Franklin’s Appalachian Trail Community Council (FATCC) analyzed more than 500 surveys from Appalachian Trail hikers who visited Franklin this season. The surveys were handed out at local businesses and hiker services such as free breakfasts sponsored by local churches.
Based on the results, hikers surveyed who stopped in Franklin spent more than $70,477 on lodging, laundry, outfitters, resupply, and restaurants. Of the 498 hikers who responded to the survey’s questions about whether or not they stayed overnight in Franklin during their visit, 468 people said they did. Four hundred and seventeen people also ate at local restaurants while 337 hikers shopped at local outfitter businesses such as Outdoor 76 and Three Eagles Outfitters.
Mission Hospitals invest in Macon hospitals
Since contracting with local hospitals Angel Medical Center and Highlands-Cashiers hospital, community investment has been an integral part of Mission Health’s involvement in the local hospitals, as it has been in their history as an organization. Between four western North Carolina Hospitals, Angel Medical Center, Blue Ridge Regional Hospital, Highlands-Cashiers Hospital, and McDowell Hospital, Mission Health is investing $62.5 million. In Macon County, the two hospitals account for $11 million in renovations and expansions that will allow Angel Medical Center and Highlands-Cashiers hospital to better serve patients in the region.
Annual Fishing Day
The banks of Cliffside Lake near Highlands was lined with children during the first weekend in June for the annual Kids Fishing Day. About 1,250 rainbow trout from the state hatchery were released into the lake for the event, which drew more than 150 kids. The event allows families and friends to share fun and quality outdoor time together while learning about one of the nation’s favorite pastimes – fishing.
Undercover operation leads to four arrested for heroin
Macon County Sheriff’s Deputies worked with a confidential informant conducting an undercover investigation at 131 Woodland Hills Drive that resulted in four Macon County residents arrested on charges relating to the possession and distribution of heroin. Out of the other four occupants, officers witnessed two individuals, Brian Keith Curtis, 26, and Justin Dane Southard, 39, to be in possession of heroin. After completing the search warrant, occupants seized heroin, marijuana, prescription medication and multiple items of paraphernalia. Curtis and Southard were both charged with felony counts of possession of heroin and possession of drug paraphernalia. They were both issued a $5,000 bond and were booked into the Macon County Detention Center. Bethany Ann Sexton, 24, and Conner Christian Sim, 26, residents of 131 Woodland Hills Drive, were both arrested and charged with felony possession of heroin, felony maintaining a vehicle or dwelling place of a controlled substance, misdemeanor possession of a scheduled II substance, and misdemeanor possession of marijuana. Both Sexton and Sim were booked into the Macon County Detention Center on a $30,000 bond.
Franklin TDA adopts new marketing plan
The Franklin Tourism Development Authority is charged with promoting tourism and related activities for the Franklin area. For the last three years, Premiere Marketing has volunteered its services to the TDA and has handled the group’s marketing efforts. With the state working to revamp their tourism website, VisitNC.com over the last year, Premiere Marketing presented members of the TDA with a marketing plan that included partnering with the state’s website in hopes of improving the group’s marketing efforts. The TDA’s total budget sits at just over $113,000 annually. The TDA is funded through room occupancy taxes collected when visitors pay to use any of the lodging facilities inside of Franklin.
New flower festival comes to town
The inaugural Franklin in Bloom festival was held each weekend in June, and was hosted by various garden clubs in Macon County. The event showcased the vibrant flowers at the clock tower, town square, Rankin Square, and flowers throughout the Main Street area. The event was complete with a vendors day with garden arts and crafts available for purchase.
Macon commissioners approve $47,696,749 budget with a focus on community and school projects
After some back and forth during budget work sessions, the county approved a $47 million budget that included no tax increase, and needed funding for county infrastructure needs and school projects. County Manager Derek Roland kept his overall county budget at $47,696,749 and was able to free up $142,899 for the school system. To do so, he proposed cutting the funds previously allocated for repairs to Wesley’s Playground and the Robert C. Carpenter Community Building. Originally, Roland proposed budgeting $150,000 to improve both of those county facilities. The repairs needed at both Wesley’s Park and the community building far exceed $150,000, according to Roland. Because the need to repair those things exceeds the amount budgeted, and because of the compromise reached by the school system, Roland made the decision to transfer the funds from the renovation project to the school system. The Wesley Playground and community building projects continue to move forward, utilizing funds in the county’s fund balance.
Franklin High School graduates class of 2016
On June 16, Franklin High School hosted the annual commencement ceremony at Western Carolina University. Two hundred and twenty-four Panthers crossed the stage. Guest speaker and FHS alum Mike Houston spoke to graduates. Houston would go on to win the Division I Football Championship as the head coach of James Madison University in January 2017.
County records second shooting in a week
Shortly after 3 a.m. on Monday, July 4, while law enforcement was responding to an alarm call at Cowee Convenience Store on 28N, Cpl. Tracy Platt spotted a vehicle traveling south on Hwy. 28 headed towards town. According to reports, she slowed her car to get a good look at the vehicle should it be found to be involved in the alarm call. A man, later identified as Chandler Stanley, 22, of Franklin, approached Cpl. Platt yelling for help and holding his right hand in the wrist area which was bleeding. Stanley told the officer he had been shot with a shotgun but was afraid to say who shot him. Cpl. Platt called for an ambulance.
Just the week before, on June 29, Macon County law enforcement worked into the early morning hours in a standoff that ended when a suspect shot himself in the head.
TekTone moving into former SKF building
The Macon County Economic Development Commission announced in July that TekTone® Sound & Signal Mfg., Inc. will expand operations in the Macon County Industrial Park with the purchase of the vacant 72,262 square foot former SKF facility. The company will hire an additional 35 workers over the next five years, and invest $3.2 million. With TekTone moving to the former SKF building, their current facility would soon be available, which allows another local business, Harmony House Foods, Inc., to expand its operations. Harmony House Foods, Inc., has purchased the current TekTone facility in the Macon County Industrial Park, following the TekTone purchase of the former SKF building.
County adds tracking system to buses
All school buses in Macon County’s fleet were outfitted with state-of-the-art GPS tracking systems before school began in August. During the June meeting of the Macon County Board of Education, the school board unanimously voted to approve a contract with Synovia Solutions of Indiana to install tracking systems in all of the district’s 57 yellow school buses. Macon County Schools new transportation director Todd Gibbs, who assumed the position July 1, informed members of the board of education that the system isn’t just for safety, but will also allow the district’s bus system to operate more efficiently, saving dollars in the school system’s transportation budget.
Community gathers for 19th annual Sweet Corn Festival
The 19th annual Sweet Corn Festival was held Saturday July 9 at St. Cyprian’s Episcopal Church. It was all about the corn as folks lined up for a taste of summer in the form of garden fresh corn on the cob. Vendors were there offering homemade arts and crafts, baked goods, and fun for the kids.
Former MMS teacher placed on sex offender probation
A Macon Middle School teacher arrested in 2014 with taking indecent liberties with a child and taking indecent liberties with a student pleaded guilty in Macon County court on Monday, July 18. Jeffrey Todd Rousselle, 26, pleaded guilty to indecent liberties with a student, a Class I felony. He was sentenced to not less than 6 months or more than 17 months in the custody of the Division of Adult Correction. That sentence was suspended for 48 months and Rousselle was placed on sex offender probation. He will have to register as a sex offender and remain on the registry for 30 years. Rousselle was also ordered to undergo a sex offender evaluation and comply with any treatment mandated that may be recommended. Rousselle is also not allowed to have any contact with any of the victims named during the trail.
Students to get a boost with free breakfast
To ensure that Macon County students are afforded every opportunity at success, Macon County Schools approved a program to provide every child in the county will receive free breakfast, regardless of income. The free breakfast program is now available at all 11 county schools and provides a free, nutritious meal in the mornings.
Folkmoot on parade in downtown Franklin
Hundreds of performers from 10 different countries paraded up Main Street last Thursday with authentic costumes, and culturally significant dances to beautiful music. The parade started at town hall and ended at the gazebo where a large crowd gathered to watch as each group put on a performance representing the song and dance of their country. This year’s Folkmoot Festival featured talented groups from China, the Dominican Republic, Finland, France, Ghana, Japan, Peru, Poland, Romania and a special U.S.-Mexico collaboration. The 2016 festival also included performances by the Eastern Band of Cherokee and other local Appalachian groups.
Suspect of a 39-year-old murder case arrested in Franklin
Thirty-nine years to the day that Coral Gables nurse Debbie Clark was viciously beaten and shot to death, her former lover is under arrest and charged with murder. Investigators in August arrested retired real estate agent Allen Bregman of Boca Raton, the longtime suspect who once filed an insurance claim on the slain woman’s life. The new evidence: fingerprints and a DNA sample from a hair discovered on Clark’s body, according to an arrest warrant obtained by the Miami Herald.
Ingles reveals plans for new store in Franklin
Ingles unveiled its plans for the 13.03 acre old Whistle Stop property in August at a neighborhood compatibility meeting. Ingles purchased the property last November for $5.55 million and plans to construct an 88,928 square foot development which includes a 72,128 square foot Ingles grocery store with 14,800 additional square foot space for retail shops. Ingles Markets Project Manager Preston Kendall led the meeting which is required for Ingles to construct the proposed development. The old Whistle Stop property is currently zoned as a C-3 which only allows new buildings of 30,000 square feet or less to be constructed. Ingles will have to petition the town for a special use permit to build the proposed development and the neighborhood compatibility meeting is the first step in that process. Franklin Town Planner Justin Setser sent out 25 letters to property owners within 400 feet of the proposed development, a dozen of which were part of the standing room only crowd that gathered at town hall on Monday to learn of Ingles’ plan.
Franklin’s second brewery plans grand opening
Currahee Brewing Company opened its doors in late July with limited hours to get their feet wet while still working out the kinks but in August, Franklin’s second brewery opened full-time and was ready to serve the community. The brewery was named Currahee in honor of the Cherokee people who are deeply rooted in Western North Carolina as well as the brave men and women in the military who fought and continue to fight for our freedoms today. Currahee originally stems from the Cherokee Indian word which roughly translates to “Stand Alone.”
No charges filed in the death of Franklin toddler
Nearly six months after two-year-old Mason Powell was pronounced dead at Angel Medical Center, law enforcement agencies have closed the investigation surrounding his death and has announced that no charges will be filed in the case. The District Attorney’s Office has completed its review of the investigation into the March 8 death of two-and-a-half year old Mason Lee Powell of Franklin. Mason was brought to the Emergency Room of Angel Medical Center at approximately 3 p.m. on March 8, 2016, by his parents, Audrey and Jeremy Powell. He was examined and pronounced dead upon arrival. Medical personnel and investigators were initially concerned about the circumstances of his death largely because it appeared that he may have been deceased for longer than was reported by his parents. As a result, a joint investigation was conducted by the Franklin Police Department and the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation.
Franklin hold first ever Public Safety Day downtown
Hundreds of families headed downtown in September for the first annual Public Safety Day for kids. From vintage fire trucks and police cars to a free hotdog lunch, the new event gave the community the opportunity to meet the men and women working for emergency services in Macon County. Law enforcement officers, paramedics, K-9 officers, and firefighters were all on hand and ready to meet the future of Macon County.
Macon County Schools announce top personnel
Just in time for the new school year to begin, the Macon County School System has announced the annual principal, teacher, and support person of the year. Each year, each school in Macon County selects their school’s individual winners and then those winners go to a vote for the entire district. This year, Principal of the Year was awarded to Nantahala Principal James Bryan, Teacher of the Year was awarded to third grade Iotla Valley teacher Pauletta Clark and Support Person of the Year was awarded to Franklin High School’s Lead Teacher Vickie Sutton.
MCSO arrest Georgia fugitive; investigate DOW on 441S
Macon County Sheriff’s Deputy Matthew Breedlove witnessed a Nissan Altima on Porter Street speeding and having to slam on the breaks to avoid running a red light. Deputy Breedlove took action to pull over the vehicle and the driver attempted to flee. A brief car chase ensued into the Patton Community. The driver, later identified as Brent Brandon Hinnant, 27, of Hayesville, was traveling with a female passenger, Kasey Welch, 27. When Hinnant approached a road block set up by deputies, both Hinnant and Welch attempted to flee on foot. As the pair tried to cross Cartoogechaye Creek, both Hinnant and Welch were apprehended without further incident. While still on scene with Hinnant, investigators received a call from dispatch involving a body found at Dowdle’s Feed and Seed located along 441 South. Macon County Deputy Troy Burt and Detective Tim Holland were the first to respond to the call and after a thorough investigation with detectives, law enforcement was able to identify the body as Gabriel Christian-Tate Crippen, 39, of Otto.
MCSO Operation Thunderstruck yields 27 arrests
After months of undercover work by the Macon County Sheriff’s Office Narcotic Unit, 27 suspects have been arrested since Friday, Sept. 9, with two suspects still at large at the conclusion of Operation Thunderstruck. During pre-dawn raids, officers with the Macon and Jackson County Sheriff’s Offices, State Bureau of Investigation, District Attorney’s Office, Franklin and Highlands Police, N.C. Probation and Parole and agents with the Drug Enforcment Administration (DEA), Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF), and Homeland Security initiated raids on residences throughout Macon County serving warrants for drug related charges.
Macon County hosts 63rd annual Macon County Fair
One of Macon County’s longest standing traditions, the Macon County Fair came like clockwork in the middle of September, highlighting the county’s rich heritage and culture. From vegetable displays, to livestock shows, as the last purely agricultural fair in the state, the Macon County Fair drew thousands from all over WNC.
Macon native nominated and wins CMA award
Macon County native Eddie Foxx is no stranger to the limelight. For years, Foxx has made his way into homes across Western North Carolina as a radio personality on 99.9 KISS Country. Recognizing his time and talents, The Country Music Association released its nominees for the 2016 Broadcast Awards in September, and Foxx was stunned to hear his name among the nominees. Foxx went on to win the award, adding a trophy to his award winning career.
Franklin named 2016 Homecoming Court
Franklin High School’s student body named the 2016 homecoming court the first week in October. The court is nominated by the student body and the fall athletes and band members vote on the nominees. Lexi Joan Bodenheimer was crowed the 2016 Queen at the half-time show of the home game against East Henderson.
Kids Place marks 25 years
Although abuse and neglect can have lasting effects, with support, children can move beyond the harm they have suffered to lead healthy lives, and for the last 25 years, KIDS Place has been providing those services in Macon County. Nationally more than six million children come to the attention of child protective services each year according to a Children’s Bureau 2014 report. Four children die every day in the U.S. because of abuse. In 1990, a group of concerned citizens began meeting to pray for abused children in Macon County. Some of the individuals in that group had experienced firsthand what the system was putting abused children through in its efforts to help. Out of that group came an anonymous donation of $6,000 to be used to provide services for abused children.
MCSO responds to father, son altercation
A family dispute nearly turned deadly in October when David Finn, 71, shot his son Ryan Finn, 36, in the forehead at their family landscaping business on the Highlands Road. According to police reports, David had asked his son Ryan to leave the family’s landscaping business several times on Tuesday. While in the process of leaving, instead of backing up his vehicle, Ryan went forward and rammed into another vehicle. The vehicle Ryan hit was owned by his father, David. Both David and Ryan were arrested and charged with assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill.
Commissioners begin looking into Internet connectivity issues
For as long as the internet has existed, conversations on its availability in rural America have also existed. In Macon County, both phone service and internet connection are an ongoing topic of conversation, not just from an economic standpoint, but for the quality of life for residents in the county. In an attempt to bring better connectivity to residents in Macon County, county leaders invited internet providers in the region to the October meeting of the board of commissioners to discuss possible partnerships or paths to take to get more options for residents who are currently without internet. Connectivity has continued to be a topic of discussion for the board as they vow to address the issue in the coming year to the best of their abilities.
FHS graduate making her mark in Journalism
Mary Katherine Karcher is currently majoring in communications with a concentration in Journalism and a minor in Political Science at East Carolina University. Karcher graduated from Franklin High School last year and began her freshman year at East Carolina University this fall and as soon as school got started, Karcher applied to the East Carolinian, the school’s newspaper. From a Panther to a Pirate, Karcher is living out the things she learned during her senior project and is starting her career in journalism.
Franklin’s PumpkinFest continues to grow
Every sidewalk was covered for Franklin 20th annual PumpkinFest on Main Street. The town sponsored event has become an annual favorite and the 2016 festival was bigger than ever. With dozens of vendors with fall treats, local shops open, and great eats, Franklin was bustling for the holiday. The World Famous Pumpkin record was among the record breaking events as the longest rolling pumpking surpassed 1,021 feet!
Wildfires break out in WNC
With the first wildfire breaking out in Jackson County in late October, the National Forest Service began warning the public of dry conditions in November. Macon County was among four counties in North Carolina to first be listed by the North Carolina Drought Advisory as being in an extreme drought. Macon, along with Cherokee, Clay, and Transylvania County were identified as in an extreme drought. WNC counties of Buncombe, Cleveland, Graham, Haywood, Jackson, Madison, and Swain all being listed as in a severe drought. By the time all the wildfires were out in early December, more than 20,000 acres had burned across the Nantahla Forest Ranger District. The only structures taken in the blazes were the Wayah Bald Fire Tower and the historic Jones Cabin.
November election sends Corbin to Raleigh and places Republicans in office
Macon County Board of Elections reported a record number of voters in this year’s election, with nearly 50 percent of registered voters in Macon County taking part in early, one-stop voting. When one stop voting ended on Saturday, 11,182 Maconians had cast their votes, which amounts to 43.5 percent of the county’s 25,702 registered voters. In total, 9,985 ballots were cast at the Board of Elections office in Franklin, and 1,193 voted in Highlands. Karl Gillespie was appointed to the commission to replace Kevin Corbin for a District II seat. Incumbent commissioner Paul Higdon retained his seat. Kevin Corbin will be going to Raleigh to represent Macon County in House District 120 after securing 12,624 votes in Macon County and winning the district by a margin of 72 percent, the largest margin in any House district on the ballot this election.
Fire departments score higher ratings
Back in August, both Clarks Chapel and Cullasja Gorge Fire Departments participated in the North Carolina Office of State Fire Marshal Inspection pertaining to their protection class ratings. The volunteer departments spent months preparing for the inspection and ensuring that their respective departments met the standards needed to quality for better protection classes in order to reduce insurance rates for homeowners in their districts. In November, both Clarks Chapel Fire Chief Matt Mason and Cullasaja Gorge Fire Chief Paul Corbin were informed by the state that their departments had successfully completed the inspection, which will result in lower insurance rates.
Franklin veterans honored with parade, ceremony
Despite smoke billowing into main street because of the November wildfires, residents filled town square in honor of the Nation’s veterans. The annual Veterans Day celebration started with a parade up main street and included a ceremony on the town’s Gazebo. This year’s guest speaker featured Fred Alexander, a veteran in the United States Marines.
West Macon house fire coverup for homicide
Macon County Sheriff’s deputies spent November 21 transporting Paul Snow from Florida back to Macon County. Snow is the suspect in the double homicide of his mother and sister. Snow was arrested in Florida a little more than two weeks after a residence on Creekside Drive was burned to the ground with two bodies inside.
For four decades, Franklin man has been playing Santa
For more than 40 years, Macon County native Bruce Conley has been suiting up as Kris Kringle to bring joy and a little holiday cheer to families in his community. What started as part of his job while working for Bowers Department Store on Main Street 43 years ago when Conley was just 18 years old, has turned into a passion and chance to give back to his community. For the last 15 years at least, Conley has brought up the rear of the Chamber of Commerce’s annual Christmas Parade, riding on the final float with all nine of his reindeer and his sleigh.
Annual Christmas Parade strolls through Franklin
The streets of Main Street were lined with residents the first weekend in December for the annual Christmas Parade. Always held the Sunday after Thanksgiving, the 2016 parade was themed, “We Still Believe in Christmas.”
Tate named Chair of the Board of Commissioners
Macon County Commissioner Jim Tate was unanimously voted as the board’s new Chairman. On a motion made by Commissioner Gary Shields and seconded by Tate, Commissioner Ronnie Beale was appointed as the board’s new vice-chair. Three members of the Board of Education were on the ballot in November and each ran uncontested races. Stephanie McCall, Highlands representative, Melissa Evans, Nantahala representative, and Jim Breedlove, Franklin-area representative, all took their Oath of Office during a special called meeting Monday morning. Macon County Superior Clerk of Court Vic Perry administered the oaths.
Local robotics team qualify for state
2016 showed great growth and progress in the county’s STEM program. After securing a $550,000 grant in the Spring, Macon County Schools hit the ground running to develop an innovative and competitive STEM program and Robotics Teams. Four robotics teams from Macon County will advance to State, scheduled for January 14, after competing over the weekend in Cherokee at the SMART (Smoky Mountain Area Robotics Teams) league Robotics competition. The Cherokee tournament included 48 teams from across the region, 12 of which were from Macon County.
Community honors longest serving SRO
Officer Donnie Seagle was one of the first of two School Resource Officers (SRO) ever to be hired in Macon County under Sheriff Homer Holbrooks more than 15 years ago. When he was hired as an SRO, his resume already consisted of 30 years of experience with the Forest Service, a career from which he retired on Aug. 1, 2001. Without even a month to rest after his retirement, Seagle began working the Macon County Sheriff’s Office’s new SRO program. For the next 15 years, Officer Seagle faithfully served the community as an SRO of Macon Middle School. Macon Middle School surprised him with a retirement ceremony last Friday, filled with speeches of appreciation and performances by the students.
Franklin constructs first “Free Little Pantry”
Members of the community stopped by the Ace Hardware parking lot in mid-December for the unveiling of Franklin’s first Free Little Pantry. The project was made possible by Robert DiTomasso, Josh and Cortney Patrick, and John Snyder, and now with the help of the community, is stocked and ready for use. The Little Free Pantry utilizes a familiar, compelling concept to pique local interest in and action against local food insecurity.