Jessi Stone

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Unemployment rates are about as low as they’re going to get in Western North Carolina and there are jobs to be had for those who want them, but many people across different professions have to work multiple jobs to make ends meet as wages have not kept pace with the cost of living. 

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UnitedHealthCare and local Duke LifePoint affiliated hospitals have not yet worked out a new contract agreement, which could mean higher medical costs for UnitedHealth policyholders in 2019. 

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Congress’s failure to approve a discretionary spending budget led to another partial government shutdown beginning Dec. 21, and Western North Carolina’s economy will once again feel the impact the longer it continues.

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Hearing the joyful sound of a small silver jingle bell from Santa’s sleigh — it’s what separates those who believe in the spirit of Christmas and those who don’t.

The jingle jangle of the bell comes through loud and clear when we’re children, but can fade away as we get older. Hope is not lost forever though, as children and adults alike are sure to find their Christmas spirit restored aboard The Polar Express train ride. 

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Macon County commissioners may be looking at a possible higher tax rate next year after hearing a presentation on the 2019 property revaluation process. 

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Attorney General Josh Stein recently issued a press release discussing his ongoing review of HCA’s proposed $1.5 billion purchase of the nonprofit Mission Health system.

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Now that the N.C. Department of Transportation has completed a new bridge over the Little Tennessee River in downtown Franklin, the town council is discussing ways to connect the pedestrian walkway to the greenway. 

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A couple of Franklin Town Councilmembers want to explore future changes to the ABC store and ABC board while other members think the alcoholic beverage operation is fine the way it is.

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Macon and Jackson counties will be considered less economically distressed in 2019, according to the North Carolina Department of Commerce. 

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Under the Sixth Amendment every criminal defendant has a constitutional right to legal representation — and if you can’t afford a lawyer, you have the right to have one provided by the state. 

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Drake Enterprises is spreading its wings further into the community as it takes over management of the Macon County Airport. 

Under the new subsidiary Macon Air LLC, Drake assumed responsibility for airport operations as of Oct. 1 after its former management entity — Franklin Aviation, led by Neil Hoppe and Peggy Milton — decided to retire. Hoppe and Milton had managed the airport for 20 years under a contract with the county. 

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While the North Carolina Legislature included Macon County in a pilot program to change the way court-appointed lawyers are paid, Chief District Court Judge Richard Walker requested to opt out of the program. 

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The success of a pretrial release program being piloted in Jackson and Haywood county’s judicial district hinges on a handful of lawyers being willing to dedicate at least one day a week to handling first appearances for indigent clients. 

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After conducting a limited review into the death of a Bryson City K9, the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigations issued a decision that it’s unlikely a criminal offense occurred. 

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The Macon County Industrial Park will be getting a new tenant after county commissioners approved a lease for TECO Inc. Solid State Lighting, a Tennessee corporation.

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Rumors of Consolidated Metco Inc., staying open in Bryson City have been circulating around the community, but unfortunately the plant still has plans to close operations in the near future. 

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Swain County voters have typically been adamantly opposed to any sort of tax hike, whether it’s a property tax or a sales tax, which is why many were pleasantly surprised to see a quarter-cent sales tax increase approved following the Nov. 6 election.

Now that the election is over and three incumbents have reclaimed their seats on the Macon County Board of Commissioners, one of the board’s top priorities will be to continue analyzing the county’s infrastructure needs and create a long-range capital improvement plan. 

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Unchanged over last year, all four Swain County Schools earned a ‘C’ on their 2017-18 annual report card handed down by the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction. 

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Eight of the 11 schools in Macon County either met or exceeded their academic growth expectations for the 2017-18 school year. 

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Beth Cline-Stroud, the executive director of PAWS in Bryson City, was on her way to an important event when a call came into the shelter about another dog in need. 

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Despite challengers’ loud cries for change in Macon County leadership, voters have given incumbents Ronnie Beale (Democrat) and Gary Shields (Republican) another four-year term on the board of commissioners.

Republican Robert Holland will serve a fifth term as Macon County sheriff after a clear victory Tuesday night.

With six candidates running for three seats on the Swain County Board of Commissioners, it was a close call Tuesday night as election results began to roll in.

Incumbent Republican Curtis Cochran has secured his fourth term as sheriff of Swain County after facing off against Democratic challenger Rocky Sampson. 

Eric Giles, a candidate for Macon County sheriff, is back on patrol duty for the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office after being on paid leave for more than a month despite having a Giglio Order against him from the 30th Judicial District Attorney’s Office.

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It’s a crisp fall day in Swain County. As the sun finally peaks over the trees around lunch time, the cars fill up the parking lot at the Deep Creek Campground and visitors are ready for a day of hiking and exploring the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. 

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Lynn Nicholson has always been a good saleswoman — not because she’s pushy and overbearing but because she’s personable and treats everyone like family. 

Celeste Ybanez was a junior in high school when her parents Clark and Jenny Williams started brewing up the idea that would become Frog Level Brewing Company. 

The multifaceted roles women have played in society are often overlooking in the history books, but if you dig deep enough you’ll find their behind-the-scenes work was meaningful and ahead of its time — even here in Western North Carolina. 

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The four westernmost counties in North Carolina can be described with three words — rugged, rural and Republican. 

Haywood County Sheriff’s Office deputies arrested four people Thursday night (Oct. 18) charging them with trafficking heroin and cocaine. 

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Two incumbent candidates running for re-election to the Macon County Board of Commissioners say they want to see the current board’s progress continue, but the two challengers — one Republican and one Democrat — say the county is moving in the wrong direction. 

Swain County Schools are looking at a long list of capital improvement needs to keep students safe and plan for future growth, but it won’t be possible without a more steady revenue stream to support such projects. 

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Swain County is once again trying to increase its sales tax rate a quarter of a cent with the intent of putting additional revenue toward school improvements, but the final decision will be left up to voters. 

Six candidates are campaigning for three open seats on the Swain County Board of Commissioners — four of the candidates are competing for two seat while the other two are competing to fill a two-year unexpired seat left vacant by the death of David Monteith. 

On the afternoon of Wednesday, Oct. 3, Haywood County Schools administration was notified by public health officials that a student at Bethel Elementary School has been diagnosed with chickenpox.  The student is not currently in school and is receiving appropriate medical treatment. The school sent a letter home to parents at Bethel Elementary informing them about the diagnosis.  

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Incumbent Republican Curtis Cochran is running for a fourth term as Swain County sheriff. While he’s never had an easy race, he said, this election cycle has been particularly brutal with mudslinging coming from all directions.

Talk briefly about your past experience and why you are the most qualified candidate.

Mary Ann Morgan was a one-woman show with a shoestring budget for more than 40 years but still, she managed to change the lives of hundreds of people who walked into her office without much hope for their future.

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Beginning Jan. 1, 2019, Haywood and Jackson counties will be the first judicial district in the state to pilot a pretrial release program aimed at reducing the local jail populations, recidivism rates and increasing the efficiency of the court system.

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District Attorney Ashley Welch doesn’t have an opponent in the 2018 election, but an online petition to remove her from office had 237 signatures as of Monday afternoon.

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Accusations of dishonesty and inappropriate behavior lodged against Macon County sheriff candidate Eric Giles have led the district attorney’s office to label the law enforcement officer as an unreliable witness. 

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Franklin Town Council members decided to hold off on providing input to the attorney general regarding HCA Healthcare’s impending $1.5 billion purchase of Mission Health until the board can agree on what it wants to say.

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Between 1999 and 2016, more than 12,000 people in North Carolina died from opioid overdoses. 

Not only are families losing their loved ones to the opioid crisis, but addiction is also placing a heavy burden on limited local resources. Drug-related crime has led to overcrowded jails, a backlogged court system and a spike in the number of children placed in the foster care system.

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Being incarcerated and not knowing what your future may hold is a terrifying experience, but being released from jail and having no resources to get back on your feet can be even scarier.

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A majority of people wait until they’re ordered to undergo physical therapy after a surgery or injury, but physical therapy treatments can also be taken as a preventative measure. 

In addition to helping someone through a recovery, physical therapy can also help a patient avoid surgery, reduce or eliminate pain, improve balance and manage a number of conditions including diabetes, arthritis, osteoporosis and even heart and lung disease. 

It seems like every year there’s a new fad diet people swear is the panacea for quick weight loss.

This year has been no different with everyone on the keto bandwagon. A ketogenic diet is a low-carbohydrate, high-fat plan known for quick weight loss results. But as with many fad diets, nutritionists and health experts say there are always risks. 

Mission Health’s Board of Directors and HCA Healthcare have entered into a definitive agreement for HCA to acquire Mission Health. 

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Ronnie Evans tries to remember his cousin as the beautiful and spunky woman pictured on the cover of his new book — the sparkle emanating from her party dress and her eyes — but the image he can’t get out of his head is the one of her lying on a cold slab following her autopsy in 1963. 

“I see these beautiful photos of her and realize she’d be 95 today if she lived, but I also saw her on a slab after the autopsy was done,” he said. “That and knowing how it happened to her — to know what she was subjected to — that’s why I’ve kept searching for answers.”

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