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The main message that local and state authorities are frenetically broadcasting to the world is that Western North Carolina is still open for business even though a major rockslide will likely shut down a portion of Interstate 40 near the…
Wednesday, 04 November 2009 20:00

Tracing the roots of WNC’s signature style

Love it or hate it, mountain vernacular architecture has stubbornly planted its roots in Western North Carolina and shows no signs of abandoning the area. The style that favors steep pitched roofs, native stonework, timber frame gables and earth-tone colors…
A federal judge has dismissed a civil lawsuit by Maureen Lackey, a 45-year old Franklin resident who alleged discrimination by Macon County and the Sheriff’s Office. Lackey, who suffers from epilepsy, claimed jailers denied her medicine after she was arrested…
Several western counties have been scrambling to create an in-house child support enforcement program after the state announced it would no longer handle the job of tracking down delinquent parents. Swain, Macon, Cherokee and Graham counties, along with the Eastern…
Misuse of county credit cards by a Swain jailer has prompted tighter controls on charge card use across all departments. Earlier this year, a jailer purchased a $500 or $600 big-screen TV with the county’s credit card at Sam’s Club,…
Monday, 27 September 2010 13:56

Maggie may mandate mountain motif

The days of building as you like in Maggie Valley may be numbered, with design standards in the works to guide the town’s commercial district toward a mountain theme. Maggie Valley’s planning board has released a draft version of standards…
As if dealing with the trauma of breast cancer wasn’t enough, Martha Yonce, 62, was also hit with a devastating $80,000 in out-of-pocket expenses for her surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. Yonce, a Franklin resident, thought she had her bases covered…
Nothing could have prepared Franklin sisters Suzanne Thomas and Karen Rice for the total financial ruin that followed their injuries. Thomas, 63, and Rice, 70, are still coping with the impact of astronomical medical costs from nearly a decade ago,…
Wednesday, 18 November 2009 14:11

Past illness leaves woman ‘uninsurable’

Though Sylva resident Marsha Crites had no risk factors, she suffered a major cerebellum stroke at the age of 49. “Not only could I not walk, I couldn’t sit,” said Crites. “I would even fall out of bed for a…
It was late September, and Travis George, a 27-year-old Waynesville resident, was almost done mowing his grandmother’s yard. With just five minutes left, his foot accidentally slipped right under the mower, chopping off three of his toes and part of…
Wednesday, 18 November 2009 14:11

Swain braces for loss of jail revenue

The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians recently got a big push forward in building its own jail after receiving an $18 million grant from the Department of Justice. The grant may be excellent news for the tribe, but for Swain…
The cost of repairing Interstate 40 after a massive rockslide in late October will now be borne by the federal government instead of the state. Last week, the Federal Highway Administration agreed to use emergency relief funds to fully reimburse…
Sweepstakes have never before been so controversial — or so complicated. Far removed from the days of dropping an entry form in the mail or peering under the cap of a soda bottle, sweepstakes have now taken the form of…
Despite their conceptual support for a greenway along the Tuckasegee River, Jackson County commissioners expressed hesitation about purchasing land to establish it. At a meeting Monday, the commissioners unanimously approved spending about $39,580 on a 1.4-acre plot but also unanimously…
Hazelwood seems to be getting the short end of the stick these days. Once an independent blue-collar town boasting a half-dozen factories, it has seen them close one by one over the past two decades. Now, the community is in…
Local libraries report that more people are streaming through their doors as a direct result of the recession. Area residents are increasingly heading to the library rather than doling out dollars for books, CDs and DVDs, as well as newspapers,…
The Town of Maggie Valley is moving closer toward hiring a festival director to market its struggling festival grounds. Aldermen decided last Thursday to appoint a six-member selection committee to help sort through job applications and choose the most qualified…
Tensions are rife as Franklin Alderman Bob Scott and Mayor Joe Collins butt heads over the prize of a mayor spot up for election. Scott is seeking to trade his two remaining years as alderman for two years as mayor…
Wednesday, 14 October 2009 15:48

Amid tough times, DSS director denied raise

After much deliberation, Swain County commissioners voted 3-2 against an $8,800 pay raise for the Department of Social Services director in the face of a severe budget shortfall. Director Tammy Cagle asked for the raise to be compensated for additional…
Wednesday, 14 October 2009 15:54

Treadway, Reidmiller run unopposed

This year’s elections in Bryson City will be a cinch for Alderwoman Stephanie Treadway and Alderman Tom Reidmiller. Both are running unopposed to retain their seats on the board. Treadway, a 40-year old insurance agent with Allman Insurance, has been…
An auditor for Swain County had a clear-cut message to pass on to commissioners this week: make drastic cutbacks in expenditures or hike property taxes. “There’s nothing left,” Auditor Eric Bowman told commissioners at their meeting Monday (Oct. 5). “We…
Wednesday, 14 October 2009 16:12

Cherokee immersion school aims to save language

The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians praised the new Kituwah Language Academy for the cultural renaissance that’s now unfolding within its doors. The official ribbon cutting ceremony last Wednesday (Oct. 7) for the language immersion school’s opening led many speakers…
If there’s a buzz word for Maggie Valley’s town board elections this year, it’s “balance.” Alderwoman Saralyn Price said she wants to “equal it out” between residents and businesses in town. Challenger Scott Pauley claims that he’ll bring balance and…
This November, the Town of Dillsboro will elect all five members of its town board, along with a new mayor to replace Jean Hartbarger, who is stepping down after eight years as mayor and eight years as alderwoman. One incumbent…
Wednesday, 21 October 2009 19:46

Most make extra effort to hear public

As Haywood County commissioners grapple with a surge in this public input at their meetings, largely from the same crowd week after week, The Smoky Mountain News checked in with surrounding counties to see how they handle public comment periods.…
Wednesday, 28 October 2009 20:11

Macon rallies to defense of river and wins

Macon County has won a partial victory in the fight over the permitting of an industrial wastewater treatment plant in Rabun County, just across the state line in North Georgia. Earlier this month, Georgia environmental protection officials issued a discharge…
By all indications, the closing of Interstate 40 due to a massive rockslide will be more than just a minor headache for many. Through traffic heading west to Tennessee will be directed to I-26 from Asheville, where cars would have…
Wednesday, 28 October 2009 20:21

No quick fix for rock slide that closes I-40

Western North Carolina is bracing itself for the impact of a massive rockslide that will shut down a major chunk of Interstate 40 near the Tennessee border for about three months. The rockslide occurred 2 a.m. Sunday morning three miles…
Wednesday, 28 October 2009 20:25

HRMC, WestCare affiliation creates MedWest

A long-awaited affiliation of the hospitals in Haywood, Jackson and Swain counties will become official in January 2010. That’s when a newly created hospital company, dubbed MedWest Health System, will take over day-to-day operations for Haywood Regional Medical Center and…
The recession has taken a toll on liquor sales at the ABC stores in Maggie Valley and Waynesville, in turn reducing the profits paid out to the towns. Rather than curtailing their intake, customers are buying cheaper brands, according to…
As developers grapple with financial woes forcing them to sell off holdings or succumb to foreclosure, environmental groups in Jackson County want to rein in vested rights previously doled out for those tracts. A whopping 238 subdivisions were exempt from…
Jackson County and Duke Energy squared off this week over the Dillsboro dam, marking the first major head-to-head courtroom battle in the nearly eight-year saga. Duke Energy wants to tear down the Dillsboro Dam, while Jackson County hopes to save…
Ghost Town in the Sky, an amusement park in Maggie Valley, failed to pay employees for their final two weeks of work before shutting down for the winter. While most employees were told upfront that they might not be paid…
A malicious prosecution lawsuit by a woman accused of misappropriating flood relief donations should be dropped, according to the recommendation of a federal magistrate reviewing the case. Denise Mathis, former director of the Haywood County Council on Aging, claims she…
Wednesday, 16 December 2009 12:59

One dollar reaps rewards seven times over

Editor’s note: This article originally appeared in the Haywood County Chamber of Commerce 2009 Business Directory. With the final throes of Christmas shopping underway this week, the message seemed particularly relevant and is reprinted here with permission. It’s all about…
A movement is afoot to roll back some of the smart growth principles of Waynesville’s land-use plan by loosening commercial development guidelines. A blue-ribbon committee appointed by the town has spent the past few months combing through the town’s land-use…
Claude Douthit has spent half his life fighting the federal government over the North Shore Road. The decades-old debate dates back to the 1940s, when the federal government flooded a road outside Bryson City with the construction of Lake Fontana.…
After years of battling Duke Energy in nearly every legal arena it could scout out, Jackson County was dealt a major blow last week when the U.S. Court of Appeals denied its plea for federal intervention. Jackson County is trying…
The National Park Service and Swain County appear locked in a stalemate over how much the federal government should pay up for breaking its long-standing contract to replace a road flooded by the creation of Lake Fontana in the 1940s.…
Balsam Mountain Preserve has been stripped of control and custody of its development as lenders continue their march toward foreclosure. The 4,400-acre development in Jackson County owes nearly $21 million to its lender, a private equity investment firm called TriLyn.…
Wednesday, 04 November 2009 20:00

Fresh faces will lead Canton

As with the election two years ago, Canton will once again see three new faces on the board. Voters had a deep bench of candidates to chose from: 10 running for four seats on the board. The only two returning…
Wednesday, 04 November 2009 20:00

Allen joins Knotts on Sylva board

Danny Allen, a former Sylva town commissioner who has been off the board for two years, will reclaim his seat after being the top vote-getter in the town election. Commissioner Stacy Knotts followed closely on his heels, while Harold Hensley…
In an effort to boost recruitment of doctors to the region, hospitals across Western North Carolina are following in the footsteps of a national trend to employ physicians in-house. Historically, doctors set up independent, private practices. But doctors are increasingly…
As Ghost Town heads toward its first big showdown in bankruptcy court next week, objections from those owed money are beginning to pile up. Ghost Town, an Old West amusement park in Maggie Valley, recently filed a disclosure statement and…
A surge in students applying to Western Carolina University has allowed the college to be more selective. Despite a rise in applications –– tripling over three years –– enrollment at WCU has not risen significantly. The bigger pool has allowed…
Wednesday, 18 November 2009 14:10

Commissioners perplexed by white paint samples

Jackson County Commissioners pondered paint samples at their meeting this week in an attempt to pick an exterior color for the new library beside the historic courthouse. “I like white,” said Chairman Brian McMahan. “It’s historically been known as a…
Wednesday, 18 November 2009 14:10

Developers have plans for sites near Wal-Mart

A local developer has purchased a key parcel alongside Super Wal-Mart in Waynesville, potentially kick-starting long-awaited commercial redevelopment along the South Main Street corridor. The coming of Super Wal-Mart was heralded as an instant recipe for growth around it. But…
Wednesday, 18 November 2009 14:05

Hope of paper mill job attracts hundreds to ESC

More than 300 people waited in line at the N.C. Employment Security Commission in Waynesville on Monday to submit job applications with Evergreen Packaging, the paper mill in Canton. Evergreen employs 1,200 workers in Haywood County. The company is not…
Haywood County library is experimenting with novel methods for wiping out some of the $250,000 in late fees it is currently owed. For the month of December, the library plans to accept canned food in lieu of library late fees…
Wednesday, 25 November 2009 14:40

Legacy of a mountain family

For 75 years, Cataloochee Ranch has been serving up a taste of the Wild West in the Smokies. From its mile-high perch on Fie Top Mountain, the ranch offers respite and solitude, fishing and horseback riding, expansive rolling meadows and…
Editor’s note: These articles first appeared in the St. Petersburg Times and are reprinted with permission of the writer. Lawyers for 13 people who bought land in a controversial Big Ridge subdivision in Cashiers say federal prosecutors in Miami and…
Despite the daunting road ahead, Franklin High School principal Gary Shields is steering his undocumented students toward the naturalization process. Gaining citizenship would give his students a shot at higher education and better job opportunities. “They’re not going home, and…
Wednesday, 09 December 2009 15:13

Poore chosen as CEO for MedWest Health System

Haywood Regional Medical Center CEO Mike Poore has been named as the new chief executive officer of MedWest Health System following a unanimous vote of the MedWest System Board and the recommendation of Carolinas Heathcare System. MedWest is the name…
Wednesday, 23 December 2009 13:45

Safeguarding the settlement

A cash settlement with the federal government in lieu of the long-promised North Shore Road will reap annual dividends for Swain County for years to come. The county will put the money in a lockbox and only use the interest…
Folkmoot USA, North Carolina’s Official International Festival, has locked down its first presenting sponsor. Evergreen Packaging has partnered with the Festival as its presenting sponsor for 2010 through 2013, becoming the first international corporation to develop a multiyear relationship with…
Wednesday, 30 December 2009 15:54

2009: Looking back at the newsmakers

The Smoky Mountain News is paying homage this week to some of the newsmakers of 2009 by dishing out our annual awards. Few would chalk up 2009 as a year they want to remember, given the generally gloomy pall cast…
The Fund for Haywood County recently handed out $16,000 in grants to county nonprofits providing services for recession relief. The Fund for Haywood County, an affiliate of The Community Foundation of Western North Carolina, was established in 1994 by a…
Wednesday, 04 November 2009 20:00

21 write-ins get votes in Webster

In an unusual election storyline, voters in Webster cast ballots for a total of 21 write-in candidates because too few candidates signed up to run for the five available seats on the town council. When the new town council convenes,…
Wednesday, 04 November 2009 20:00

Regional election results

Clyde Town boardSeats up for election:    2Total seats on board:    4Carroll Mease (I)    103Jim Trantham (I)    95Alan Trantham    42Registered voters:    780Voter turnout:    127 (16%) Village of Forest Hills MayorJames Wallace (I)    49(running as write-in)Mark Teague    22Town boardSeats up for election:  …
Wednesday, 11 November 2009 13:37

New company part of a long local legacy

The merger of Osondu Booksellers and Blue Ridge Books and Café will eventually bring under one roof the long legacy of two beloved Waynesville institutions catering to readers and etched in the memory of the downtown community A legacy of…
Wednesday, 11 November 2009 13:37

The allegations

The House of Representatives Committee on Standards and Official Conduct –– commonly known as the House Ethics Committee –– recently conducted an inquiry into whether or not Rep. Heath Shuler, D-Waynesville, used his influence to benefit one of his own…
Four of the nine members on the Jackson County Economic Development Commission have resigned in the past month, signaling growing frustration among a board that lacks clear direction from the county commissioners. The director of the EDC had already resigned…
Wednesday, 25 November 2009 14:44

The life and times of Cataloochee Ranch

Tom Alexander, a famed mountain man, forester and founder of Cataloochee Ranch, chronicled his adventures over the course of his lifetime. An edited collection of his writings were compiled into a book called Mountain Fever by Alexander’s son in 1995,…
The state should turn down Duke Energy’s request for a nearly 13 percent hike in utility rates and instead encourage the giant utility to do a better job with the revenues and power-creation capacity it already owns. There are several…
By Julia Merchant • Contributing writer Priceless artifacts often end up tucked safely away behind the protective glass cases of museums — but not Judaculla Rock. A thin, twisted piece of rusty rebar is all that separates this well-known boulder,…
Joel Queen has been named the new program coordinator and instructor at the Oconaluftee Institute for Cultural Arts in Cherokee. “We stand on the edge of becoming a truly unique voice in the world for indigenous art and culture,” Queen…
Wednesday, 14 October 2009 16:10

In the running

The Town of Franklin has a town board with six aldermen/alderwomen and a mayor who votes only to break ties. Mayors serve for two years, while aldermen/alderwomen serve for four. This year, the mayor and three aldermen/alderwomen are up for…
Wednesday, 14 October 2009 16:17

The mystery of Judaculla Rock

Located in a field in the rural Caney Fork community of Jackson County is Judaculla Rock, a soapstone boulder covered with mysterious carvings. The lines, circles and squiggles appear to form distinct shapes, but exactly what they mean, and who…
Wednesday, 21 October 2009 19:51

WCU raises $50 million for endowment

Western Carolina University last week announced that the first comprehensive fundraising campaign in university history has netted a grand total of $51,826,915 in private giving for endowed scholarships, professorships and programmatic support. The tally is more than $11 million above…
Wednesday, 21 October 2009 19:55

Three seek two seats on Maggie Valley board

The Town of Maggie Valley has a town board with four aldermen/alderwomen and a mayor with voting power. Each official serves a four-year term. This November, two spots on the Board of Aldermen are up for election. Alderman Mark DeMeola…
The joint board that will run the eventual Haywood Regional Medical Center-WestCare affiliation needs to have a sitting Haywood County commissioner as a permanent member, as one Haywood County commissioner is now suggesting. Commissioner Mark Swanger worries that the interest…
Wednesday, 28 October 2009 20:18

Meet the candidates

There are 10 candidates running for four seats on the Canton town board. Only two sitting aldermen are running for re-election, with eight challengers. All four seats are up for election every two years. Mayor Pat Smathers is running for…
Wednesday, 28 October 2009 20:26

Waynesville Rec Center struck by vandals

The Waynesville Recreation Center was vandalized late sometime late Monday night or early Tuesday morning. The vandals entered the building through a broken window into the pool area. Once inside, they broke internal windows, threw furniture around, pulled clocks off…
Is it true that Haywood and WestCare have merged? No. The boards of Haywood Regional Medical Center (HRMC) and WestCare Health System (WestCare) have formally agreed to form a unified healthcare system that will integrate the strategic, operational, and financial…
Wednesday, 28 October 2009 20:35

Meet the candidates

Two of the five seats on the Sylva town board are up for election. Both incumbents are running for re-election and will face three additional challengers. The mayor’s seat is up for election as well, but Mayor Brenda Oliver chose…
By Gibbs Knotts • Guest Columnist Some local sportswriters have expressed bewilderment at a recent ranking by a nationally circulated magazine, The Sporting News, that placed Cullowhee at No. 199 among the United States’ top 399 sports cities. These pundits…
Despite their requests, Haywood County commissioners will not be guaranteed a spot on the new joint operating board of Haywood Regional Medical Center and WestCare. Commissioner Mark Swanger initially called for the seat to ensure transparency and accountability to the…
A Cherokee elder presided over a ceremonial torch passing from the Great Smoky Mountains National Park to the Blue Ridge Parkway last week. Standing at an overlook along the Parkway outside Cherokee, Elder Jerry Wolfe performed a “smudging” to open…
An ongoing debate over the cost of a new building on the Haywood Community College campus lacks a clear resolution, with neither county commissioners nor college leaders budging from their position since the conflict first arose four months ago. County…
Ghost Town in the Sky amusement park in Maggie Valley will not open this summer, contrary to previous assertions by park owners and managers. The amusement park is still mired in bankruptcy and remains in a holding pattern until a…
Board members of Smoky Mountain Center, a state mental health agency for the 15 western counties, have questioned whether its partner nonprofit foundation does enough to benefit mental health and substance abuse services in the region. Tom McDevitt, the director…
A state mental health agency and its sister nonprofit are locked in a debate over whether the nonprofit should continue operating independently. Millions in state and county tax dollars have been funneled to Evergreen Foundation, a mental health nonprofit serving…
A large rock quarry in Waynesville has been cited with a water quality violation for sending mud into nearby Allens Creek. The Harrison Construction rock quarry, which mines rock used in road building, was issued a notice of violation on…
Neighbors concerned about the expansion of a rock quarry in Waynesville have won a partial victory in a early stage of the fight. The state has delayed issuing a necessary permit and instead is asking Harrison Construction to provide a…
An unusual proposition has landed on the doorstep of Forest Hills, a tiny speck of a town at the edge of Western Carolina University. In hopes of transforming Cullowhee into a more vibrant college community, a group dedicated to reinventing…
Tuesday, 27 July 2010 20:45

Drowned student had 0.38 BAC

A college student who drowned in the Tuckasegee River last month was highly intoxicated, according to toxicology reports that have now been released. Allen Stanley Brisson, 22, a new graduate from Western Carolina University, had a blood alcohol content of…
A one-mile race down Main Street in Waynesville on Friday evening, Aug. 13, will raise money for the Shriners Children Hospital. The Main Street Mile is a brand-new road race down the historic section of Main Street, starting one mile…
Tuesday, 03 August 2010 19:41

Shuler carries torch in money race

Congressman Heath Shuler has a sizeable financial advantage against his opponent heading into the fall election season. Shuler, D-Waynesville, had $1.4 million in cash on hand compared to just $65,000 for Jeff Miller, R-Hendersonville, according to campaign finance reports filed…
The clock is ticking for stabilization work on a landslide in Maggie Valley to get underway or a federal grant to pay for the work will be lost. A $1.3 million grant to recontour the precarious mountainside near Ghost Town…
To mountain communities, the coming of the Blue Ridge Parkway 75 years ago was seen as economic salvation. It would provided much-needed construction jobs to a region ravaged by the Depression and ultimately bring a parade of tourists seeking natural…
An election watchdog in Swain County is protesting the tallying of early votes before the close of polls on Election Day, claiming it could have given some candidates an unfair advantage if those results be leaked. The results from early…
The idea of turning Cullowhee into a real town drew several dozen people to a public presentation last week where they were hit with contrasting images of Old Cullowhee — a before and after of what exists now compared to…
Tuesday, 10 August 2010 20:06

WCU unveils plans for Town Center

Western Carolina University hopes to create a new commercial hub to bolster life on campus and serve the larger Cullowhee community. The university wants to carve out 35 acres from the main campus to create a “Town Center.” Building sites…
Tuesday, 10 August 2010 20:17

HCC building headed for a public hearing

For months, debate surrounding the price tag of a new Creative Arts building on the Haywood Community College campus has largely pitted the county commissioners against the college board. But now, on the eve of a key public hearing that…
After being hit with a county audit of its machinery, Jackson Paper factory in Sylva is disputing what it considers a highly inflated tax bill. The business audit claimed Jackson Paper had been underestimating the value of its equipment for…
Jackson County launched a comprehensive audit two years ago to make sure businesses are paying enough taxes on all their equipment and machinery. So far, more than 300 have been audited, reaping an additional $90,000 in annual tax revenue. Just…
A crowd of 50 Haywood Community College supporters turned out Monday at a two-and-a-half hour public hearing to urge county commissioners to back a $10.3 million project to build a new Creative Arts building. Artists, gallery owners, craft instructors and…
In today’s economy, people want to stretch their dollars to the max. What if you could actually double your money? Many in Jackson County are doing just that by contributing to the new Jackson County Public Library building fund at…
A Jackson County grading company was left holding the bag on more than $200,000 in site work after the developer who hired it went bankrupt. The grading company has filed a lawsuit targeting the current property owner in hopes of…