Macon County

Lilly Knoepp

 Resolution’s protecting the 2nd Amendment have now passed in over half of the counties of North Carolina.

The North Carolina Sheriff’s Association isn’t taking a stance on 2nd Amendment resolutions, says the group’s executive vice president and general counsel Eddie Caldwell.

“The position of every is clear. Every sheriff has taken an oath to uphold the constitution of the United States and the constitution of North Carolina so there is really nothing no issue for the Sheriff’s Association to take a stance on,” says Caldwell. 

Lilly Knoepp

  2nd Amendment Sanctuary resolutions continue to pass county commissions each week in North Carolina, with Yancey County becoming the latest to join on Monday.  Macon County won’t be joining the movement – for now.  Blue Ridge Public Radio attended the packed county commissioners meeting Tuesday evening.

Lilly Knoepp

  The independent monitor over HCA continued its tour of Western North Carolina at the Robert Carpenter Community Center in Franklin.

The meeting was held in the middle of a work day, something that frustrated the almost 50 people that gathered in Franklin to ask questions and air their concerns to Gibbins Advisors. Ron Winters is with the independent monitor overseeing HCA. 

 

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

Resolutions calling for individual counties to become 2nd Amendment sanctuaries are sweeping the South due to gun control legislation moving through the Virginia Legislature. In Macon County, one such resolution was discussed Tuesday night: 

The crowd at the Macon County Courthouse was so big that the meeting was moved to a larger room. 

Lilly Knoepp

The independent monitor chosen to oversee HCA Healthcare’s operation of the Mission Health system has scheduled informational sessions across Western North Carolina.  Gibbins Advisors was named the independent monitor at the end of October. Their role as independent monitor was a stipulation of Mission Health’s $1.5 billion sale to the for-profit hospital. The company is tasked with overseeing HCA’s compliance with the obligations it agreed to when it purchased Mission.  

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

Few issues have dominated the news in Western North Carolina as much as healthcare in 2019.  BPR spoke with North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein about the year’s events: 

Stein has been working with attorneys general from across the country to build a single framework for a $48 billion dollar financial settlement from pharmaceutical companies and distributors to pay for the effects of opioid crisis, which has hit Western North Carolina especially hard. 

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." 

Lilly Knoepp

Ever since the Franklin-based bank Entegra announced its sale to First Citizens in April, rumors have been swirling that locals will lose their jobs once the sale is finished. Here’s an update as the year ends. 

CEO Roger Plemmons says that Entegra’s sale to First Citizens Bank can’t be finalized until three local branches are sold.  Plemmons explains that without the sale First Citizens would have had more than 50 percent of the market in Macon County and that isn’t legal:

Lilly Knoepp

  Yesterday, we heard about a lack of homeless shelters between Waynesville and Murphy.  Today, we look at a similar gap in substance abuse treatment centers in the same 80-mile distance. In Macon County here is a new treatment facility that hopes to fill that gap:  

Hazelwood Healthcare sits along Highway 441 to Georgia just past Franklin. It opened this week. 

“This is where you come back.” 

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.  

Cory Vaillancourt

Western North Carolina has four seats in the state senate.  Two of those will be open seats in next year’s election, including the one that represents the state’s westernmost counties.

Lilly Knoepp

  The Franklin Town Council unanimously approved a special use permit to build a new Angel Medical Center. BPR was at the meeting. 

 HCA Healthcare will build the new facility off of Hunnicutt Lane and Center Court Drive in Franklin.  The for-profit company purchased the hospital as part of its acquisition of the Mission Health system.

“The facility will really be based on what Franklin and Macon County need.” 

 That’s Angel Medical Center CEO and CNO Karen Gorby. She presented the most recent plans for the new hospital. 

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

 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. 

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

Nantahala Health Foundation has hired Lori Bailey as executive director of the organization. The new nonprofit health foundation formed after the February sale of Mission Health to for-profit HCA Health.

Lilly Knoepp

  Rural broadband access in Western North Carolina has seen funding and supportive legislation in recent months.  

 

BPR spoke to those who have been working on the issue for years about what these strides could mean.

 

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.

 

NMPJ

The National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, Alabama features monuments for lynchings that occurred in more than 800 U.S. Counties.  That includes Buncombe, Haywood, Macon, and Cherokee Counties in Western North Carolina.  Exact replicas of each monument have also been created, with designers hoping they are taken to be displayed in the counties here each lynching has occurred.  That hasn't happened yet for those destined for Western North Carolina.

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

 Celebrations of the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King echo across the nation today.

Macon Country has celebrated with a service including chruches from across the county for more than 25 years .

“Now is the time to lift our Nation from the quicksand of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood,” says Reverend Mozart Moliere.

Moliere is the pastor at Burgess Chapel in Franklin. His rendition of Dr. King’s “ I Have a Dream” speech brought the audience to their feet at First United Methodist Church.

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.

 

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