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News 2011: The Year in Review - Part I

Newsmakers & Top Headlines of the Year

2011 was certainly an eventful year — internationally, nationally, and locally. From the Japanese tsunami to the death of Osama bin Laden and the advent of the Arab Spring, events around the world sparked triumph and tragedy.

There were at least 12 natural disasters, and several unnatural ones in America and throughout the globe that resulted in devastating loss of life and crippling financial losses. Bin Laden’s death at the hands of Seal Team six ignited huge celebrations throughout the United States, and successfully concluded the decade-long manhunt for the world’s most wanted person.

The economy showed gains and improvements throughout the year, but unemployment figures remained high and millions of foreclosures have continued to proceed despite government programs to assist many homeowners.

The ending of the war in Iraq after more than eight years of combat and the death of 4,500 Americans was also a major turning point in American foreign policy. President Obama made good on his promise to the American people, and delivered orders to U.S. troops to withdraw from Iraq, bringing hundreds of thousands of service men and women home for the holidays.

In North Carolina, the state controlled Republican legislature made up for their 140-year absence from leadership by enacting a controversial state budget which ended the one cent sales tax increase and income tax surcharges, passed redistricting maps that were only recently pre-approved by the U.S. Justice Department, and successfully pushed a gay marriage ballot initiative with bipartisan support, among many other legislative endeavors. Their 2012 agenda will undoubtedly stir heated debate among lawmakers and citizens alike during the upcoming election year.

Outside the realm of politics, the state faced some difficult issues. The legislature struggled to crack down on synthetic marijuana called cannabinoids, as well as a synthetic version of cocaine sold in head shops across North Carolina in the form of “herbal incense” and “bath salts,” respectively. The substances were gaining widespread use, but caused dangerous side effects such as seizures and erratic mood swings or violent behavior for many users. Law enforcement officials were at a loss for how to deal with the substances until the legislature enacted a ban on all synthetic cannabinoid products.

Macon County “saw red” because of education cuts: Last January, teachers, administrators and staff at Macon County schools wore red to express their opposition to proposed cuts in education in North Carolina. The action was part of a statewide protest initiated by the NCAE on the first week that legislators returned for a session of the General Assembly. Above, South Macon Elementary made their colorful statement.North Carolina also experienced a rise in gambling in “sweepstakes” businesses across the state. Legislators unsuccessfully attempted to ban the sweepstakes parlors, but sweepstakes engineers slightly altered the system to circumvent the new laws. Since then, sweepstakes businesses have continued to operate in a legal grey area as lawmakers reconsider the issue.

Cuts to the school budget across North Carolina made the news several times throughout 2011, leading to layoffs and reduction of educational support staff. Teachers throughout the state protested the proposed cuts as the NC Association of Educators (NCAE) launched a campaign to inform and educate the public on the cuts and possible alternative solutions to the budget shortfalls. Their efforts culminated most recently with a nonpartisan rally and presentation entitled “Cuts Hurt” which hit campuses in the UNC system and landed at Western Carolina University in Cullowhee, NC. Meanwhile, the Macon County adopted the Lindamood-Bell Learning System to help children learn reading and comprehension skills, agreeing to a contract and additional costs that have totaled more than $330,000. The Macon County school system also faced a lawsuit for changing the statewide school calendar to implement a new intersession program that some school board members and members of the public have criticized for being poorly attended and very expensive to maintain.

And yet there were also many triumphs of the spirit that came and went in 2011, mostly local stories that would go unnoticed on a wider scale, but display the background stories of humanity and modern society on a small-town level.

During the second annual Operation Medicine Drop 11,464 dosages were collected in Highlands and 51,893 were collected in Franklin, for a total of 63,357 pills and other dosages for the entire county.Locally, the retirement of Macon County’s Assistant Manager, Wilma Anderson, and Finance Director, Evelyn Southard, ended over three decades of continuity and seasoned leadership within the county’s public administration staff. But the appointment of Kevin Corbin and Jimmy Tate to the Board of Commissioners, following Jim Davis’ election to the state Senate and the resignation of former chairman Brian McClellan, brought some new faces to the board.

It was a great year for Franklin High School sports, as the varsity softball, volleyball, and football teams made historic runs in the state playoffs. All three teams earned a conference championship.

Early in the year, Operation Medicine Drop, conducted by the Macon County and Jackson County Sheriff’s Offices, collected more than 60,000 doses of unused medicine, including strong painkillers, which will not be dealt illegally on the street. Area Relay for Life events raised record-breaking amounts of donations for the American Cancer Foundation. Local residents have continued to give generously to food pantries throughout the area. Local business owners FHS Conference Championship Softball Teamhave adapted to the “new economy,” some by merging, others by being more assertive in marketing their businesses and trying innovative new ways of keeping their regular customers coming back. And of course, tourism continued to play a key role in the local economy. Loads of tourists showed up for their annual pilgrimage to enjoy the cool mountain air and attend festivals held across the region, contributing vital funds to the economy in Western North Carolina.

The untimely death of Franklin town alderman Jerry Evans was an unfortunate occurrence for all of Macon County. The board nominated and approved of Farrell Jamison to replace Evans’ seat. The fall elections did not see any changes to the town board, as no challengers put their names on the ballot. The town of Highlands and Sylva saw some changes on their commissioner board, and also brought on some new faces to their administrative staff.

And the biggest triumph of the year came in the form of a little girl, 28-month-old Kirsten Hart, who survived a vicious attack of physical abuse and is well on her way to living a normal, healthy life following the life-threatening experience.

It’s said that the only constant in life is change and 2011 brought a tremendous amount of change with it as society as a whole shifted and developed to adapt to current events. It seems as though it’s often the local stories that provide the rays of sunshine in an otherwise stormy year of global upheaval and unrest. It will be fascinating to see what new faces and events — what changes — 2012 will bring.

January

Macon welcomes first baby of 2011

Franklin’s first baby of 2011 was born at Angel Medical Center on Monday, Jan. 3, at 7:53 a.m. Jayla Chavez Solis was born to Jesus Chavez and Ana Solis and weighed seven pounds, five ounces and was 20 inches long.

Fires near Cullasaja River destroys homes

A fire that broke out Sunday, Jan. 2, on a property bordering the Cullasaja River consumed a mobile home, a recreational fifth wheel trailer and a storage shed.

Investigators reported that the cause of the fire was related to an electrical short in the main inverter from which the trailers were drawing power.

The Cullasaja Volunteer Fire Department responded to the report. Chief Fire Inspector for Macon County, Farrell Jamison reported that everything surrounding the fire was eliminated. “Everything was completely destroyed,” said Jamison. The trailers were burnt down to the frame and the wheel wells and all the tires were burned.

No one was in the mobile home or the camper trailer at the time of the fire and no injuries were reported.

Corbin sworn in as county commissioner; replaces Davis

Kevin Corbin was sworn in as commissioner to replace Jim Davis after Davis won his bid for election to the N.C. SenateAfter Commissioner Jim Davis won his bid for N.C. Senate during the midterm elections in November 2010, The Executive Committee of the Macon County Republican Party unanimously selected Kevin Corbin to be appointed to the Macon County Board of Commissioners.

Corbin was sworn in during the first regularly scheduled commissioner's meeting of 2011 on Jan. 11. Although Corbin’s appointment to the board shifted the majority of the board to Republicans, Corbin dismissed talk of a new era of partisanship on the board. “One of the first things that Gary said to me was that they wanted someone who could represent everybody in Macon County, not just the Republican Party,” Corbin said of Gary Dills, former chairman of the Republican Party. “This board is going to work very well together.”

Corbin, a local insurance agent and past chairman of the Board of Education was also elected to Chariman of the Board in December following Brian McClellan's resignation after McClellan received a D.W.I in Jackson County on Nov. 18.

Manhunt ends in suicide

A manhunt that involved more than a dozen law enforcement agencies from three states ensued after Swain County man John Fred Stanley, 42, shot and killed his estranged wife, Lora Lee Stanley, 43, outside the Quality Inn in Cherokee. Fred Stanley also injured Lora’s sister on New Year’s Eve.

Stanley died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound after being tracked down in Georgia.

The attack began at Harrah’s Cherokee Casino, which was full of guests, due to the proximity of the New Year's Eve holiday. After the shooting, the hotel had to be closed for much of the day while agents investigated the murder scene.

According to Chief Ben Reed of the Cherokee Indian Police, the shooting was a case of domestic violence.

Stanley fled the scene after the shooting but was later stopped in Dalton, Ga., where he shot himself after firing at law enforcement officers who were trying to apprehend him. Stanley was airlifted to a local hospital but later died of his injuries.

Sheriff Holland asks local business to stop selling ‘herbal incense’

On Jan. 19, Macon County Sheriff Robert Holland, along with a few of his deputies, paid a visit to local businesses and issued them written requests asking them to voluntarily stop selling “herbal incense” products.

The controversial “incense” has gained national attention in recent months as a popular “smokeable” product. The hazy craze is reportedly due to the fact that the effects of smoking incense are similar to those of marijuana.

“Both locally and nationally there are increasing incidents of young people ending up in emergency rooms or worse after smoking these products,” read Holland’s letter, attributing the adverse health reactions to the consumption of the chemicals. “Again, I am asking you to voluntarily comply with my request for the good of our community and our younger citizens. While I am writing you in my official capacity, I am not implying that there will be any legal repercussions if you choose not to honor my request, unless or until N.C. state law is changed.”

A few businesses did comply with his request, but many continued to sell the products. “Some of them are accusing me of bullying them, but I simply asked them to voluntarily stop selling it. I got a lot of good response and I got some negative response,” said Holland, describing the majority of the public’s feedback as positive.

Later in the year, a statewide mandatory ban was implemented on the products.

Budget cuts cause Macon County educators to ‘see red’

North Carolina educators “saw red” over drastic cuts to the state’s public schools education budget. The cuts were first taken under consideration in January, when legislators returned to Raleigh in the new session of the General Assembly. In a coordinated statement of opposition to the proposed cuts, teachers and public school employees across the state wore red to work for the entire week.

The North Carolina Association of Educators (NCAE) called for educators to wear red on Wednesday Jan. 26, the first day of the legislative session, to send a clear message to lawmakers that they need to keep their promises not to cut classroom funding. The state faced a budget shortfall of more than $3.8 billion, but many legislators, including Speaker Thom Tillis (R), pledged not to cut education.

Locally, the action is being organized by the Macon County Association of Educators (MCAE).

“We are wearing red to show our state leaders that students are counting on them to keep their promise not to cut classroom funding,” explained Rena Sutton, MCAE secretary. “Our schools have already suffered over $1 billion in cuts in the past two years and thousands of teachers have lost their jobs. It needs to stop or they will hurt our children’s futures.”

February

Operation Ice Melt yields 14 arrests

The Macon County Sheriff’s Office’s Narcotic Unit worked with Jackson and Swain County authorities the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation, and the D.E.A. [Drug Enforcement Agency] Asheville office, to conduct Operation Ice Melt, a three- month long investigation.

A total of 18 individuals were targeted for assisting in the manufacturing of methamphetamine during the course of the investigation, 14 of which were arrested and faced charges ranging from conspiracy to traffic methamphetamine to conspiracy to manufacture the drug.

Sheriff Robert Holland stated, “Citizens need to understand that any individual who participates or assists any other person in the making or purchasing of materials to produce methamphetamine or any other drug is subject to being investigated, arrested, and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

East Franklin’s principal abruptly suspended

Terry Bradley, principal at East Franklin Elementary School, was given an ultimatum in February to resign or face immediate suspension with pay while an investigation into “leadership issues” was conducted.

Superintendent Dr. Dan Brigman was unable to provide details about the suspension at the time, but emphasized that no criminal allegations were involved. Brigman stated that it was Bradley’s performance which was under review. “This is an internal review of leadership issues,” he said.

“It is a suspension while we review information pertaining to the issues, and we are still collecting information.”

In May, at the end of the 90- day investigation period, even though details into the investigation have still not been released, Brigman announced that he had received a letter of resignation from Bradley on April 29.

Shirley Parks was unanimously appointed by the Board of Education to replace Bradley at East Franklin Elementary School.

FHS varsity and JV cheerleading squads recognized for win in Raleigh

Top left to right: Lydia Dodson, Mollie Haithcock, Carrie Williams, Congressman Phil Haire, Coach Stephanie Smith, Natasha Wooten, Allie Foley, Sara Ledbetter and Mackenzie Jones. Bottom left to right: Kassie Rogers, Natasha Ruffner, Morgan Henry, Michayla Crewes, Taylor Rostallon and Laura Norton. Not pictured: Carli Calloway and Jordan Field.Rep. Phil Haire presented FHS Varsity and Junior Varsity cheerleading squads with a certificate commemorating their victory as state cheerleading champions for the Western North Carolina district. The teams went to Raleigh from Feb.11-13 and competed in the North Carolina Cheerleading Coaches Association. Both varsity and junior varsity squads won first place in non-tumbling cheerleading.

The duel win was the first in FHS cheerleading history. Varsity coach Jennifer Turner-Lynn attributed her team’s success in 2011 to good leadership and hard work. The Franklin cheerleaders competed against two other teams, Pisgah and Four Bush. In Franklin’s division, teams can compete with one another based on ability, rather than size, said Lynn. Their victory marks a major turning point in Franklin High School’s

Town left with void with the passing of Jerry Evans

Friends and co-workers came out for a reception to honor Wilma Anderson during her final week on the job. Anderson has served Macon County for 36 years, since 1975, as assistant to the County Manager, Human Resources Director, and secretary for the County Commission. Commissioners presented her with a framed rendition of the original historic Macon County courthouse as a retirement gift. Left to right: County manager Jack Horton, Commissioner Bob Kuppers, Commissioner Ronnie Beale, Wilma Anderson, Commissioner Brian McClellan, and Commissioner Kevin Corbin.Former Town of Franklin alderman Jerry Evans unexpectedly passed away in mid-February at the age of 55 due to complications relating to a respiratory illness.

More than a year prior to his death, Evans was diagnosed with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, a scarring or thickening of the lungs that causes difficulty breathing.

Evans had checked into Angel Medical Center on Feb. 16 with an apparent infection that left him dehydrated, Mayor Joe Collins said.

“I was totally stunned when I got the call,” said town alderman Joyce Handley. “The thought never occurred to me that he was so ill that he was going to pass away.”

Evans served on the board of aldermen since 1995 and had battled issues that left him sidelined from attending meetings over the last few months of his life.

“He was there for the little guy. He was always for the taxpayers. He didn’t want changes made that were going to hurt the people who had voted for him.” said Handley.

Franklin’s Main Street Program to create downtown game plan

By February, Franklin’s Main Street Program had begun implementing a plan to further the identity of downtown, and promote continued economic development in the town.

According to members, the program’s first meeting was an important one, as the Main Street Program covers a considerably large area for its capacity.

“We want to keep our own identity. We’re different from any other Main Street district, because we’re so large,” explained Main Street Program Director Linda Schlott. “We cover almost nine miles of streets. Most Main Street districts are only a couple of blocks downtown. Our district includes Depot Street, Highlands Road, Palmer Street — it’s just a large area. It’s very spread out.”

One of the Main Street Program’s primary goals for 2011 was to further establish downtown Franklin’s presence through signage and way-finding. According to MSP members, travelers have little indicating to them where the downtown area is as they pass through. As last year’s market analysis pointed out, the district could benefit from designation and signage.

Schlott said that producing a free shopping and dining guide for the district is another way the program intends to mark the downtown area for passersby, and is also among the recommendations last year’s town-solicited market analysis made. How many copies of the map will be printed has yet to be determined, however Schlott did indicate that the program intends to print them with a local company.

“We know that shopping and dining is what we want to concentrate on, we just haven’t had a chance to get into any depth on that,” said Schlott. “It’ll list all the special events and businesses in town, and show where the courthouse, gazebo and the chamber is, and those types of points of interest.”

Program member Janet Green, who was appointed as chairman, said that getting travelers into downtown Franklin was paramount to the program, which is why signage and branding for the town is being implemented. According to Green, the atmosphere of a downtown setting is largely based on public traffic, by foot or vehicle.

“We have a choice about the type of downtown we can get. It can be thriving or it can be lost,” said Green. “That’s why the Main Street Program is so important, because we can lose it, so let’s work hard to keep it.”

March

Jennifer Hollifield honored for 13 years of service with the March of Dimes

March of Dimes Pisgah Division Vice Chairman Michaela Blanton (right) presents Macon County March for Babies Chairman Jennifer Hollifield with a plaque of appreciation for 13 years of volunteer service. Photo by Mike KesselringMacon County’s March of Dimes March for Babies committee chair Jennifer Hollifield was honored on Feb. 24, by the Pisgah Division March of Dimes Organization. Hollifield has devoted 13 years to Macon County’s March of Dimes Committee, having chaired the organization for several years.

Hollifield has helped Macon County’s March of Dimes Committee raise more than $500,000 in the past 12 years, which exemplifies her strong leadership in the organization. “It’s all about the babies,” said Hollifield after being awarded a plaque from Pisgah’s March of Dimes organization. “It’s a subject near and dear to my heart,” she said.

Mike Decker takes on role of HR director

Former assistant town manager Mike Decker took on the role as the county’s human resources director on Tuesday, March 15, following the retirement of long-time county employee Wilma Anderson. Decker has worked for the Town of Franklin and also served seven years as county planner and special projects coordinator for Macon County before his stint with the Town of Franklin.

“Let’s make it clear, I’m not replacing Wilma,” said Decker following his acceptance of the job. “Nobody could. I’m just trying to fill the position. The learning curve is pretty steep,” he said.

Anderson retires from Macon County after 36 years of public service

Friends and co-workers came out for a reception to honor Wilma Anderson during her final week on the job. Anderson has served Macon County for 36 years, since 1975, as assistant to the County Manager, Human Resources Director, and secretary for the County Commission. Commissioners presented her with a framed rendition of the original historic Macon County courthouse as a retirement gift. Left to right: County manager Jack Horton, Commissioner Bob Kuppers, Commissioner Ronnie Beale, Wilma Anderson, Commissioner Brian McClellan, and Commissioner Kevin Corbin.After 36 years of serving Macon County, Wilma Anderson officially retired as the county’s Human Resources Director and Assistant County Manager on March 29. Anderson was the county’s “right hand” and in appreciation of her dedication to Macon County, colleagues and elected officials threw her a retirement party to celebrate over three decades of her service to Macon County.

Anderson began her career with Macon County in the tax office and in 1977 Anderson transferred to the county manager’s office where she worked for the remainder of her tenure. “She’s like a mentor to everybody she works with,” said County Manager Jack Horton during Anderson’s retirement ceremony.

“I look forward to spending time with my grandchildren and mother, who is 80 years old,” said Anderson at her ceremony. “I am going to spend some time at my house. I’m going to garden. I’m going to spend some time at Lake Chatuge where we have a little place, and spend part of the time in Florida. I’m at peace with this decision. It’s time,” she said.

Second annual Operation Medicine Drops collects more than 60,000 doses

Sheriff’s Officer Kim Osborne signs over bags of unused and expired medications collected in Highlands to narcotics officers during the second annual Operation Medicine Drop.Thousands of residents of Macon County showed up at drop-off points across the area to turn over their old, unused medications to the authorities. in late March. The Macon County Sheriff’s Office joined law enforcement officers across North Carolina to spearhead the second annual Operation Medicine Drop on Saturday, March 26. Sheriff’s deputies and narcotics officers — in conjunction with the Franklin and Highlands Police Departments— spent the day collecting prescription drugs at convenient locations in Franklin and Highlands from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Drop-off sites included Wal-Mart and Kmart in Franklin, and Main Street Pharmacy, Highlands Pharmacy, Bryson’s Food Store, and Market Fresh Grocery in Highlands.

“It was a lot wetter this year than it was last year,” said Franklin Police officer Steven Apel back in March, but added that the public outpour far outweighed the pouring rain. “A lot of people came through and seemed to be real pleased and happy that we had a place to put all the medication that they’ve had in their house forever.” More than 60,000 doses were collected by authorities in their March campaign.

Three DSS board members in Swain County resign

Three members of Swain County’s Department of Social Services Board resigned after the SBI launched an investigation into the alleged wrongdoing in the death of 15-month-old Aubrey Littlejohn in January. Chairman Jim Gribble, Wally Treadway, and Bob Thomas resigned from the board on March 10.

The Swain County Board of Commissioners released a statement in early March calling for the board members resignations after they failed to suspend Tammy Cagle, director of Swain County’s DSS following the wrongful death of Littlejohn.

Sunset employees win lottery

Ten employees at the Sunset Restaurant “hit it big” last March, winning a quarter of a million dollars from the Mega Millions lottery drawing. The group of coworkers had been playing once a week for four years, and their randomly chosen numbers of 10,11,12, 28, and 43 won the group $250,000. The coworkers decided to split the $250,000 evenly among themselves, amounting to $17,000 each for the lucky ten.

“If we had got one more ball it would have been $127 million,” said Sunset employee Kenny Genawese. “It was disbelief at first. I had to read the numbers over and over again, and I knew at that point I hit the big one,” he said after winning the jackpot. April

Macon County Sheriff’s Office arrest couple for second time in less than a year

This second time around, David and Pamela Holland reportedly used a new method of producing the drug called “shake and bake,” in which manufacturers of the drug place all of the ingredients in a small container and periodically shake it to mix the ingredients. But the process still requires that law enforcement agents wear protective gear, as above, in dismantling the manufacturing facility.For the second time in less than a year, deputies with the Macon County Sheriff’s Office arrested a couple from the Ellijay community for operating a lab used for manufacturing methamphetamine. Authorities were assisted in dismantling the lab in late March by the Cullasaja Fire Department and State Bureau of Investigation. The lab belonged to David Lee Holland, 43, and Pamela Ledbetter Holland, 40, both of Ralph Taylor Road. The couple was arrested Thursday, March 31, 2011.

On June 25, 2010, the Hollands were arrested for similar charges when deputies secured and dismantled a meth lab located at their Ellijay home following a three-week-long investigation. Tips provided by members of the community prompted authorities to the investigation and arrests.

Severe wind storm wreaks havoc in WNC

Power poles and lines leaned precariously when trees fell across them last April, just up the hill on Phillips Street near Franklin High School. Street lights were broken and several lines lay across the road. Surprisingly, residents did not lose power which may have accounted for the fact that the lines had yet to be repaired later that week. Photo by Vickie CarpenterA severe weather system struck Macon County and WNC in the first week of April, causing widespread power outages and structural damage as far east as Charlotte and Greensboro. More than 250,000 customers reportedly lost power in Duke Energy’s Carolinas service area.

Duke Energy estimated that more than 18,000 customers in WNC lost power as a result. North Carolina DOT crews in Macon County worked diligently to remedy the 29 reported downed trees and utility lines across the county. There were also nine reported miscellaneous fire calls in Macon County during the evening attributed to the violent windstorm, as well as 134 calls to the 9-1-1 dispatch.

County Ranger Bobby Mashburn honored by MCFA

Macon County’s Firefighters Association (MCFA) honored North Carolina Forest Service Ranger Bobby Mashburn, for his service to Macon County. At its annual Firefighter of the Year Banquet the MCFA surprised Mashburn with a special celebration.

Mashburn has worked with the Forest Service in Macon County since 1987, and took over the position of County Ranger in 2001. Mashburn is one of only two full-time NCFS employees who are responsible for protecting more than 170,000 acres of state and private forestland in Macon County from wildfires. Warren Cabe, then Macon County’s EMS Director, recognized Mashburn for not just his NCFS work, but also his work in assisting the county’s volunteer fire departments with training initiatives.

Macon County obtains school calendar waiver

The State Board of Education approved a calendar waiver for Macon County Schools in early April, a move that pushed up the start of classes by three weeks to end the first semester before Christmas.

The calendar change was approved by the school board in a February meeting. Classes started on Aug. 4 for the 2011/12 school year, instead of the previous year’s date of Aug. 25. The school year will end on May 24, before Memorial Day and more than two weeks prior to last year’s originally scheduled end date. Furthermore, the approval gave Macon County Schools two, week-long intersession periods for enrichment activities for students.

Students join the fun at Macon County Special Olympics games

More than 80 athletes participated in 15 different track and field events at Macon County’s Special Olympics on April 8. Events included the long jump, the tennis ball throw, the softball throw, the 50 meter dash, and the 10 meter assisted walk, along with several other games for attendees to participate in.

The event was a collaborative effort from multiple organizations, including Macon Middle School athletes, Franklin High School’s track team, the Macon County Sheriff’s Office, Macon County Commissioners, and employees with Macon County Public Schools. The games gave local children and adults with intellectual disabilities the opportunity to be involved in athletic activities and competition that gave them a sense of pride and belonging.

Another successful senior games for Macon County

Hundreds of Macon County seniors and volunteers gathered at the county’s recreation park in late April to begin the annual Macon County Senior Games. The ceremony welcomed several guest speakers, entertainment from Men Macon Music, and exhibitions by Tai Chi demonstrator Mary Ann Ingram. The event marked the beginning of another year of fun games and competition for local seniors, and as usual, Franklin’s Senior Games saw several participants go on to participate in Raleigh.

Senator Kay Hagan hears concerns of Maconians

Senator Kay Hagan sat down with WNC constituents last April in a series of informal meetings called “Conversations with Kay” in which she listened to concerns and answered questions. Above, Hagan (left) chatted on Thursday with Jim and Emily Dale of Franklin. Photo by Christopher CarpenterU.S. Senator Kay Hagan (D-N.C.) visited Macon County on her “Conversations with Kay” tour on April 20 and 21. Hagan stopped at Macon County’s Senior Center in Franklin to speak with citizens during an hour long session. “I’m trying to get all across North Carolina so that I can listen to you, to your concerns, and take them back to Washington,” Hagan said at the meeting.

After visiting Franklin, Hagan commented that Social Security, Medicare, and the deficit were among the most prevalent concerns she heard from Maconians. Also, Senator Hagan was presented with a plaque by Franklin High School Athletic Booster Club Member, Rhonda Blanton, and school board chairman, Tommy Cabe, who thanked the Senator for the gift of the flag flown by troops in Afghanistan, a flag later flown at FHS football games.

May

Proffitt Memorial Scholarship fund raiser nets more than $5,000

The Wayne Proffitt Memorial Scholarship was awarded for its second year last May, during the Future Farmers of America annual fundraising banquet at the Wayne Proffitt Agricultural Center on 441 South. Just over $5,000 was raised at the banquet. The event not only honored two hard working Macon County students who received the Proffitt scholarship, but it also honored the man whom the scholarship was named after.

“The Wayne Proffitt Memorial Scholarship was established to continue the legacy of Mr. Proffitt and to benefit the young folks of Macon County,” said County Commissioner Ronnie Beale in May, who was also a former student and friend of Proffitt’s. “We’re very happy with the scholarship and the great community support.”

Roger Teeple, FFA teacher at Owen High School in Asheville, was among the guest speakers at the banquet, remarked on Proffitt’s hard work as a teacher. “It was indeed a true honor to meet Wayne. He was one of a kind,” he said. “Wayne Proffitt taught for 44 years and never missed a day.” The kind of hard work Proffitt exhibited as a teacher, is the kind of hard work the scholarship looks for in Macon County students, Teeple said, hence the scholarship.

FHS senior students Emily White and Justin McClure received $750 scholarships, due to their agricultural studies. White, with a Grade Point Average of 3.80, and a class rank of 39 out of 232, thanked Macon County Public Schools for their support. “I hope to become like Mr. Proffitt — a legend,” she said.

McClure, who ranked 26 out of 232 students and maintained a GPA of 3.92, also thanked Macon County Public Schools and the scholarship board for the opportunity to further his education. “It’s an honor,” he said at the May ceremony.

Nantahala Principal, 39, succumbs after battle with cancer

The late Robbie Newton, former Nantahala School principalOn Sunday, May 8, Robbie Newton, principal of Nantahala School, passed away after a long battle with cancer. Newton, 39, was loved and respected by the students and teachers at Nantahala School. Colleagues from around the county spoke of the positive role-model and inspiration he had been.

“It’s a great personal loss for me,” Franklin High School principal Chris Baldwin said of Newton’s passing. Before moving to FHS this year, Baldwin had been principal at Nantahala School and had worked with Newton for a number of years.

“It’s also, in my opinion, a huge loss for the community and the school. He touched the lives of many students and colleagues over the past 15 or so years that he worked at Nantahala School.”

Friends and colleagues of Newton said his commitment to the students at Nantahala School was inspiring. Classes at the K- 12 school were canceled the next Monday out of respect for Newton’s passing. Newton began teaching at the school in 1996 after receiving his B.A. from Western Carolina University. He held numerous teaching certificates and in 2009 was awarded an M.A. in Education Administration and Supervision from Lincoln Memorial University.

In his time at the Nantahala School, Newton wore many hats. He was the middle school math teacher for many years before taking over as principal after Baldwin’s transfer last summer. He was also the head basketball coach for boys and girls teams and led both to conference championships in 2007. Newton, who was co-owner of a timber frame construction company in Nantahala with his step-father, Charles Mingus, also taught construction at Nantahala School.

Main Street grants awarded to Highlands and Sylva for revitalization, job creation

The Towns of Highlands and Sylva were awarded with grant monies from the North Carolina Main Streets Programs on April 21. Gov. Beverly Perdue announced that seven communities would receive more than $960,000 through the state’s Main Street Solutions Fund. The funds require small businesses to create or retain a minimum of 119 permanent and 57 part-time jobs, in addition to 84 construction jobs, according to the grant’s application.

The Town of Highlands was awarded $200,000 for the renovation of the courtyard area of the “Town Square” complex. The Highlands Small Town Main Street Committee, Lupoli Construction, Kilwin’s, TJ Bailey for Men, Spoiled Rotten, and 4118 Brew Pub were all listed as awardees of the grant. The businesses in Highlands will be responsible for creating or retaining 23 permanent full-time jobs, 10 permanent part-time jobs, and 84 construction jobs.

The Town of Sylva received $47,382 for renovating facades along Mills Street, upgrading three buildings located on the street. The project also included parking lot improvements to a private lot that supported several small businesses on Mills Street. The nine businesses that benefited from the project were required to create or retain 57 permanent full-time jobs and nine permanent part-time jobs.

FHS point guard verbally commits to play basketball at WCU

Lindsay Simpson, the 5-foot-7 point guard who has shattered numerous records during her tenure at Franklin High School, verbally committed to Western Carolina University last May. The sharpshooter, a two-star prospect in the 2012 class according to ESPN.com, chose the Lady Catamounts in part because of the school’s close proximity to Franklin. Simpson is one of the best athletes to ever put on a Panthers uniform, excelling in two sports, volleyball and basketball.

Planning Board scrutinizes steep slope development ordinance

At their regular scheduled meeting in May, Planning Board members received a proposed draft of a steep slope ordinance. The workgroup assigned to draft the ordinance had worked on the project for more than two years. Dr. Ed Haught, a semi-retired engineer, presented the technical aspects of the ordinance at their regular scheduled meeting in May.

The workgroup, a subcommittee of the Planning Board, draft ordinance outlined general requirements on proposed land-disturbing activities on all sites in the county. After complying with general requirements, the sites would be placed into one of four categories, depending on the percentage of slopes. “We heard from property owners, engineers, geologists, hydrologists, developers, fire and rescue personnel, home-builders, among many other professions, including two engineers with PhD’s familiar with geotechnical engineering and who have worked on cases involving earth movement assisted with the development of the ordinance,” commented former slope development committee member Stacey Guffey at the meeting.

Planning board member and slope development committee member Susan Ervin stated that the ordinance was a moderate policy proposal. Planning board member Lamar Sprinkle disagreed, saying that he did not see the need for some of the regulations in the draft, arguing that it would simply stymie construction. Because of the controversy associated with the draft ordinance, the Planning Board later decided to delay any action on recommending a steep slope ordinance.

Lady Panthers softball team finish up strong season

After winning the WNCAC championship and going undefeated in regular season play, the Lady Panthers softball team lost to Fred T. Foard in the third round of the state playoffs. Led by seniors Laney Ledford, Cori Sellers, and Jordan Pickens, the team earned a spot in the FHS record books.

Pitcher Chelsea Stanfield, then a junior, went into the third round playoff game with a .36 earned run average, and finished up the season with a 16-1 record and 160 strikeouts, helping the Lady Panthers softball team have one of their best seasons in school history.

Tornado leaves trail of destruction in Rabun County

On Hwy. 441 South, Tiger Mountain Cutlery in Mountain City was on the crossroads of two twisters. The first, at approximately 11:30 p.m., tore up a tree by the roots. Later, at about 2 a.m. the following day, a second twister ripped a whole room from the side of the building. Billboards across the street (right) were folded like playing cards. Photos by Christopher CarpenterOne fatality was reported after an EF3 tornado struck Rabun County in late April, leaving 83 year-old Elbert Earl Patton Jr., dead after suffering injuries from the storm.

The National Weather Service reported that the tornado had maximum wind speeds of 165 mph and touched down at multiple locations along a 14-mile path in Rabun County, Ga. As many as 30 homes were destroyed and more than 50 were damaged in Rabun County. Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal declared a state of emergency in Rabun County in response to the storm. Agents from the Federal Emergency Management Agency also arrived in Rabun County the following week to assist those impacted during the storm.

Macon County was spared from the storm for the most part, but at least two homes were impacted within Macon County’s borders. No Macon County residents suffered any injuries. However, tornado warnings were issued in Macon, Jackson, Transylvania, Haywood, Henderson, and Buncombe Counties, according to the National Weather Service.

Franklin man indicted in the murder of Cartoogechaye resident

Randy FoutsOn May 23, Randy Boyd Fouts of Franklin was indicted by a grand jury for the brutal murder of Larry Ramsey in August 2010. The case was conducted in a joint effort between the District Attorney’s Office, Macon County’ s Sheriff’s Office, and the State Bureau of Investigation. After several months of investigating, authorities felt like they had gathered enough information to officially charge Fouts in the murder of 61-yearold Ramsey. Assistant District Attorney Ashley Hornsby-Welch stated in May that they would seek the death penalty in Fouts’ trial. Fouts, 44, is charged with the first degree murder of Ramsey. The autopsy report indicated that Ramsey died from strangulation by asphyxiation and blunt force trauma to the head. Ramsey was also reportedly bound by the hands and feet with an electrical cord.

Angel announces management agreement with Mission

In mid-May, officials at Angel Medical Center in Franklin officially signed an agreement for the health-care provider to be managed by Ashevillebased Mission Health System. The agreement is said to be the first step on the path to a full affiliation agreement that has been in the works for over a year. Angel benefits from the partnership in several ways, according to Tim Hubbs, CEO of Angel Medical Center. Competitive bidding and pricing for medical supplies and services, better access to capital for development, and increased access to information technology resources, as well as an increased ability to recruit physicians and other healthcare providers.

“The residents of Macon County can remain confident that our local hospital will thrive during the coming years,” said Hubbs following the announcement of the partnership. “Mission has long been our partner in caring for the sick and injured of Macon County. This agreement just formalizes that partnership and will be the foundation of our future relationship,” said Hubbs.

Senator Davis is concerned that the partnership is a dangerous trend of larger hospitals taking over smaller medical centers because of unfair competitive advantages.

Controversy over the partnership arose after Senator Davis (R-Franklin) introduced a bill to modify the COPA agreement, which was enacted after Mission acquired St. Joseph’s hospital in the late ’90s. The bill did not affect the agreement however, and is still idle in committee.

June

Parks appointed as East Franklin Principal

Shirley ParksShirley Parks was appointed as the new principal of East Franklin Elementary School, following the dismissal of former principal Terry Bradley. Parks was the former assistant principal of Cartoogechaye Elementary School, as reported in the June 2 edition of MCN.

Parks was unanimously chosen by the Macon County Board of Education to assume the position on July 1 at its May 30 meeting.

Born and raised in Macon County, Parks is a graduate of Franklin High School. She attended St. Augustine College in Raleigh and then went on to Western Carolina University where she first earned her Masters and then an Education Specialist (Ed.S.) degree.

In total, Parks has devoted 27 years to the students of the Macon County school system and has served as the assistant principal at Cartoogechaye for the past five years.

“I love Cartoogechaye School, but I am so excited to be going to East Franklin,” Parks said at the appointment. “It’s time for me to move on, and this is a great opportunity.”

Agricultural District board reestablished

After a period of inactivity, the Voluntary Agricultural District has been reestablished with a newly-appointed board of five individuals from around the county who are actively involved in some sort of agriculture. At the May 28 meeting of county commissioners, Mike Breedlove of the Macon County Soil and Water Conservation District presented a list of five new potential board members to the commissioners for approval, as reported by the MCN on June 2.

In 1997, an ordinance was adopted by the county to “encourage the voluntary preservation and protection of farmland from non-farm development, recognizing the importance of agriculture to the economic and cultural life of this county.”

To be considered for the program, farmland, forestland and horticultural land must meet the following criteria: The land must be part of the present-use value taxation program or be determined eligible for present use value; and the land must be managed in accordance with USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service guidelines with respect to highly erodible lands.

FHS Scholarship Night tops out at $1 million

More than $1 million in academic merit scholarships were announced on the evening of May 25 for graduating seniors in Franklin High School’s Class of 2011. At the annual Scholarship Night event, students and parents gathered to show their support for the college-bound seniors who received awards from civic organizations, businesses, schools and government-funded programs.

Principal Chris Baldwin welcomed those who came for the event despite a severe hail storm which passed through Macon County that evening.

“This class is among the academically strongest in school history, and I have had the distinct pleasure of working closely with them this year,” said school guidance counselor Kathy Breedlove in her opening remarks. Breedlove noted that while scholarships have been impacted by the continuing economic situation with some having been suspended altogether, several new scholarships were offered this year.

In total, the seniors accepted $1,096,780 in academic merit scholarships during the ceremony. Additional scholarships are expected to be announced in the remaining weeks before graduation, as reported by MCN on June 2.

KIDS Place marks 20 years of service

KIDS Place, a nonprofit children’s advocacy center in Franklin, held an event on June 6 commemorating its 20 years of service in Macon County. Above, area law enforcement and children’s advocates celebrated the occasion.KIDS Place, a non-profit children’s advocacy center in Franklin, held an event on June 6 commemorating its 20 years of service in Macon County. The event honored its many supporters.

The organization was founded in 1991 as a private, nonprofit agency with the mission of providing “hope and healing for abused children and their families through coordinated services in a child-friendly place.”

Sheriff Robert Holland, County Commissioner Ronnie Beale, Mental Health Task Force member Mike Neidig and officials with the District Attorney’s office were among the KIDS Place supporters present at the event, as reported by MCN on June 9.

Since it was purchased in 2005, the agency’s stone house in Franklin has taken on a cozy life of its own, explained two original agency founders, Jane Kimsey and Teresa Mallonee. “We’re in our own home now. This place is mortgage-free, which is quite an accomplishment,” said Kimsey.

Franklin man makes a million in lottery

Brian Rowland of Franklin wins a lumped sum of $462,403 after taxes in the North Carolina Education Lottery.Brian Rowland, of Franklin, became a millionaire on June 2 after buying a winning Red Hot Millions scratch-off ticket at the Dowdle Mountain Pit Stop just off of US 441.

Rowland, a real estate broker with Mountain Pro Real Estate, told lottery officials that his winnings would help him pay some medical bills and provide for his family’s future, as reporterd by MCN on June 9.

“I am very grateful, and I am going to pay my tithe the very first thing,” Rowland said as he collected his prize at NCEL headquarters in Raleigh. “My wife is a breast cancer survivor so we are going to pay some medical bills to the wonderful hospital and doctors in Asheville who helped her beat cancer.” Rowland said he planned to use the rest of the prize money for his family, including paying off bills and the mortgage and saving for college for his two daughters. His win came just three days after the Education Lottery launched the new instant game.

Players who choose the annuity receive $50,000 a year for 20 years. Those who choose the lump sum receive a cash prize of $680,000. Rowland chose the lump sum option. After taxes, he received a payment of $462,403.

NC bans synthetic marijuana and cocaine

N.C. legislature passed legislation effectively banning synthetic cannabinoids illegal.North Carolina joined 28 other states in the ban on synthetic marijuana and cocaine. On June 8, a law went into effect that bans the sale of synthetic marijuana and cocaine, sold under the guises of “herbal incense” and “bath salts,” which were reportedly used as recreational drugs. The two substances are now Schedule I controlled substances.

Depending on the amount and the type of the drugs, penalties can range from misdemeanors to felonies.

Anyone who sells, manufactures, delivers, transports or possesses 150 to 750 grams of synthetic cannabinoids will be charged as a felon and will face a 25-30 month prison sentence and a minimum fine of $5,000.

Likewise, having 28 grams or more of the substances found in synthetic cocaine (mephedrone or MDPV) carries a felony charge and persons with the substance can be sentenced to 70-84 months in prison and fined no less than $50,000.

Franklin painted purple for Relay for Life

Franklin painted purple for Relay for Life.Franklin’s annual Relay for Life, “Through the Decades,” was held Friday and Saturday, June 3-4, at the Franklin High School football field. Hundreds turned out for the event.

Becky Ramey and Toby Blanton, the organizers for the Relay for Life walk conducted the opening ceremonies. Statistics were given to show how prevalent cancer is and how much good Relay for Life is doing. The Relay for Life walk has been going on for 27 years nationwide. As of April, the organization has raised $4 billion for cancer research and treatment; that means that 350 more lives are saved per day compared to the early ’90s. This event marks the 98th birthday of American Cancer Society with 11 million cancer survivors alive today.

Jamison sworn in as Alderman

The Town of Franklin Board of Aldermen swore in Farrell Jamison as its newest alderman on June 6.

Aldermen unanimously appointed Jamison to assume the remainder of former alderman Jerry Evans’ term, which ends in November. At that point, a partial two-year term will be up for election, along with three other seats, to finish out Evans’ four-year term, starting in December. The other positions will be four-year terms.

Not only has Jamison worked for Franklin Fire and Rescue for the last 34 years, he has also worked as a county fire investigator and as a fire and rescue training coordinator for Southwestern Community College. Jamison said at Monday’s meeting that he is in the process of training his replacement as SCC’s fire coordinator.

Given Jamison’s lengthy experience as a fire safety official with the town and county, Vice Mayor Verlin Curtis relinquished his liaison position with the fire department to Jamison.

Minimum housing ordinance passes

Franklin Aldermen voted in favor of a Minimum Housing ordinance without discussion or objection. The purpose of the code is to hold all dwellings within city limits to certain standards in the interest of public safety.

The ordinance was first broached last year by Town Attorney John F. Henning Jr., who at the time said that the town was “toothless” when it came to addressing residential concerns about unsafe or unattractive homes.

The ordinance excludes owner-occupied dwellings from code standards that apply to the inside of a residence— a stipulation aldermen Bob Scott and Evans first said was an area of concern for locals in early discussions of the code’s consideration—making the ordinance unique to Franklin. Most other towns in the state have adopted a similar code.

The code holds rental properties to the most stringent regulations, including minimum ventilation, heating, plumbing and electrical standards. Owner-occupied dwellings on the other hand are only beholden to exterior regulations.

According to the statute, whenever a petition has been filed with the enforcement officer, at least five town residents have to join the complaint. However, the enforcement officer may issue a citation based on his or her own observations. Town Planner, Michael Grubermann, will be the designated enforcement officer of the code.

County passes 20-year Comprehensive Plan

Macon County commissioners passed its comprehensive, 20-year plan for development and growth in just about every sector of activity within its boundaries. The Comprehensive Plan is the result of nearly two years of intensive labor by the Macon County Planning Board, as well as several other all-volunteer sub-committees, which have collectively invested more than 1,000 hours to research and draft the various elements of the plan.

As reported in the June 16 edition of MCN, the 164-page document includes an exhaustive analysis of the county’s history, population and economic trends and then gives recommendations for future growth in five major areas: economic development and public services; land use and environment; education and recreation; transportation and housing; and healthcare, childcare, and senior services.

The most significant amendment made by the commissioners before adopting the plan has been to strike all references and recommendations regarding the development of an ordinance regulating development in the proximity of slopes in the county. There was significant debate over this change, with both Commissioner Bob Kuppers and Commissioner Ronnie Beale opposed to the amendment, particularly since the county is already engaged in considering such an ordinance.

Jackson County unveils new library

Jackson County unveils new Library.Families, officials and book lovers of all ages gathered on courthouse hill in Sylva to witness the grand opening of the new Jackson County Public Library Complex. After some 12 years of planning, fundraising and hard work, the new library complex was opened in the picturesque but formerly vacant Jackson County Courthouse.

The renovation of the courthouse to house the new library required a significant investment – over $8.6 million – of local, state and federal and private funds. Of that amount, more than $1.8 million was raised by community volunteers.

Though the effort to convert the historic 1914 building started than a decade ago, it wasn’t until October 2007, that the Jackson County Board of Commissioners voted to incorporate a new expanded library into the courthouse and the surrounding grounds. The historic building, renovated inside and out, now boasts a state of the art library and community center.

The library complex also houses a number of community facilities and resources. The Jackson County Genealogical Society and the Historical Association’s museum are now located on the ground floor of the complex. The former courtroom on the second floor has been transformed into a multi-purpose Community Room with seating for more than 150. The Arts Council office and a catering area are also on the second floor.

Fifteenth Annual Taste of Scotland

Downtown Franklin came to life with the sound of bagpipes, the smell of shortbread and the flare of clan Tartans on June 18. The hot summer weather kept no one from evoking the Celtic spirit, during the 15th annual Taste of Scotland Festival.

The festival, held annually during Father’s Day weekend in downtown Franklin, celebrates the music and culture of Scotland and the British Isles. The several hundred festival-goers were sure to be looking for shade throughout Saturday’s festivities, with temperatures reaching into the upper 80s.

The first annual Braveheart 5K run—a new addition to the festival lineup — kicked off the event.

All in all, 142 people gathered on Main Street to participate in the run, many of whom were dressed like William “Braveheart” Wallace and other Celts of olde. Proceeds from the race went towards Franklin’s Scottish Tartans Museum, a non-profit organization dedicated to the history and traditions of Scottish Highland culture.

The museum features exhibits of the Scottish migration to North Carolina, as well as information about clan ancestry and customs.


See next week's issue for part II of the Year in Review





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published: 10/18/2013
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