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News 2010: The Year in Review
Article Index
2010: The Year in Review
2010: The Year in Review - Part 2
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Newsmakers & Top Headlines of the Year

For some in Macon County, 2010 was full of drama. Dramatic elections, dramatic weather and even dramatic fires. One of the most dramatic, and dangerous, was the fire that consumed more than 75 acres on Lyle Knob in April. Amazingly, no homes were destroyed in the fire that started when sparks from a power line ignited a brush fire. Macon and Jackson fire departments and the N.C. Forest Service worked through the night to contain the blaze.January through June

A lot has happened in 2010. Nationally, The BP petroleum company had the biggest oil spill yet in the Gulf of Mexico, infuriating the nation as a whole. Healthcare reform was passed expanding coverage for Americans, and Republicans took the House from Democrats after sweeping elections across the nation, buoyed by support from the Tea Party movement.

Macon County had its share of activity this year as well. It saw the construction of a Veteran’s Memorial, the demolition of the Dillsboro Dam, the elections of new politicians and the humanitarian deeds of people coming together locally. The Macon County News has prepared a review of such events for its readers as it has for more than a quarter-century, and that tradition continues.

 click here for the 2010 Year in Review Part 1 photo gallery ]


‘Operation Think Twice’ keeps New Year’s safe:

The Macon County Sheriff’s Office executed “Operation Think Twice” as part of an initiative to lower the rate of drinking and driving the night of New Year’s Eve. “Think Twice” allowed inebriated party-goers to call the Sheriff’s Office and request a ride home, with no questions asked. From 9 p.m. on Dec. 31, to 6 a.m. on Jan. 1, free transportation was given by authorities to at least 65 passengers.

“We are always looking at ways to decrease the number of tragedies that happen during this period,” commented Macon County Sheriff Robbie Holland in the Jan. 7 issue of MCN. The town of Franklin reported only one DUI arrest in the period, and the Highway Patrol also reported only one. No other Sheriff’s Office in the state had implemented such a program.

USFS withdraws decisions on recreational use on Upper Chattooga River:

Chattooga RiverU.S. Forest Service officials annnounced that they were withdrawing their earlier decision to allow limited boating and other recreational uses on the upper Chattooga River, in order to further analyze land management options.

The decisions would have loosened restrictions in the Sumter, Chatahoochee and Nantahala National Forests on all parts of the river above the Highway 28 bridge.

Once the USFS has made a clear decision on how they will manage the lands, an announcement will be made.

Franklin man to get ‘Cold for a Cause’:

In the midst of a recession and a winter which produced record snowfalls, local insurance salesman Patrick Jenkins was lifted into the air in the name of the “Cold for a Cause” donation drive. The event collected donations that would benefit CareNet, a community assistance organization that aids those in need by providing food, clothing and other essential items.

A rough count estimated some 2,100 coats were among the items donated, along with food and hygiene products. Clothing and blankets were in great need in 2010, however this year the “Cause” aimed for non-perishable food, as reported by MCN on Jan. 7.

Macon County’s first baby of 2010:

Isabella Marie Morgan, first daughter of Jonathan and Katie Morgan, was born on Jan. 1, at 7:13 p.m. at Angel Medical Center. Isabella weighed 5 lbs, 8 oz., and was 19 ½ inches long.

Franklin man recognized for work on Veteran’s Memorial:

Bob LittenMacon County resident and veteran Bob Litten was presented with a plaque by the Board of Commissioners for his dedication to the Veteran’s Memorial project, as reported by MCN on Jan. 14. Commissioners thanked Litten for all of his hard work in creating the monument. “We started out to build the best memorial in the State of North Carolina,” said Litten, thanking commissioners for the land that was provided for the project at the Macon County Recreation Park. “It was a big project,” he said.

Commissioners approve EDC appointments:

The Macon County Board of Commissioners approved appointments to the Economic Development Commission and the Franklin Town Board of Adjustments. EDC Advisory Board Chairman Ed Shatley was reappointed to his position until Jan. 2013.

Commissioners also unanimously approved Gary Drake to replace Hank Ross as the Town of Highlands representative on the EDC. Dave Jones was unanimously approved for reappointment on the Franklin Town Board of Adjustments until Jan. 2013.

Blanton recognized as WNC Coach of the Year:

The Franklin High School girls tennis head coach was named All-Western North Carolina coach of the Year by The Asheville Citizen Times. The honor came after a spectacular season for his team, which won the All-Appalachian Athletic Conference championship with a 19-0 record, marking the Panthers’ first undefeated regular season.

FHS volleyball players receive All-WNC honors:

Lindsay SimpsonFranklin High School sophomore Lindsay Simpson was selected to be a member of the All-Western North Carolina volleyball team, a team which consists of the top six players in the western part of the state. FHS senior Ashley Wice was selected to be a member of the All- WNC second team.

Highlands sets committee appointments:

In his first month in office, Highlands Mayor David Wilkes chaired the first Town Board meeting of 2010, thanking the town staff for their help in his orientation, as well as confirming board member committee appointments for the year.

Amy Patterson— Sustainability; John Dotson — Finance, Land Use; Larry Rogers — Public Works, Recreation; Dennis DeWolf — Public Works, Recreation, Scholarship Fund Raising; Gary Drake —Finance, Land Use, Macon County Economic Development Commission and Tony Potts of the Macon County Bank to the Macon County Program for Progress Board.

The Board also approved applications for membership on the Sustainability Committee. It approved Alan Marsh, retired insurance executive, former Commissioner, former member of the Planning Board and current member of the County Planning Board; Karen Hawk, member of the staff at the Hudson Library; and Charlie Wolf, South Carolina architect who has a second home in Highlands.

Dillsboro dam demolition:

Dillsboro Dam DemolitionFollowing a judgment issued by Superior Court Judge Zoro Guice, Dillsboro residents said goodbye to a long-standing hallmark of their community—the Dillsboro Dam.

Because of the dam’s deep roots in the Dillsboro community, a long legal struggle ensued between Jackson County and Duke Energy over the fate of the dam. Duke asserted that the dam’s removal would not only free up space for more power stations elsewhere, but also echoed the conservational claim that the health of the river would also improve. Others supported removal of the dam for the increased recreational uses it would bring.

The hydroelectric project on the river dated back to 1927 when it was first built. For 83 years the facility survived floods and a series of operators, but in accordance with federal conservation guidelines, Duke Energy decided to relinquish their license and decommission the project. As reported by MCN on Jan. 21, removal of the dam began in early February and was finished March 31.

Martin Luther King Jr. remembered:

Martin Luther King Jr. DayOn Jan. 17, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was honored and his legacy celebrated in Franklin. Former Washington State Assistant Attorney General El Shon Richmond delivered a MLK day address to the congregation of First United Methodist Church, speaking of King’s total commitment to social change.

The following day, a diverse crowd gathered at Big Bear park, with Franklin Police closing traffic to make way for a parade in King’s honor, which extended down Main Street and ended at Town Square. After a number of speeches by special guests and community leaders, the commemoration ended with a show of solidarity, as those in attendance joined hands, forming a chain that encircled Town Square.

Town of Franklin review personnel policy at annual retreat:

On Jan. 23, aldermen for the Town of Franklin held a retreat and worked on a town employee personnel policy, as reported by MCN on Jan. 28. A draft of the policy was presented to board members by Assistant Town Manager Mike Decker at the retreat, after about a year of deliberation, and gives the Franklin Town Manager the authority to oversee the personnel policy.

Among the many facets discussed of the policy was the possibility that town employees would have to receive direct deposit of payroll checks, as well as nine month probationary period for new employees and a dress code for town employees.


Wastewater reached Little Tennessee:

As a result of a winter storm in late January, the Town of Franklin reported two wastewater spills on Jan 29 and 30. Approximately 450,000 gallons of untreated wastewater overflowed Franklin’s wastewater treatment plant on Sierra Drive, as reported by MCN on Feb. 4. The heavy snowfall led to the wastewater breach, which caused power outages that ultimately affected the water filtering system and pump station.

Commissioners ask county attorney to resign:

Lesley MoxleyMacon County Commissioners voted unanimously at their Feb. 8 meeting to eliminate the full-time County Attorney position, as well as accepting the resignation of Lesley Moxley, who had served as Macon County Attorney for roughly four years, as reported by MCN on Feb. 11. County Manager Jack Horton said that Moxley was under an openended contract and denied any other factors that resulted in the county asking for her resignation.

Commissioners explained that the decision was made based on the economic conditions of the county, with the goal of saving money for Macon’s legal department later on. Commissioners voted to replace Moxley with Chester M. Jones, a Franklin-based attorney, as a part time interim attorney. Jones at the time was projected to work approximately 40 hours per month by county officials.

Franklin Assistant Police Chief retires:

Town and law enforcement officials gathered at Town Hall on Feb. 5 to honor 28-year Franklin Police Department veteran Jerry De- Hart, who retired after serving 14 years as Assistant Police Chief.

DeHart was the first officer in the department’s K-9 unit and was used as a K-9 resource by both state and federal law enforcement agencies in his career. He received a plaque of appreciation from the Town of Franklin as well as kind words from fellow law enforcement officials.

Bonfoey appoints new Assistant District Attorney:

District Attorney Michael Bonfoey announced the appointment of Jeff D. Jones to serve as an Assistant District Attorney with his office in the 30th Prosecutorial District, which includes the counties of Cherokee, Clay, Graham, Haywood, Jackson, Macon and Swain.

Jones received his oath of office Friday, Feb. 5, at the Haywood County courthouse. Superior Court Judge Brad Letts administered the oath of office. Jones worked for three years as a prosecutor in the Buncombe County District Attorney’s Office and for the last five years he has been in private practice. Jones is a North Carolina native and lives with his wife and three children at Lake Junaluska.

School system adds $3 million more in renovations:

School RenovationsThe Macon County Board of Education approved a number of proposals for renovation projects for both Nantahala and Franklin High School at its Feb. 22 meeting. The proposed budget exceeded $3 million, as reported by MCN on Feb 25. Electrical and HVAC upgrades, repainting, roof replacement and more than $122,000 in architectural fees were among the items on the approved renovation budget.


Greenwood to serve two more years as Town Manager:

The Town of Franklin Board of Aldermen extended Town Manager Sam Greenwood’s employment contract for an additional two years at its March 1 meeting.

Greenwood is employed by the town for 1,000 hours per year and is paid $68,270 annually with $10,000 contributed annually to his retirement plan and $500 provided monthly for travel. The Town Board voted in favor of Greenwood’s extension with Alderman Bob Scott casting the only dissenting vote, as reported by MCN on March 4.

Free community clinic opens in Franklin:

A free community care clinic opened in Franklin. The clinic was established after state funding and community organizations banded together and drove the initiative to completion. Funding pays for operational expenditures, wages and supplies, as reported by MCN on March 11. The clinic is open on Mondays and Wednesdays from 5 to 9 p.m. at the Macon County Public Health Center. Limited walk-in appointments are accepted on Mondays. According to clinic worker Jean Jordan, the clinic is always in need of clinical volunteers of any kind, as well as translators. The clinic is available for people with no insurance, and does not accept Medicare or Medicaid. For more information, call (828)349-2085.

Macon County ranks 44th in NC for overall health:

According to the County Health Rankings Report conducted last February, Macon County ranks 44th out of 100 in overall health. The rankings within the report show state residents where their county needs to make health improvements, as well as compare their county with others to better understand what aspects of their community need to be strengthened.

The entire health ranking report can be viewed at www.countyhealthrankings.org/north-carolina/macon.

Rickman Store celebrates 85th anniversary:

The Friends of the Rickman Store [FORS] along with 75 visitors celebrated the store’s 85th anniversary on March 6. According to event coordinator and FORS member Elena Carlson, the event aimed to “bring back the tradition of bartering.”

Visitors bartered for various items, as Rickman Store founder Tom Rickman did at its founding in 1925. Things like toys, kitchen wares, baked goods and home decor were traded among the visitors. Local music was performed by the Nikwasi Dulcimer Players, Dave Waldrop and Deep Woods Frolic. Regional playwright and story teller Gary Carden talked about his early memories of Cowee and the Rickman Store during the ’30s and ’40s.

Court employees recognized for years of service:

Two employees of the Macon County Clerk of Superior Court’s office received service awards from the State of North Carolina. Assistant Clerk Dinah Mashburn and Deputy Clerk Terri Tallent received awards for 30 and 20 years of service, respectively.

“Both Dinah and Terri do a great job. They have had countless hours of training over the years, and there isn’t much that we do in this office that they haven’t seen,” said Macon County Clerk of Court Vic Perry in recognition of their service.

WNC volunteers pack 100,224 meals for Haitian disaster relief:

Haitian Disaster ReliefApproximately 670 people from all over Western North Carolina volunteered their time at the National Guard Armory in Franklin to help reach the day’s goal of packing at least 100,000 meals to be sent to Haiti. The effort was in response to the island nation’s recent earthquake, which devastated thousands, as reported by MCN on March 18.

Haitian Disaster ReliefThe March 13 event was hosted by the Franklin Daybreak Rotary Club, and was part of a larger effort of the region’s Rotary clubs to package and deliver one million meals to Haiti. Volunteers spent the morning packing 14 ounce bags of a simple but nutritious mix of rice, soy protein, dehydrated vegetables and powdered vitamins and minerals. When cooked in boiling water, each package would provide a meal for up to six people.

The Franklin Daybreak Rotary supports organizations offering support to Haiti or any other country in need. Recently $1,000 was budgeted for Shelter Box, an international relief organization that supplies living materials for impoverished countries. Additionally, the Interact Club will hold another Empty Bowls project in February. The effort will be to raise food for Haiti.

Franklin receives AT Community designation:

Franklin Proclaimed AT CommunityThe Town of Franklin was proclaimed as an Appalachian Trail Community on March 23. The designation made Franklin the first Southern Region AT community. The designation was due in large part to the town’s close proximity to the AT, which draws a growing number of trail hikers into the town each year.

With 47 miles of AT within its borders, Macon County can expect the designation as a catalyst for enhancing economic development, as marked by published articles about Franklin’s designation by the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, and the increase in opportunities for local teachers to use the trail as a learning lab for students.

Operation Medicine Drop yields more than 51,000 dosages:

Operation Medicine DropOn March 20, law enforcement officials collected 51,300 pills, tablets and bottles of liquid medicine throughout Macon County. Dubbed “Operation Medicine Drop,” the effort was part of a statewide campaign to dispose of expired or unwanted prescription medications, and was coordinated locally by the Macon County Sheriff’s Office and the Franklin Police Departments of Franklin and Highlands. The ultimate objective was to cut down on prescription drug abuse.

As reported on March 25 by MCN, officers manned drop-off points that day at three locations throughout the county. The medications collected ranged from antibiotics to sedatives to baby aspirin to even liquid morphine. All drop offs were made anonymously.

According to a press release for the event, prescription drugs are the second most abused drug among young people ages 12 to 17. Twothirds of teenagers who abuse the drugs get them from their home or a friend’s home. Additionally, fatal drug overdoses are the second leading cause of death due to unintentional injury in the U.S. This figure is exceeded only by motor vehicle accidents.

Macon’s homeless count reveals need for affordable housing:

A January count of homeless Macon County residents revealed that a total of 74 people were precariously housed or on the verge of losing a home — 38 of which were children. The count also revealed that three individuals were reported as completely homeless on Jan. 27, when it was performed.

The count was determined by contact through CareNet’s Warmth in Winter event, where county transit provided free transportation to CareNet for those without shelter. Calls made to law enforcement, area clinics and emergency rooms, the school system and other agencies reporting encounters with homeless citizens all helped determine the count.

Local Habitat for Humanity Executive Director Rick Westerman said the problem was both homelessness and a lack of affordable housing, asserting a need for such housing was clearly evident in Macon County.


Special Olympics has strong turnout in Macon:

Ninety athletes competed in 15 different games for the Special Olympics at Macon Middle School. The running long jump, softball throw, 50-meter dash and 10-meter assisted walk were among the events children and adults with intellectual disabilities participated in. Several hundred people showed up to cheer on the Olympians, as reported by MCN on April 1.

Franklin man’s home condemned by landslide:

Mike Boggan, of Blossomtown Drive, had his home condemned on March 18, after Macon County inspectors determined his home was uninhabitable, as a result of a slow moving landslide.

Boggan feels nearby Craftsman’s Village developer Joseph Moretti is partly to blame, as he began excavating the toe of the mountain earlier that season. Boggan’s home is just above the development. In the meantime, Boggan pays both taxes and a mortgage on the home, which he is not permitted to live in. Boggan maintains that he has retained a lawyer, and may take Moretti to court seeking compensation.

Brush fire ravages Lyle Knob:

Brush Fire on Lyle KnobA fire sparked by a power line escalated into a forest fire on April 6. More than 100 personnel from eight fire department crews from Macon and Jackson counties worked until 3 a.m. to get the blaze under control. The fire had ultimately spanned 75 acres of land. A number of sheds and other out-buildings were taken by the blaze, however all residences were saved, as reported by MCN on April 8.

Warren Cabe, of Macon County Emergency Services Management, reported a firefighter was treated for smoke inhalation at the scene, though no significant injuries resulted from it, nor were there any injuries in the community.

Frogtown development plans announced:

Frogtown Development PlansAldermen forwarded a special use application for Carolina Mountain Drive development to the town planning board for recommendation. The development, owned by Phil and Sharon Drake, is to include combination retail/ restaurant buildings, a warehouse/fitness center and office buildings.

New FPD headquarters established:

New FPD HeadquartersAs of last April, the Franklin Police Department said hello to their new headquarters, after bouncing back and forth between stations in town for years.

“This is the first purpose- built building in the history of the Franklin Police Department,” remarked FPD Chief Terry Bradley.

The building includes features previously unavailable to the agency, such as two new interrogation rooms, evidence processing and storage rooms, armor and locker rooms, a kitchen and even a working garage. Bradley explained that while officers were utilizing the new building, the ethics and methods of operation remain the same. The new headquarters was officially opened on May 7.

Casino’s third tower a ‘masterpiece in the mountains’:

Friday, April 9, saw a celebratory “toppingoff” of the final beam at Harrah’s Cherokee Casino & Hotel in Cherokee, N.C. The event effectively marked the establishment of the Casino’s third tower, which will house a 535- room hotel with luxury accomodations, 3,000 seat event center, spa, gaming facilities and stores. The construction of the project provided 1,100 construction jobs, as reported by MCN on April 15.

Smoky Mountain Center requests access to Evergreen Foundation’s $20 million:

Macon County Commissioners supported a request made by the Smoky Mountain Center (SMC) to receive access to funds held by the Evergreen Foundation, a non-profit organization founded to help facilitate mental health services. More than $20 million, was allocated to Evergreen over the years by local, state and federal government.

The resolution was also aimed at bringing governance of the foundation back under the control of SMC, the agency charged with allocating mental health funds in the region.

According to SMC community relations coordinator Shelley Foreman, the organization wants all seven counties of western North Carolina to be represented on the foundation’s board.

Macon Firemen of the Year named:

Eleven firemen, one from each department throughout Macon County, were honored on April 17 at the Boiler Room. The event celebrated the firemen’s accomplishments and dedication to community service and fire response, as reported by MCN on April 22.

“Some people think we don’t get thanked enough, and we don’t do it for the thank yous, but it’s times like this where it’s appreciated,” said Macon County Fireman’s Association president Dustin Pendergrass.

Firemen Mark Gramlich, Jay Prince, Bill Hopper, William Lewis, Blaine Keener, Jerry Tallent, Eric Webb, Dusty Price, Jacob Gribble, Bobby Lewis and Dan Tiller were recognized.

Planning board begins conversation with residents about steep slope ordinance:

At its April 15 meeting, the Macon County Planning Board was advised by the County Commission to begin holding open discussions with the public concerning their input regarding a steep slope ordinance. The Commissioners’ message was issued after the planning board presented them with recommendations for such an ordinance, which would regulate the development on certain slopes of land throughout the county.

Cullasaja says goodbye to school:

Cullasaja ElementaryMembers of the Cullasaja Community gathered at Cullasaja Elementary on April 23 for a homecoming celebration. Events lasted all afternoon and into the evening as people reminisced about the past and celebrated the history of the school, which spanned generations. The closing of the school was reported by MCN on April 29.

Former teachers and students were invited back for the celebration of the school’s last year, as it was scheduled to close. Its students are to be redistricted to East Franklin Elementary school the following year. Free hotdogs and hamburgers were given out to visitors. Written testimonies of former students and teachers were on display. Members of the crowd wore T-shirts that read, “We will miss you Cullasaja!”


Lawsuit filed against Sheriff's Office:

John William Bishop filed a lawsuit against the Macon County Sheriff's Office, alleging a violation of civil rights on March 19, following his 2008 arrest for breaking and entering which he ultimately pled guilty to after multiple charges were dropped. Bishop and his mother asserted in their case that several items seized by authorities were taken erroneously as reported by MCN on May 6.

Franklin adopts voluntary annexation policy:

On May 3, the Town of Franklin Board of Aldermen approved a long considered policy for voluntary annexation. The policy states that the town is to regulate zoning in the town proper and in those areas of the Extra Territorial Jurisdiction, and that the decision to annex shall be at the discretion of the Town Board.

“It certainly would give some objectivity to an issue which heretofore has been mostly all subjective,” said Franklin Mayor Joe Collins of the policy.

Intermediate School unveiled:

Intermediate School UnveiledThe opening of Macon County’s newly completed Intermediate School was celebrated with a ribbon cutting ceremony on April 29.

The school, located on Clarks Chapel Road, serves fifth and sixth graders. It was revealed at the ceremony that the school was state-ofthe- art and eco-friendly, with 100 geothermal wells that heat and cool the facility, motion activated lighting, a broadcasting studio and computer labs. The opening of the school marked the reduction of student enrollment in other county schools, further ensuring efficiency of educators, with Macon Middle School losing 30 percent of its students for instance.

“We are going to offer the children an experience that is like no other,” said School Principal Mark Sutton of the newly built school, as reported by MCN on May 6.

SCC graduates record number of students:

Southwestern Community College graduated a record-breaking 264 students and honored former school President Cecil Groves at its Jackson Campus on May 7. The graduation was also the school’s first to include early college students from its system. Twenty-nine early college students graduated for that semester. Groves was given a plaque of recognition for his 13 years of service to the school, as reported by MCN on May 13.

Fallen officers honored at memorial service:

Law enforcement personnel and supporters gathered in downtown Franklin to honor those North Carolina officers who lost their lives in the line of duty in 2009. The event was hosted by the Macon-Jackson Fraternal Order of Police on May 14. The ceremony was reported by MCN on May 20.

Michaela Blanton, wife of slain Highway Patrol officer Shawn Blanton, was the guest speaker at the event, and said that she was grateful for the safety and service law enforcement provides yearround.

After her address, FOP member Al Caiata gave roll call of the fallen officers of 2009, whose names were followed by an honorary bell toll. A wreath ceremony conducted by police officers was commemorated by a 21-gun salute from members of the American Legion Post 108 and the Honor Guard Unit of VFW Post 7339.

Fallen NC law enforcement officers Rickie Allen Pearson, Jr., Brandon Scott Coker, Dulan Earl Murray Jr., Kyle Patrick Barber, Mickey Gray Hutchens, Charles Douglas, Calvin E. Taylor, Anthony Cogdill and David Shawn Blanton Jr. were all honored at the event.

EDC presents grant guidelines to town:

On May 17, the Town of Franklin Board of Aldermen heard a presentation on guidelines for an economic development grant currently offered by the Macon County Economic Development Commission, presented by EDC Chairman Ed Shatley.

The grant seeks to promote diversified economic development, encourage growth in the property tax base, improve recruitment of business and industry, enhance job creation and continue the county’s ability to function as a center of commerce.

Pull for a Cure’ event garners strong support:

Pull for a CureFranklin Plaza was packed on May 15 as people gathered to attend the Relay for Life’s fourth annual fire truck pull and junior fire truck pull fundraiser, which raised approximately $4,000. Nine teams competed with one another by pulling fire trucks 20 feet across the parking lot in the fastest time. County and town fire departments, Caterpillar, and other area industries participated in the event, as reported by MCN on May 27.

New FHS principal announced:

On May 24, the Macon County Board of Education unanimously voted to approve the appointment of Nantahala School principal Chris Baldwin as the new Franklin High School principal, following the retirement of former FHS principal Gary Shields. Nantahala teacher Robbie Newton replaced Baldwin as the school’s principal.

The board received 16 applications for the position, four of which were seriously considered, before it came to its decision. Baldwin brought with him nine years of experience as principal of Nantahala, and was voted Macon County Schools Principal of the Year in 2008 and 2009. Before becoming principal at Nantahala, Baldwin was a nationally certified teacher of science for grades 7-12 for 11 years.

“I’m excited and honored about being named the next principal at Franklin High School,” said Baldwin, as reported by MCN on May 27.


Gary Shields honored by students and teachers:

Gary Shields RetiresAfter 21 years of serving as FHS principal, Gary Shields was given a warm reception by generations of students, colleagues and state officials on May 28.

Earlier this year, as reported by MCN on June 3, Shields announced he would be retiring as principal, and the celebratory assembly was promptly held in honor of his career. Organizers were able to keep the event a secret, and a surprised Shields could only thank those in attendance for their gratitude.

“Thank you, Gary. Thank you for a job well done,” said former Senator John Snow at the event. Snow’s comment echoed dozens of other short speeches by faculty, staff and students.

Fallen soldiers honored on Memorial Day:

On June 1, a ceremony sponsored jointly by various veterans’ organizations in Macon County honored soldiers who paid the ultimate price defending their country. The ceremony included grateful remarks from the chapter commanders and local veterans’ organizations who addressed a nearly full auditorium.

“This is a day to remember and give thanks to those who have given their lives in the sacrifice of our country,” said Bob Slicer, Commander of American Legion Post 108. The FHS band contributed a number of musical interludes throughout the ceremony.

Cuttin’ hair for Hospice House:

On June 5, 18 hairdressers offered haircuts at $10 each along with facials and massages in order to raise money for the Hospice House Foundation. The event, held at Serendipity Salon in the Macon Plaza, raised more than $10,000. [The Hospice House Foundation of WNC was founded in 2005 in response to a critical need for an inpatient hospice residence.]

Commissioners approve 1.5 cent tax increase for school projects:

In a four-to-one vote the Macon County Board of Commissioners approved a budget for fiscal year 2010-11. The budget included a tax increase of 1.5 cents per $100 valuation earmarked to pay debt service on the new K-4 school and renovations to Nantahala School on June 14. The increase was necessary to fund debt service collection, according to County Manager Jack Horton, as reported by MCN on June 17.

The approved budget was 1.8 percent less than the original budget proposed by Horton. The approved budget totaled $42,021,521, which represents a $750,625 cut from the manager’s proposal, and more than $2.1 million down from the past fiscal year’s budget. On the revenue side, the commissioners’ budget work sessions uncovered that the county would lose $15,157 in revenue due to adjustments in the Department of Social Services.

EDC creates website to promote travel and tourism:

In an effort to promote travel and tourism for the Franklin and Nantahala areas, the Tourism Development Committee partnered with Premiere Marketing this spring to create AffordableFranklin.com.

“We specifically targeted the Greenville /Spartanburg /Anderson/northeast Georgia regions within a one to three hour drive to Franklin,” Premier Marketing Project Manager Glen Goodwin said of the endeavor, as reported by MCN on June 17. The site was advertised in conjunction with promotional television ads on local stations. The site’s creation was made possible through a $7,750 grant from the Franklin and Nantahala TDC.

Art program sacrificed at MMS:

As reported by MCN on June 24, Macon Middle School announced that 2011 would see the end of art classes.

MMS Principal Scott Maslin said that the decision to cut the program was based on a number of issues, including balancing other academic priorities in a time of tightening budgets, and was made after extensive discussions with School Superintendent Dan Brigman. The only other Western North Carolina county to cut art classes is Graham County.

“I hope someday we can get it back,” said Maslin of the program. In the meantime, the school is looking at other avenues that can help supplement the loss of the art program.

Firearm death of Franklin man ruled accidental:

On the night of June 9, Sheriff’s deputies were dispatched to the home of Nathan Clayton Blanchard, after his wife called 9-1-1 and reported a gunshot he had incurred. Blanchard was found dead on the arrival of officers and medical personnel. It was determined by autopsy reports that Blanchard had accidentally shot himself in the head, which corresponds with his wife’s testimony that she had heard a gunshot when she was out of the room.

14th annual Taste of Scotland:

Taste of ScotlandHundreds of visitors turned out for the 14th annual Taste of Scotland event, which celebrates Franklin’s Scottish Heritage.

Tartan colors, the sounds of bagpipes and drums as well as Scottish foods were aplenty at the festival, with performers from around the region and as far as Scotland itself braving the summer heat to be part of the festivities.

The opening ceremony began with a few members of the 71st North Carolina Highland Regiment firing a single shot salute from their guns. The regiment is part of a reenactment group that represents the 1776 time period. Franklin’s own piper, Jean Hayes played a traditional Scottish song on bagpipes and Hal Chapman welcomed everyone to the festival.


July through December 

click here for the 2010 Year in Review Part 2 photo gallery ]


Macon authorities secure meth lab:

{mosimage}As reported by MCN on July 1, authorities from the Macon County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO) and the State Bureau of Investigations (SBI), with assistance from the Cullasaja Fire Department, dismantled a meth lab at a private residence in the Ellijay community on June 26.

{mosimage}The bust was the result of a three-week surveillance investigation conducted by the MCSO. David Lee Holland, 43, and his wife, Pamela Ledbetter Holland, 39, were charged with manufacturing a schedule II controlled substance (meth), maintaining a dwelling used for keeping and selling methamphetamine and possession with intent to sell, manufacture or distribute methamphetamine. Each were given $30,000 secured bonds.

New Cooperative Extension Director has long history of service:

At the June 29 County Board of Commissioners meeting, Alan Durden was named as the new Director of the N.C. Cooperative Extension Center [CEC] in Macon County. Upon Durden’s introduction to the board, commissioners acknowledged his well-known “dedication to the citizens of Macon County.”

Durden, who began as Director on June 15, has worked with the the Cooperative Extension center in Macon County for more than 20 years. Durden took over from Kenneth McCaskill, who retired last fall after more than 32 years working with the CEC.

“[The] extension’s mission is to provide educational, researchbased information to the people of Macon County in order to improve the quality of their lives, and we hope that we’re doing that,” Durden said.

Tobacco industry under new restrictions:

Health advocates celebrated the first anniversary of the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act on June 22 and ushered in tough new restrictions on the marketing and sale of tobacco products to children and adults.

The law gives the U.S. Food and Drug Administration the authority to regulate the manufacture, sale and marketing of tobacco products, including a ban on candy-and fruit-flavored cigarettes, which opponents say were primarily marketed to attract youth smokers.

Other provisions include:

• A ban on the use of misleading descriptions such as “light,” “mild,” and “low-tar” in the marketing and packaging of cigarettes
• Larger, stronger warning labels on smokeless tobacco
• A first-ever federal prohibition on cigarette and smokeless tobacco sales to minors
• A ban on all tobacco-brand sponsorships of sports and cultural events
• A ban on virtually all free tobacco samples and giveaways of non-tobacco items, such as hats and T-shirts
• A prohibition on the sale of cigarettes in packs of fewer than 20 – so-called “kiddie packs.”

Tea Party in downtown Franklin:

On July 2, several hundred people turned out for a Tea Party in downtown Franklin. Those in attendance rebuked the current presidential administration by holding signs of dissent, ringing a “freedom bell” whenever a religious or political phrase was uttered and lamenting the state of national affairs as a road to financial slavery.

Guest speaker Larry Pons said it best as he acknowledged a nearby American Flag. “My allegiance to this flag was birthed from a cause greater than me,” he said. “It was forged in a higher principle that promotes not only a love for God, but a love for country.”

Former substitute teacher violates parole:

Jennifer Iannuzzi, a woman who pled guilty to indecent liberties with a 12-year old boy that attended Macon Middle School, has had part of her suspended sentence re-activated after she was charged in April with violating the conditions of her probation, as reported by MCN on July 8.

On June 30, 2010, a Superior Court judge activated Iannuzzi’s sentence of 12 to 15 months in the North Carolina Department of Corrections for her indecent liberties conviction and added two years to her original 36-month probation period. The five years extended parole will include nine months intensive probation.

Iannuzzi was first arrested in January on charges involving her relationship with a 12-year-old student at Macon Middle School where she worked as a substitute teacher. The charges related to specific events which took place between July 1 and Dec. 30, 2009. For a time, Iannuzzi had also been a foster parent to the child.

Ultimately, she pled guilty to felony abduction of a child, felony restraint of a child and indecent liberties with a child. Judge Calvin Murphy sentenced her to three consecutive sessions in the Department of Corrections, including one of 12-15 months and two of 16-20 months, for a total of 44 to 55 months, all of which were suspended following a plea bargain in which she would only serve 90 days in the county jail through a “split sentence.”

Smoky Mountain Wagon Train rolls to town on 4th:

{mosimage}On Friday, the fourth day after pulling out of Andrews where it began, the Smoky Mountain wagon train traveled almost 24 miles in six hours, coming down from Needmore Road off Hwy. 28 where they had stayed over for a day relaxing by the Little Tennessee River. That afternoon, the caravan of covered wagons rolled into Franklin, escorted by Macon County Sheriff’s deputies, and made its way to the area surrounding the Fox Ridge Road soccer field where they set up camp for the night.

“We were real fortunate that the city let us stay here,” said wagon train member Rick Callahan, referring to the field by Fox Ridge Road. The wagon train had negotiated the site with Macon County Parks and Recreation Director Seth Adams.

Eagle and other birds of prey exhibited in Highlands:

As part of the Independence Day weekend, dozens came to witness an American Bald Eagle and other birds of prey on display at the Bird Barn in Highlands on July 3. The purpose of the eagle exhibition was to educate the public about the species.

Macon Sheriff candidates discuss the issues:

{mosimage}Gearing up to the elections last year, the League of Women Voters hosted a sheriffs candidate forum. Incumbent Sheriff Robert Holland (R) and his Democratic challenger George Lynch Jr. participated in the July 7 event which was open to the public.

The candidates responded to prepared questions from the LWV as well as members from the audience.

Holland has been with the Sheriff’s Office since 1991, and has worked in almost every capacity within the Sheriff’s Office. He was a part time detention officer and then the department’s first animal control officer in Macon County before going to school for basic law enforcement training to become a certified deputy. Holland then became a investigator with the Sheriff Department’s Juvenile Investigations Unit, ultimately become the unit’s supervisor. In 2002, Holland ran for Sheriff and won. He was elected again in 2006.

Lynch is a life long resident of Macon County. In 1969, after graduating from Haywood Technical Institute, Lynch was drafted into U.S Army. He served two years on active duty, four years reserve and one year with the North Carolina National Guard. In 1972, Lynch began a career with the U.S. Forest Service, working for 20 years in timber management and fire control. In 1992, he became a federal law enforcement agent for the Forest Service, a position he held for 14 years. For the past four years, Lynch has operated a small business hauling gravel and grading driveways.

County lays off long-time employee:

On June 12, Sandy Preston stood before the Macon County Board of Commissioners and begged for her job. Her voice quavering with emotion, Preston read a prepared statement to the Board. She explained how on June 15, after more than 18 years of service to the county in various departments, she was told that her position had been eliminated and was given a two-week notice of termination.

“I am standing in front of you tonight asking that my livelihood not be sacrificed,” Preston told the board. “I am sure that my single paycheck does not make or break the county budget, though me not having a paycheck has certainly broken my budget.”

Preston told the commissioners that her income is the main means of survival for her and her husband, who is disabled, and that losing it means losing two-thirds of their household income. Preston was reportedly replaced by an automated phone system.

DNA bill passed to prevent crime:

House Bill 1403 earned final approval from the N.C. General Assembly on July 10, and with its passage, law enforcement will now be able to take DNA samples upon arrest.

“We’ll be able to catch criminals sooner rather than later thanks to this new law,” Cooper said. “More use of DNA will also help law enforcement zero in on the right suspect and clear the wrongly accused.”

Under the legislation, local law enforcement will take DNA samples from certain felony suspects. DNA samples collected by cheek swab will be analyzed by the SBI and then uploaded to the state and national DNA databases. The samples will be run against DNA taken from unsolved crimes to look for matches, and stored to compare against evidence collected from crime scenes. If a suspect isn’t convicted or the case is dismissed, the suspect’s sample would be removed. North Carolina’s DNA database, which currently includes samples from all convicted felons, has helped solve more than 1,400 cases.

Market study reveals ‘significant opportunities’ for Franklin:

According to Tripp Muldrow, of Arnett Muldrow and Associates, a firm specializing in retail market analysis, there are “significant opportunities” for retail expansion in downtown Franklin and surrounding areas. As reported by MCNon July 22, Muldrow analyzed the results of a zip code survey which focused on retail customers in Franklin, and on July 19 he presented those results to a small group of economic development officials, business owners and curious members of the public.

Aside from the 17 retail participants, the survey was also conducted by the Visitor’s Center at the Franklin Chamber of Commerce. Retailers on Main Street as well as from the Highlands Road and Georgia Road corridors and elsewhere participated in the program to give a wide representation of town businesses.

“There are significant opportunities, we feel like, in specialty foods, electronics, pharmacies, some degree of clothing, and then the dining, full and limited service,” Muldrow said in his summary, though he also offered caveats and qualifications for each retail category.

Primary trade area:
From 28734 (inside Franklin): 38%
From 28734 (outside Franklin): 18%
Secondary trade area:
From Otto: 3%
From Highlands: 3%
From Dillard: 2%
From Sylva, Rabun, Bryson City: <1%
Other areas:
From the rest of North Carolina: 5%
From the rest of Georgia: 5%
From Florida: 14%
From other states: 7%

Progressive housing plans in Cowee community terminated:

As reported by MCN on July 22, project developers of The Farme at Matlock Creek, located in the Cowee community, have terminated their plans to develop one of North Carolina’s first ever “green” neighborhoods, after their applications for grant funding were rejected.

Some Matlock Creek residents felt the projected 24-homesite subdivision threatened the peaceful community. Opposition in the community ensued after Farme developers unveiled their plans to the public as well as to state officials on March 22.

Farme developers applied for approximately $15 million in grant funding through the United States Department of Agriculture, Department of Energy, Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Golden Leaf Foundation. This funding was sought by developers to purchase the 35-acre plot of land upon which construction of the project was contingent. The grant funding application was denied as of April 1.

“The board does not provide grants to buy land,” said Dan Gerlach, president of the Golden Leaf Foundation. “Our cap on the program is generally $200,000.” Gerlach pointed out that Farme developers were seeking several million dollars in aid. According to Gerlach, the Golden Leaf Foundation has never granted funds to an organization for the purchase of land.

Franklin Folk Festival showcases Appalachian heritage:

{mosimage}Local crafters were the main attraction at the Seventh Annual Franklin Folk Festival held on July 17. For the last seven years, the Folk Heritage Association of Macon County (FHAMC) has called on many of the county’s most talented crafters to help make the folk festival a true celebration of Appalachian heritage.

Everything from agriculture, Civil War re-enactors, log cutting, story telling, Bluegrass and basket making were among the features at the event.

Suspected gang members charged with burglaries:

Three Franklin men suspected of having gang ties, have been implicated in a series of burglaries around Franklin.

Two of the men were arrested and charged on July 21 with the burglary of the Big D convenience store located on Hwy. 28 North. According to Macon County Sheriff’s detectives, the two men have been linked to other incidents occurring in city limits, making the case a joint investigation with the Franklin Police Department.

David William Heller, 20, and Harley Thomas Golden, 24, were both charged with felony breaking and entering, larceny and possession of stolen goods. At the time, investigators said there were additional suspects involved in the case.

Paul Joseph Quinn, 21, was arrested on July 28 on charges of burglary, larceny and felony aiding and abetting breaking and entering.

Aldermen mired in fate of Whitmire property:

As reported by MCN on July 29, the Town of Franklin looked at proposals to generate plans for the Whitmire property, a 12.71-acre parcel purchased in January 2005 for $1,585,373. The property was originally purchased to develop new facilities for town hall, public works and other uses.

After the site’s purchase, the town board decided on a different course, choosing instead to renovate the Burrell Building on Main Street as the new town hall and locating the other facilities elsewhere. This left open the question of what to do with the Whitmire property.

Aldermen maintain that no plans have been set in stone for the property, and that the current economic climate of Macon County affords them only with the opportunity to gather ideas.

In August, Arnett Muldrow & Associates, an urban design firm based in Greenville, S.C., submitted a proposal to develop plans for the site. The fee of the Arnett- Muldrow proposal is $17,500, including travel expenses. This quote is significantly lower than the two previous bids, which began at $24,000.

Juvenile home survives budget chopping block:

The Multipurpose Juvenile Home (MJH) in Franklin was spared the budget ax for another year. The MJH, the only facility of its type west of Raleigh, seeks to rehabilitate juvenile offenders with few other options through its residential program. The home had been slated to have its state funding eliminated in the governor’s initial budget proposal last spring, but in the end it survived after lobbying efforts by various regional and state officials prevailed.

Run by Methodist Home for Children (MHC), an organization which currently operates seven residential multipurpose juvenile homes mostly in the eastern part of the state, the MJH is funded solely through the Department of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (DJJDP).

The MJH provides long term, non-secure residential care, focusing on behavioral education and therapy, as an alternative to secure detention. The home, which was opened two years ago, serves youth who are mandated by the courts to receive residential care and who typically stay for eight months.


Controversial Supercenter hearing in Franklin:

{mosimage}The Aug. 2 Franklin Town Board of Aldermen meeting had an unusually high turnout as more than 100 people came to take part in a public hearing regarding the development of a Wal- Mart Supercenter. Many people in attendance were both for and against the installment of a Wal-Mart Supercenter as reported on Aug. 5.

At the meeting, the board considered granting development firm Bright-Meyers 2001 LLC a special use permit. The special use application is required for any business seeking to construct a commercial building more than 30,000 square feet. Approval of the Bright-Meyers application, submitted to the board on May 21, would allow the firm to complete engineering plans and apply for the development permits necessary to commence construction of the 152,000 square foot building area.

According to Mayor Joe Collins, who addressed the crowd, the Unified Development Ordinance [UDO] adopted the policy that the maximum height for business signage can be only 70 feet. Bright-Meyers was applying for clearance to use a sign that would reach 150 feet in height. The applicants also requested permission for an exterior sign to reach a height of 298 feet, which goes against the UDO adopted ordinance of 250 feet.

The board voted to approve the special use permit.

Fatal Ellijay shooting:

{mosimage}Macon County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO) deputies were dispatched to a residence on Mountain Grove Road in the Ellijay community on the morning of July 28. Their arrival was in response to a 9- 1-1 call made from the residence by Dustin Keith Williams, who claimed to have shot his father.

When asked by 9-1-1 operator Kevin Sellers whether he was injured, the son said that he was not, but that the gunshot victim was. According to the warrant, Dustin also told authorities that alcohol had been involved in the incident.

Ultimately, the case was closed after investigators determined that the son had been acting in self defense.

Main Street retail study recommends marketing strategies:

A Greenville marketing firm delivered recommendations to the Town of Franklin to stimulate business, grow its retail market and promote existing business downtown, as reported by MCN on Aug. 12.

Tripp Muldrow of Arnett Muldrow and Associates, an urban planning firm specializing in retail market analysis, presented the recommendations on Aug. 4, at a meeting well-attended by business and community leaders and other members of the public.

Muldrow’s detailed presentation suggested a number of key issues and general strategies for the town but also detailed specific proposals such as establishing a $10,000 marketing grant that would help the town establish its branding while supporting local businesses.

Muldrow, in response to the concern that Franklin would lose its small town appeal, acknowledged that it has already lost that appeal in some areas, and suggested preserving what was left. He also suggested the town launch a brand identity for itself, targeting domestic and tourist markets, implementing a “way-finding” program.

FHS graduate accepted into Peace Corps:

Kaila Dean Ramsey, 23, of Franklin, was accepted into the Peace Corps and departed for the Dominican Republic on Aug. 19 to begin pre-service training as a Youth Development Peace Corps volunteer. Upon graduation from volunteer training in November, Ramsey’s work will include using the arts and sports, vocational training, and educational enrichment to help youth realize their potential and build self esteem.

Dillard's 14th annual BBQ and Bluegrass Fest:

{mosimage}Barbecue aficianados from across the country competed at the 14th annual Dillard BBQ and Bluegrass Festival held Aug. 6 and 7. The festival is a showcase of teams competing for the right to say they have the tastiest barbecue.

With the presence of internationally renowned barbecue teams such as “Big” Bob Gibson and “Jus-Fer-Fun,” teams considered legends in the art of barbecue, the deck was stacked. All but ten teams had received “Grand Champion” status at one time or another, according to event organizer Jane Tomlin.

BBQ teams from all over the country and from as far away as England competed in this year’s festival, hosted by the Kansas City Barbeque Society.

First annual Kids Fun Fair raises $3K for March of Dimes:

The first annual Kids Fun Fair was held at the Macon County Fairgrounds on Aug. 7 as a fundraising benefit for the March of Dimes-March for Babies organization to fund research preventing premature birth.

“We had a great turn out,” said event organizer Nicki Tallent, estimating approximately 200 to 300 people came to participate in the event. Tallent cited Ingles, BiLo and the Pediatric Associates of Franklin as sponsors. The event raised $3,000, 75 percent of which goes to treatment and research of premature birth.

Victim identified in joint homicide investigation:

Authorities have determined the identity of a Franklin man who was killed last August at his residence, but little new information has been released, as reported by MCN on Aug. 19.

The Macon County Sheriff’s Office identified the victim as 61- year-old Thomas Larry Ramsey on Aug. 16. “The autopsy has been completed. It was following the autopsy that we were able to identify the victim,” said Sheriff Robbie Holland.

Macon County Sheriff’s Officers responded to a 9-1-1 call made in the early morning hours of Aug. 12 at a Johnson Road home in the Cartoogechaye community. Officers were unable to identify the body when they initially arrived on scene.

Mandatory drug tests for junior high athletes:

A new countywide drug testing policy that includes student athletes in grades 7-12 has been approved by the school board, as reported by MCN on Aug. 26. The policy seeks to eliminate inconsistencies that existed between individual school practices and at the same time be more fair to athletes, who will be required to participate in mandatory drug testing.

Personnel Director Dan Moore presented a second draft of the policy which had been created in collaboration with the schools’ attorney John Henning Jr. The draft had originally left drug testing of junior high school age athletes to the discretion of the principals. After extended discussion, the board voted to amend the policy to have it cover junior high school athletes as well.

According to Moore, including junior high school students in the policy could cost as much as $15,000 in additional funds, but added that the total cost of the new policy is impossible to estimate.

The policy requires that all positive tests are confirmed by additional testing by a certified Medical Review Officer.

Mandatory tests will be given at the beginning of each season followed by random testing during the season. On the first offense, at maximum, a student could be barred from participating for the remainder of that sport’s season. On second offense, the student could be ineligible to participate in interscholastic athletics for a period of up to one year. On the third offense, the student will be banned from sports participation indefinitely.

Conservative icon Dick Armey speaks to Franklin Tea Partiers:

Macon County conservatives and Tea Partiers were graced with a visit from nobility of sorts when former House Majority Leader and FreedomWorks Co-Chair Dick Armey stopped by Franklin. He was here to give a short address and sign copies of his new book, co-written with Freedom- Works CEO Matt Kibbe, “Give Us Liberty: A Tea Party Manifesto.”

Armey, a U.S. Representative from Texas for almost two decades, is known as one of the leaders of the so-called “Republican Revolution” of the mid 1990s and was named as one of the authors of that movement’s “Contract with America.” The majority of Armey’s talk dealt with the history of the Tea Party movement, which Armey said has been mischaracterized by both political parties as well as the news media.

Turnout for the Aug. 26 event, held at the Macon County Community Facilities Building, was larger than expected and had to be relocated from the small lecture room into a larger meeting hall. Before introducing Armey, local conservative columnist and organizer Don Swanson welcomed attendees to what he called a “Tea Party Town Hall meeting.” Swanson spoke briefly of his work with the Macon County chapter of FreedomWorks, a non-profit, political advocacy organization.


Local business owner hit for $30,000:

The owner of a local business hit with more than $30,000 in forged checks drawn on its account has called the ordeal a “nightmare.”

“I’m getting shafted from all ends here,” said Steve Koster, owner of Koster Construction on Georgia Road. “We can’t find the suspects; the bank’s not backing us. It’s just a nightmare.”

Detectives for the Macon County Sheriff’s Office are investigating the case and searching for 8 to 10 men alleged to have cashed at least 32 forged, stolen checks for approximately $1,000 each at one store and six different banks in Macon and Jackson County on Aug. 13 and 14.

According to Sheriff Robert Holland, there are still questions about how and when the blank checks were taken from the office. Investigations have revealed no signs of forced entry.

Blue Planet 5K run:

{mosimage}Franklin’s First Annual Blue Planet 5K Run, held on the morning of Sept. 4, made a big splash according to event organizer Canyon Woodward. Runners from around the country turned out to enjoy the run in the crisp morning along the Little Tennessee River Greenway, as reported by MCN on Sept. 9.

The event attracted 159 registered participants and raised more than $5,000 between both the 5K run and a one-mile fun run/walk. Woodward said he was happy with the turnout, adding that the original goal for the benefit was to raise $2,000 and attract 50-60 participants. All proceeds from the event will go to the Blue Planet Network, an organization active in funding water projects that provide sustainable access to clean water for communities around the world that desperately need it, particularly rural communities.

“The support from the community was incredible,” said Woodard. “I was overwhelmed by the turnout we got.”

Franklin’s Jamey Halyburton of Franklin was the first across the finish line with a time of 17:59. Winners of each age group received a medal, and overall winners also won a new pair of Brooks running shoes.

SCC ranks top 10 in America's Best:

Southwestern Community College ranks in the top ten of America’s Best Community Colleges, according to a new poll just released by Washington Monthly.

The poll was based on a survey which tests colleges on teaching techniques that have been proven to lead to better learning. These techniques include how often students collaborate with other students and interact with faculty, student effort, academic challenge and support for learning. Another key factor in the poll survey findings is the federal graduation rates for the school.

Memorial scholarship set up in name of MEC student:

Southwestern Community College held a special memorial at its Macon Campus on Sept. 2, for former 16-year-old student Ashleigh Moore who passed away last March from leukemia. A memorial tree and stone were dedicated in Moore’s honor at the service.

By all accounts, Moore left behind a stellar reputation as a diligent and intelligent student, despite her health challenges. “I didn’t know anybody in the 42 years that I’ve been teaching that wanted to be in school more than Ashleigh,” said teacher Mary Trotter. “Some days she’d come and you could tell it would be hard for her to put one foot in front of the other — but she would still come.”

The academic accomplishment Moore displayed throughout her career at SCC has prompted school officials to establish a scholarship in her name. For those interested in contributing to the scholarship, write checks to the Ashleigh Moore Scholarship Fund at United Community Bank, located on 257 East Main Street, Franklin, NC, 28734.

Manning named Volunteer of the Year for coaching basketball:

In a small ceremony held on Sept. 2 at the Macon County Community Facilities Building, Coach Jeremiah Manning was recognized as the “Volunteer of the Year” for the State of North Carolina with an award sponsored by the national youth sports and school photography service, TSS Photography. At the ceremony, parents, players and youth league officials had high praise for Manning, a former star of the Franklin High School basketball court.

Born and raised in Macon County, Manning said he has been coaching for eight years. In 2009, he coached Biddy League teams for 8-9- year-olds, the Wolfbacks and the Lynxes, respectively.

Manning received a plaque and a portrait package worth $150 from TSS Photography. The Macon County Basketball Program also received a check for $500 in Manning’s honor. This is the third year for the awards, which are based on nominations from the community and include regional, state, and national winners.

Old Edwards Par 5K:

More than 200 people came out to support the Par 5K benefit run held at the Old Edwards Club golf resort on Sept. 11.

As reported by MCN on Sept. 16, the benefit raised just over the intended goal of $3,000, which benefitted the Highlands Literacy Council, an organization that teaches communication and literacy skills to those with learning, speaking and reading disabilities. “This is very positive news and will definitely weigh the possibility of duplicating this event going forward,” said Old Edwards Club Director of Operations Jerry West of the event’s success.

Highlands Motoring Fest a real treat for Auto Lovers:

On Sept. 11, hundreds of Highlands’ residents and visitors came out for a view of the vintage cars at the third annual Highlands Motoring Festival. With umbrellas and plenty of rain gear in evidence, more than 100 vehicles spilled into the streets surrounding the Kelsey-Hutchinson Park on Pine Street. The 2010 Best in Show award winner was Kathy Irwin with her 1948 Chevrolet pickup.

Inebriated Highlands man shoots at bar mates, strikes vehicle:

A drunken altercation in Highlands led to a potentially fatal assault with a firearm on Sept. 11. Macon County dispatch notified authorities of the incident after receiving several calls referencing gunshots.

Highlands Police Officer Kelly Dendy and Macon County Sheriff’s Officer Anthony Crawford responded to a domestic disturbance reported at 496 Holt Road. As officers arrived at the scene they spoke with Highlands resident Monica Calloway, 38, who called 9-1-1 indicating that a man had shot out her back windshield.

Bradley Craig Little was later revealed to be the shooter, after his girlfriend allegedly got upset after he had danced with another woman at a Highlands bar. As he left the bar later that night, the others in his company decided to leave, at which point he fired at their vehicle.

Little was charged with four felony counts of assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill, one felony of discharging a weapon and one misdemeanor count of damage to personal property.

Franklin tartan honors Papal vist to Scotland:

{mosimage}The director of Franklin’s Scottish Tartans Museum visited Scotland last September, where a tartan he had designed was selected for special honors.

Matthew Newsome designed the tartan specifically to pay tribute to a visit to the country by Pope Benedict XVI on the occasion of this year’s St. Ninian’s Day celebrations. Many believe St. Ninian to be the first to have brought Christianity to the Scottish.

{mosimage}Newsome, a practicing Catholic, said that he was “thrilled” to have his design chosen as the “official Papal Visit tartan.” Newsome’s tartan displays a pattern of green, white, red and yellow on a field of blue.

The tartan was presented to the country’s political leaders at the Scottish Parliament by Cardinal Patrick O’Brien. The parliamentarians received a tie or a scarf made with the tartan’s pattern.

Macon health worker retires after years of service:

On Aug. 27, The Macon County Public Health Department held a reception honoring the retirement of Anne Hyder, assistant health director for the center. Hyder has served Macon County’s health needs for 32 years. At the celebration, Hyder was praised for her dedication, work ethic, and deep commitment to the people of Macon County. She was also recognized for her many volunteer activities over the years including her role in establishing the Judy Moore Memorial Nursing Scholarship and her service on numerous community boards and coalitions.

Throughout her career, Hyder wore many hats over her years spent at the department. Hyder was (and began as) a WIC nurse, health educator and nursing supervisor.

Preliminary 2010 Census results released:

The Macon County Board of Commissioners recently released preliminary results of the 2010 Census, as reported by MCNon Sept. 23. The data shows changes in Macon County’s population over the last 10 years, and indicates a 23 percent increase in countywide population. The increase in population between 1990 and 2000 was 21 percent, revealing an overall growth increase.

The general population of Macon County in 2000 was 29,811 and according to current census figures, the population in Macon is 36,667. The population figures collected this year also indicate an increase in this year’s census-taking participation by county residents.

Final results won’t be released until the completion of the post office box count, which is under way. Census data will be released over time in the coming years, as the information is sorted, interpreted and published in more useful formats.

According to 2000 census figures, only 51 percent of the county had participated in the census. This year, 74 percent participated. Final results won’t be in until spring of next year.

Macon County

Preliminary Census Population Results

— Franklin Area: 11 percent increase
— Ellijay, Millshoal, North Sugarfork: 21 percent increase
— Smith Bridge, Southeast Cartoogechaye, Southwest Franklin: 21 percent increase
— Ellijay, East Smith Bridge, the Flats, West Highlands, West Sugar Fork, Southeast Franklin: 23 percent increase
— Burningtown, Northwest Franklin, Western Cowee, Nantahala, Cartoogechaye: 27 percent increase
— Millshoal, Cowee: 29 percent increase
— Highlands, Sugar Fork: 36 percent in crease
— Macon County overall: 23 percent increase

VIPER Tower cause of concern for small aircraft:

The Voice Interoperability Plan for Emergency Personnel (VIPER) Tower, a 472-foot tall radio communications array, has been proposed at a site behind the Sunset restaurant on a plot of state-owned land off of Ivar Street in Franklin.

The site, which is less than three miles from Macon County Airport, could present a hazard to small aircraft. Town of Franklin officials expressed concern that the tower might be in the flight path of the airport and urged County Commissioners to reject the Ivar Street site, as reported by MCN on Sept. 30.

At the Sept. 28 Airport Authority meeting, the Authority approved a motion that Mayor Joe Collins draft a letter to be sent to the appropriate state agencies to explain the seriousness of the issue and to urge them to reconsider the proposed location.


District 30 judicial candidates campaign aggressively

{mosimage}With the 2010 midterm elections just a month away, candidates continued to stump for various public offices. Last year, an unusually high number of District Court seats were on the ballot. At a special forum co-hosted by the Macon County Sheriff’s Office and the Fraternal Order of Police on Sept. 28, six District Court judge candidates introduced themselves to Macon County voters and explained why they were the best man or woman for the job.

MCN’s election coverage also included the Town of Franklin’s struggle with campaign signage being improperly placed in violation of the town’s sign ordinance. Town Planner Mike Grubermann, who is charged with enforcing the signage regulations, said that as in years past there were violations recorded from every campaign and party, though he noted that this year it was the judicial candidates who were the worst of the serial sign law breakers.

Tragic accident takes life of young athlete

Parker Andrew Mathis, 19, a recent graduate of Franklin High School (2009) who had played both baseball and football for the Panthers, was killed in a tragic single vehicle accident on Oct. 3. He was a passenger in an extended-cab truck driven by Donald Thomas Courtney of Franklin which failed to make a curve and rolled down an embankment on Old Murphy Road. Courtney and another passenger, Jeremy L. Taro, were treated for minor injuries and released the same day from Angel Medical Center. A fourth passenger, Jesse Welch, who was sitting in the rear of the truck cabin with Parker, was admitted into intensive care at Angel Medical Center.

Big Sweep of Macon waterways yields 5,000 lbs. of garbage

On the first Saturday of every October, volunteers from all 100 counties in the state join together to clean the waterways and public lands in North Carolina’s annual Big Sweep. Data is collected on the trash, which is then recycled as much as possible. This year the group of eight Macon County residents which met at the Tassee Shelter in Franklin, collected more than 5,000 lbs. of garbage, including 30 tires, a washing machine, and a truck axle, from in and around the Little Tennessee River and Cartoogechaye Creek.

Highlands named in magazine’s top five small-town getaways

Highlands was featured in the October issue of Southern Living as one of the five “Best Small-Town Getaways” in the region. The four other towns featured were Fernandina Beach, Fla.; St. Michaels, Md.; Natchitoches, La.; and Granbury, Tx. “There’s no prettier place than Highlands during leaf season,” said James Black, Southern Living’s Travel Editor. Main Street Inn, Wolfgang’s Restaurant & Wine Bistro, Scudder’s Galleries, Acorn’s at the Old Edwards Inn and Spa and Highlands Gem Shop all received mentions in the article.

Contracts awarded for Iotla Valley Elementary School

On Oct. 14, MCN reported that contracts had been awarded for the construction of the new Iotla Valley Elementary School and an onsite wastewater and sewer treatment plant. The contract for the sewer treatment facility was awarded to the McCarroll Construction Company which gave the low bid of $1,263,000 for the project. H&M Contractors received the contract for construction of the school itself, being the lowest bidder of the five in competition. The total bid price for the project was $11,031,500. The timely acceptance of the bids helped the county to secure a 0.44 percent interest rate, which will save the county thousands of dollars over the life of the loan.

A ground breaking ceremony for the new facility which is being built on the site of the Iotla School was held on Oct. 25

Runway extension begins, contract awarded to Whittier company

{mosimage}On Oct. 11, Whittier-based contractor, Buchanan and Sons, Inc., began construction on the long-planned extension of a runway at Macon County Airport. The extension has been a controversial issue in the county and became even more so when an ancient palisaded village was discovered directly under the planned extension area during excavations in 2009. After protracted debate and deliberations, the Airport Authority agreed to 100 percent removal of artifacts in the areas to be disturbed. The project will lengthen the runway by nearly 600 feet and bring it into compliance with Federal Aviation Administration regulations for the maximum sized aircraft authorized to land at the facility. The bid submitted by Buchanan and Sons estimated the project at $2.6 million, significantly lower than original estimates obtained by the authority.

Franklin considers housing code to raise public health standards

In reaction to recurring complaints from Franklin residents about neighboring properties or dwellings lacking adequate upkeep, the town began exploring the possibility of an ordinance to enforce minimum housing standards within town limits. Problems such as an overgrowth of vegetation, poor ventilation and otherwise unsafe structures could be addressed by regulations aimed at setting a standard for public health among the town’s private residences. Town leaders are looking at similar complaint-driven ordinances in neighboring communities like Waynesville to be a model for the proposed housing code.

Marching Panthers earn first place in Va. Championship

{mosimage}The Franklin High School Panther Marching Band Regiment travelled to Lynchburg, Va., on Oct. 10 for a regional championship competition held in Lynchburg Stadium. Twenty-five high school bands competed at the championship in which the FHS Panther band took the award for Best Band, Best Music, Best Marching and Best Drum Majors.

Rep. Shuler sees special role for moderates after election

With major losses predicted for his party, U.S. Rep. Heath Shuler (D), a member of the Blue Dog Coalition of conservative Democrats, ran for reelection on his record of independent voting and fiscal conservatism. In an exclusive interview with MCN, Shuler said he believed that moderates would have a special role to play in bridging political divisions and moving the country forward.

“There are ideologues on both sides,” he said, “but the most important thing [to get work done] is to bring people together ... I think you're going to see some moderates such as myself in leadership positions.”

After the election in which he held on to his seat despite strong competition from challenger Jeff Miller (R), Shuler continued to make the case for conservative Democrats and even challenged House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for leadership of the chamber. Recently, in a historic vote for House Speaker, Shuler received votes from a number of Democrats dissatisfied with the leadership of the outgoing House Speaker (D-Ca.), though Pelosi remained leader of the party as House Minority Leader.

Franklin celebrates new Main Street businesses

{mosimage}Hundreds of people turned out for Franklin’s first Street Fest, an event celebrating the opening of four new businesses and a renewed entrepreneurial spirit on Main Street. In a ceremony to kick-off the event, Main Street was effectively “reopened” for business, with town leaders cutting a ribbon to represent the renewal. Entertainment, games, snacks, prizes and some spectacular sales were offered by Main Street merchants, with the festival continuing throughout the weekend. The four new businesses that were highlighted by the event included The Town Crier, Karen and Company, Outdoor 76 and Rosebud Cottage.

Sylva middle school teacher murdered by husband

{mosimage}Michael David Morrow of Waynesville was arrested and charged with the murder of his estranged wife, Amanda Smith Morrow, a seventh grade teacher at Fairview School in Sylva. Morrow’s lifeless body was found beaten and with a bullet wound to the head on the front porch of her neighbors house two hours after authorities had been called to her residence to investigate a domestic dispute call on Oct. 16. Before the body was found, Michael David Morrow was detained at his home on Morrow Drive where officers also recovered the handgun believed to have been used in the murder.

March of Dimes Jail-n-Bail event exceeds charity's annual goal

The Fifth Annual Macon County March of Dimes Jail-n-Bail was a great success this year, raising more than $5,000 and pushing annual donations to the charity over its goal of $38,000 for the year. Former Franklin High School principal and Board of Education candidate Gary Shields was the honorary “judge” for the event in which several community leaders and upstanding citizens were “arrested” and brought by Sheriff’s Officers to the Macon County’s Department of Social Services in order to raise their “bail.” Donations went to the March of Dimes efforts to fight infant mortality.

Cori Sellers named FHS Homecoming Queen

Franklin High School senior Cori Sellers was crowned FHS Homecoming Queen at the Oct. 22 home game against East Henderson High School. Sellers was chosen from a field of 13 young ladies nominated by the senior class. Kaitlyn Sutton was named runner-up.

County set to become a Certified Entrepreneurial Community

After an extensive process that has taken nearly three years, Macon County has reached the final stages in its effort to be named a Certified Entrepreneurial Community. The CEC program, established by AdvantageWest and commissioned by the N.C. General Assembly, was designed to promote economic development in the 23-county region of Western North Carolina.

The CEC designation can bring a number of practical advantages to a community, including participation in a cooperative marketing campaign through AdvantageWest; increased opportunities for networking and the exchange of ideas; and improved access to capital through programs such as a revolving loan program administered by AdvantageWest.

Franklin man charged with sex crimes against minors

On Oct. 22, David Wayne Ogden of Franklin, 63, was arrested and charged with multiple counts of sexual exploitation of minors and several other crimes including giving a controlled substance to a minor and possession of a firearm by a felon.

Detectives from the Macon County Sheriff's Office began investigating Ogden, after an Oct. 8 incident in which a 15-year-old female was reported to be “acting out” at a local bowling establishment. The girl was found to have smoked marijuana and ingested various controlled prescription drugs which she claimed had been given to her by Ogden. The girl told that Ogden had convinced her to send him pornographic images of herself in exchange for drugs and money. She also said she knew of at least six other minors who had a similar relationship with Ogden.

A Grand Jury indictment of Ogden added the charges of one count of taking indecent liberties with a child and one count of forced sexual servitude. Ogden had his bond set at $220,000 and was scheduled to appear in Superior Court on Jan. 10.

Highlands ousts planning and development director

At a specially called meeting on Oct. 26, the Highlands Board of Commissioners fired the town’s director of planning and development, Joe Cooley in a vote of three-to-two. Cooley, who had worked for the town since 2007, was given the option of resigning with a three-month severance package or being fired immediately without further deliberation. Cooley opted to resign.

Town Manager Jim Fatland had already been authorized to begin the recruitment process to find a new director of planning and development at a previous meeting of the board. Fatland recommended Mark Maxwell to serve as interim director until a new director could be hired.

At subsequent meetings, the board discussed the town’s system of authority and even considered a restructuring that would have placed both the planning and development director and the police department under the direct control of the town manager.

14th Annual Pumpkinfest bigger and better than ever

{mosimage}Franklin’s 14th Annual Pumpkinfest, held on the weekend of Oct. 23 and 24, was an overwhelming success according to organizers and attendees alike. This was the first year that Main Street was blocked off from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. for each day of the event, and the move was well received by all. With the streets closed, festival-goers were free to roam the attractions unimpeded by Main Street traffic. The streets were packed with families for both days. Entertainment ranged from musical performances by guitarist Ronnie Evans and the Sweet Tater Band to puppet shows by the Mountain Marionettes.


2010 midterm elections: Davis defeats Snow

{mosimage}In what many saw as a reprimand of the status quo after two years of Democratic leadership, Republicans swept into victory in heated contests around the nation in the 2010 midterm elections. The election also set records in North Carolina as the GOP captured both houses of the General Assembly for the first time in more than a century.

Political upsets were recorded throughout the state, including the defeat of three-term senator for N.C. District 50, John Snow (D), by his Republican challenger, Dr. Jim Davis of Franklin. Davis, a local orthodontist who had also spent 10 years on the Macon County Board of Commissioners, won the seat by the narrow margin of less than one third of one percent.

{mosimage}Conservative candidates also dominated the local election, with perhaps the biggest surprise coming from Republican Ron Haven capturing the most votes in the race to take one of the District Two seats on the county board of commissioners. Commissioner Ronnie Beale (D) just barely held on to his District Two seat by narrowly edging out Charlie Leatherman (R) and two-term commissioner Bob Simpson (D).

The school board also shifted toward the Republican end of the spectrum when former FHS Principal Gary Shields (R) beat out board member Bobby Bishop (D). Sheriff Robert Holland (R) was successful in defending his job from challenger George Lynch (D).

Franklin property owners get edgy over ETJ

More than 50 people attended a Nov. 1 public hearing on the Town of Franklin’s proposal to extend its Extra-Territorial Jurisdiction (ETJ) to a one-mile limit along the four main corridors that feed into to town. Properties that fall within the new ETJ borders will not be subject to additional taxation from the town, but any new development which takes place along these corridors will be subject to the town’s zoning ordinances. Many of the residents who attended the meeting merely wanted clarification on the proposal, but some expressed their disapproval with having to abide by any additional regulations with regards to how they choose to use their land.

Race to the Top money to fund wireless at schools

This year the county’s schools will all be equipped with wireless internet capacity. In November the Board of Education voted unanimously to use a portion of federal Race to the Top funds for the project.

The county, which has been alloted $585,472 in Race to the Top funds, was required to submit a proposal to reviewers at the N.C. Department of Public Instruction by Nov. 8. From that allotment, $101,402 is already earmarked for the N.C. Education Cloud network that will centralize and modernize information technology services to the state’s school districts.

Lake Emory meth lab dismantled

On Nov. 11, MCN reported that authorities had dismantled a methamphetamine production lab on Lake Emory Road. The lab was located at the residence of James Roy Tyler, 45, and Pamela Lynn Tyler, 46. The Tylers had made recently made headlines when they drove their van off the road and into Lake Emory at 50 miles an hour. They walked away from that incident, but were later arrested in connection with the meth lab.

Both were charged with manufacturing methamphetamine, a Schedule II controlled substance, and maintaining a vehicle, dwelling or other place for the storage of a controlled substance, as well as several other charges. The bust was the result of several weeks joint investigation by the Macon County Sheriff's Office Narcotics Unit and the State Bureau of Investigation.

High risk youth behaviors drop according to survey

According to Macon County’s 2009 Youth Risk Behavior Survey, trends in usage of tobacco, alcohol and drugs are in the decrease among the county’s youth. The survey provides local educators and health professionals with information about the prevalence of risky behaviors of middle school and high school students.

While many statistics gleaned by the survey indicated a drop in risky behavior among the county’s youth, there were still some surprising numbers. Last spring, 10 percent of high school students said that they had attempted suicide more than once. But in general the study indicated downward trends related to violence and self-harm among the 1,700 students who completed the survey.

Macon schools recognized for serving up healthy meals

According to WNC Healthy Kids, a child health advocacy group committed to reducing and preventing childhood obesity in the region, students at Macon County are eating healthier, better quality food in their lunch rooms. In November, MCN reported on a recent award received by the Macon County Schools Child Nutrition Program that cited the program as having made “significant strides to increase the consumption of fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains, increase the preparation of homemade foods, provide a daily meatless alternative to the hot meal, and provide access to nutrition information.

Cowboy Ball raises money for historical society museum

The 2nd Annual Diamond and Denim Gala, “The Cowboy Ball,” was held on Nov. 6 to raise money for operating costs for the Macon County Historical Society Museum. The event was well attended, raising more than $7,000 for the museum, and featured a catered dinner, a cash bar, a charity auction and lots of dancing.

Corbin tapped to replace Davis

Local insurance agent and past chairman of the Board of Education Kevin Corbin was selected by the executive committee of the Macon County Republican Party to replace outgoing Commissioner Jim Davis. Davis’ seat on the Board of Commissioners was not on the ballot this year, but after he defeated Sen. John Snow in the midterm elections it became vacant.

Executive committee representatives said that Corbin was the ideal choice to fill the position because of his background as a local professional, a family man and someone who has been successful in local politics in the past. Corbin, who is scheduled to be sworn into office this week, said that he would do his best to represent everybody in the county for the remainder of the term.

Developer admits no fault for loss of property

In November, MCN followed up on a story first reported in the spring about a Macon County property owner whose home was condemned after large scarps began developing on his land revealing a slow moving landslide. Mike Boggan’s Blossomtown Drive home is situated on a mountainside above the Craftsman’s Village development where significant excavation has taken place over the last two years. The developer, Miami-based Joseph Morretti, Inc., admits no liability for the landslide that has begun directly above the site. Meanwhile, Boggan continues to pay a mortgage and was billed for taxes on his uninhabitable property. Boggan said he is in the process of filing suit against the developer, but he also expressed support for a steep slope development ordinance that would protect property owners from such situations in the future.

Macon County debates need for hospice house

{mosimage}More than 150 people attended a Nov. 18 public hearing held to collect input on an application for a Certificate of Need from the state to approve the development of a six-bed inpatient hospice facility in Macon County. The Hospice House Foundation of WNC and Four Seasons Hospice, a non-profit organization based in Henderson County, filed the application in September.

Though those in support of building the new $4 million facility were in the majority, opponents of the plan were also on hand to state their position. The strongest opposition came from Angel Medical Center, which questions the need and economic viability of such a facility in the county. Supporters, on the other hand, cite statistics that suggest there is a need for a hospice house as evidenced by the low rates of inpatient hospice care in the region compared to state and national averages.

The N.C. Division of Health Service Regulation which hosted the hearing is to issue a decision on the application in January or February of 2011.

Commissioners clash over planning board appointment

Controversy erupted in November after three members of the Macon County Board of Commissioners voted to remove Al Slagle from the Planning Board’s steep slope subcommittee, appointing another former Planning Board member in his place. After commissioners failed to reappoint Slagle to the committee and Jimmy Goodman was appointed in his place, the opposed commissioners and Planning Board members complained that the actions amounted to a coup by conservative members.

In the weeks that followed, commissioners Brian McClellan and Jim Davis both apologized for the way the appointment had been handled. (They, along with Commissioner Bob Simpson, had both voted to deny Slagle’s reappointment.) The commissioners considered revising county statutes governing the Planning Board to allow for the expansion of the board and the reappointment of Slagle as a possible remedy to the kerfuffle, but that plan was met with disapproval from other members of the Planning Board. It was decided that Slagle would be allowed to maintain his position on the subcommittee until later in the spring when he might be reappointed to the board after other members resign.


11-year-old Bingham becomes youngest sheriff's deputy

Gabriel Bingham, 11, became the newest member of the Macon County Sheriff’s Office and Sheriff Robert Holland’s youngest deputy when he took the oath of office in a Dec. 6 swearing-in ceremony for newly elected, re-elected and continuing county officials. Superior Court Judge James Downs deputized Bingham, who has been battling a rare kidney disease called Focal Segmental Glomerulosclerosis or FSG, and the new honorary officer was beaming as Sheriff Holland presented him with an official jacket and ID card, and then pinned a deputy’s badge on him.

Selection of commission chairman reveals discord on board

Republican Brian McClellan, in his second term as a commissioner, was elected to chair the board on Dec. 6 in a process that gave more than a glimpse of power struggles that were taking place with the transition. The direct cause of the political theatre, in which the commissioners at first reached a stalemate, was the absence of Commissioner Jim Davis (R), a situation which left the quorum of members split evenly between the two political camps.

Commissioner Bobby Kuppers (D) moved to return Commissioner Ronnie Beale (D) to the chair, a position he has filled for several years. The nomination was seconded by Beale but failed to carry after “no” votes from Haven and McClellan. Next came Haven’s nomination of McClellan, seconded by McClellan, a vote which failed along the same party lines and ended in a 2-2 tie. After a brief recess, a motion to reconsider the nomination of McClellan passed unanimously.

Schools ponder potential $4.7 million gap in 2011-12 budget

Macon County schools may be forced to turn to the county for help filling in a potential budget hole of $4.7 million that the district could face in the 2011-12 school year, said Superintendent Dan Brigman in December. The district stands to lose as much as $2.3 million in state funding next year on top of the 4 percent budget reductions that have been an ongoing part of the state’s public school funding.

Brigman cited a report from the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction which detailed the specific impacts that further cuts the state budget would have on local school districts. He noted that any cuts in state funding will be in addition to the loss of federal stabilization and stimulus dollars (equivalent to nearly $2.4 million) which are set to expire next year.

“This is not going to be a fun budget year,” said Brigman in a recent interview. “It’s going to take all parties working together to build consensus and to make sure the classroom is protected.”

Winter Wonderland shows strong turnout for new attractions

{mosimage}This year’s Winter Wonderland festival was attended by as many as one thousand visitors who came to see the music and entertainment at the downtown gazebo, slide down the ice slide and visit the Main Street shops which stayed open late for the event. Holiday characters like Frosty the Snowman and the Grinch roamed about downtown. Main Street director Linda Schlott said she was thrilled with the turnout and response to the event, which had a slightly more contemporary and more general theme this year.

52-unit affordable housing complex proposed in Franklin

In December, a special-use application for a proposed 52-unit apartment complex on the south side of Franklin was submitted to town planner and land-use administrator Mike Grubermann. The complex would provide affordable housing to low-income residents, offering them reasonable, controlled rents and a convenient location. The proposed location for the complex is the undeveloped land behind Fatz Café.

The development hopes to meet criteria for the low-income housing tax credit administered by the North Carolina Housing Finance Agency. A study earlier in 2010 found that Franklin had a need for at least 50 low-income housing units. After a Dec. 21 public hearing on the proposed development, the Town of Franklin Planning Board recommended approval of the special-use application.

Shop With A Cop program spreads Christmas spirit

{mosimage}For 12 years, Shop With A Cop has been bringing Christmastime cheer to underprivileged children in the county, giving them a chance to go shopping for gifts with members of the law enforcement community. According to Sheriff Robert Holland, this year's event was a great success, with more than 200 kids participating in the program.

Each kid received $100 vouchers to buy gifts at Walmart – some for themselves, some for their family or friends. This year, 10 different local, state and federal law enforcement agencies participated, and over $18,000 was collected for the program.

ABC boards fighting privatization

Alcohol sales could go private in North Carolina, and ABC boards throughout the state are taking a stand against the threat of that possibility. On Dec. 14, the N.C. Association of ABC Boards sent a letter to legislators announcing its opposition to any effort to privatize the sale and distribution of liquor in the state, which has recently ordered a valuation of the system with an eye on increasing tax revenue through alcohol sales. If North Carolina lawmakers decide to dissolve the current Alcohol Beverage Control system, ABC stores will be liquidated and replaced by independently operated wine and spirit shops. Charities and agencies stretched to limit after years of recession

Three years into the deepest recession the country has seen since the Great Depression, governmental and non-profit support organizations are struggling with depleted resources and dropping revenue streams. In December, MCN reported on organizations like the Macon County Care Network (CareNet) that are having to cut services after finding their funding sources and reserve funds drained. Even governmental agencies like the Department of Social Services have less resources to work with, as funding for heating assistance and other programs have been cut. MCN also reported on the many local groups and organizations, such as the new Franklin Young Professionals groups, which have gotten involved in the effort to help families during the hard winter season.


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