Holly Kays

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In response to the ongoing global coronavirus pandemic, Western Carolina University will postpone all spring commencement ceremonies originally scheduled for May 8 and 9, and will announce by April 3 plans for rescheduling the events.

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Coronavirus is causing changes, cancellations and postponements across the region. Find out what’s happening in your community.

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Coronavirus is causing changes, cancellations and postponements across the region. Find out what’s happening in your county.

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In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Tuckaseigee Water and Sewer Authority will suspend all disconnections and allow customers who were already disconnected to have their service restored without a fee.

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Operations have shifted on public lands in Western North Carolina due to the coronavirus pandemic.

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Kids with a penchant for learning and exploration will have the chance to see where their curiosity takes them during ASTROcamp this summer at Smokey Mountain Elementary School. 

If all goes as planned, Canton will soon have a 448-acre park for hiking, mountain biking and other outdoor recreation activities just a mile from town limits. The Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy hopes to close on the property, known as the Chestnut Mountain Tract and currently owned by Canton Motorsports LLC, within the next couple months. 

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The numbers are in for what an indoor pool might cost to build and maintain in Jackson County, and commissioners are set to vote April 7 on a resolution to move forward with a related referendum question on the November ballot. If the resolution is approved, the next step would be a public hearing, which will likely be held June 2. 

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For the first time in its 23-year history, Harrah’s Cherokee Casinos is closed. 

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The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians plans to sue the federal government in protest over a March 12 decision that will allow the Catawba Indian Nation to move forward with plans to build a casino in Kings Mountain. The Cherokee are claiming that the decision is flawed and that the government violated the law by not consulting the EBCI during completion of the associated Environmental Assessment. 

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Efforts to conserve the 488-acre property currently owned by Canton Motorsports got a boost when the N.C. Department of Justice awarded the project a $150,000 Environmental Enhancement Grant.

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Students at Western North Carolina’s institutions of higher learning will see impacts to their spring semester experiences as a result of the novel coronavirus pandemic.

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Sharon Taylor was in her mid-30s when she left her office gig to return to school, hoping to pursue a career that would allow her to spend more time outdoors and less time handling fluorescent-lit paperwork.

After graduating from Western Carolina University with a degree in natural resources management, Taylor found a job at the Coweeta Hydrologic Laboratory in Macon County, where she worked as a research technician and enjoyed the full menu of retirement and health benefits to which she was entitled as an employee of the University of Georgia. Things were going well, and if she gave UGA the next 20 years, they’d give her a comfortable retirement. 

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Nearly three years after the state legislature passed a bill allowing local governments to approve Sunday morning alcohol sales, the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians has passed its own version of what’s known as the Brunch Bill. 

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Changes to the alcohol situation at Western Carolina University games are on the way for the upcoming school year, both inside and outside of stadium walls. 

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A state-level budget stalemate that’s been ongoing since July could cause real problems — and real changes — at Western Carolina University if it continues much longer. 

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The atmosphere inside the Lake Logan Conference Center was more akin to a reunion of friends than to a gathering of business associates as members of the Stakeholders Forum for the Nantahala and Pisgah Plan Revision arrived Wednesday, Feb. 26 — and perhaps there’s good reason for that. 

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From president to state auditor, the March 3 Primary Election was full of an almost overwhelming slate of federal and state offices. Here’s how North Carolinians had voted in these state and federal races as of press time 10:30 p.m. Tuesday night, with 82 percent of precincts reporting:

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Susan Bogardus has won the Democratic primary in the race to represent Jackson County’s District 3 on the Board of Commissioners. Pulling 42.02 percent of the vote, she beat out opponents Cody Lewis and Brad Stillwell — who received 34.76 and 23.21 percent, respectively — for the chance to face Republican Tom Stribling in November. 

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The Millennial Apartments project overseen by Zimmer Development Corporation has racked up seven notices of violations of state standards since breaking ground on the project last summer in Cullowhee.

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Tribal Council will consider a pair of ordinances proposing changes to the tribe’s banishment laws during its March 5 meeting, and with discussions held during the Jan. 9 Tribal Council meeting and a Feb. 26 work session in the rearview, a final vote is likely. 

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Cades Cove has reopened following a two-month closure for repairs at Bote Mountain Tunnel.

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Lisa Hendy is an early riser, and when it comes to dealing with snow days in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park that’s a good thing. 

As chief ranger, Hendy’s responsibilities are many — but one of them is deciding when, if and for how long to close the roads when the weather gets bad. 

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Tribal Council is considering an ordinance change that would require the tribe’ various boards and committees to publicly televise or stream their meetings.

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The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians hopes to see a recent $5.8 million purchase by Kituwah LLC generate revenue for the tribe while simultaneously improving tribal members’ access to quality, affordable housing. 

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Cherokee resident Shannon White, 42, will face federal charges for allegedly distributing fentanyl that resulted in an overdose death.

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Sheriff Chip Hall is hoping that a recently adopted policy change will make it easier for the Jackson County Sheriff’s Department to recruit experienced law enforcement officers. 

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The Tuckaseigee Water and Sewer Authority will have a new executive director on the job by March 19 after the TWSA board voted unanimously during its Feb. 18 meeting to hire engineer Daniel Manring. 

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Neither Jamie and nor Ruffin Shackleford ever attended summer camp as children, but they believe they were built to lead it. 

Jamie first heeded that calling at the tender age of 10, when she invited all the neighborhood 3- and 4-year-olds to attend her three-day-a-week backyard summer camp. All it cost them was a quarter to help pay for snacks. 

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Morris Broadband has significantly upgraded and expanded its service in Macon and Jackson counties, increasing both its download speeds and its service area as the new decade begins.

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In Virginia last week, both the House and Senate passed versions of a bill that would allow for casino gambling in the state, but if those bills are enacted as currently drafted the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians will be out of luck on its plan to build a casino near Bristol. 

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The landscape got a bit brighter for food truck owners following a pair of decisions in Cherokee and Sylva this month. 

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Tribal Council approved an $89,745 donation to Jackson County Schools during its Budget Council meeting Tuesday, Feb. 4, money that will pay for desks, chairs and smart blackboards system classrooms. 

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With Republican Commissioner Ron Mau leaving his seat for a run at N.C. House District 119, three Democrats are vying for a chance to face Republican Tom Stribling in the General Election for the District 3 seat on the Jackson County Board of Commissioners. 

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After more than six years of work, a draft forest management plan for the Pisgah-Nantahala National Forest is now available.

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The Health and Human Sciences Building at Western Carolina University will reopen on Monday, Feb. 10 after a Feb. 6 hazardous materials incident caused an evacuation and sent multiple people to the hospital.

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Tribal Council expressed its support of the free press during a thoughtful discussion between its members and Smoky Mountain News Publisher Scott McLeod Wednesday, Feb. 5. 

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The Blue Ridge Parkway and Great Smoky Mountains logged a collective 3.7 million visits to park entrances in North Carolina west of Asheville last year, an 8.5 percent increase over 2018. 

The Smokies overall demolished visitation records, with preliminary numbers showing 12.55 million visits in 2019 — a 9.9 percent increase over the 11.42 million seen in 2018. Foothills Parkway West accounted for about 67.7 percent of the 1.3 million additional visitors after a new 16.5-mile section of the road opened in November 2018, making 2019 the first full year it was open. More than 1.5 million people drove on the 33-mile section that includes the new piece of road.

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How do you create new fluent speakers in a language that’s no longer the common tongue of its community? 

That’s the difficult question about 75 members of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians faced on Friday, Jan. 31, the second day of a two-day symposium focused on saving the Cherokee language. 

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Sylva’s finances are in a good place going into the 2020 budget season, but with the N.C. 107 project looming there’s no room for complacency. 

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Jordan Smith will lead Mainspring Conservation Trust into the new decade following a decision from the nonprofit’s board of directors.

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Motion Makers Bicycles in Cherokee is starting 2020 with a new location and a new roommate, but the same optimism about the future of outdoor sports on the Qualla Boundary. 

The bike shop’s Cherokee location first opened 2018, sharing a two-story yellow building on Big Cove Road with Franklin-based outfitter Outdoor 76. The concept was solid, but the logistics proved problematic. Four months after opening in Cherokee, Outdoor 76 launched a third location in Clayton, Georgia. Travel between the three locations was time-consuming, and the two-story layout was a challenge. 

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The Jackson County commissioners voted unanimously Jan. 21 to change their regular meeting schedule, with their second monthly meeting to be held at 1 p.m. rather than 3 p.m. going forward. 

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Western North Carolinians tuning into the Super Bowl this Sunday might do a double take when they glimpse scenes of Sylva in the pre-game programming.

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Sylva’s newest police chief was looking for the little town in Jackson County before he knew it existed. 

“I didn’t want to work for a big huge agency where you don’t know your officers’ names,” said Chief Chris Hatton. “I also didn’t want to go somewhere we were dealing with violent crime every day, every day a shooting or a robbery. I’ve done that. I didn’t want to do it again. Truthfully, I was looking for Sylva for two years. I didn’t know that then, but I was looking for a place where you can live a good life and be surrounded by good people.”

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The Great Smoky Mountains National Park saw a record 12.55 million visits in 2019, an increase of 1.13 million over 2018, which was also a record-breaking year.

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Waynesville native and X Games rookie Zeb Powell took gold Jan. 26 at an international competition held in Aspen, Colorado, wowing spectators and commentators alike.

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Jackson County Commissioners voted unanimously Jan. 21 to approve a design services contract for the animal shelter project planned for the Green Energy Park property.

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Work could begin on a long-awaited river park in Cullowhee sooner rather than later following completion of an N.C. Department of Transportation bridge project in the Old Cullowhee area. 

“We got the new maps from the DOT of where the road configuration was, and DOT had to acquire a lot of property to swing that road around,” said Anna Fariello, a longtime member of the community nonprofit Cullowhee Revitalization Endeavor, or CuRvE. “I didn’t realize how much land they actually took. We’re looking at these maps, and I was blown away.”

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When Gov. Roy Cooper signed a bill last July legalizing sports betting on Cherokee land, Harrah’s Cherokee Casinos expected to have the new offering up and running by late fall. But now it’s mid-winter, and sports betting is still not available at the casinos in Cherokee and Murphy. 

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