Holly Kays

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fr goodsamaritanWhen someone shows up to a medical clinic, sick and suffering, the hardest words to say can be, “Sorry, but you’ll have to wait three months for an appointment.” 

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taxesSales tax in Jackson County could rise to 7 percent if voters approve a referendum vote that would add a quarter cent to the existing sales tax to help get the county’s K-12 and community college facilities back in shape.

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jacksonIt’s been two months since Jackson County Manager Chuck Wooten announced his impending retirement, and county commissioners are beginning the search for their perfect match to take over the reins.

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out trailartieBright sunshine? Sixty-degree weather? In February?

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fr house119The March ballot might feel a bit like déjà vu for Republican voters in N.C. House District 119, as Aaron Littlefield and Mike Clampitt once again face off for the chance to run against incumbent Rep. Joe Sam Queen, D-Waynesville, in November.

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fr house120Rep. Roger West’s, R-Marble, announcement that he wouldn’t be running for re-election left a void in N.C. House District 120, and two Republicans are vying to fill it. 

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jacksonJackson County Commissioners will vote this week on whether to approve a referendum vote for a quarter-cent sales tax increase to appear on the June 7 ballot for the U.S. House of Representatives primary.

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fr NOCIf discussions between Nantahala Outdoor Center and Jackson County continue to move forward, the outdoor recreation giant could start work this year on an adventure park and outfitter store in the tiny town of Dillsboro. 

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out fr“This is the ugliest fly I have,” says Mike Kesselring, pulling a battered-looking brown-bodied, black-feathered fly from a box marked “18. Antiques.”

The box is just one of the many filling the back of Kesselring’s red SUV, the fly just one the roughly 9,000 in his expansive collection. The flies run the gamut from the long, flowing streamers designed to resemble flashy-colored minnows to tiny but intricate creations mimicking the river’s smallest insect nymphs. Nearly all are prettier, more pristine than the 20-year-old thing Kesselring, 64, now holds up to the sunlight.

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fr cullowheePhones in Jackson County’s planning department have been buzzing lately with people interested in developing property in Cullowhee, and that news has spurred county commissioners to work toward getting a planning council in place to handle requests that might come their way.

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cherokeeWork will begin on establishing a shelter for Cherokee’s homeless following passage of a resolution Principal Chief Patrick Lambert introduced this month.

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fr turfA plan to replace the football field at Smoky Mountain High School with artificial turf is likely to move ahead following an engineer’s finding that the work could be done well within Jackson County Public School’s $715,000 cap for the project.

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sylvaSylva is going to hit the big screen next year, made over as the fictional town of Ebbing, Missouri, and home to a character portrayed by Oscar-winning actress Francis McDormand.

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fr scottscreekRunning through the hearts of Dillsboro and Sylva on its tumble down from Balsam, Scotts Creek has star potential. It could be a centerpiece of both downtowns — a magnet for anglers, kayakers and kids looking for a place to splash around.

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haywoodAfter three elk were shot on the Ross dairy farm in Jonathan Creek for eating winter wheat, a follow-up visit from wildlife officials revealed the remains of a fourth elk as well.

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elkElk hunting could be on the way to becoming legal in North Carolina following the N.C. Wildlife Resource’s Commission unanimous vote in favor of a rule change last week, though any actual season on elk is likely still a good ways in the future. 

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out huntMark Rogers sticks his hand through the cold air outside Bethel Grocery into the even more frigid interior of the standalone freezer settled beside the building along U.S. 276 in Haywood County. There’s a dead coyote inside, folded body hard and rigid through a combination of cold and rigor mortis. Rogers pulls it out into the sunlight, where bright rays bounce shine off its array of red, gray and white hairs.

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out frIt’s been 30 years since Raymond Bunn saw his first coyote, and that moment — Clay County, 1986 — is not one he’s likely to forget. 

“I remember well seeing it,” said Bunn, manager at Shed’s Hunting Supply in Sylva. “When I first seen it, I thought it was a German shepherd dog or something like that, but it was a coyote.”

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out frWhen the snow starts falling and Western North Carolina’s main streets, schools and businesses go to sleep in wait for warmer weather, there’s a select group of mountain residents who see the blanketed roads as an invitation rather than as an inhibition. 

They’re the cross-country skiers of Western North Carolina, and they’re not afraid of the cold.

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fr mottoSince launching the U.S. Motto Action Committee, Rick Lanier has gotten his pitch to government leaders pretty well dialed in. After the group won a lawsuit in 2005 challenging Davidson County’s display of the national motto on its county building, Lanier’s helped convince 67 North Carolina counties and municipalities to display the words “In God We Trust” on their buildings.

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fr roadA three-way finger-pointing contest over cracks in Southwestern Community College’s biggest building — and their relation to construction work on the R-5000 connector road project — could result in a lawsuit if the parties involved aren’t able to decide who should pay to fix it.

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jacksonA $15,000 contribution from Jackson County Commissioners will ensure that housing for the county’s homeless continues through the winter.

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out frAs national champion Karen Tripp likes to say, cyclo-cross is a sport that you win by seconds. And that’s just how the Sylva resident conquered nationals in Asheville this year. By seconds — 34 of them. 

“I think my mind and my focus was there,” Tripp said. “They all have to come together just right, because not every race is like that.”

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jacksonEvery month, the Jackson County Tourism Development Authority shells out $2,650 to keep its website updated, get it to show up prominently in search results and analyze digital traffic.

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fr sccplanWhat’s the best way to spend $55 million? As far as the leadership at Southwestern Community College is concerned, the answer is simple — build, build, build until the lengthy checklist returned from its recently completed master plan is all done.

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fr sequoyahThe new management at Sequoyah National Golf Club in Cherokee had hoped to start turning a profit within a year of taking the helm in the fall of 2014 — and while the course is still operating at a loss, the light at the end of the tunnel is drawing near, manager Kenny Cashwell said.

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fr centralmarchWaynesville’s youngest public demonstrators — along with their parents and teachers — took to the streets last week to show their love for Central Elementary School, a Waynesville institution that could shut down to as a result of a massive budget shortfall facing the school system.

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out frAs the sun goes down on the snow-covered mountain at Cataloochee Ski Area, anticipation spikes among the enlightened few who know what Thursday night on the slopes means.

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out hollyWhen I transplanted myself from Wyoming to North Carolina, I assumed that part of the deal would be relinquishing access to the singular thrill of breaking powder on cross-country skis, exploring through deserted, snow-caked forests and whitewashed vistas. I’m so happy to be so wrong.

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jacksonJackson County Public Schools wants more than $12 million for improvements to its facilities through 2020, but despite the big number, the requests are pretty basic, Superintendent Mike Murray told commissioners last week.

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jacksonThings are coming down to the wire for Jackson County’s only homeless shelter. Without a fast infusion of cash, Jackson County Neighbors in Need is set to run out of money in under two weeks, and winter is far from over. 

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fr taxrevalSome Jackson County property owners might find themselves doing a doubletake when notice of their updated property value comes in the mail next week.

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out frShould North Carolina start thinking about a hunting season for elk? 

If the crowd that turned out to the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission’s public hearing last week is any indication, it depends who you ask. Farmers, hunters, biologists, wildlife enthusiasts and everyone in between filled the seats at Haywood Community College’s auditorium, waiting for the chance to give their two cents on the Wildlife Commission’s proposal to pave the way for an elk hunting season in the future.

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fr centralNews that a beloved elementary school might close next year grabbed headlines last week, but shuttering Central Elementary School in Waynesville won’t be enough to make up for the $2.4 million budget shortfall Haywood County Schools is facing next school year.

REPORT: Feasibility study for the closure of Central Elementary by Haywood County Schools

WCUAfter a former employee won a lawsuit claiming that Western Carolina University had fired him without cause, the university is appealing the decision.

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out frFor Danny Bernstein and her husband Lenny, trips south to visit Lenny’s family in Miami Beach are a regular feature of life. They always drive rather than fly, and it didn’t take long to realize that the route brushes near an awful lot of national park units. The couple’s travel routine soon began to include two park visits with each trip — one on the way south and one on the return trip north. 

“As I really dug into it, this was not in and out,” said Danny Bernstein, who lives in Asheville. “It was, we’re going to spend a day and we’re going to do this.”

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fr shelterJackson County’s animal lovers had a message for county commissioners last week, and it couldn’t have been clearer: We need a new animal shelter, and quickly, speaker after speaker told the board. 

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cherokeeLast week wasn’t the first time since the new tribal leadership took office that the issue of separation of powers has cropped up. During the December budget hearings, things got heated in council chambers when Chief Justice Bill Boyum came to discuss the budget for Tribal Court.

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cherokeeWhen the Cherokee Tribal Council voted to create the Office of Legislative Support last week, it was doing more than ramping up tribal staffing.

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fr cherokeeDefendants in a lawsuit stemming from raises and backpay the Cherokee Tribal Council voted itself in October 2014 are hoping to convince a judge to dismiss the case against them.

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fr wootenFor Jackson County Manager Chuck Wooten, the time has come to shift his professional focus from managing a county to playing with the grandkids. After five years at the center of county operations, Wooten plans to make June 30 his last day, he announced last week.

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fr towerA proposal to build a new cell tower outside Cashiers got the OK from Jackson County Commissioners last week, a decision that came after months of public discussion and heated debate.

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coverFifteen years ago, a herd of 52 elk set foot in their new home — the Great Smoky Mountains National Park — for the first time, the start of an experimental attempt to restore the long-absent species to its rightful place in the North Carolina mountains. 

These days, the elk herd is quite a bit larger, with groups of the animals pinching off the original herd in the Cataloochee area and even taking up residence outside park boundaries. In anticipation of the herd’s continued growth, the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission has come out with a proposal to pave the way for an elk season, putting up the legal framework to make hunting possible once it deems population levels high enough. Often, proposals related to hunting and wildlife management are controversial, but this one appears to have support from a broad spectrum of people representing a range of wildlife and conservation interests.

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fr cattleRob Hawk’s been trying since spring to find a landing place for the grant he’d helped get for a cattle loading facility, but in his search through Jackson County, the Cooperative Extension director came up short.

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animal controlPet owners in the western counties will soon have a shorter drive to tackle when their furry charges are in need of emergency medical care. Junaluska Animal Hospital plans to open the first after-hours clinic west of Asheville in Waynesville on March 28.

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fr turfSchool officials in Jackson County will be crossing their fingers over the next few weeks, hoping to get a low number back from a study looking at the cost of putting artificial turf on the football field of Smoky Mountain High School.

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out frWhen the holidays wind down and schools go back in session, kids in some Western North Carolina classrooms will have more to look forward to than just books and lessons. For some, the first day back at school will also be a reunion with the tank full of trout sitting in their classroom. 

“It’s just pretty cool to have a tank of fish to watch grow over the course of the year,” said Ben Davis, a science teacher at Robbinsville High School who’s in his fourth year participating in Trout Unlimited’s Trout in the Classroom program.

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fr dougcodyDoug Cody was quite clear in his request to the Jackson County Commissioners when he showed up at their meeting this month. He likes serving on the Tuckaseigee Water and Sewer Authority board, and with his term set to expire Dec. 31, he wanted to be reappointed.

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fr possumdrop2After taking a hit in court earlier this month, the folks behind the annual Clay’s Corner Possum Drop got some good news that makes the prognosis for Brasstown’s 21st annual New Year’s Eve celebration look pretty positive. 

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fr tdadirectorAfter plugging along for seven months without one, Jackson County will welcome a new planning director when 2016 begins.

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