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Franklin town officials conducted their budget work session Tuesday night at Town Hall. Aldermen, the mayor, town manager, and various other officials came to the table ready for discussion of Franklin's budget for the 2013-2014 fiscal year.

Town Manager Warren Cabe had previously presented the board with his proposed budget at the Board of Aldermen meeting last week and after a week to review the proposals he had made, they reconvened to discuss possible changes or to ask questions regarding portions of the budget.

In the past Cabe had expressed his desire to keep tax rates the same as they currently are which is $0.25 for every $100 and the new budget confirms this and was not challenged by any of the officials.

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Despite the December state Supreme Court ruling to uphold North Carolina's ban on sweepstakes machines, the games are still being played on uncertain legal terrain. On May 5, Michael Macke, owner of Gift Surplus, LLC, filed civil summonses against regional officials including Macon County Sheriff Robbie Holland, Highlands Police Chief Bill Harrell, Sylva Police Chief David Woodard and District Attorney Michael Bonfoey.

Macke's complaint comes after his business was affected by the closing of sweepstakes establishments in Jackson and Macon counties. One of his customers, Mark Berry of Macon County was found not guilty of four misdemeanor charges of operating a sweepstakes machine in violation of the law.

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Check your mail for something new and make sure your car is road ready. The first combined tag and tax notices will be mailed on a revised schedule, going out for September renewals. The program will be ready to implement on July 1 when the DMV will begin collecting, however the first combined tag and tax notices will be for vehicle renewals due in September 2013.

The new bills will reflect both vehicle property tax information from counties and other taxing jurisdictions, as well as vehicle registration and inspection information. Drivers used to pay for tags and taxes separately. The new program, “Tag & Tax Together,” will require one payment for both bills. Both tag renewals and tax payments must be paid in full to renew vehicle registration.

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Over the last few months, a variety of issues have come in front of the Franklin Board of Aldermen and Monday night, Town Attorney John Henning Jr. addressed many of them, giving updates and addressing concerns.

Henning began by discussing the ordinance that restricts the discharge of a firearm inside the city limits to police officers as it pertains to a proposed indoor shooting range that could be established on an Ulco Drive property. Though the board did not have any pressing concerns regarding the range, the current ordinance that is on the books does not allow citizens to shoot guns in the city limits.

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Nearly two months have gone by since Macon County Sheriff's Department first began an investigation into Christopher Lee Burk on March 11.

“We plan to continue to conduct a very thorough and in-depth investigation,” said Sheriff Robbie Holland. “There is no time limit and we plan to sift through all of the evidence.”

Burk was arrested on April 12 at the Asheville Airport and charged with six counts of first-degree sexual exploitation of a minor.

“Burk works out of town as an engineer and we knew when he was landing in Atlanta and when he would be leaving Atlanta and flying to Asheville,” said Sheriff Holland on Tuesday. “We worked with Asheville officials to meet Burk when he got off the plane in Asheville.”

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At the Board of Aldermen meeting Monday night, Town Manager Warren Cabe presented the board with his budget for the 2013- 2014 fiscal year. This is the first step towards finalizing a budget for the year and the budget could see changes in the upcoming weeks before it is adopted. The fiscal year begins on July 1.

At the town retreat last month, Cabe had expressed to the board that he did not want to see any tax increases and the budget as presented reflects this sentiment. The current tax rate is $0.25 for every $100 and will remain at that rate.

Cabe's plan for town personnel calls for a two percent cost of living adjustment for all positions and for one management position in the fire department budget to be split into two entry level staff positions. He has also suggested that funds should be allocated to hire a part time employee to assist with mowing and general maintenance in the spring and summer.

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A bill that recently passed the North Carolina Senate could allow municipalities in 10 counties to refrain from issuing public notices to local newspapers informing citizens of governmental meetings. The Town of Franklin's Board of Aldermen discussed this issue at its scheduled meeting Monday. Macon is one of the counties listed in the bill that provides municipalities the option to publish the notices in local newspapers.

“In North Carolina, there is about $11 million a year spent to provide public notices in print,” said Senator Jim Davis who represents Macon County. “This bill will give counties and municipalities the option to continue doing as they are currently doing, or they can put it on their website to reach the public.”

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Last Thursday, school officials arrived on the Franklin High School campus to find that overnight the school had fallen victim to a senior prank.

Franklin High School Principal Dr. Chris Baldwin said school officials are continuing to investigate a senior prank at the school.

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Authorities with the Macon County Sheriff's Office have shut down and seized property in two indoor marijuana growing operations since Saturday. According to documents on file with the Clerk or Courts office, Macon County Magistrate Miciah Leatherman issued a search warrant at 7:14 p.m. in the matter of 526 Coweeta Church Road to Macon County Sheriff's Office Detective Chris Murray. The search warrant allowed Murray to search the premises, vehicle, and person of Christopher Michael Belvedere.

Belvedere was arrested and charged with one count of manufacturing a schedule VI controlled substance.

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Nearly six years after the brutal murders of a Hendersonville couple in the Pisgah National Forest, Gary Michael Hilton was sentenced to four life sentences on Thursday, April 25, in U.S. District Court for the kidnapping and murder of John D. Bryant and Irene W. Bryant. He was also sentenced to 15 years in prison for a related robbery offense, announced Anne M. Tompkins, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina.

In March of 2012, Hilton first pleaded guilty to murdering the Bryants, who were in their 80s. He also pleaded guilty to robbery, kidnapping and firearms offenses.

Hilton was able to avoid the death penalty in North Carolina in exchange for a plea arrangement.

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