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Swain County voters are being asked this election whether they want a quarter-cent sales tax increase to help pay for school construction.

The quarter-cent sales tax would bring in roughly $250,000 a year and would pay for a $2 million expansion of East Elementary. The additional classrooms would let the school do away with “dilapidated” modular units that currently serve as classrooms to handle overcrowding, said County Manager Kevin King.

After about 18 months of construction, the $1.5 million Swain County Regional Business Education and Training Center is officially open for business, or education, or training for that matter.

“This facility will wear many hats,” said Swain County Commissioner Donnie Dixon at a ribbon-cutting ceremony held last week. “It will be a meeting place. It will be things we probably haven’t even thought of yet.”

Swain County might have to raise taxes or make budget cuts to keep its cash reserves from falling into unhealthy territory.

Swain County’s cash reserves are hovering around $1.6 million, barely above the state-recommended minimum. Independent auditor Eric Bowman recently warned the county that one capital project or one hiccup could quickly drop Swain County’s fund balance too low.

Just after the New Year, property owners in Swain County will find out just how well — or how poorly — their property weathered the real estate downturn.

Swain County is wrapping up a countywide property revaluation, where every home, lot, business and tract of land is appraised with an up-to-date real estate value. Property values in turn dictate how much someone pays in property taxes.

fr rescueWhen Rob Kelly climbed behind the wheel of a bus two Saturdays ago for a relatively routine assignment shuttling paddlers up and down the Nantahala River, little did he know he would soon be face to face with death and hold a fellow kayaker’s life in his hands.

fr fedcourthouseAlthough it has been spared for now, federal belt tightening could eventually lead the government to close its federal court site in Bryson City, which serves as the only one west of Asheville.

Swain County is outsourcing medical care for inmates at the county jail to an independent firm that specializes in the niche field of health care for prisoners, and move the county hopes could save several thousand dollars a year.

The county currently spends between $105,000 and $150,000 on health care for its inmates each year. The new contract with Southern Health Partners could mean a savings of $20,000 annually.

fr steamengineSwain County leaders have pledged $700,000 to help the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad expand its already bustling operations in Bryson City.

It’s a long wait for residents of Nantahala in Macon County when they dial the Sheriff’s Office.

Deputy response time to the small community of Nantahala from the sheriff’s office in Franklin can take up to 30 minutes, which is why Sheriff Robbie Holland wants to expand his force and station someone in Nantahala fulltime, but that too has been a long time coming.

coverThe steep-walled gorge of Nantahala River may be one of the best spots to host a world class, extreme kayak competition — at least that’s what the organizers of the upcoming 2012 International Canoe Federation Freestyle World Cup final are hoping.

The competition, slated for Sep. 7-9 in front of the Nantahala Outdoor Center, will feature over more than freestyle kayaking, squirt-boating and canoeing athletes from more than a dozen countries, including Australia, Costa Rica, Slovakia, Japan and Russia. But the secret to making the river a churning pool of boat acrobatics and assorted water moves is hidden beneath the surface.

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