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News

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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The American Indian allegory of a thousand mile journey beginning with the first step was very appropriate for The Macon County Veterans’ Memorial Committee back in 2007.

A few dedicated individuals started such a journey with a concept.

Now they have completed many milestones with the help and support of their fellow veterans, families, local businesses, and Macon County, the Town of Franklin, and the Town of Highlands.

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Form will add vehicle property tax information in 2013

The North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles is now mailing a larger, more detailed vehicle registration renewal form designed for easier reading and offering additional information about payment, inspections and plate recalls. The new form has also been designed so that vehicle property tax information can be added in compliance with a law scheduled to take effect in 2013.

The renewal notices provide information about passing vehicle inspections no more than 90 days before the license plate expires. They also notify vehicle owners when their license plate is slated for replacement because of age or wear. Exchanging old plates ensures proper visibility and is required by law.

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The Friends of the Greenway have been informed that sewer construction in areas adjacent to Tassee Shelter and its parking lot off Ulco Drive will begin the week of April 25.

According to the construction contractor, the public will not have access to the parking lot or to the Shelter for a minimum of three weeks.

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Mountain Mediation Services will hold a three-day Community Mediation Training May 24, 25 and 26, in Bryson City, for individuals who want to learn neutral ways to mediate conflict in their workplaces, families, churches, community organizations and neighborhoods.

The training will be held at the Bryson City United Methodist Chuch, 76 Main Street, Bryson City, from 9 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. each day. The fee of $195 covers all materials, the training, and the snacks and beverages provided throughout the day.

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Juan’s motorbike sputtered to a near standstill as we bounced up yet another rocky hill. I felt the throttle release and prepared for the downshift that would send the bike lurching forward and nearly topple me backwards onto the gouged up excuse for a “dirt” road behind us. Fifteen hundred miles from home, one kilometer to La Sevita.


Perhaps I should back up for a moment.

In the fall of 2008, I traveled with my family to India for two months. To say the very least, that trip opened my eyes. I had heard the term “global water crisis” thrown around in a couple of my science classes at Franklin High School, but to me it had always been some obscure event far from the here and now.

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