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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.

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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."

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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.

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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.

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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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Director Stahl urges quick action on road to expansion.

The county's landfill expansion plan gained ground Monday night when the town of Franklin unanimously voted to approve the county's re-zoning request for two properties located on Pannell Lane.

The two parcels of land, when combined total about 22.9 acres, and are located at 198 and 256 Pannell Lane. The county purchased the properties, which were zoned as residential properties, with the intention of expanding the county's current landfill, which is nearing capacity. The expansion is expected to add 40 years to the life of the landfill.

Franklin's Board of Aldermen unanimously voted to follow the town's planning board recommendation to approve the zoning request. The planning board noted in their recommendation that spot zoning was not an issue with the petition as the parcels are bordered by the Macon County landfill, which is already zoned for industrial use. The Little Tennessee River abuts to parcel two, 256 Pannell Lane, to the north.

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The residents of Macon County may soon have a noise ordinance to adhere to. After commissioners tasked the Macon County Planning Board with deciding the feasibility of a potential noise ordinance, Matt Mason, county planner and member of the planning board, informed the board Tuesday night that a noise ordinance is something that the county should pursue.

Earlier this year, several residents spoke to commissioners with noise complaints regarding altercations with their neighbors. In the complaints spoken during public comment periods, several residents told commissioners about deliberate, malicious acts that involved confrontation with loud, unruly neighbors. Law enforcement was unable to mitigate the situation because there is no law about being too loud on your own property, even if it disturbs others.

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After holding the position as County Manager for nearly a year, Derek Roland was offered a formal contract for employment during the November board meeting of the County Commissioners.

The vote, which was unanimous, was intended to give Roland a little extra job security. Until last month, Roland was working basically on a month to month basis and had been since he replaced long-time County Manager Jack Horton last December.

The suggestion to offer Roland the contract was made by Commissioner Jim Tate, who said that he wanted to ensure Roland and the county understands the exceptional job Roland has done since being hired.

“A year ago when we were considering who to hire as our next county manager, one of the selling points about you was the fact you were the only applicant who didn’t request a contract for employment,” said Commissioner Tate. “You were extremely confident in your abilities, your desires and your works to be the county manager of Macon County; it was very impressive that it was more to you than just the money. And the fact that Roland's was asking considerably less that what the other applicants were asking for."

The board of commissioners unanimously agreed with Tate and praised Roland for the work he has done for the citizens of Macon County in the past year. “When we hired you, you were thrown immediately into the fire and handled it all with style and class,” said Roland “You didn’t handle the job any differently than the way we had expected. We are thankful and grateful for your efforts, and we as board would like to reward you for your efforts and offer you an employment agreement contract.”

In addition to outlining Roland’s annual salary of $100,000, the contract states that Roland must remain a permanent resident of the county unless otherwise approved by the board. Roland’s contract also stated that he will be granted an annual travel allowance of $6,000.

Roland began working for the county in March of 2009 when he was hired as the county planner. After serving as county planner for three years, in March 2012, Roland made the transition to town planner to replace long-time planner Mike Grubermann. Roland served as the planner for the town of Franklin until last December when he rejoined the county payroll. Roland earned a B.S. Degree in Business Administration and a Master’s Degree in Public Administration from Western Carolina University.

Beginning next July, Macon County residents can expect to see on average a 14.8 percent decrease in their property value due to the 2015 tax revaluation. The change in value, which varies based on type of property as well as location within Macon County, will bring Macon County to a .33 millage rate per $100 in Macon County. As it stands right now, at .27 millage rate per $100, Macon County has the lowest property tax rate in the state. The increase will result in Macon County now being the 5th lowest in the state.

Property tax rates need to produce about $25 million annually in order for the county to maintain a revenue neutral budget and be able to provide the current level of services to citizens.

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Children were on their best behavior as Santa Claus was spotted all over town this past weekend at the Winter Wonderland celebration in downtown Franklin as well as at the annual Franklin Christmas Parade on Sunday.

Next Saturday will feature a Gingerbread Competition at Town Hall and the second night of Winter Wonderland from 5 to 8 p.m.

 

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