Cory Vaillancourt

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Officials on both the local and the state level have been adamant in demanding Pactiv Evergreen be held accountable for a number of unresolved issues since shortly after the company announced it would halt operations in Canton. But now, a week after the mill’s final whistle blew, they’re adopting a more forceful tone.

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Nearly three months ago, Pactiv Evergreen unceremoniously announced that after more than a century in operation, the paper mill at the heart of Canton would close. Since then, Canton Mayor Zeb Smathers has repeated an analogy comparing the community’s reaction to that of a death in the family.

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That the American health care coverage system is broken shouldn’t come as a shock to anyone, even proponents of the 2010 Affordable Care Act who thought Obamacare would make coverage affordable for everyone. But as long as workers with employer-subsidized health care are forced to rely on the generosity of capitalists for their health and well-being, there will continue to be crises like the one currently unfolding with soon-to-be unemployed workers at Pactiv-Evergreen’s Haywood County facilities.

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Pactiv Evergreen’s announcement that it would shutter its century-old paper mill was devastating enough for the tiny mountain town of Canton, but now the company is demanding a $14 million reduction in the assessed value of its real property — in essence, a tax break.

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There won’t be a tax increase, and there won’t be any borrowing from fund balance, but that doesn’t mean the Town of Waynesville’s proposed budget is flush with cash — with inflationary pressures outpacing revenue growth and substantial borrowing on the horizon, administrators are looking to keep the town’s financial house in good order.

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As first reported in The Smoky Mountain News, Haywood County Schools has proposed a multi-million dollar consolidation of several auxiliary services on a 28-acre parcel off Ratcliff Cove Road. For that to happen, the parcel must first be rezoned.

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Strong growth across multiple revenue streams will help Haywood County government balance increasing costs for staffing, schools and vehicles in its proposed 2023-24 budget; however, commissioners will also weigh a 1.5-cent property tax increase that just might help prevent yet another national tragedy right here at home.

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Absent any meaningful gun legislation by the North Carolina General Assembly or by Congress, the cost of protecting Haywood County’s children from being gunned down at their desks will now fall squarely upon county taxpayers, once a tax increase in next year’s proposed budget gets the final OK from commissioners.

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Less than two weeks after a story in The Smoky Mountain News revealed that a real estate marketing flyer along with correspondence between the town of Waynesville and Aldi indicated that the German grocer was eyeing a spot in the old Kmart plaza on Russ Avenue, the plaza has found a new owner.

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It’s been a little over a year since a draft of the Dobbs v. Jackson ruling was leaked, and a little under a year since the ruling was issued, overturning Roe v. Wade. Now, North Carolina’s Republican-dominated General Assembly will finally have its abortion bill — if they can get past Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s promised veto.

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Haywood Republican Rep. Mark Pless is closer than ever to getting partisan local elections in his district — part of a growing trend by North Carolina conservatives hoping to “out” Democrats at the polls this coming November, or sooner.

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The relatively recent rise of cryptocurrency, its associated strain on utility infrastructure and its potential to disrupt the peace and quiet of rural communities have all caused quite a ruckus in the Western North Carolina mountains. Elected officials in Haywood County are now looking for ways to prevent similar problems before they begin.  

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A real estate marketing flyer along with correspondence between Waynesville’s Land Use Administrator Byron Hickox and an Asheville sign company both point to the conclusion that German grocer Aldi is eyeing a spot in the old Kmart plaza on Russ Avenue.

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A relatively routine rezoning request for a parcel off Ratcliff Cove Road has inadvertently revealed multi-million dollar plans by Haywood County Schools to consolidate several of its auxiliary services in one central location — a move that could affect multiple facilities and have a ripple effect on several other ongoing county issues.

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New details from the Haywood County Tax Collector’s office show that Haywood Republican Commissioner Terry Ramey, who until recently hadn’t paid his property taxes since 2012, also failed to pay property taxes for at least five years before that, resulting in nearly $1,600 in taxes being deemed uncollectible.

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Across the state of North Carolina, the public’s right to know what its elected leaders are doing remains foundational to the principles of open government. But when elected officials— especially those suspected of wrongdoing — are asked for copies of their government-related communications, there’s absolutely no way to ensure that true and accurate records are being provided, and there’s absolutely nothing anyone can do about it.

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Canton’s 115th annual Labor Day Festival — the oldest in the South — could take on a more somber tone this September in light of the impending June closure of the paper mill at the center of town, but organizers hope to keep the mood festive with today’s announcement of a major headliner.

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Nearly two years after rains from Tropical Storm Fred inundated Haywood County and flooded parts of Bethel, Canton, Clyde and Cruso, important infrastructure projects are continuing with significant help from the North Carolina General Assembly.

On April 17, Rep. Mark Pless (R-Haywood) brought legislators from across the state to show them firsthand the work that remains.

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The town of Canton won’t quite look, feel or smell the same once the century-old paper mill finally closes later this year, but after a surprise announcement by Mayor Zeb Smathers on April 12, there’s some hope that in the future it will at least sound the same.

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As the man behind the controversial North Carolina-based American Muckrakers PAC, David Wheeler’s had an outsized impact on at least one recent congressional campaign, but in 2024, he’s looking to have that same impact on a race of his own.

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Last week, Canton Mayor Zeb Smathers hosted Gov. Roy Cooper and a panel of elected Democrat and Republican leaders along with economic development officials, workforce analysts and environmental policy officials, all trying to prepare for the inevitable closing of the venerable old mill at the center of town.

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North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper will return to Canton on April 6 to discuss the forthcoming closure of Pactiv Evergreen’s Canton paper mill, resources for impacted workers and how the state will hold the company accountable.

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Nearly all manner of calamity — global pandemic, cyber-attack, flooding and an impending shutdown of one of the area’s largest, highest-paying employers — has befallen Haywood County in the last three years, with all of them now conspiring to produce a decline in school enrollment that will most certainly create problems of its own.

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Every seat on Waynesville’s Board of Aldermen will be up for election this year, but if the town’s plan for pursuing the staggered terms comes to pass, the order in which candidates finish will be important. The top two finishers will be awarded four-year terms, and the next two finishers will be awarded two-year terms.

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After residents voiced concerns during a March 21 meeting over a North Carolina Department of Agriculture initiative to treat an invasive pest that has infiltrated Haywood County’s Cruso community, the NCDA announced earlier today that the treatment would be postponed for at least the rest of the year.

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A story published in today’s edition of the Waynesville Mountaineer contained inaccurate information about Pactiv Evergreen’s facility in Waynesville, a county official with knowledge of the situation told The Smoky Mountain News this morning.

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Last week, more than a hundred people turned up to an informational meeting about a North Carolina Department of Agriculture plan to treat a small portion of Haywood County’s Cruso community for an invasive species of moth. And they weren’t happy.

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Darris Moody’s failure to appear for a federal court hearing back in October could come back to haunt her, as prosecutors plan to seek a 2-level enhancement at her upcoming sentencing.

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While some elected officials and media outlets are going to great lengths to celebrate Gov. Roy Cooper’s signing of the Medicaid expansion bill passed by the North Carolina General Assembly, there remains one very real obstacle to enactment.  

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The initial shock of Pactiv Evergreen’s announcement that its Canton paper mill would soon cease operations hasn’t quite worn off for some, but the various parties affected by the closing have begun to take actions to mitigate the impact that has only just begun.

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The Town of Waynesville’s municipal governing board has taken steps to modernize its operations by proposing amendments to its charter — changing both the terms it uses to refer to elected representatives, and how those representatives are elected to their terms.

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Administrators from the Town of Canton’s various departments met with Mayor Zeb Smathers and members of the town board March 23 to begin to prepare for the financial impact of the closing of Pactiv Evergreen’s paper mill, estimated by Town Manager Nick Scheuer at roughly $3 million.

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Last week, more than a hundred people turned up to an informational meeting about a North Carolina Department of Agriculture plan to treat a small portion of Haywood County’s Cruso community for an invasive species of moth. And they weren’t happy.

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A March 21 letter from the general manager of Pactiv Evergreen’s Canton and Waynesville operations, John McCarthy, says the company will start mailing out mandated WARN notices to workers beginning on Thursday, March 23. 

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Haywood County Republican and real estate agent Lynda Bennett will be sentenced in federal court on June 20 after accepting a plea agreement for violating campaign finance laws during her failed 2020 congressional bid.

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The North Carolina General Assembly is one step closer to approving Medicaid expansion after the bill passed out of the Senate on March 15, but a popular amendment seen as a necessary addition by a Haywood County legislator — and every other member of the House — didn’t make the cut in the Senate.

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Haywood County still needs its proposed $21.5 million jail expansion, but an unexpectedly high bid from the lone construction bidder has temporarily derailed the process — a delay that could become costly.

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The 185-acre paper mill at the heart of Canton is the most visible sign of Pactiv Evergreen’s corporate presence in Haywood County, but they also own dozens of other parcels worth tens of millions of dollars.

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The union that represents most workers at Pactiv Evergreen’s Canton mill has been placed under control of its Pittsburgh-based international union, stripping local officers of their titles and power.

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For the first time since 2008, North Carolina’s governor is termed out, meaning Democrats and Republicans will both have a pretty fair shot at what will be an open seat come 2024.

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In a letter sent by North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper to Mike King, CEO of Pactiv Evergreen, Cooper says that closing the Canton paper mill would violate the terms of a 2015 economic development deal and require the company to repay the state $12 million.

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No one living can remember a time when there wasn’t a paper mill at the heart of Canton. Now, after 115 years in operation, it all comes down to three months.

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