Cory Vaillancourt

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Most playgrounds aren’t accessible to children with physical or cognitive challenges; what’s worse, those kids are often left on the sidelines when their peers of average ability hit the slides, swings and sandboxes. 

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After nearly a year without a permanent county manager, Haywood County commissioners voted unanimously Aug. 20 to extend an offer to Assistant Gaston County Manager Bryant E. Morehead. 

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“When I was matched with Ann in fourth grade, I had grown up with some difficulties in my life,” said Megan Galloway. “It was my thing that I went to every week, where I was like, ‘Oh, I get to see Ann!’” 

That was seven years ago last February. Galloway, now 17, is a student at Haywood Early College and will likely graduate from the program a year early before going on to study marine biology at UNC Wilmington. 

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Just weeks after a violent “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville last August, complaints arising from the display of Confederate imagery in the Town of Canton’s 111th annual Labor Day parade prompted an alderman to propose regulating the display of controversial speech in town-sponsored events. 

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Last August, three-term Asheville Republican Congressman Mark Meadows held his fourth Veterans Solutions Seminar in Waynesville. Last week, he held his fifth. The difference is that this time, protesters were waiting for him. 

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Near the end of 2016, the North Carolina Department of Transportation announced plans for an $18 million makeover of Russ Avenue, including a disastrous modification that would have forever altered the character of one of Waynesville’s most historic neighborhoods. 

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As first reported in The Smoky Mountain News more than four months ago, Waynesville’s getting a new hotel, and that new hotel is getting lots of tax breaks. The reasons why are no mystery either, according to Haywood County Program Administrator David Francis. 

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With a net pickup of four seats in the House or six in the Senate, North Carolina Democrats could break the Republican Party’s veto-proof legislative lock on Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper this November. 

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As Haywood County’s economic development efforts ensue, one oft-overlooked aspect of the area’s offerings — like land development opportunities and development incentives — is the quality of the workforce. 

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The site plan submitted by developers for a controversial 200-unit apartment complex off Plott Creek Road was approved by the Town of Waynesville Planning Board July 30, but not before a marathon meeting that dragged on for more than six hours and threatened to stretch into the next day. 

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Even the smallest communities are composed of a dizzying array of institutional and organizational groups that can either work together — or against each other — in the collection and distribution of limited resources to the utmost benefit of that community. 

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A 4.4-acre parcel in the Allens Creek community could soon put a small dent in Haywood County’s affordable housing crisis, if negotiations between the owner and local human services agency Mountain Projects go well. 

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Almost 10 months after the abrupt resignation of County Manager Ira Dove, Haywood County is drawing closer to finding his permanent replacement. 

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Among the groups visiting this year’s Folkmoot Festival from other countries is one from a place that isn’t quite a country, but is perhaps a historical microcosm of current geopolitical and spiritual conflict between East and West. 

“It’s mostly sunny weather, two or three months we live in winter, the rest of the year, around 30 or 40 Celsius degrees,” said Burcin Ozqus, a performer with Kyrenia Youth Centre Association. “It’s green most all the time of the year.”

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Now in its 35th year, the Folkmoot Festival has been around 11 years longer than Maarten Krijger has been alive, but it doesn’t take 35 years of experience with the annual event to understand what has to happen in the next 35. 

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Five seats on the Haywood County Schools Board of Education are up for election this year, but only one challenger has stepped forward to contest any of the incumbents, all of whom are seeking to return.

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A multi-year effort by Burnsville Republican Rep. Michele Presnell to scrap vehicle emissions testing requirements in more than two dozen North Carolina counties finally got the green light from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. 

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Lindsay Regner and Megan Hauser tromp down an old railroad line, their steady pace creating a predictable beat of feet dragging across road-grade gravel. 

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The polls are usually thought of as a place to vote for or against people, but this year in North Carolina, they will also be a place to vote for or against ideas — six of them, in fact; a spate of proposed additions and amendments to the state’s constitution will go before voters Nov. 6, after making it out of the General Assembly’s spring session with the required 60 percent level of support. 

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Rolf Kaufman was there, at the beginning, 35 years ago. Now approaching 88, he’s spent nearly 40 percent of his life involved in the Folkmoot Festival.

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As approximately 200 international performers descend on Hazelwood in the coming days, much of the public — from Franklin to Hickory and everywhere in between — will see them flawlessly execute their demanding dance routines in elaborate wardrobes, often accompanied by substantial live instrumentation. 

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Last year’s inaugural Sunday Soiree featured the usual festive Folkmoot fun — drinks, dancing and heavy hitters on the stage, including Grammy Award winner Secret Agent 23 Skidooo and perennial favorite Empire Strikes Brass — but this year’s event looks to take it up a notch by focusing on the food. 

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A quick discussion by the Haywood County Board of Commissioners on July 16 about the possibility of taking responsibility for the International Paper Sports Complex in Canton left commissioners with more questions than answers. 

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When a controversial text amendment passed the Town of Waynesville Planning Board and Board of Aldermen in back-to-back public hearings almost two months ago, Mayor Gavin Brown told opponents that they’d again have their chance to oppose the development that instigated it. 

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Haywood County Schools superintendent Dr. Bill Nolte wasted little time in announcing the administrative support team that will help him maintain and improve upon the school district’s eleventh overall statewide ranking. 

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A startling engineering report that called Central Haywood High School’s deteriorating gymnasium “unsound and unsafe” prompted Haywood County Schools to spring into action June 11, and now that a bid for demolition has been accepted, the gym’s deconstruction will soon begin. 

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Just three days after holding a closed meeting during which members of the Shining Rock Classical Academy voted to contract with a local Realtor for brokerage services, the Haywood County public charter school has made an offer to purchase property.

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Just days after taking the reins as Haywood County Schools superintendent, Dr. Bill Nolte announced the support team that will help him maintain and improve upon the school district’s top-ten percent ranking in the years to come.

After an 80-minute closed session the night of July 12 during which the Haywood County Schools Board of Education deliberated over the changes, Nolte took to the podium to present them in open session.

“I want to thank the board for your support in putting, I believe, a strong senior administrative staff team in place that should carry us for the next five to 10 years,” he said, just after the board approved them unanimously.

Dr. Trevor Putnam will leave his job as Waynesville Middle School principal to become the associate superintendent for support services, managing facility use. He’ll also chair the policy committee, oversee random drug testing and serve as athletic director.

Also elevated to a sub-superintendent role is Jill Barker, who’ll serve as the assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction and be responsible for enrollment, faculty curriculum and instruction, student transfers, remediation budgets, teacher allocations and some public information duties. Barker had been Pisgah High School’s principal.

Mark Sheppard assumes the role of transportation director, and is charged with managing transport operations, driver’s education and determining road quality during inclement weather. Sheppard’s old job of student services director has largely been subsumed into Dr. Putnam’s new position.

Todd Barbee moves to Waynesville Middle School to fill the role of principal at the system’s largest middle school, leaving Canton Middle School.

Carol Fox will leave her assistant principal role at Tuscola High School to serve as the new principal of Canton Middle School.

Kim Jackson is the new technology director, tasked with supervision of system infrastructure as well as library and media services; her old position of assistant technology director will likely go to a data specialist, according to Nolte.

Clint Conner is the new Pisgah High School principal, leaving his principal’s job at Clyde Elementary School.

Byron Burnette will serve as the new principal of Clyde Elementary School. Burnette leaves his assistant principal position at Pisgah High School; board member David Burnette recused himself from the vote on Byron Burnette due to a familial relationship.

Assistant principals are recommended by principals, and Nolte said he expects some recommendations to fill the open slots - those of Fox and Burnette - will be presented to the board on Monday, at its regularly scheduled meeting.

In a press release sent by HCS earlier this evening, Nolte said his only regret was not having “enough openings to place everyone who is qualified and ready.”

Look for more on this developing story in the next issue of Smoky Mountain News, on stands and online Wednesday, July 18. 

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Growing up in Gastonia during the 1960s, Mike Withers would pile into an old Ford sedan with his parents and siblings for the long drive to the now-shuttered Maggie Valley mountaintop amusement park called Ghost Town.

Over generations, Ghost Town left an indelible cultural mark and an enduring economic impact on the Valley, the county, the state and the region.

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Haywood County’s only public charter school is forecasting increasing enrollment for the coming year and has always had expansion in mind, but after a special called board meeting earlier this week, Shining Rock Classical Academy is getting serious.

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November’s General Election is still months away, but that hasn’t stopped the North Carolina Association of Educators from coming hard after freshman Rep. Mike Clampitt, R-Bryson City. 

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The search for a new superintendent of the Haywood County Schools system is over, and as it turns out, those charged with conducting the search process didn’t have to look very far. 

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After two consecutive town board meetings during which Cantonians expressed strong opposition to a proposed vehicle registration tax, one thing was clear — residents want better roads, but don’t want to pay for them. 

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Several key staff positions within Haywood County’s high-performing public school system have been filled by some familiar faces, and there may be more to come. 

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A long-standing informal agreement between the Town of Waynesville and Main Street merchants has now been formalized, clarified and expanded to allow for limited encroachments onto public sidewalks. 

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Property owners, single-family homebuilders and any Waynesville residents who own a car will see their cost of living increase over the next year, under a FY 2018-19 budget passed June 26 that includes an eclectic mix of charges in the form of both tax and fee increases. 

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Although the philosophical basis of the Waynesville comprehensive plan is rooted in academic concepts and professional standards related to long-term planning and resource management, area citizens last week got down to some of the more concrete decision-making that reveals who we are, what we want and where we want it. 

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As House Republicans scramble to address the ongoing family separation issue on the nation’s southern border, several competing bills have emerged, including one filed by Congressman Mark Meadows, R-Asheville, June 19. 

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Taxpayers in the Town of Canton are about to again test political will, as the town has of late entered discussions with Haywood County about the possibility of having the county somehow begin to take responsibility for the IP Sports Complex. 

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Among the various spending categories in many municipal budgets — general government, public safety and the like — one can usually find some amount devoted to recreation. 

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Customers of downtown Waynesville’s restaurants and bars may soon be told to “hit the bricks” — but in a good way. 

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Infrastructure in municipal sewer and water systems isn’t cheap, but a debate recently settled in the General Assembly clarified what towns can charge new customers for connecting to the existing system while also anticipating the system’s future needs. 

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With municipal budget season coming down to the wire and those municipal budgets coming down to the penny, two Haywood County town governments are hoping to avoid property tax increases by introducing vehicle registration fees. 

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For months, town officials have been hard at work creating the framework and the process for updating the Town of Waynesville’s 16-year-old comprehensive plan. Now, it’s time for residents to have their say. 

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An engineering report issued to Haywood County Schools June 11 resulted in unanimous approval of a resolution by the board that same day declaring Central Haywood High School’s gymnasium “unsound and unsafe,” but complicated funding streams have left Haywood officials wondering where to find some of the money to replace it.

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A cultural survey currently underway that seeks to document the legacy of an overlooked Waynesville community could add to the town’s growing roster of properties listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

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North Carolinians will be asked this November to weigh in on the controversial issue of voter ID if a bill introduced June 7 by Rep. Michele Presnell, R-Burnsville, gains approval. 

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Five months into the economic development partnership between the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce and the Haywood County Chamber of Commerce, there appears to be some progress being made.

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A new tool that compiles a mind-boggling array of economic and demographic data and presents it in a simple map-based interface will give economic developers, public servants and private citizens the tools to make more informed policy decisions across the region and the state. 

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North Carolina Republicans were quick to congratulate the first minor political party to gain official recognition by the State Board of Elections, but they haven’t been quite as welcoming to the latest. 

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