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- published 3/27 (Larry) - unpublished ?

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The extension of the Macon County Airport runway is approximately two months away from completion, according to airport engineer Eric Rysdon, who reported to Airport Authority members on April 25 that the paving process has begun.

“By the end of May or beginning of June they should be done with paving,” said Rysdon, adding that approximately one month after paving, the finishing touches of the extension will be applied while additional lights are installed to make the runway operational.

Rhodes Brothers Paving has taken on the paving project under the commission of Buchanan and Sons, Inc., based out of Whittier, who began the project last October for the price of $2.6 million.

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Graduation ceremonies for Southwestern Community College will be held in two separate ceremonies Tuesday, May 10, to accommodate the largest graduating class in the college’s history.

Some 271 students are candidates for certificates, diplomas and degrees, including 14 Macon Early College students and 13 New Century Scholars.

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The campus of Western Carolina University and surrounding areas that receive power through WCU Electric Resale will lose power for four hours starting at 9 p.m. Tuesday, May 10. This power outage is required for Duke Energy to repair a WCU campus substation damaged during a recent storm.

The outage will affect all residences and businesses on Little Savannah Rd., including the SECU; Cullowhee P.O.; Huddle House; faculty and staff housing behind Huddle House; Rabbit Ridge apartments; Cullowhee VFD; the Sunrise trailer community west of the fire department; the construction site of the WCU Health and Human Sciences Building; Cullowhee Quik Tan; Laurel Oaks apartments; and the Jackson County Recycling Center.

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Some 1,250 members of Western Carolina University’s spring graduating class will be honored as the university holds a trio of commencement ceremonies, May 6-7, at Ramsey Regional Activity Center. Commencement for WCU’s Graduate School will be held at 7 p.m. Friday, May 6.

Commencement for the colleges of Arts and Sciences, Education and Allied Professions, and Fine and Performing Arts will begin at 10 a.m. Saturday, May 7, followed by a 3:30 p.m. ceremony for the College of Business, College of Health and Human Sciences, and Kimmel School of Construction Management.

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Folks in Macon County got a chance to sit down with U.S. Senator Kay Hagan (D-N.C.) when she visited Franklin last week as part of her tour of the region to meet with constituents and listen to their concerns. The “Conversations with Kay” tour on April 20 and 21 stopped in Andrews, Robbinsville, Bryson City, Franklin, Sylva and Marshall.

On Thursday morning, a small room in the Macon County Senior Center in Franklin was filled to beyond capacity with citizens interested in meeting the senator, who circulated and visited each table in the room during the hourlong event.

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Bill well-intentioned but misled, say critics

CEO of Franklin’s Angel Medical Center, Tim Hubbs, says that a bill recently introduced by N.C. Senator Jim Davis (R-Franklin), if passed, would block a planned affiliation agreement between the regional hospital and Asheville-based Mission Health Systems.

“There’s no question, that if it passed without change, it would postpone any ability by Angel and Mission to move forward with the affiliation or do more together than we're doing today,” Hubbs said on Monday. Angel and Mission have been exploring a merger agreement for almost two years.

The bill would modify the Certificate of Public Advantage agreement, or COPA, which was granted to Mission in the mid 1990s when the hospital took over its main competitor in the area, St. Joseph’s Hospital. The agreement was intended to protect consumers against rising costs and reduced access to healthcare that could come of the loss of competition resulting from the merger.

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On Tuesday, May 3, the Cowee School Heritage Group will meet to introduce and discuss the results of an August workshop which collected public input on possible future uses of Cowee School.

Built in 1943 by Roosevelt’s Works Progress Administration (WDA), the Art Deco-inspired, native-stone school building is on the National Register of Historic Places and is one of the last three WDA project schools from the Depression era still in operation. The school building has been a center for the north Macon County community for generations, but after the completion of the new K-4 Iotla Valley School, Cowee School is scheduled to be decommissioned.

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During a special called meeting Wednesday, April 20, Highlands’ Board of Commissioners considered ways to reduce the Town’s costs. Chief among the discussion was the benefit package for each of the Town’s employees. The Town covers 100 percent of the package per employee. Currently the average yearly salary among the Town of Highlands employees is $37,336. The average yearly cost of the benefit package for each employee is $17,349.40, bringing the average total cost per employee to $54,685.40.

Commissioners discussed the fact that a $30,619 salaried employee in Franklin and Macon County pays $4,739 and $3,106 out-of-pocket respectively for his or her benefit package. Moreover, new employees in Highlands receive dental and life insurance coverage from the first day of employment and health insurance after 30 days.

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Final approval of the plan will follow a public hearing scheduled for May 17

After nearly two years of intensive labor by the Macon County Planning Board and a number of other all-volunteer advisory sub-committees, a comprehensive plan for development and growth in the county for the next 20 years has been delivered to the board of commissioners.

At a meeting of the commissioners on Tuesday, county planner Derek Roland presented the plan, a 164-page document which includes an exhaustive analysis of the county’s history, population and economic trends and gives recommendations for future growth in five major areas. Roland read the names of the more than 50 committee volunteers, including the 11 members of the planning board, who collectively invested more than 1,000 hours over the past year to produce the plan.

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A affiliation agreement between Angel Medical Center and Mission Health System in Asheville is set to be finalized in the coming months, according to retiring Angel CEO Tim Hubbs. Hubbs, who announced his plan to retire last week, said he believed an announcement on the partnership would come before he officially steps down from his position sometime next fall.

Discussion of a partnership between the medical providers has been under discussion for almost a year. “Our staff and our board, as well as those at Mission, have worked diligently over the last few months to develop a mutually beneficial relationship,” said Hubbs. “We want a win-win. We want something good for Mission, but we also want something good for our community, where we have local input, local decision authority on key items.”

Hubbs says agreement has already been reached on most issues and that now the parties are mostly focused on legal matters.

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published: 10/18/2013
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