Jackson County

Lilly Knoepp / Blue Ridge Public Radio

The town of Sylva has seen its share of vigils and marches following the death of George Floyd.  The most recent over the weekend focused on the Confederate monument that overlooks downtown. 

Traffic backed up along the detour route Saturday as two separate demonstrations set up – one seeking the removal of the statue of a Confederate soldier on the old Jackson County Courthouse steps, and the other wanting it to stay. Demonstrators who want the statue, known as "Sylva Sam," to keep its perch met in a parking lot behind the Old Courthouse.

Lilly Knoepp / Blue Ridge Public Radio

The Town of Sylva Board of Commissioners passed a resolution on Thursday to prohibit Confederate imagery on town vehicles and property. Currently, the old Jackson County Courthouse including the Confederate soldier statue which stands in front of the building, is featured on town vehicles and Sylva Police badges. 

 

Lilly Knoepp / Blue Ridge Public Radio

Sixteen people spoke during the Jackson County Commissioners public comment period on Tuesday night about the Confederate soldier statue which stands in the middle of the old Courthouse steps. 

 

The county commissioners are set to discuss creating a task force to decide the monument's fate at their July 14 work session. Many who spoke say they would consider a taskforce a step in the wrong direction. 

 

NC DOT

NCDOT has announced a big change in construction plans to build a new bridge in the town of Dillsboro. 

Officials plan to close down Haywood Road (U.S. 23 Business) for nine months instead of building a temporary bridge. This will shave about 2 years and $3 million dollars off of the project, according to Div 14 Construction Engineer Ted Adams. 

Lilly Knoepp / Blue Ridge Public Radio

Jackson County commissioners will discuss the future of the statue of a Confederate soldier on the old courthouse steps in Sylva next month.  

Commissioners held a meeting on Tuesday which included a conversation about “diversity and inclusion” which centered around the statue which stands on the old courthouse steps. About ten people spoke during public comment in support of the statue's removal at the afternoon meeting. 

One resident was Christina Sutton, who identified herself as an enrolled member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. 

Lilly Knoepp / Blue Ridge Public Radio

Protests in the rural towns of Western North Carolina for racial justice are growing into a movement.

 Molly Haithcock, 24 and Erykah Lasha, 22, didn’t know each other until a few weeks ago even though both went to Franklin High School. Haithcock, who identifies as a black woman, says she was sickened by the killing of George Floyd and wanted to do something - anything: 

Lilly Knoepp / Blue Ridge Public Radio

Two demonstrations this week in Sylva remained peaceful. But rumors continue to swirl that weapons were present at each. BPR spoke with Sylva’s Police Chief: 

 

Police chief Chris Hatton says rumors are rampant right now. 

 

“I have been on rumor patrol for three days,” says Hatton. 

 

Lilly Knoepp / Blue Ridge Public Radio

 A group of mostly students from Western Carolina University led a peaceful protest Tuesday afternoon in downtown Sylva.

Over a hundred people gathered at the old Jackson County courthouse steps calling for justice for George Floyd and protesting against racism. Organizers say that there were about 300 people. 

You can hear the crowd chanting, “Black Lives Matter. Black Lives Matter…” 

Local business owner Natalie Newman spoke to the group over a megaphone. 

Lilly Knoepp

Protests ignited in cities large and small across North Carolina this weekend over the death of George Floyd.  BPR was at a vigil in Sylva.

A large crowd gathered at the bottom of the Jackson County Courthouse steps for a candlelight vigil around the fountain on Sunday evening. The event was organized by the local NAACP chapter and Indivisible. 

The group stood in silence for 45 minutes.  Then Pastor Jo Schonewolf from Whittier United Methodist Church gave a benediction focusing on the children at the vigil. 

Lilly Knoepp

Governor Roy Cooper announced that restaurants, salons and pools can reopen on Friday with limited capacity as part of Phase 2 for lifting COVID-19 restrictions. Meanwhile, bars, gyms and other businesses will remain closed. The order however, was unclear if craft breweries are able to open. The operations straddle the line between bar and restaurant. 

Lilly Knoepp

FIND THE LATEST COVID-19 CASE COUNT IN NORTH CAROLINA HERE.  FOR ANSWERS TO FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT THE CORONAVIRUS CLICK HERE.

Jackson County Public Health Department has reported the first death due to COVID-19 in the county. The individual was over the age of 65 and had underlying health conditions.  

Lilly Knoepp

FIND THE LATEST COVID-19 CASE COUNT IN NORTH CAROLINA HERE.  FOR ANSWERS TO FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT THE CORONAVIRUS CLICK HERE.

Jackson County Department of Public Health announced today that there are now 24 total COVID-19 cases in the county. This is a jump up from last week when there were just five positive cases.  

Cory Vaillancourt

As of April 16, more than 630,000 North Carolina workers impacted by the coronavirus pandemic had filed for state unemployment benefits, but even with many industries still shuttered, many others are still looking for workers.

Lilly Knoepp

FIND THE LATEST COVID-19 CASE COUNT IN NORTH CAROLINA HERE.  FOR ANSWERS TO FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT THE CORONAVIRUS CLICK HERE.

The city of Asheville opened the region’s largest homeless shelter in the wake of COVID-19 at the Harrah’s Cherokee Center Asheville. 

More rural counties in Western North Carolina are still working on plans of their own. 

Lilly Knoepp

The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services has officially banned outdoor patio dining in the state due to COVID-19. Some restaurants across the state were still offering takeout patio dining. 

On Thursday, Jeanette Evans, owner of the Mad Batter Kitchen in downtown Sylva, was setting up for takeout dining. Evans says that the Jackson County Health Department had come by to explain the ban for the kitchen and the Lazy Hiker Taproom, as well as provide some protocol for customers to safely eat takeout.

Photo courtesy of Pexels

Public schools in North Carolina will be closed for the next two weeks.  Here’s how systems in the westernmost part of the state are handling it: 

Important GOP Primary In NC House District 119

Mar 2, 2020

Voters in Tuesday's primary in North Carolina will decide party nominees at the federal, state, and local levels.  One race in Western North Carolina will decide whether the region’s biggest political rivalry will get another go.

Lilly Knoepp

The independent monitor hired to ensure HCA Healthcare follows through on agreements it made when purchasing Mission Health held its first public meeting Tuesday evening.  BPR was at the Cashiers-Glenville Rec Center, which was full of concerned residents.

Tom Urban and Ron Winters from Gibbins Advisors lead the discussion. Winters started out with the basics: 

“Let me go into the commitments that HCA made under the asset purchase agreement. There are four big categories: Retaining services at the hospitals…”

Lilly Knoepp

Today is the Nantahala National Forest’s 100th birthday! The forest was established on January 29, 1920 by President Woodrow Wilson. 

Nantahala is the largest of North Carolina’s four national forests with 531,148 acres. It includes the Appalachian Trail and the Bartram Trail, which follows the path of early naturalist William Bartram.  The highest peak in the forest is Lone Bald in Jackson County at 5,800 feet and the lowest elevation is 1,200 feet in Cherokee County along Hiwassee River.

Matt Bush / Blue Ridge Public Radio

Democrats have seen a sharp drop in voter registration in North Carolina's seven westernmost counties over the past four years.  Republicans have seen a similar increase during the same timeframe, as well as those registering as unaffiliated in Cherokee, Clay, Graham, Haywood, Jackson, Macon, and Swain Counties.

Lilly Knoepp

The mountains of Western North Carolina offer beautiful views and outdoor activities but the topography is often a challenge for the state department of transportation. 

Here are a few important updates on local roads in the region:

US Route 441- Jackson County

Lilly Knoepp

The sale of Entegra Financial Corp. to First-Citizens Bank & Trust Company is official. 

The banks announced that the deal was finalized on December 31 for about $220 million. 

Lilly Knoepp

Three local Entegra branches have been officially sold by First Citizens Bank to Select Bank. This deal is part of Engetra's sale to First Citizens in the new year. 

Entegra Bank branches in Highlands, Sylva and the Holly Springs branch in Franklin will now be owned by Select Bank. 

"Today's agreement represents a step forward for the merger with Entegra," says Frank Holding, CEO and Chair of First Citizens Bank. "Select Bank is known for its dedication to customer service. We will work together to ensure a smooth transition." 

Photo courtesy of Nilofer Couture/Indivisible-Commonground WNC

Police in Jackson County are investigating a video that shows a counter protester slowly driving his truck into a crowd of people marching to support the impeachment of President Donald Trump earlier this week.

 

Courtesy of Nilofer Couture/Indivisible-Common Ground WNC

  Police in Jackson County are investigating a video that shows a counter protester slowly driving his truck into a crowd of people marching to support the impeachment of President Donald Trump earlier this week. 

About 100 people turned out in Sylva Tuesday evening to march in favor of impeachment. They were standing outside of the Jackson County Democratic headquarters when a truck began honking to pull into the parking lot - directly through the crowd. 

Lilly Knoepp

Plans to expand Highway 107 through Sylva have been in the works for more than 10 years.  As the decade comes to a close, some business owners still hope the expansion won’t happen.

 Carl Queen has lived in Sylva since the 1970s. 

“Traffic was so light in the 60s and early 70s that kids would actually play ball in the street,” says Queen, who attended this week’s public meeting on the road. 

Lilly Knoepp

There aren’t any brick and mortar homeless shelters between Waynesville and Murphy – a gap of around 80 miles. Instead the counties in between operate other types of programs. BPR’s takes us to a new such program in Jackson County:  

Leah Szittai has been experiencing homelessness since this summer. Now 31 years old, she was living in a tent in a friend’s backyard with her boyfriend. 

“It was rough. Really rough,” says Szittai, who is from Michigan but has been living in Jackson County for over 15 years.  

Photo by Ingrid Christie


Renowned author and satirist David Sedaris is making his way back to Western North Carolina next week. 

It may come as a surprise to some of Sedaris’ followers that he spent a year of his early life in the mountains, as a student at Western Carolina University.

Nick Breedlove/Jackson County TDA

  Fall is not just a beautiful season in the mountains of Western North Carolina. The foliage is also an economic driver for the region.

Dr. Beverly Collins is a biology professor at Western Carolina University. She predicted a bright and colorful leaf season but the September weather might be changing that forecast.

“We’ve been having a pretty intense heat wave since August,” says Collins.

 

Lilly Knoepp

 For the first time ever, North Carolina’s seven westernmost counties met to discuss how to solve the opioid crisis.  BPR was at the summit in Bryson City.

For Graham County Commissioner Connie Orr, the issue is personal. Her son has been battling addiction since he was prescribed Vicodin at 15 years old. He’s now 51. 

“From that time until now my son has been fighting the addiction of opiates which has moved not only to opiates but to heroin, meth or any drug that is available right now,” says Orr. 

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