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Wednesday, 06 May 2009 16:03

Library bids come in well under budget

The bad economy has finally reaped some dividends for Jackson County taxpayers. Construction of the new Jackson County library and renovations to the historic courthouse will cost the county roughly $1.5 million less than expected. Bids from construction companies came…
Walk among the rows and rows of hydroponic butter leaf lettuce growing in William Shelton’s greenhouse, and you’ll notice a distinctive dark green patch that seems out of place. While the butter leaf is destined to be neatly packed in…
Jackson County leaders have finished the first draft of a planning ordinance they hope will transform the U.S. 441 corridor in Whittier from a mish mash of billboards and unregulated growth into a model of tidy landscaping and mountain-themed architecture.…
A fix for impending traffic congestion on N.C. 107 in Sylva doesn’t lie solely with a new bypass but will require a redesign of the commercial artery itself, according to the latest traffic projections by the Department of Transportation. Two…
An attorney for Duke Energy gave Jackson County commissioners a “friendly reminder” this week to stop dragging their feet on turning over permits that will pave the way for the demolition of the Dillsboro Dam. Before Duke can tear down…
Ghost Town in the Sky owners paid themselves nearly $25,000 over two weeks in March despite the company being in bankruptcy. The Maggie Valley amusement park filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in mid-March with the aim of reorganizing, opening the…
While George and Elizabeth Ellison are fixtures in Bryson City today — Elizabeth as a renowned artist and George as a writer and naturalist — their journey to the region 30 years ago was little more than happenstance. The Ellisons…
Wednesday, 06 May 2009 16:23

Carden’s views on Kephart have softened

As a struggling albeit brilliant writer, Gary Carden never turns down money. So when an out-of-town man in a rental car appeared on Carden’s front porch offering a $1,000 down payment on the spot to write a play about Horace…
With massive logging operations running full tilt in the Smokies in the 1920s, the sanctity of what once seemed like a vast and untouchable forest was being rapidly reduced to a desert of stumps. While most locals welcomed the money…
The burst of the nation’s housing bubble has caused real estate markets to tank — everywhere, it seems, but in Swain County. Property values there have increased 30 percent over the past four years, according to the county’s latest property…
It looks like the Department of Social Services in Haywood County won’t be getting a new home after all. Haywood County commissioners decided against purchasing the old Wal-Mart building, which would have housed DSS as well as the health department,…
Wednesday, 13 May 2009 16:34

Swain jail keys found in get-away truck

The Swain County Sheriff’s Department got a welcome piece of news recently when it learned the escape of an inmate won’t cost as much as previously thought. Jailer Anita Vestal and accused murder suspect Jeffrey Miles were picked up in…
A potential clash between downtown Franklin merchants and street vendors was headed off the pass this week. For years, street vendors have been peddling food and sodas to the large crowds converging downtown every Saturday for the popular Pickin’ on…
Wednesday, 13 May 2009 16:41

Erosion laws put to the test

Haywood County’s sediment and erosion control policies are the subject of a bitter legal battle poised to set statewide precedent. A landowner slapped with a $175,000 fine by the county is fighting back with a lawsuit claiming he is being…
Wednesday, 13 May 2009 16:43

Local farmers markets

Haywood Waynesville Tailgate Market 8 a.m. to noon Wednesdays and Saturdays at American Legion parking lot near downtown Waynesville. Haywood County grown vegetables, fruits, cut flowers, honey and nursery stock. Haywood’s Historic Farmers Market 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesdays…
For nearly a decade, a group of Jackson County residents have envisioned a greenway that would meander for miles from one end of the county to the other. Now, the Greenway Committee is finally ready to turn this lofty goal…
Wednesday, 13 May 2009 16:47

Ghost Town seeks ride inspections

A team of state inspectors will arrive at Ghost Town in the Sky amusement park on Monday, May 18, in hopes of getting the rides and chairlift certified for the anticipated opening day of May 22. Ghost Town barely made…
It’s slim pickin’s out there, as Western Carolina University students are finding out. This past weekend, more than 1,100 graduates walked across the stage and into the most unforgiving job market in decades. The competition is stiff. Fewer companies are…
Wednesday, 13 May 2009 16:50

A two-horse town

A rift that splintered the town’s longtime farmers market in downtown Waynesville into two opposing groups of vendors continues to persist this season, resulting in two separate markets that will operate just half a mile apart. “They’re going to have…
Though the Swain County government hasn’t escaped the recession completely, the blow dealt by the economy has been softer there than in other places. While other local governments are contemplating tax increases, Swain County commissioners are looking to lower the…
Wednesday, 20 May 2009 17:00

Swain jail escapees returned to NC

A murder suspect and the guard who allegedly helped him escape from the Swain County jail have been returned to North Carolina. Former jailer Anita Vestal arrived at the Macon County Detention Center Monday (May 18), said Macon County Sheriff…
While the feeling of stately grandeur evoked by Jackson’s historic courthouse has remained over the years, many of the original features of the building have not. Little by little, the courthouse architects, McMillan Smith and Partners out of South Carolina,…
Wednesday, 20 May 2009 17:04

Macon, Rabun leaders eye future of water

Would a water-starved Atlanta ever come after the Little Tennessee River? While it may be a long shot, the prospect — however remote — has made some residents of Macon County uneasy. The concern has been sparked by forays into…
Tight times in Haywood County have forced commissioners to consider significant job cuts and a tax increase in an attempt to make up for the county’s falling revenues. The county has $72.5 million in requests for the 2009-2010 fiscal year…
Wednesday, 20 May 2009 17:12

Ghost Town withdraws loan request

By Becky Johnson & Julia Merchant A surprising turn of events caused the Maggie Valley town board to call off its vote on whether to loan the struggling Ghost Town in the Sky amusement park $200,000. Moments before aldermen were…
Wednesday, 20 May 2009 17:16

Long-held dream becomes reality

It’s a project that’s been years in the making, and on Saturday the scores of Jackson County residents who gathered to watch the groundbreaking for the county’s new library couldn’t stop beaming. The excitement and pride was palpable as —…
Ghost Town in the Sky drew around 2,500 people over Memorial Day weekend, despite the daunting challenges of getting the theme park up and running while grappling with Chapter 11 bankruptcy. All eyes had been on the park to see…
Nantahala Outdoor Center is planning a major new outfitters store in Gatlinburg, tapping into the hub of one of the Smokies’ most bustling tourism markets. NOC will call the 18,000-square-foot flagship retail store the Great Outpost. The new store will…
Wednesday, 27 May 2009 17:27

Cherokee face historic vote on alcohol

On June 4, members of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians will go to the polls to cast their vote on the most controversial issue that has faced the tribe in recent history — whether to allow alcohol sales at…
When Phil Drake puts his mind to something, there’s little he can’t achieve. Drake’s company, Drake Enterprises, is one of the largest private employers west of Asheville, and, it seems, owns half the businesses in the region, including The Athlete’s…
Jackson County commissioners got their first look last week at a master plan for a Dillsboro river park — a plan that prominently features the controversial dam — on the same night they spent nearly three hours in closed session…
Wednesday, 27 May 2009 17:30

Cherokee art institute gets new home

Several years ago, an idea was planted to establish an institution of higher education on the Qualla Boundary that would emphasize and preserve the rich artistic traditions of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. Out of that dream, the Oconaluftee…
The town of Maggie Valley fired its part-time festival director after he failed to produce results a few months into the job. The town hoped their new hire, Bill Cody, would lure more festivals to the town-owned festival grounds as…
It just wouldn’t be the Jackson County we’ve all come to know and love if there wasn’t some kind of community-action group watchdogging Western Carolina University’s attempts to create its very own incorporated town. But it’s Jackson County, so of…
Don’t rush when hiring a new chancellor to replace John Bardo, one board of trustee member for Western Carolina University cautioned the university’s other top leaders last week during a two-day annual retreat in Cullowhee. Echoing the sentiments of the…
The Macon County League of Women Voters will host a program on comprehensive immigration reform on Nov. 11 at the Tartan Hall in Franklin. Victoria Lyall, of America Springs Eternal, a non-profit organization working to cultivate understanding between immigrants and…
Are you ready to rumble? Because here we go again: The great debate in Jackson County on whether traffic congestion along N.C. 107 in Sylva should be fixed, and if so — how — is back. Since the summer of…
Wednesday, 03 November 2010 23:49

Waynesville to hold annual food drive

The town of Waynesville’s annual food drive, including a Nov. 5 curbside pick-up of food donated by residents, will take place during November. Hazelwood Elementary School and Junaluska Elementary School are participating in the drive. The collection by the schools…
Wednesday, 03 November 2010 23:48

Junaluska Assembly selects new director

John “Jack” L. Ewing, Jr. has been named the new executive director of Lake Junaluska Assembly. He will begin his new duties on Jan. 1, 2011, and fills a position that is being vacated by the retirement of Rev. Jimmy…
Wednesday, 03 November 2010 23:45

Town is slow moving on alley cleanup

In a downtown Canton alleyway, a rusty junction box juts out awkwardly from the sidewalk, long since abandoned to its purpose, while a few yards away broken bricks, orange traffic barrels and twisted lengths of caution tape lay in a…
Wednesday, 03 November 2010 23:37

Macon campus to hold reception for Collings

A welcome reception honoring Richard Collings, Southwestern Community College’s new president, will be held Wednesday, Nov. 10, from 4-5 p.m. at the Macon Campus’ Groves Center. Collings, who was president of Wayne State College in Nebraska, became Southwestern’s fifth president…
The Public Policy Institute at Western Carolina University has created a new blog site designed to offer a nonpartisan glimpse into the world of North Carolina politics and policy. The site, “Politics and Policy in the Tar Heel State,” features…
Wednesday, 03 November 2010 23:35

Kathryn Magendie book release party is Nov. 6

Kathryn Magendie will celebrate the release of her new novel, Sweetie, at Blue Ridge Books at 4 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 6. Sweetie is Kat Magendie’s third novel. Her first two novels, Tender Graces and Secret Graces, tell the story…
Wednesday, 03 November 2010 23:34

Veterans Day events

Jackson County honors veterans Southwestern Community College will honor veterans of all wars for their patriotism and willingness to serve during a Veterans Day observance at 11 a.m. on Thursday, Nov. 11, in the Balsam Center Auditorium on the Jackson…
While Haywood County’s bid for privatizing the White Oak Landfill is still being considered, the site has now drawn the eye and ire of residents on its borders who fear contamination of their wells by its contents. The citizens, led…
Haywood County is having a bit of an identity crisis. The Tourism Development Authority touts the county as a place “Where the Sun Rises on the Smokies.” The slogan, created in 2005 by the Tombras Group marketing agency, appears on…
Wednesday, 01 April 2009 15:27

Tight budget forces libraries to trim hours

In the latest tangible consequence of countywide budget cuts, the Haywood County Library system is scaling back hours at each of its branches starting April 6. Both Waynesville and Canton libraries have reduced their evening and weekend hours, with the…
Wednesday, 01 April 2009 15:29

Ghost Town responds

The following comment was provided by Steve Shiver, Ghost Town CEO and president, in response to questions about the challenges Ghost Town faces in its quest to reopen the park amid Chapter 11 proceedings. “At this stage of the process…
One would be be hard-pressed to find someone uttering anything but praise for new Waynesville Alderman Wells Greeley. The 6-foot, 5-inch former college football player and one-time Canton alderman is a well-known and well-liked figure about town. In his role…
Wednesday, 01 April 2009 15:32

Debts mount at theme park

Ghost Town in the Sky amusement park in Maggie Valley has left a wake of unpaid bills with local companies over the past year, putting some small businesses in a bind during already difficult economic times. Ghost Town owes around…
The business partners behind Ghost Town in the Sky are facing significant logistical and financial challenges as they pursue their goal of reopening the Maggie Valley amusement park by summer. Ghost Town filed for bankruptcy three weeks ago under the…
Though some are complaining that the salary for the recently hired Sylva town manager is high for her level of experience, the compensation is below the state average for towns in that population range. For towns with a population of…
After a search that has dragged on for more than a year, the Canton Board of Alderman has finally selected a town manager. It’s not exactly a big change. Al Matthews has served in an interim position since long-time manager…
Economic development officials have adopted a policy that will give business incentives to clean, renewable energy projects that locate in Haywood County. County officials hope the policy will convince green businesses to locate in the region, as well as provide…
The Swain County sheriff and jail administrators were warned that a jailer who freed a double murder suspect March 21 was getting too close to the prisoner but didn’t do anything to intervene, a former jail employee who was fired…
An environmental group out of Asheville plans to sue the Macon County Airport Authority and other parties involved in the proposed extension of the runway. The group, Wild South, wants to stop the runway from being extended, saying the project…
Wednesday, 08 April 2009 15:46

Ghost Town’s struggles challenge community

As Ghost Town continues to struggle, many are finally coming to grips with the reality that the Old West theme park may never be the economic engine it once was. Ghost Town has had ongoing financial problems since it re-opened…
Wednesday, 08 April 2009 15:47

Alpacas: Furry, friendly and in 23 colors

The group that Joe Moore hangs out with most days is an eclectic one, with names like Jack Straw, Reuben, and James Brown. They’re a loyal bunch, following Moore around his Bethel farm whenever they get a chance. They don’t…
The town of Sylva continues to be plagued by a financial mistake made last year in which $2 million in town funds were invested in accounts not allowed by state statute. At the town commission meeting last week, Mayor Brenda…
Wednesday, 08 April 2009 15:52

Park starts lengthy reorganization process

Despite the daunting hurdles faced by Ghost Town in the Sky to get the Maggie Valley amusement park open by summer, it could be only the beginning of a long, uphill slog to pull through bankruptcy reorganization. Ghost Town managers…
Wednesday, 08 April 2009 15:54

Jackson Paper adding 61 jobs in Sylva

Stonewall Packaging LLC, a joint venture of Jackson Paper Manufacturing Co., announced today that it will invest more than $17 million to build a new facility in Sylva for the production of recycled cardboard packaging. The investment will result in…
Despite losing yet another court battle over the Dillsboro dam, the majority of Jackson County commissioners have vowed to continue their fight to save the structure. Superior Court Judge Laura Bridges on March 23 ordered that Jackson County issue permits…
Wednesday, 08 April 2009 15:57

New Swain jail continues to rack up costs

Weeks following an escape at the brand-new Swain County jail, county commissioners agreed to an emergency appropriation of $139,000 at the request of Sheriff Curtis Cochran. Cochran asked commissioners for the money at their meeting Monday (April 6) to cover…
Wednesday, 08 April 2009 15:58

From South America to the Appalachians

Alpacas herald from South America, but are increasingly being found on farms in the Southern Appalachians. Alpacas are in the same family as llamas and camels, hence the resemblance. They’re the oldest domesticated animal on the planet. The first alpacas…
The Sylva Police Department may find a new home in the Jackson County Public Library on Main Street once the library moves to its new location. The building would become available for the police department in December 2010 when the…
Opposition to the airport runway extension in Macon County continues to mount, with a standing-room-only crowd attending last week’s Airport Authority meeting and an environmental group threatening to sue and stop the project. The controversial runway project would pave over…
Owners of Ghost Town in the Sky hope to funnel up to $500,000 into the amusement park in order to get it open by summer. A recently created limited liability corporation called Resurrection Partners has emerged as a vehicle to…
Residents of a downtown Waynesville neighborhood are up in arms about a proposed three-story, 64-unit condo development that would provide affordable housing for senior citizens — and, they fear, also lower the property values of their homes. The development, called…
The neighborhood covenants of a Maggie Valley homeowners association were put to the test in court recently. A developer sued the Sherwood Forest homeowners association after they tried to block his foray into rental condos. David G. Baker, formerly of…
Take note — members of the public with an agenda to push could learn a thing or two from the mass of Haywood County residents who came out repeatedly to protest the county’s proposed nuisance ordinance. Commissioners voted unanimously at…
A throng of about 150 angry members of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians turned out to the Birdtown Community Center last week, protesting that the Tribal government is to blame for losing $57 million that was to go to…
In Massachusetts, a vacant textile mill is now an art museum. An old city hall became a restaurant. In California, a sprawl of empty factories were transformed into a shopping district. Across the country, vacant industrial sites as well as…
The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians has announced plans for an affordable housing development and substance abuse treatment center in Swain County. The tribe plans to build an affordable multi- and single-family housing development on a 300-acre tract in the…
Macon County commissioners voiced concern this week over a proposed sewer treatment plant that would discharge into the Little Tennessee River just across the state line in Georgia. The river, considered an environmental treasure and a future source of drinking…
The Haywood County Tourism Development Authority will weigh the merits of grant applications from tourism groups over the coming week. Every year, tourism initiatives, from festivals to visitor center operations, compete for funding from the tourism authority. Haywood County hopes…
Waynesville leaders will finally kick off the town’s much-anticipated review of its six-year-old land use plan on April 22. Town aldermen have hired the Davidson-based Lawrence Group, renowned in planning circles, as the consultant for the project. A $10,000 grant…
Wednesday, 15 April 2009 16:20

Jackson Paper bucks manufacturing trend

Last week’s announcement that 61 new jobs are coming to Sylva with the expansion of Jackson Paper is relief for a town hurting from the closing of the T&S Hardwoods sawmill that employed 75. Stonewall Packaging LLC, a joint venture…
Wednesday, 15 April 2009 16:21

Swain’s tax base just got even smaller

Swain County, 86 percent of which is already owned by the federal government, lost a little more land from its tax rolls this month when commissioners voted to transfer 621 acres of land to become part of the Eastern Band…
Waynesville’s South Main Street — the two-lane thoroughfare that is the major artery between downtown and the new Super Wal-Mart — could be increased to four lanes and even have roundabouts, according to preliminary redesign options recently laid out by…
Western Carolina University softball star Mollie Fowler painfully remembers the day her shin broke in half playing shortstop. She dove for a ball and collided with the second baseman’s cleat. Drama like this plays out on the athletic fields at…
By Becky Johnson & Julia Merchant • Staff writer Haywood Regional Medical Center and WestCare announced plans to join forces under a newly created parent company. In addition, they will enter a management agreement with Carolinas HealthCare System, a large…
Wednesday, 22 April 2009 16:37

Grandview Lodge

When Terry Ferguson and his wife Nancy bought the Grandview Lodge in 2008, they knew they were taking on a responsibility above and beyond restoring the old building. With the purchase, the couple became the keepers of an important piece…
Wednesday, 22 April 2009 16:42

Tourist industry lines up to tap TDA coffers

Requests for Haywood Tourism Development Authority money this year ran the gamut from the predictable to events making their debut this season. The TDA generates a pot of money from a 4 percent tax levied each time someone pays for…
An angry crowd stormed downtown Franklin on tax day last week, protesting the federal government’s bailouts, high taxes and pork barrel spending. The Tea Party protest was one of hundreds that took place across the nation April 15, the first…
A jailer and the murder suspect she allegedly freed from the Swain County Detention Center a month ago were apprehended in Vallejo, Calif., on Sunday (April 19). The jailer, Anita Vestal, 32, was unharmed, much to the relief of her…
Wednesday, 22 April 2009 16:46

Ghost Town appears in bankruptcy court

Ghost Town in the Sky revealed last week that it was driven into bankruptcy by the threat of foreclosure from BB&T, which holds outstanding debt on the property to the tune of $9.5 million. In a bankruptcy hearing in federal…
Wednesday, 22 April 2009 16:48

Ghost Town didn’t withhold sales tax

Among Ghost Town’s debts is $136,000 in back sales taxes owed to the state of North Carolina. It was previously reported that Ghost Town failed to remit sales tax to the state collected as part of ticket sales. Ghost Town…
Business owners hoping to be annexed by Waynesville in order to serve alcohol be out of luck. At a meeting of the Waynesville board of aldermen on April 14, town leaders failed to approve an annexation request by Grandview Lodge…
Should a private business receive taxpayer money to stage an event? That was the question of the hour at two recent meetings of the Haywood County Tourism Development Authority as the board discussed how to dole out its dollars. The…
Officials at Ghost Town in the Sky continued to pressure Maggie Valley leaders this week to pony up a $200,000 loan to help the beleaguered theme park get up and running. In a special meeting Monday (April 27), Ghost Town…
Wednesday, 29 April 2009 17:04

A chat with Carolinas Healthcare president

By Julia Merchant • Staff Writer The Smoky Mountain News caught up with Carolinas Healthcare System Chief Operating Officer and President Joe Piemont this week. The hospital system — the largest in the Carolinas and the third largest public non-profit…
What’s a college without a college town? It’s an almost unimaginable scenario to those who love the unique, quirky places that grow up around major universities. But it’s very much the reality when it comes to Western Carolina University and…
Wednesday, 29 April 2009 17:08

HRMC board chair steps down

The board of Haywood Regional Medical Center bid farewell to chairman Glenn White April 24. White had served on the hospital board nine years and became chairman in March 2008 following the resignation of then-chairman Dr. Nancy Freeman. White called…
Wednesday, 29 April 2009 17:10

New program aims to bring abusers to justice

Victims of domestic violence in Western North Carolina recently received a powerful new voice to help bring them justice. A $400,000 grant awarded to the 30th Judicial Alliance, a group that works on behalf of the justice system in seven…
George Ellison never knows when a Horace Kephart pilgrim will come calling. But invariably, they will come — creaking up the wooden stairs that have smooth depressions worn into the treads from years of use — to Ellison’s second floor…
Wednesday, 29 April 2009 17:15

Ghost Town and alderman at loggerheads

Ghost Town CEO Steve Shiver threatened to sue Maggie Valley Alderman Colin Edwards during a town meeting this week. Edwards attempted to speak out against Shiver’s request for a $200,000 loan from the town. But Shiver objected and refused to…
Chances are, the identity of your garbage truck driver doesn’t always cross your mind. You probably give him a friendly smile if you happen to meet over the remnants of last night’s macaroni, but the odds on knowing his life…
Wednesday, 10 November 2010 20:40

Dillsboro Cat-Dash, Nov. 18

Guided by tweets and freshly made maps, Western Carolina University students will race against the clock, and each other, in a Twitter-based scavenger hunt Thursday, Nov. 18, as part of Destination: Dillsboro!, an appreciation event hosted by town merchants. The…
Wednesday, 10 November 2010 20:39

Dillsboro puts out welcome mat for WCU

The town of Dillsboro will host Western Carolina University faculty, staff and students during a special event called “Destination: Dillsboro!” on Thursday, Nov. 18, from 5 to 8 p.m. Designed to show Dillsboro’s appreciation for WCU, the event will feature…