Sylva’s appointed aldermen must run for real this fall

Easing congestion on N.C. 107 and general economic development issues look to shape the context of Sylva’s upcoming municipal elections.

Three commissioner positions are open. Two landed in their seats via appointments instead of election by voters: Harold Hensley and Chris Matheson, who will now have to officially run to keep their seats. Ray Lewis won his seat four years ago.

Hensley was not prepared to commit this week on whether he will seek election, saying he is truly undecided at this juncture.

“I’ve enjoyed it,” Hensley acknowledged, adding that his decision, however, will hinge on whether he feels he “can benefit the taxpayers.”

Hensley had served on the board previously, but narrowly lost his seat in the last election in 2009. He found his way back on the board last year, however, being appointed to replace the outgoing Sarah Graham, who resigned after moving out of the town limits.

Like Hensley, Lewis wouldn’t commit one way or another about whether he will run.

“It is a little early yet. I haven’t made my mind up,” said Lewis, who is finishing a second term as commissioner.

Matheson said she would run, seeking this time to win election to the post she was appointed to fill when Maurice Moody moved up from commissioner to mayor in the November 2009 election.

“I do want to be a part of helping ease congestion on 107,” Matheson said. “To continue working with the DOT, and the county.”

Matheson also wants to see further improvements to Mill Street (known as Backstreet locally). And, the former assistant district attorney is adamant about helping shepherd the police department from cramped quarters into more spacious accommodations.

The town is trying to get the county to swap the old library building for the town’s former chamber of commerce building. The old library, Matheson said, would make a perfect home for the police department.

One newcomer has announced his intentions of running for a town commissioner position. Sylva businessman and resident John Bubacz, owner of Signature Brew Coffee Company, said he became interested in serving after Commissioner Danny Allen indicated he would resign for unspecified reasons at an unspecified point in the future, something which has yet to actually happen.

And, Bubacz said, he was motivated to run while following the town’s wrangle over how best to fund the Downtown Sylva Association. Bubacz is on the DSA board.

“I literally want to do this because I want to be a part,” he said. “There is nothing specific I want to change or accomplish, but I do feel that responsibility.”

Town wants parking scofflaws’ fees to benefit bottom line

Tired of watching a source of possible town revenue end up in the state’s coffers, Sylva wants to start collecting parking fees at the town hall.

Last week, commissioners tweaked the language of the proposed parking ordinance, clarifying that only certified town police officers could issue citations. There had been some thought that it might be wise to empower any town employee to issue civil citations, but commissioners Chris Matheson and Harold Hensley nixed that idea.

“It ought to read they strictly are police certified,” Hensley said, concurring with Matheson’s objections to having non-police employees given that responsibility.

The primary payment area for people cited parking illegally in Sylva will be Town Hall. Police Chief Davis Woodard, however, said he’d like for people to be able to pay at the police department as a “secondary option,” such as during holidays when Town Hall is closed.

Parking in an unauthorized parking zone in Sylva will cost violators $10 for each violation. All loading and unloading in designated zones is limited to 30 minutes, with a $10 violation penalty for those taking up space for longer than the time permitted.

It costs $150 for parking in a handicapped space illegally, and $50 for a fire lane violation.

Noise ordinance in Sylva getting tweaked tighter

Sylva leaders are looking to tighten the town’s noise ordinance on the heels of complaints by one of their own.

Commissioner Harold Hensley, who lives in the N.C. 107 area of Sylva, said he took calls a few weeks ago from neighbors about the loudness of music from a nearby restaurant. Hensley said he believes people should be able to sit outside their own homes if they want and enjoy a cookout without being bothered by loud music.

“You can’t contain all noise,” the town’s attorney, Eric Ridenour, told Hensley, adding that “loud” is in the ear of the beholder, as it were.

“A noise ordinance should be applied when you are disturbing people. I don’t care what time of the day or night,” Hensley said. “If I can’t talk (and be heard), I say it’s unreasonable.”

Hensley emphasized he is not against music; that he just objects to excessive noise: “If it’s so loud when I sit on my deck and I can’t talk to the person next to me, it’s too loud,” he said.

The town’s current noise ordinance carries the key words “reasonably prudent;” as in what an average person would consider to be excessively loud noises taking place between the hours of 11 p.m. and 7 a.m.

The new language would read: “The playing of any musical instrument or electronic sound amplification equipment outdoors or from a motor vehicle, between the hours of 11 p.m. and 7 a.m., that can be heard from an adjoining property or at distance of greater than 20 feet from the sound source.”

Like Ridenour, former Assistant District Attorney and current Commissioner Chris Matheson cautioned her fellow board members that noise ordinances are difficult to enforce. She recommended they consider an “objective test,” such as using a decibel reader, which many towns already use.

Matheson, however, bowed to the new language stipulating an actual 20-foot distance after Police Chief Davis Woodard said that had been his recommendation and remained his preference.

Tori Walters, co-owner of the Soul Infusion Tea House and Bistro, the restaurant on N.C. 107 that apparently sparked Hensley’s neighbors’ ire, said Monday the distance requirement would not “bother us at all.”

“We have worked diligently making sure that all the music played at our establishment is at reasonable decibel levels,” Walters said, adding that they ask musicians not to play after 10:30 p.m., a 30-minute cutoff prior to the town’s 11 p.m. requirement.


Noise ordinance public hearing

What: The town of Sylva is tightening its noise ordinance

When: July 7 at 5:30 p.m.

Where: Town Hall

Pinnacle Park profiled for Trails Day

A discussion about the future of Pinnacle Park outside Sylva will be held at 9 a.m. Saturday, June 4, followed by a short hike from the Fisher Creek trailhead.

The 1,100 acre tract once served as Sylva’s source of drinking water and has now been preserved.

Those interested in the hiking and biking potential of the park, as well as those who use the park for birding, wildlife and native plant activities, are encouraged to attend, and future volunteer opportunities will be discussed. Information from the discussion will help the town of Sylva and the Pinnacle Park Foundation determine future park needs.

The Jackson County Greenways Project is organizing the event in honor of National Trails Day.

828.293.3053 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Sylva might save struggling group by hiring director itself

The fate of the organization tasked with marketing and promoting downtown Sylva remains in flux, but it appears positioned to survive in a yet-to-be determined restructured form.

“We are working very cooperatively, jointly with the town board, to come up with what we think will be the best solution — at this point, we don’t know what that is,” Lucy Wofford, president of the Downtown Sylva Association, said this week.

Town Manager Adrienne Isenhower last week presented three options to town commissioners, telling them that the $15,000 contribution town leaders agreed to earlier might not be enough to keep the organization afloat. That amount represented a $3,000 increase over this year’s funding for the group.

DSA initially requested $25,000 from Sylva leaders, saying anything less would jeapordize the group’s solvency. Director Julie Sylvester told commissioners that to continue raising money directly from members, namely downtown businesses, was not financially sustainable. Wofford said she agreed with Sylvester’s assessment, saying it put the group into more of a merchants association’s role than that of a Main Street organization.

Being a state Main Street group opens the door to certain state grants and support. Under the program, however, DSA is required to have a paid director.

Isenhower said the first option available to commissioners would leave the DSA at $15,000. The second option would bring a DSA director in-house as a town employee at $18 dollars an hour, 20 hours a week (with no benefits) for a total salary of $20,150 a year. And the third option would also bring the director in-house, but would add duties as a town planner, which the town currently lacks, bringing the amount needed for a fulltime salary up to $44,800 ($30,000 salary plus benefits).

Commissioner Harold Hensley said this week that if DSA decided they did need more than the original $15,000, then for his part, the position of director would definitely need to move to being a town employee.

DSA Board Member Robin Kevlin said she sees no problem with the director of DSA becoming a paid employee of Sylva.

“Everything is up for discussion,” she said, adding that for DSA’s part, “we’re basically waiting to see what the town of Sylva is going to do, what their wishes are.”

Although DSA’s purpose, witnessed by its name, is nuturing a vibrant downtown, Hensley has repeatedly questioned pumping town tax dollars into a group that benefits only one commercial district of town.

Kevlin expressed sympathy for Hensley’s wish to see DSA’s focus expand beyond the downtown area — “if they are going to give the money, I understand what they are saying,” she said.

There might be a model nearby to do just that.

The Franklin Main Street Program is different from the Downtown Waynesville Association and the Downtown Sylva Association in that it’s not solely limited to the downtown business district.

While historic downtown Franklin is the only area that qualifies for the state’s program, locally they’ve expanded the vision to include the other commercial districts in the town limits.

Jackson County currently handles zoning enforcement for Sylva, with $5,000 in the town’s budget set aside for payment. That money, under the third option, could go toward a fulltime in-house town planner/DSA director.

The town manager was instructed by the board to get more financial numbers on DSA together for commissioners to consider. She plans on presenting those at the next town meeting, set to take place June 2 at 5:30 p.m. Isenhower said she hopes for a decision on DSA and a vote on the town’s overall budget at that same meeting.

Each of the three options, framed as a “new proposal using fund balance and/or capital reserve,” would see a police officer added to patrol downtown for $16,500, and gives the police chief and assistant police chief raises that total $7,520 (including benefits). A downtown officer was an important issue for Commissioner Danny Allen, a former police officer himself.

Concerts on the Creek: Sylva’s summer tradition returns to Bridge Park Pavilion

You know it’s summer in Sylva when Concerts on the Creek gets going, bringing local and regional music and family fun to Bridge Park Pavilion every Friday from Memorial Day to Labor Day.

This year, local favorites the Rye Holler Boys will get the season going with a performance on May 27.

They’ll be followed on the outdoor stage in the coming weeks by other popular local bands such as the Freight Hoppers, the Elderly Brothers and Balsam Range, as well as regional talent Big House Radio. Big House walked away with the top prize at WNC Magazine’s Last Band Standing battle of the bands style competition, and they’ll stop off in Sylva in mid-August.

Concerts on the Creek got its start in 2009, so concertgoers will be welcomed back to the park for the third year of free music this summer.

“We started Concerts on the Creek three years ago through an Appalachian Regional Commission Grant,” said Julie Spiro, executive director of the Jackson County Chamber of Commerce. It was the chamber who started the concerts, but when they proved popular with the public, the series started to grow from there.

“It was very well received and the locals as well as visitors really enjoyed it so we thought we’d expand on that and invite three other partners to help us produce the concert series,” said Spiro

These days, the chamber teams up with Jackson County Parks and Recreation and the Town of Sylva to produce the programs.

But, said Spiro, the free music is just the impetus to get people out and about. It’s the music along with the restaurants and shops in downtown Sylva that really create a festive, summer atmosphere.

“We hope both locals and visitors will stimulate the economy by shopping and dining out before the free concerts,” said Spiro. Part of the central idea behind the series is to give people a venue for getting out on the town, a gift to both natives and tourists and a chance to kick back with talented artists and support local businesses, all at once.

Marne Harris is a Sylva resident who frequents the concerts every summer, and she appreciates them as a piece of fun and relaxation that showcases the town’s mountain charm.

“They are a time for the community to reconnect, catch up with friends and to celebrate our awesome, beautiful town tucked in the mountains, all the while getting to enjoy some great local music and dancing,” said Harris.

One of her favorite aspects of the events, she said, is watching the hodgepodge of otherwise-unconnected music lovers come together. Harris and her husband have young children who, she said, take full advantage of the park’s open space, but they’re surrounded by older folks, students, young music aficionados and, of course, other families.

Of course, Sylva is well known in the region for its vibrant music scene, which mixes the traditional bluegrass acts that find their roots in these mountains, with more contemporary and underground acts that make the circuit of local venues in town. There’s even a metal band from Cherokee the jaunts over to play every now and again. So in Sylva, it’s not hard to find a range of listeners for the talent the series has to offer.

This summer, the town will be treated to 15 weeks of beautiful music against an equally stunning mountain backdrop, and all you need is a lawn chair and a listening ear.


2011 Schedule

May 27: Rye Holler Boys

June 3: John Luke Carter

June 10: Buchanan Boys

June 17: Mountain Faith

June 24: Johnny Floor

& the Wrong Crowd

July 1: The Elderly Brothers

July 8: Sundown

July 15: The Wild Hog Band

July 22: Josh Fields Band

July 29: The Freight Hoppers

Aug. 5: Balsam Range

Aug.12: Big House Radio

Aug. 19: Johnny Webb Band

Aug. 26: Hurricane Creek

Sept. 2: Mountain Faith Youth Jam

Sylva leaders support DSA with more funding

The future of the Downtown Sylva Association remains unclear despite a move by town leaders to increase public funding for the group.

The town board unanimously voted last week to increase funding from $12,000 to $15,000 a year, but that amount still falls short of the $25,000 the downtown association says it needs.

“It is very appreciated, but it still doesn’t get us where we need to be,” said DSA Executive Director Julie Sylvester minutes after town leaders made their decision.

DSA, the group charged with spotlighting and underpinning Sylva’s vibrant downtown scene, has stated it faces “solvency” dangers without the $25,000.  DSA wants to drop what it claims is an unsustainable funding method — raising money directly from merchants. The group hoped the town would make up the difference. It’s unclear whether the group will now continue soliciting extra funds from downtown businesses.

Mayor Maurice Moody told fellow town leaders that DSA’s total budget each year is in excess of $50,000.

“If you under-fund them, whether you intend it or not, there’s a chance they may go away,” Moody said.

Commissioner Harold Hensley said an article in The Smoky Mountain News two weeks ago mischaracterized where he and fellow board members Danny Allen and Ray Lewis stood on the issue. He said they never intended to totally cut DSA off the town’s funding list. They simply felt that the $25,000 being requested is too much.

“I said we could leave it (at the same amount) … but we do have other things we have to look at,” Hensley said, saying he wanted to keep DSA at $12,000.

Hensley also said he wanted clarity that there is no “power struggle going on on this board. Everybody has their own ideas — but I don’t call it a power struggle.”

Allen said he agreed with Hensley.

“I don’t think there’s one board member that wants to cut DSA,” Allen said. “Fund as is … In the past, we’ve gotten that rap about not funding DSA, but we do want to fund DSA.”

Allen then qualified his support by noting that funding anything is difficult given the economic climate, saying, “we have to take a hard look at what we fund and what we don’t fund.”

Allen said town merchants he’s talked to want money put toward paying a policeman to work the downtown area.

Hensley also said if the town wanted to give DSA funding that approaches the $20,000 level, then he strongly believed that the director’s position ought to transition to a town staff position. Sylvester receives $20,000 a year for 20 hours a week. She also receives $250 a month for a health-savings account.

North Carolina requires a paid director for towns to participate in the Main Street program. The program is important, among other reasons, because it opens the door to grants, which towns otherwise don’t qualify to receive.

Commissioner Chris Matheson told Hensley that bringing a new employee on board with the town entails much more than simply paying that person’s base salary, citing health benefits and so on.

Hensley said perhaps Town Manager Adrienne Isenhower or Town Clerk/Tax Collector Brandi King “could be the Main Street person.”

“If you are going to start appropriating that kind of money, you ought to have it in-house,” Hensley said.

Commissioner Stacy Knotts said Isenhower and King have fulltime jobs as it is, without taking on DSA duties.

Ultimately, the commissioners in a compromise decided on an additional $3,000 in the budget to DSA bringing their funding to $15,000, plus gave a Neighbors in Need help group just more than $1,000 at Allen’s request.

“I’d also like to say we need to keep in mind the policeman on Main Street,” Allen added.

Board members also discussed a flat raise for all town employees who make under $50,000 instead of an across the board cost-of-living increase.

Hensley said dividing up the proposed 2.5 percent increase would give $1,020.28 to those making below $50,000 though he asked not to be held strictly to his math.

“We’ve got some people that’s really low paid in this town,” he said.

The other commissioners indicated they agreed with Hensley’s proposal, but Matheson and Commissioner Stacy Knotts emphasized this was a one-time deal that they’d want to revisit next year.

Late Bloomer: Local bassist in full flower

“This song was written before the USDA got their hands on organic standards,” announces the booming voice from the stage. It’s a Friday night in late April and the attention of the crowd at Sylva’s Soul Infusion Bistro is centered on bass player Adam Bigelow.

“We in no way endorse USDA organic standards,” Bigelow continues. “Buy local from someone you know. We support the Jackson County Farmers Market — because we’re for real.”

At six-foot-four, with a distinctive baritone and seemingly permanent smile, Adam Bigelow is one of Jackson County’s most recognizable local musicians. He might also be one of the busiest. He performs every Tuesday night at Guadalupe Café’s “Old Timey Music Jam” and is also the bass player for local groups The Dan River Drifters, The Imperative and Cooking with Quanta. In the last two weeks alone, Bigelow has played 11 gigs, with several more still to go.

But musician is only one of Adam Bigelow’s many roles. He might be just as quickly recognized for his work in several Jackson County community and conservation groups. And apart from being a self-professed “plant nerd,” a rock-and-roll evangelist and an active community member, now Adam Bigelow will have a new title — 40-year-old college graduate.

Last Saturday, Bigelow got his bachelor’s in environmental sciences from Western Carolina University.

Thursday evening finds a bare-footed Bigelow at downtown Sylva’s Community Garden, a volunteer organization that supplies organically grown produce to The Community Table, which serves meals to Jackson County residents in need. Bigelow coordinates a weekly volunteer workday, but this particular Thursday also marks Bigelow’s last day of classes at WCU.

“This is exactly where I want to be right now,” he says. “In my happy spot.”

A native of Hampton, Va., Bigelow moved to Sylva from Goldsboro at age 22, intending to study radio and television production at Southwestern Community College. Those plans quickly changed.

“I dropped out of school, but fell in love with the mountains,” he says. “People come here, go to school, and leave. Or people grow up here, stay for a little while and leave. But then there are others that move here from elsewhere and say, ‘This place is amazing. Why would you want to live anywhere else?’ And they stay.”

These days Bigelow is involved with many community efforts, mostly centered on environmental conservation. This is his fifth season at the Community Garden, but he is also involved with the Cullowhee Revitalization Effort, the Jackson County Smart Roads Alliance, the Highlands Native Plants Conference and the Cullowhee Native Plants Conference.

“Unfortunately, I have to credit Wal-Mart with sparking my interest in plants,” Bigelow says. He worked in the garden center at the Franklin Wal-Mart for a few years before working for a local landscaping company and taking courses in horticulture. Seeking to “just learn more,” Bigelow returned to school and earned an associate’s degree from Haywood Community College, an experience that he credits with turning him from “a person who liked plants into a horticulturist.”

“I never thought I was going to get a real degree.” Bigelow says. Then, with a characteristic grin, he adds, “It’s an A.A.S. degree, but I wish it was an A.S.S. degree to match my B.S. degree.”

As far-fetched as attaining a degree might have seemed to Bigelow at one time, being a performing musician must have seemed even more unlikely.

“For most people, when you get to your mid twenties, if you haven’t already become an artist, the chances are you’re not going to do it,” he says.  “It was really a response to trauma and life changes that put me into playing music.”

Despite taking guitar lessons as a child, Bigelow had abandoned his musical ambitions, due in part to a disastrous elementary school talent show and a failed attempt at performing “Yankee Doodle Dandy.” Bigelow didn’t perform in front of an audience again until he was 27 and began playing electric bass for a four piece jam and cover band that lasted two shows. But then sometime around August 2001 (the actual founding date is apparently a matter of debate), Bigelow was approached by his friend Greg Walker about a new project.

“That second band was Cooking with Quanta,” Bigelow says. “I have been in that band ever since and I will be in that band for the rest of my life.”

After four years of playing electric bass, Bigelow was introduced to what would become his trademark instrument, the acoustic upright bass. With the upright, he started attending the Old Timey Music Jams, where he began playing with fiddler Ian Moore and guitarist Hal Herzog. The immediate results, however, were not entirely encouraging.

“I played that first night and I didn’t know any of the songs,” Bigelow recalls. “Hal denies this but I remember. At one point, he looked over at me and said, ‘Boy, when you don’t know a song you sure do play it loud.’”

Despite initial set-backs, Bigelow has been playing with Moore and Herzog for three years now. In addition to those performances, Bigelow plays his upright acoustic for the Dan River Drifters, a group of younger “pickers,” with whom he has been playing for over a year.

“I don’t like listening to only one type of music,” Bigelow says. “I don’t even like playing only one type of music. You know, four hours of bluegrass will drive you insane. Four hours of any one type of music will.”

Like most recent and soon-to-be college graduates, Bigelow is nervous about his future. Faced with the daunting task of paying back student loans, he jokes about entering into “an experiment in poverty.” At this point, graduate school is not a favored option, though his hope is to work in garden-based environmental education “teaching people how to create a sustainable future.”

But perhaps most fittingly, his first move upon graduation was to kick back and play some music in celebration, at a graduation-cum-birthday bash to herald his achievements and hope for the future.

“I was thinking, ‘What do I want to do for my graduation?’ and I couldn’t think of anything I wanted to do more than play music. I love the fact that I’m a musician. I’m so lucky.”

— By Carrie Eidson

Downtown Sylva deserves the support of the town board

We’ve written before about how important the downtown business districts in our mountain towns are to their communities, but it needs to be said again in light of the debate now going on in Sylva. Town leaders in the Jackson County town will be making a big mistake if they pull the plug on support for the Downtown Sylva Association.

At this time town leaders are debating what level of funding to give to the downtown booster organization in the coming year’s budget. We would encourage those elected officials to provide as much as they can, and to begin looking for additional ways to support downtown Sylva.

The primary complaint by those opposed to the funding is that DSA is too downtown-centric. In other words, a majority of the town commissioners say giving money to the organization is unfair to other parts of town that don’t benefit from its work.

We think that argument leaves out too many of the proven reasons why a vibrant downtown is a rising tide that lifts all ships. Other merchants throughout Sylva benefit when the downtown is alive and full rather than empty with storefronts boarded up.

If someone is thinking about opening a new business anywhere in Sylva, it’s obvious a thriving downtown would provide a strong signal that the town has a healthy business environment. When the hospital, the university, the community college, the school system and private businesses are recruiting single professionals or families, downtown Sylva surely helps. Throughout the mountains, Sylva is known now as a place where those who keep our Appalachian musical, craft, and literary traditions alive will find patrons, whether that’s at a reading at City Lights or a concert at Bridge Park.

These are important, tangible reasons for keeping downtown Sylva healthy. There’s also the tax benefit to Sylva and Jackson County of a healthy downtown. And we won’t even go into the festivals and special events that bring real dollars to Sylva and Jackson County, helping everyone from grocery store clerks to gas station employees.

Look, asking town leaders to support downtown Sylva is not a revolutionary idea. From Charlotte to New Bern to Waynesville and Franklin, civic and elected leaders have realized the benefit of supporting their Main Streets. Drive downtown anywhere and you take the pulse of a community. Sylva’s pulse is strong, and that’s why about 20 people showed up at a meeting two weeks ago to encourage town leaders to support DSA. We can only hope they were listening.

Sylva makes bid to Jackson leaders for old library

Sylva leaders want their Jackson County counterparts to lease, for $1 a year, the old library building to them, citing space needs and a heightened Main Street presence for the town’s police department.

The Sylva library is in the process of moving to a building beside the newly renovated, historic Jackson County courthouse. The grand opening is set for next month. This comes as Sylva’s 15-member police department jockeys for space in 1,000 square feet the town can allot to it. The Sylva Police Department is next to town hall on Allen Street, several blocks from the downtown.

Lack of space “makes it very difficult to investigate cases, interview witnesses and interrogate suspects,” town board member Chris Matheson, a former assistant district attorney, told county commissioners at a meeting this week. “It is imperative at this point we try to find a location for them.”

County Commission Chairman Jack Debnam said they’d consider discussing the town’s request during a budget work session next week.

The town has eyed the former public library for a police department at least since the spring of 2009. Then Police Chief Jeff Jamison contacted then County Manager Ken Westmoreland at the town board’s request. Westmoreland told Jamison the county would be willing to sell or lease the building, but didn’t specify the town’s cost for either of those options.

That was then, and this is now: Jamison is gone, Westmoreland is gone, and a new majority of commissioners took control in last November’s election. It’s unclear what they want to do with the old library building, if they even know, at this juncture, themselves.

Matheson characterized the town’s desire for the centrally located building as something of an “equity issue.” She pointed out Sylva shares 50 percent of its ABC revenues with the county. A vast number of cases investigated by the town police involve people who have been drinking alcoholic beverages, Matheson said.

ABC dollars totaled $139,890 this year alone in revenue gains for Jackson County.

“What have we done that makes Sylva want to be so good to us?” Commissioner Joe Coward asked Matheson about the town’s willingness to share the ABC wealth.

The councilmember responded she believes Sylva simply didn’t — at least initially when it agreed to share the wealth — realize how significant the revenue stream would prove. After voters approved the sale of mixed drinks at bars and restaurants in a 2005 referendum, sales at the Sylva ABC store went up more than 40 percent.

This 50-50 split between a town and county is an unusual arrangement, Matheson said, and is mirrored by just five or so other municipalities in North Carolina.

Franklin keeps 100 percent of its ABC revenues; Bryson City keeps 90 percent and specifies the remaining 10 percent go to parks and recreation; Waynesville keeps 64 percent and gives 18 percent to the schools, and the remaining 18 percent is funneled into Haywood County’s general fund.

Matheson, drawing on her legal skills to weave a persuasive sticky web commissioners might find difficulty disentangling from, continued gently but firmly pressing for the coveted downtown space. She pointed out that Sylva officials were kind enough to rent to Jackson County a town-owned building for use as a senior-citizen facility — $1 a year for 15 years, and before that, for free. And, additionally, the town provided a building to house the chamber of commerce — again, Matheson noted, free of cost to the county.

What the town offers in return for the old library building, Matheson said in summation during her closing argument, is an opportunity to protect and serve all the residents of Jackson County who come, in large part, to conduct the county’s business in Sylva. And that could best happen if the space-crunched police department is in the old library; for, she said, a nominal fee a year accompanied by a long-term lease consisting of at least 25 years. And the town will even pay for renovations and repairs, which she estimated could total $150,000, Matheson said, adding a possible enticing carrot.

County commissioners thanked the town board member for her presentation, but did not commit one way or another to her request.

Carl Iobst, a regular member of the public at county meetings, told commissioners during the public-comment session that he wants the town to reimburse the county “a fair and reasonable amount” for the building, saying in these fiscally trying times, $1 a year is too little an amount for such a prize.

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