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Vacated library could become new home for Sylva police

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 library moves into its new home on the hill behind the historic courthouse.

Police Chief Jeffrey Jamison said the library building would be ideal for the police department because it has good visibility on Main Street and is a good size.

“I think it would take care of the police department’s needs well into the future,” Jamison said.

The Sylva town commissioners directed Jamison to contact the county and ask about acquiring the library building. Jamison said he spoke with County Manger Ken Westmoreland who said that the county would be willing to sell or lease the building. But Jamison said Westmoreland did not quote any prices.

Jamison said the big question now is whether the building will be affordable. He said he proposed possibly trading a piece of town property for the library, but the county was only interested in a lease or a purchase of the building. Jamison said the police department has a lack of space in its current location next to town hall.

— Josh Mitchell

Jackson ordered to relinquish permits that pave way for dam removal

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 to Duke to dredge sediment backlogged behind the dam. Dredging the sediment is required before Duke tears down the dam, but the county had been withholding the permits Duke needed until other litigation surrounding the dam was resolved.

But Bridges ruled that the county had no right to withhold the permits, namely a floodplain development permit and land development compliance permit.

Duke argued that the county was just delaying the permits in an effort to save the dam. The county argued that it was withholding the permits until other legal matters surrounding the dam were resolved.

At Monday’s county commissioners’ meeting, Commissioner Tom Massie urged his fellow commissioners to pull out of the fight, saying it can’t be won.

“Have you had enough yet?” Massie asked the other commissioners.

Massie said the county’s fight against Duke is like pushing a chain.

Massie said he and Commissioner William Shelton have made it clear they are ready to throw in the towel and other commissioners should think hard about doing the same.

“We have to face reality,” said Massie.

He urged his fellow commissioners to speak with their constituents about how they feel on the issue. Massie said most of his constituents have said they favor ending the fight against Duke in order to stop spending money on legal fees.

Commission Chairman Brian McMahan said he has spoken with constituents who want the county to continue the fight against Duke.

“In all due respect I talk to taxpayers as well, and they have a different opinion,” McMahan said.

County Manager Ken Westmoreland said County Planning Director Linda Cable was expected to issue the permits to Duke on April 7.

Duke spokesman Fred Alexander said he did not know when Duke would begin dredging the 70,000 cubic yards of sediment. The sediment must be dredged before the dam is torn down to prevent the silt from washing downstream and causing environmental problems.

 

Another legal matter remains unresolved

The county still has a federal appeal over the dam removal, which is headed for mediation.

Duke won approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to remove the dam as a form of mitigation for its other hydropower operations saddling rivers throughout the region, but the county appealed that ruling to the Court of Appeals in Washington. Jackson County believes Duke owes more in mitigation than removing the dam, such as a cut of Duke’s profits off the dams going into an environmental trust fund.

Alexander said it is normal for matters to go to mediation. If it isn’t resolved in the mediation, the court will make a decision, Alexander said. Alexander did not know when the mediation would be. Alexander also did not know if Duke could proceed with tearing down the dam before the appeal is resolved.

All airport documents requested in lead up to runway lawsuit

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 is unnecessary, will harm the rural character of the Iotla Valley and endanger Cherokee artifacts and burial grounds, as well as other historic sites.

Lamar Marshall of Wild South said a 60-day notice to sue the Airport Authority will soon be filed. Afterwards, Wild South will seek an injunction to stop the project from moving forward, Wild South attorney Stephen Novak said.

Novak said he is unclear at the moment who will be named in the lawsuit.

The organization has also filed a federal Freedom of Information Act request and state public records request to obtain documents related to the proposed runway extension. The records request seeks documents from the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation in Washington, the Federal Aviation Administration, the N.C. Department of Transportation Division of Aviation, the state archaeologist, and the Macon County Airport Authority.

Novak said he hopes the public records will give Wild South a better idea of who should be named in the lawsuit.

The Airport Authority will comply with the records requests, said the board’s attorney Joe Collins.

“If it’s something they’re entitled to see, we’ll certainly give it to them,” Collins said.

Reviewing all the documents associated with the runway extension will give Wild South an understanding of “who said what to whom” in regards to the runway extension, Novak said.

Marshall with Wild South said the Airport Authority is “trying to brush us off,” but it won’t work.

“We’re taking them to court,” said Marshall. “We’re going to sue them.”

The hope is that “damning” information will be found through the public records requests, said Marshall.

The Airport Authority has “definitely not followed the letter of the law,” said Marshall.

Marshall asserts that the Airport Authority and other parties violated the National Historic Preservation Act by ignoring the archaeological significance of the airport site.

Marshall also charges that the Endangered Species Act and the National Environmental Policy Act were violated.

He claims that endangered species in Iotla Creek and the Little Tennessee River will be endangered by runoff from the airport.

An environmental assessment found that the runway extension would have “no significant impact” on the site. But Marshall said the environmental assessment was done without consulting the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and based on out of date information.

Marshall said taxpayer money should be withdrawn from the proposed $3.5 million runway extension. The nation is facing an economic crisis, and there are better things to spend money on than extending an airport runway, said Marshall.

“Why dump money into this when it is only going to benefit rich people in Highlands?” Marshall asked.

Moreover, extending the airport runway is just laying the groundwork for more development to take place in the tranquil valley, said Marshall.

New Sylva manager’s salary below state average of similar-sized towns

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 2,500-4,999, the average salary is $71,446, according to a N.C. League of Municipalities survey from last July. The new Sylva Town Manager Adrienne D. Isenhower will make $60,678 a year.

Sylva has a population of about 2,500, while Canton, which hired a new town manager last week and has a population of 4,200, is paying the position $77,002. The new Canton manager, however, had been assistant town manager for about eight years and is a past Maggie Valley town manager, said Canton Mayor Pat Smathers.

Also of concern is Isenhower’s amount of experience.

Sylva town board members Harold Hensley and Ray Lewis voted against hiring her because they think she lacks experience, especially in key areas of managing a budget.

Isenhower has three years of experience with the city of Lenoir as well as internships.

Smathers said he thinks that is ample experience to move up to being manager for a town the size of Sylva.

“To be a city planner in a city the size of Lenoir and then move on to a manager position in a town the size of Sylva is a natural progression,” said Smathers.

As the population of a town increases, so does the salary for the manager. For instance, the town manager in Waynesville, which has a population just under 10,000, makes $110,768 a year.

The salary for the town of Bryson City, population 1,492, is $51,958.

Hensley and Lewis questioned why the new manager would make more than former manager Jay Denton who was fired in September. Denton was making $53,000 a year.

Denton also questioned the thinking of commissioners Stacy Knotts, Sarah Graham and Maurice Moody on paying the new manager more than he was getting paid.

“If I was sitting on that board I would think that was high,” Denton told The Smoky Mountain News.

Denton said salaries should be based on experience.

“In my expert opinion that is a fair salary for an experienced manager. They fired me when I was doing a good job and providing services,” said Denton. “And they hired someone with no experience in management.”

Denton said he started out making $45,000 three years ago, and he has a master’s in public administration like Isenhower, but he also had almost three years of experience as the Jackson County manager.

“The board gave me pay raises based on what they thought I should make for the performance I was giving them,” said Denton.

Salaries are also based on the size of a town’s budget and the number of employees it has. Sylva has about 27 employees and a $2.26 million budget.

Ninety percent of a town manager’s job is managing a budget, said Denton. The budget he put together last year was very tight and the town will have to dip into its reserve fund to cover the new manager’s salary, according to Denton.

Hensley said he supported David Steinbicker of Sylva for the manager position because he is a lawyer, CPA, and oversaw a $37 million budget for the Jackson County Board of Education.

He can’t understand why Graham, Moody and Knotts would support Isenhower over Steinbicker.

“It’s beyond me,” Hensley said. “I’m dumbfounded.”

Knotts would not elaborate on why she didn’t support Steinbicker, saying it’s a personnel matter.

Mayor Brenda Oliver did not vote on the town manager but said she thinks Isenhower will do a great job. Oliver particularly liked Isenhower’s planning background and thinks the salary is “appropriate.”

Oliver also liked that Isenhower graduated from Appalachian State University. Oliver said ASU has one of the best public administration master’s programs in the country.

Denton, who graduated from Western Carolina University in Sylva with a master’s in public administration, said WCU’s program is just as good, if not better, than ASU’s.

Water task force gives a glimpse of the future

Sometimes what at first seems utterly ridiculous turns out to be a foreshadowing. It’s happening with water use in this country, and we expect in the not-too-distant future this resource won’t be taken for granted as it is today.

The Jackson County Water Study Task Force is going to disband after studying the county’s troubling water situation and making some common sense recommendations. Those ideas — which are not suggestions for regulations since the task force has no authority — include installing water saving devices in homes, modifying ordinances to prevent stormwater runoff, and reusing wastewater for irrigation, to name a few.

Here’s what’s happening in Jackson County and elsewhere in the mountains. It seems many wells are going dry with increasing frequency in this ongoing drought. The task force members estimate that as many as 25 percent of all new wells are replacement water supplies. The wells on these properties have simply stopped producing or have been so depleted they are sending up just a trickle of water.

Americans — especially in the East and especially in the mountains — have never worried much about our water. But as more homes are built in rural areas, meaning more well pumps sucking up groundwater, the plethora of creeks and springs we see around us does not translate into a similar plethora of water in the underground aquifers. So while more and more people use water from the same aquifers, runoff from solid surfaces means less and less of the rain goes into the ground to recharge aquifers. More water use, less recharging of aquifers, and a drought all add up to a big problem.

It’s almost laughable when one looks at how much water Americans consume. According to the American Water Works Association, the average person uses 69 gallons of water a day. Showers, toilets and washing machines account for about 68 percent of that amount. The Jackson County Water Task Force found that, on average, residents hooked up to the Tuckasegee Water and Sewer Association use 26 percent more than the average U.S. family.

At some point all this unregulated water use will change. Those who don’t believe that need only remember the stories of travelers — and this was into the late 1990s — returning from Europe or Third World countries who would come back laughing about how everyone overseas drank water out of bottles. “They’ll never be able sell water in the U.S.,” was the common refrain.

As it turns out, we will buy water from bottles, and lots of it. And towns with plentiful water supplies like Waynesville are now asking residents to voluntarily reduce usage. A bill discussed in last year’s General Assembly would have metered private wells to determine how much water is being used in households, presumably to consider affixing a tax or usage fee of some kind to those who use too much.

The only responsible option is to take advantage of available methods and reduce water use. Ask local leaders if they have plans for this looming problem. It’s much smarter to wean ourselves voluntarily rather than digging a deeper hole that will — sooner than later — lead to draconian government regulations.

Duke Energy, Jackson argue cases in court

Duke Energy and Jackson County appeared in court Monday (March 16) to argue over permits related to the removal of the Dillsboro dam.

An attorney for Duke Energy said the court should order the county to issue the permits to Duke.

Superior Court Judge Laura J. Bridgers said she will make her decision after she has had time to review all the documents.

The permits are necessary to dredge sediment behind the dam. Before Duke can tear down the dam, it has to dredge the sediment.

Duke asserted that the county, which wants to save the dam, is simply denying the permits to delay the demolition.

Duke Energy sued Jackson County a few months ago, charging that the county refused to issue a Floodplain Development Permit and a Land Development Compliance Permit to dredge 70,000 cubic yards of sediment from behind the Dillsboro dam.

Duke says it has met every requirement for the permits, but the county still won’t issue them.

“You either meet the requirements or you don’t,” Duke attorney Kiran Mehta of Charlotte said. “You’re not in a position to refuse permits when you meet all the qualifications.”

Moreover, Duke said it has received the go-ahead from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to dredge the river and demolish the dam, and therefore doesn’t even need county permits.

Duke asked the court to declare that the Federal Power Act supersedes or “pre-empts” the county permits.

The county said it is not going to issue the permits until all its legal appeals regarding the Dillsboro dam are resolved. Depending on the outcome of the appeals, there could be a modification to how the dam is removed or it may not be removed at all, argued Jackson County’s attorney in the matter, Paul Nolan from the Washington, D.C., area.

Nolan said the permits can’t be granted before the litigation is resolved because the matters are “intrinsically intertwined.”

The county is appealing the FERC order that the dam be demolished to the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington and is also appealing the state’s issuance of a water quality permit.

Duke wants to tear down the Dillsboro dam as a form of mitigation to keep operating its myriad other hydroelectric dams in the region. The Dillsboro dam is antiquated and no longer produces enough power, Duke says. Tearing it down will improve the environment by opening up the river, which will also benefit whitewater enthusiasts, Duke says.

Nolan told the court that the county wants the dam to stay because it is scenic, historic and a tourist attraction for Dillsboro. It could also be a source of green power if retrofitted.

FERC ruled that the sediment must be removed before the dam is demolished. Otherwise, the sediment could rush downstream and cause environmental problems.

Duke’s attorney, Mehta, noted that the FERC order states that the dam must be removed by July 19, 2010. By failing to issue the permits, Jackson County could prevent Duke from meeting the deadline, Mehta said.

For Duke to meet the deadline, dredging needs to begin by July 1 of this year, Mehta added.

Duke applied for the Land Development Compliance Permit in August 2008 and the Floodplain Development Permit in November 2008 and still hasn’t received either one. Such permits usually only take about a week to issue, Mehta said.

The county was giving Duke the “run around” over the permits, Mehta said.

For instance, after reviewing Duke’s Land Development Compliance permit application, the county planning office determined that a floodplain permit would also be needed but didn’t tell Duke, Mehta said.

Duke had to specifically inquire as to whether it would need another permit. It wasn’t until about three months later that the county informed Duke that it would also need the floodplain permit, which Duke then applied for, Mehta said.

But Planning Director Linda Cable notified Duke that the county would not issue the permits until the appeal regarding the water quality permit was resolved.

FERC does not require Duke to get local permits, but suggests that it should try to abide by local rules to be “good citizens.” But if the local laws cause interference the utility doesn’t have to follow them, FERC says.

Duke claims it tried to be a good citizen and get the local permits, but the county refused to issue them. Mehta said Jackson County refused to communicate with Duke and built walls around the permit process rather than facilitate it.

Mehta told the judge that the county has argued that the Superior Court does not have jurisdiction in the matter because of the other litigation taking place over the dam. But Mehta balked at that, saying, “You have subject matter jurisdiction on anything that walks through the door.”

It doesn’t make sense for the county to not issue the permits, because the county also wants the sediment dredged, Mehta said.

But Nolan, representing the county, said if Duke gets the permits for dredging it is a “slippery slope” toward dam demolition. For instance, if the dredging takes place, a court may be more inclined to go ahead and allow for the dam to be removed.

The holdup with the permits has caused six to nine months of delay, said Mehta, and to ensure there is no more delay, he wants the court to order that the county can’t require any future permits for the dredging.

By denying the permits, the county is attempting to “derail” the FERC order that the river be dredged and the dam removed, Duke asserts.

It’s “obvious that Duke is right and the county is wrong,” Mehta said, adding that it is in the judge’s power to tell the county “enough is enough.”

There was only one member of the public in the courtroom, Sam Fowlkes, who favors dam removal and said the county is spending too much in legal fees on the matter.

Fowlkes said he can’t understand the county’s wanting to save the dam.

‘“It’s an ugly hunk of concrete,” said Fowlkes, who said he is on the board of directors for the American Canoe Association.

Removing the dam would help his sport by opening up the river, he added.

Jackson ponders solutions to dry wells

A Jackson County task force appointed last fall to develop solutions to water shortages caused by the drought presented its recommendations last week.

The Water Study Task Force came about after several Jackson County residents reported that their wells and springs had run dry. About 58 percent of county residents rely on groundwater through wells and springs for their supply.

It is estimated that 20 to 25 percent of new wells being drilled in the county are to replace existing wells and springs that have gone dry, according to Task Force Chairman and County Commissioner Tom Massie. Massie presented the task force’s findings to a joint meeting of Jackson County commissioners and town boards within the county.

Massie believes the groundwater that feeds wells and springs is being compromised. Only about 25 percent of the rainfall ends up soaking into the ground and recharging groundwater levels, Massie said. To maximize groundwater recharge, runoff must be minimized, Massie said. He said the county currently has no ordinances dealing with stormwater runoff.

Regarding water supply in Jackson County, there are three things to consider — population growth, percent of population that uses groundwater and frequency of droughts.

Water must be conserved, Massie said, noting that Tuckaseigee Water and Sewer Authority users are wasteful with their water, using 216 gallons a day on average, compared to 171 gallons used by the average U.S. household.

Up to one-third of daily water usage could be reduced with water-saving features such as low-flow showerheads and faucet aerators, he said. Education is most important when it comes to conserving water, Massie said.

The task force, which sought short and long-term solutions, also recommends that the local governments collect data to get a better handle on the seriousness of the water shortage. Such data could be helpful during the next drought.

Though the task force does not advocate regulation, it could prove helpful. Potential regulations could include:

• Modifying the subdivision ordinance to require stormwater retention.

• Requiring water saving devices in building and plumbing codes.

• Reusing wastewater for irrigation.

The task force decided that the county and its municipalities would need about $20,000 to begin implementing the recommendations.

Massie recommended that the task force disband, saying its work is done. However, Massie said a Water Resources Advisory Board should be formed to meet regularly to oversee water issues in the future.

Task force aims to fix future traffic snarls

A Jackson County task force has entered the nitty-gritty stage in its quest to fix traffic congestion on N.C. 107 in Sylva.

The group has begun compiling a long list of possible solutions to the congestion. Once complete, it will turn the list over to the Department of Transportation to assess whether and how much each idea could help.

The solutions fall into one of two categories. One is to alter the design of N.C. 107 to handle more traffic. The other is to divert cars off N.C. 107.

Jackson County is split into two basic camps of how to solve traffic congestion on N.C. 107. One advocates building the Southern Loop, a cross-county highway that would bypass the main drag of N.C. 107 and tie in with U.S. 23-74 north of Sylva. Initially conceived as a large-scale freeway, road planners now say it could be a boulevard or even simple two-lane road.

The second camp wants to redesign the existing N.C. 107 and use smaller side roads to handle some of 107’s traffic.

Just how much congestion the task force is tasked with solving has been the subject of debate over the last several months (see related article.) The latest prediction claims there will be around 1,000 to 2,000 cars too many using N.C. 107 during the peak commuter hours by the year 2035.

The projection was formulated using DOT models and growth formulas, and massaged with help of the task force.

Some members of the task force remain concerned over the growth assumptions plugged into the model. The pace of growth witnessed over the past 25 years may not hold true for the next 25.

“Then this overage you are trying to address may not be accurate,” said task force member Susan Leveille.

Those in favor of the Southern Loop want to make the future congestion look worse to justify the road, Leveille said. Likewise, those who don’t want to build the Southern Loop want to downplay future congestion.

 

Diverting traffic

The name of the game is figuring out how to deal with 1,000 to 2,000 more cars than the road can handle. That’s where the brainstorming process and solutions pitched by the task force come in.

Those opposed to the Southern Loop hope to shows the overage can be handled without building a new highway. Those in favor of the Southern Loop claim the only way of dealing with that many cars would be building the new bypass.

The Southern Loop isn’t the only way to divert cars off 107, however. There are other ways to lighten the load. One is a system of smaller network roads: a system of shortcuts, more or less.

Another option for lightening the load doesn’t involve the roads at all. For example, if more students and faculty lived in Cullowhee, they wouldn’t be driving up and down N.C. 107 to get to campus. The county could enact land-use strategies to encourage more residential development around Western, according to Pam Cook, a DOT transportation planner working with the task force.

“That would be something that only elected officials can change, but that can certainly be evaluated,” she said.

Another option to get cars off the road is a commuter bus between Sylva and Western Carolina University in hopes of decreasing cars on the road.

When it comes to altering the design of N.C. 107 to handle the traffic overage, solutions being pitched include rerouting intersections, adding lanes and congestion management strategies.

Some solutions, when packaged together, can actually result in exponential improvements. For example, an intersection redesign could increase carrying capacity by 2,000 cars and an extra lane by another 2,000, but when done together could carry an extra 5,000.

“We’ll try to strategically group those,” said Ryan Sherby, community transportation coordinator for 10 western counties.

A whole category of solutions falls under the umbrella of congestion management. Congestion management can streamline traffic and increase what the DOT calls the “carrying capacity” of the road. But the congestion strategies might not be included in the numbers game aimed at coping with the projected overage, Cook said.

But the techniques are being considered. A team that specializes in congestion management visited Jackson County and performed a cursory analysis of N.C. 107 last year at the behest of the local DOT. The report from their visit is not yet out, but could be promising, Cook said.

“They may not solve all the deficiencies but would certainly make things operate more smoothly,” Cook said.

Cook said the team would like to make a second visit to examine a few options more closely.

The public can join in the brainstorming as well. Anyone with a solution they think the task force should put on the list to run by DOT can contact Sherby at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 828.586.1962, ext. 214.

 

Stop-and-start process now rolling

Jackson County task force members are excited with the new stage of their work. The task force was formed six years, but faltered for much of its existence due to a revolving door of DOT staffers, including long windows with no staff person assigned to the task force at all.

“I feel like we are just getting started with what I thought would be happening five years ago,” said Susan Leveille, a task force member and representative of the Smart Roads coalition. “We have been sitting listening for such a long time, and for a long time we had a void of nothing. I am very glad that we finally have an opportunity for input that seems to be genuinely part of the process.”

The current DOT staffer assigned to the task force marks the fourth since its creation, and each one essentially started again from scratch upon taking over. But the latest at the helm, Pam Cook, appears to be in for the long haul and the task force is finally showing concrete progress.

Cook said every solution pitched in the brainstorming stage will get evaluated.

“Every thought needs to be considered. Some can just be considered by discussion, some thoughts will be evaluated through a model, others we’ll have to go out into the field and see if it is feasibly possible to connect this road and that,” said Cook, who specializes in community transportation planning. “There is not a bad idea.”

First things first: How many cars too many?

The Jackson County transportation task force has spent the past several months signing off on a projected traffic count for the future, namely the year 2035. Until road planners had a projection in front of them, they didn’t know what kind of overage they were dealing with, and whether the problem was a small one or big one.

“One of the driving forces behind any road in the future is the traffic projection for 2035, which is our horizon year right now,” said Ryan White, DOT project coordinator in Raleigh. “If we add no signals, no connecting roads, no bypass, in 2035, how is N.C. 107 going to operate? We have to establish there is truly a problem and that will show there is some type of improvement that is needed.”

White is coordinating the planning process for the Southern Loop, which is on a parallel track to the task force. While the task force brainstorms its solutions, the DOT is engaged in the planning process for the Southern Loop. If and when the Southern Loop is chosen as the best solution, the DOT will have a head start on the otherwise lengthy process of building a major new road.

The congestion projected for 2035 turns out to be only mediocre rather than terrible, according to Ryan Sherby, community transportation coordinator for 10 western counties.

Traffic models pinpointed the main drag of N.C. 107 from Lowe’s to the intersection has more cars than it can handle — about 1,000 to 2,000 too many during peak commuter times. The intersection of N.C. 107 and U.S. 23-74 was flagged as a problem area of its own.

“It pretty much showed what we all expected,” Sherby said.

But there are other areas in the county that will be experiencing traffic congestion by 2035 as well, including part of Main Street and Centennial Drive on the WCU campus.

Southern Loop planning has stalled somewhat in a quest for the best traffic projections. The numbers massaged by the task force were considered more up-to-date than the ones the DOT was using, so they are redoing their models accordingly. When done, White will know not only the volume of cars, but theoretically how they are moving along the road.

“We can see how cars are driving and turning,” White said.

Jackson library deserving of community support

Deduction would tell us that in the information age libraries would be accorded great respect, but somehow that isn’t universally the case anymore. Given that truth, it’s encouraging to see what has happened over the last several years in Jackson County as support has gathered for a new library that, after much debate, will be attached to the strikingly beautiful historic courthouse.

After a decade-long community debate that raged with unusual fervor, county leaders decided in October 2007 to put the county’s new library atop courthouse hill. This wise decision did two things: ensured Jackson County residents their new, much-needed library would have wide community support; and it infused the project with a historic and cultural significance, providing a symbol of political and intellectual aspirations that will endure for generations.

There was a time when libraries were enshrined as the world’s primary learning centers. The administrators of the ancient library of Alexandria, Egypt, according to some historians, were charged with with no less a task than bringing together all the world’s collective knowledge. Stipends were paid to scholars and their families to come spend time there. Throughout the ancient world libraries were held in high regard as the keepers of culture and history, and typically they were among a city’s most splendid architectural masterpiece.

Today too many communities neglect these important institutions. As television and the Internet have grown in significance, and indeed put much of the world’s knowledge and literature at our fingertips, libraries could be written off as quaint relics.

But that’s just not the case. Places where people — children and adults — gather to read, write, research and discuss ideas will always be important. Amid the rush of today’s world, a place where adults work and read in a cocoon of silence and where children can discover the profound joys of the written word are indeed sacred.

Macon County has already done its community proud with its recently opened library, and citizens came together to support the furnishings of that facility with their donations. Now the same is being asked of Jackson County residents. Fund raising is currently under way, and almost $500,000 of the $1.6 million goal has already been pledged.

We believe this library is among the most worthy of community projects. It will become the epicenter of the intellectual and community life of Jackson County, and we encourage residents to support the fund-raising drive to the best of their abilities.

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