Jessi Stone

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fr babcockAfter being at the helm of Folkmoot USA for six years, Karen Babcock has resigned as executive director and is in the process of training her successor to take over by March 1.

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fr damLake Sequoyah in Highlands is currently being drained in preparation for completing about $3 million in repairs to the dam.

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fr watiaYMCA of Western North Carolina is getting ready to break ground on Camp Watia, a summer camp in Swain County to serve children in the region. 

Ken and Nancy Glass of Buncombe County purchased the pristine 900 acres near Fontana Lake about 10 years ago and donated it to the YMCA of WNC with conservation in mind.

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Haywood County Health and Human Services Agency recently notified clients that an accounts receivable report went missing from a billing office several months ago.

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Canton will continue researching recommended changes to the town’s Labor Day celebration despite several aldermen expressing reservations about changing the venue and recruiting a national headlining band for a Sunday night concert.

After mulling over proposed changes presented at a recent workshop, the aldermen said they heard from several concerned constituents who weren’t in favor of the recommended changes.

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fr redcrossThe new contract Mission Health signed with The Blood Connection for blood products will affect the American Red Cross’ collections in Western North Carolina, but Red Cross employees and volunteers hope donors will remain loyal to their cause.

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coverLoyal blood donors will no longer see the iconic red cross on the side of the blood mobile next time they give blood at one of Mission Health’s 17 facilities in Western North Carolina.

Mission has signed a new contract with The Blood Connection, a regional blood bank out of Piedmont, South Carolina, to be its sole provider of blood for the next three years.

SEE ALSO: Blood donors show loyalty to Red Cross

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coverLana Quinn of Waynesville has lost friends, been called crazy and was turned away from a pediatrician’s office because of her decision to not vaccinate her three sons.

Waynesville resident Janet Presson’s son was diagnosed with autism at 2 years old, shortly after he received his scheduled vaccines. She isn’t against vaccinations completely but feels like small children are over-immunized at a young age.

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fr cantonfestsEvent organizers may have to go through a more thorough application process if the Canton Board of Aldermen adopts a new special events policy.

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fr labordayCanton’s annual Labor Day Celebration has been a beloved community tradition for more than 100 years. 

As attendance and excitement have started to wane over the last few years, however, the town is looking at ideas to revamp the holiday weekend events, including bringing in a nationally known band for a Sunday night concert at Pisgah High School’s stadium.

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Law enforcement officers in Western North Carolina have been spending too much time and money driving all across the state in search of available hospital beds.

When magistrate judges issue an involuntary committal order, an officer from that county is required by law to transport the patient to a hospital for evaluation, but the shortage of available beds for mental health patients is making the process burdensome.

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Macon County Planning Board members are still hashing out the details of a proposed noise ordinance. 

The board held two meetings in January to figure out what language could be used to help address complaints about nuisance neighbors intentionally making noise to bother others without hindering property owners’ right to do what they wish on their land.

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fr animalcontrolCommissioners in Western North Carolina counties have been discussing the growing need for better animal control services. 

While Jackson and Haywood County are struggling with inadequate animal shelter facilities, Swain County lacks a facility and an ordinance to deal with stray or nuisance animals. Dedicating more funds toward animal control services isn’t exactly a top priority for counties trying to cut costs and still provide for taxpayers, but animal activists have been vocal about the importance of addressing the issue.

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fr hccTrying to create a small logo that encompasses everything Haywood Community College stands for is no easy task. 

But with only three letters and a symbolic leaf, Aaron Mabry, marketing and communication director, thinks he and Lee White Media pulled it off. The old logo said Haywood Community College and featured a gradient leaf, but the new logo was shortened to HCC, features four new colors and a solid-color leaf.

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The town of Franklin recently passed a Charitable Solicitations ordinance in order to have more control over groups who stand in the middle of the road asking for money.

But it appears the ordinance has backfired. The group the town was trying to keep away met all the requirements in the ordinance, including a $2 million insurance policy, and was issued a one-time permit to solicit donations in the street.

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Haywood County leaders are still in the process of collecting data on broadband Internet service, but they need help from residents living in rural parts of the county. 

Maggie Valley Mayor Ron DeSimone sits on the Haywood County Economic Development Commission and is heading up the effort to bring better broadband service to the county.

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fr students“When will I ever use this in real life?” is often the question students have when faced with difficult subjects in math and science. Swain County educators have tried to answer that question by introducing STEM projects into every classroom.

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fr fairclothHarold Faircloth was recently named Environmental Specialist of the Year in North Carolina after uncovering widespread lead contamination in private wells throughout Macon County.

“I had been so busy with my duties and responsibilities in my position in addition to my research and analysis of the lead in private drinking water wells that I didn’t expect anything,” he said about his award. “I feel as though I have been admitted to a special fraternity of achievers and scholars involved with environmental health.”

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fr ghosttownGhost Town owner Alaska Presley was willing to sacrifice a piece of the theme park property to generate some cash for her Resurrection Mountain project, but a new opportunity has come along that will hopefully allow her to redevelop the entire park.

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After wading through more than 300 legislative goals presented by more than 500 commissioners throughout the state, the North Carolina Association of County Commissioners has agreed on five top priorities to present to legislators during the 2015 General Assembly.

Macon County Commissioner Ronnie Beale, president of the NCACC, gave his fellow commissioners an update on the recent Legislative Goals Conference during the board’s retreat last week. 

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fr maggiegoodyearMaggie Valley officials are beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel after experiencing several tumultuous years.

Town officials took time to revel in their 2014 accomplishments while setting goals for 2015 during a recent retreat. While 2013 marked a tough year for the town with a divided board of aldermen, some big staff changes, unhappy residents and businesses and a struggling local economy, 2014 was far more productive. 

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Macon County was hit with some tough news last week when Caterpillar Inc. announced that it would be shutting down its Franklin plant next year, leaving 150 people without work.

Franklin Mayor Bob Scott said he was shocked by the news that seemed to come out of the blue.

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fr welchAfter just a couple of weeks, Ashley Welch is quickly learning what it means to be the District Attorney of the 30th Judicial District.

It means juggling court schedules, managing a large staff and traveling between the seven most western counties, which was to be expected. But it has also meant de-activating her personal Facebook page, changing her cell phone number, always being ready to have her picture taken and getting used to her long-time colleagues now referring to her as boss, Mrs. Welch and even Madame DA.

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Macon County is asking Jackson County for money to pay for providing services to its residents in Highlands, but Jackson officials are exploring other alternatives, including establishing fire districts and levying a tax.

Macon County has requested about $160,000 from Jackson County to continue offering emergency services to residences in Highlands that are technically located in Jackson County. While Jackson County receives the property tax revenue from these homes, Macon County is burdened with the responsibility of providing emergency services.

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fr playgroundMaggie Valley resident June Johnson wants the town’s recreation plan to go far beyond fixing up an old playground behind town hall. She envisions the park renovations as just the beginning of greater things to come in the valley.

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fr pawnshopsSecondhand dealers in Franklin will soon be required to report their pawned items electronically to the police department within 48 hours, or they could face a $500 fine. 

The new requirement, which will go into effect July 1, doesn’t seem to bother many pawnshop owners who are already submitting their pawn tickets through a nationwide searchable database called Leads Online. 

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In an effort to bring in more tourism dollars during the cold winter months, the first WinterFest Smoky Style will be held Feb. 28 and March 1 at the Maggie Valley Festival Grounds.

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fr sessionNorth Carolina Legislators are back in session in Raleigh this week with a full agenda, including unfinished items from last year’s short session. The local delegation is ready to tackle the budget, Medicaid, education, fracking and other local issues affecting Western North Carolina.

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coverEvergreen Packaging in Canton plans to close the Evergreen Family Medical Center and pharmacy on March 31, but county officials are working behind the scenes to entice one of the area hospitals to keep it open.

Evergreen employees and their families are now rallying around Dr. Tony Jones and his staff at the clinic and pharmacy with the hope that Haywood Regional Medical Center, recently purchased by Duke LifePoint, or Mission Health in Asheville will swoop in to save the day.

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Maggie Valley resident Joe Maniscalco has not given up on getting his property de-annexed from the town despite several failed attempts over the last five years.

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fr tiersEach year an economic report card issued by the North Carolina Department of Commerce determines which counties will be given first dibs on state grant money — and each year no one seems satisfied with their grades.

Haywood’s status improved, for instance, but Economic Development Director Mark Clasby wasn’t rejoicing.

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fr insurance acaSince the rollout of the Affordable Care Act, people have been urged to get signed up for health insurance online with the help of certified navigators. Local insurance agents, however, say they are still more qualified to make sure residents get the best policy to fit their specific needs.  

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coverMore than 10 million people now have health care coverage because of the Affordable Care Act, and Swain County residents benefited from the new law more than any other county in North Carolina. 

According to data released by Enroll America, a nonprofit with the goal of maximizing the number of Americans enrolled in health coverage, the percentage of uninsured residents in Swain County decreased from 25 percent in 2013 to 14 percent in 2014.

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fr cantonparkWith a focus on improving recreation options for residents with limited funding, the town of Canton is using crowdsourcing methods for the first time to raise money to make playground repairs. 

“Our playground is the only one in town,” said Canton Town Manager Seth Hendler-Voss. “It gets a lot of use, but unfortunately it is not efficient in many of the safety standards. We are making an effort to make specific improvements to bring it into national playground safety compliance.”

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The town of Canton is moving forward with plans to upgrade its public swimming pool after interviewing several design consultants last week.

Town Manager Seth Hendler-Voss said the board of aldermen decided this spring to make renovations to the town pool and approved funding to hire consultants to walk them through the design process. 

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Two residents shared their horror story experiences dealing with nuisance neighbors during a Dec. 18 Macon County Planning Board meeting. 

The board is considering drafting a noise ordinance to address these residents’ complaints about loud music and gunshots coming from their neighbors’ homes. Donna Majerus and James Wright are frustrated because without a noise ordinance in place, they have no recourse other than calling law enforcement. An officer can come out and ask the neighbor to turn down the music, but the situation usually gets worse once the officer leaves, according to Majerus and Wright. 

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fr firewoodIn an effort to protect the Great Smoky Mountains National Park forest from disease-carrying pests, park officials have proposed a new regulation that would prohibit campers from bringing firewood into the park unless it’s certified. 

If passed, the new regulation would only allow visitors to bring in firewood that has been heat-treated and bundled with a certification stamp by the U.S. Department of Agriculture or a state department of agriculture. Certified firewood will be available for purchase at the campgrounds inside the park. 

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