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News

With two weeks until filing opens for the 2015 municipal elections, Macon County Board of Elections Director Debbie George reminded voters within the city limits that they have about four months to update their address with the Board of Elections office to be able to vote in November.

“If anyone has moved into the city limits and not changed their address, they will need to update their address before Oct. 9, 2015,” said George. “Municipal elections are held in November during odd-numbered years and are non-partisan. Registered voters living within the city limits are eligible to vote in municipal elections and only candidates that live within the city limits are eligible to file for office.”

Franklin aldermen and Highlands town commissioners, as well as mayors for both municipalities are chosen in municipal elections. This year, Franklin will choose candidates for three alderman seats and the mayor seat. The seats up for election in Franklin are currently held by Joyce Handley, Farrell Jamison, and Verlin Curtis. The mayor seat, currently occupied by Bob Scott, will also be on the ballot this November. Of the elected officials in Franklin, only Mayor Scott has confirmed that he will seek another term.

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In an effort to better serve customers, the Division of Employment Security (DES) is changing its debit card provider to Bank of America beginning Aug. 1, 2015. Unemployment claimants will continue to choose either direct deposit or debit card to receive their benefits. This change will only affect those claimants who have elected to receive unemployment benefits via debit card.

From June 15 through late July, those eligible to receive unemployment benefits via debit card will receive a transition package from DES. This package will outline what they should do with their old MasterCard debit card in preparation for receiving their new VISA card from Bank of America.

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The Macon County Sheriff’s Office filed additional charges against Adam Conley, 38, over the weekend, Conley, is one of two individuals arrested last Thursday for an incident that occurred at South Macon Elementary School. Charges against the Macon County resident continue to grow, as he now faces charges stemming from two separate incidents which occurred on Saturday.

Conley has now been charged with assault on a government official for attempting to stab a detention officer in the abdominal area with an eating utensil. He was also charged with resisting, obstruct and delay, after Conley refused to follow verbal commands from officers while being served with additional arrest warrants while in custody.

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Director predicts a reduction in services and hours.

Since 2008, the rate of inflation had increased by 10 percent, while county funding for the library has only increased by 4 percent, according to Macon County Public Library Director Karen Wallace. Between an increase in services and cost of operating, Wallace addressed commissioners Tuesday night to inform them that if additional funds aren’t placed in the library’s budget this year, the facility will have to decrease services or hours.

“Without an increase in funding for the library, it’s likely that we’ll need to cut hours and services,” said Wallace Tuesday night.

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The Franklin Tourism Development Authority held its annual board retreat Monday night, which included a vote approving the 2015-16 fiscal year budget of $113,700.

Premiere Marketing, which volunteers its services to the TDA, showed the TDA how its dollars were used over the last year and how to better utilize funds in the coming year. According to D’Anne Maddox with Premiere Marketing, with a revamp of the TDA’s website recently, Google Analytics reports that the top two cities visiting the TDA’s website include Atlanta, Ga., and Charlotte, NC, which are the two cities Premiere focused its targeted marketing last year. According to Maddox, about 50 percent of the TDA’s website visits came from Atlanta and Charlotte, while the other 50 percent included areas such as Durham, N.C., Rock Hill, S.C., Houston, Texas, and New York.

Last year, the TDA spent $35,000 on billboards in the Atlanta area; $20,000 for ads on the music streaming application Pandora; $5,200 for a membership for the Charlotte Chamber; $10,000 for Facebook; and $10,000 for Google AdWords.

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All nine of the School Resource Officers (SROs) on the Macon County payroll are required to wear multiple hats throughout the year. When school is out for summer, Christmas, or spring break, Sheriff Robert Holland utilizes the county’s SROs to fill in gaps throughout his department. Since school is not in session year round, the SROs transition to other roles within the Macon County Sheriff’s Office during off months and remain full time employees of the county.

But soon that stipulation may not apply to all SROs in the county.

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Revaluation and tax increases a game changer.

The town of Franklin approved its 2015-16 budget Monday, which includes a one percent tax increase for town residents. In addition to the tax increase, the town of Franklin also approved a 5 percent water and sewer rate increase, and pending county approval, potentially approved a 9/10 of a cent fire tax increase for homes within the service area of Franklin Fire & Rescue. Those increases, paired with an increase on the county end in order to maintain a revenue neutral budget in the coming fiscal year, may cause some sticker shock for town residents.

Town of Franklin one cent tax increase

On the town level, a homeowner with an assessed property value of $75,000 will go from paying $202.50 in 2014 with a tax rate of .27, to paying $210 in 2015 with the tax rate of .28, an increase of $7.50.

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Macon County Sheriff’s Office deputies responded to a 911 call shortly after 5:30 a.m. Thursday, June 4, involving a gun shot fired near South Macon Elementary School this morning. Deputies responding to the call and found two armed suspects on the school’s campus. One of the suspects pulled a gun on the deputy, at which point the suspect was tased. The second suspect was also tased.

The suspects were identified as Adam Warren Conley, 38, and Kathryn Jetter, 29, both of Franklin. Both suspects were arrested and transported to the Macon County Detention Center.

Both Jetter and Conley, who according to Sheriff Robert Holland, are well known by law enforcement officers, are currently awaiting interviews at the detention center and have not yet been charged.

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With an ordinance as the only roadblock, Jeff Wang, owner of Jeff’s Ammo & Arms, petitioned to the town Monday night to consider a formal request to construct and operate an indoor shooting range at 245 Carolina Mountain Drive.

According to town attorney John Henning Jr., Franklin has an ordinance that would prevent such a business from operating. According to the ordinance, it is unlawful to shoot a gun inside the city limits. Although Franklin’s ordinance resembles other ordinances from across the state, Franklin’s does not have an exception for commercial use, like at a shooting range, as some municipalities have.

“There is the problem that it is unlawful to discharge a firearm in the city limits of Franklin unless you're an officer of the law,” said Henning.

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Building the county’s financial stability while facing uncertain legislative challenges seems to be the common theme throughout the 2015-16 budget planning process. County Manager Derek Roland presented commissioners with a $46.6 million budget last Thursday night, and in a two and a half hour work session on Tuesday, commissioners hashed out the details.

The budget was proposed at $46,646,357, with balanced revenues and expenditures. The proposed budget, while less than the 2013-14 levels, exhibits an increase over the current fiscal year.

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