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Macon County Commissioners

Coverage of the meetings of the Macon County Board of County Commissioners.

Franklin Town Board of Aldermen

Coverage of the meetings of the Franklin Town Board of Aldermen.

Macon County School Board

Coverage of the meetings of the Macon County School Board.

Photoblog

Photos from my photoblog.

Nothing is here yet

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Monday, August 24, 2015

Macon County Public Schools Start Today
Safety Tips and School Calendars

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Today, August 24th, is the first day of the 2015-2016 school year in Macon County. Be careful and watch for children on the side of the road who may dart into the road and watch for school buses. Give the buses plenty of lead room in front of you and know when to stop for school buses

Here are links to download the school calendars for the 2015-2016 School Year:


Highlands School (New school day is 8:00am to 3:10 pm)


Nantahala School (New school day is 8:00am to 3:10 pm)


Here is a press release from the North Carolina Department of Transportation with tips about safely driver when schools are in session.

Governor McCrory Stresses Staying Safe When Traveling Back to School


Raleigh, N.C.  – More than 1.5 million students across the state will head back to the classroom next week, and North Carolina officials want to make sure those students arrive safely and ready to learn.

With more cars, buses and pedestrians packing North Carolina roadways, Governor Pat McCrory, the North Carolina Department of Transportation and the North Carolina State Highway Patrol urge motorists to stay alert and exercise caution on the road, especially around schools, crosswalks, school buses and bus stops.

“Safety, especially the safety of our students at this time of year, is our number one priority, and we want all drivers to stay alert and slow down as more children will soon be standing at bus stops, crossing the road to get on buses and walking or riding their bikes to schools,” said Governor McCrory. “We also want to remind all drivers, particularly our teen drivers, to put their phones away, keep their eyes on the road and avoid all distractions and slow down.”

In Wake County during the first month of the last school year, one student was hit and killed while waiting for the bus, and two teens were killed in crashes on their way to school. Seven students statewide were hit and injured crossing to get on the bus or at the bus stop during the entire 2014-2015 school year.

“These tragic accidents can be prevented if drivers, parents and students practice simple safety measures. Rushing to save a few minutes or a distraction of a few seconds can trigger life-altering or life-ending consequences,” said NCDOT Secretary Nick Tennyson.

While texting, the average time your eyes are off the road is five seconds. That's enough time to drive the length of a football field blindfolded when traveling at 55 mph. With more than 14,000 school buses traveling North Carolina highways daily, paying attention to the road and avoiding distractions can help keep everyone safe.

“As we begin the school year, our troopers will be closely monitoring school buses. Our number one goal is to ensure the safety of the public but particularly our children,” said Col. Bill Grey, Commander of the Highway Patrol. “To accomplish this goal, we must work together to keep our school children safe and to educate all drivers on the importance of school bus safety.”
 
Back-to-school safety tips for students and parents:

  • Cross in crosswalks.
  • Watch for and obey crossing guards.
  • Look both ways before crossing the street.
  • Be careful crossing multiple lanes of traffic.
  • Make sure each lane of traffic is clear before you cross.
  • Pay attention. When walking, avoid distractions like cellphones.
  • Obey signs and signals.
  • Cross the street where you have the best view of traffic.
  • Always walk on the sidewalk; if there is no sidewalk, walk facing traffic and as far from the road as you can.
Back-to-school safety tips for drivers:
  • Know when to stop for school buses. (Read more.) 
  • Yield to pedestrians in crosswalks.
  • Obey all posted school zone speed limits.
  • Never pass a vehicle that is stopped for pedestrians.
  • Before turning, be sure the path is clear.
  • Slow down near bus stops, schools and playgrounds.
  • No drinking and driving.
  • Buckle up.
  • Avoid distractions such as food, passengers and using mobile devices.
  • Texting while driving is illegal. 
North Carolina has stiff penalties for motorists who fail to comply with school bus safety rules.
  • There is a $500 penalty for motorists who are caught passing a stopped school bus, and a five-point penalty on their driver license.
  • A driver who passes a stopped school bus and strikes someone will face a Class I felony and be fined a minimum of $1,000.
  • The penalty increases to a Class H felony and fine of $2,500 if someone is killed.
Additional driving tips for teens:
  • Don’t speed.
  • Avoid distractions.
  • Cellphone use is illegal for drivers under 18.
  • For provisional license holders, no more than one passenger at a time.
For more information, visit the Watch for Me NC campaign website to learn more about what you can do to keep roads safe for everyone.
 
Download the Back to School Safety Tips PDF for more information.





Sunday, August 23, 2015

Superior Court Cases
Afternoon Session August 17, 2015




Superior Court for Macon County was called into session for the afternoon of August 17, 2015 with the Honorable William H. Coward presiding.

Macon Media and The Franklin Press were the only local media organizations with reporters physically present in this session of court.

This article contains a list of dispositions and decisions in chronological order, augmented with with information from notes taken while the court was in session. Any errors are mine and all defendants are presumed innocent until their cases have been adjudicated. Where possible, hyperlinks have been added that may help promote understanding of the legal process in North Carolina. I have also not reported material that identifies the victims or family members of sexual abuse victims.

Please remember that I am an amateur in reporting on the court system. If you see errors in my reporting, let me know at editor@maconmedia.com or send me a private (or public message on my Macon Media facebook account at http://fb.com/maconcomedia

Here are links to some documents to help you understand how the court system works and some of the legal jargon in the coverage:






SUPERIOR COURT CASES 

Mann, Logan 14CRS51174 Assault by strangulation, assault on a female, assault in the presence of a minor
Represented by Bryson, Crystal

A plea of Not Guilty was entered and a trial date set for December 14, 2015.

Royse, Christopher
Represented by Beyer, Nikki

Case was continued to November 16, 2015 for another administrative setting.

Holt, Raymond 14CRS050188 Sex Offender/Child Premises
Represented by

Called and failed to appear. Order for Arrest was issued and bond raised to $30,000 cash secured. (The defendant appeared later in the session and the order was struck)

Timpton, Jeremy Probation Violation (In arrears over financial obligations)
Represented by

The defendant was given an extra 12 months of probation. (I could not find this case on the calendar, perhaps I did not understand the name of the defendant)

Roberts, David 14CRS050498, 14CRS050499, 14CRS 050500 Third degree sexual exploitation of a minor
Represented by Devereux, Sean

Case continued to 11-16-2015.

Holt, Raymond 14CRS050188 Sex Offender/Child Premises

Case was continued to 11-16-2015 at which time the State instructed the defendant to plea guilty or go to trial. The judge ordered the arrest order rescinded.

Moses, Chad Probation violation (could not find this case on the calendar)

Found in violation. Sentenced to 90 day CRV then terminate probation.

Jorge, Susan (could not find this case on the calendar)
Represented by (not represented)

The judge appointed Nikki Beyers and set next appearance at 11-16-2015.

Ward, Roberta Probation Violation (could not find this case on the calendar)
Represented by (waived right to an attorney)

Judge extended probation 12 months.

Hathcock, Preston 14CRS050590 Breaking and/or Entering
Represented by Beyers, Nikki

Continued to 11-16-2015.

The reporter for The Franklin Press arrived in the courtroom.

McKinney, Gavin 15CRS050552, 15CRS050553 Forgery and Obtain Property by False Pretenses and Uttering Forged Instrument
Represented by Neumann, Scott

Sentenced to 2 consecutive sentences 6 to 14 months with 26 days jail credit, active sentence suspended for a term of 24 months on probation, pay $200 fine, restitution to victim for checks, have no contact with the victim and $240 for attorney fees.

McConnell, Jeffrey 15CRS05065, 15CRS050652 Possess firearm by a felon, possession stolen firearm
Represented by Norwood, Gina

Continued to 11-16-2015.

Frazier, Steel 15CRS050759, 14CRS 050760, 14CRS050761 2nd Degree Burglary, Stolen good, larceny after B&E, larceny of Motor Vehicle, Possession of Stolen Motor vehicle
Represented by Norwood, Gina

Continued to 11-16-2015.


Burr, Jerimy 14CRS050881 Traffick in Methamphetamine and other related charges
Represented by Lay, Frank

Continued to 11-16-2015.

*note* There were several cases at this time I missed because I did not hear a name or complete case number called out as they were handling them rapid-fire.

Jones, Christopher (The case number was not on my calendar) Conspiracy to commit felony, possession of methamphetamine, etc.
Represented by Lepre, Stephanie

The defendant was sentenced and ordered to pay $7,409 in restitution.

10 to 21 months suspended for 36 months probation. Defendant sentenced to serve 90 days minus 17 days jail credit. Ordered to pay $900 in attorney fees, $7,409 in restitution, serve 48 hours community service, enter treatment for substance abuse and have no contact with co-defendant or victim during term of probation.
(This was a complicated sentence, so I have likely got part of it wrong).
This case resulted from the theft of the the days receipts of Cowee Convenience Store on August 4, 2014.



Hensley, Adam 14CRS50281 2nd Degree Murder
Represented by Belser, David

The defendant entered a plea of guilty according to a plea arrangement with the State and was sentenced to 48-67 months with 16 days jail credit with recommended work release.

This case resulted from the March 9, 2014 death of Larry Wilt during a fight at 21 Kirkland Road. More on the incident can be seen at http://is.gd/MM201406309 **note** The audio will not play because DivShare, where the audio is being housed, is undergoing restructuring. I have no idea when, or if, the audio will become available again.

Notes from the courtroom

The judge noted that the class D Felony the defendant is charged with exposes him to a possible 204 month maximum sentence.

The judge noted the plea arrangement and sentencing guidelines put the defendant in the mitigated range for a 48-70 month sentence (the judge later corrected the 70 to 67).

assistant District Attorney Eric Bellas, prosecuting for the State, reported the facts of the case for the record. They include:

On March 9, 2014 the Macon County Sheriff Office was called out to to a fight in progress at 21 Kirkland Road. The defendant was found with blood on his face and clothing. Larry Wilt was pronounced dead upon arrival at the hospital.

On March 10, 2014 an autopsy performed on the deceased found that the cause of death was several stab wounds.

Witnesses at the scene said the two were lifelong friends and had a disagreement while drinking and a fight started and escalated and moved outside. The State noted that the victim was stabbed with a weapon of opportunity after his nose was avulsed (bitten off).

He further reported that the defendant said he was defending himself and that witness testimony to investigators gave varying accounts of the incident, both implicating and exonerating the account of the defendant.

The mother of the victim made a statement to the court. She said the two 9Henskey and Wilt) had been friends for a long time. Most of her information on what happened came from Facebook and friends. She said that her son's children had no father and that her 6 year old grand daughter wanted to die so she could be with her daddy. She said Hensley just got back from the beach and has had rights and freedoms that have been denied her son, who she said walked away three times to avoid a fight the day he was killed.

David Belser, Attorney for the Defense, said this has been a horrible situation for the victim' family and for the defendant's family. He said Larry Wilt had lived with the Hensley's on and off since the 6th grade. He participated in family vacations and family reunions with the Hensley family.

He said the defendant had a good work history listing jobs held as a dishwasher and for a couple of paving companies. He said the Defense would like for the defendant to get work release at the earliest opportunity if it pleased the court.

The judge found the defendant guilty of a Class D Felony. Voluntary Manslaughter, and would be sentenced in the mitigated range because the mitigating factors outweighed aggravating factors. The sentence is 48-67 months, with credit for 16 days jail credit and work release would be recommended.

At this point, there was an outburst from someone sitting with the family of Larry Wilt. A young man shouted “How is this justice? I hope you wake up every morning and see your disfigured face.” The judge ordered the person removed from the court room.

The judge then continued with the sentence, requiring that a DNA sample be submitted.

Hensley was handcuffed and taken from the courtroom.

The judge directed the audience to exit in a peaceful manner or face 30 days in jail or a $500 fine. He noted that inside the courtroom is not the place to demonstrate against a verdict.

Court was dismissed for the day.



Tuesday, August 18, 2015

State Seeks Death Penalty for Charles Andrew Cochran



The State will be seeking the death penalty for Charles Andrew Cochran for the murder of Day Williamson, of Franklin, NC after numerous attempts to get the defendant to accept a plea deal for life without parole that avoided the death penalty. The State will file paperwork by 5:00 pm today to get that process moving and get an additional attorney appointed to assist Belzer in the defense of his client.


An additional administrative hearing has been scheduled for November 16th, during which time a Rule 24 hearing may take place or be scheduled at another time in the future. *correction* A Rule 24 hearing did take place. My apologies for the error. 


*note* This post has been edited to include information that the deal included life without parole.

*note 2* This was published during the second day (ever) of covering the court system, so expect errors on my part. These guys do not do business like an elected body, making sure the audience understands what is taking place. As long as the Judge and Attorneys know what is going on, they're going to do whatever it is that they're doing. If you're one of those few inititiates who do know what is going on, please do not hesitate to let me know. Since the web provide for the MaconMedia.com website is having issues, the normal email address of editor@MaconMedia.com is not working, so send me a private message on the facebook page http://www.fb.com/MaconCoMedia or comment on the post where the story has been linked. My intent is to cover the court system, in particular the superior courts, by being there during the entire session and not just parachuting in just for the big or interesting cases and ignoring the vast majority of the interaction between the public and the courts.
















Superior Court Cases
Morning Session on August 17, 2015

Macon County Courthouse photo 100_5885_zpsad6781ca.jpg

Superior Court for Macon County was called into session with the Honorable William H. Coward presiding.

Macon Media and The Franklin Press were the only local media organizations represented in this session of the court.

Here are a list of most of the court dispositions and decisions that took place on the morning of August 17th, augmented with brief notes taken while the court was in session. Any errors are mine and all defendants are presumed innocent until adjudicated by the court. Where possible, hyperlinks to material that may help promote understanding of the legal process in North Carolina.

Here are links to some documents to help you understand how the court system works and some of the legal jargon in the coverage:

A Citizen's Guide to Structured Sentencing

NC Superior Court Judges' Benchbook


The cases are listed in the order in which they appeared.

Anglin, Paula 14CRS050535 Dissemination to minors under the age of 16 years.
Represented by Hensley, Robert


The Defense entered a plea of guilty as part of a plea arrangement with the prosecution that exposed the defendant to a maximum of 59 months in the NC DOC (North Carolina Department of Corrections).

The judge sentenced the defendant to 15 to 27 months, suspended for a 24 month term of probation and a $500 fine and 12 hours of community service. The physical evidence in this case is to be destroyed and the defendant must register for 30 years as a sex offender.

Cowart, Jessie (numerous case numbers, primarily unindicted)
Represented by Gillette, Jeffrey

The State noted that the defendant was before the court regarding an April case and was currently unindicted in a recent case. After a discussion on the particulars, the judge set September 8th for a bond hearing and to handle other matters in the new case.

Waldroop, Gergory 14CRS050866 Driving While Impaired
Represented by Stewart, J.

This defendant was listed in error for this session and was scheduled for trial on 12-14-2015.

Moore, Thomas 15CRS050237 Traffick in Methamphetamine
Represented by Gillete, Jeffrey

Trail date of 12-14-2015.

Ortega, Janet Gonzales 14CRS051399, 14CRS051401 to 14CRS051403 (various fraud charges)
Represented by Hensley, Robert

The Prosecution noted that this defendant needed an interpreter and none were available today.
The case was continued to 11-16-2015 for a plea.

Prince, Christopher (not listed on the published court calendar)
Represented by Hensley, Robert

The case was continued to 11-16-2015.

Bush, Ryan Wesley 15CRS000115 Possess Drug Paraphernalia
No representation

The defendant filed for a court appointed attorney. Norwood was appointed.

After a brief recess, the court continued with numerous probation violation cases that required administrative action.

Stone, Mark Anthony 14CRS051722
Represented by Cassady, Rich

The defendant failed to appear when called. An order for arrest was issued by the court and a cash bond of $70,000 was set. (The defendant appeared later in the session and the order for arrest was canceled).

Rousselle, Jeffrey Todd 14CRS050525 Indecent Liberties with a Child
Represented by Beyer, Nikki

The Defense motioned for the defendant to be allowed to purchase a flip type phone so his employer could tell him where to go during his job. The conditions of his probation denies him the use of a cellphone capable of browsing the internet, sending photos or text messages as the crime he was convicted of was committed with this type of device. After a lengthy discussion on the particulars, the Defense withdrew the motion.

Ellenburg, Julius Phillip 13CRS051053 & 13CRS051054 Indecent Liberties with a Child
Represented by Cassady, Rich

A trial date of 12-14-2015 was set.

Cabe, Aaron Paul 14CRS051100, 14CRS 051101 and 15CRS 000205
(various drug and gun charges)
Represented by Cassady, Rich

The case was continued to 11-16-2015.

Browning, Erica Annette 14CRS000076 to 14 CRS000078 Embezzlement
Represented by Foster, Mark

This case was dismissed by the Prosection.

Garrison, Phylis Rena 14CRS000234, 14CRS000235, 14CRS050367, 14CRS050418, 14CRS050419 and 15CRS050003 (Charges include B&E, Larceny, possession of Stolen Goods and various drug charges that include Methamphetamine Possession)
The defendant waived the right to have an attorney.

The Defendant entered a Plea of Guilty and after some consultation with the Prosecution and defense over restitution, including a trip to the Judges Chambers, the case was continued to 11-16-2015 to determine the amount of restitution.

Starkweather, Mark 11CRS000699 Probation Violation (Original case was Indecent Liberties with a Child)
Represented by Cassady, Rich

The Defendant was sentenced to a 90 day CRV for a nonrevocable offense and will return to probation upon release.

Scott, Michael 15CRS050517 Burning Certain Buildings
Represented by Lepre, Stephanie

Continued to 11-16-2015.

Sutton, Joshua Lee 14CRS050521, 14CRS050522 and 15CRS000024 (charges include possession of various drugs, marijuana, Cocaine and Methamphetamine and gun charges)
Represented by Lepre, Stephanie

Trail date set for 12-14-2015.

The court recessed until 2:00 pm.





August 2015 Meeting Macon County Board of Education





The Macon County Board of Education held their regular August 2015 meeting at the central offices located at 1202 Old Murphy Road on August 17th.


The video above covers the meeting until the board went into closed session to discuss matters relating school safety under North Carolina General Statute § 143-318.11(7). Upon declaring that no further business would be discussed during open session, members of the media did not wait for the board to conclude its business in closed session and come back into open session to adjourn.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Merritt Founts Named Honorary Historian of Macon County

Pictured (L-R) are Macon County Commissioner Gary Shields, Margaret Ramsey, Barbara McRae, Merritt Fouts and Macon County Commissioner Ronnie Beale. Ramsey was recognized an an honorary historian in 2011, Barbara McRae in 2010 and Merritt Fouts in 2015.






Merritt Fouts was recognized Saturday at the Macon County Heritage Center (located at Cowee School) as a Honorary Historian of Macon County in appreciation for his efforts to preserve the heritage and history of Macon County.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Parker Meadows Grand Opening Set for August 25th

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Here is a copy of the press release from Macon County regarding the grand opening of the Parker Meadows Recreation Facility on August 25, 2015:


Monday, August 10, 2015

Macon County Commissioners
Regular August 2015 Meeting

**Update** Here is the full video of the meeting:



MEDIA ROLL CALL (media outlets with reporters at the meeting)

Macon Media (me)
WFSC-AM/WNCC-FM
Macon County News and Shopping Guide
The Franklin Press

During the public comment section, Dr Gordon Mercer spoke about his church on Jim Mann Road, which is being used as a homeless shelter. He handed out copies of an article posted on the WECT-TV website

Karen Wallace, Director of the Fontana Regional Library System, spoke about the library's need for technology funding. She noted the computers at the library are outdated and still running on Windows XP, which Microsoft stopped supporting a year and a half ago. She shared a handout that included an infographic entitled "Technology Used at All Macon County Libraries." A photo of the handout is posted below. Click on the image to full at a larger size.



During the course of the meeting, Commissioners voted 4-0 to recognize Merritt Fouts as an Honorary Historian of Macon County. The honor will be presented to him during an event at Cowee School this weekend. A copy of the resolution is posted below. Click on the image to full at a larger size.

CROWD FUNDING

If you're of a mind, and can afford it, a dollar a month (or more) from enough people will make a huge difference in improving the quality of coverage of local meetings and events, as well as allowing remote weather stations and weather cams to be deployed throughout the county that you will be able to access online.

So far, 13 people have pledged $75 a month, and 8 of them are following through with $40 a month. This is a tremendous help. Please visit www.patreon.com/MaconMedia for more information on how to contribute.


Businesses can underwrite this coverage by day sponsorships, surplus equipment donations, etc. Inquire at editor@maconmedia.com for more information.



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The Macon County Commissioners will be having their regular August 2015 meeting at 6:00 pm on Tuesday, August 11th. The public agenda and the press packet are posted below. After the meeting, the video will be posted at the top of this page, plus any additional documents that may be provided to the press during the meeting. If you are interested, you may see the July 2015 meeting posted immediately below.


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MACON COUNTY BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS
AUGUST 11, 2015
AGENDA

  • Call to order and welcome by Vice-Chairman Tate
  • Announcements
    • NCACC Update Video
  • Moment of Silence
  • Pledge of Allegiance
  • Public Hearing(s) - None
  • Public Comment Period
  • Adjustments to and approval of the agenda
  • Reports/Presentations
  • Old Business
  • New Business
    • Resolution Designating Merritt Fouts as an Honorary Historian of Macon County
    • Approval of cancellation of note and deed of trust on rehabilitation loan for Gelfund - County Attorney
  • Consent Agenda - Attachment #11
      All items below are considered routine and will be enacted by one motion. No separate discussion will be held except on request of a member of the Board of Commissioners.
    • Minutes of the June 25, 2015 continued session, July 14, 2015 regular meeting and the July 23, 2015 continued session
    • Budget Amendments #15-#18
    • Tax Releases (None)
    • 2014 Tax Settlement Report
    • Public Health Fee Changes
    • Monthly ad valorem tax collection report (No report this month)
  • Appointments:
    • Economic Development Commission (3 seats)
  • Closed session (if necessary)
  • Adjourn/RecessAdjourn

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Refuse and Recycling Workers/Vehicles added to NC Move Over Law


Starting October 1st, workers collecting refuse and materials for recycling will be added to to the state's move over law that requires drivers to move over one lane away (when it is safe to do so) from police, emergency, public service, highway maintenance or utility vehicle that is parked within 12 feet of the highway and is flashing warning lights.

Failing to slow down or move over could result in a citation that comes with a mandatory fine of $250 (plus court costs and a possible increase in insurance points). Damage or injuries resulting from a failure to move over brings a fine of $500. If significant damage is caused to the area of the emergency vehicle — or if emergency personnel or utility crew members are injured — the person is charged with a Class 1 misdemeanor. Serious injury or death caused by violating this statute can be punished by a Class I felony, along with a six-month license suspension.


The updated “Move Over” Law passed unanimously in both the House and Senate and was signed by Governor Pat McCrory on May 21. It becomes effective October 1, 2015.

Source: NC Representative Roger West 

Read the law on the NC General Assembly website