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op frAlice Aumen, one of the owners of Cataloochee Ranch and a longtime tourism booster in Haywood County and Western North Carolina, hit the nail on the head: “It’s a vision problem.”

She was referring to the decision by Sen. Jim Davis, R-Franklin, not to support the proposed room tax hike for Haywood County because a small, vocal contingent of lodging owners and two town aldermen in Maggie Valley came out against it. Because everyone in Haywood would not support the hike, Davis allowed it to die in committee. That means hundreds of thousands of dollars for tourism-related capital projects will not find its way to Haywood County.

Even though an “overwhelming majority” of community leaders in Haywood County support a lodging tax increase, a state bill that would have done just that died in the state legislature last week.

The Haywood County historic courthouse in Waynesville will be completely re-landscaped by the end of this week, just in time for the official launch of the summer tourist season marked by Memorial Day weekend.

The county cut down all the large sugar maple trees from the courthouse lawn over the winter, and it has been barren ever since. The new landscape design calls for smaller trees and fewer of them.

The new trees will be planted in the nick of time for the first downtown street festival of the year this Saturday, although the lawn itself will take longer to restore.

Last week, county maintenance employees planted six Kousa Dogwood trees along the Depot Street side of the courthouse and a sugar maple on the right side of the historic courthouse, between it and the new justice center. 

The remaining plantings — two Yoshino Cherries, a Serbian spruce and a few shrubs —should be delivered by Wednesday (May 22 and promptly put in the ground.

“We will be ready to go,” said Dale Burris, county facilities and maintenance director. “It’s a simple fact of digging a hole and putting it in correctly.”

— By Caitlin Bowling

Financial challenges faced by rural hospitals show no sign of a turnaround, prompting MedWest hospital leaders to consider what was once a last resort.

MedWest hospitals are entertaining the idea of selling or merging with a larger hospital system that would bring a cash infusion to the table.

coverLights, camera … Haywood County? 

During the past two years, a local reality show has become a phenomenon that’s being broadcast into homes across the country and beyond. The program is “Hillbilly Blood: A Hardscrabble Life,” and it features Western North Carolina outdoor survival experts Spencer Bolejack and Eugene Runkis.

fr camphopeCanton leaders are already asking how they can do better making Camp Hope available to the public after a lawsuit threatened to seize the 100-acre forested tract and rustic camp quarters away from the town.

The number of homeless school children in Haywood County has risen by nearly 20 percent this year compared to last.

The county uses the definition of homelessness contained in the McKinney-Vento Act — any individual who lacks a fixed, regular and adequate nighttime residence. That could mean that the children are staying with a relative temporarily, in a hotel, sleeping in a car or at a shelter.

fr waynesvillesignsSigns are businesses’ equivalent to nuclear weapons.

“Everybody wants them, but you have to agree to live with them,” said Waynesville Town Planner Paul Benson. “I think what we need is a consensus on what is a reasonable approach.”

op frHaywood County commissioners drew a line in the sand. The Haywood County School Board decided not to cross it. In a nutshell, that’s what happened. 

But what was interesting was the spoken and unspoken back and forth between the two elected bodies about taxes and spending in this era of tight budgets and tax-hike phobia.

art frIt’s the sound of the ancient mountains, the unique people and rich culture of Southern Appalachia.

It’s the sound of Soldier’s Heart.

Filled with the musical attitudes of bluegrass, old-time country and early rock-n-roll, the band is influenced as much by Bill Monroe as The Band, as much by Johnny Cash as The Grateful Dead. It’s about creating something bigger than yourself, about embracing the deep roots of mountain music, incorporating it into modern times, and sharing it with those family and friends you care about most. 

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