Cars lined the sides of U.S. 19 in Bryson City Monday night as people tried to find their way inside the small Swain County Board of Elections office to attend a public hearing regarding Sheriff Curtis Cochran’s eligibility for office. 

When a teenage shooter shattered an otherwise normal day in Parkland, Florida, with gunfire and bloodshed, the ripples of fear and tragedy didn’t stop at the boundaries of the previously low-profile town. They spread throughout the country, ricocheting through the halls of far-away schools, homes and government buildings filled with folks asking themselves the same question — how can we make sure this doesn’t happen here? 

Growing up in Haywood County, Sheriff Greg Christopher certainly learned the value of hard work at his family’s farm and roadside produce stand, located just off U.S. 276 between Waynesville and Bethel. But that’s not all he learned there. 

On any given day, the Haywood County Detention Center is full of people suffering from substance abuse and/or mental illness — to the point where Sheriff Greg Christopher said it sometimes feels like his staff is running a mental health facility as opposed to a jail.

The Haywood County Sheriff’s Office has been awarded a $480,963 grant that will allow the department to hire four full-time patrol deputies to strengthen their ability to fight crime and to protect the well being of citizens in the community.

Macon County Sheriff Robbie Holland said he’s been trying for years to get commissioners to change the county’s personnel policy to allow him and the register of deeds to accrue personal time off hours like every other county employee.

By Greg Christopher • Guest Columnist

This time of year, as many people are counting their blessings, they also realize they want to publicly share their good fortune to others by ways of different acts of kindness — to family, friends and even complete strangers. Sometimes, it can be easy to take our good fortune for granted as our day-in and day-out routines take over our minds, so I want to use this Christmas and holiday season as an opportunity for a professional yet humble and thankful evaluation.

Swain County commissioners are considering possible locations for a law enforcement gun range after Sheriff Curtis Cochran explained the inconvenience of having to rely on the availability of ranges in other counties.

law enforcementWhen inmates of the Jackson County Detention Center committed suicide on Nov. 21, 2014, and March 13 of this year, the same two male jailers were on duty both days. One of those jailers has taken a voluntary demotion.

Beginning Sept. 1, Swain County Sheriff’s Office will have the authority to issue citations and fines for residents who have faulty alarm and security systems. 

Swain County commissioners approved a False Alarm ordinance several months go to address the timely and costly problem of responding to vacant houses when a security alarm is set off. Sheriff Curtis Cochran told commissioners the excessive false alarms were a burden on the sheriff’s department’s limited resources. The department responded to more than 1,000 security alarm calls in 2014 and a majority of them were the result of faulty alarm systems. 

The sheriff hopes the new ordinance will encourage part-time residents to update their security systems to prevent this problem in the future. Cochran assured commissioners his deputies would use common sense when enforcing the ordinance and take into consideration the elderly who may have problems working their systems. While he said warnings would be the first step, violators could be issued a $50 fine if deputies respond to a false alarm call at their home.

Residents can appeal a citation to the county manager and commissioners. 

“About 150 letters have been sent out to people we know have these alarm systems — the same ones who have been called before,” said County Manager Kevin King.

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