Here’s a look at some of what’s happening across Western North Carolina this week:
• Graham County officials celebrated at the recent news that Stanley Furniture planned to keep its Robbinsville plant, which employs 315 people, open there and add 205 jobs, according to the Graham Star. Incentives totaling $1.5 million in taxpayers’ money from state and local sources will be paid to keep the furniture-maker in Robbinsville.
• The Smoky Mountain News says high fuel prices have deterred tourists who travel with gas-guzzling recreational vehicles, and that’s hurting the WNC tourist industry. “Even people who are very wealthy people with very expensive motor homes can’t justify the kind of travel they did in the past,” said Jann Spalding, a campground host at Great Outdoor RV Resort in Franklin.
• A $1.2 million renovation job on the Polk County Courthouse is done after 18 months of work. The first big trial in the newly remodeled courthouse will be that of Polk County Sheriff Chris Abril, who is charged with five counts of first-degree statutory rape and one count of first-degree sexual offense that allegedly occurred more than 18 years ago.
• The Cherokee Scout reports that an 8-year-old Cherokee County boy died last weekend after the four-wheeler he was operating on a trail flipped.
• A long-awaited first-degree murder trial started this week in McDowell County. Robert Dean “Bobby” Taylor is accused of killing 24-year-old Zilpha Louise Lowery in 1993.
• A Tryon woman and her daughter recently spotted two bears strolling down Melrose Avenue in Tryon. She snapped a cell phone picture.
• Budget cuts have forced the closure of Haywood County’s Literacy Council. Questions of accountability and the future direction of the organization caused Haywood County not to meet the council’s $24,000 request, according to the Smoky Mountain News.
• The Black Mountain News reports that Blue Ridge Broadcasting is settling into its new space. “Nearly 50 years after Rev. Billy and Ruth Graham first turned their vision for a listener supported radio ministry of the Billy Graham Evangelical Association into a reality, Blue Ridge Broadcasting (BRB) has begun broadcasting from the Billy Graham Training Center at The Cove in Swannanoa. The old home of BRB on U.S. 70, which has housed station operations since 1962, will be demolished to make way for an Ingles warehouse.”
• The new Super Wal-Mart being built at the former Dayco rubber-plant site in Waynesville should be finished later this month and open in September.
• Marshall town leaders say they’ve been spending too much on their police department, reports the Madison County News-Record and Sentinel. The town’s police chief, Randy Bradford, resigned last month.
• La Voz Independiente reports that the percentage of Hispanics arrested in North Carolina for drunk driving dropped 50 percent between 2002 and 2007. Darrell Jernigan, director of the Governor’s Highway Safety program, released statistics showing that Hispanics charged with driving while impaired accounted for 7.3 percent of all traffic charges in 2007, compared to 13.15 percent in 2002, according to the newspaper. Jernigan credits educational programs for lowering the numbers.
• A new community-action group, tentatively dubbed the Safe Street Asheville Project, was organized this week during a meeting at Firestorm Cafe and Books attended by about 100 people, according to Out in Asheville. The meeting was called in response to an alleged gay-bashing incident last weekend on Haywood Street, as well as an e-mail “detailing similar attacks against other members of the Asheville LGBT community,” the newspaper reported.
• Finally, what happened to Reece’s Tire Deals, a store that’s served customers on Merrimon Avenue in Woodfin for more than 40 years? The Weaverville Tribune’s blog, Dropped from the Headlines, offers this:
“Newbridge Tire Center on Merrimon Avenue in South Woodfin was scheduled to open this week. The new tire store will be operated by Roland, Brent and Travis Reece. Newbridge is opening in the former home of Reece’s Tire Deals, which had served the area for more than 40 years. So, what happened to longtime business? Depends on who you ask. The Tribune did a feature story on the opening of Bullet’s Tire & Wheel last month on Weaverville Road in Woodfin. The store is being operated by Danny Whitted, who had worked at Reece’s Tire Deals for 30 years and managed and owned the shop for the last 10. He told the Tribune a lease dispute with the Reece family forced him to move his business. The Reece family denied Whitted’s assertion.”
— Jason Sandford, multimedia editor