Smaller, independent hospitals across the nation have increasingly sought partnerships with larger hospitals in recent years, a trend largely driven by financial challenges.

For Highlands-Cashiers Hospitals, the latest hospital in the region to jump on board with Mission Hospital in Asheville, cost savings were certainly a large motivator, although not the only one. While Highlands-Cashiers Hospital loses money on operations every year, that doesn’t mean it is in the red.

fr highcashHighlands-Cashiers Hospital will soon join the growing number of small hospitals in Western North Carolina to come under the management of Mission Hospital in Asheville.

fr highlandsRepaving of the steep, windy, two-lane road from Franklin to Highlands has many merchants worried about whether this heavily tourism-dependant town will find itself choked off financially.

Hearing The Bascom being called a world-class facility might seem a stretch until you pay a firsthand visit to the six building, six-acre campus in Highlands. Then, however, the words seem entirely appropriate and scaled to reality.

The Bascom is a center for the visual arts created in 2009. The nonprofit doesn’t have a large private collection of works; the center instead focuses on providing top-notch exhibitions primarily garnered from across the Southeast. Six exhibitions were held last year. These included shows featuring glass artist Richard Ritter, painter and printmaker Frank Stella and ceramics maker Ben Owen.

The advantage to artists showing in this well-heeled, upscale Highlands market is huge: The Owen’s show, featuring the Seagrove potter’s signature pieces, almost completely sold out, The Bascom’s Ezra Gardiner said.

That kind of track record helps The Bascom lure a caliber of artists few other similar-sized facilities can boast of attracting.

Some of the highlights this year include an exhibition of paintings by Art Rosenbaum and the large-scale, kinetic sculpture of suspended ceramic discs that are mounted and hung from the ceiling by artist Tim Curtis. There also will be an exhibit titled “Her Impressions” featuring paintings by women during the Impressionism movement using works on loan from a number of Southeast museums and institutions.

There’s one important point about The Bascom that people working at the center are eager to make. The center takes great pride in putting what Executive Director Jane Jerry calls “The Bascom twist” on exhibits while they are displayed here.

“You can only do that with a small institution like this,” said Jerry, who has led The Bascom for about a year.

What does “The Bascom twist” entail? For his part, Gardiner described the twist as “putting a spin on it” by showing artists’ pieces in a manner that is unique and design rich — from the manner in which the pieces are placed and lighted for viewing to drawing on the attributes of the facility itself. Most of the shows are curated in-house by staff, and during the summertime are displayed for eight-week periods at a time. Big exhibitions are in the main gallery, smaller ones in a loft gallery upstairs from the primary viewing area.

Much of “The Bascom twist” is truly the setting of the facility itself: you enter the center through an 87-foot by 14-foot, 53-ton covered bridge transplanted to WNC from New Hampshire.

Once on campus, the main building is 27,500 square feet of museum-quality space made of hand-hewn, post-and-beam barn pieces accentuated with modern stone and glass. Even the floors are unstained white pine re-purposed from several historic barns. There also is a studio barn, a rebuilt rough-hewn barn complete with studio spaces for pottery and three-dimensional arts instruction.

So much of “the twist” is the fact that the paintings, ceramics, metal work and glass pieces are shown in a backdrop that is truly unique.

 

Understanding the community

Setting up and running The Bascom probably wouldn’t be possible in WNC outside of a venue such as Highlands, where the residents are affluent and visibly supportive of the arts. In addition to The Bascom, this is a community that can boast of the Highlands Playhouse, the Highlands Cashiers Chamber Music concerts, the American Museum of Cut and Engraved Glass and the Instant Theater Company, featuring improvisation.

“Highlands and the whole plateau area is different from other communities,” Jerry said. “I’m so new, it has taken me a while to understand the profile of donors and funding sources here.”

The Bascom, in becoming The Bascom, has successfully tapped more than 800 sources — corporations and foundations but mainly individual — in paying about $9 million of the $13 million in its construction campaign. Fundraising continues for this new facility, and for a separate educational and exhibitions program endowment.

Jerry said The Bascom, in comparison to most galleries and art centers featuring the caliber of artist being exhibited here, is so small “we just haven’t had a lot of government support — mainly individual.”

The Bascom has a mortgage on the property that the nonprofit is in process of paying off. And with a board of directors totally committed to offering free admission to the arts, fundraising is key to the facility’s current and future wellbeing.

“I don’t want to sugarcoat the idea that this isn’t an ongoing challenge. We are raising money all of the time,” said Jerry, adding that fundraising “is the job” for any manager of a nonprofit.

Jerry was most recently the project-planning director for Exploration Station, the Republic of Ireland’s first interactive science center. Prior to her stint in Ireland, Jerry was the president and CEO of Cheekwood Botanical Garden and Museum of Art in Nashville, Tenn. She’s no stranger to fundraising challenges: During her tenure at Cheekwood, Jerry led a capital campaign that resulted in an $18.5 million investment in the garden and facilities, and the Cheekwood Museum of Art attained accreditation by the American Association of Museums.

The Bascom has three main benefit events: a wine festival in May; a garden festival in July; and an art, design and craft show in October. It also has an extensive membership of 946 people, plus 300 or so volunteers who provide a veritable army of help to the 10 paid staff members.

Jerry said that she has spent this first year trying to be “a really good listener, and to understand The Bascom and its place in this community. And to work as hard as I can to begin to define a vision for the future that is a reflection of what this community wants.”

One thing the community clearly wants is a tangible connection with The Bascom. Outreach programs make that connection, plus appeal to donors, Jerry said. Among the upcoming programs this spring is a partnership with the Highlands Literacy Council’s after-school art program. This focuses on sea life and will result in an “Underwater” exhibit being installed in the fall.

The Bascom also partners with the local food pantry and with other groups as part of its outreach programs, plus provides scholarship money and free family memberships to the facility.

 

The Bascom history

The Bascom exists because of artist Watson Barratt, a part-time Highlands resident who died in 1962, who wanted to establish a permanent gallery in his seasonal home to display works by regional artists. His bequest made exhibition space at the Hudson Library in Highlands possible starting in 1983. The then Hudson Library building incorporated proceeds from the estate and included a dedicated space for the Bascom-Louise Gallery.

In 1999 the two entities separated. The art center attained nonprofit status, formed a board of directors, wrote bylaws and hired staff. In 2009, The Bascom moved to its new campus.

Source: The Bascom

 

At The Bascom

• “Chick’s: It’s All Gone to the Birds,” March 31-June 17.

• Alex Matisse: “Ometto,” May 12-Oct. 1.

• “Green Art:” May 17-July 8.

• “Her Impressions:” June 23-Sept. 16.

• “Bascom Members Challenge, Couples:” Aug. 18-Oct. 14.

• Art Rosenbaum: “Voices,” Sept. 1-Nov. 10.

• American Craft Today: Sept. 22-Dec. 29.

• “Giving Trees:” Nov. 17-Jan. 1.

www.thebascom.org for additional details. Admission is free.

Macon County GOP leaders on Monday selected a Highlands landscaping company owner as their pick to fill a vacant slot on the county’s board of commissioners.

James “Jimmy” Tate will replace Commissioner Brian McClellan who resigned after receiving his second driving while impaired charge in two-and-a-half years.

Tate is likely to receive the obligatory — but required — thumbs’ up next week from the Macon County Board of Commissioners. Since McClellan is a Republican, the local party gets to recommend his replacement.

Commissioners Kevin Corbin and Ron Haven, also Republicans, expressed their support for Tate’s nomination immediately following the closed-door GOP meeting. The two commissioners joined 20 other Macon County Republican Party executive committee members in casting unanimous votes for Tate, who is the vice chairman of the Macon County Republican Party.

“I think he’ll do an outstanding job,” Corbin told news reporters after the GOP meeting.

Tate, 38, last year mounted an unsuccessful primary challenge against incumbent McClellan, who went on to win his second term in office representing the Highlands area of Macon County.

McClellan had served as chairman of the board, a leadership role the commissioners decide amongst themselves. Corbin is likely to be the new chairman.

Tate, who has served for the past year on the Macon County Planning Board and for 14 years as a part-time, county-employed emergency medical services worker, said he knew there was a steep learning curve ahead for him. Tate expressed confidence in his ability to work across the aisle with the board’s two Democrat commissioners, Ronnie Beale and Bobby Kuppers.

“I’m humbled by the opportunity,” Tate said.

Corbin said he did not believe Tate’s newness to the commission board would slow county business. The most critical upcoming item, Corbin said, is preparation for the county’s 2011-2012 fiscal-year budget.

When Dale McElroy plunked down $100,000 to expand Mica’s Restaurant & Pub in southern Jackson County last year, he was banking on the status quo staying the status quo: a dry county remaining dry.

McElroy, like other savvy business owners in the area, have used numerous loopholes in the state ABC law to legally sell alcoholic beverages in “dry” Jackson County. McElroy can legally sell alcohol as a semi-private club.

At Mica’s, patrons are knocking back plenty of beer, wine and even liquor. McElroy is counting on that continuing — it’s how he plans to pay for his new outdoor deck, fire pit and remodeled dining room.

McElroy also sells beer and wine from a small to-go shop adjacent to the restaurant. To keep it legal, he sells lifetime memberships for $1 and piggybacks on the golf course and country club to help qualify for the status as a private club.

It’s the beer and wine sales from that shop that help subsidize his restaurant.

But take away the corner on the market he currently enjoys, and suddenly his investment doesn’t look very rosy.

That’s the case, too, for Jacqueline and Joel Smilack, who spent what she described as “a lot” to build two, full-sized asphalt tennis courts. That transformed JJ’s Eatery along N.C. 107 in the Glenville community into a sports club, legally entitled to sell alcohol.

McElroy, for one, doesn’t mince words. If the sale of booze becomes legal for every business — not just the ones such as his and JJ’s that invested big bucks to earn the right to sell alcoholic beverages — then he’ll be forced to shut his doors. The upfront investment has been too great to suddenly have to compete with every Tom, Dick and Harry who owns a service station or restaurant in the Cashiers area being allowed in the game.

The way it works now is that each week, McElroy must call in his order to Sylva’s ABC store detailing the amounts and types of liquor he needs, wait until they call back and say it’s ready, then go pick up the filled order.

So, he must be happy that Jackson County Chairman Jack Debnam wants a vote, too, on opening an ABC store in Cashiers? Wouldn’t that be convenient?

Well, no, as a matter of fact, he’s not happy at the news.

“I’d rather spend $1,000 a week to go down to Sylva than $300 to go into Cashiers,” McElroy said.

In other words, he’s making money because of the exclusivity and inconvenience of the situation as it stands now. The referendum passes, “and I wouldn’t continue running this place,” McElroy said flatly.

It’s midday on a weekday, and the bar is hopping at Sapphire Brewing Company near Cashiers.

Jackson County, technically, is “dry,” with the sale of alcoholic beverages limited to the town limits of Sylva and Dillsboro. The truth, however, is a far different matter — businesses all over the county are selling beer, wine and mixed drinks, and they are doing so legally and by the letter of the state’s ABC law.

Nowhere is this relatively unrestricted flow of booze in an ostensibly “dry” area more evident than in the southern part of the county, “on the mountain” around the Cashiers area where droves of well-heeled retirees and seasonal residents flock each summer and fall.

“There are so many loopholes,” said Amber Powell, one of two bartenders needed this hot day at Sapphire Brewing Company to keep up with the brisk demand for cold, on-tap beer. “Honestly, the law’s not very fair — it should be all businesses, or none.”

Uniformity just might be on the horizon, if Jackson voters next year approve a referendum for the countywide sale of alcoholic beverages. Four of the county’s five commissioners say they will put the question to a public countywide vote, either in the May primary or the 2012 November general election.

 

A law of exceptions

For now, businesses outside of Sylva and Dillsboro wanting to take advantage of Jackson County’s big thirst have encountered few problems finding ways to capitalize on the numerous exceptions in North Carolina’s alcohol laws.

But working legally within the state’s ABC system can entail meeting some fairly odd requirements. Whether it’s building tennis courts to qualify as a sports club or proving historic entitlement, there’s dozens of loopholes — but they can be complicated to understand and expensive to implement.

Take one such exception — for a “tourism ABC establishment” — as an illustrative example of the apparent tailor-made nature of most of these right-to-sell booze exceptions. Restaurants or hotels within 1.5 miles of the Blue Ridge Parkway are allowed to serve alcohol — a handy exception if you happen to be the Balsam Mountain Inn in the Balsam community of Jackson County, or a similarly situated establishment, but not much use otherwise.

Far more common, especially in Cashiers, is the golf-course exemption.

Sapphire Brewing Company has a public golf course, so under the law, anyone age 21 or older can stride right up to the bar and order a drink, the bartender explained.

“These are adults who want to sit and have a beer,” Powell said. “It’s not like these are underage kids.”

Donald Irvine, busy eating a BLT sandwich at the bar and washing it down with a cold brew, was one of the patrons there last week. He retired in 2005 and now travels regularly from his fulltime home in Tampa, Fla., to the second home he built in Cashiers. Irvine believes North Carolina’s ABC laws are a mishmash of confusion, and that Jackson County would be better off just passing countywide alcohol.

“I can just put up a tennis net and say, ‘I’m a sports club’ and sell alcohol,” he said in wonderment.

 

Selling memberships

Well, it’s not quite that easy, but it’s close — if you’ve got the cash to back the dream. In the Glenville community outside of Cashiers alongside N.C. 107, JJ’s Eatery qualifies as a sports club. Owners Jacqueline and Joel Smilack built two regulation-size tennis courts, and now they are running a bar and restaurant, BP gasoline station and a package store.

Never mind that JJ’s tennis courts are up a weedy, relatively unused-looking dirt road and out of sight — they are in fact used, they do in fact qualify the couple to legally sell alcoholic beverages, and the Smilacks are doing a brisk business indeed serving thirsty lake-goers and Glenville residents unwilling to hoof it off the mountain to buy beer.

To meet the state’s requirements for a sports club, the Smilacks charge $5 for a weekly membership or $50 for a year, with tennis court rentals extra at $15 an hour. Or, for the tennis lover in their midst, there’s a $75 annual membership option with unlimited court time.

Provide a name, address, date of birth and driver’s license number, sign on the line and you, too, can buy whatever you’d like to drink from JJ’s — the membership fee is automatically included in the prices of the alcoholic beverages you buy.

“That was the requirement from ABC to do what we do here,” Jacqueline Smilack said of the sports-club designation. “We don’t make the rules, we just have to abide by them.”

Heidi Taylor, who stopped into JJ’s last week to get a cool six-pack before heading out for a hot day on the lake, moved to Glenville just last year.

It was her first experience with a dry county, and at first she thought it meant exactly that. But she quickly learned the lay of the land.

“It is really not that much of a problem to buy alcohol,” Taylor said, easily ticking off half a dozen places where you can buy it, either to go or from a bar.

She personally made the $50 investment for an annual “membership” at JJ’s.

“It was nice. I didn’t have to drive all the way to Sylva,” Taylor said.

Still, Taylor, a Christian, doesn’t drink a lot herself. She kind of likes Jackson being a dry county with only limited places where you can get alcohol.

“I guess they didn’t want liquor stores on every corner,” Taylor said approvingly.

But in Cashiers, so-called clubs have proliferated so widely that to stay competitive Mica’s Restaurant & Pub offers lifetime membership at the bargain rate of just $1.

McElroy, in abidance with state regulations, has a stack of file drawers behind the counter reminiscent of the old card catalogs. The drawers are crammed with hundreds of membership cards, a visual testimony to the pent up demand for alcohol in this “dry” county.

McElroy sells beer and wine from a to-go shop, plus has a restaurant with a bar. His loophole? The establishment is affiliated with a country club golf course.

McElroy keeps his membership files handy should a state ABC officer pop in and ask to review them. Theoretically, ABC officers could walk into his bar and ask patrons to prove that they’re members. But no worries: If they don’t have their $1 lifetime membership card on them, a driver’s license will suffice as long as McElroy can go to his files and produce the records.

Other sports clubs in the area go the equestrian route to meet the requirement: providing equine boarding and training, plus on-site dining, lodging and meeting space and host horse trials and other events sanctioned or endorsed by the U.S. Equestrian Federation.

Or, like JJ’s, they have two or more tennis courts. Or, short of tennis, an 18-hole golf course.

Those unable to pay for expensive equestrian facilities, tennis courts or golf courses still find ways to accommodate their thirsty clientele. Four restaurants in Cashiers and Glenville currently have active brown-bagging permits, the state’s ABC database of permit holders shows.

 

‘Spot permits’

The law ended up like it did — messy — because businesses in historically dry areas such as greater Jackson County were seeking the revenue boosts alcohol sales could bring.

“Trying to get a county to vote 20 years ago is a lot different than it is today,” said Mike Herring, administrator for the ABC Commission. “Businesses who needed permits for economic development knew if they tried to go the vote route, they might not have a positive result.”

That resulted in “spot permits” being written and shepherded through the General Assembly by state legislators who were responsive to constituent demands. How responsive? Put it this way — the ABC Commission relies on a 25-page report to break down, county by county, who can legally do what.

“Every county is different,” Herring said, describing the report as a roadmap “that has grown over the years.”

Longtime state Sen. Robert C. Carpenter of Franklin, who represented the state’s western most counties from 1988 to 2004, wasn’t a soft touch for businesses looking to sell alcoholic beverages. An unapologetically conservative Republican and devout Christian, Carpenter disapproved of the end-run, as he saw it, that businesses were taking around the state’s ABC law.

“They never came to me, because they knew where I stood,” the 87-year-old said, who died this weekend two days after being interviewed by The Smoky Mountain News for this story. “It needs to be reformed. I remember when I was first elected a bill came up in Bryson City (for a business to sell alcohol). I called up the senate minority leader and told him, ‘We don’t need more liquor sold.’ He took it on, and he killed it.”

Times change, politicians move on — in Carpenter’s wake, a slew of local bills would indeed pass that blew open the door to legal alcoholic beverage sales in “dry” areas.

Luckily for local ABC boards, however, the politics of alcohol are removed from the requirements of overseeing sales in a county. That’s just fine with Veronica Nicholas, who has served on the board for about a decade.

Sylva’s Board of Commissioners appoints the three-member ABC board, though the town splits revenue from the ABC store 50-50 with the county. The amount collected by the town could drop if, as Jackson County Board of Commissioners Chairman Jack Debnam proposes, the referendum includes an ABC store for Cashiers — and it passes.

Still, Nicholas said, she believes “any time to take anything to the voters, I think it is a good thing.”

Staff writer Becky Johnson contributed to this report.

 

Loopholes galore

Even in dry counties, country clubs, golf courses, inns, bars and even gas stations can use one of several exceptions in the state ABC laws to serve alcohol.

• Historic ABC establishment

• Special ABC area

• Tourism ABC establishment

• Tourism resort

• Recreation district

• Residential private club

• Interstate interchange economic development zones

• National historic district

• Permits based on existing permits

• Sports club

The situation doesn’t look promising for the formation of a new wilderness area in the Nantahala National Forest, the dream child of Brent Martin, the Sylva-based Southern Appalachian program director for The Wilderness Society.

Martin envisioned easy political passage of the Bob Zahner Wilderness Area. He now acknowledges that his early optimism was misplaced. This veteran environmentalist remains puzzled, however, as to what exactly — politically speaking — happened to what he initially considered a “no-brainer.”

U.S. Rep. Heath Shuler, D-Waynesville, has promised to support the designation, but on this condition: the Macon County Board of Commissioners must first pass a resolution of support. That, however, isn’t likely to happen when the five-man board meets Feb. 8, with a vote for or against the resolution set to take place.

Nor is the vote breaking down along predictable party lines — Democrats for the proposal and Republicans against. In fact, the only certain “yes” vote at this point would be cast by a Republican — Board Chairman Brian McClellan, who represents the Highlands district near where the new Bob Zahner Wilderness Area would be carved out.

A survey of commissioners taken last week by The Smoky Mountain News revealed two flatly against the proposal: Democrat Ronnie Beale and Republican Ron Haven. Two say they are still studying the issue but have reservations about whether it deserves their support: Democrat Bobby Kuppers and Republican Kevin Corbin.

 

What’s at stake

Martin wants to see more wilderness areas designated in North Carolina. He believes in wilderness, he loves the idea of wilderness, and he makes no bones about his commitment to the concept of permanently protecting special areas in these mountains by having them designated wilderness.

A protected, designated wilderness rules out certain uses. Logging, of course. But also machines such as chainsaws and vehicles can’t be used, the biggest sticking point for new Macon County Commissioner Haven.

“There are residences near there,” he said. “What if there is a fire?”

Martin also has run up against fears that a road through the Overflow Wilderness Study Area might eventually be closed to vehicular use. This even though, he said, any local resolution by commissioners and legislation by Congress would specifically spell out that the road would remain open.

The Wilderness Society representative has gotten plenty of support for the concept, but probably not enough to overweigh a thumb’s down from county commissioners. Voting yes to the idea: The Highlands Town Board, Highlands Biological Station, Highlands-Cashiers Land Trust, Jackson-Macon Conservation Alliance, Western North Carolina Alliance and the N.C. Bartram Trail Society, among others.  

So, what happened?

That’s hard to pinpoint, frankly. Martin himself is unsure. In nearby Buncombe County, commissioners there supported his proposal to change the 2,890-acre Craggy Mountains Wilderness Study Area to designated Wilderness without so much as a murmur of protest.

• Did Martin underestimate the power of the word “wilderness” in the farthest reaches of Western North Carolina, where many natives remain emotionally bruised by the forced exodus of residents during the formation of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park — and, during World War II, by the creation of Fontana Lake in Swain and Graham counties and Lake Glenville in southern Jackson County?

• Did a forest service recalcitrant to more stipulations placed on forest-health management throw a monkey wrench in the works by raising questions about what a wilderness designation might really mean?

• Or, is the formation of a designated wilderness area simply unnecessary, as several of the commissioners indicate they believe to be the case, because the acres being eyed already have protection as a wilderness study area? As a study area, no road building and no timber management now.

Whatever the truth, Macon County Commission Chairman McClellan wants the issue resolved, and soon. He is more worried about what the $3.7 billion projected state budget shortfall might do to his county.

“We just need to make some kind of decision and move forward,” McClellan said.

 

 

Nuts and bolts

What: The 3,200-acre Overflow Wilderness Study Area southwest of Highlands would be designated the Bob Zahner Wilderness Area. The area is accessible by N.C. 106, Forest Service Road 79 (1.79 miles, accesses the popular Glen Falls trailhead), and the Bartram Trail.

The area contains the headwaters of the West Fork of Overflow Creek and ranges from 2,500 feet to 4,000 feet in elevation. It includes upland oak forest, with some cove hardwoods and white pine, according to the U.S. Forest Service, with most timber stands 60 to 80 years old. There is also old-growth forest in the area, conservations say. Heavy recreational use of the area includes fishing, hiking, camping and backpacking.

Why: The name suggested is in honor of the late Highlands conservationist Bob Zahner. The purpose is to protect this area permanently from logging and any kind of future development.

How: A Wilderness designation would require approval by the U.S. Congress, via legislation introduced by Rep. Heath Shuler, D-Waynesville. He wants Macon County commissioners’ OK, however, before doing so.

 

Timeline

1979: During the nationwide Roadless Area Review, the Overflow Area was recommended for “further planning.” This meant that additional review was necessary before the Forest Service could recommend the Overflow Area be designated wilderness.

1984: The N.C. Wilderness Act designated the Overflow Area as a Wilderness Study Area. This meant the Forest Service should conduct a wilderness study and make a recommendation to Congress.

1987: The Forest Land Management Plan for the Nantahala and Pisgah national forests recommended the area not be designated a wilderness Area. Usage directions were for semi-primitive, non-motorized recreation.

1991: A bill introduced by then U.S. Rep. Charles Taylor would have released the Overflow Area from the designation as a wilderness study area, but did not make it out of committee.

Source: U.S. Forest Service

Call Highlands home and you live in Macon County, right?

Not necessarily.

Some town of Highlands residents have discovered they actually live in neighboring Jackson County — which can make matters confusing, all the way from the voting booth to which county responds to a 911 call.

“Those folks could actually get a Highlands fire truck, Macon County ambulance and a Jackson County deputy,” said Warren Cabe, director of Macon County Emergency Services.

And with a general election just around the corner, election directors in both Macon and Jackson counties are starting to sort out which Highlands residents vote in what county.

“It is just confusing for everybody,” said Kim Bishop, director of the board of elections for Macon County. “For us, Jackson County, and all of the residents who are involved.”

The list that has been compiled shows 113 possible Jackson County voters living in the town of Highlands. But the number will probably prove much smaller when it is scrutinized address by address, said Lisa Lovedahl-Lehman, Bishop’s counterpart in Jackson County.

That is because it is often just the end of a road, or part of a road, that creeps over the line into Jackson County. A whole road might be questionable, but in reality, only a few residents on that road usually actually live on the Jackson side.

Prior examinations have shown about 25 people or so are residents of both Highlands and Jackson County.

Ultimately, however, only a few of those identified before the last general election even showed at the polls to cast their vote, Bishop said. Many of the people who live in Highlands, an upscale resort town, are seasonal residents who do not vote in North Carolina anyway.

During general elections, those Highlands residents living within Jackson County’s borders drive to nearby Cashiers to vote and also pay Jackson County taxes. During odd-numbered years, when a town election is held, these same residents vote in those elections in Highlands. This means these dual residents pay town taxes to Highlands and county taxes to Jackson.

The oddity was discovered in about 2001, Lovedahl-Lehman said, when mapping techniques and 911 technologies became more advanced. Address pinpointing became commonplace, and continues being refined, meaning more people might one day discover they live in a different county than they thought.

Over at the Macon County 911 and emergency services office, Cabe is crystal clear about what happens when an emergency unfolds at a residence that might or might not actually be within his county.

“We treat those people just like Macon County folks,” he said.

Emergency responders go to these houses without quibble or question.

Jackson County, Cabe said, kicks in some money every year to help support the fire department for serving its Highlands-based citizens. However, law enforcement — to respond to an official call — must have jurisdiction. So Jackson County deputies, not those from Macon County, must handle legal matters when they arise.

Macon County is no stranger to the difficulties blurry boundary lines can cause, and not just with neighboring counties, but the state of Georgia.

Luckily, the county’s emergency services and law enforcement offices have established close working ties with Jackson County officials and with their counterparts in Georgia.

As an example, residents of both Sky Valley (in Georgia) and Scaly Mountain (in North Carolina) jointly man Sky Valley-Scaly Mountain Volunteer Fire and Rescue. The people in that area are building a new fire station, which will also serve as a community building.

The Sky Valley-Scaly Mountain fire and rescue volunteers are dispatched independently by 911 offices located in both Macon County and Rabun County, Ga., Cabe said. The looking-after-your-neighbor concept extends even further.

The town of Sky Valley, population about 250, and Macon County, population just more than 33,000, are currently at work on a mutual-aid agreement. This is being drafted in the event a Sky Valley police officer traveling through nearby North Carolina sees an accident. N.C. 106, or Georgia State Route 246, zigzags across the state line five times.

“If they run up on something, they’ll be able to stop and help the people legally,” Cabe said. “They want to help.”

Sky Valley’s five officers are trained to the first-responder level. This is a national designation, so it encompasses all states.

In the event there is a question about which county — Macon or Rabun, Ga. — should send an ambulance, both always elect to send one. This means on occasion, two ambulances respond to emergencies along the state line.

“We have great mutual-aid agreements,” Cabe said.

Routers are used to siphon 911 calls to the proper designation. There is a router in Sylva, with a backup all the way in Durham, to sort out which Highlands phone calls go where. The same is true for the Nantahala community, which borders Cherokee County, though the router, in that case, is set up in nearby Andrews.

Thanks to a group of enthusiastic volunteers from the area, a new Patrick Dougherty sapling sculpture has been constructed at The Bascom Art Center in Highlands.

Dougherty constructs outdoor sculptures all over the world and has finished more than 200 major site-specific pieces, but has fashioned only a few in his own home state.

“Do Tell” is a 15-foot-high by 27-foot-wide by 21-feet-deep, sinuous woven stick monumental work of art.

The community is invited to drop by and admire the sculpture’s whirling shape, maze-like interior, and natural features that echo the landscape around it. Walk inside the sculpture, as the cavernous magical interior is part of the experience.

Made up of native hardwood species including maple, beech, birch, elm and hazel tree saplings, the wood sculpture took three weeks, 75 volunteers and over 800 volunteer labor hours to build and install. Four tractor-trailer-truck loads of hardwood tree saplings were collected at neighboring Highlands and Scaly farms.

All in all, more than six tractor-trailer loads of construction material were used in the final creation.

According to Dougherty: “The sculpture’s 15 sides or facets or facades have two eye-like or window openings at the top and mouth-like or door openings at the bottom. On each panel, there is a suggestion of a face. The sculpture’s facets or walls spiral inward. There is mystery in this piece. You cannot see it fully from one vantage point. This is a work of art that you must circle around and enter into in order to discover all of its features. The title ‘Do Tell’ suggests that mystery. ‘Do Tell’ invites the viewer to come closer and have a deeper experience.”

An idea is planted

In the 1980s, current Bascom Director Linda Steigleder saw a twig-works outdoor sculpture by Dougherty at The Phillips Collection in Washington, D.C., and was mesmerized. When Steigleder joined the staff of The Bascom, she introduced the idea of commissioning a work by this artist whose critical acclaim and talent have grown.

Volunteer and local artist Bo Sweeny has worked nearly every available work shift during the entire project.

“I was familiar with Patrick and his work from having seen it previously and was very impressed and I never thought I would have a chance to work with him,” said Sweeny. “This has been a chance of a lifetime.”

Bascom member and an accomplished artist Peggy Wilcox added, “I had seen Patrick’s work and became enchanted with it. I jumped at the opportunity to volunteer.”

Located in a green space next to the art center’s kiln barn, the impressive tree sapling structure is visually prominent from the moment you enter the campus through Oak Street or the art center’s main entrance off Franklin Road, the covered bridge. Dougherty’s sculpture will be on continuous view at The Bascom for at least two years or as long as the structure endures.

About the artist

Dougherty has created hundreds of monumental, site-specific sculptures around the world. His work is constructed from thousands of deciduous tree saplings and sticks gathered from local sources and shaped into massive, swirling forms as high as 40 feet. The artist loves the production phase of his work. “We are all hunters and gatherers,” Dougherty said. “It’s primal.”

In his work, Dougherty combines his carpentry skills with his love for nature. In the 1980s, he made small sculptural works, fashioned in his own North Carolina backyard and quickly moved from pedestal-sized pieces to monumental site-specific installations that require sticks by the truckload.

The Dougherty installation and sculpture, which took three weeks to construct, is made possible through tireless volunteer hours and the support of exhibition sponsors Mary Ann and Knox Massey.

For more information call 828.526.4949 or  www.thebascom.org.

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