Cory Vaillancourt

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Haywood County’s latest economic development victory – a state of the art, $12 million hemp processing facility – means that Canton will become among the first local municipalities to cash in on the new “green” economy.

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He was a seasoned dumpster diver by now. For the last three summers, he’d regularly swoop down in the dead of night to go “shopping,” collecting fruits and veggies to preserve for the winter. 

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The tiny central Haywood County town of Clyde lies more than 270 miles from the Atlantic Ocean, more than 400 miles from the Gulf of Mexico and more than 2,500 feet above both of them, so it must have seemed like a cruel joke when back-to-back hurricanes over the course of about a week caused unprecedented regional flooding. 

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Decades after it first opened in 1962, Ghost Town in the Sky still commands a wistful loyalty from thousands of people who remember it during its heyday and are eager to return. 

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As you read this, I’ve just noted the passing of my third anniversary with this 20 year-old newspaper and as such, the retrospectives I was charged to write this week were all on events that took place long before my arrival — except for this one. 

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With municipal candidate filing little more than a month away, the race to replace outgoing Maggie Valley Mayor Saralyn Price will likely involve two current members of the town’s board of aldermen.

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It’s been a tumultuous couple of years for Shining Rock Classical Academy, which has dealt with a variety of administrative and educational issues since even before opening in 2015. Anna Eason, one of SRCA’s founding members, served as chair of the board of directors since January 2017. During that time the board has been faced with ongoing personnel scuffles with the founding Head of School Ben Butler resigning in October 2017, the hiring of a second Head of School Nathan Duncan in 2018 and his termination in January 2019.

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Editor’s note: This is the second in a series of stories on Haywood County’s public charter school, Shining Rock Classical Academy, which has been beset by academic and organizational problems since opening in 2015.

He may be a “stern but respectful” disciplinarian, but he’s never been known to intimidate or bully students, he’s great with kids of all ages and he’s brought stability to Shining Rock Classical Academy.

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On one of the first warm sunny Saturdays early in Western North Carolina’s tourist season, the traditional signs of a Maggie Valley summer — small groups of motorcycles and pedestrians idling down Soco Road — were on full display. Not far off, on a small parcel of land nestled between a Baptist church and a distillery, a different group of people was planting some seasonal signs of their own. 

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For the second year in a row, Haywood County taxpayers can expect no increase in property taxes, thanks to increasing revenues and a substantial fund balance appropriation, but the county’s health care costs are starting to become nearly unmanageable. 

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Of all the victims of the nation’s opioid epidemic, probably the most overlooked are the municipalities that have to expend taxpayer-funded resources to deal with the problem.

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The search for Shining Rock Classical Academy’s next head of school will continue, after the board took no action following a short closed session to discuss personnel earlier this evening.

A hire was widely expected tonight, and many expected it to be Interim Head of School Joshua Morgan. On May 8, then-Board Chair Anna Eason said, “We would hope to have a decision made at the next meeting, but if we need more then we will take time to get more because again, we want to get this right.”

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The Town of Canton’s preliminary proposed budget shows an increase over last year from $8.7 million to more than $9.2 million. Most of that is from monies split between budget years and slight increases in some spending categories, but Mayor Zeb Smathers was eager to answer the question on the minds of most. 

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Much like the Pigeon River itself, it’s been a long and winding journey for the Town of Clyde in recovering from the devastating floods of 2004, but after a few turbulent stretches in its redevelopment, River’s Edge Park off Thickety Road will finally re-open to the public. 

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Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of stories on Haywood County’s public charter school, Shining Rock Classical Academy, which has been beset by a host of academic and organizational problems since opening in 2015.

As Shining Rock Classical Academy now searches for its third head of school in just four years, Interim Head of School Joshua Morgan has emerged as a leading candidate for the job.

A group of concerned parents don’t think Morgan should be the next head of school, or even working in education at all. They say he’s a bully with anger management issues who physically intimidates students and recently placed one in a martial arts hold.

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At this time last week, few knew of him and most all those who did were of the home — Waynesville, in Haywood County. 

The first time I heard his name roll off the tongues of these Western North Carolinians on that bright morning, it was Howl. Riley Howl. Like Ginsburg’s Howl, the “I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness” Howl. 

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It’s barely been a week since Riley Howell’s heroic acts at the University of North Carolina-Charlotte, but a group of people who knew him best have already established a charitable foundation that will ensure that his heroism did not end on the day he died. 

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Last month, Haywood Community College President Dr. Barbara Parker told Haywood commissioners that HCC wanted a new $7.2 million facility that would augment the school’s ability to train and produce badly-needed medical professionals.

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Longtime Waynesville Police Chief Bill Hollingsed will retire in June after more than 20 years at the helm of the Waynesville Police Department. 

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Although the impact of the shooting at UNC Charlotte will continue to be felt for some time, residents of the rural community that raised Riley Howell have begun the healing process today by welcoming the hero home.

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It’s long been a common sight, the scores of visitors to Waynesville’s trendy Main Street shopping district snapping selfies in front of two giant metal sculptures located on the corner of Main and Miller streets. 

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As promised, a group of about 20 people showed up to the April 23 Town of Waynesville Board of Aldermen meeting to bemoan what they say is a lack of progress on a small park to be located along Pigeon Street in Waynesville’s historically African-American neighborhood.

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Months after a proscribed cleanup in Waynesville’s Green Hill Cemetery outraged residents who felt they hadn’t been given adequate notice, the town has followed through on its pledge to establish a committee designed to foster more collaborative care of both Green Hill and Dix Hill cemeteries. 

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When the Town of Waynesville’s skate park opened in 2013, it was a welcome addition to the suite of recreational opportunities then available to area residents — especially to the small but zealous group of die-hards like Jared Lee who grew up grinding around town.

Although skating has always been a niche activity, the skateboarding industry is now poised for a major boom, just as one of the park’s biggest proponents prepares to bring up the next generation of local skaters. 

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There are a number of reasons to walk or bike to work, to play or to shop — saving money on gasoline, experiencing the health benefits of regular physical activity, or just a general desire to stop and smell the roses — but that’s especially so in the compact, walkable communities that dot much of Western North Carolina. 

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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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