The Transylvania Times -

Transylvania Records Another Big Year For News (July - September)

 

January 1, 2018

Ray Adams

Veterans, local officials and others on Aug. 25 attended the ribbon cutting ceremony for the Western North Carolina Military History Museum, which is located in the former county administration building beside the courthouse. The museum includes exhibits from various wars, including the trench warfare of World War I

Editor's Note: The following are some of the top news stories that appeared in The Transylvania Times during 2017.

JULY

•Sandy Blythe was sentenced to roughly six to eight years in prison after she pleaded guilty to the voluntary manslaughter of her husband, Tim Grant, on Dec. 5, 2015.

Blythe initially pleaded innocent in the case.

But after a lengthy investigation, the then 63-year-old Blythe was arrested on a murder charge in late January of 2016 following her confession to killing Grant after an argument between the two on Dec. 5 in the Little River area.

•Recently, on a hot and muggy summer afternoon, Transylvania County Honor Guard members gathered at a burial site in Pisgah Gardens Cemetery to honor a deceased military veteran.

The funeral party was delayed for almost an hour. Although these men and women were in uniform, most of them standing in the hot summer sun, nobody complained.

They were there to pay homage to a fallen comrade and creature comforts were irrelevant.

The Guard is comprised of veterans from all branches of the military, many of them veterans of Korea, Vietnam, Desert Storm and the war on terror.

•From the Outer Banks to the Blue Ridge Mountains, North Carolina has long been a destination for outdoor adventure and businesses alike.

As a $19.2 billion industry, outdoor recreation provides 192,000 jobs in North Carolina and is steadily growing.

Recognizing the importance of the outdoor industry to the state's economy, Tom Dempsey, president of SylvanSport, a recreational vehicle manufacturer based in Brevard, and several other industry leaders, have led the drive to establish a new state level position to promote North Carolina and assist in bringing new businesses to the state.

•In the 2017 state budget, about $5.3 million was earmarked for some major updates at the Bobby N. Setzer Fish Hatchery in Pisgah National Forest. The Setzer location provides about two-thirds of trout in local waters and is the largest recreation hatchery in the state.

The new Setzer hatchery project was still in the planning phase, according to Kyle Briggs, chief deputy director for North Carolina fish hatcheries. Of the $5.3 million earmarked in the budget, $4.5 million would be for new raceways, where the fish live, and $750,000 would be for a new building that houses the offices and young trout rearing tanks. Renovations would not impact the Pisgah Wildlife Education Center.

The hatchery's operation costs come from fishing and hunting license sales.

It's not clear how much the project may eventually cost and the $5.3 million was not a direct appropriation, but was simply an amount earmarked for the project.

•Contractual negotiations between the insurance provider Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina (BCBS) and Mission Health came to a stalemate on July 5, with each party blaming the other for failure to come up with a reasonable plan.

Mission Health, which oversees Transylvania Regional Hospital, delivered a notice of intent to terminate its contracts with BCBS if they fail to reach an agreement, which may result in Mission Health falling out of BCBS's network come Oct. 5.

Charles Ayscue, senior vice president, finance and chief financial officer at Mission Health, said it was BCBS's rate reductions that caused the stalemate between Mission Health and BCBS.

In a news release, BCBS said it was Mission Health that demanded "rate increases that we can't in good conscience ask our customers to pay."

•For the past few years, as far as trends in jobless rates, wages, population growth and other factors, Transylvania County has been performing better than its "peer" counties.

This was one of the findings from a presentation July 11 by Josh Hallingse, the Transylvania Economic Alliance's executive director, in his semi-annual report to county commissioners.

The Alliance is a public-private partnership that is largely funded by the county.

To establish the peer counties, the Alliance started with Transylvania's population and noted the next three counties in the state with higher populations - Macon, Bladen and Dare - and the next three with lower populations - Ashe, Cherokee and Montgomery.

•The City of Brevard received National Main Street Accreditation for the third year in a row for its downtown revitalization.

The accreditation is granted by the National Main Street Center, which is a subsidiary of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, a privately funded nonprofit organization that works to preserve historic places.

•A logging operation on 461 acres in the Courthouse Creek area of Pisgah National Forest was underway, but sedimentation in the Class C trout stream had some upset.

Photos taken during and after a rainstorm July 15 showed the water in Courthouse Creek, which is located off N.C. 215, brown and heavily muddied.

The Transylvania Times walked the project on July 18, after being told that there was no silt fence in place around the project, and verified no silt fencing was found.

The fencing was being installed July 19, according to Pisgah District Ranger Dave Casey. The logging project began in May, and a Robbinsville crew was doing the work.

•The victim in the deadly stabbing incident July 20 morning in Brevard was identified as 18-year-old Saul N. Ayala.

Ayala, who attended Brevard middle and high schools, had been living with his family in Florida, but was back in town staying with friends.

Two Brevard residents were initially charged with first-degree murder after the fatal stabbing on Washington Avenue, which is located off Silversteen Drive.

Chadley Tyrone Norris, 34, who gave a Carolina Avenue address, was arrested on first-degree murder and two other charges - failure to appear on a misdemeanor and a parole violation. Carolina Avenue runs parallel to Washington Avenue. Connell Dixon Hawkins, 28, who gave a West French Broad Street address, was also charged with first-degree murder.

James Alexander Ray, 20, of Wilmington, N.C., was later arrested and charged with first-degree murder.

Ray was also charged with failure to appear on a misdemeanor charge in connection with a case in New Hanover, N.C.

A fourth person, Nioka Faye Metcalf, 34, of Pisgah Forest, was also later charged with first-degree murder in connection with the case.

All four were issued no bonds.

•Unless challenged by a write-in campaign, Jimmy Harris would be elected to another four-year term in November as Brevard's mayor.

No one else filed to run for the office during the filing period.

Harris was first elected in 1999.

Also on the ballot on Nov. 7 would be three seats on City Council. Incumbent Mac Morrow was joined by Maureen Copelof and Jessica Gallagher.

Three seats on the Rosman Board of Aldermen would be on the ballot in November, as well.

Incumbents Jared Crowe and Missy Hendricks filed for another term. Incumbent Roger Petit did not, and the third alderman seat would be occupied by Deedra Shelton, unless there was a challenge from a write-in campaign.

•The body of 68-year-old Thomas Bryson, who was reported missing in Henderson County on July 26, was discovered in Buncombe County off Glenn Bridge Road on July 30, just before midnight.

Bryson, whose cause of death remained undetermined, went missing in the Mills River area, where investigators were conducting a manhunt for fugitive Phillip Michael Stroupe II, who was caught driving Bryson's truck, leading law enforcement to suspect Stroupe had played a part in Bryson's disappearance.

A member of the Skyland Fire and Rescue Department found Bryson's body in a field in Arden, concluding a five-day search.

The McDowell County Sheriff's Department took Phillip Michael Stroupe II into custody on July 27, though, according to the Henderson County Sheriff's Office, Stroupe did not speak to Bryson's disappearance.

The Transylvania County and Henderson County sheriff offices and multiple other agencies had been searching for Stroupe since Saturday, July 22, when a manhunt began for Stroupe in the Pisgah National Forest

AUGUST

•Phillip Michael Stroupe II was charged with the first-degree murder of 68-year-old Thomas Bryson, and District Attorney Greg Newman said he would seek the death penalty.

"I'm very comfortable in telling you that it would be an appropriate punishment upon conviction of a murder case in this matter," Newman said in a Aug. 1 press briefing.

•The Transylvania County Board of Education voted unanimously Aug. 7 to request a general obligation bond be placed on the general election ballot in November 2018.

The board, however, did not determine how much money for capital needs it would seek with the bond. That decision would be made at a later date.

"We've identified $93 million worth of (capital) needs in the school system that are legitimate needs," said Superintendent Dr. Jeff McDaris. "I don't think anybody is disputing that."

Board members said that by having the bond referendum during the general election it would allow them more time to communicate the school system's capital needs to local citizens.

•Love's Jewelry celebrated 45 years in business at its downtown location on East Main Street in Brevard.

Bart and Pam Love opened the doors as Love's Jewelry after purchasing Parson's Jewelers, which was in business for 36 years.

Daughter, Tracey, who now works at the store, was only 2 at the time the business began.

•The past few months, travelers along the Asheville Highway in Brevard had noticed surveyors beside the road busy at work. Some of the work they were doing was part of a big picture project aimed at reducing congestion and improving safety from the Food Matters grocery store to the Caldwell/North Broad split. Currently, a grass median stops at the grocery store heading west, but plans to continue the median all the way to the Caldwell/North Broad split were in the design phase.

Surveyors were doing the legwork that would eventually lead to possible roundabouts, new traffic lights and the installation of a median down the center of the five-lane.

•Deep Woods Camp owner Charles Edmund Kells Hogan pleaded no contest Aug. 16 to indecent liberties with a child and received a suspended sentence and probation.

An admission from the 79-year-old Hogan was recorded in July of 2016 using a "controlled phone call," a call made from a police station on a recorded line by the victim to Hogan, according to District Attorney Greg Newman.

Judge Charles Viser consolidated the two sentences into one.

"It's a three-year suspended sentence, with two years of supervised probation," Newman said. "As a part of that sentence, he has to register on the Transylvania County sex offender registration, and he can no longer operate his camp or others."

Hogan pleaded no contest to an incident that took place in 1991 with a boy who was attending the camp.

The camp was founded by Hogan in 1970 and was for boys ages 9 to 17, according to the camp's website.

•The local NAACP chapter gathered on the courthouse steps Aug. 17 to highlight the events that took place Aug. 12 in Charlottesville, Va.

"Brevard does not sit in a cocoon," said Tommy Kilgore, the president of the local National Association for the Advancement of Colored. "Brevard is not isolated; Brevard is a part of the world."

•In downtown Brevard a few minutes before the total solar eclipse at 2:37:22 p.m., Aug. 21, the world seemed to get a little quieter. When the totality arrived, cheers and clapping broke out among calls of "wow" and "cool."

And then, after months of preparation by local officials, and the excitement building among the public, it seemed like after just a few seconds, it was over.

The roads, which had been quiet for a few minutes for the viewing, again became busy as visitors headed down the Asheville Highway.

Prior to the totality at Brevard College, Kurt Pivko, of Durham, had bought a telescope and filter just for the event.

"I've seen a few sun spots, but mostly it looks like a big light bulb slowly being covered up," he said.

When the totality arrived, however, Pivko did not get to use his telescope because by the time he had removed the filter and tried to readjust to the eclipse, it was over.

•Though there was cloud cover during the eclipse, visitors at Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute (PARI) were able to catch quick glimpses of the eclipse behind the clouds.

And amid an overall excitement of seeing the sky becoming dark and the temperature dropping, and despite the cloud cover, the institute's 85-foot radio telescopes were still able to collect their data.

"We've been building up to this event for 20 years, and we've been planning many different experiments," said PARI President Don Cline. "With our radio telescopes, we will be collecting data from the sun's corona, and that has never been done before because of the proximity of the eclipse over the telescopes."

Cline said they were looking forward to the new data they retrieved from observing the corona, the aura, or "plasma," around the sun that can be seen during the eclipse.

•The Transylvania County Board of Education received news Aug. 21 that revenues from various sources were down in 2016 and more sources of revenue would be eliminated in the coming school year.

While discussing amendments to the 2016-17 school budget, Norris Barger said there was a $740,000 decrease in state funding, part of which was due to a bookkeeping error.

"Part of that was just a data entry error on my part," said Barger, who explained that he transposed a number earlier in the year. "I'll take the blame on that. That's the reason for the $500,000 decrease."

He also said some of the adjustments in the state funding were due to the county not receiving a budget from the state until after the school system began.

•Brevard City Council unanimously voted Aug. 22 to allow for the sale of alcohol at 10 a.m. on Sundays instead of noon.

On June 30, Gov. Roy Cooper signed N.C. Senate Bill 155 into law, which allowed bars and restaurants to serve alcohol at 10 a.m. on Sundays, leaving local governments with the option to approve the change.

•Visit North Carolina, the state's official tourism office, announced that domestic visitors to and within Transylvania County spent $94.62 million in 2016, an increase of 6.5 percent from 2015 and one of the highest percentage increases in the state.

•Kim Quang Le, 24, was fatally injured after falling 50 to 75 feet from the top of the waterfall at Moore Cove Falls in Pisgah National Forest on Aug. 23, according to Det. Chase Owen, with the Transylvania County Sheriff's Office.

"Witnesses state that the subject was climbing up the side of the falls and across the top of the falls before he fell," said Owen. "The male subject was with a group of four friends and was not from North Carolina."

•The Western North Carolina Military History Museum began with a Korean War U.S. M1 carbine rifle and Emmett Casciato's fascination with military history.

"It all started with that rifle I found at a gun show," said Casciato on Aug. 25 after the ribbon cutting for the museum's new home in the former county administration building beside the courthouse. "Then, I wanted to get a bayonet to go with it, then some metals and another weapon. I had always had an interest in military history, but I never pursued it like I have in the last 15 years."

•Pisgah Forest resident Joe J. Parker was selected by the 8,000-member Blinded Veterans Association (BVA) to serve as the organization's 41st national president.

The Transylvania County native and U.S. Navy veteran was elected by delegates representing more than 40 of the organization's regional groups nationwide. He will serve two consecutive one-year terms if re-elected next year.

•A Wake County judge denied convicted killer Jason Young's request for a new trial in the 2006 death of his pregnant wife, Michelle Young, according to the Raleigh News & Observer.

The Brevard High School graduate, who was currently serving life in prison without parole, argued that he should be granted a new trial because his defense team was ineffective.

But Wake Superior Court Judge Paul C. Ridgeway, in a 51-page ruling released Aug. 29, cited "strong circumstantial evidence" that established Young's guilt, along with "the impeachment of his alibi" and evidence of Young's conduct following the bludgeoning death of his wife.

•A renegade, car-chasing turkey was sighted paying frequent visits to Rosman Highway, wreaking mild havoc in traffic.

Many feared for its safety, as well as the safety of drivers, leaving people to wonder why it was there in the first place.

"We've responded several times and tried to catch it and get him out of the roadway," said Shawn Miller, deputy chief of the Brevard Police Department. "It's out in the road causing a traffic hazard, and we've tried to catch it, but it's pretty hard to catch a wild turkey."

SEPTEMBER

•Bradley Aaron Phillips of Charlotte was killed Sept. 7 after his 2016 Indian Scout motorcycle collided with a Toyota Yaris on U.S. 276 in Pisgah National Forest.

•Dozens of Floridians and people from other states in the projected path of Hurricane Irma were seeking refuge in Brevard and Transylvania County Sept. 8.

"We've had a high volume of calls from people looking for accommodations," said Emily Martin of the Brevard/ Transylvania Chamber of Commerce. "A number of them have been from hurricane evacuees."

Martin said any place with multiple rooms and beds was "pretty much filled."

•A nod to the volunteers who dedicated their free time to local public lands took place at the Sept. 8 Transylvania Natural Resources Council meeting, the first after a summer hiatus.

The council is a group of public land managers, concerned citizens and appointed members who meet to discuss the impacts and needs on public lands in Transylvania County and make recommendations to county commissioners.

Transylvania County is home to three different "Friends" groups, which are connected to DuPont State Recreational Forest, Gorges State Park and Pisgah National Forest, respectively.

•The remnants of Hurricane Irma left their mark on Transylvania County, dropping at least 4 inches of rain on parts, cancelling school Sept.12 and causing numerous power outages.

On the morning of Sept. 12, Haywood EMC, which provides electricity mostly in the county's Western end, reported that 5,669 of its 6,703 customers were without power.

•Charles Clayton Moore, a 67-year-old Sapphire resident, was indicted for two counts of first-degree sexual offense with a minor and seven counts of taking indecent liberties with a child.

•A discussion about the pros and cons of marijuana was held Sept. 14 by the C.A.R.E. Coalition at the Board of Elections.

Kristen Gentry, youth and community outreach coordinator for the C.A.R.E. Coalition, an organization whose goal is to reduce substance abuse and misuse in Transylvania County, said what "sparked" the forum was a survey they did showing trends in teenagers reporting that it was easier for them to obtain marijuana than it was for them to get alcohol.

•The new clubhouse at Lake Toxaway Country Club was reopened after a $7.1 million renovation.

The renovation, originally announced in October 2016, was the latest development in a line of property updates, including more than $10 million of golf course improvements since 2007.

•Ted Duncan, director of Brevard Academy: A Challenge Foundation Academy, informed the school's board of directors that the school received a grade of "B" on its state report card for 2016.

"We are officially a 'B' school," said Duncan. "It's a big pat on the back to our staff."

•A move to allow local victims of domestic violence get the support and the services they may need beneath one roof took a step forward on Sept. 19.

The Transylvania County Board of Commissioners voted during its rescheduled regular meeting for repairs to be made to the former elections building opposite the library and for a memorandum of understanding to be developed that would see the Transylvania County Family Resource Center housed there.

The Transylvania County Family Resource Center is the new name of the Domestic Violence Task Force, which was formed in June of 2016.

•Transylvania County Commission Chairman Larry Chapman announced during the Sept. 19 board meeting that he would not seek re-election in 2018.

Chapman will have served two terms on the all-Republican board when his current stint ends in 2018.

The seat currently held by Commissioner Kelvin Phillips will also be on the ballot.

•A Dunkin Donuts was planned for the former Clock of Brevard site off the Asheville Highway, with construction set to begin Oct. 2. The former Clock building would be torn down.

The John W. Abbot Construction Co., Inc., applied to the city for permission to build the popular restaurant.

 
 

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