Macon County Commissioners opened January’s monthly meeting by recognizing one of the last surviving World War II veterans in the county. “As chairman, every once in a while I get the chance to honor our citizens, and today I am proud to honor Rich Robb who turned 90 on Sunday,” said Chairman Kevin Corbin. “We have commissioners meetings every month, sometimes twice a month, but Rich and his wife Cate never miss a meeting.”
Rich, who celebrated his 90th birthday this weekend with family and friends, moved to Macon County in 1980 after retiring from 22 years of service as a Police Chief in Florida. Before entering law enforcement, Robb served during World War II as a member of the United States Navy. Tuesday night, in recognition of Robb’s 90th birthday, and his commitment to attending all commissioners meetings because Robb believes it is a part of his civil service, commissioners presented Robb with a flag of Macon County.
“I have lived a great 90 years,” said Robb. “I come here because we just should as citizens. Thank you all for this.”
With recent legislation changes to the voting process in North Carolina, members of the Macon County Board of Elections presented to county commissioners Tuesday night to request funds in order to be in compliance with the new laws.
Board of Elections Chairman Luke Bateman informed commissioners that while several changes to the voting process are slated to be implemented over the next two years, the only change to be concerned with now is the change to onestop voting which will impact the upcoming primary election.
Bateman told commissioners that onestop voting will be shortened by one week but requires that precincts still be open the same number of hours. For one-stop voting, Macon County has one location at the Macon County Courthouse for voters in the entire county. Bateman informed commissioners that the only two options that the Board of Elections could identify included either keeping the current location open 15 hours a day or opening a second location to make up the 123 operating hours lost by shortening the voting period. “We could stay open for 10- 15 hours a day for the entire one-stop voting period, but we just don’t think that is feasible,” said Bateman.
The solution presented by board members was to open a second location in Highlands. “A second location will allow more people to vote and will allow us to be in compliance with the new law,” said Board of Elections member Gary Dills.
A second location in Highlands will give Highlands residents and people who are working in Highlands easier access to onestop voting. “Because it’s so hard for people living in Highlands and people who may live in Franklin and work in Highlands to get to the courthouse for one-stop voting, this second location will help get more people to the polls,” said Bateman.
Bateman said that while Highlands is the largest precinct in the county, their one-stop voting numbers have been historically low, causing election day to be flooded with voters causing a back up at the polls. The additional location will hopefully fix that in the future.
The Board of Elections has done a preliminary cost assessment and to be able to open a second location in Highlands, will come at a cost to the county of $7,500. The new polling place will be located at the Highlands Recreation Park, where regular voting is currently conducted.
The funds requested will cover the cost of changing the locks and ensuring that the equipment runs properly with internet and phone access.
Commissioners unanimously voted to approve the funds to open the second one-stop voting location in Macon County.
At the close of the commissioners meeting, Pam Bell, president of the Franklin Chamber of Commerce and incoming president Donald Holland presented Commissioner Ronnie Beale with the 2013 Duke Energy Citizenship and Service Award. The chamber held its annual awards banquet earlier in the evening and Beale was unable to attend due to the commissioners meeting, so Bell and Holland brought the award to him.
At the banquet, Bell expounded on what the award means.
"This is a tribute to individuals or groups who make a difference in their communities or places of work by using their time, talents and compassion to positively impact the lives of others. Recipients of the award help foster a culture of citizenship and service that acts as a catalyst for others to become involved in civic and social activities. The award recognizes outstanding volunteer service and civic participation,” said Bell.
“The 2013 Duke Award recipient is a strong community leader, a respected member of his community, and a friend and mentor to many. He has given unselfishly to this county for many years with his time, his support and his knowledge.”
Beale was instrumental in bringing the DaVita Kidney Dialysis Center to Franklin from the beginning with getting the company to agree to come here, to securing a location and building that would accommodate the center's needs.
He is the liaison with the Economic Development Committee looking to move Macon County forward with small business and industry here in the county. One example of this would be Whitley Products which went from closing its doors to opening Franklin Tubular Products to new renovations and great expectations for expansion.
Beale has served as County Commissioner since 2006; was named Commissioner of the Year by the N.C. Association of County Commissioners; is President-elect of the North Carolina Association of County Commissioners; and serves on the Board of Macon County Fairgrounds. Along with serving on multiple county boards over the years, Beale has also been involved in furthering education in Macon County working to secure the Macon Campus for Southwestern Community College and was actively involved in the early college program.