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Region to get assisted living campus

A groundbreaking was held last Thursday (July 16) at the site of a new assisted living complex being built in Dillsboro. The event was more symbolic than most of its kind because some of the facility has already been erected; it even has a roof on it. That makes a planned opening early next year doable.

Called The Hermitage, the facility combines assisted living and a memory care community. The “Jackson Memory Care Retreat” will be a self-contained community on the campus.

“It will be a secure area; they will have their own dining room, an activities area, and an outdoor area,” said Allen Osborne, president of the operation’s management company, Third Street Management of Hickory.

Overall, the facility will be home to 90 residents, with 46 in the assisted living side, and 44 beds in the memory care unit for residents suffering from Alzheimer’s disease or other dementia-related problems. Each side will have its own specially trained staff, according to Osborne, with total target employment of between 40 and 50.

“We are recruiting from all over North Carolina,” Osborne said. “We need a licensed administrator — the person who manages day-to-day operations — a resident care coordinator and a special care coordinator. They oversee all the clinical and nursing aspects of our residents’ care.”

Osborne said the facility would also have a full dietary staff, certified nursing assistants, drivers to provide scheduled transportation and other support workers.

The structures will enclose close to 30,000 square feet on more than four acres of land. “It’s a beautiful site, convenient but secluded enough, very residential in feel,” Osborne said. He said the facility would work with WestCare in addressing residents’ medical needs.

“We’ll also be partnering with Western Carolina University on interesting initiatives in gerontology and long-term care,” Osborne said.

Integrated of Florida has done most of the construction, Osborne said. Third Street manages several similar facilities in the state, including Hayesville House and Yancy House in Burnsville.

Osborne said there is definitely a need for the kind of care the facility will provide.

“I’ve talked to the local skilled nursing facility. They have a lot of residents appropriate for this level of care as soon as we open,” he said.

Osborne said need is assessed in terms of drive times in a specific market area.

“Seventy-two percent of folks who live in an assisted living community moved there from within a 30-minute drive time of their previous residence,” he said. “There are 2,700 residents within that 30-minute drive time from this facility that are apparently not served.”

For the memory care unit, the drive-time measure is about 45 minutes.

“That’s because it’s such a specialized demand and specialized service,” Osborne said. “Those who would be in need of this facility within that drive time number about 1,500.”

The existence of a memory care facility within that distance from a resident’s former home is a great benefit, Osborne said.

“That proximity makes it more likely for people’s family to be able to visit and spend time,” Osborne said. “That’s important for any residents, but especially for memory care residents. It does wonderful things for the residents, and also wonderful things for the family.

“We talk about creating five minutes of joy in the memory care facility,” he said. “If you do that several times, by that time you’ve created a very nice day for someone.”

Osborne said the facility expects to be registering residents in late December and open by January 2010.

Dillsboro ups the ante as a green town

Two electric vehicles will soon be tooling around the town of Dillsboro thanks to a state grant aimed at reducing air pollution from vehicles.

Dillsboro hopes the move will raise its profile as a “green” town. The vehicles will be plugged in and recharged rather than running on gas. They have zero tailpipe emissions.

“The electric vehicles will act as a constant advertisement for environmentally sound strategies at every level of town living, and will be the first taste many of our visitors have of the town’s unique character, at once both historic and modern,” according to Kelly McKee, Dillsboro town clerk.

The $30,000 grant will purchase an electric shuttle to move tourists from off-site parking into downtown during festivals. The second one will be an electric maintenance truck to replace the town’s only current vehicle, a 1975 Dodge pickup.

It is estimated that over seven-year cycle, including fuel and maintenance, the two electric vehicles will save a total of $2,000 versus similar conventional vehicles. The town hopes to have them in place by August.

The Mobile Source Emissions Reduction Grant was applied for through the Sustainable Mountain Initiative, a coalition of Dillsboro and the Jackson County Green Energy Park.

Dillsboro quietly assessing merger with Sylva

It appears Dillsboro has launched an official study into the pros and cons of merging with neighboring Sylva, although the planning board chairwoman leading the process was unwilling to release many details.

Dillsboro Planning Board Chairwoman Teresa Dowd asserted that the merger is not a priority at this time.

“It’s a back-burner issue,” Dowd told The Smoky Mountain News. “Nothing’s going to happen. If something happens, I’ll call you.”

Dowd offered little comment on what the Planning Board has done so far to study the issue. She said the Planning Board is gathering demographic data, such as the budgets and populations of the towns, to see if merging is a good idea.

She would not elaborate further on what data had been collected and charged The Smoky Mountain News to do its own research.

However, Dowd did say that the Dillsboro Planning Board may take a field trip during its next regularly scheduled meeting Jan. 21 to Hazelwood, a district of Waynesville. Hazelwood used to be its own town but merged with Waynesville in 1991, providing an example the Planning Board could study.

 

Under review

Planning Board member Beauford Riddle said making Dillsboro part of Sylva is just in the discussion phase.

“At this point in time we’re seeing if it would be feasible,” said Riddle.

If Dillsboro became part of Sylva, Dillsboro could receive police protection and trash pick up from Sylva. In exchange, Sylva’s tax base would increase.

Dillsboro Alderman John Faulk said he has not made up his mind on the possible merger, noting that the issue is being studied by the planning board, and he is waiting to see what it comes back with.

He realizes that many are opposed to the idea, but Faulk said he is going to keep an open mind until he has all the information.

“Tell us the pros and cons,” Faulk said. “It’s very early in the game.”

Dillsboro Alderman Mike Fitzgerald said he would oppose such a merger.

 

The process

If and when Dillsboro moves forward with the idea, it would be broached with the town leaders of Sylva. But Sylva Town Commissioner Sarah Graham said the merger is far from being in her board’s hands.

“I have no comment on it until they (Dillsboro) bring it to us as a possibility,” Graham said.

For a merger to happen, the town boards of both Sylva and Dillsboro must approve it. The process would include public hearings.

However, a townwide vote allowing residents to decide the issue isn’t necessarily required, according to David Lawrence at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill Institute of Government.

Lawrence said a referendum would be necessary if Dillsboro had a lot of debt, and Sylva voters could decide if they wanted to take on that debt.

The state Legislature must finalize any merger.

Merger prospect talk of the town

While Dillsboro leaders claim the idea of merging Sylva is in its mere infancy, opinions on the issue are already swirling in the small town.

Several Dillsboro residents interviewed around town last week said they are opposed to the merger. A top concern is higher property taxes.

“I’d like to see the autonomy of Dillsboro remain,” said resident Robert Stevens. “Right now we determine our own taxes.”

Stevens doesn’t think Dillsboro wouldn’t benefit from a merger. One of the only tangible services is patrol by the Sylva police department. But Stevens said the town is already well-served by the county sheriff’s office, which can get to Dillsboro just as fast as the police department, said Stevens.

And Jill Cooper, owner of Haircuts By Jill in Dillsboro, also opposes the merger.

“I think I like Dillsboro the way it is because it has its own identity and uniqueness,” Cooper said. Cooper moved here from Eastern North Carolina, where she said people all over know about Dillsboro.

While Cooper has lived in Dillsboro only three years, she monitors the pulse of the town through her customers. Many of them are older residents opposed to the town being absorbed by Sylva.

Some interviewed around town though are indifferent to Dillsboro becoming a part of Sylva.

Sylva resident Ted Kay said it doesn’t matter to him either.

“It wouldn’t make any difference to me,” he said.

He said he supports whatever it takes to help Dillsboro survive, adding that Dillsboro probably has trouble generating enough revenue on its own.

However, Kay said it would probably be a burden for Sylva if Dillsboro became part of the city.

It may be a good idea if Dillsboro dissolved as a town and became part of the county, said Dillsboro resident John Clark. Clark said as a resident he isn’t getting anything in return for his taxes anyway, including no garbage pickup or police service, and it would drop the taxes if Dillsboro was part of the county.

Lack of due diligence cited as reason for dam removal protests

The state recently gave Duke Energy the green light to tear down the Dillsboro dam, a move that Jackson County and the town of Franklin are now formally protesting.

Commissioners take a more aggressive stance in Dillsboro dam fight

Jackson County commissioners are contemplating drastic measures in their fight against Duke Energy to stop the Dillsboro dam from being torn down.

Duke convinces Dillsboro to ‘retract’ letter

By Sarah Kucharski • Staff Writer

Dillsboro Mayor Jean Hartbarger has retracted a letter that could have led to a legal squabble with Duke Power.

Hartbarger had signed a letter requesting that the N.C. Division of Water Quality hold a public hearing prior to re-issuing Duke Power water quality certifications for its dams on the Tuckasegee River. After Duke officials claimed that authoring the letter violated the rules of the original stakeholder agreement the town signed as part of the re-licensing process, Hartbarger asked for the letter back from the state.

Reclaiming a piece of history: Dillsboro leaders work toward making renovations to the historic Monteith farmstead, building a new park and community theater

By Sarah Kucharski • Staff Writer

Shoes stained with red clay mud and covered with sweat and bits of hay from a morning spent cleaning out the shed on the back of the Monteith property, Sam Hale leads a one person tour through the farmstead’s nearly century-old house pointing out artifacts along the way.

Green power: no longer a pipe dream

By Michael Beadle

At first it sounds too good to be true.

Imagine being able to pipe methane gas from a landfill to heat greenhouses, run a biodiesel refinery, and power blacksmithing forges and art studios for glassblowers and potters.

Railroad right of way claim could stall business expansion

By Sarah Kucharski • Staff Writer

A Dillsboro business owner’s recent attempt to purchase and develop land near the Great Smoky Mountains Railrod tracks has renewed a longstanding debate over railroad right-of-way issues and property owners’ rights.

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