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News 2012 The Year in Review - Part Two

Newsmakers and Top Headlines of the Year - Part Two


Senior services center named for Macon couple

Macon County officials gathered in Franklin in May to recognize two individuals who have dedicated the better part of their lives to serving Maconians.

In honor of Dorothy and John Crawford, Macon County commissioners named the new senior services community resources center the Dorothy R. and John L. Crawford Senior Center.

In May 2012, Macon County’s senior services center was named for John and Dorothy Crawford, who have been contributing members of the community for nearly seventy years. Photo by Vickie CarpenterThe Crawfords have remained active members of the community for nearly seven decades. The couple met while studying at the University of North Carolina in 1940, wed on March 12, 1942, and then relocated to John’s hometown of Franklin in 1945, where they have lived ever since.

REACH of Jackson County closes

Nearly three months after REACH of Jackson County REACH’s failure to pay employee and employer payroll taxes dating back several years.

The Macon County REACH office immediately stepped in to fill the void answering the crisis hotline for its partner organization, executing a plan to ensure that anyone seeking assistance was able to get it.

Incumbents win; Amendment One passes

Macon County citizens headed to the polls in May and voted to run all three county commissioners up for re-election on the ballot in November. Incumbents Jimmy Tate (R- District I), Kevin Corbin (R-District II), and Bobby Kuppers (D-District III) each beat out their challengers in the primary. Corbin and Tate ran unopposed.

Of the 24,365 registered voters in Macon County, 8,561 or just over 35 percent showed up at the polls, which is considered high for a primary election in which the presidential race is already set.

Amendment One, which has received national attention, passed in North Carolina. The amendment to the state’s constitution is intended to define legal marriage as between a man and woman, but opponents have suggested that the amendment may result in legal ramifications for all unmarried couples regardless of their sexual orientation.

The amendment passed with 61 percent of voters casting votes for the amendment, and 38.96 percent voting against the measure. Macon County residents cast 6,3777 votes for Amendment One and 2,068 against it.

Jackson votes to allow countywide alcohol sales

Each of the four alcohol-related measures on the ballot in Jackson County in May passed, with voters coming out in favor of alcohol sales being permitted countywide, making Jackson only the third county in Western North Carolina to have countywide sales. Jackson residents voted to allow the on-premises and off-premises sale of malt beverages, unfortified wine, the operation of ABC stores and the sale of mixed beverages in hotels, restaurants, private clubs, community theaters and convention centers countywide.

Before May’s vote, alcohol sales were only permitted in city limits. Sylva passed a mixed drink referendum in 2006, and Dillsboro has been selling beer and wine in restaurants since 2005. The unincorporated areas surrounding Sylva have previously established businesses that serve alcohol in some capacity already through membership or recreational membership rules. The countywide vote allowed areas such as Cashiers, Glenville, and Tuckasegee to expand their sales.

Franklin’s First Voice celebrates 55 years

At noon on Saturday, May 4, 1957, Franklin residents gathered around their radios and tuned the dial to 1050 for the very first time to listen to the launch of WFSC/AM. Fifthy-five years to the day that Franklin's First Voice got its start, the power switch was flipped and for the first time, the radio station could be heard from down in Clayton to Waynesville and even parts of Pigeon Forge.

Just in time to celebrate WFSC/AM's 55th birthday, the radio station completed a nearly three-year process of upgrading the station’s frequency to 5,000 watts providing a clearer signal to reach a wider audience. After the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) granted WFSC permission to expand to 5,000 watts in late 2009, station employees began the process of upgrading the system, which officially went live May 3.

“The greatest benefit of expanding to 5,000 watts is to reach more people and to improve the coverage that was already out there,” said Sean Gibson, vice-president and general manager of WFSC-AM Radio. “Before, there were areas in Nantahala that could pick up the station, but it would have a lot of static, now they can hear it clear and can hear it indoors or if they are driving around in their cars.”

Paige RobersonSylva chooses youngest ever town manager

Sylva’s Town Board named twenty-five year- old Jackson County native Paige Roberson as the new town manager in May.

Roberson, who originally served as Sylva's Main Street Economic Development director and director for the Downtown Sylva Association (DSA), became an assistant to interim Town Manager Mike Morgan in April. Her first official day in her new position was July 1. “I am extremely grateful and humbled to be hired as the new town manager,” said Roberson.

“I am excited to have the opportunity to serve the town that I grew up in and love so much.” Roberson replaced Morgan, who was hired after forced resignation of previous Town Manager Adrienne Isenhower, in September 2011.

Roberson’s responsibilities as Main Street Economic Development director as well as the director of the DSA, were absorbed by her new position as town manager.

Roberson, a third-generation Sylva native, whose family owned and operated Sylva’s former Roberson Supply is personally invested in the economic development of the town and values the importance of continuing the tradition of engaging the community, historic preservation, and downtown revitalization.

Matt Mason hired as new county planner

Macon County native Matt Mason was hired as the new county planner. Mason, who began his career with Macon County in August 2006 as an erosion control inspector, previously served as the county’s Environmental Services supervisor.

“I am very excited to be the county planner for Macon County,” said Mason. “The new position has changed slightly, along with the traditional responsibilities of the planner. Our department is evolving and also incorporating the administration of the Flood and Watershed Ordinances ... I am very proud of the fact that our county leaders placed such a high level of confidence in me for the position of county planner.”

Mason took over for Jack Morgan, who briefly served as the interim planner following the reassignment of Derek Roland who became the town planner.

Dillsboro woman pleads guilty in child abuse case

A Dillsboro woman charged with felony child abuse for inflicting serious bodily harm to her step-granddaughter entered a guilty plea on Tuesday, May 8, in Jackson County Superior Court.

Lisa Plank Hart, 45, pleaded guilty to a Class C felony of child abuse inflicting serious bodily injury, and faces a maximum of 228 months in jail.

Hart was arrested after an incident which occurred over a three-day period in Dillsboro in August 2011. According to Hart's testimony, her then, 28-month-old step-granddaughter, Kirsten, had become ill in the car and began to cry, at which point Hart struck the child in the face, blackening her eye. Hart also admitted that two days after the initial attack, Kirsten had been playing with her cereal during breakfast, which caused Hart to “snap” at which point she began beating the toddler until she became unresponsive. Kirsten laid unconscious until Hart’s husband, Kirsten’s biological grandfather, came home from work and called 9-1-1 to report the attack.

Hart was convicted in September 2012 and sentenced to 50 months in jail. Kirsten continues to recover from the incident.

Booster Club sponsors 30th Annual Senior Athletic Awards Banquet

Franklin High School held its 30th Annual Athletic Booster Club Awards Ceremony on Wednesday, May 16, at the Mountain View Intermediate School.

Awards, plaques, and scholarships were given to athletes for their accomplishments for the 2011 to 2012 school year.


LBJ takes first place in conference tournament

LBJ Conference Tournament ChampionsThe men’s varsity basketball team at Lyndon B. Johnson Job Corps took first place in the Smoky Mountain Conference Basketball Tournament.

The men had a great season with no double losses to any team in the conference. Despite being ranked third going into the tournament, the team was seen as a major contender.

Coach Bucholz said, “I am very proud of how the team performed both on and off the court.”

The Lyndon B. Johnson CCC is associated with the National Forests of North Carolina. The USDA Forest Service operates 28 Job Corps Civilian Conservation Centers across 18 states with the capacity of 6,200 students.

Town board debates water and sewer rate increases

The task of establishing water and sewer rates is not an easy one for the Town of Franklin Board of Aldermen. As part of adopting the proposed $8.4 million budget for the 2012-13 fiscal year, aldermen contemplated the issue at their meeting in June, which included a public hearing.

Two residents voiced their concerns at the hearing about the water and sewer rate schedule. The proposed budget levies for an average increase of six percent for water and 14 percent for sewer services.

At June's budget workshop meeting, Town Manager Sam Greenwood explained that amid the economic downturn, many revenues were down— including water and sewer revenues. The increases were drafted in order to “build reserves” for the service and pay off debts incurred by infrastructure improvements.

County approves flat budget for 2012-13

After a six-month long process, The Macon County Board of Commissioners approved the 2012-2013 budget during its regularly scheduled June board meeting. Without having to raise the county-wide tax rates, the commissioners worked with department heads, the finance director, and County Manager Jack Horton to establish a $44,391,193 balanced budget for the following year.

The 2012-2013 budget, although three percent more than the previous year's budget, redirects funds and utilizes the reserved fund balance in order to avoid raising taxes and passing the burden on to Macon County residents.

The Overlook Theatre Company presented “Peter Pan.”Peter Pan: A behind the scenes look at high-flying special effects

The Overlook Theatre Company was hard at work during the month of June putting the final touches on “Peter Pan: The High-Flying Musical Adventure,” which took to the stage June 21- 24 at the Smoky Mountain Center for the Performing Arts.

Classic Broadway tunes filled the theatre, and enough pixie dust to feed all child-like imaginations as the 78-member cast presented the story of Peter Pan, played by Samuel Crabtree, a mischievous boy who can fly and never ages. The play followed Peter Pan as he went adventuring on the island of Neverland as the leader of the Lost Boys and encountering mermaids, Indians, and Captain Hook and his band of pirates. The two-act musical adventure followed Peter Pan’s journey through the streets of London and through the forests and oceans of Neverland. It was based on the play by James M. Barrie and appealed to audiences of all ages.

Big Bear dog park open for business

The Friends of the Greenway (FROGs) held the official grand opening of Macon County's new dog park in June. FROGs asked the community to submit names for the park, and after shuffling through more than 30 entries, members of FROGs selected the submission of a frequent visitor who wished to remain anonymous and named the new facility, “Big Bear Bark Park.”

The dog park, located behind the Big Bear Playground parking lot on about a one-acre parcel of land, was made possible entirely due to donations from groups such as the Daybreak Rotary Club, which donated $2,140 to see the park established. The facility features two sets of five-foot chain-link fencing, one area for small dogs and one area for large dogs. Inside the fences are benches for dog owners to sit and watch while their dogs run and play.

“We as commissioners were more than happy to help with the development of the Bark Park,” said Commission Chair Kevin Corbin.

According to Corbin, the addition of the dog park to the already existing recreational facilities in the county, allow more residents to enjoy the beauty of Macon County. “To me it is all part of our overall recreation picture,” explained Corbin. “We are planning long range improvements to the Recreation Park including possible renovation of the existing pool area, ballfields, etc. However, encouraging things like the Bark Park and the recent archery range reaches a segment of the population that may not swim or play ball. This is one more outlet for folks to get outdoors and enjoy themselves.”

The dog park, which marks the 41st dog park in North Carolina, has a specially designed entry area which provides an area where owners can unleash and leash their dogs safely.

Earthquake rattles Macon and Jackson

Shortly before 11 p.m. on Tuesday June 19, Macon County residents were slightly rattled when an earthquake struck a few miles northeast of Franklin near the Jackson County border. Several residents thought the short “boom” was thunder.

According to David Key, Macon County’s Emergency Services Director, several residents reported hearing a large “boom” and called trying to find out what caused it. Key reported that no damage was reported.

Franklin holds first ever Flag Day celebration

Veteran’s Memorial ParkOn Thursday, June 14, Macon County veterans, community leaders, and citizens gathered at the Junaluskee Masonic Lodge to celebrate Flag Day. Although President Woodrow Wilson first declared June 14 as Flag Day in 1916 nearly a century ago, the holiday often gets overlooked in terms of significance to most Americans.

Flag Day marks the anniversary of the adoption of the U.S. Flag in 1777. Although it is not a national holiday and banks and businesses don't close, it is still a recognized holiday. All around the country, there may not have been fireworks or any time off from work, or any celebration at all, but in Macon County citizens stopped, if only for a moment, to recognize what a staple of our nation’s identity the American Flag has always been.

CareNet names new executive director

New CareNet Executive Director Shaina Adkins began work on June 4 as leader of the organization that serves Macon County residents who are underprivileged or suddenly find themselves in great need.

Prior to joining CareNet, Adkins was the American Cancer Society community manager for six eastern North Carolina counties. She was also a very active volunteer with the N.C. Pretty in Pink Foundation that provides financial assistance for breast cancer patients.

After receiving a Bachelor’s degree in communications, she graduated in 2009 from Eastern Carolina University with an MA in communications. Adkins is from Greensboro, N.C.

Macon County Care Network, is a non-profit, taxexempt corporation, established in 1988 by churches of Macon County. By coming together at one central location, the churches could maximize their strength and be better able to assist those in need without duplicating the services. CareNet was voted 2011 Macon County Non-Profit of the Year by the Macon County community.

AMC appoints new CEO and president

Mission Health announced the appointment of James B. Bross as President and CEO of Angel Medical Center, effective July 9. Bross replaced Marty Wadewitz who had been serving as interim CEO since Tim Hubbs announced in January he was stepping down after almost four years at AMC’s top position.

Bross, an executive with more than 28 years of experience in hospital, health plan and healthcare consulting, assumed overall leadership and strategic vision and strategy for the hospital.

Bross came to Angel Medical Center, an affiliate of Mission Health, from Applied Revenue Analytics in Temple, TX. Serving as Senior Director of Client Services, Bross led business development strategies - specializing in improving hospitals around the country with financial analytics. Prior to joining Applied Revenue Analytics, Bross served as the Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, Vice President of Operations of Rutherford Hospital in Rutherfordton, N.C.


WCU alumni qualifies for 2012 Olympics

Former Western Carolina University Track and Field standout Manteo Mitchell sprinted to the front of the pack during the 2012 United States Olympic Trials as he competed in the finals of the 400-meter dash Sunday, June 24, at Historic Heyward Field in Eugene, Ore. Mitchell finished fifth overall in the event and shattered his previous time to run an all-time personal best time of 44.96.

The Mooresboro, N.C., native, who received an undergraduate degree in Sport Management with a concentration in Athletic Administration and a Master's degree in Physical Education, both from WCU, was in the top of his heat for the first 300 meters of the race before the competition closed in over the last 100 meters. The reigning 400-meter Olympic gold medalist, LaShawn Merrit, won the race with a time of 44.12 Tony Mc- Quay from the University of Florida placed second with a time of 44.49. Bryshon Nellum (44.80) and Josh Mance (44.88) placed third and fourth ahead of Mitchell, making the last three spots being separated by only .16 of a second.

After qualifying for the 2012 Olympics, Mitchell went on to help the United States score a silver medal, despite breaking his leg while running the race.

Duke, Progress Energy merger complete

Duke Energy Corporation Tuesday confirmed the closing of its previously announced merger with Progress Energy Inc., effective July 2, 2012.

The new company is now known as Duke Energy and remains headquartered in Charlotte, with substantial operations in Raleigh, N.C. Duke Energy trades on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol DUK.

In accordance with the terms of the merger agreement, Progress Energy Inc. has become a wholly owned direct subsidiary of Duke Energy, creating the country’s largest electric utility as measured by enterprise value, market capitalization, generation assets, customers and numerous other criteria.

“The new Duke Energy will be better able to serve our 7.1 million customers’ energy needs in a safe, reliable, affordable and increasingly clean manner,” said Jim Rogers, chairman, president and chief executive officer of Duke Energy. “As a combined organization, we will work to deliver benefits to our customers, create value for our shareholders, and enhance the career opportunities of our employees.”

Rolling Thunder remembers POWs, MIAs

In July, more than a hundred people came to attend a first ever ceremony at the Veteran’s Memorial Park in Macon County.

The event was a function of the Rolling Thunder organization, which honors American prisoners of war and remembers soldiers missing in action. Sixteen Rolling Thunder chapters from across the southeast came in support of the event.

Neal Riendeau of Franklin, counted 51 bikes from seven states (Fla., Ga., Ala., Tenn., N.C., and S.C.) that made the ride into Franklin Veteran's Memorial on Saturday afternoon despite record high temperatures. “We had folks ride through downtown Franklin,” said Riendeau. “The ride was headed by our own former POW Nat Henry.”

Georgia chapter president James “Buster” Hickam was among the members in attendance.

“What’s most important is that we educate the public that there are still POWs out there, still alive,” said Hickam. “A lot of the public is not aware and that’s why we are here today.” He pointed out that there were more than 6,000 Korean POWs, 1,000 from the Vietnam War, and most recently one in Afghanistan — Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, who is the only known American POW. Three years ago on Saturday, June 30, U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, 26, of Hailey, Idaho was taken prisoner in Afghanistan.

Frank PruittOtto man charged in the shooting death of his son

Investigators in Macon County arrested an Otto man after a heated argument reportedly escalated to the fatal shooting of his son.

According to reports, deputies with the Macon County Sheriff’s Office arrived at 1920 Coweeta Lab Road between 7:30 and 8 p.m. on July 8, in response to complaints of a domestic disturbance and possible gun shots. Upon arrival officers discovered the victim, who was identified as 34-year-old Robert Pruitt.

The incident occurred at the home of Pruitt’s parents, Frank Kelly Pruitt and Kathy Paulette Pruitt.

Moments before the shooting, Frank Pruitt had called 9-1-1 requesting assistance from authorities.

Robert Pruitt was rushed to Angel Hospital where he was pronounced dead on arrival. According to Holland, several witnesses to the shooting were on scene. At least three children, including the children of the victim, were reportedly on scene and witnessed the murder. The children were between the ages of two and 14.

Mayor censured by Franklin’s Town Board

During July's Board of Aldermen meeting, Franklin's Town Board voted in a 5-1 vote to censure Mayor Joe Collins for issuing a personal letter of apology to the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians for the town's actions regarding the spraying of herbicide on the mound.

The town sprayed herbicide on the mound’s grass earlier in the year with the intention of replanting it with an eco-grass that would require less maintenance, but the use of a poisonous chemical on a sacred mound site offended the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. The tribe went before Franklin's Town Board and asked for an apology, but were informed the board would not issue them one.

Censure, not be confused with censor, means to express severe disapproval of someone or something, typically in a formal statement.

On a motion made by Vice-Mayor Verlin Curtis, Mayor Collins was reprimanded in the form of a public censure, for issuing the tribe an apology on a town letterhead, after the aldermen voted in a previous meeting to not apologize for the actions that resulted in the grass on the sacred mound being killed.

First StreetFest fills downtown and offers boost to local economy

Venture Local Streetfests were a huge hit in 2012.Venture Local Franklin and the downtown merchants teamed up in July for the inaugural StreetFest ’12 event. Modeled after an event that first occurred in 2010, StreetFest was fully stocked with fun with live entertainment from local musicians, a surprise flash mob headed by Zumba Fitness, local shops that were open late, face painting and lots of snacks and refreshments to round out the evening.

“In speaking with some of our merchants after Street Fest, I was overwhelmed by the positive feedback and reports of the successful night they had,” said Matt Bateman with Venture Local Franklin. “Whether it was overall sales or the amount of exposure each business received, the responses were fantastic. It was great to see downtown buzzing with excitement.”

Originally, Venture Local Franklin planned to offer a free outdoor movie that was going to be projected on a 26-foot screen in the Town Hall parking lot, but due to the threat of rain, the movie had to be rescheduled until the following StreetFest, planned for Aug. 17. Despite having to reschedule the movie, the streets of downtown were packed for the event.

Students spend summer clowning around at Clown College

The Smoky Mountain Center for the Performing Arts wrapped up its summer-long Clown College in July. Beginning June 5, students signed up to learn the tricks of the trade from mime and juggler extraordinaire, Dr. Doug Egge.

Over the six-week course, which met once a week, students learned the history of movement and clowning as it pertains to stage, street and circus performing. Students had the opportunity to learn hand-on skills such as juggling, balloon animal sculptures, water spitting, pie throwing, improv performance, mime and skit-production. With Egge's instruction, the group of talented boys and girls learned that imagination is key to clowning.

“It is all about teaching them to use their imagination,” said Dr. Egge. “Teaching them to create something out of nothing and to have fun with it. That is what Clown College is all about.”

Encounter leads to uncommon association

Living in the mountains, folks are liable to encounter all manner of wildlife, bears in the recent past and deer, and smaller game like rabbits, groundhogs and squirrels that become regulars in their backyards. Few, however, have made hard and fast friends by hitting them with a car.

Gene Schley was nearly home one day last April when a grouse flew up and collided with the hood of his car. The bird was sitting in a ditch, appeared to be dazed, but otherwise didn’t seem to have suffered any potential lifethreatening injury. He picked it up and carefully placed it in his back seat, took it to a neighbor’s house half a mile up the road. His neighbor had an unused chicken coop where the bird could recover and then be on its merry way.

Turns out, the bird hung out for about an hour and a half and took off. Where did he end up? Back at Schley’s house a half a mile away. Now Schley is away for weeks at a time, traveling back and forth to Florida and Gus — which is what Schley calls him — is there when he gets back. Schley is surprised as anybody at the loyalty that Gus has shown. Apparently Schley has been forgiven for hitting him with his car.

Commissioner Ronnie Beale was honored during the American Legion’s 90th anniversary.American Legion Post 108 celebrates 90 years

After nine decades of providing networking and vital services to veterans in Macon County, Franklin's American Legion Post 108 celebrated its 90th birthday in July.

With a beautifully decorated patriotic themed cake, donated by Pam Bowen, adorned with the names of every individual who has served as Post Commander, veterans from all over Western North Carolina, community leaders, and citizens gathered together to celebrate the legion's milestone.

American Legion Post 108 in Franklin, NC is part of the nation’s largest veterans service organization, committed to mentoring and sponsorship of youth programs in the community, advocating patriotism and honor, promoting a strong national security, and continued devotion to service members and veterans.

Heritage skills demonstrated at Franklin Folk Festival

Folk Festival, a “Celebration of Appalachian Heritage” sponsored by the Folk Heritage Association of Macon County (FHAMC), was held on Saturday, July 21, in downtown Franklin. This free Folk Festival features many talented demonstrators displaying heritage skills and a way of life from the turn of the century with hands-on participation, musicians playing and singing mountain songs, square dancers willing to dance for and teach spectators, vendors supplying delicious heritage food, kids’ activities/games and contests for all ages, and much more.

More than 100 volunteer artisans took part in live demonstrations and exhibits featuring quilting, wood carving, basket making, fly tying, tatting, shingle splitting, early farm tools/equipment, spinning, weaving, moon-shining, and a host of other entertaining and informative offerings all connected to the area’s cultural, environmental and natural heritage.

The 100th Anniversary Celebration of the Franklin Fire Department, was held in conjunction with the festival and featured booths, speakers, games, and vintage trucks, equipment and memorabilia on display.

Ramsey receives state’s highest honor

Clayton RamseyFranklin native Clayton Ramsey was honored during Franklin's 9th annual Folk Festival. Ramsey, who was unaware that the presentation had been orchestrated in his honor, was presented with the Order of the Long Leaf Pine, one of the most prestigious awards given by the Governor of North Carolina.

“I was totally speechless on Saturday,” Ramsey. “I certainly didn't expect anything like that. I am so grateful and happy to have been afforded a long life to dedicate to service for Macon County. I am thankful for the opportunity to have served in the schools, with Rotary, Macon Program for Progress and for 55 years as a member of the Masonic Lodge.”

The Order of the Long Leaf Pine was created in 1965 and is presented to individuals who have a proven record of extraordinary service to the state. Contributions to their communities, extra effort in their careers, and many years of service to their organizations are some of the guidelines by which recipients are selected for this award. The honor is most often presented when a person retires.


Macon County officials holds dedication for New Iotla Valley School

With the Macon County School District kicking off the start of the 2012-2013 school year in August, Macon County officials held the opening and dedication of the brand new $14 million Iotla Valley Elementary School.

Both current and past members of the Board of Commissioners and Board of Education who worked on the long range plan of improving the infrastructure of schools in the county since 1995, were joined by school system staff and community members for the ribbon cutting ceremony.

Construction on the school first began in October 2010 and is the final project in the plan which began 17 years ago. The long range plan, which in total, put $43 million into rebuilding Macon County Schools, included building Mountain View Intermediate and Macon Early College, and improvements to other schools in the district.

2013-2014 school calendar set to change

After Gov. Bev Perdue signed a new calendar law in August, Macon County School System's annual calendar once again became a topic of discussion.

The new bill, which was approved in the last legislative session that concluded in July, will change the state's calendar law beginning in the 2013-2014 school year. The new law will no longer allow Macon County and other districts to start early to avoid winter weather that often delays the exam schedule that occurs before the winter break. The bill directs all school districts with a regular calendar to begin on the Monday closest to Aug. 26 and districts that receive a weather waiver must start on the Monday closest to Aug. 19.

Over the last few years, lawmakers on both sides of the political spectrum have debated with local school boards and community organizations about when schools should be mandated to start and end. Macon County was slated to begin the new school year on Aug. 9, which marked the second year that the school district received a special waiver from the state to start early to account for projected snow days throughout the year.

In addition to the new start date mandates, the legislation states that the traditional 185 day instructional requirement will no longer be law, but instead it gives local districts the option for students to either receive 1,025 hours of instruction time or attend school for 185 days. However, the law still requires attendance for “at least nine calendar months.”

World Changers making a difference

All across the United States, countless young people were busy “changing the world” one project at a time last summer by taking on the plight of substandard housing.

A group of such youths came to Macon County last summer to improve the housing conditions for lower income individuals and families. Known as World Changers, 250 students were in the Franklin area to improve approximately 20 homes. The students took on anything they could, from house painting to roofing and laying shingles to building access ramps and porches.

For one elderly Maconian, the nine humanitarians who visited her home for four days in August, made an impact on her.

“They’ve been wonderful,” said Sally Huebler, 70, of Panorama View Drive. “I painted a little picture for each of them and yesterday I went out and bought them Icees. I can’t give them money you know, but I wanted to show my appreciation. Look how beautiful it is. It doesn’t even look like a ramp, it looks like a porch. I’m very happy with it.”

Volunteers collected a ton of garbage for 2012’s Big Sweep.More than a ton of garbage collected from Little Tennessee in Big Sweep

The volunteer group, Franklin Young Professionals (FYP), hosted its inaugural Macon Waves Ducky Derby event in August to benefit the FYP Scholarship Fund. In conjunction with the North Carolina Big Sweep and the Land Trust for the Little Tennessee, volunteers gathered at the Greenway's Big Bear Park to pitch in.

The event started with community volunteers who braved the Little Tennessee River Saturday morning to remove debris and trash from the river banks. The river clean-up is part of a state-wide initiative known as NC Big Sweep. The Macon County leg of the Big Sweep is organized each year by Guy Gooder and the Land Trust for the Little Tennessee.

With a horde of community volunteers, including eight members of FYP, 2012’s clean up netted 1.1 tons of garbage. From fast food trash to tires to an old air compressor, volunteers worked together to beautify Macon County's waterways.

After completing the Big Sweep, members of FYP began an afternoon of fun, entertainment, games and food for the first annual Macon Waves Ducky Derby. After selling 738 ducks, tickets for games and food on Saturday and receiving donations toward the end goal, FYP President Mandy Lail reported the group raised $4,000. “The money will go towards the FYP Scholarship Fund and a portion to the Greenway,” said Lail.

Mountain High BBQ Festival & Car Show held Aug. 12-13

Franklin was hopping with all things BBQ when the 3rd Annual Mountain High BBQ Festival and Car Show came to town Aug. 12 and 13 at the Wayne Proffitt Agricultural Center located on Highway 441 South. The two-day event was a Kansas City BBQ Society (KCBS) sanctioned festival. BBQ teams from all over the country cooked Friday and Saturday preparing their best BBQ, hoping to be named Grand Champion earning a N.C. State Championship.

Saturday featured the KCBS Professional and Backyard Competitions and Franklin’s own “Tastin’ Tent.” Tickets got you 10, two-ounce cups of BBQ pork from 10 different teams. The entries were judged by the crowd, tallied and crowned “Franklin’s Finest.”

In addition to the savory BBQ and festival foods for purchase, crafts and retail vendors, a couple of new attractions were added to this year’s festival, a car show, Natural Beauty Pageant and a cornhole tournament.

Pickler wows sold-out crowd Saturday

In August, North Carolina native Kellie Pickler came to Franklin for a concert at the Smoky Mountain Center for the Performing Arts.

With a personality as glamorous and sparkly as her microphone, Pickler made concert-goers feel welcome by starting out saying, “It sure feels great to be back home in Carolina.” When Brittney Parker interviewed Kellie, she and her band were between shows in Canada and even then she relayed how ecstatic she was to be coming home to North Carolina and to be performing in Franklin.

In-between her songs, Kellie entertained the sold-out crowd with jokes about previous shows or singing songs her husband hates and even filled the auditorium with laughter as she ran around stage with her blue solo cup of sweet tea up in the air to prevent a moth from landing on her.

Historical event with women of Council of State

Western North Carolina voters had a unique opportunity in August to meet four members of the North Carolina Council of State, three State Court of Appeals Judges, one candidate for Supreme Court, candidate of Lieutenant Governor, and several local candidates.

A vision of Macon County's Ben Utley and organized by the Jackson County Democratic Women, the rally, which was held at the old Jackson County Courthouse, gave voters from all over Western North Carolina the chance to hear from the candidates.

As noted by Jackson County Democratic Party Chairman Brian McMahan, the event was the first of its kind for either political party to feature candidates for Council of State, Lt. Governor, Supreme Court and Court of Appeals at one time.

The rally was the second stop of the Western North Carolina tour, the first being earlier that morning in McDowell County, and Jackson's event was followed by a meet and greet in Swain County. Reaching out to voters in the western part of the state, the tour was centered around one theme: The need for continued female leadership at the state level. North Carolina leads the South in the number of women serving in statewide executive elected positions, and the rally echoed the need to continue that trend.

The Smoky Mountain Rumble rolls into Franklin

Bikes swarmed Franklin for the Rumble Rally.Franklin was the site of the long-awaited Smoky Mountain Rumble biker rally in late August.

Located just off the Highlands Road near the U.S. 441 Interchange, approximately 200 motorcyclists from near and far rode in for the event held Aug. 17-19. It was a leather-clad change for the area, which usually exhibits Shriners carnivals and gem shows. The event was free to the public.

“This really was a great thing,” said event organizer Sylvia Cochran on Sunday. “We had a great turnout, especially for the poker run. We’ve had so many people tell us they would come back next year.”

Although the Rumble had been a subject of contention for locals over concerns of accidents and miscreant behavior, no incidents of any kind were reported according to Macon County Sheriff Robert Holland.

Commissioners vote to finance computers

During a brief meeting of the Macon County Board of Commissioners Tuesday, Aug. 14, commissioners voted to finance the new computers that would bring the school system's technology up-to-date.

Originally commissioners were going to pay for the $1.5 million upgrade out of the county's fund balance for this fiscal year, but after county attorney Chester Jones and finance director Lori Hall explored financing options, commissioners decided to break the payments up over two fiscal years.

According to Hall, the county contacted six financial institutions regarding the financing of the computers, and of the six, four responded. Although PNC Equipment Finance offered Macon County the lowest interest rate (1.31 percent) for the 54-month term of the lease, the bank required $250 in banking fees as well as a two percent penalty in the event the county wanted to pre-pay on the loan. “Because I understood from previous comments from the commissioners that this board would like to pay the loan off early when possible, we decided to go with the second lowest bid, which was BB&T Governmental Finance,” explained Hall.

Annual Ruby Bash benefits local charities

Dozens of bikers rolled into the typically quiet Rose Creek Campground in Macon County for the fourth annual Ruby Bash Rally.

Located about six miles north of Franklin, the event braved the elements on Aug. 24 and 25, as it got down to business by holding a second annual Toy Poker Run for Toys 4 Tots, a tattoo contest sponsored by local parlors, Ink Junkies and Estelle, and of course, a bike show.

In late August for the last three years, the Ruby Bash biker rally has been a charity event in Macon County, sponsored by the Dedicated Bikers of Western North Carolina. With the Smoky Mountain Rumble, also held in Franklin, the event carried on the influx of motorcycles seen on Macon County roads.

Organizers Ronnie Smith and Karen Flowers said that the event was, as usual, a great time.

La Crosse encephalitis in Macon County

Macon County Health Director Jim Bruckner confirmed that two children from this area were diagnosed with La Crosse Viral Encephalitis (LAC) in Macon County in August. One of the children was from the Highlands area and the other child was from the Franklin area. Both of the children were hospitalized, but recovered.

“These cases are an unfortunate reminder that we all need to take precautions to prevent mosquito bites,” said Bruckner. In addition to La Crosse, mosquitoes are carriers of Eastern Equine Encephalitis, West Nile Virus, and other diseases.

“Thankfully, it is fairly easy for people to protect themselves by applying mosquito repellants and making their home or work environment less attractive to mosquitoes.” continued Bruckner.

County moving forward with plans for Cowee School

When schools throughout Macon County opened their doors in early August, one school shut its doors for good. Although Cowee Valley Elementary school will no longer be filled with students each year, it will continue to teach generations in the community for years to come.

A plan that has been several years in the making came closer to fruition for what to do with the historic school, which first opened in 1941. In August, Stacy Guffey with the Land Trust for the Little Tennessee River presented county commissioners with a business plan to turn the former school into a multipurpose facility for the Cowee Community.

When commissioners made plans to combine Cowee and Iotla elementary schools into one facility, community interest was generated and plans to protect the school began being batted around.

According to Guffey, the proposed plan will allow Cowee School to be preserved as a historical landmark while still being used by the community.


Next week: The final installment of the Year in Review.


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