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Macon County's finance director had good financial news to share with commissioners Tuesday during their annual mid-year review retreat. With four months of the county's sales tax to report, Finance Director Lori Hall reported that revenue is up eight percent over last year.

While the numbers are preliminary, Hall is optimistic the trend shows an increase in revenue for the county for 2015.

"Our sales tax collection is up over last year so far, and with a three month lag in reporting, the increase doesn't even include the holiday shopping months," said Hall. 'While I like to be conservative and it is early, if we continue on this trend throughout the year we could have additional revenue by the year's end."


For years elected officials in both Macon and Jackson counties have debated where the county line between Cashiers and Highlands falls. With homes in the area valued at millions of dollars, the debate has finally been assigned a monetary value, showing the importance of settling the dispute once and for all.

Shortly after being elected to the board, Macon County Commissioner Jim Tate was approached by a Highlands town official who informed Tate that he paid property taxes in both counties, yet the amounts were incorrect and he was being doubly taxed because both counties had differing opinions of where the property line actually lies. Tate began researching the issue and recently, with the help of Jackson County officials, has been able to put a value on the properties in dispute.


Each year, Macon County leaders recognize the dedication and longevity of county employees by honoring them during a service award presentation. As milestones in their careers are reached, county officials take time to thank them for being the backbone of what makes the county operate day in and day out.

Employees who reach the 10, 15, 20, 25 and 30 year marks each receive a plaque and pin from the county memorializing their service. While it does occur, it is rare that the county has the opportunity to recognize employees beyond 30 years, but this year was different. This year, all commissioners, as well as a room full of people who have worked alongside her for more than a quarter of a century, recognized Fannie Buchanan.


One inmate learned the hard way Saturday morning, that unfortunately, the Macon County Detention Center does not store their phones in the jail's ceiling.

Cameren Paul Shaffer, 21, crawled into the drop ceiling of his cell and disappeared into the crawl space. When asked what he was doing, Shaffer informed officers that he was only attempting to find a phone to make a phone call.

While attempting to book five individuals into the jail, a loud noise was heard at Macon County Detention Center, alerting officers of an attempted escape in progress.

“At the time of the incident, detention officers had a total of five individuals (inmates) waiting to be processed," said Macon County Sheriff Robert Holland in a statement. "The detention officer went to investigate a strange noise and discovered that inmate Shaffer had crawled up into the drop ceiling of his cell and had disappeared into the crawl space."


Community asked to report suspicious behavior

Thieves once again stole copper cable from Frontier Communications, this time in the Nantahala area on Jan. 2, and in Needmore on Dec. 30, disrupting communications services and placing local residents at risk, General Manager Ken Maxwell said.

The thefts are the latest in a rash of six copper theft incidents in the four weeks prior to the latest incidents that have left hundreds of customers without telephone and broadband service in Cherokee, Clay, Graham, Macon or Swain counties, Maxwell said.

“These criminal acts affect hundreds of Frontier customers who depend on their telephones and broadband to stay in contact with family, friends and emergency responders,” Maxwell said. “Copper theft disrupts commerce and creates significant inconveniences for entire communities. Some of these thefts have also included stolen or damaged fiber optics cable, which increases the extent of the damage and the risk to local residents and businesses. These outages leave customers unnecessarily exposed in the event of an emergency.”


The last of 18 members of a methamphetamine trafficking organization was sentenced on Wednesday, Dec. 17, to 46 months on drug charges, announced Anne M. Tompkins, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina.

Angela Leigh Wike, of Bryson City was also ordered to serve three years under court supervision.

In May 2013, 18 members of the drug ring were arrested as the result of a joint law enforcement investigation conducted by DEA, ATF, North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation, Macon County Sheriff’s Office, Jackson County Sheriff’s Office, Swain County Sheriff’s Office, Franklin Police Department, and Cherokee Indian Police Department.


In 2011, Macon Valley Nursing and Rehabilitation Center set out to prove the facility's exemplary standards through achieving various awards with the American Health Care Association's National Quality Award Program. In just a few short years, Macon Valley accomplished something that takes most facilities more than a decade.

"We completed an application on the Organizational Profile for our organization, submitted it for review, were notified in October 2011 that we were a recipient for the Bronze Award 'Commitment to Quality,'” said Richard Brady, Administrator at Macon Valley. "Then for the next three years, 2011-2012, 2012-2013, 2013-2014 we changed our operational procedures, processes and focused on our clinical programs and outcomes. We completed the 25-page Silver application and were awarded the Silver Award Achievement in Quality in October 2014."


Macon County Schools and county officials are stepping up to make improving Union Academy a priority in 2015. Housed in a building that hasn't been touched in decades, and that was previously placed out of commission entirely, Union Academy has reached the point where minor repairs will no longer suffice.

With no expectations to see a decrease in student enrollment, the alternative learning facility, which is mandated by the state, serves about 111 students. The building was first taken out of commission when Union Elementary closed down during a consolidation process resulting in the establishment of South Macon Elementary. It remained vacant until Union Academy began operations.


New DA brings many ‘firsts’ to position

For more than 30 years, the 30th Judicial District Attorney has been housed in Haywood County. The 30th judicial district serves the seven westernmost counties and until November, held its main office in Waynesville under former N.C. District Attorney Mike Bonfoey. In November, in a landslide victory against Jim Moore, Ashley Welch secured the seat.

Welch, who resides in Macon County, will bring the district attorney's office to Macon County for the first time in the state's history.

Bringing the office to Macon County is not the only milestone Welch achieved when she was elected. At 36, Welch is one of the youngest prosecutors in the state. Welch is also the first female to serve the 30th Judicial District and stands as one of only 10 female district attorneys in North Carolina's 44 districts.


Roadway panhandlers must adhere to specific rules.

For months now, even years, the town of Franklin has discussed how to handle the panhandlers who set up shop several times a year at the intersection of Main Street and the Highlands Road. While some groups who frequent the intersection are local, oftentimes the groups who go car to car, buckets in tow, are outside groups claiming to be collecting donations for outside organizations.

With complaints about the solicitation ranging from the legitimacy of the groups soliciting funds, to the safety hazard posed by donation seekers standing in traffic, the town of Franklin finally decided to seriously consider a town ordinance regulating the activity. During its December meeting, the Franklin Board of Aldermen directed town attorney John Henning Jr. to draft an ordinance to report to the board in January, which he presented Monday night.


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