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News 2013 Year In Review: Part II

Macon County Heritage Center at the historic Cowee School held a grand opening celebration in 2013 with heritage craft demonstrations. Master potter Doug Hubbs shows off his pottery skills.According to the key findings, based on the history of Franklin's population data, growth is expected to continue and the gallons per day per capita is expected to grow yearly as well. In 2015, the firm projects that Franklin's average annual daily demand for water will be approximately 1.15 million gallons per day with its maximum daily demand being estimated at 1.91 million gallons per day. In 2020, the average annual daily demand could be 1.217 million gallons per day and the maximum 2.020. In 2030, the average annual daily demand could be 1.36 million gallons per day with a maximum use of 2.257 million gallons per day.

The recommendation that Tripp made on behalf of W.K. Dickson was that the town consider the condition and the age of the town's water treatment plant and the need for additional capacity by the year 2020, the town should rehabilitate their existing plant and upgrade it to a 3.0 million gallons per day capacity plant.

Nantahala native wounded in rocket attack

John B. MitchellJust a few months after the two-year anniversary of his enlistment in the United States Air Force, John B. Mitchell, 22, nearly lost his life in combat.

The 2009 Nantahala High School graduate grew up in Macon County's Nantahala Community, and joined the Air Force in March 2011 after studying Criminal Justice at Western Carolina University. He was a member of the TACP (Tactical Air Control Party), a small group in the Air Force who travelled with the Army.

Mitchell had been deployed in Afghanistan since March 2013 and was due to return home in mid-September.

He was wounded in a rocket attack and set to recover in Texas before being allowed to return home.

Telecommunication tower to be constructed in Rainbow Springs

Cell phone service in the Rainbow Springs was set to get a boost in 2013. The Macon County Board of Commissioners unanimously voted to approve an application from Pegasus Tower to construct a 170- foot telecommunication tower at 12692 Murphy Road in the Rainbow Springs area.

The tower would boost cellphone service for remote areas of the county, garnering interest from AT&T, who will be the main tenant on the tower initially.

According to representatives with Pegasus Tower, although AT&T will be the primary tenant, once the monopole structure is complete, other providers such as Verizon will also be able  to use the tower. The tower has the capability to carry up to six providers.

County manager announces retirement

County Manager Jack Horton spent 36 years in public service before his retirement in 2013.After nearly four decades of working in local government, County Manager Jack Horton officially announced his retirement.

Horton's career in local government administration began on Feb. 9, 1976, in Swain County. Thirty-six years later, Horton had served in three counties other than Macon and had even served two years as a city manager.

During his first run as Macon County's manager, Horton lead several initiatives including the construction of the Business Development Center, the Southwestern Community Center Public Safety Training Center, and the Macon County Public Library; sited and permitted the current sanitary landfill; and made several school improvements.

Since 2008, Horton has been an advocate for education improvement in Macon County.

Horton also worked to improve the county's overall infrastructure through projects such as completing the Little Tennessee/ Cartoogechaye sewer interceptor; widening of Highway 28; completing the Riverbend and Swiss Colony water projects; extending the Macon County airport runway and adding a new solid waste transfer station in Highlands.

County Subdivision Ordinance sees changes

The Macon County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously to approve changes to the county's subdivision ordinance during its July meeting. The changes were brought forth from the Macon County Planning Board, who had been working on the revisions for months.

After controversy due to confusion in the language of the ordinance, commissioners directed the Planning Board to begin reviewing the ordinance and to clarify some of the language used. In the past, confusion on the definition of existing subdivisions in the ordinance was a recurring issue which prompted the ordinance to be reviewed and amended as needed.

Angel Medical Center celebrates 90th birthday

Angel Medical Center celebrated 90 years of service to Macon County in 2013.Angel Medical Center celebrated its 90th birthday by inviting members of the community into the facility for food, tours, and fun. Outside was an inflatable jumping pit for kids with live music. Inside, visitors could go to information tables offering services such as blood pressure and blood sugar checks. Others provided smiles and laughs by painting the faces of anybody willing to sit down in the chair.

In 1923, Dr. Furman Angel set up a clinic in some rooms on the second floor of the old Cunningham Building in downtown Franklin. which became the birth of Angel Hospital. The following year, he purchased the Cope Elias home which was located on the piece of property where the hospital now stands. When his brother, Dr. Ed Angel joined the staff, the name was changed to Angel Brothers Hospital. In 1966, well after Ed had purchased the facility from his brother, he began the process of selling the hospital to the community. The transaction did not come to full fruition until after his death, but in 1967, the hospital was incorporated into a nonprofit organization and a board of trustees was established. It then took on the name Angel Community Hospital that same year. In 1996, the name was again changed, this time to Angel Medical Center.


Forklift ruled likely cause of farm tragedy

Inhalation of dangerous chemicals was a chief concern for the first responders and firefighters who were on the scene at Norton Creek Farms.Carbon monoxide from a forklift possibly led to the death of one Macon County man and sent 16 others to the hospital in an incident that occurred at Norton Creek Farms. According to the updated Macon County Emergency Service CAD report following the incident, Kristie Hall and Bill Best with the North Carolina Department of Labor tested the forklift used the evening of the incident and within 15 seconds of cranking the machinery, monitors began picking up carbon monoxide (CO) at 1,000 parts per million (ppm).

Shortly before 7 p.m., Carolyn Ammons made a call to 911 to report that she had entered the building at Norton Creek Farms and found two workers down inside a semitruck trailer. One man was on the forklift and the other was on the ground.

Two civilians, Marvin Mashburn and Clyde McCall stopped at Norton Creek Farms and removed the two men who were later identified as Bobby Ammons, 57, and Melvin Lands, 43, from the truck.

According to Matt Mason, assistant chief of Clarks Chapel Fire and Rescue, the two workers were found in a truck that was in a refrigerated packing house where fruits and vegetables are stored. The men were working to fill a blackberry order and were placing the order in the back of a semi-truck that was pulled up to the farm's loading dock. Ammons suffered cardiac arrest and was pronounced dead at Angel Medical Center in Franklin. Lands was airlifted to Greenville (S.C.) Memorial Hospital and was released the following Monday.

Bid on runway widening awarded to Georgia company

The Airport Authority hosted a bid opening to choose a qualified contractor for the proposed runway widening that could take place in the spring of 2014.

At the authority's June meeting, Erik Rysdon, project manager for W.K. Dickson – a planning, design, engineering consulting firm based in Charlotte, N.C. – offered details about the project and timeline it would likely take.

“We anticipate things to run smoothly,” he said. “We're going to be able to complete it over the span of about 45 days, with only one week of the airport being completely closed. We're looking at being operational during the day and carrying out the construction at night besides during that one week.”

Three construction companies bid for the contract. Reeves Construction came in at a bid of $2,446,891.86; Watson Contracting of Franklin, projected a cost of $2,745,689.00; and Harrison Construction of Knoxville, Tenn., (rock quarry located in Franklin), estimating $2,665,116.20.

The board chose to proceed forward with the lowest bid from Reeves Construction, which is based in Augusta, Ga.

Registered sex offender in custody after assault, B & E

A 45-year-old convicted sex offender was arrested in Macon County after reportedly assaulting a female and breaking into two homes.

According to the Macon County Sheriff's Office, the arrest of Ronald Anthony Miller, of Houston Gap Road, was the result of incidents which allegedly occurred during the early morning hours of July 25. Miller is a registered sex offender who moved to the Franklin area after being released from prison in Florida.

According to police reports, an adult female reported that she had been strangled by Miller after giving him a ride.

The victim reported that while she was giving Miller the ride, he became very combative and attempted to strangle her and tried to get her into the backseat of the vehicle. When they arrived to where the suspect wanted to be taken, the struggle continued and was witnessed by the suspect’s former wife who came outside and pulled the suspect from the vehicle.

The victim was able to leave the scene and call 911. Miller’s former wife then drove him to another location where she also got into a confrontation with him but was able to get him out of her vehicle and left him standing on the roadway.

Another incident was reported when Miller broke into a home, entering the bedroom of a young girl before fleeing once another occupant woke up.

EBCI wants to 'bring mound home'

Nikwasi Mound is located just off of East Main Street. The EBCI made a plea with county commissioners for ownership of the mound.The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI) pleaded with the Macon County Board of Commissioners, asking for help to get rights to the Nikwasi Indian Mound. Although the property is within Macon County, the lease to the mound belongs to the Town of Franklin.

Principal Chief of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians Michell Hicks said that he was compelled to fight to "bring the mound home."

"The mound belongs to the Cherokee people and the deed needs to be back in our names," said Hicks. "It is time for that mound to come back home."

Hicks informed commissioners that if the Town of Franklin was not willing to transfer the deed entirely, the tribe would be willing to work out a Memorandum of Understanding and/or Agreement regarding the future of the mound.

County Attorney Chester Jones said that because the deed to the mound is held by the town, the only role the county can take in the matter is advising, encouraging and supporting the transfer or some other agreement regarding the mound.

It was the unanimous consensus of the board of commissioners to direct Jones to draft a resolution in support of transferring the property or reaching a mutual agreement between the Town of Franklin and the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.

Community members 'Walk4Education'

Fueled by the news that Macon County is losing teacher assistants because of more than $300,000 in additional cuts from the state, educators, parents and concerned members of the community gathered at Franklin High School to participate in a "Walk4Education." With a joint theme of thanking Macon County commissioners and members of the Board of Education for their dedication to education and protesting the lack of commitment on the state level, dozens of community members marched from Franklin High School to Town Hall and back.

Congressman Meadows speaks at FHS; addresses concerns with Q & A

Residents of Macon County were invited to attend a “town hall” type meeting at the Franklin High School Fine Arts Center with Republican Congressman Mark Meadows, representative of Macon and 16 other Western North Carolina counties in the 11th district, in the United States House of Representatives.
Supporters of Meadows and Bob Penland who serves as the Outreach Coordinator for the Congressman greeted attendees.
According to Meadows, he is one of the only representatives in Congress who held meetings with members of his district at a series of town hall meetings. Meadows said he and his staff have just passed 20,000 responses to emails and letters in the span of seven and a half months. Upon taking the stage, he reiterated his commitment to the 11th district by reinforcing his stance on a representative government.

Meadows spent almost two hours speaking to his constituents at the forum. He says that by the time the town hall meetings are completed, he will have had one in all 17 counties that he represents.

Macon County Heritage Center celebrates new role in the community

The Macon County Heritage Center at Cowee School celebrated its official opening. Formerly known as Cowee Elementary School, the center was open to the public for a chance to see what the future of the old building would be like and organizer Stacy Guffey was impressed by the turnout.

"The turnout exceeded my expectation," he said. "I was especially impressed by how many people were in the school at times. There were moments where you couldn't even move down the hallway."

On the inside, visitors could find a different display or demonstration in every classroom.

Law enforcement apprehends fugitive

Fugitive Jeffery Tedesco was captured in an area behind Franklin Ford.On the morning of August 21, Franklin Police Officer Jonathan Bean attempted to arrest Jeffrey Alan Tedesco, 30, of Coweeta Lab Road, at C&R Lube on the Highlands Road in Franklin when he fled from officers.

Tedesco was wanted in Rabun County on a fugitive warrant for burglary cases. He fled onto the Greenway behind C&R Lube at which point officers suspect he entered the Little Tennessee River.

He was spotted in an area near Franklin Ford three hours after the initial arrest attempt at which point a perimeter was set up around Lake Emory Road. He was tracked down using a K-9 unit.

Commissioner Ronnie Beale, Sen. Davis honored at NCACC annual conference

Three Macon County commissioners traveled to Guilford County to take part in the 106th Annual North Carolina Association of County Commissioners Conference.

At the conference, Beale was named winner of the Outstanding County Commissioner Award for 2012-13 by the North Carolina Association of County Commissioners (NCACC). Beale, who also serves as the NCACC’s president-elect, was honored for his active participation in the NCACC and for his willingness to frequently travel the long distance from Macon County to the state capital to advocate on behalf of all 100 counties.

North Carolina State Senator Jim Davis was also honored at the conference by receiving the "Friend of the Counties" award for legislation he introduced regarding healthcare in local jails. "We did not think it was fair that inmates in local jails were paying up to three times what those in Raleigh Central Prison had to pay for health care and it was a goal of ours [NCACC] to change that, and Sen. Davis helped make that possible," said Beale.

Founded in 1908, the North Carolina Association of County Commissioners is one of the most successful and active statewide local government associations in the nation. The NCACC was established for the betterment of county government in North Carolina.


County moves forward with Parker Meadows

In anticipation of receiving a $500,000 grant from the Parks and Recreation Trust Fund (PARTF) later this year, Macon County commissioners voted to allocate $21,000 from the county's fund balance to begin Phase I of the project.

Funds totaling $17,000 will be used to pay the project engineer Mike LoVoy of Civil Engineering Design of Asheville, to design a rough grading and storm drainage plan for Phase I of the project. Phase I of the project will covered the development of the adult ball fields and parking area of the recreation facility.

“The reason we are doing the adult fields first is because the larger fields can be easily transformed for little league fields with the addition of a fence,” said LoVoy.

Of the $17,000, $6,000 is designated for the grading and erosion control design and permitting; $3,000 is allocated for the storm drainage design; $3,000 for LoVoy's service in the process for bidding and awarding contracts for the grading, erosion control and storm drainage projects; and $5,000 for the construction observation and administration once the bids are awarded to contractors.

An additional $4,000 was allocated to Lamar Sprinkle to survey the property.

ICF Canoe Freestyle World Championships flood Western North Carolina

More than 300 paddling athletes took to the Nantahala River Gorge for the ICF Canoe Freestyle World Championships in September.The Nantahala Gorge was filled with spectators and competitors of the ICF Canoe Freestyle World Championships Sept.2-8. The ultimate whitewater event took place at the Nantahala Outdoor Center (NOC) and featured top freestyle athletes from around the world, as well as a slate of activities, competitions and events for spectators and fans. More than 300 of the world’s best paddling athletes competed for the title of world champion in front of an estimated 10,000 spectators per day. Live music, arts and crafts, and a festival atmosphere with Appalachian flair rounded out the weekend.

The premier international athletic event was hosted in the Nantahala Gorge, and was brought to Swain County through the efforts of the Nantahala Gorge Organizing Committee (NGOC), a community organization comprised of the Swain County Chamber of Commerce, the Golden Leaf Foundation, VisitNC, and a number of local businesses. NGOC's objective for the event was to deliver a superior quality freestyle kayaking event and establish a legacy for the region as the premier, world-class outdoor recreation destination in the southeastern United States, attracting national and international events to the area.

SCC president speaks to Town Aldermen about expanding Macon Campus

SCC president Don Tomas delivers a presentation to town aldermen on the possible expansion of the Macon County Campus due to a 7.3 percent increase of students from Macon.Southwestern Community College (SCC) is looking to expand and according to President Don Tomas, the Macon County campus is just the place for targeted growth.

Tomas spoke to Franklin aldermen during their monthly meeting to inform them that SCC is looking to expand and due to a 7.3 percent increase in the number of students attending SCC from Macon County, the Cecil Groves Macon Campus is nearing capacity.

The Macon Campus sits on a 20-acre site on Siler Farm Road just south of Franklin. With the groundbreaking for the building held in the fall of 2005, the campus has since developed into a high-tech, state-of-the-art campus, offering technology enhanced learning with computer laboratories, virtual and interactive classrooms, and a wireless environment.

According to Tomas, SCC is currently working to secure funding from grants to help grow programs and work on expanding the school. “By statute, it is the county's responsibility to maintain the education facilities in the community, so we will be talking to them as well, but we wanted you to be aware of the direction we are heading in,” said Tomas. “We are looking at federal and grant money through the Department of Labor, the Golden Leaf Foundation and Duke Energy to help grow our school.”

Fouts dodges death penalty; will serve at least 30 years

A resolution was found in the murder case of Thomas Larry Ramsey. On Sept. 28, Randall Boyd Fouts, 46, of Franklin pled guilty to second degree murder, first degree kidnapping, and first degree burglary.

Fouts pled guilty to the lesser charges of second degree murder, first degree kidnapping, and first degree burglary after Assistant District Attorney Ashley Hornsby-Welch declared that the DA's office would seek the death penalty. As a result of the plea agreement, he will serve a minimum of 30 years and a maximum of 39 years.


Community says farewell to county manager Jack Horton

From left, Commissioner Jimmy Tate, Commissioner Ron Haven, County Manager Jack Horton, Chairman Kevin Corbin and Commissioner Ronnie Beale celebrate Horton’s career.Past and current elected officials and employees from all over Western North Carolina joined members of the community to honor the nearly four decades of public service Jack Horton gave during his tenure in local government.

Horton, who officially retired as Macon County's manager spent the last 36 years working in local government all across the state. The Southwestern Community College Annex building was filled with people who worked with Horton at different points during his career.

Tallent named varsity softball coach

Franklin native, Adam Tallent was named as the new varsity softball coach for Franklin High School. For five years he served as assistant coach to Penny Moffitt who decided to give up her coaching duties in order to spend more time with her family.

“I'm extremely grateful for this opportunity,” said Tallent. “I can't say enough about Penny and the influence that she's had on me. I've been with her for five years and I've learned a ton from her. We've went deep into the state playoffs consistently and I'll be coaching a team that I think should have the same results if not better.”

Franklin family credits March of Dimes for saving daughter's life

The March of Dimes 2013 ambassador family shared the story of how Peyton’s life was saved by the organization. Pictured (front, L-R) are Rachael Williams, Peyton Williams and Susan Williams; (back row) Mike Williams, Jayden Williams, Brandon Williams, Jordan Myers, Jenny Williams, John Pruett, Vickie Carpenter and Charles Carpenter.The March of Dimes foundation has been working to end premature births and complications from birth for 75 years by helping mothers have full-term pregnancies through research. In local communities across the country, March of Dimes has helped moms take charge of their health, and supporting families when something goes wrong.

The Macon County Chapter of March of Dimes hosts annual events each year to raise money for the families affected by prematurity in the community. Jennifer Hollifield has served on the Macon County March of Dimes Steering Committee for 17 years acting as chairperson for the last 15 years. “This group does all the coordinating and planning for the March of Dimes activities in the county,” said Hollifield. “Currently, we have around 8 to 10 committee members who are active.”

Each year, Hollifield and the steering committee selects a local ambassador family who has had personal experience with premature births. The 2013 ambassador family knows all too well the life-saving treatment that has been made possible through the March of Dimes Foundation.

When she was just 26 weeks pregnant, Rachael Williams found herself at Angel Medical Center days away from delivery. With her husband Brandon by her side, Rachael was admitted to AMC on a Friday. Because of how early Rachael was in her pregnancy, she was transported to Mission Hospital in Asheville, the following Sunday to be near the NICU or Neonatal Intensive Care Unit should she deliver early.

According to the Williams family, if it weren't for medical advancements made possible specifically through the research of March of Dimes, daughter Peyton might not have survived. “March of Dimes saved Peyton's life,” said Rachael. “If not for the March of Dimes research, Peyton might not be with us today.

Board approves rezoning of Pauline Avenue

After months of back and forth conversation about the rezoning of Pauline Avenue, the Town of Franklin Board of Aldermen finally voted to allow the parcels in question to be rezoned from an R-2 residential to an R- 1 residential area at town's monthly meeting. An R-2 residential would allow mobile homes to be placed on properties while R-1 would not.

The rezoning application for 32 parcels of land on Pauline Avenue was initially submitted on May 17 by Richard Brady. Sixteen of those parcels, which is exactly half were submitted by a third party—Brady. According to North Carolina statute, Brady was required to notify those property owners thus giving them the opportunity to attend public hearings that were arranged in the ensuing months to voice their support or opposition. At those meetings, most in attendance were in support of changing the zoning designation to an R-1.

In the months leading up to the vote, the planning board had considered the issue and expressed its belief that this change would be of benefit to the citizens of the town and would adhere to the Principles of Growth as detailed in the town's Unified Development Ordinance.

New owners looking to make Mill Creek a success

The Mill Creek Country Club changed its name to the Golf Club at Mill Creek when new owner Tony Keith along with his brother, Tony, and Tony's wife, Brenda, purchased the property from Macon Bank, who held the loan on the foreclosed property.

The Munger brothers are from Macon County and Brenda moved here when she was a teenager. After college, Tony and Brenda constructed and managed golf courses around the southeast while brother Keith managed a network of Hospice Houses throughout Georgia and currently resides in Savannah, Ga. In their newest venture, Tony and Brenda will be involved in the day-to-day operations while Keith will be involved with the course from afar giving input concerning the way forward for the venture.

The Mungers intend to improve the golf course for those who want to take advantage of the updated greens, but they also want to help improve the quality of life for others in the area.

Cancer center scheduled for completion in early spring

A “topping” ceremony was held for the new Cancer Center being constructed near the hospital.Angel Medical Center (AMC) invited members of the community to attend the “topping” ceremony for the new cancer center that will be located between Riverview Street and the Depot Street Extension.

Attendees were able to celebrate the hoisting of the first beam by signing their names and/or loved ones’ names on to the steel as a way to commemorate the event.

AMC CEO Jim Bross and others addressed those in attendance, expounding on the steps that AMC, along with Mission Healthcare System, has taken to make the center a reality.

Commissioners disburse funding pool

Each year, the Macon County Board of Commissioners sets aside $50,000 in a community funding pool to be distributed to local non-profit organizations whose purpose is to help members of the community. Commissioners formed a task force charged with the task of reviewing the funding pool applications and distributing the money.

While the community funding pool was established to help the Macon County Board of Commissioners allocate tax-generated funds to local non-profits in a fair and efficient way, the Macon County Community Funding Pool (CFP) Task Force is comprised of citizens chosen by the board of commissioners to consider applications and make recommendations to the board, who make the final funding decisions.

Jordan Burrell was named Homecoming Queen.This year, Macon County received 17 grant requests totaling $114,588. Of the 17 organizations that applied for funding, 12 were granted either all, or part, of their request.

Franklin High School Homecoming Queen Crowned

Jordan Burrell, escorted by her father, Adam Burrell, was crowned Franklin High School’s Homecoming Queen. Jordan is a senior and is the daughter of Adam and Angela Burrell. Jordan serves as the Student Body president, is a member of the volleyball team, student council, the SWAG club, the National Honor Society and attended Girls State this past summer. Jordan plans to attend Clemson University to pursue a career in the medical field.

Avery Graham, escorted by her father, Jeff Graham, was named runner-up.

Franklin High School's new Hall of Fame inductees celebrated

Members of the 2001 varsity baseball team were inducted into FHS Hall of Fame in its second class. The team won the NC State Championship after defeating Southern Durham in the final game. Pictured above (L-R) are David Blanton, Jarod Breedlove, Mickey Carpenter, and Jeremy Dockery.Franklin High School held its now annual Hall of Fame induction ceremony before a Friday football game in the Panther Pit.

Inductees included Jim Williams, an FHS athlete from 1958-1962; and Coach David Morgan who played sports throughout high school, attending Mars Hill on a football and track scholarship and taught in Macon County from 1973 until 2011. Morgan served as a coach in baseball, basketball, cross country, football, golf, and track and field. He also started the Fellowship of Christian Athletes club at FHS.

The 2001 varsity baseball team that went 23-4 in the season and 11-1 in conference play were included in the ceremony along with Head coach Jeff Graham who was named Conference Coach of the Year in 2001. At the 3-A NCHSAA State Championship, the team lost their first game against Southern Durham by a score of 12-2, but bounced back to win the next game 4-3. In the third and final game, the Panthers again pulled out a close win, 7-6, becoming State Champions. The 2001 team is the only FHS baseball team to win a state championship.

The inductees at the Hall of Fame ceremony would join the first class of inductees, who were honored in 2012 – Shawn Bryson, Paula Corbin, Tom Raby, Jim Taylor, the 1971 Varsity Football Team, and the 1976 Varsity Football Team.

School board awards teacher supplement

Citizens gathered to show their oppostiiton to budget cuts affecting education that the N.C. Legislature enacted last year.The Macon County Schools' central office was filled up with teachers at the school board's october meeting. The group was concerned with the possibility that the school board could deny the district's educators a two percent supplement provided by the county.

Faced with the potential budget shortfall for the 2013-2014 school year, the Macon County Board of Education (BOE) went to county commissioners to ask for permission to grant the local two percent salary bonus that the county has awarded teachers over the last few years. Recognizing that a decrease in funding from the state has forced the school system to completely wipe out their fund balance, commissioners gave the district approval to tap into the supplement money, if needed, with the stipulation that the school board would have to gain approval from commissioners before using the supplement.

Board member Stephanie McCall made a motion to award teachers the two percent as scheduled in November, and also stated that in the event of a disaster or needing more funds at the end of the year, she would go with Dr. Baldwin to the commissioners to ask for more money.

The motion carried with a vote of 3-1.

Board Chairman Jim Breedlove requested that since commissioners had designated $430,000 for personnel supplements and the system only needs $399,000 for teaching supplements, the BOE consider asking the county to give the district the entire $430,000 to give other administrative personnel a supplement for the first time.

Although administrators such as department directors, principals and assistant principals are paid for an additional month of employment while teachers are not, they do not receive a supplement from the county.

Commissioners voted in December to extend the supplement to include administrators.

Civil War rifle donated to historical museum

Gerald “Mack” McCall donated a rare Spencer Rifle to the Macon County Historical Museum.

The Spencer repeating rifle is a manually operated lever-action, repeating rifle fed from a tube magazine that was inserted into the stock. The gun was widely used by the Union Army, especially the cavalry which is evidenced by the ring this particular rifle is equipped with to hold the rifle while riding horses.

McCall, who's grandfather rode under renowned Confederate General Robert E. Lee, has a strong interest in the Civil War and by luck came across this gun.

“A man traded me this rifle for a shotgun that I had. I had known a professor from the University of Georgia who told me if I ever had any questions about guns to give him a call. He specialized especially in Civil War history so I decided to give him a call. I didn't know what this gun was. I told him about some others that I had and before I got off the phone I asked him about this Spencer. He couldn't believe it,” said McCall.


Election Day results in new leadership for Franklin and Highlands

New aldermen Patti Abel (L) and Barbara McRae join newly elected mayor, Bob Scott (R) to celebrate their victories back in November.Voters took to the polls, resulting in new leadership for Franklin and Highlands.

In Franklin, two candidates were vying for the open mayoral seat, left vacant after Joe Collins announced earlier this year he would not be seeking reelection. The mayoral candidates, Bob Scott and Sissy Pattillo, were both sitting aldermen on the Franklin town board. Both Scott and Pattillo ran on the platform of supporting local business and moving Franklin in a new direction. With a total of 493 votes, or 72.82 percent of the votes cast, Scott won the election and will take the helm of the town board in December. Pattillo garnered 181, or 26.74 percent of the votes cast.

With Scott and Pattillo running for mayor, both of their seats on the board of aldermen, and the seat of Billy Mashburn, were up for election. Ten candidates filed for the open seats, an impressive showing for participation considering during the last election there were no challengers and less than 100 voters in the election.

The top three vote-getters will take their position on the board alongside Scott during the December meeting. Barbara McRae received 19.88 percent or 373 votes, making her the top vote-getter this election cycle. Patti Halyburton Abel was second with 17.96 percent or 337 votes, followed by incumbent Billy Mashburn securing his seat with 15.57 percent or 292 percent of the votes.

Highlands Mayor David Wilkes did not seek re-election. With just 86 votes separating the two candidates vying for the seat, Patrick Taylor was elected with 260 votes. Highlands Commissioner Brian Stiehler received 174 votes.

With two open seats on the Highlands Board of Commissioners, the top two vote-getters our of the four candidates running were elected. Incumbent Amy Patterson secured the most votes with 294, securing her seat, followed by Donnie Calloway who received 270 votes.

Rape reported in Windy Gap area north of Franklin's

According to the 911 report from October 29, Macon County dispatch reported receiving a call from a 42-year-old female shortly after 3 a.m. reporting she had been raped. Macon County Sheriff's Office responded to the call.

The victim reported that two men came to her residence on two separate occasions. Earlier in the evening, the men approached the victim's residence under the pretext of looking for a dog.

One of the two men returned to the victim's residence at approximately 2 a.m. and after gaining access to the house, overpowered the victim. Both suspects were described by the victim as white males, 6’1” tall and weighing over 200 pounds, dressed in camouflage clothing with black knit caps. Both men were also wearing camouflage face paint. There was no vehicle description.

NCDOL fines Norton Creek Farms for carbon monoxide incident

The North Carolina Department of Labor's investigation into the August incident at Norton Creek Farms that resulted in one death and multiple injuries has resulted in an $8,400 fine for business owner Wayne Moss.

The Occupational Safety and Health division of N.C. Department of Labor's report found that Norton Creek Farms was in violation of two NCDOL policies.

Macon County resident becomes oldest man to summit Mt. Whitney

Sarah Lowell, Jim Pader and Olga Lampkin atop Mt. Whitney.Days before turning 83 years old, Macon County resident James Pader set the record for the oldest hiker to climb Mt. Whitney in one day.

Starting the hike up Mount Whitney a little after 8 p.m., Pader said the plan was for the group, which consisted of Pader's daughter Olga Lampkin, his son Jimmy and friend Sarah Lowell, to summit early the next day. At 14,508 feet, Mt. Whitney, located in the Sierra Nevada range of California, is the tallest mountain in the contiguous United States. “Afternoon thundershowers and lightning is always a risk at that altitude and is one of the dangers of being on the summit late in the day,” said Pader. “Lightning had killed hikers there in previous years. Our hope was to summit before noon and begin our return soon after.”

The 22-mile roundtrip trek gains nearly 7,000 feet of climbing from the base, requiring months of advance planning to summit and return within one day, not to mention the physical preparation required. It takes most climbers three to four days of backpacking.

FHS football goes undefeated for second time in school history

The FHS varsity football team posted an 11-0 record for the regular season in the fall of 2013. It was the second undefeated season in the last three years and only the second one in school history.The Franklin High School Panthers capped off their undefeated season when the team travelled to Waynesville to take on a tough Tuscola football team. The Mountaineers entered the contest with a 8-2 record and proved capable of making the game close early on, but Franklin started to find their rhythm and pulled out a big win, 27-8.

With the win, the Panthers finished their season with an 11-0 record for only the second time in school history, the other time being in 2011.

Cause of strip mall fire at WCU still under investigation

The cause of a fire in a commercial strip mall on the campus of Western Carolina University remains under investigation.As students headed towards their first classes of the morning Western Carolina University in Cullowhee sent out an alert to students urging them to stay away from the commercial strip on campus because of a fire in the vicinity. The school did not cancel classes and no injuries were reported as a result of the incident.

Fire departments from WCU and from surrounding counties, Jackson, Haywood, Macon, Swain and Buncombe, as well as the Qualla Boundary in Cherokee all responded to the fire, which was contained shortly after noon.

The commercial strip of property where the fire began is owned by WCU and leased to the businesses which includes Subway, Rolling Stone Burrito, Mad Batter Bakery and Cafe, and Bob's Mini-Mart. The Mini-Mart was the only property not affected by the fire, according to Bill Studenc, senior director of news services at WCU.

Hospice House presented $1 million match grant check by SECU

Representatives from the State Employees Credit Union Foundation presented a $1 million check that will serve as a challenge grant. The Hospice House Foundation has been working since 2005 to raise money in order to open a six-bed hospice facility.With November serving as National Hospice and Palliative Care month, State Employees Credit Union (SECU) presented the Hospice House Foundation of Western North Carolina with a $1 million check on Thursday. The check will serve as a challenge grant, meaning that the funds will be delivered once the HHF raises half of the $3.8 million renovation costs.

Representatives from the State Employees Credit Union Foundation attended the event for the presentation and reception afterwards.

The HHF was founded in 2005 with the goal of building a six-bed facility that would allow patients a feeling of comfort while experiencing their final days on earth. Members of the foundation have been working to raise money, purchasing the Dryman home located on Maple Street in Franklin. After an initial rejection, the foundation was able to gain a Certificate of Need from the state, bringing them one step closer to providing hospice care to the community.

Law enforcement takes down suspect after 18-hour standoff

The Macon County Sheriff's Office began what would result in an 18-hour standoff following a hostage situation in the Oak Grove community.

Sheriff Robbie Holland informed media outlets of the situation on the Saturday that the incident took place to let the community know that law enforcement officers were on the scene and the community was not at risk.

Shortly after daylight on Sunday morning, law enforcement took Robert Childs, 51, into custody and charged him with felonious breaking and entering, 2nd degree kidnapping, and domestic criminal trespassing. According to reports, Childs broke into the residence of his estranged wife and son. Childs reportedly lives on the same property but in a different residence. Childs broke down the front door using an axe.

After the hostages were able to escape out a back door, officers on scene were then able to secure a perimeter around the residence and called for backup. Holland explained that law enforcement officers were able to confirm he was alone in the residence and were able to track Childs as he went through the home turning lights on and off. "There was no possibility for him to breach our perimeter without being confronted by heavily armed SWAT members from the MCSO, Jackson County Sheriff's Office and State Bureau Investigation (SBI)" Law enforcement officers were also equipped with an armored vehicle called a ‘BearCat’ from Buncombe County Sheriffs Office SWAT and two robots with cameras from the SBI.

After several hours with no contact with the suspect, officers were sent into the residence. Childs was located by SWAT members in a hidden bunker in the basement wearing a bulletproof shield and gas mask. Once officers made contact with the suspect, he continued to refused to cooperate with law enforcement. After a brief confrontation with deputies, Childs was taken into custody. Agencies assisting included Cowee Fire Department, Macon EMS, Macon County Emergency Management, NC Highway Patrol and Macon County 911. The MCSO advises that additional information will be released at the appropriate time.

Governor appoints Sheriff Holland to task force

North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory has appointed Sheriff Robbie Holland to his Task Force on Safer Schools. Sheriff Holland was one of the few representatives from the western part of the state. Members range from students and teachers to elected officials, lawyers and law enforcement from across North Carolina.

“I consider it an honor for the governor to select me to represent law enforcement for the far west and the people I proudly serve,” said Holland. “My top priority has always been to protect our most vulnerable citizens and I will take the governor's appointment seriously and look forward to being a voice for my community striving to make positive improvements in keeping our kids safer.”

The task force will provide guidance to the Center for Safer Schools and consider future policy and legislative action that is needed to improve school safety in North Carolina.

County ponders solutions to landfill dilemma

County leaders met to discuss the future of the Macon County Landfill. With an average of 30,000 tons of trash a year being piled into the landfill, the current plan's days are numbered.

Commissioner Paul Higdon, who acts as the liaison to the solid waste department brought the capacity issue to the attention of the board during its November meeting, requesting a special called meeting to discuss possible solutions. Commissioners heard from Chris Stahl, director of Solid Waste Management for Macon County, on possible solutions to avoid reaching capacity at the landfill.

Stahl laid out three possible courses of action for the future of the landfill, each with a myriad of side issues including financial, political, service level, control, and length of commitment. Stahl informed the board that he used real historic data in developing projected costs and future capacity levels, but options were not meant to be exact accounts due to a wide range of unpredictable variables influencing each plan.

Commissioners will evaluate each option before making a decision.

With healthcare reform, local assistance available to sign up for health insurance

With new federal deadline mandates looming for all citizens to seek health insurance under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), free services are available to help the general public make the transition.

Through a grant provided to Mountain Projects, a community action agency, certified healthcare navigators have been established for Western North Carolina. Cynthia Solesbee, who has lived in Franklin for 10 years, attended the monthly meeting of the Macon County Board of Commissioners to make the public aware of her services. “In the simplest terms, I help folks sign up for healthcare through the affordable healthcare website; or over the phone -- and we also do paper applications when the site goes down,” explained Solesbee. “I have been trained to be a Certified Navigator in order to help people establish eligibility and enroll in coverage through the Marketplace.”

According to Solesbee, an estimated 30,000 uninsured people are in her service area in the seven counties of Western North Carolina.

For Macon County, the number of uninsured residents is 7,078, or 21 percent of the population. For Jackson County, the estimate was 7,479 uninsured or 19 percent of the population.


Commissioners hire local man as new county manager

Macon County native Derek Roland was unanimously chosen by commissioners for the job of county manager following the retirement of Jack Horton.Macon County Commissioners unanimously voted to hire Franklin native Derek Roland as the next county manager. The application process to replace long-time county manager Jack Horton began after Horton announced his retirement. For three months prior, the commissioners reviewed the 38 applications received and considered each applicant's requirements. After narrowing the applicant pool to two individuals and conducting extensive interviews with both candidates, the unanimous decision was made to offer the job to Roland at an annual salary of $100,000.

“I am humbled that five men who have been elected by the citizens of Macon County to make the decisions which they feel are best for the county would unanimously choose me as county manager,” said Roland. “Serving as county manger in the county where I was born and raised is the greatest honor I have ever received.”

During a continuation meeting of the board, commissioners touted Roland’s knowledge of the county and its citizens, as well as his knowledge of the challenges and opportunities Macon County faces as being invaluable in making Roland a successful leader for the county.

New Town Board members sworn in

At the monthly Franklin Board of Aldermen meeting, new board members Barbara McRae and Patti Hallyburton Abel joined incumbents Joyce Handley, Verlin Curtis, Farrell Jamison, and Billy Mashburn who was re-elected in November. New mayor Bob Scott also took the helm for the first time at the meeting.

Each member relayed their hopes for the future of the Town of Franklin.

Scott delivered his first message as sitting mayor that included thanks to former Mayor Joe Collins and former Alderman Sissy Pattillo.

New town board members consider ordinance change

Franklin's new Town Board of Aldermen set to work right away when then-Town Planner Derek Roland brought to their attention an application to amend the text of the Unified Development Ordinance for Outdoor Display of Goods. The board was to decide whether or not to send the application to the Town Planning Board for its consideration and recommendations.

Fresh off the November election, Bob Scott (middle) was sworn in as mayor by Macon County Clerk of Court Vic Perry (L). Also pictured is Scott’s wife, Nancy.According to Roland, the issue stemmed from complaints of business owners, especially in “strip centers” or shopping centers where businesses display their products outside.

“A lot of times in doing this, they crowd the store fronts and encroach over on other business owners,” he said. “The business owners are saying that 'it's fine and well to do that but when it starts coming over into my store frontage and impeding traffic that is coming into my business, that's when I have an issue with it.'”

The board voted to send the ordinance change to the town's planning board for further consideration.

County gets PARTF grant for new rec center

More than two years after voting to purchase Parker Meadows, Macon County Recreation Director Seth Adams informed commissioners at the December Board of Commissioner's meeting that the county has been approved for a $500,000 grant to begin construction of a new recreation facility on the Parker Meadows property.

North Carolina had $45 million to disburse in PARTF (Parks and Recreation Trust Fund) funds, which provide a dollar-for-dollar matching grant to local governments for parks and recreational projects. Out of the 80 projects that applied for funding, 48 projects were left unfunded this cycle. Macon County's Parker Meadows project was one of seven significant projects to be funded throughout the state and was identified early on as being first in line for funds.

“By the state fully funding the $500,000, it was an affirmation of what a great project this is,” said commission chairman Kevin Corbin. “These grants are very competitive and over 80 projects under consideration. The location, what we have planned, and the future economic impact of the project all helped us to get the funding from the state.”

Commissioners directed Adams to work with Macon County Planner Matt Mason to develop a plan of action to begin the construction process this spring.

Franklin Police Department names Timothy Lynn Officer of the Year

Patrol Officer Timothy Lynn was named Officer of the Year by the Franklin Police Department.The Franklin Police Department named Patrol Officer Timothy Lynn the 2013 Office of the Year.

“The Franklin PD is made up of a great group of men and women,” said Lynn. “They are dedicated to their jobs as law enforcement officers, and they are good at what they do. It was an honor to be chosen among them as the officer of the year.”

Each FPD employee was given a ballot and was able to submit it anonymously. The nominee must not have received any disciplinary actions within the past year and he/she must demonstrate a dedication and passion for their profession and the citizens they serve.

Macon 911 to get $500,000 upgrade

Since being classified as operating with some of the oldest 911 equipment in the state, Macon County’s 911 center gained approval from commissioners  to upgrade the system.

With a combination of state 911 funds and the reallocation of existing funds within the local 911 budget, Macon County will be purchasing a new phone switch that will allow text and picture messaging to be used in and for emergency communication.

Emergency Service Director David Key informed the board of commissioners during the December meeting that the current phone switch used in the 911 department is 20 years old, which stands as the oldest system in the state. Key explained that in the event the current phone switch failed, which is likely due to its age, residents would be unable to contact 911.

Few upgrades have been done to the county’s 911 system since its implementation. In October 1993, the system was upgraded and the staff increased to two dispatchers on per shift. With a call volume of 12,000 in 1994, today, the call volume has reached 32,000, a 267 percent increase despite the substandard equipment and minimal staffing levels.

Of the 100 counties in the state, 99 counties are a part of the Emergency Call Tracking System (ECaTs) program. Due to its outdated equipment, Macon County is the only county not participating. ECaTs allows for a universal 911 call reporting system to provide real time updates statewide. With the equipment upgrade, Macon County will join the rest of the state.

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