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News State / Region

After rejecting a request from insurance companies for statewide average homeowners insurance rate increase of 26 percent, North Carolina Insurance Commissioner Wayne Goodwin approved increases in specific areas of the state in late December.

Although Goodwin called for a zero-percent statewide overall average change in homeowners insurance rates, effective June 1, 2015, the Department of Insurance reports that a 14.2 percent increase was approved for Macon, Jackson, Graham, Clay, and Cherokee counties. According to the Department of Insurance, insurance companies originally sought a 25.9 percent increase in those counties.

Haywood, Madison, Swain and Transylvania counties will see an even larger increase. While insurance companies requested a 28.3 percent increase, Goodwin granted the territory a 16.7 percent increase.

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As part of an annual assessment of economic conditions in all 100 counties in North Carolina, the state Department of Commerce reviews reports of economic indicators to rank each county in one of three tiers.

“No matter where you live in North Carolina, our goal is to spark economic development and enhance job opportunities all across the state,” said former Commerce Secretary Sharon Decker. “The tier rankings help us in various economic development programs to attract businesses to the state.”

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Savvy drivers in North Carolina and Tennessee can kick off the New Year and join the 32,000 other vehicles with Friends of the Smokies license plates. Sales of specialty license plates in North Carolina and Tennessee support priority projects in Great Smoky Mountains National Park (GSMNP). Projects supported by the specialty plate fees include Student Conservation Association (SCA) internship positions as well as Parks as Classrooms and Appalachian Trail Ridgerunner programs in both states.

License plate sales in North Carolina and Tennessee during 2014 brought in over $750,000. Since the program launched in 1999, plates in both states have generated more than $11.7 million in support of America’s most-visited national park.

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The road between Franklin and Highlands can serve as a beautiful scenic drive for visitors and residents alike with its winding road, mountain views, and waterfalls. But anybody who has ever been behind the wheel of a vehicle navigating each turn understands the difficulty that can come if a large truck is encountered on the narrow road.

Technically, large trucks are not allowed on that section of U.S. 64/N.C. 28 with signs arranged accordingly to let drivers know of the restriction. Regardless, those who drive the road enough probably understand that sometimes these warnings go unnoticed. On occasion along the two-lane roadway, motorists can see remnants of trailer sides that the rock faces have claimed.

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