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North Carolina’s statewide unemployment rate (not seasonally adjusted) was 5.7 percent in February. This was a 0.2 of a percentage-point decrease from January’s revised rate, and a 1.2 percentage-point decline over the year. Over the month, the unemployment rate decreased in 89 counties, while increasing in five and remaining unchanged in six.

Thirty-nine counties had unemployment rates at or below the state’s 5.7 percent rate.

Graham and Hyde counties recorded February’s highest unemployment rate at 14.2 percent, followed by Dare at 13.7 percent, and Tyrrell at 11.9 percent. Orange County had the lowest unemployment rate at 4.2 percent, followed by Buncombe at 4.3 percent, Wake at 4.4 percent and Chatham at 4.5 percent.


Depleted reserve fund prompting policy changes.

With an insurance reserve fund dwindling with the likelihood that it would not survive another year, County Manager Derek Roland found himself scrambling to ensure county employees continued to be insured.

With just a little over a year on the job, Roland was faced with the dilemma of how Macon County was going to pay for its employees' insurance in the 2015-16 fiscal year. Based on the amount of money commissioners have been putting into employee insurance since 2008, and the amount of funds utilized annually from the county's insurance reserve fund, if things continue the way they are, Macon County will see a more than $1 million deficit in regards to insurance next year.

After months of meeting with the county's insurance agent, establishing a 10-person committee, and soliciting 10 different proposals from insurance providers, Roland presented commissioners with a complete overhaul of the county's insurance policy on Tuesday night. In total, the county's new insurance plan is going to come with an annual price tag of $3.8 million for the county's on average 408 employees, a $529,000 increase over what the county is currently paying.


Policy institutes ‘due process’ prior to termination.

The North Carolina General Assembly has introduced legislation that will effectively end tenure for state teachers and move toward a pay-for-performance salary scale.

The process, which is expected to be fully implemented statewide by 2018, ultimately phases out longevity pay for teachers, resulting in some educators being denied the opportunity for due-process in the event that their employment is terminated.


In the last five years, the Macon County Board of Commissioners has only passed one ordinance. That is, one law, one regulation, one instance in a five-year period that spans at least four different combinations of commission boards where both parties have been in majority control.

While only implementing one new ordinance, the ordinance banning tobacco use on all county property, the Macon County Board of Commissioners has made a habit out of reducing existing ordinances and regulations, a point both Commission Chair Kevin Corbin and Commissioner Ronnie Beale drilled home Tuesday night.

"Since I have been on this board, I can think of four or five times we have reviewed existing ordinances and actually reduced them," said Corbin. "I personally am a firm believer in fewer government regulations and making sure that property owners can do anything, within the scope of the law, that they want to do on their own property."


By state statute, Macon County is responsible for providing funding for the Macon Campus of Southwestern Community College (SCC), and last year, Macon County did so to the tune of about $320,000.

While last year's county budget actually increased funds for expenses at the Macon Campus by about $40,000, the overall SCC allocation was decreased, something that apparently upset Jackson officials.

"I know the commissioners were disappointed with the $200,000 reduction in support by Macon County for SCC," said Jackson County manager Chuck Wooten. "I do believe there is concern among the [Jackson] commissioners with the idea of providing support to Macon following their action to reduce the support for the SCC budget."


A registered sex offender is behind bars in Macon County after being arrested for indecent liberties with a child.

Franklin Police Department received a report on March 28 involving suspected indecent liberties with a child. According to Franklin Police Chief David Adams, after investigating the report, which was submitted by the victim's grandmother, Anthony Godfrey, 56, was arrested at his residence without incident.

"Our detectives interviewed the suspect and after an investigation, made the arrest," said Adams. "The suspect is allegedly the boyfriend of the child's grandmother, who filed the report."


While prepping his annual budget, which totals about $6 million, Macon County Sheriff Robert Holland does his best to estimate how much he needs to allocate for mental health commitments.

Since 2006, the cost of involuntary commitments in Macon County has increased by nearly 850 percent. In 2006, MCSO deputies were spending on average 12 man hours per commitment, costing the department $29,964 that year. Now, eight years later, those numbers have dramatically increased. Officers are now spending 41 hours per commitment, with more than double the number of commitments per year, costing the department around $253,625.


Macon County Sheriff's Department Detective Tim Holland is still at home recovering from surgery that was a result of injuries incurred in a police chase that ensued Thursday evening.

Detective Holland, along with Detective Will Rhoden were involved in a chase Thursday after a suspect failed to stop for a routine traffic stop. While briefly attempted to flee police in his vehicle, Jessie Mal Cowart, 25, wrecked on Arthur Drake Road before taking off on foot.

According to Sheriff Robert Holland, Cowart fled into a wooded area and was immediately pursued by both Rhoden and Holland at which point Cowart refused to cooperate with law enforcement's commands to stop.


Macon County’s Vietnam Veterans of America, Smokey Mountain Chapter 994 will host its annual Vietnam Veterans Day Parade and Ceremony on Saturday, March 28, at 10 am. This weekend marks the 42nd anniversary of the removal of all American combat troops from Vietnam, ending two decades of conflict in the Southeast Asian country.

The parade participants will meet and form up in the Franklin Town Hall parking lot on Main Street. The procession will begin at 10 a.m., proceeding up Main Street ending at the Franklin Town Gazebo.

At the Gazebo, a ceremony will be conducted, honoring Vietnam Veterans and the families of Macon County Vietnam Veterans who made the supreme sacrifice, giving their lives during the Vietnam conflict. Featured speakers for the ceremony will be two Vietnam Veteran Prisoners of War, Nathan B. “Nat” Henry and Tom Pyle. Several local officials will also speak.


“Keep your hands where I can see ‘em!” Scott Buttery, a patrol lieutenant with the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office, repeated the order – but the individual who’d been breaking into a car wouldn’t comply. Instead, the suspect reached into his back pocket then swung his right arm forward.

Before less-seasoned onlookers could determine whether the item in the suspect’s hand was a weapon or something less ominous, Buttery fired his weapon. Had the officer waited an instant later, the subject would have pulled the trigger on his own pistol.

Fortunately, the perpetrator was an actor projected onto a screen. The pistol was a modified Glock with no live ammo. The entire 20-second scenario was part of a “use of force” training session arranged by Southwestern Community College on Thursday, March 19, in a training room of the sheriff’s office.


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