Franklin

Lilly Knoepp

  Two weeks ago, a Macon County newspaper announced it was closing. But after a public outcry, the paper is now determined to stay in print. Let’s go to the newsroom:  

Vickie Carpenter has been at the Macon County News and Shopping Guide for 18 years. She is a photographer and helps manage the office. Here’s how she felt when she was told the paper was closing: 

Lilly Knoepp

  Current mayor Bob Scott ran unopposed for his last two terms in office. The 17-year veteran of public service says he’s using the same signs as years past and took zero campaign contributions this time around. Here’s why: 

 

“To much money in elections. The worst thing that ever happened to this country was Citizens United,” says Scott, referring to the famous U.S. Supreme Court case.  

Lilly Knoepp

An ancient Cherokee mound in Franklin has now officially been turned over to a local nonprofit.  BPR attended the commemoration of the transfer. 

Locals gathered in a pavilion on the Greenway near the Nikwasi Mound to mark the sacred site’s handover to the Nikwasi Initiative. Bob McCollum is on its board.

“Good morning,” says McCullom. The crowd responds: “Good morning!”

“What a great day that has been a long time in coming,” he says. 

Lilly Knoepp

  As part of the sale of Mission Health to HCA, the for-profit health system promised to build a new hospital in Macon County.  BPR talked to Angel Medical Center’s CEO about when ground will be broken for the new facility.

A new Angel Medical Center was in the works long before the HCA sale says CEO and CNO Karen Gorby.

Lilly Knoepp

The lawsuit against the Franklin Town Council members in response to their decision to transfer the deed to the ancient Nikwasi Mound has been withdrawn.

 

Gloria Raby Owenby, one of the plaintiffs, says that the group’s legal counsel explained that the injunction would take months or years. The group wasn’t willing to wait that long with an “uncertain outcome,” says Owenby, who explained that the group never hired an attorney. She says that the lawsuit could be brought up again at a later date.

 

Lilly Knoepp

The Franklin Town Council has voted to transfer the deed to the ancient Nikwasi Mound to a nonprofit.   

The hall broke out into applause after the town council voted unanimously in favor of transferring the property to the Nikwasi Initiative - a nonprofit made up of representatives from Franklin, Macon County, the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and Mainspring Conservation Trust.

Hope Huskey is on the board of the Nikwasi Initiative and a member of the Eastern Band.  

 

Lilly Knoepp

  Last year over 25,000 people marched at the state capital in Raleigh to support public school teachers through the Red 4 Ed NC cause. This year they’ll do it again on May 1st.

 

Franklin High School teacher John deVille is the vice president of North Carolina Association of Educators. He’s also on the Red 4 Ed advisory board.  He says May 1st isn’t a protest.

 

Lilly Knoepp

Franklin-based Entegra Bank has announced a merger with First Citizens Bank. This is a swift change from the merger between Entegra and Smart Bank announced in January.

 

Lilly Knoepp

The Franklin Town Council delayed its decision until next month on transferring the deed of the Nikwasi Mound to nonprofit The Nikwasi Initiative.

It was standing room only for the public session on the transfer of the Nikwasi Mound, as 19 different people spoke before town council for and against the deal. 

Photo courtesy of the National Park Service

  At its March meeting, the Franklin Town Council moved forward with a motion to transfer ownership of the Nikwasi Mound to a nonprofit.

 

The origin of the ancient mound has been called into question. BPR spoke with historians and archeologists about the mound and what makes it a sacred space.

 

Lilly Knoepp

Last week, the Franklin Press reported that five plaintiffs had filed an injunction against the Franklin Town Council to block them from voting to transfer ownership of the Nikwasi Mound to local non-profit The Nikwasi Initiative.

Lilly Knoepp

  Smoky Mountain Center for the Performing Arts in Franklin kicked off their 10th year anniversary celebration last week.

 

Before the theater in Franklin was built, the biggest plays in town took place at the local high school. Now 10 years later, general manager and artistic director Scotty Corbin estimates that over three-quarters of a million people have attended shows at the theater.

 

“Our actual birthday is July 3rd but we’ve decided let’s make it a year of celebration,” says Corbin.

 

Lilly Knoepp

Mission Health has finalized their deal with HCA but it isn’t done yet. The deal is currently on the desk of NC Attorney General Josh Stein. Stein is expected to approve or amend the deal near the end of November.

Mission Health’s deal will affect 18 counties in Western North Carolina so each community has a chance to send letters to Stein voicing their concerns about the deal or their support.

Lilly Knoepp

The first piece of a project connecting historical sites of the Eastern Band of the Cherokee is complete.  When the full project is finished, a cultural corridor will run over 60 miles along the Little Tennessee River from Rabun County in Georgia to the town of Cherokee on the Qualla Boundary in North Carolina. The effort has been a long time coming.

Is Franklin N.C. The Gem Capital Of The World?

Jul 30, 2018
Lilly Knoepp

  Franklin, North Carolina is nicknamed the “Gem Capital of the World.” The small town hosts gem shows, rock shops and gem mining. How did this small town get such a big reputation?

“It’s just the luck of the shovel,” says Judy Johnson. She’s been working at Mason’s Gem Mine for 11 years. The mine which opened in 1952 is located in Burningtown just outside of Franklin. The mine sits on a natural deposit of gems and is a prime example of how the area got its name. Tourists dig their own dirt from the mountain side and then sift for gems in flumes.  

Southwestern Community College

If you visit a National Park, there’s a good chance you’ll cross the path of a ranger who was trained right here in Western North Carolina.  Southwestern Community College in Sylva is one of only seven colleges in the nation that offers the National Park Service Seasonal Law Enforcement Training Academy. 
 The program is one of the oldest in the country and just graduated its 100th class.  BPR’s Helen Chickering visited the academy while school was still in session.

Cory Vaillancourt/Smoky Mountain News/BPR

Winning an election is just the beginning for a public official – governing is challenging, ever-changing and can become extremely technical in a legal sense.  So newly elected officials go back to school to learn what they can and can’t do, and what might land them in jail.

Funny Business In The Mountains Sees Growth

Nov 6, 2017
NPR.org

As long as there’s a stage, there’s really no telling where a comic can be found—even in areas like Western North Carolina—where local talent has flourishes, and local business captures part of a $300 million industry. BPR'S Davin Eldridge takes a look at the comedy scene of the mountains. 

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Davin Eldridge

The opioid epidemic is unavoidable – even on Halloween in Western North Carolina.  BPR’s Davin Eldridge reports on a 'spooky' holiday decoration that some parents think went too far in calling attention to the problem.


Mountain Towns Split On How They Will 'Do Brunch'

Oct 26, 2017
NPR.org

North Carolina’s so-called ‘Brunch Bill’ gives local governments the option of allowing alcohol sales as early as 10 a.m. on Sundays, instead of the usual time of noon.  Hendersonville and Asheville quickly adopted the law. But to the west, there’s still plenty of debate about the bill in some communities. BPR’s Davin Eldridge reports on the contentious new bill and it's status within the region--examining which side of the issue each town is now on--and how a period of only two hours each week can differ so much between them as a result.

Davin Eldridge

In the age of the internet the future of the American department store has grown increasingly uncertain.

Earlier this year, Toys "R" Us—a company with nearly 900 stores across the country— filed for bankruptcy. Kmart and Sears underwent another round of store closings—from nearly 1,600 last year, to just over 1,200 this year.

Whenever these so-called “big box” stores close, it can often stifle development in the communities they once served, and hurt the bottom line of nearby small businesses. BPR’s Davin Eldridge takes a look at the little-known phenomenon of “ghost box stores”, and how these stores impact Western North Carolina in their own small way.

Corey Vaillancourt Smoky Mountain News

North Carolina is home to around 100 monuments to the Confederacy.  Governor Roy Cooper says all should come down in the wake of the death of a woman who was counter protesting a white supremacist march in Charlottesville, Virginia.  But a 2-year-old state law prohibits local governments from removing the monuments without state approval, keeping many of them in place for t

Dennis di Cicco / Sky & Telescope

Blue Ridge Public Radio is providing live video streams on total solar eclipse day from two locations within the path of totality.  The links are below!

From our tower on Wine Springs Bald near Franklin

From our tower on Rich Mountain near Brevard

Climate Mayors

“Adopt, honor, and uphold”—this is what some 359 mayors from across the U.S. have pledged to do for their municipalities. It’s a commitment made by so-called “Climate Mayors” to advocate policies in keeping with the Paris climate agreement. It calls for the creation of a twenty-first century clean energy economy, reduced greenhouse emissions, investments in renewable energy and electric vehicles. BPR’s Davin Eldridge visited with two such mayors in a deeply red part of Western North Carolina…

Davin Eldridge

The need for safety between buyers and sellers on websites like Craigslist is essential.  But it’s not always guaranteed. One Western North Carolina town is on a quest to provide that safety.

Davin Eldridge

Angel Medical Center’s board of directors  made it official – later this year, the far-western North Carolina hospital will no longer deliver babies.

Matt Bush BPR

Mission Health says its decision to stop delivering babies at Angel Medical Center in Macon County was made to keep the hospital open.  Mission estimates around 400 children a year are currently born at the Franklin facility, roughly one per day.  CEO Dr. Ronald Paulus says labor and delivery care at Angel Medical loses the hospital between $1 and $2-million per year, which he says puts all the other healthcare done at the facility in jeopardy. “We can’t let one program, even important, put all of the care at risk for a rural community.  We just can’t do it.”

Angel Medical Center, Mapio.net

The decision to stop delivering babies at a Macon County hospital is proving to be an unpopular one in the mountains.  

Angel Medical Center in Franklin has been in the business of delivering babies for more than sixty years, but all of that is about to change come mid-summer.  Mission Health, which runs the small community hospital, announced it will be discontinuing child labor and delivery services at the facility in July.  The decision is unpopular with young people in Macon County.

US Forest Service

The Disaster Recovery Act passed by North Carolina Lawmakers in the special session will help with wildfire relief efforts here in Western North Carolina.

Just over 25 million dollars will go to the North Carolina Forest Service for wildfire response expenses and timber restoration.  Arson is suspected in most of the fires.

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