Holly Kays

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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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cashiersA plan to double the capacity of a planned development near Cashiers got the go-ahead from Jackson County commissioners when they voted unanimously last week to approve amendments to the agreement with Chinquapin, LLC.

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election timeThough both of the Jackson County commissioners up for re-election will have competition when November rolls around, the primary season will be quiet with only one person from each party running for each seat. 

coverLynda Doucett and her staff at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park were pretty excited to move into the new Oconaluftee Visitor Center when it opened back in 2011. The staff on that side of the park had been stuffed into the tiny little “temporary” visitor center next door in the old administration building since 1948, so the brand new $3.5 million building was definitely going to be an upgrade. 

But the 2011 move involved change beyond increased floor space and better interpretive displays. The more impressive building enticed more of the visitors driving by to stop in, and because the timing coincided with an overall surge of visitation in the park, there were more passerbys overall.

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out frJust like Haywood County’s watershed, fed by springs that all have their start inside county borders, Cherokee mythology surrounding places in Haywood is all about beginnings.

“All of the Cherokee myths and legends here in Haywood County are about origins,” Barbara Duncan, education director of the Museum of the Cherokee Indian, told the crowd gathered at Haywood Waterways Association’s end-of-year banquet last week. “This is a fascinating parallel to me with the geography.”

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jacksonAfter holding a public hearing last week, at its next meeting Jackson County Commissioners will likely approve an agreement allowing the Chinquapin housing development near Cashiers to expand the capacity of its planned 200-home neighborhood to 400.

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fr celltowerA proposed cell phone tower in Cashiers is drawing heated opinion from both sides, but it will be several weeks before commissioners make a final decision on whether to give the go-ahead for its construction.

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jacksonIt took only minutes for the Jackson County Tourism Development Authority to approve Nick Breedlove as its new contracted director last week, but for Breedlove that moment was months in the making. While the 30-year-old Webster mayor, journalist and photography business owner has plenty of tasks to fill his time, when he first heard the TDA was fishing for a director, it didn’t take long for him to decide to throw his hat in the ring.

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fr dillsboroEver since the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad left Dillsboro in 2008, the little town has been just barely chugging along. But if the last year is any indication, things could be turning around for the tourist-centered village.

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out frThe agricultural community of Bethel now has a new type of farm in its midst — solar. 

Visible from U.S. 276, the 8.2-acre property sandwiched between the Bethel Community Cemetery and Exxon-Mobil gas station holds more than 6,000 solar panels, each 6 feet, 5 inches long and 3 feet, 3 inches wide. The whole array has a size of 1.5 megawatts, a rating that allows it to produce 2.9 million kilowatt-hours per year, enough to power 240 average U.S. homes.

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fr jacksonmauThe race for county commissioner in District 3 of Jackson County will no longer be an uncontested one following Ron Mau’s decision to file as a Republican candidate.

fr glenvilleAfter testing last year found Lake Glenville’s walleye fish to have some of the highest mercury concentrations in North Carolina, state officials returned to Jackson County to look at mercury levels in other fish species.

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fr sylvaAsk any Sylva long-timer, and they’ll tell you that Main Street today looks a lot different than it did ten, five or even just a couple years ago. There’s an energy, a bustle, and a new cohort of businesses moving in to drive the feeling.

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cherokeeDrug addiction is perhaps the biggest crisis on the Qualla Boundary, and it’s time that tribal government got serious about punishing traffickers, members of Cherokee Tribal Council agreed last week.

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fr marijuanaJust over a month after voting unanimously to study the pros and cons of legalizing marijuana on the Qualla Boundary, the Cherokee Tribal Council held a vote whose outcome was nearly a mirror image of the first. Last week, council voted 11-1 to uphold Principal Chief Patrick Lambert’s veto of the study, with Councilmember Travis Smith, of Birdtown, the sole nay vote.

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out frNational forest trails around Fontana Village are in for an overhaul, thanks to a federal grant that’s putting the final piece in a years-long funding puzzle. 

Between 2013 and 2015, the U.S. Forest Service has pulled in a total of $380,000 in grants to work on the area, but it’s just now getting going on the project the money was intended to support — 9 miles of upgraded trails in the Nantahala National Forest that will connect to the roughly 28 miles of trail that Fontana Village Resort, in Graham County, maintains on its own property.

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fr jaxsecurityThe start of business Thursday, Dec. 10, will mean the coming-to-order of five different court sessions in Jackson County, a giant figure for a county with only two actual courtrooms at its disposal. To meet demand, courts will be squirreled away wherever there’s space — in the commissioners’ boardroom, in the county law library, in the old courtroom that’s now the community room of the Jackson County Library.

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fr indoorpoolIt’s been more than two years since Jackson County finished a recreation master plan declaring an indoor pool a top priority, and leaders of the county’s Parks and Recreation Department and Recreation and Parks Advisory Board are itching to see the idea move closer to reality — this fall they voted to make getting a feasibility study done their number one goal.

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cashiersIn the nearly eight years the Cashiers-area Chinquapin development has been around, just 30 of the planned 200 lots have been sold, and only six homes have been constructed. But now the property is under new management, and its owners at Waterfront Group hope to double the number of units, estimating full build-out of the hoped-for 400 home sites within five years.

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jacksonAn application to build a new cell tower in Cashiers is back on the table, after the company, Crown Castle, yanked its original request in June.

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jacksonJackson County had been without a planning director for half a year when commissioners sent out a job offer this month. But the offer came back rejected, and the position will have to stay vacant for a little while longer.

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election timeBrasstown might be facing another possumless Possum Drop this year after a Wake County judge shot down the state’s motion to dismiss a lawsuit from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, or PETA.

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fr kituwahWith the school year nearing its midpoint, sixth-graders at New Kituwah Academy in Cherokee are starting to ask an increasingly urgent question: Will I have to change schools next year?

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jacksonA State Bureau of Investigations probe is looking into possible wrongdoing on the part of a pair of former Southwestern Community College employees.

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fr shootingrangeAfter measuring lead levels of more than 200 times the state limit for safety near its shooting range, Southwestern Community College is getting ready for some potentially pricy cleanup.

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jacksonIf the selection panel’s pick gets the backing of the full board, Jackson County’s likely to have a new tourism director in place by the time 2016 rolls around.

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out fr“I just don’t want to take any chances,” the hard-hatted contractor tells the officers as they get out of their flashing police car. 

The hotel he’s working on has been getting threats from a group of environmental extremists, and caution kicked in when he caught sight of someone slipping around the corner of the building as he pulled into the driveway after hours. He’d come back to pick up a paper he’d left behind, but nobody else was supposed to be there.

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fr jaxtaxesThe yardstick Jackson County will use to calculate property values next year is up for discussion at a public hearing 5:40 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 19, at the Jackson County Administration Building.

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