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News

Highlands gets new faces of leadership

The makeup of the Highlands municipal elections was quite different from that of Franklin’s. While just 66 voters went to the polls in Franklin, 258 voters went on Election Day in Highlands to fill out their ballots, while 11 One Stop votes were cast. There were six provisional ballots as well.

While Franklin’s candidates ran unopposed, Highlands saw two commissioners drop out of the race, leaving upstart candidates an easy in for election. Highlands Board of Commissioners are elected every four years. The mayor and board serve four-year “staggered terms.”

Three seats were open this municipal election year in Highlands, held by commissioners Dennis DeWolf, John Dotson, and Larry Rogers. Dotson filed to run again, while DeWolf and Rogers decided to give up their seats at the threshold of the election.

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Sylva’s board of commissioners will be welcoming back Chris Matheson and fellow board member, Harold Hensley, who were both re-elected to the town board Tuesday night. Lynda Sossamon, a former Sylva board member was also elected to fill the third open seat.

The newest addition to Sylva’s town board is no stranger to town politics. Sossamon, who was elected to Sylva’s town board with 152 of the 619 votes which were cast, first served on the board from 1998-2001.

According to Sossamon, after her first round on the board, she took time off to focus on the family business with her husband. A graduate of Western Carolina University, Sossamon plans to use her chemistry degree and 27 years of business experience to approach political issues in a logical way, bringing a fresh perceptive to the commissioners.

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Macon County Board of Commissioners agreed to take a closer look at enacting term limits for county advisory boards last Tuesday night during their regularly scheduled meeting, following an extended conversation on the topic which arose last month.

A previous board of commissioners decided to eliminate term limits from county advisory boards, but Chairman Brian McClellan and Commissioner Ron Haven believe the policy should be reconsidered. At the meeting in October, Haven made a recommendation to limit service to two terms of three years each for advisory boards, but commissioners decided to delay the motion until the list of advisory boards was narrowed down.

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County announces contract for economic development

Local government officials from Macon County and the municipalities of Highlands and Franklin convened last Thursday night to discuss ongoing and future projects, and to announce personnel updates within their respected organizations. Macon County Commissioners, Highlands Commissioners, and Franklin’s Board of Aldermen come together three times a year at a joint meeting in an effort to improve overall collaboration between the three entities. The Town of Highlands hosted the year’s last session at Wolfgang’s restaurant on Main Street in Highlands.

“I can’t keep talking about the continuity that we’ve had with this gathering three times a year, because it just allows us to get a relationship and camaraderie with the group,” said Franklin Mayor Joe Collins.

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A popular downtown Sylva store is under fire by authorities in Jackson County, who recently raided the business on suspicion of selling illegal drugs.

On the evening of Nov. 4, investigators with the Sylva Police Department and Western Carolina University campus police raided In Your Ear Music Emporium after an Oct. 9 complaint indicated it had been selling illegal synthetic cannabinoids.

Sold under the guise of “herbal incense,” North Carolina has joined 28 other states by banning the products, which were reportedly being used as recreational drugs.

In response to the complaint, investigators executed a joint undercover operation with WCU officers to perform a “controlled buy” of the product after obtaining a search warrant, according to SPD Detective Jennie Rumsey.

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At approximately 4:26 p.m. on Tuesday evening, authorities arrived on the scene on Highway U.S. 23 at the Rabbit Creek intersection in response to a motor vehicle accident.

According to Leah McCall, investigating trooper with the North Carolina Highway Patrol, a 2006 silver Ford driven by Avery Bates, 18, of Franklin was entering the highway from Rabbit Creek and attempting to head toward Franklin.

Bates struck a 1998 black SUV oldsmobile driven by Maurice Grayson, 26, of Franklin, at the intersection mangling both vehicles.

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A Franklin man suspected of operating a methamphetamine lab was recently found guilty in Macon County Superior Court last week.

James Bradley Vaughn, 36, formerly of Orchard View Apartments, was sentenced to serve 7-9 years in prison after pleading guilty to manufacturing methamphetamine. Judge Sharon Barrett, of Buncombe County, presided over the hearing.

The sentence stemmed from the June 23 arrest of Vaughn and several others when Franklin Police Officers responded to a complaint of loud music at Orchard View Apartments, behind Kmart. After officers were given permission to enter the residence in question, they discovered a makeshift meth lab. Officers also reportedly recovered a plastic bag containing several unused syringes in the parking lot.

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A Franklin man accused of sex crimes against minors pled guilty to all charges last Thursday in Macon County Superior Court. David Wayne Ogden, 64, changed his plea from innocent to guilty earlier apparently due to the amount of evidence and victims stacked against him. “Yes ma’am, I’m guilty,” he said to Judge Sharon Barrett.

The courtroom was quiet, and Assistant District Attorneys Ashley Hornsby-Welch and District Attorney Jason Arnold seemed pensive as Barrett sentenced Ogden for his crimes against at least seven victims.

The defendant received an overall sentence of 34-45 years in prison for 35 charges including sexual exploitation of a minor, indecent liberties with a minor, delivering controlled substances to a child between the ages of 13-16 and other offenses. Should Ogden still be alive when his sentence is up, he would have to register as a sexual offender.

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Board members were eager to see the final numbers of the fall intersession after viewing a presentation highlighting the week, which took place from Oct. 10-14, at the October Board of Education meeting. “One of our goals is to get our students reading and math scores up, and we looked at the intersession as a way to do that,” said board member Stephanie McCall.

The intersession was beneficial for the students who attended, but board members showed concerns about whether the week was cost effective due to low participation numbers. The intersession was available to all students and the school system encouraged parents to become involved, but only about 400 students attended the interession on any given day, which amounts to about 10 percent of the entire district’s student population.

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Macon County Commissioners voted to take seven constructions standards up for discussion when they reconvened last week for a continuation of October’s regularly scheduled meeting. Commissioners discussed altering construction standards, which encompassed the minimum allowed standards, with the intention of providing safe and adequate protection while serving to decrease liability to people involved in all areas of development, under consideration and further review.

According to Lewis Penland, Chairman of the planning board, the proposed construction standards were taken directly from the recommended Safe Slope Development Ordinance which was developed by the Safe Slope Development Workgroup. “The workgroup—made up of a grading contractor, a builder and developer, a planner, a geologist, a hydrologist, a realtor, and a planning board member—spent two years studying slope development issues and taking testimony from a variety of professionals in the building, construction and engineering fields,” said Penland.

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published: 10/18/2013
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