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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.

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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.

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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.

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“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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The WCU Board of Trustees unanimously approved a revision to the university’s tailgating policy that adds an additional parking lot to areas in which alcohol may be consumed on campus as part of fans’ pregame festivities. Approval of the change came during the board’s regularly scheduled quarterly meeting Friday, March 6.

Beginning this fall, the Belk Building parking lot, which previously had been designated as an alcohol-free zone, will be among the alcohol-permissible tailgating areas.

The move became necessary because of increased interest in pregame tailgating at WCU in the wake of recent improvements to the football program. In 2014, the WCU football team enjoyed its first winning regular season since 2005, earning a second-place finish in Southern Conference play.

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Amidst a loss of leadership and in an attempt to regroup, the Franklin Main Street Program Board of Directors voted last Wednesday to place the program on inactive status.

“At this point, I feel it would be the right time for the board to step back and assess how it wants to proceed,” said board member Sissy Pattillo. “I have been involved with the Franklin Main Street Program since it became active again. If you look where we were and where we are now, we have made great strides. Many projects have been accomplished and the master plan for our town is a great example. Phase one has been completed and phase two is under way.”

The Franklin Main Street Program Board of Directors includes Christine Basey, Judy Chapman, Joyce Handley, Ken Murphy and Sissy Pattillo. Over the last few months, four board members have resigned from their posts. In addition to board members' resignation, the MSP was also dealing with the lack of a Main Street coordinator, a paid position with the town.

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In the fall of last year, Franklin's Main Street Program (MSP) coordinator Linda Schlott ended her tenure with the town. Historically, one aspect of the Main Street coordinator position was to help facilitate cooperation between the town and events occurring on Main Street. As festivals and events began to grow downtown, as the Main Street coordinator, Schlott began taking on more and more responsibilities to ensure that festivals and events kept Main Street happening all year long.

When Schlott left her position with the town, she left a void in terms of festival planning and coordination. So much so, independent festivals are having to take a step back and regroup in order to have 2015 events, while others have been cancelled altogether.

Last month, news broke that after 11 years, the Folk Heritage Association of Macon County's annual Franklin Folk Festival would not be happening in 2015. The main factor cited by members of the FHAMC as to why there would not be a festival this summer, was due to the fact that the town no longer had a MSP coordinator to help independent festivals.

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Gary Shields' name is undoubtedly one of the most recognizable names in Macon County. Like most Vietnam veterans, he loves the United States, he loves North Carolina, and he loves Franklin and the people who live here. He is passionate in his desire to help other people and to serve his community and his nation.

Upon graduating from high school, Shields enlisted in the military in October 1966. He did his basic training at Fort Bragg, N.C. He then went to Fort Gordon, Georgia, for his radio communication school. He also cross trained in mortars and infantry. In Vietnam, he served with the United States Army Airborne, attached to the 173rd Airborne Brigade. When his unit was in a fire-fight, it was his responsibility as Radio Communications Officer to call in support for them, whether artillery, jets, or mortars.

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At 5.4 percent, North Carolina's unemployment rate for January remained unchanged from December and below the national average of 5.7 percent.

According to the North Carolina Department of Commerce's report released on Tuesday, North Carolina’s January 2014 unemployment rate was 1.2 percentage points lower than a year ago. The number of people employed increased 22,658 over the month to 4,397,927, and increased 65,854 over the year. The number of people unemployed decreased 1,161 over the month to 248,866, and declined 57,145 over the year.

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Macon County Sheriff's Department is currently taking applications for the third Citizens Academy course. The course, which is set to begin on Thursday, April 9, will be a 10-week educational program geared toward building community relations.

"Our academy gives citizens an opportunity to learn who they have serving at their Sheriff's Office and an insight as to what goes on in the MCSO and in their community," said Macon County Sheriff Robert Holland. "It also allows citizens to learn how they help us make our community even better. It also allows us an opportunity to hear from community members of how we can better serve them."

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