WNC News Roundup

Here’s a look at what’s making news around Western North Caorlina:

WCU cuts employees: Western Carolina University plans to lay off 31 employees due to state budget cuts, according to the Smoky Mountain News. “WCU is anticipating the state cutting the university’s appropriation by $7.64 million, or 8 percent, due to the national economic downturn,” the newspaper reports.

ASU cuts classes: Appalachian State University has announced that it will offer 200 fewer classes next year because of state budget cuts. “The cutbacks will result in fewer available course sections, increased class sizes and a heavier workload for faculty, and some students could face graduation delays,” reports the High County Press.

Weaverville cancels July Fourth party: The Weaverville Tribune reports that Weaverville Town Council has voted to cancel this year’s Fourth of July festivities due to the economic decline’s impact on the town’s finances. The move will save the town $31,000. Last year’s event, moved from downtown to Lake Louise, drew an estimated 7,500 people.

Dillsboro Dam removal: Duke Energy and Jackson County are still battling in court over the removal of the Dillsboro dam. The county wants to save the dam, and Duke claims the county is denying required permits to delay the demolition, according to the Smoky Mountain News.

Update on Macon airport runway extension: The Macon County Airport Authority needs about $853,000 to pay the full tab for a controversial runway extension, according to the Smoky Mountain News. The project has raised controversy because it’s planned to be built over Cherokee Indian artifacts and a burial ground.

Transylvania County faces cuts: The county is facing a $1.6 million budget shortfall and is looking at cuts in services, as well as a tax increase, for the new budget year that starts July 1, according to the Hendersonville Times-News.

Casino alcohol vote: “Cherokee voters will get the chance to determine whether alcohol should be sold in Harrah’s Cherokee Casino and Hotel come June,” reports the Sylva Herald. The referendum will be on the ballot for the June primary. The tribe has long been opposed to selling alcohol on the premises, but the board overseeing casino operations is pushing the benefits of alcohol sales — namely more money and another attraction to lure visitors.

Harlem comes to the mountains: A big crowd was on hand at the Andrews High School Gym in Cherokee County recently to watch the Harlem Ambassadors, a traveling basketball team that features plenty of dunks and funny schtick, according to the Cherokee Scout.

Marion faces tight finances: The city of Marion in McDowell County, facing tight financial times, is considering lay-offs, according to the McDowell News.

The “two-gun” police imposter: Also in McDowell County, a 37-year-old man has been arrested and charged with going armed to the terror of the public and impersonating a law enforcement officer. The man, wearing two pistols in holsters strapped to his waist, was giving out his cell phone number and telling people he wanted to put someone in jail, according to the McDowell News.

Monetary ruling in fatal wreck: A judge has yet to make a final monetary ruling in the case of a fatal wreck involving a McDowell County Sheriff’s Department deputy that killed a 2-year-old girl in February 2007, according to the McDowell News. Two weeks ago, a jury recommended that parents David and Kimberly Frye be awarded $5.5 million in a civil judgement after the couple sued the sheriff’s office and former Deputy Brandon Watson. Judge James Baker will make the final ruling. Watson was a rookie deputy traveling up to 120 mph on Interstate 40 near Old Fort on his way to a domestic violence call without his blue light and siren activated when he slammed into the rear of Kimberly Frye’s car.

Civil War re-enactment: It’s not spring in the South if there’s not a Civil War re-enactment. This weekend’s is in Tryon, reports the Tryon Daily Bulletin.

Watauga considers billboard moratorium: The Watauga County Board of Commissioners is considering a six-month ban on all new billboards, according to the Watauga Democrat.

Blog libel bill needs study: Sen. Steve Goss says libel on blogs needs more study,” reports the Raleigh News & Observer. The Boone Democrat said that he has pulled a bill that would have put civil and criminal penalties on libel published on blogs and other online publications. … Fittingly, news of the change surfaced first on Watauga Watch, a blog run by Jerry Williamson in Goss’ area.”

Rebranding the news: The Haywood County News and the Pisgah County News, two weekly newspaper publications of the Asheville Citizen-Times, have apparently merged into one Web site, called Mountain News. It’s unclear whether the newspapers, which have been published for about the past five years and had separate Web presences, are still being printed. Clicking on the Haywood or Pisgah Web sites now take you to the same Internet address.

The “Blog Cabin:” The DIY Network has started filming its “Blog Cabin” series in Madison County. The home being built in the Preserve at Little Pine community was designed by viewers who voted for design elements, according to the Madison County News Record & Sentinel.

Mitchell jail fire investigation re-opened: New information revealed in an ongoing civil lawsuit has triggered the re-opening of a criminal investigation in the case of the 2002 Mitchell County jail fire, which killed eight people and ranks as the states deadliest jail fire, according to the Mitchell News.

Town’s too small: A legislative committee in Raleigh has ruled that Fontana Dam doesn’t have enough full-time residents to merit status as an incorporated town, reports the Graham Star. “The town has about 30 full-time residents and needs at least 100 to be considered for incorporation,” the newspaper reports.

Newspaper moves to print: The Hilltop, Mars Hill’s college newspaper, is bucking a recent trend among newspapers and has started supplementing its online-only publishing with a printed edition after eight years, reports the Weaverville Tribune’s blog.

— Jason Sandford, multimedia editor

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