Cory Vaillancourt

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In a region as rich in local lore as this, it may seem like every story’s been told to death, including that of the infamous Cowee Tunnel disaster. 

North Carolina, though, is also home to the old-world tradition of telling stories through song and has an ample supply of musicians like Balsam Range frontman Buddy Melton and his buddies, Haywood native Milan Miller and Piedmont bassist Mark W. Winchester, who on their 2010 album Songs From Jackson County relate the incident about as well as anyone else ever could.

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Since late 2017, the Town of Waynesville has been deeply involved in the creation of a successor to the current comprehensive plan that was adopted in 2002 and slated to last until 2020. 

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A long-underutilized gem in the heart of Waynesville’s historic downtown has finally found a new owner, sparking optimism that new businesses could move in and further augment Haywood County’s urban core while yet preserving its unique aesthetic.

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Despite proposed increases in nearly every major budget category, Haywood Community College is proposing a substantial new facility that could be hard to fund — and even harder not to fund. 

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The Haywood County school system presented its proposed local current expense budget to Haywood County commissioners April 15, and at least one school board member is optimistic about how it was received. 

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It’s no secret that Western North Carolina has long been a haven for outdoor recreational enthusiasts, but as that particular segment of North Carolina’s economy continues to expand, Gov. Roy Cooper is doing all he can to foster further growth. 

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The Town of Waynesville and Haywood County both got a spot of good news last week when it was announced that the building that was originally the county’s hospital would advance to the next stage in potential redevelopment. 

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Steadfast she stands in a yellow bonnet, wearing the mountain range behind her like a shawl draped upon her blouse of green, one arm clutching the yellow apron atop her red dress and the other outstretched as though waving or beckoning to someone or something unseen off in the distance.

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Working in municipal government, one often encounters geographic challenges that exist in some areas, but not in others. 

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Haywood County’s opportunity zone has been getting “a lot of looks,” according to County Program Administrator David Francis, but it’s certain to become more attractive now that the county’s adjusted its economic development incentive policy. 

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Think about it like this — your buddy owns a factory that makes widgets and he can sell as many widgets to his customers as they want to buy, but your factory makes a slightly different version of that widget and state law prohibits you from selling more than five widgetlets to any customer in any given year. 

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A bill currently in the United States Senate that could clear the way for a new North Carolina casino is already seeing stiff opposition from local governments in the vicinity of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians’ two Western North Carolina gaming facilities. 

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Almost 120 years ago, local newspapers reported two separate instances of attempted rape in Haywood County. 

Similarities between the two cases are many. Both victims were young girls under the age of 11, both alleged perpetrators were grown men, both knew their victims, both were apprehended and both were immediately jailed. 

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Years after demolishing a blighted structure in Waynesville’s historic African-American neighborhood, aldermen still haven’t funded the park that was supposed to take its place, and neighborhood residents aren’t happy. 

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In January, Haywood County Schools Superintendent Dr. Bill Nolte told The Smoky Mountain News that HCS would engage in a “long haul process” to exhaust every “reasonable and legal thing that we can do” in the fight to reassign Tuscola High School’s athletic programs to a more appropriate division. 

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Sure, summer camps are all about creating precious childhood memories filled with friends and fun, but at Waynesville’s Pigeon Community Multicultural Development Center, it’s also about sharpening academic skills and teaching the next generation of young Americans the value of social responsibility. 

When Susan Courtney Harris first came to the Smokies, she was just looking for a place to escape the stifling Florida summers. What she actually found in Haywood County was the beginning of a cherished century-old legacy for thousands of girls and women.

Waynesville aldermen have taken a historic step toward replacing the town’s ailing sewer plant — a step that will bind the town with up to $16 million in debt for the next 20 to 40 years.

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After years of fits and starts, Maggie Valley’s unified development ordinance is finally about to see the light of day, and town officials are hoping for as much public input as possible to ensure a smooth transition.

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A trending hashtag … err … #trashtag has been gaining worldwide attention for encouraging people to photograph pictures of the trash they pick up, so it should be no surprise that the person who came up with the idea is from rural Haywood County in rugged, scenic Western North Carolina.

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A substantial and somewhat surprising gift by two Haywood County natives has the potential to contribute to the community for generations to come.

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Although it wasn’t a formal budget retreat, leaders in the Town of Canton met last week to begin identifying budget priorities for when that time does come. 

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In the ever more competitive battle to lure motoring tourists to Haywood County — and to keep them in the county once they’re here — a plan by the Haywood County Tourism Development Authority to install custom wayfinding signage remains at a dead stop, with no signs they’ll be up any time soon. 

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Municipal budget season is well underway, and in at least one Haywood County town, the discussion isn’t about rising costs or decreasing revenue — it’s about what to do with a burgeoning balance sheet.

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Michael Cohen’s recent testimony to the House Oversight and Reform Committee took an unexpected dive deep into America’s racial divide, and Western North Carolina’s Congressman Mark Meadows jumped right in to it. 

That led to relentless lampooning of the four-term Republican, culminating in his buffoonish portrayal on a recent episode of Saturday Night Live, but Meadows’ constituents of color aren’t laughing. 

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When President Donald Trump signed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act into law on Dec. 22, 2017, proponents hailed it as the most significant tax reform in three decades. Lost in the hullabaloo over the tiny, temporary tax bracket adjustments — financed by a burgeoning federal deficit — was a new program designed to spur investment in low-income census tracts across the country. 

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A broken window, classrooms in shambles, irreplaceable items destroyed, kitchen coolers left open and perishable food thrown all over the floors — that’s what Tausha and Lynn Forney walked in to find last week at the Pigeon Community Multicultural Development Center in Waynesville. 

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What was hoped to be a slick new attraction designed to bring more visitors to Maggie Valley during wintertime has instead been shown to be an attraction of a different sort — a magic trick that turned $36,268 of taxpayer money into just $4,338 of ticket sales.

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On Friday, Jan. 29 at the Lake Logan Conference Center, Waynesville Mayor Gavin Brown convened a board retreat where he and aldermen Caldwell, Feichter and Roberson talked about infrastructure, cemeteries, and the general financial status of the town. 

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Woe to those public bodies that fail to comply with North Carolina’s sunshine laws; transparency underpins American democracy to the extent that there’s a whole chapter of complicated regulations in the N.C. General Statutes that define public records, public meetings, the availability of both and the very real penalties for violations.

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As the largest local government unit in The Smoky Mountain News’ four-county coverage area, Haywood County sees more action — in public, and in private — than probably any other government out there. 

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The Town of Waynesville Board of Aldermen meets every two weeks, or about 24 times a year, depending on the calendar. 

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Haywood County’s five local governments more or less fall into two tiers — there’s the county and there’s Waynesville, and then there’s everybody else. 

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Aided by the left and abetted by the media, violent jihadists are slowly but surely infiltrating our government, our schools and our society in furtherance of their nefarious goal of turning the United States into a Sharia-ruled Islamic caliphate — and only a small group of patriotic conservatives, like the Haywood County Republican Party, can stop them. 

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Not long after retired U.S. Air Force officer and former teacher Mary Ford moved to Waynesville with her husband, she decided to enroll in something called the Waynesville Civilian Police Academy. The next year, she found herself in charge. 

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Barely a year after he was hired, Nathan Duncan is out at Shining Rock Classical Academy.

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In a county as old as Haywood, there exist all manner of half-remembered places and faces long gone from the physical world yet immortalized through penciled notes on the backs of dog-eared, sepia-toned photographs.

Sunburst, in southeastern Haywood County, is one of those places; the subject of intense historical research, it’s been documented better than most ghosts of Haywood past, but the story of Sunburst has always been short one chapter. 

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With his thick Brooklyn accent, Danny Mannlein isn’t exactly the type of “local” most Haywood County residents are used to seeing, but as Waynesville’s downtown business district continues to boom, more and more people like him are making Main Street their commercial home. 

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As the Great Recession recedes further and further into the rear-view mirror, most local economic indicators in Western North Carolina appear to have recovered or at least stabilized sufficiently, including the Haywood County Tourism Development Authority’s revenue collections. 

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Financial aid and scholarships are a great way to pay for college, but not everyone qualifies. For those who do, financial aid doesn’t always cover the full cost of tuition, making it harder for some to break the cycle of generational poverty through education. 

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The longstanding brouhaha over a makeshift dwelling near Frog Level has escalated to the point where enforcement action is likely in the coming days. 

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Four-time freshman legislator and recently re-elected Rep. Joe Sam Queen, D-Waynesville, launched into this year’s legislative session by hosting a trio of town hall meetings across his district, but if the ones held in Jackson and Swain counties were anything like the one in Waynesville on Feb. 16, there’s just one thing on people’s minds — expanding Medicaid. 

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North Carolina’s rigid school calendar law has been in place since 2004, but over the past few weeks, a pair of resolutions — one passed by the Haywood School Board, the other by Haywood County Commissioners — have again expressed a desire for changes in the “one size fits all” calendar. 

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During the protracted approval process of a proposed development that would bring around 200 new apartments to a 41-acre parcel of land near Waynesville’s Walmart, opponents threw everything but the kitchen sink at the project — everything, that is, except for the possibility of Cherokee cultural artifacts on the property. 

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Editor's note: some names in this story have been changed to honor a request from the family of the deceased. 

At 13, Tuscola High School freshman Zemra Teuta was like almost any other American teenage girl — she liked popular music, boys, hanging out with friends and chatting on social media. 

Zemra, however, wasn’t like every other teenage American girl. She was different. 

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It’s $13 million now, or $40 million later, according to a presentation by Haywood Superintendent of Schools Dr. Bill Nolte intended to give Haywood County commissioners an idea of what it will take to address the district’s classroom and administrative needs for the next several decades. 

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It’s not Haywood County Manager Bryant Morehead’s first budget, but it is his first budget in Haywood County. 

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Huddled together in the dark near an old wood stove beneath an elaborate rigging of tarps and tents on a debris-strewn mucky dirt lot they’d called home for nearly a year, Susan “Sassy” Fulp and her fiancé Ronnie Hicks watched the heavy wet snow fall and felt the waylaid limbs of weary trees crash to the ground until Sassy finally noticed an unusual silence rising from the town around them. 

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A little over two years ago, I woke up in Alexandria, Virginia, less than 24 hours after the inauguration of the nation’s 45th president. 

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An architect by training, North Carolina Lt. Gov. Dan Forest became only the second Republican in the last 120 years to be elected to the post when he defeated Democrat Linda Coleman by less that two-tenths of a percent in 2012. Four years later, in 2016, his victory over Coleman was much more decisive, but Gov. Pat McCrory’s narrow loss to Rocky Mount Democrat Roy Cooper created an unexpected opportunity for the state’s highest-ranking Republican. 

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