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With plans to present a proposed budget for the 2014-15 fiscal year, Macon County Manager Derek Roland has been working to finalize each respective county department’s budget. County commissioners gave the new manager one directive entering the planning process: To hold taxes and establish a budget that reflects no tax increase.

“Currently I am in the final stages of preparing the recommended budget which I will present to the commission on Tuesday, May 13,” said Roland. “All departmental requests, as well as those from outside agencies have been submitted.”

Roland made sure to emphasize the importance of keeping a flat tax rate to each department head and with days left before he has to present to commissioners, Roland believes he has developed a budget that not only holds taxes, but reflects a value that is around $1 million less than the current year’s budget. “My recommended budget will be $1.6 million less than last year’s original budget as well as less than actual expenditures in 2013,” said Roland.

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Property considered surplus, to be marketed and sold.

At Monday's Franklin Board of Aldermen meeting, after having a closed session to consult with Town Attorney John Henning Jr., the board voted to settle a lawsuit waged by John W. Mitchell, Jr. Revocable Trust on April 2, 2012, and adopt a resolution to acquire the property in question.

Paperwork was filed on April 2, 2012, on behalf of John W. Mitchell Jr. Revocable Trust and lists Jones P. Byrd of Van Winkle Law Firm in Asheville as the legal representation for the plaintiff.

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Elected officials, community members, and little leaguers gathered at the site of Macon County’s soon-to-be new recreational park at Parker Meadows Saturday morning for the official ground breaking. Despite a little rain, members of the community turned out to show support of the project.

“When I woke up to rain Saturday morning I thought to myself, 'Great, it will be me, a couple of commissioners, and the press,'” Macon County Recreation Director Seth Adams said.

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The Macon County Planning Board continues to consider the needs throughout the county, namely when it comes to the growth that some areas may experience in the years to come. At last Thursday's meeting, Town of Highlands Mayor Pat Taylor was in attendance to give an in-depth overview of the town and the current state of its infrastructure, noting some expenditures that he hoped could be carried out in the future.

Highlands is an unusual municipality in that its population fluctuates throughout the seasons. It has a water plant that produces 100,000 gallons of clean, purified water per day in the winter months, but 1.5 million gallons per day in the summer with a sewer system that produces similar numbers.

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When the recession struck in full force in 2008, the housing market was one of the hardest hit industries. Transactions came to an abrupt halt. Houses were no longer being built. No one was buying or selling, and those who already had mortgages, could no longer afford to pay them.

Foreclosure numbers tripled. While the economy has started to improve over the last year, the housing market has been one of the slowest industries to bounce back. According to the North Carolina Administrative Office of the Courts, in 2013, Macon County reported 200 foreclosures, with Jackson County reporting 256. So far this year, Macon County has recorded 34 foreclosures and Jackson County reported 82, with 58 of those being last month alone.

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The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has announced that farmers and ranchers can sign-up for disaster assistance programs beginning this month. Quick implementation of the programs has been a top priority for USDA.

The Livestock Indemnity Program (LIP) and the Livestock Forage Disaster Program (LFP) will provide payments to eligible producers for livestock deaths and grazing losses that have occurred since the expiration of the livestock disaster assistance programs in 2011, and including calendar years 2012, 2013, and 2014.

Enrollment is also under way for producers with losses covered by the Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybees, and Farm-Raised Fish Program (ELAP) and the Tree Assistance Program (TAP).

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In a move to save Macon County taxpayers money, the local Board of Elections petitioned the state last week for the termination of Director Kim Bishop. While the investigation into the alleged embezzlement of more than $50,000 continues, members of the Board of Elections are turning to the state for help.

“The board took the action available to us by state statue and we expect a State Board of Elections decision within about three weeks, said board member Gary Dills. “I do not presume their decision nor the status of the on-going SBI investigation.”

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Franklin's Tourism Development Authority met at Town Hall on Monday for its monthly meeting in order to consider various funding requests as well as listen to two presentations concerning local events that could be eligible for grants at next month's meeting.

At last month's meeting, Main Street Program Director Linda Schlott went before the board to request a total of $1,500 for the 11th annual Folk Festival that is set to take place on July 19. The money would be used to advertise on the radio and various regional publications.

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Flat Stanley is currently visiting Macon County from Mrs. Palmer's second grade class at Pinecreek Elementary School in Brookville, Pennsylvania. His good friend Moriona Ruffalo sent Flat Stanley on a bumpy ride in his envelope to Franklin, N.C.

One of Flat Stanley's first trips after arriving in Franklin was a visit to The Macon County News to learn how an independent newspaper is published and operated. Flat Stanley visited with Macon County News reporter Travis Tallent and learned the ins and outs of being a good reporter. A visit with editor Teresa Tabor introduced Flat Stanley to page layout designs and article editing. Flat Stanley even rode around with advertising representative Erin Morgan to visit local businesses and help sell some ads. Once the ads were sold, Flat Stanley learned how to create eye catching advertisements with a little help from graphic designer Matt Nelson.

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Former Senior Resident Superior Court Judge James U. Downs, announced his return to the practice of law after a lengthy and successful career as a North Carolina Superior Court Judge. Judge Downs was first appointed to the bench by then Governor James B. Hunt and ran for election four times without opposition. During his time in office, Downs presided over numerous capital murder trials and hundreds of complex civil trials across the state.

Recognized throughout North Carolina as a competent, hard working trial judge, Downs is known for his fairness and integrity. “I am happy to return to the law practice after a career as a judge. I look forward to representing individuals and small businesses in western North Carolina,” said Downs.

Downs has joined the Hickory law firm of Sigmon, Clark, Mackie, Hanvey, and Ferrell, P.A. a general practice firm. He will maintain an office in Franklin and participate in law suits with the firm and other law firms and single practitioners.

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published: 10/18/2013
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