Here’s a look at what’s making headlines around Western North Carolina:
• Super graduate: Reid Sigmon’s moment in the spotlight is near. The 1992 graduate of East Henderson High School was named executive director of the 2009 Super Bowl two years ago, reports the Hendersonville Times-News, and he’s been working nonstop since then to make sure the unofficial national holiday comes off without a hitch.
• Space for Haywood DSS: Haywood County officials are considering moving the county’s Department of Social Services into vacant space in a strip mall along U.S. 74 in Clyde, reports the Smoky Mountain News. The space has been vacant since the departure of Wal-Mart.
• Football coach on the move: Two local newspapers had different takes on the story of Neil Setzer, who is leaving his position has head football coach at Hayesville High School and taking over as football coach at Smoky Mountain High School. The Clay County Progress reported that Setzer “tearfully told his athletes, colleagues and friends” that he was leaving to return to his home town and school. The story notes that Setzer and his wife plan to continue to live in Clay County and commute to his new job in Jackson County, where the Sylva Herald reported that Setzer “is coming home” to be the new football coach.
• Casino talks: The Cherokee Scout reports that some local officials in Cherokee County believe the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians will build a casino in the county. Three years ago, the tribe began a study to look at the feasibility of building a casino in either Cherokee or Graham county, the newspaper reports. And last month, Cherokee commissioners talked about providing water and sewer to a casino on tribal land east of Murphy if the tribe ever made such a request, according to the newspaper. The proposed casino would offer high-stakes bingo and electronic games.
• McDowell gets tough on illegal immigrants: The McDowell County Sheriff’s Office is now working with federal immigration agents to track illegal immigrants that come through the county jail and identify them for possible deportation, reports the McDowell News.
• DOT takes economic hit: North Carolina Department of Transportation officials told Watauga County officials recently that the national economic downturn means that all statewide road projects will be delayed, and that the DOT would have about a $300 million budget shortfall this year, according to the Watauga Democrat. A federal economic-stimulus package working its way through Congress might offset the budget shortfall, DOT officials said.
• Haywood hospital makes new hire: The Haywood Regional Medical Center recently announced that it has hired a new chief financial officer. Gene Winters has 15 years of experience serving with three national health-care chains, reports the Haywood County News. The hospital is still recovering after having its federal Medicaid and Medicare funding pulled briefly last year.
• Shea birthday: George Beverly Shea, one of the most well-known singers in gospel music history, will celebrate his 100th birthday on Feb. 1, reports the Black Mountain News. Shea worked with the Rev. Billy Graham of Montreat for decades and has sung before an estimated 220 million people during his lifetime, the newspaper reports.
• Historic hotel to open in Canton: The renovation of the 129-year-old building that once housed the Imperial Hotel in downtown Canton should be complete by fall, reports The Mountaineer. The boutique hotel will feature six rooms, a restaurant and a meeting room.
• Unimin Corp. lay-offs: The Mitchell News-Journal reports that the Unimin Corporation is shutting down its Spruce Pine plant and laying off workers at its Red Hill plant because of a decrease in orders due to the slumping economy.
• Blue Banner remake: The Blue Banner, the student newspaper at UNC-Asheville, has switched from a broadsheet format to a tabloid format. “As a result of reader feedback, the design change is intended to make the Banner more reader-friendly.”
— Jason Sandford, multimedia editor