Andrew Kasper

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All loaded up and no place to shoot — such is the plight of gun owners in Macon County, especially when its raining or snowing outside. That’s because the closest indoor shooting range to Franklin is as far as Asheville or Brevard.

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fr memorialbricksAfter struggling through a year of poor fundraising, the veterans’ memorial in Franklin desperately needs to sell some bricks.

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The great Dillsboro train debate rolled on in Jackson County Monday with a public hearing this week on whether the county should give the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad $700,000 in exchange for the promise of more riders and tourists.

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out frThe painstaking process of outlining a clear mission for the U.S. Forest Service and how it will manage its expansive public lands in Western North Carolina and the varied — and sometimes competing — interests of the people that use them has begun. Once completed, the new plan will serve as a reference for the coming 15 years on any major decision made about the Pisgah and Nantahala forests in regards to protected wilderness areas, logging, mountain biking, fires, hiking, hunting and more.

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A study that revealed that most Macon County government employees were underpaid compared to counterparts in other North Carolina counties is catching flack from some critics for alleged design flaws, as well as calling into question the worth of a public servant.

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In late February, a Macon County youth was checked into the local emergency room in need of psychological care. Because the hospital, Angel Medical Center, does not provide that type of service, he spent the night in the ER while awaiting transfer to a state inpatient facility that treats juveniles with mental health issues.

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fr abrahamsIvan Abrahams didn’t come to hold the top spot in the World Methodist Council because he abided by the rules. At more than one point in his spiritual career, he was a bit of a thorn in the clergy’s side.

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The Jackson County Planning Board voted last Thursday to eliminate a pivotal component of the county’s steep slope building rules.

The planning board wants to do away with a controversial limits on how many homes can be built on steep slopes. It is one of the most stringent parts of Jackson’s steep slope rules, and the most stringent of its kind in the region.

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fr landslideHoward Brown doesn’t sleep well when there’s rain in the forecast.

His trout farm in Nantahala — teaming with $400,000 worth of rainbow trout at any given time — has twice been victim of near miss landslides from a road on a too-steep slope above him.

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Jackson County is one step closer to giving money to the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad to outfit the scenic rail line with a refurbished steam engine in hopes of getting a tourist boost in return.

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coverLike New York is known for its basketball legends, and Texas is known for its football stars, Western North Carolina has become one the big names in a slightly less conspicuous sport: competitive fly fishing.

Fly fishing was long dominated by the western territory of the Rockies and Sierras. But the sport has seen a shift in both interest and talent to the Southeast — and specifically the Smokies.

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Walmart has asked Sylva leaders for a pass on local sign regulations as it prepares to replace its older signs with a new design and logo.

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A large residential development proposed near Western Carolina University could boost Cullowhee’s revitalization movement and cater to the region’s professional crowd seeking an outdoor lifestyle, but its proximity to the Tuckasegee River has also attracted criticism from area environmentalists.

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State funding cuts for magistrate judges are taking a toll on rural counties and the judges themselves. Long hours, a growing workload and a shrinking workforce are changing the way this staple position in the state justice system does business.

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Jackson County planning board members are considering whether to re-start a landslide hazard mapping initiative that was axed by the state two years ago.

A team of state geologists had been creating landslide hazard maps for every mountain county. They had just started working on Jackson two years ago when conservative state lawmakers terminated the project, due both to state budget constraints and controversial aspects of the landslide maps.

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In a move that could save nearly 100 jobs and keep a Franklin factory from closing, an English-based company struck a deal early this week to purchase the assets of the Whitley Products plant, a struggling metal manufacturer.

For nearly $3 million, Tricorn Group bought Whitley’s Franklin factory and equipment owned by the company, some of it located at another plant site in Indiana, according to a press release from Tricorn. The property was valued at more than $4 million and had been held by a third party receiver since January.

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Jackson County commissioners have postponed a decision on hiring deputies to man the county’s elementary schools.

The school board and sheriff’s office made a joint request recently for funding for four additional deputies to serve as school resource officers in elementary schools. The issue of cops in schools has taken center stage nationally since the Sandy Hook shooting late last year. While school resource officers are common in high schools, traditionally they have been rare in elementary schools.

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fr haywoodsheriffThere’s a new sheriff in town.

Greg Christopher, a 51-year-old former lieutenant in the N.C. State Patrol, assumed the role of top lawman in Haywood County this week.

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out bear2Shock waves rippled through the mountain hunting community last week as word spread of a sweeping undercover investigation targeting dozens of illegal rogue hunters.

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coverLast week, state and federal wildlife officers began rounding up dozens of suspected poachers in Western North Carolina, bringing to fruition an undercover investigation that spanned several years across several rural mountain counties and penetrated the heart of an illegal hunting ring that targeted black bears.

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Sylva and Jackson County are at an impasse on the creation of a single Alcoholic Beverage Control board to run the existing liquor store in Sylva and a new one proposed in Cashiers.

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Jackson County could be going from zero to high-speed in no time.

Two internet providers are laying plans to beam wireless internet into rural and remote reaches of Jackson — areas that until now have been underserved when it comes to high-speed internet access.

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The far-flung Nantahala School in the remote reaches of Macon County is putting a financial drain on local coffers, prompting county leaders to ask the state for extra money to cover the cost of operating such an isolated school.

Nantahala School goes from kindergarten to 12th grade but has only about 100 students. The small student population makes for small class sizes — some grades with as few as five students.

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out frThis spring, rolling down the Tuckasegee River will be, for the most part, as it has been in years past — but getting onto the river is becoming a whole lot easier.

As canoers, kayakers, fishermen, college-aged tubers and other water recreationists dust off their paddles, poles and life jacket in anticipation of the approaching thaw, they will find that their options have multiplied.

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fr parkinglotAfter spending $200,000 to build a new parking lot shared by five downtown Sylva businesses, the property owner lost a state grant she was initially promised to help with the cost.

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The Jackson County Sheriff’s Office made a pitch to commissioners this week for four additional sheriff’s deputies to be placed in four of the county’s elementary schools — Fairview, Cullowhee Valley, Scotts Creek and Smokey Mountain Elementary.

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In a new state of high alert, schools face tough choices when confronted by a threat from a student: is it a precursor to real violence or simply the empty words of imprudent children?

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Macon County emergency vehicles will soon be equipped with new state-of-the-art cardiac defibrillators.

Commissioners voted 3 to 2 this week to spend nearly $400,000 on 12 pieces of the live saving equipment. One will be placed in each of the county’s ambulances, and two will be placed in the county vehicles of medical staff. They will replace existing defibrillators, some of which are 10-years-old.

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out frFor the past year, the National Forest Service has been taking inventory, collecting public input and meeting with outdoor interest groups to wrangle its expansive web of nearly 1,600 miles of trail in the Nantahala and Pisgah national forests into a better, more sustainable network.

This month, the forest service will share its preliminary assessment from the “Trail Strategy Initiative” with mountain residents.

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A Waynesville sweepstakes operator was charged with a criminal misdemeanor last weekend when she refused to shut down her machines, considered a form of illegal gambling under state law.

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Two breweries that nearly found themselves pitted against each other in a trademark lawsuit may soon make amends in the spirit of brotherly beermaker love, but also out of mutual gain.

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fr jackson constructionIt may still be too soon to declare an economic rebound, but recent construction data may point toward a housing sector comeback led by high-end, new home building in Jackson County.

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coverAlthough the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a protected expanse of land, all types of contamination — from air pollution to mercury contamination — manage to creep in. One of the more unusual suspects, but probably the most apparent, is light.

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Before a crowded room of town officials this week, Jackson County Commissioner Jack Debnam announced, in so many words, what many already knew: the county’s economic development committee in its previous form was dead and never coming back.

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fr bearpitsFederal regulators temporarily suspended operations at Cherokee bear zoo and fined its owners $5,000 for repeated animal welfare violations.

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A Macon County commissioner, who prides himself on fiscal conservatism, has been staking out his positions lately.

After questioning the virtue of pay raises for Macon County workers two weeks ago, Commissioner Ron Haven has turned his attention to another proposed outlet of government spending: a large sports complex being considered outside of Franklin.

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The newly formed Jackson County Tourism Development Authority voted last week to enter into a $50,000 contract with a nationally renowned branding and marketing company out of Virginia.

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fr toughmanAmateur boxers will square off at the Haywood County Fairgrounds to vie in the Roughest and Toughest Brawl this weekend, pitting off-the-street fighters against each other for a chance to win $600 in each of the three weight classes. There is also a women’s category.

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The newly formed Jackson County Tourism Development Authority is taking on the task of “branding,” an important first step for the entity that’s been tasked with developing a unified tourism promotion strategy for the county.

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Although Jackson County’s Economic Development Commission has not met in several years, all its board members’ terms have expired and its director has long-since resigned, it technically still exists.

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As Jackson County officials craft plans to open a liquor store in Cashiers, possibly as soon this summer, they must first determine whether the town of Sylva is in or out.

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Proposed pay raises for county workers in Macon has prompted skepticism from at least two of the five county commissioners, who are asking if now is the right time for that.

The proposed pay raise would boost the salaries of all county government employees. The total plan would cost the county an estimated $750,000 per year and help all the county’s employees, more than 400 in all.

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fr maconcommMacon County commissioners are analyzing the geographic system of electing county leaders after two commissioners from outlying communities questioned whether the process is too weighted in Franklin’s favor.

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out frHave you ever been told by the evening news to expect three inches of snow overnight, but after stocking up on bread, toilet paper and flashlight batteries, you walk out the next morning, snow shovel in hand, to find only a pitiful dusting in the driveway? If you live in Western North Carolina, chances are you’ve been there, done that.

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A rewrite of Jackson County’s development regulations are well underway by the Jackson County Planning Board. It will be several more months before they finish, and final changes are ultimately up to the county commissioners.

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fr wcustudentsWith more than 15,000 applications for just 1,500 freshman spots last year, Western Carolina University has no difficulty attracting students.

The harder part is getting them to stay.

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fr thomasdividelightsGhosts, spirits, swamp gas, gnomes and car headlights — there’s no shortage of hyphotheses behind the mysterious phenomenon along the Blue Ridge Parkway. The real question is, though, have you seen the light?

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fr petabearDespite being warned not to return to Cherokee without tribal permission, animal rights activists gathered once again last Saturday in front of Chief Saunooke Bear Park waving signs and even donning a bear costume to protest the allegedly inhumane condition of the bear pits.

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coverOfficer Michael Harrison has confiscated everything from buck knives and Airsoft pistols from students at Swain High — but never a real gun. Until last week.

Harrison and the principal discovered a .22 Remington rifle and assorted ammunition in the tool-box of student’s pick-up truck left behind in the school parking lot after the 17-year-old was arrested for unrelated charges.

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Beer had been flowing from the taps of Headwaters Brewing Company in Waynesville for just a few months when the bad news arrived — a cease-and-desist letter from another brewery claiming rights to Headwaters’ name.

Victory Brewing Company out of Pennsylvania makes a beer called Headwaters Pale Ale, and while Headwaters Brewery had its name first, Victory Brewing beat them to the trademark punch.

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