Cory Vaillancourt

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The first draft of the Town of Waynesville’s proposed 2017-18 fiscal year budget was presented to the public on May 23, but citizens still have a few opportunities left to weigh in on it before adoption.

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A 56,000-square-foot, $20 million retail project that will bring a long-awaited Publix grocery store to Waynesville was unanimously approved by the town planning board May 15, but still has one more hurdle to face.

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A multi-agency training exercise led by the N.C. National Guard meant to test and improve disaster response will result in roadblocks and an elevated level of police, fire and military activity in Canton on the morning of June 10.

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A lagging recovery from the Great Recession and the continuing loss of a major tourist attraction in Maggie Valley haven’t slowed growth of the tourism industry in Haywood County. 

There’s an old adage in business that says, simply, “If it isn’t measured, it isn’t managed.”

Since before the Great Smoky Mountains National Park was chartered in 1934, Western North Carolina has been a sought-after destination for tourists from across the country and across the world. 

Waynesville Mayor Gavin Brown opened the town’s February budget retreat — his 17th or 18th, by his own reckoning — by setting the direction with a poignant quote.

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Opened atop Buck Mountain in 1961, Wild West-themed Ghost Town in the Sky used to draw as many as 600,000 visitors a year to Maggie Valley, but after a combination of maladministration, mechanical difficulties and even a landslide, the park began opening intermittently, and then not at all, leaving a gaping hole in the local tourism economy.

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As a writer, it’s easy to feel that one’s ability is never quite good enough; as a writer in the American South — long a befuddled region characterized by ugly stereotypes highlighting ignorance and violence — even more so.

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Things are happening in Waynesville’s historic African American community along the Pigeon Street corridor; the town is pursuing a grant to identify historic structures, has demolished a problematic former church and is planning a park of some sort for the site.

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When most people think about Folkmoot, they doubtlessly think about the huge 10-day international folk dance festival that has taken over Western North Carolina each July for more than three decades. 

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A recent designation by the North Carolina Department of Commerce could have a detrimental impact on Haywood County’s economic development efforts.

In the first installment of this series on Haywood County’s economic development, the analogy of a bathtub was used to illustrate the county’s economy: water flows in, water drains out and the freeboard is always changing, but amidst all the splashing, insular yet interconnected bubbles of industry rise and fall and swell and pop.

If Canton’s legendary Labor Day festival – the oldest in the south – is to survive, it’s going to have to become self-sufficient.

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Each year, counties and municipalities must pass their upcoming year’s budget by July 1.

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A recovering economy and low unemployment along with a 30 percent increase in tourist spending since 2011 has kept Haywood County in decent financial shape, but a few large expenses — married with the everyday needs of a 60,000-resident county — means a tax hike may be coming.

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Offering “credit where credit is due,” Rep. Michele Presnell, R-Burnsville, congratulated Gov. Roy Cooper for recently signing a bill that will do away with vehicle emissions testing in Haywood County. 

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The strange saga of a shuttered school still casts a shadow over Haywood County, but it may turn out that opponents of the school’s closing were exactly right. 

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Thanks to Kiwanis International and Landscape Structures Inc., one lucky community will walk away with $25,000 in free playground equipment this summer.

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The Affordable Health Care Act got a bit closer to repeal last week as the U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation that could drastically affect millions across the country and across Western North Carolina.

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Among the various organizations involved in economic development, one often finds a Chamber of Commerce and some development organization.

If all goes well, Maggie Valley will soon be known as a place where some of the finest spirits in the world are crafted.

Although speculation has been rife over the past year, plans for a Publix grocery store in Waynesville have finally been revealed in advance of an upcoming zoning hearing.

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As summer approaches, Waynesville’s green spaces are getting greener, but they’re also getting greater — in size. 

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Obamacare is one step closer to repeal as the U.S. House of Representatives today passed legislation that would provide a drastic overhaul of health insurance for millions in America and hundreds of thousands in Western North Carolina.

“From the earliest stages of the discussion, I’ve stated that my goals were to, one, bring down premiums for Americans, and two, protect those with pre-existing conditions,” said Republican Congressman Mark Meadows, R-Asheville, in an email earlier today. “After weeks of negotiations, conversations, and substantive changes to the bill, I believe we reached the point where both of these criteria will be sufficiently met. I believe the revised AHCA will substantially reduce healthcare premiums and provide a strong net of protection for the most vulnerable Americans.”

Called the American Health Care Act, the bill was narrowly approved 217-213 with nary a ‘yea’ from Democrats; 20 Republicans joined them in voting no.

For most of his first 100 days in office, President Donald Trump has pushed for the undoing of Obamacare, but often found himself stymied.

Meadows, who chairs the influential House Freedom Caucus, helped derail a previous effort pushed by Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, R-Wis., weeks ago.

Since then, Meadows said he was pushing for two issues – high-risk pools for pre-existing conditions, and state waivers for essential medical services.

Meadows got what he wanted, but the bill is not yet law – the Senate is seen as the more uncertain chamber in this incarnation of “repeal and replace,” and it’s possible Senators instead draft their own legislation.

Look for more on this story in next week’s Smoky Mountain News, on stands Wednesday, May 10.

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CeCe Hipps is one of the very few people in North Carolina who can say that she was at the epicenter of the two most significant postwar economic expansions in the state. 

A new business or a new family moving to town isn’t solely due to the luck of the draw.

Likewise, a shuttered mill or dilapidated neighborhood isn’t solely due to being dealt a bad hand.

The stakes were as high as the hopes last weekend as competitors from across North America came together at the Haywood County Fairgrounds to see whose luxuriously-locked little rodent would be deemed best in breed by a discerning panel of judges.

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Lake Junaluska residents opposed to a new Waynesville Fire District in their neighborhood will get one anyway, after a 2-1 vote by the Haywood County Board of Commissioners May 1.

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Haywood County commissioners have set a date for the required public hearing in advance of passing next year’s budget — an especially important one, considering County Manager Ira Dove’s prediction that the county could see itself forced to use over $2 million from the county’s fund balance to keep things in a state of equilibrium.

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Over the course of the six Cultural Conversations sessions I participated in at Folkmoot, our diverse little group — sitting in one big circle — learned a lot about ourselves, and each other.

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Advanced manufacturing and machining in Western North Carolina just got a huge boost from a Fortune-500 multinational conglomerate with more than $127 billion in yearly revenue.

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Born in Florida but raised in tiny Blue Ridge, Georgia — just a few miles outside of Murphy and not far from where Tennessee borders Georgia and North Carolina — Matt Coffay, 30, has spent a little over a decade in Western North Carolina, after moving to Asheville to attain a degree in philosophy. 

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Members of several progressive groups concerned over the moral and monetary implications of Affordable Care Act repeal in rural Western North Carolina say that although their congressman isn’t listening to them now, maybe he’ll hear them in 2018.

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A powerful Republican Congressman who also serves as the leader of his party’s most conservative faction now has his first challenger for reelection in 2018.

As first reported in the Smoky Mountain News April 12, Asheville Democrat Matt Coffay will challenge Rep. Mark Meadows, R-Asheville, for North Carolina’s 11th congressional district seat.

Meadows, chairman of the powerful House Freedom Caucus that singlehandedly derailed President Donald Trump’s Obamacare replacement plan back in March, was first elected in 2012 by a 57-43 percent margin.

Since then, he’s faced increasingly token opposition and widened his margin to 63 percent in 2014 and 64 percent in 2016.

Meadows spent $5.75 per vote in 2012 on donations of $1.1 million, but spent just $332,000 to defeat Rick Bryson, D-Bryson City, in 2016.

Coffay – who’s website just went live – is expected to formally announce his candidacy at a 3 p.m. rally today that is sponsored by a coalition of left-leaning groups from throughout the 11th district, including Progressive Nation WNC.

Not much is yet publicly known about Coffay, as his website and Facebook pages don’t yet contain much information about his background, or his positions.

His personal Facebook page says he has a degree in Philosophy from The University of North Carolina-Asheville, and lists his workplace as The National Young Farmers Coalition. His website says that he’s running because “it's time for change, and Western NC needs new leadership.”

He goes on to promise “the biggest grassroots campaign that NC-11 has ever seen.”

One of the main challenges Coffay’s grassroots campaign will face is an increasingly popular opponent who has become the face of the fiscal conservative movement.

Meadows regularly appears in the national media and is an important figure in the House of Representatives, where he holds sway over a conservative bloc of 30 to 40 other representatives from across the country.

Check back for more information on this developing story in our next issue, due on stands April 26.

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Canton’s search for a new town manager took about an hour.

“We’ve sent a clear signal to the town and the region that we’re keeping things moving,” said Alderman Zeb Smathers of the board’s unanimous decision to tap Assistant Town Manager and Economic Development Director Jason Burrell as Town Manager Seth Hendler-Voss’ replacement.

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A Waynesville-based regional social services agency will finally get that new building its been after.

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Parking may get easier and safer for Junaluska Elementary School parents if a bill introduced by Rep. Mike Clampitt, R-Bryson City, makes it through committee.

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The straightforward Russ Gilliland is a fifth-generation Haywood County resident, but his path to becoming Maggie Valley’s newest police chief has been anything but.

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A new program by the Town of Maggie Valley offers citizens a candid look at what the town does, how it does it and how it pays for it.

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A “Mark Meadows Town Hall” meeting on health care in Waynesville April 23 doesn’t promise U.S. Rep. Mark Meadows will be there, but it does promise that an unnamed Democratic challenger will be. But who is it?

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North Carolina Congressman Mark Meadows, R-Asheville, is known as a staunch fiscal conservative, opposing expansive federal fiscal policy set forth by his Democratic colleagues — except when it comes to his own district.

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“More for less” — that’s the message Western North Carolina Congressman Mark Meadows, R-Asheville, is trying to send to Congress and President Donald Trump about the Affordable Care Act.

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UPDATE:  House Speaker Tim Moore has said the “Uphold Historic Marriage Act” will not be heard in the North Carolina House of Representatives because of "constitutional concerns,” according to WNCN.  

The enumerated powers of the federal government do not include the authority or power to establish laws concerning marriage; further, God says in Genesis 2:24 that "a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh."

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Residents of Haywood County stand to save at least $1 million a year if relaxed emissions standards become law — and there’s a good chance they will. 

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Widespread inequality in the rates Haywood County residents pay for fire protection is about to come to an end.

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Cultural bias and conflict aren’t new to Western North Carolina; chattel slavery and Cherokee removal still leave a deep and painful legacy for many in the region — something Folkmoot’s Cultural Conversations program seeks to remedy. 

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Cycling enthusiasts who want to help steer the direction of Canton’s proposed Comprehensive Bicyclist and Pedestrian Plan may want to roll on in to The Colonial Theater to have their say.

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After expressing his outrage early last month over a bill that would make school board elections partisan in Haywood County, Chairman Chuck Francis and the Haywood County School Board have formally spoken out against it.

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An admittedly imperfect compromise that could end the tempest of controversy surrounding North Carolina’s HB2 has been reached, but not everybody’s seeing rainbows after the storm.

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