Criticism over taxes and spending from the conservative arm of the local Republican Party is nothing new for Haywood County commissioners.
So this election year, the three Democrats running for re-election came armed with talking points: only 29 counties have a lower tax rate, the county budget is smaller than it was five years ago and there are fewer employees now than five years ago.
• Kirk Kirkpatrick, a lawyer, has been on the board since 2002 and has been a supporter of recreation.
• Michael Sorrells has been a commissioner for four years and previously served six years on the school board. He is a service station, convenience store and café owner in Jonathan Creek.
• Bill Upton, the retired superintendent of Haywood County Schools, a principal and teacher, has been on the board eight years.
• Denny King, a conservative voice in county politics and frequent critic of sitting commissioner’s decisions, previously ran for a commission seat in 2012. He came within 300 votes.
• Phil Wight, owner of a motel in Maggie Valley and Maggie town alderman. Wight has long been involved in Maggie’s controversial breed of politics and a player in the tourism industry.
• Windy McKinney, is a historian and writer with a Master’s Degree in Medieval Studies from the University of Kent, in the United Kingdom. She is the Libertarian Party of Haywood County’s first candidate for county commissioner and feels the area is ready for a candidate who will “change politics as usual.”
Caleb Smith had no idea.
“I didn’t hear them announce it,” he chuckled. “I was backstage talking to Del McCoury about a guitar and he says to me, ‘Son, I think they just called your name.’”
Tucked away on the corner of Kentucky and Virginia avenues in the old Hazelwood Elementary School building, the Alternative Learning Center in Waynesville doesn’t look much like a high school. It’s got just four classrooms, and a stroll through the hall during school hours doesn’t reveal the usual scene of a teacher standing in front of orderly rows of desks. In fact, though about 200 students are enrolled at any one time, only 40 or 50 show up each day.
Work is underway on a multi-million-dollar environmental remediation project on the Old Francis Farm landfill near Waynesville. The first load of dirt was dumped Oct. 7, and on Oct. 6 Haywood County Commissioners approved a $44,500 contract for McGill Associates Engineering to do construction, landfill permitting and stockpile design for the fill dirt.
“It’s been a whirlwind of work from our side, the engineers’ side, and the N.C. DOT,” David Francis, the county’s tax administrator, told commissioners.
With a long construction process coming to an end, students and teachers at Pisgah High School are enjoying a bit more space in their building, and Haywood County Schools Maintenance Director Tracy Hartgrove is happy to be putting the final touches on a project that’s been in the works for more than two years.
There’s a good amount of opioids in Haywood County, more than twice the national average. And apparently there’s a good number of people overdosing on the prescription medications as well.
Osborne Farms is no longer in the dairy business, according to Joe Reardon, assistant commissioner for consumer protection in the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. The farm has sold its herd of roughly 30 dairy cows, and but for a few calves the farm is now empty of bovines.
Although the ink is dry on the sale of Haywood Regional Medical Center, how much the county will get for the hospital remains a moving target.
An innovative tool to help recruit the best and brightest teachers to Haywood County has become too costly for the school system to continue in light of education budget cuts in recent years.