ Market and numerous food vendors will be onsite. There will also be moonshine margaritas, beer and wine available. Fireworks begin at dusk. Free, with VIP packages available. www.villagegreencashiersnc.com or 828.743.3434.

Cherokee

• 4th of July Fireworks will be held at dusk on July 4 at the Acquoni Expo Center. The Sunset 5K Run will also be held at 5 p.m. The Cherokee bonfire will be at 7:30 p.m. at the Oconaluftee Islands Park Bonfire Pit. www.cherokeesmokies.com.

• The 39th annual Eastern Band of Cherokee Pow Wow begins at 5 p.m. July 4, 10 a.m. July 5 and 7 a.m. July 6 at the Acquoni Expo Center (formerly Cherokee High School). The event features world-champion dancers and drummers competing for prizes. Vendors from across the country will offer food and arts and crafts items. $10 per day with a weekend pass for $25. www.visitcherokeenc.com.

Fontana Village Resort

• 4th of July at Fontana Village Resort will be July 2-5. The event features cornhole and Pac Man tournaments,  a sunset cruise, documentaries, games and children’s activities. Performances will include the Larry Barnett Duo at 7 p.m. July 2, Unit 50 at 7 p.m. July 3, Fast Gear at 6 p.m. and The Chillbillies at 9 p.m. July 4, and Old Red Schoolhouse at 7 p.m. July 5. Fireworks will be at 10 p.m. July 4. www.fontanavillage.com.

Franklin

• 4th of July Parade and Celebration, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. July 4, in downtown. Parade starts at 10 a.m. The Fireworks in the Park will be held at 3 p.m. until dark at the Macon County Veterans Memorial Recreation Park. The park features a cornhole tournament at 3 p.m. (registration begins at 1:30 p.m.), famous plunger toss at 7 p.m. and bull’s eye ball drop at 9:15 p.m., with fireworks at dusk. Live music will be provided by Miss Kitty & The Big City Band at 7 p.m., with the Presentation of the Colors at 9:15 p.m. and the singing of the national anthem at 9:30 p.m. Food vendors will also be onsite. www.franklin-chamber.com.

Highlands

• July 4th Fireworks, 11 a.m. until dusk July 4, in downtown. Cookout begins at 11 a.m. at the baseball field, with the 3rd annual Rotary Rubber Ducky Derby at 3 p.m. at Mill Creek, live music at 6 p.m. at Town Square and Pine Street Park, and patriotic sing-along at 8 p.m. at the Presbyterian Church. Fireworks at 9 p.m.  Free. 828.526.2112 or www.highlandschamber.org.

Lake Glenville

• Lake Glenville Fireworks, 8:30 p.m. July 5 over the lake. www.cashiersareachamber.com.

Lake Junaluska

• The 4th of July Celebration will be July 3-6 at the Lake Junaluska Conference and Retreat Center. A fish fry will be at 5:30 p.m. July 3 next to Stuart Auditorium. The Star Spangled Salute kicks off with a parade at 11 a.m. July 4, with a barbecue at noon and fireworks at 9:30 p.m. There will also be an array of children’s activities from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. July 5 at the pool, with a performance by the Carolina Water Ski Show at 1 p.m. on the lake. Live music will be performed by the Lake Junaluska Singers at 7:30 p.m. July 3-4 and by Balsam Range at 7:30 p.m. July 5. Tickets for each show are $17.50 general admission and $20 for reserved seating. www.lakejunaluska.com/july4th or 800.222.4930.

• Doug Stanford Memorial Rodeo, Ram Rodeo Series will be 8 p.m. July 4-5 at the Haywood County Fairgrounds in Lake Junaluska.

Maggie Valley

• Backyard 4th Celebration will be from 6 to 11 p.m. July 4 at the Maggie Valley Festival Grounds. Fireworks at dusk. Free. 828.926.0866 or www.townofmaggievalley.com.

• Wheels Through Time Museum’s 12th anniversary in Maggie Valley Fourth of July celebration will be 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Rare and unique machines spanning more than 110 years of transportation history, dating back to the very roots of motorized travel. www.wheelsthroughtime.com or 828.926.6266.

Sapphire Valley

• 9th annual Yankee Doodle Dandy Day, will be held 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. July 4 at the Sapphire Valley track and recreation center areas. Swimming, outdoor games and contests, inflated bouncy toys, live music, sports contests, food, pony rides and the Horsepasture River Ducky Derby.

Sylva

• 4th of July Concerts on the Creek with Dashboard Blues will be at 7:30 p.m. July 4 at Bridge Park. Free. www.mountainlovers.com.

Waynesville

• Stars and Stripes Celebration, will run from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. July 4 in downtown. Shops, galleries and restaurants open, with live music and entertainment. Kids on Main Patriotic Parade will be at 11 a.m. The Main Street Cookout, featuring local craft beer, barbecue, burgers and hot dogs will be from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at United Community Bank. The Haywood Community Band performs at 2 p.m. on the courthouse lawn. Free. www.downtownwaynesville.com.

Cherokee County Man Charged with Murder

A Cherokee County man is behind bars on a murder charge in the death of another man.

John Anthony Hill, 43, was charged in the Sunday slaying of Paul George Pfleiderer

Deputies went to Hill’s home in the Peachtree community off N.C. 141 shortly after 7 p.m. Sunday in response to a 911 call reporting a home invasion in progress at the residence.

Hill met officers as they arrived, and officers found Pfleiderer, also of Peachtree, dead inside Hill’s home.

After processing the scene with assistance from the SBI, investigators determined the death was “consistent with homicide,”

Hill is being held at the Cherokee County Detention Center under a $500,000 secured bond. His first court appearance in Cherokee County District Court is scheduled for July 8.

4th of July Beach Plans? Think Again.

A hurricane watch has been issued for part of North Carolina’s coast as Tropical Storm Arthur moves northward, threatening Fourth of July plans along the East Coast. The hurricane watch in North Carolina covers an area from Bogue Inlet to Oregon Inlet, including Pamlico Sound. A tropical storm watch is in effect for parts of Florida and South Carolina. The storm’s maximum sustained winds early Wednesday are near 60 mph (95 kph). The U.S. National Hurricane Center says Arthur is expected to strengthen and become a hurricane by Thursday. Arthur is centered about 90 miles (145 kilometers) east of Cape Canaveral, Florida, and is moving north near 6 mph (9 kph). The Hurricane Center urged those as far north as parts of Virginia to monitor Tropical Storm Arthur’s path. 

Got To Be NC Agriculture Month

Farmers across North Carolina are in full swing, bringing their fresh fruits and vegetables to market. Those farmers are part of the state’s $78-billion agriculture industry. In recognition of agriculture’s importance as the state’s top industry, Gov. Pat McCrory has proclaimed July 2014 as Got to Be NC Agriculture Month.

Got to Be NC, the official state identity program for North Carolina agricultural products, is managed by the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. The agency works with farmers, agribusinesses, retail partners and foodservice providers to promote North Carolina agricultural products and find new markets to help local farmers.

Several special events are planned during July to celebrate Got to Be NC Agriculture Month, including:

Peach Days at the state-operated farmers markets in Raleigh (July 10) and Colfax (July 18);

Dig into Local Restaurant Week, July 14-23, with participation from restaurants in eight Piedmont counties;

Watermelon Days at the state-operated farmers markets in Charlotte (July 11), Asheville (July 18), Colfax (July 25) and Raleigh (July 31).

The department offers a variety of free, online directories to help consumers find local food near them. Go to www.gottobenc.com to learn more about the products grown, raised, caught or made in North Carolina.