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News

Committee members agree that only specific projects should be included in final plan

During a meeting of the Comprehensive Transportation Plan (CTP) Committee last week, the decision was made to eliminate a list of 22 minor widenings that the North Carolina Department of Transportation has said could be considered for upgrading to current design standards. At the meeting committee members were reviewing public input on the plan that has been collected over the past month.

The CTP is a long-range plan which identifies major transportation improvement needs in Macon County and develops longterm solutions for the next 25 to 30 years. It is a joint effort between the Towns of Franklin and Highlands, Macon County, the NCDOT and the Southwestern Rural Planning Organization.

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Officials skeptical of population figures

Macon County is no longer the fastest growing county in Western North Carolina, according to population figures released by the U.S. Census earlier this year. But Macon officials are skeptical of the census findings, and are preparing to examine them with federal workers in the coming months, said County Manager Jack Horton on Friday.

“The preliminary population figures were higher than the final count of the census. We thought that was unusual, given the fact that most of the preliminary estimates in other counties actually ended up being lower than what their final count was,” said Horton.

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House budget proposal would cut support for Small Town Main Street Programs

Highlands town manager Jim Fatland believes that in these economic times, it is more important than ever to support local small businesses.

“When you have a down economy, you need to be proactive in stimulating jobs,” said Fatland. “We feel the Main Street Program does just that.”

The Town of Highlands, which was selected a year ago to participate in the North Carolina Small Town Main Street Program, has made great strides in moving its downtown forward, in part through the strong support from staff who coordinate the program in the Western North Carolina region, says Fatland.

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‘On the Road, On the Water, Don’t Drink and Drive’

The North Carolina State Highway Patrol along with the Wildlife Resources Commission and the Alcohol Law Enforcement Division are combining efforts to save lives this summer. Whether on the road or on the water, law enforcement officers will be on the look out for impaired drivers by conducting DWI checkpoints near recreational boating areas as well as educating motorists on the dangers of drinking and driving.

“On the Road, On the Water, Don’t Drink and Drive” campaign is a multi-agency initiative that combines law enforcement resources to ensure that all motorists can safely travel on highway and waterways during the summer months.

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Three North Carolina nonprofits have filed an administrative complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice, claiming that the North Carolina court system has failed to provide interpreters for individuals with limited English proficiency in civil and some criminal court proceedings. Without an interpreter, many plaintiffs and defendants do not understand critical court proceedings.

The complaint – filed by the Latin American Coalition, Muslim American Society and Vietnamese Society of Charlotte – requests an investigation into the state’s justice system to determine whether the lack of foreign language interpreters violates Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

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U.S. Secret Service advises merchants to be diligent in examining bills

Last week, several Franklin area banks and businesses received visits from U.S. Secret Service agents who were in town to alert merchants to a recent spike in counterfeit currency that has been detected in the area and to provide them with information to help them identify forged notes that come into their possession.

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Colleagues, community grieve loss of inspirational leader

On Sunday, May 8, Robbie Newton, principal of Nantahala School, passed away after a long battle with cancer. Newton, 39, was loved and respected by the students and teachers at Nantahala School, and on Monday colleagues from around the county spoke of the positive role-model and inspiration he had been.

“It’s a great personal loss for me,” Franklin High School principal Chris Baldwin said of Newton’s passing. Before moving to FHS this year, Baldwin had been principal at Nantahala School and had worked with Newton for a number of years.

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For the second time in as many months, the Macon County Board of Commissioners has taken an official stance on a proposed Department of Transportation project.

Last month the commissioners passed a resolution calling for the department to consider a compromise plan for controversial improvements to Needmore Road. On Tuesday, the board passed a second resolution, this time on the subject of the proposed dismantling of the historic McCoy Bridge.

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Horton ‘guardedly optimistic’ that state won’t pass its own budget crisis on to counties

County manager Jack Horton has proposed a balanced budget of $42.4 million for Macon County for Fiscal Year 2011/2012. In a presentation to the board of commissioners on Tuesday, Horton presented a budget proposal which he said was essentially a “flat, no-growth budget.” The proposed budget is one percent (0.98%) higher than the original budget for the current fiscal year, however it is 1.37 percent lower than the current year’s revised budget (which is now just above $43 million). No property tax increase is requested or recommended in the proposal.

Though the state budget is still uncertain, Horton told the commissioners that he is “guardedly optimistic” that counties won't be forced to bear the brunt of the state's own financial crisis. “We have been assured by our legislators that the state will not balance their budget on the backs of the counties this year,” Horton said. He cautioned, however, that “with the General Assembly still in session, we remain concerned that the state will shift additional responsibilities and/or reduce county funding to correct its budget crisis. We hope that is not the case, but we can only wait and see.”

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As American consumers are increasingly replacing their “old fashioned” cell phones with state-of-the-art smart-phones, Franklin tourism promoters have decided to invest in a smart-phone application that will promote area businesses, events and attractions.

Smoky Mountain Host, a tourism and marketing organization for the seven western- most counties of North Carolina, is looking to launch a new smart-phone application this month that will give visitors information to plan their trips and guide them on tours of the mountain region while they are here.

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