Holly Kays

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A partial solar eclipse will be visible across the northern hemisphere on Thursday, June 10, hitting Western North Carolina around sunrise. 

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Of North Carolina’s 100 counties, 84 are currently abnormally dry or experiencing drought — but the far western region is so far exempt. 

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After multiple work sessions and a public hearing, Jackson County commissioners may designate an additional $444,000 in the 2021-22 budget for law enforcement and emergency response salaries. 

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Tribal Council incumbents fared well in Thursday’s Primary Election, with all six representatives who faced primary contests sailing easily toward the Sept. 2 General Election. However, the General Election ballot will feature only one incumbent Cherokee Central Schools Board member between the three school board races underway this year. 

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Visitors to the Joyce Kilmer-Slickrock Wilderness on the Nantahala National Forest should take extra precautions after recent reports of bear encounters in the area. 

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The 2021 Assault on Blackrock trail race raised $4,100 for the Southwestern Community College Student Emergency Fund. 

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Tribal Council incumbents fared well in Thursday’s Primary Election, with all six representatives who faced primary contests sailing easily toward the Sept. 2 General Election. The General Election ballot will feature only one incumbent Cherokee Central Schools Board member among the three seats up for election this year.

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After five years heading the agency, Jennifer Abshire will retire as director of the Jackson County Department of Social Services on July 1. Following a closed session discussion June 1, county commissioners unanimously approved the social services board’s decision to hire Graham County DSS Director Cris Weatherford to take her place.

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The morning fog is barely lifting at 8 a.m. when a group of five women meet outside Kathy Odvody’s home in Waynesville. I add my fully loaded backpack to the pile accumulating in the rear of Outdoor Mission Community’s lumbering 15-passenger van, and after a brief exchange of names we buckle in for a 36-hour wilderness adventure. 

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Sarah Dearmon was the only person who spoke during the May 27 public hearing for a proposed Sylva town budget  that calls for an 18 percent increase over the general fund from 2020-21. But her comments directly addressed the main debate board members and town citizens have grappled with during this year’s budget process. 

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Tiffany Henry will be Jackson County’s next director of economic development following a unanimous vote from county commissioners May 18. The vote followed a 25-minute closed session discussion at the end of the board’s regular meeting.

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Despite a raging pandemic, Harrah’s Cherokee Casinos’ revenues for October 2020 through March 2021 delivered a larger per capita payment to tribal members than the last June distribution based on pre-pandemic earnings. 

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Western North Carolina teenager Evy Leibfarth will represent the United States in the Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo this year after placing first in two Olympic Team Trials competitions in April. 

The first trails at Canton’s Chestnut Mountain Park will be ready to ride before the leaves drop this fall thanks to an overwhelmingly successful fundraising effort from Asheville YouTuber Seth Alvo. 

Rex Mann’s father was the kind of storyteller whose voice would make everyone in the room stop what they were doing, come and listen. 

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During the Primary Election next week, Cherokee voters will decide which candidates vying for seats on Tribal Council and the Cherokee Central Schools Board of Education will progress to the Sept. 2 General Election. 

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Note: The initial story published May 26 was based on incorrect budget documents from Jackson County that reflected a total budget of $87 million. However, the county later released corrected documents showing a total proposed budget of $78.9 million, representing a 6.27% increase over the 2020-21 adopted budget and a 2% decrease over the amended budget — not the 17.5% increase originally reported. 

Jackson County Manager Don Adams presented a proposed budget May 18 that represents a 6.27% increase in total spending over the 2020-21 adopted budget but a 2% decrease over last year's amended budget.

It would reduce the current tax rate from 38 to 36 cents per $100 of value, but most homeowners will likely receive a higher total tax bill. Due to increased values following this year’s revaluation, the revenue-neutral rate would be 34.47 cents per $100.

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The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians is appealing an April 16 decision from District Court Judge James A. Boasberg that paved the way for the Catawba Indian Nation to develop a casino in Cleveland County.

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The pedestal of the Confederate soldier statue in Sylva will get a $14,000 makeover following a 4-1 vote from the Jackson County commissioners. 

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Tiffany Henry will be Jackson County’s next director of economic development following a unanimous vote from county commissioners May 18. The vote followed a 25-minute closed session discussion at the end of the board’s regular meeting.

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The outdoor industry has for years been on an upward trajectory in Western North Carolina, and a regional branding campaign unveiled May 18 aims to boost it even further. 

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During a May 11 work session, Jackson County commissioners discussed a plan to use $400,000 from the general fund — previously allocated to the Cullowhee Volunteer Fire Department — to fund personnel and per-call pay at five other fire departments in the county. 

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New COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are falling toward the lowest levels seen since the pandemic took root. 

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Early voting is underway for the June 3 Primary Election in Cherokee, which will determine the final slate of candidates progressing to the Sept. 2 General Election. 

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Cherokee scholar Thomas Belt received an honorary doctorate of humane letters from Western Carolina University last week during commencement on Saturday, May 15.

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“My name is Tommy Thomas. I’ve been fly fishing 30, maybe closer to 40 years now,” says the man wearing a reel of fishing line as a necklace, by way of introducing himself to the couple dozen people gathered for a morning fly fishing class May 7 at Lake Junaluska Dam.

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Early voting is underway for the June 3 Primary Election in Cherokee, which will determine the final slate of candidates progressing to the General Election Sept. 2. This year, all 12 Tribal Council seats are up for election, as well as School Board seats for Wolfetown, Big Cove and Birdtown.

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In a pair of actions taken during Tribal Council on Thursday, May 6, Tribal Council voted to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana and to stop testing Housing Improvement Program residents and applicants for the drug. 

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Carmaleta Littlejohn Monteith has worn an impressive number of titles over the course of her life. 

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The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians will pursue a new casino project in partnership with a publicly traded gaming company, following a vote during Tribal Council Thursday, May 6. 

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For the fourth straight week, the rate of vaccinations has decreased in the four-county area, with just 0.5 percent of the four-county area’s population receiving a first dose between May 3 and May 10. 

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The Appalachian Trail Conservancy has lifted a recommendation against long-distance hikes on the A.T. for the first time since the pandemic struck last spring.

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Austin San Souci was just 2 years old the first time he rode a bike. 

“He never had training wheels. He just took off,” said his father, Tyler San Souci. “We sort of supported that all along.”

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While Sylva’s leaders have considered the idea of a town occupancy tax a couple times over the years, so far they’ve always walked away from the discussion deciding that it wouldn’t be the right move for the small town of 2,700.

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Vaccinations continue to slow down in the four-county area and in the state as a whole, but case counts are dropping too, with the 981 new cases reported statewide May 4 — marking just the fourth time since October that figure has fallen below 1,000.

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During an April 29 work session, four of Sylva’s five board members signaled their approval of a draft budget totaling $4.9 million, 18 percent more than the budget approved last June. It includes a tax rate increase of 1.5 cents per $100 of property value and $400,000 in America Rescue Plan funding. 

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Despite their proximity to multiple slope failures on and around Allen Street in Sylva, two trouble spots that appeared in late 2020 are unrelated to the others, according to a recently released engineering report. 

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On cold January days, Bob and Janaye Houghton prefer to eat outside. 

“If it’s 20 degrees in the sunshine, it’s Miami,” Bob said. 

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For Lin Forney, the end of fourth grade was the end of an era. 

The year was 1963, and the world was changing. Nine years earlier, the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark Brown vs. Board of Education decision struck down the “separate-but-equal” precedent that allowed racial segregation in schools, and the Civil Rights movement was spurring change — or at least talk of it — in communities across the South. Now, that change was coming home to Haywood County. The schools were desegregating. 

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Jackson County leaders are considering adding a penny to the county’s tax rate to fund the Cullowhee Volunteer Fire Department’s request for eight full-time employees.

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Western Carolina University is gearing up for a traditional college experience this fall with plans to resume all typical academic, social and extracurricular activities. 

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State of residence was the most visible dividing line in an April 14 hearing on the proposed terms for a renewed wastewater discharge permit at the Evergreen Packaging mill in Canton. 

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In a 55-page opinion filed Friday, April 16, U.S. District Court Judge James A. Boasberg gave a green light in the Catawba Indian Nation’s quest to build a casino in Cleveland County and struck a heavy blow to the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians’ years-long effort to keep the facility from existing. 

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Tracy Swartout will take over as superintendent for the Blue Ridge Parkway on May 23 following the departure of former Superintendent J.D. Lee last summer. Alexa Viets, the Parkway’s chief of resource management and interpretation, has served as acting superintendent since then.

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With less than two months to go before the Primary Election Thursday, June 4, the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians Board of Elections has released its list of candidates certified to run in the 2021 elections for Tribal Council and School Board.

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Eight months after voting to revamp the pedestal of the county’s controversial Civil War monument, Jackson County commissioners got their first look at what the new version might look like. 

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Sales tax receipts are booming in Sylva and a newly completed property revaluation will bump real estate values by about 14.5 percent this year — if tax rates stay the same, the town would expect to receive $345,000 more in the coming fiscal year than in the current year’s budget.

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The COVID-19 vaccination rollout is in full swing, and while many people rushed to get their shot at the first opportunity, others say they still have questions and will wait for a vaccine — or won’t get one at all. 

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After months of working breakneck speed to clear an ever-expanding backlog of people waiting to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, local health departments are reporting a marked slowdown in signups, even though only about 30 percent of the population has received at least one shot. 

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Tribal Council voted unanimously April 1 to table an ordinance aiming to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana. However, discussion preceding the vote indicates that some version of that ordinance will likely pass in the future. 

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