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News General

During the Highlands Town Board’s regular meeting Tuesday evening, Kevin O’Donnell of Nova Energy Consultants Inc., Highlands’ consultant for electrical utility information, discussed recommended amendments to the town’s contract with Duke Power. “Everything we do is in response to Duke’s cost increases,” O’Donnell told the commissioners. The proposed amendments deal with two areas.

The first involves REPS (Renewable Energy Portfolio Standards). According to state statute, all electricity providers in the state must use a certain percentage of their power from renewable energy sources. This year that percentage is .001%.

O’Donnell says that it is possible for the town to go out and purchase the renewable energy itself. “However,” he said, “this would be quite a hassle and would probably end up being very expensive. The statute specifically requires a portion of this renewable energy to be burnable chicken waste and a portion to be burnable hog waste. Finding such waste for a town the size of Highlands will not be easy.

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Henry David Thoreau, the great 19th century transcendentalist author and thinker, would have been proud of the group of Nantahala High School students who presented their case for a public beach access area at Lake Nantahala during last week’s commissioners meeting. Macon County Commissioners certainly commended their actions in appearing before the board and eloquently laying out their opinions.

Although the students were not practicing Thoreau’s civil disobedience per se, the tenets of their arguments against Duke Energy coincided nicely with his take on injustice. In this case however, a corporation was being scrutinized rather than the government.

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Verizon still making its case for the Gaston St. location.

A month after Franklin’s Town Planning Board unanimously voted to reject Cellco Partnership/Verizon Wireless’ special use permit application, Franklin’s Town Aldermen heard testimony from Verizon representatives and members of the Pennington Law firm, to potentially override the Town Planning Board's recommendations. Verizon’s argument continued to attempt to justify the need to build a 140-foot telecommunications tower to solve capacity issues at 60 Gaston Street in Franklin, also referred to as the “Wild Mint” site. After agreeing that Verizon’s special use permit application still remained incomplete, the Board voted to continue November’s board meeting to allow the wireless provider additional time to meet the Town’s requirement.

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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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