The Transylvania Times -

A Look Back To The Year In News – Transylvania County, NC

 

Last updated 12/30/2020 at 5:42pm

Earlier in the year, the school system released (above) a conceptual drawing of the entrance to Brevard High when construction is completed. There will be one entry in the front with administrative offices, including one for the school resource officer, to the right of the entry.

Editor's Note: The following are some of the top stories in The Transylvania Times that appeared between January and June of 2020.

July through December will appear in Monday's paper.

JANUARY

•The Board of Directors of United Way of Transylvania County (UWTC) announced it would dissolve the organization after it distributed its remaining funds to the 15 local programs to which it had been committed.

The 15 programs were connected to 53 agency partners. UWTC leadership cited a changing climate of philanthropy, reduced donations and a myriad of new options for people to donate to charitable organizations.

"This is a very difficult decision," said Terry Decker, UWTC board chair. "However, in the end, we believe that it's in the best interest of the community for us to 'pass the torch' to other organizations to continue the community programs."

•Deceased former Catholic priest Andre Anthony Corbin Jr., who spent time in Brevard in the 1960s, was among those named in a list published by the Catholic Diocese of Charlotte of 14 clergy accused of child sexual abuse in Western North Carolina.

Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Brevard was one of the locations where "credible allegations of abuse" occurred in the 1960s involving Corbin, according to the Charlotte diocese's accountability website.

Corbin was assigned to Sacred Heart Catholic Church from 1966-1967, and, according to Patricia Guilfoyle, with the Charlotte Diocese's news outlet, Catholic News Herald, Corbin may have been a part-time pastor at the time as he was serving other small churches in the area as well.

"What we're really hoping is that through the publication of this information is if there is anyone in those communities who may know something, or possibly were abused, that they are encouraged to come forward," Guilfoyle said.

•Transylvania Habitat for Humanity committed to build 10 new Habitat homes in Rosman.

An anonymous donor contributed more than half the funds necessary to buy the land and add the infrastructure to make the dream of homeownership possible for 10 local low-income families.

•The Blue Ridge Community College Educational Foundation received a $1.75 million bequest from the estate of Liselotte R. Wehrheim.

The bequest would provide scholarships and other program support for health care training programs at Blue Ridge Community College. The gift was the largest single gift from an individual in the college's history.

Wehrheim passed away in Tryon in August of 2019 at the age of 103. She grew up in Germany, where she studied nursing and served as a nurse in World War II. She moved to the United States in 1954, where she continued in her nursing profession before retiring with her husband in North Carolina.

•On Jan. 13 another large number of residents attended a Transylvania County Board of Commissioners' meeting to raise concerns about the proposed Dollar General store off U.S. 276. And just like in December they were told the county was limited in what it could do.

A permit for the construction of a Dollar General near the intersection of Becky Mountain Road and U.S. 276 was filed with the Transylvania County Building Permitting and Enforcement office.

To be approved, among other things, septic and floodplain regulations would need to be met. If constructed, the building would be 9,100 square feet and 18 feet high, with an estimated project cost of $441,050.

•The N.C. Environ-mental Protection Agency (EPA) issued several subpoenas to City of Brevard employees to appear before a grand jury, with the U.S. Attorney's Office in Charlotte in charge of the investigation, according to a press release from the city.

In the release, City Attorney Michael Pratt said the U.S. Attorney's office "has indicated that criminal charges may be filed against the city and/or at least one employee for disposing of firing range dirt in an improper fashion."

The dirt in question related to the EPA investigation was allegedly contaminated with lead and was allegedly disposed of at the Transylvania County landfill in 2016 by city employees.

There had been a berm, or raised shelf dirt, at the law enforcement shooting range on Wilson Road, closed in 2015, located near the Wastewater Treatment Plant.

The berm was removed to allow for the construction of the equalization tank in May 2016.

•The water was safe to drink in the town of Rosman, according to a message on the Rosman Town Hall Facebook page.

On Jan. 17 another Facebook post said lightning had struck the town's water pump and work was underway to fix the break.

The initial advisory, which was released Jan. 16, stated, "The water consumers of the Town of Rosman in Transylvania County are experiencing periods of low pressure and outages in the distribution system due to water line leaks and pump outages. Periods of low or no pressure in the distribution system increases the potential for back siphonage and introduction of bacteria into the water system."

•During the annual Brevard/Transylvania Chamber of Commerce Gala, the Business Person of the Year award went to Bruce Stewart, owner of Lola's and The Ktchn.

Dugan's Pub was named Business of the Year. Dottie Tinsley received the Esther Wesley Award. The Non-Profit of the Year award went to the Connestee Falls Student Scholarship Program.

•Brevard Music Center announced its upcoming season, which typically lasts from May Until August and brings 40,000 music lovers to its campus.

Among the concerts and events planned were a 250th birthday Beethoven celebration and the inaugural season of BMC's new Parker Concert Hall.

The season also was set to include 500 young musicians on campus alongside a roster of guest artists and faculty.

•Brevard and Transylvania County should be healthier than they are, according to Margaret Adamek, a food policy expert with the Blue Zones Project.

The Blues Zones Project is an initiative that seeks to makes healthy choices easier through permanent and semi-permanent changes to a community's built environment, policy and social networks.

Last year, Brevard was chosen as the 50th community to be a Blue Zones Project.

Though Transylvania County ranked ninth in the state for health factors and behaviors, it ranked 22nd for health outcomes and 32nd for social and economic factors that influence health.

•Rosman High School held its annual Miss Bengal Pageant. Callie Owen was crowned Miss Bengal. Leanna Kitchen was third runner up, Landyn Stewart was second runner up and Madison Henson was first runner up.

FEBRUARY

•Within 24 months, Brevard College said it planned to have a new 52-bed residence hall, a new stadium to house the Brevard College football team's move to on-campus games, a new facilities and maintenance building, a new field house for athletic teams, a new road to create an entrance to the college from Neely Road, air conditioning in Beam and East Jones residence halls and a new WLEE facility in the converted campus barn.

"It's an exciting time for the college," said Brevard College President David Joyce. "And a lot of it has been predicated on our growth. We have the highest enrollment number we've ever had as far as we know in our history, and we know that we're going to continue to grow because our persistence in graduation numbers are increasing significantly."

In August the college reported an enrollment of 751 students.

•The final report on the public health investigation into an outbreak of Legionnaires' disease in people who attended the N.C. Mountain State Fair held Sept. 6–15, 2019, at the Western North Carolina Agricultural Center was released by the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services

The investigation determined the outbreak of Legionnaires' disease was likely caused by exposure to Legionella bacteria in aerosolized water from hot tubs on display during the fair.

•Though he was 8 years old and had a touch of cataracts, Pisgah Pete persisted in his prognostications Feb. 2, incorrectly choosing the San Francisco 49ers as Super Bowl winner, as well as forecasting six more weeks of winter.

Pete made his predictions during the sixth annual "White Squirrel Day" at Mayberry's on West Main Street in Brevard.

•All of the necessary submittals for local regulations have been received, according to County Manager Jaime Laughter, and permits under county jurisdiction have been issued for the construction process to begin on the proposed Dollar General store near the intersection of Becky Mountain Road and U.S. 276.

Laughter said she didn't know, however, the status of any state/federal requirements the project may face.

The local permits approved included well and septic, building and floodplain.

The well and septic tank permits were subject to state codes and were administered locally through Environmental Health in the county Public Health Department.

•On Feb. 3, central office personnel and school principals told the Transylvania County Board of Education the current mental health services were not meeting the needs of all the students and the school system would be better handling the services itself.

"We've got a lot of struggling, young people," said Superintendent Jeff McDaris.

"We're coming up on a crossroads," said Kerry Putnam, director for Exceptional Children.

Putnam said the school system has had five different private mental health services providers since the 2006-07 school year. The current provider was Meridian.

When Meridian took over in 2014-15, there were seven support clinicians for day treatment. Currently there were three-and-a-half support clinicians for grades K-5 but there was no support for middle school students.

•With the passing of 97-years-old Gil Coan on Feb. 5, Transylvania County lost a local legend and Major League Baseball lost a piece of its history.

At the time of his death, Coan was the third-oldest living former Major League Baseball player, having played in 918 games in the majors from 1946 to 1956.

During his MLB career, Coan played for the Washington Senators, the Baltimore Orioles and the Chicago White Sox before finally ending his career with the New York Giants.

•A public relations firm called Gibbins Advisors met with community exasperation at a town hall meeting in Brevard Feb. 11 regarding what many reported as a reduction in quality of care at Transylvania Regional Hospital, now owned by HCA Healthcare.

The meeting was held at the Unitarian Universalists of Transylvania County, where people asked questions and made comments about their experiences at TRH since HCA's acquisition.

•On Feb. 10, the U.S. Forest Service released the long-awaited draft of the Pisgah-Nantahala Forest Plan Revision, which had several changes from the current plan.

The document was long and complex, and was accompanied by appendices and a draft environmental impact statement (DEIS), which evaluated every possible impact the plan would have on the forests' resources. Officials stressed the importance of public involvement in this stage as the finalized plan will be the guiding document for the next 10-15 years of forest management, and the Forest Service needs forest users to speak up now if they wished to have their interests considered.

Unlike previous forest plan revision processes, the Forest Service asked for input from different interest groups from the start rather than at the point of public comment.

•Transylvania County Commission Chairman Mike Hawkins and Vice Chairman Page Lemel were certified to appear on the ballot for the November general election, according to Director of Elections Jeff Storey.

Hawkins and Lemel each obtained in excess of the required 1,004 petition signatures of registered county voters, and Storey confirmed the certification in emails to Hawkins and Lemel on Feb. 14.

The two commissioners were required to petition for inclusion after their December announcement of their change in political registration from Republican to Unaffiliated.

Commissioner David Guice also became Unaffiliated in December but was not up for election in 2020.

•Chad Roberson and Sara Melanson of the architectural firm Clark Nexsen presented the schematic designs for Brevard High and Rosman High/Middle schools to the Transylvania County Board of Education on Feb. 17.

Roberson said the architects kept four goals – safety, relationships that promote collaboration, options that provide a variety of learning environments and an attractive design that inspires creativity and discovery – in mind when designing the final schematics.

"One of the biggest goals was maintaining safe spaces," said Roberson.

As a result, there is only one entrance into the Brevard High campus and two entrances directly across from each other at the Rosman High/Middle campus while there are numerous exits that only can be opened from the inside.

•Derek Shawn Pender-graft, 22, was sentenced to life in prison for the murder of his 29-year-old coworker Sara Ellis at the Pisgah Inn in 2018.

"When a life is cut short at the hands of another individual, no prison sentence is ever long enough to make things right for the victim's loved ones," said Andrew Murray, the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina. "The sentence will not bring back Sara to her family and friends who miss her and think about her every day, but it is my sincere hope that everyone impacted by this heinous crime can find solace in knowing that Sara's killer will never walk free among us again."

MARCH

•Transylvania County officials, educators and health care providers had been preparing the local response efforts in the wake of the global coronavirus outbreak for weeks, but the risk of contracting the virus in the county was "very low," according to Tara Rybka, Transylvania Public Health's public information officer.

She said the situation was evolving rapidly and that county officials were updating protocols for responding to a disease outbreak.

As of March 2, North Carolina did not have any confirmed cases of the coronavirus, while in the U.S. there were 88 cases of those confirmed to have the virus and two deaths.

Representatives from Transylvania Public Health (TPH), Emergency Management, 911-Emergency Communication, EMS, Animal Control, the Sheriff's Office, Transylvania Regional Hospital and regional public health specialists met for an "Epi Team" meeting to discuss the coronavirus and how to coordinate a response in the event of the disease spreading to Western North Carolina.

•Transylvania Public Health confirmed one case of whooping cough at Brevard Academy.

Brevard Academy Director Ted Duncan sent out a letter alerting parents to the case on March 1, and children who were identified as having close contact with the diagnosed student were notified in a separate letter.

•From the March 12 edition: For many Americans, COVID-19, or the coronavirus, has loomed in the distant periphery like the ominous cloud of Third World poverty and foreign war, but for locals Victoria and Jose Galan, it has quickly become an unsettling reality.

To celebrate their 2019 retirement from Miami-Dade County government and their move to Brevard, they took a cruise to Hawaii on the Grand Princess Cruise ship. On their returning excursion, when they were scheduled to stop in Mexico, reports of people testing positive for the coronavirus, and one death, led to a lockdown.

"Coronavirus was way out there in my mind a month ago," Victoria said. "When my mom knew we were going on the cruise she asked me, 'What about the coronavirus,' and I just thought she was overreacting."

Then, the threat of coronavirus began to "permeate everything."

"On (March 5), on day 10 of the cruise, they ordered us to retreat to our cabins and stay there because people were exhibiting flu-like symptoms," Victoria said.

The World Health Organization declared the coronavirus outbreak a global public health emergency on Jan. 30 and a global pandemic on March 11.

•Transylvania County native Carl Conley Jr. was certified earlier in the month to appear as an Unaffiliated candidate on November's ballot for the Board of Commissioners.

Conley received the required 1,002 signatures needed on a petition and was verified by the county's Board of Elections.

•Washing hands may not seem "like a big deal," but it is, according to Elaine Russell, as local health officials prepare for the impact of COVID-19, or the coronavirus.

During the Board of Commissioners' meeting March 9, Russell, the county's Public Health director, gave an update on the virus, how to avoid catching it and efforts by local officials to deal with its impact.

A minimum of 20 seconds should be spent several times a day thoroughly scrubbing hands with soap under running water, she said.

"It makes a difference," she said.

She described the current situation with the virus as like "drinking from a fire hose," calling it a "rapidly evolving situation."

•Transylvania County Manager Jaime Laughter announced March 11 that Kimberly "Kim" Bailey was selected as the county's Emergency Medical Services director.

Bailey had been serving as the interim Emergency Medical Services director since the previous director resigned in November of 2018.

Bailey had served Transylvania County for 20 years within the Emergency Medical Services department, serving in the roles of paramedic, shift supervisor and training officer.

•In an effort to deter the spread of COVID-19, Transylvania County Schools (TCS) announced March 14 that TCS schools – along with public schools across the state – would be closed for at least two weeks beginning March 16.

The decision was made under the direction of Gov. Roy Cooper in conjunction with the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Public Instruction, and the State Board of Education.

As of March 16, there were no confirmed COVID-19 cases in Transylvania County, according to a county press release. Emergency Management and Public Health continued to work with state and federal systems to keep information current and to confirm plans to respond should a local outbreak occur.

•Supermarket shelves were bare in some places, and local restaurants were feeling the impacts of coronavirus preparedness in the county, but the most concerning of any shortages in the community were at area hospitals and health care providers.

"There are providers that are experiencing shortages of personal protective equipment," said Tara Rybka, public information officer with Transylvania Public Health. "Things like gloves and masks and face shields.

"Their vendors are not able to ship those items, and our health care providers need to be able to wear those."

•At a time when small businesses were facing bleak economic outlooks, a consortium of local organizations came together to try and guide business owners through what looked certain to be a tenuous next few months.

On March 18, the Heart of Brevard announced that along with other local business organizations, it would be forming the COVID-19 Transylvania Business Support Task Force.

•With the COVID-19 outbreak forcing government mandates limiting crowd size and eliminating sit-down service, there was arguably no industry facing the brunt of that impact more than restaurants.

On March 18, as per an executive order from N.C. Gov. Roy Cooper, bars and restaurants were no longer allowed to provide dine-in service, beginning at 5 p.m.

That decision forced local owners to quickly adapt their business model to try and stay open, while others ultimately chose, or were forced, to shut down their operation.

•Transylvania County Schools begun implementing virtual days and providing food to students throughout the county.

"We have a schedule for (food) delivery to different locations around the county, and we are working to match pick-up of meals at the schools themselves with elementary students' materials that will need to go out for virtual day work beyond March 20," said Superintendent Jeff McDaris.

The school system began using the same process on March 17.

•On March 18, Transylvania County Schools began providing a combination of pick-up and delivery options to feed all children ages 18 and under in the community. Parents and guardians had an opportunity to use either method, and the service would continue based on the interest of families in using it.

•As of March 18, there were no confirmed cases of coronavirus in Transylvania County, and Transylvania Regional Hospital was performing testing for coronavirus.

Statewide there were 66 cases as of March 18, up from 40 on March 17. The jump was largely attributed to 15 Duke University students who had just returned from Europe,.

•Transylvania County public health officials said Transylvania residents must act as though the coronavirus was already around us, and heed recommendations to remain 6 feet apart from one another, keep gatherings of people small and infrequent, and limit daily activities in the community as much as possible.

"We are in this critical ... period right now, where if we will make a commitment to the social distancing measures and really ratchet down our lives in terms of social exposure, we can make an impact in how far and wide this virus spreads," said Transylvania County Public Health Director Elaine Russell said. "And that's extraordinarily important." "When we look at the rate at which the cases in the U.S. are growing, we see that we're on a similar trajectory to Italy," said Tara Rybka, the county's Public Health information officer.

•At 1 p.m. on March 20, Board of Commissioners Chairman Mike Hawkins declared an "official State of Emergency for Transylvania County."

As well as making the declaration, Hawkins addressed county residents in a letter, where he said a State of Emergency "is a tool which gives government some flexibility in responding to unusual circumstances."

•Transylvania Public Health received notice March 22 that a Transylvania County resident had tested positive for COVID-19, according to the county's Public Health Department.

The person was doing well and was in isolation at home.

The resident had not had close contact with a confirmed case and had no relevant travel history. Transylvania Public Health nurses were identifying close contacts of this person to monitor fever and respiratory symptoms.

To protect individual privacy, no further information would be released.

•During the March 23 Board of Commissioners meeting, Public Health Director Elaine Russell gave a COVID-19 briefing, calling it a "rapidly evolving situation," with recommendations and resources that are changing every several days.

She said the situation was transitioning from travel-linked and lab-confirmed cases to a "community acquired dynamic."

Russell went on to give an overview about Transylvania Regional Hospital's (TRH) capacity and equipment, COVID-19, who is at greatest risk, testing information, current responses by officials and prevention tips.

•Just after noon on March 25, Transylvania Public Health officials confirmed a second resident tested positive for the novel coronavirus, COVID-19.

TPH public information officer Tara Rybka said the second case of COVID-19 in the county was associated

with travel.

•Visitor numbers in the state and national forests resembled that of peak summer over a weekend in mid March, but Transylvania Public Health Director Elaine Russell said that if people continued to ignore the calls for social distancing, the county's health care resources, and those beyond the region, would suffer disastrous consequences.

"If we do not get this curve flattened, the spread and impact of COVID-19 is going to overwhelm our already very taxed hospital and clinical systems," she said. "We do not have sufficient ventilators. We do not have sufficient ICU beds for everyone to get sick at one time. But everybody continuing to go out and socialize and do their thing, this wave of COVID is going to hit our already taxed hospital and medical systems and our medical providers in one wave and it's not going to be able to handle it."

•On March 23, the Board of Commissioners voted in favor of sending a letter requesting the "full closure of the forests and parks within our county, if necessary, during this initial 'flattening the curve' phase of COVID-19 mitigation."

•On March 24, it was announced DuPont State Recreational Forest and Holmes Educational State Forest would be temporarily closing to the public. On March 25, Gorges State Park did the same.

•Gov. Roy Cooper ordered North Carolina residents to stay at home for 30 days, until April 29, in another step to slow the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus.

Cooper's Executive Order No. 121 took effect at 5 p.m., March 30, and reduced the size of gatherings to 10 people.

The order provided for essential businesses to continue to operate while prioritizing social distancing measures.

•Transylvania County announced that effective March 30 the county would be implementing ways to serve citizens with social distancing measures and limiting contact when possible.

The effort was intended to help slow the spread of COVID-19 in the community while still meeting the service mandates that citizens require.

APRIL

•After careful analysis of the continued global, regional and local impact of COVID-19, the Brevard Music Center trustees unanimously voted to cancel its Summer Music Festival, which had been scheduled for May 30 to Aug. 22.

The Brevard Music Center also canceled all educational programming during the summer of 2020.

"This is an unprecedented event in the Brevard Music Center's 84-year history," said President and CEO Mark Weinstein. "But in these uncertain times, our singular focus and guiding light must be the health and safety of our students, faculty, patrons, staff and the entire Brevard community."

•The Centers for Disease Control announced updated guidance recommending wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (e.g., grocery stores and pharmacies), especially in areas of significant community-based trans-mission.

This change came after recent studies had shown that people who do not have symptoms can transmit the virus.

•Foreseeing the unsheltered population increasing because of unemployment, Emily Lowery, executive director of The Haven, wanted to create a sanctuary, with amenities, such as hand-washing stations and showers for the homeless currently not being sheltered.

"If we don't do this, this will be one way that it spreads, because they don't have any way to maintain their hygiene," Lowery said. "I would really like it if I could land one of the hotels, or an empty summer camp, since they are closed – if they would be open to it – to housing folks, because I don't want to take people off the street who could be infected, and then infect the residents."

Any new residents, she said, would have to be quarantined for 14 days before coming to The Haven.

•The U.S. Forest Service temporarily shut down areas in the Pisgah National Forest, while officials at DuPont State Recreational Forest and Gorges State Park dealt with the fallout after both properties were recently closed to the public.

•On a typical Thursday morning at SylvanSport you would expect to find teams busy at work putting together the latest piece of outdoor camping equipment for which the Brevard-based company is widely known.

But inside the warehouse on April 2, there was no clanging of metal. No chatter on the floor.

Instead, employees sat at long rectangular tables, spaced equidistance apart, adorning face masks.

They were still hard at work, but on this day, instead of recreational gear they were producing much-needed personal protective equipment (PPE) to distribute in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

It was just another sign of how quickly life had changed in the era of coronavirus.

•Members of the Transylvania County Board of Education were told April 6 via teleconference about the multiple ways COVID-19 has affected instruction, standardized testing, grading and academic goals within the school system.

Curriculum Director Missy Ellenberger said state assessments were waived for nearly all of the standardized tests students take at the end of the year.

In elementary schools, all of the end-of-year or end-of-grade standardized tests and assessments, including the fifth grade science test, were waived.

In middle school, end-of-grade tests for language and math in grades 6-8, the NCFE (North Carolina Final Exams) for social studies and science in grades 6-7 and end-of-grade test in science and Math I for students in eighth grade were waived.

In high school, end-of-course tests in 10th grade English, biology and Math I, as well as NCFE tests in 9th, 11th and 12th grade English, Math II and Math III, pre-calculus, physical science, chemistry, physics, world history, civics, American history I and II and CTE post-assessment were waived.

•As of April 7, Transylvania County had been notified of 96 tests for COVID-19: six positive, 75 negative, 13 pending and two cancelled by the lab.

•With summer camp season arriving in June, camps were planning to open but had a wait-and-see approach to the constantly changing situation regarding COVID-19.

"Overall, I would say that we all want to operate as much of our summer as we are possibly able to operate," said Page Lemel, director at Camp Keystone and a county commissioner.

•Though drive-thru services, automated teller machines, online banking, regular hours and more complex banking transactions through special appointment remained accessible, lobbies were closed in each bank in Transylvania County.

•The Transylvania Community Arts Council announced Joy Poe as its new executive director.

In her position, Poe will oversee numerous art events, cultural offerings and art education programming provided by Transylvania County's nonprofit arts organization.

•No one was injured after emergency services re-sponded to a plane crash at 11:26 a.m., April 9, at Transylvania Community Airport.

According to a statement given to N.C. Highway Patrol from the aircraft's 67-year-old pilot, a gust of wind lifted the aircraft's left wing while he was landing the plane.

He was not injured in the accident.

•Gaia Herbs, which is the leading herbal supplement brand in the U.S., announced it had shifted production on its herbal supplements to fulfill the shortage of hand sanitizer that was needed for first responders and health care workers.

The brand had started creating an herbal, CDC-approved hand sanitizer that would be donated to hospitals and those on the front lines during the first week of May.

•The Transylvania Business Task Force launched Transylvania Tomorrow, an initiative to assist Transylvania County's small businesses that had been negatively impacted by the recent public health crisis. A central element of the Transylvania Tomorrow initiative was the development of a Small Business Emergency Relief Fund.

•In alignment with federal, state and local guidance for social distancing and to ensure health and safety of its employees, visitors and volunteers, Pisgah National Forest temporarily shut down dispersed camping and a number of roads and trails.

•Social distancing, restrictions on businesses and other areas slowed COVID-19's spread – flattening the curve – so that fewer people needed to seek treatment at a given time, said Transylvania Public Health Director Elaine Russell.

During a presentation April 15 to the Board of Commissioners, Russell highlighted, for one, the community's efforts to slow the virus.

She said it was the community's "support" of social distancing, limited gatherings, good hand washing and cough covering that had played their part. Another positive was the "adherence to self-isolation" for those confirmed or suspected of exposure to the virus.

•Second-home owners in Transylvania County whose permanent residence was outside the county would receive a letter from the Board of Commissioners asking them to consider not coming to the county during the "remainder of this pandemic phase."

Commissioners unanimously approved sending the letter , emphasizing that it was a voluntary request.

•Local pharmaceutical manufacturer Pisgah Labs saw its pivot to producing hand sanitizer "go viral" after just one week of offering the product.

"We called locally. We called different businesses...and put together an order sheet and started sending it out," said Dani Bailey, site manager for Pisgah Labs. "All of these businesses are sharing it with the businesses they work with, and then those businesses were sharing it. It's kind of done the Facebook thing...You know, a vast majority of the calls that we're getting now are people who we didn't even contact to begin with."

Pisgah Labs started sending out product on April 13.

•The Brevard Academy: A Challenge Foundation Academy Board of Directors unanimously approved a distance learning plan April 15 in response to the school being closed due to COVID-19.

School Director Ted Duncan said during the first week of required distance learning, the teachers produced a lot of assignments and some of the parents were overwhelmed by the number of assignments.

He said the staff reviewed reasonable assignments and grading procedures.

•The U.S. Census Bureau commenced its decennial survey of the population in March, but its field operations were halted, deadlines extended and method of response moved online due to COVID-19.

As of April 13, over 70 million households had responded, according to the bureau, representing over 48 percent of all households in America.

•Brevard City Manager Jim Fatland recommended no property tax increase for the 2020/2021 fiscal year, which would begin July 1.

Brevard City Council met in the County Administration building, where the meeting was live streamed for viewing to follow Gov. Roy Cooper's Executive Order prohibiting gatherings of more than 10 people.

In the meeting, Fatland presented his ideas on how to approach the budget given the impact of COVID-19.

"Normally, the manager presents the proposed budget at the regularly scheduled meeting in May, but I'd like to share it with council now why we are doing certain things," he said. "We are recommending that the revenue projections be lowered by $200,000. Two, we are recommending no increase in trash or recycling fees."

He suggested budgeting the proposed sales tax at the 2010-11 level, which would reduce sales tax revenue by $700,000, with no budgetary transfers to the utility fund for reimbursement of the general fund.

•On April 23, Gov. Roy Cooper issued Executive Order No. 135, extending North Carolina's Stay At Home order through May 8. The orders extending closure of restaurants for dine-in service and bars and closure of other close-contact businesses were also extended through May 8.

•The construction of the Dollar General on U.S. 276 was alleged to threaten an endangered species, the Elktoe Mussel, which would be a violation of the Endangered Species Act (ESA), according to a letter from an environmental group in South Carolina that warns of a lawsuit.

In the letter addressed to Transylvania County government, the Broadway Group, LLC (project overseer and developer of the project), and the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality, Michael Corley, the upstate director of the South Carolina Environmental Law Project, said he was representing a group under the name "Concerned Citizens of Transylvania County."

•Brevard's Keir Manufacturing reinvented the wheel with its latest product launch – the first bicycle wheel system with braided, impact-resistant, carbon fiber spokes.

The product marked KEIR's first consumer product and new brand, Gulo Composites, and CEO David Watkins believed it was going to be the first successful carbon fiber spoke on the market.

"We've got the lightest, strongest, toughest wheels in the world, in terms of bikes. They're great for mountain bikes, gravel bikes and road bikes," said Watkins. "It's been a four-year odyssey in discovery and innovation. It's very exciting for Keir Manufacturing, which has been in Brevard for 37 years in technical ceramic composites and abrasive products. This is our first consumer product."

•Local youth sports suffered another blow as Transylvania Little League announced the cancellation of its spring season following a meeting of the board of directors on April 28.

According to a post on the league's official Facebook page, "After examining North Carolina's plan to lift restrictions it became increasingly apparent that practices would not be able to resume until the week after Memorial Day at the earliest, with games not expected to begin until the middle of June. Given the hectic nature of peoples' summer schedules with families' planned vacations, unavailability of umpires and the increased frequency of those afternoon thunder-storms the county often receives, the likelihood of having a traditional season is impossible."

Will Cathey, Transylvania County Commissioner and long-time attorney in the community, died April 30.

According to the Sheriff's Office, a friend found Cathey deceased in his home. EMS responded, and his death was being attributed to a "medical issue."

"My thoughts and prayers go out to the Cathey family during this time, and I pray God comforts and gives them peace as only he can," Commissioner Jason Chapp-ell said. "Will was a long-time and personal friend who had a long career serving the citizens of our community: a former mayor of Rosman, former assistant DA, to a fixture in our courthouse to a sitting county commissioner and attorney. He served this community in many different ways. He had a presence and wit that was unmatched. We shared a common love of Rosman football, history and a love for individual freedoms. In any conversation you had with Will, you would have been treated to a history lesson, instruction in Latin and, as someone said recently, a story that Mark Twain would have been proud of. I will miss our discussions, and I will miss my friend."

MAY

•Lake Toxaway resident Gaye Owen said folks in Western Transylvania County were well suited well quarantine, and now, especially, area residents and nonprofits were working extra hard to help one another during the pandemic.

"Because of where we live, we're doing quite well," Owen said. "Our food bank is still up and running...We're serving around 30 families every other week. I haven't seen a big jump there, but I think because of our isolated nature here on the mountain, it just helps us out. We're used to making one trip a week or every other week into town to buy groceries...We've got lots of places to walk and hike and be out in nature."

•By email and in person, both parents and students expressed their disappointment and frustration to the Transylvania County Board of Education May 4 that graduation ceremonies for both Brevard and Rosman high seniors could be drive-in movie type events.

Since the meeting was held virtually, those present were allowed to come before Board Chair Tawny McCoy and Superintendent Jeff McDaris to speak while McDaris read aloud the public comments that had been submitted earlier online.

•Authorities confirmed two deaths at Whitewater Falls in Nantahala National Forest after Glenville-Cashiers Rescue Squad member Eldon Jamison died while attempting to retrieve the body of a fallen hiker, 24-year-old Chandler Manuel, May 4-5.

•The Pisgah Film House was no more, according to its founder, Philip Henry, with finances at the heart of the decision.

Henry began the nonprofit Pisgah Film Project of bi-monthly screenings at the DFR Room on Main Street in October 2018. It later moved to Searcy Hall at the Brevard Music Center and then opened in the former Drew Deane Gallery space on West Main Street last September.

"With the exception of a few generous donations, we haven't taken in any income in nearly two months," Henry said in an email. "The same can be said for nearly every business and nonprofit in Brevard, but there are a few things that have happened since mid-March that have contributed to our current financial state. Four weeks after applying for the federal government's Payroll Protection Program, we finally learned that we had been approved but for only 15 percent of what we needed."

•As a part of Gov. Roy Cooper's Executive Order 138, which eased restrictions on travel, business operations and mass gatherings, small, privately owned retail businesses were allowed to open in North Carolina at 5 p.m., May 8, after having been closed since late March.

The three-phased plan to reopen society was scheduled to take place in two-to-four week periods of time.

•Sheriff David Mahoney said he no longer felt his hand being near the "panic button" when it came to deputy recruitment and retention for his office.

Mahoney was speaking during a Transylvania County Board of Commissioners' meeting, where he gave his semi-annual report.

During last year's report, Mahoney talked about the "historic lows" of those interested in a law enforcement career but today that no longer seems to be the case. He attributed the turnaround in "no small part" to the commissioners backing a pay study and the new compensation plan that was implemented. Among other incentives were the county's financial help for Sheriff's Office deputies seeking further education.

As of May, Mahoney's office was fully staffed with full-time employees but was still trying to recruit some part-time positions. He said in his travels around the state there were many law enforcement agencies that are not fully staffed.

•On May 11, Transylvania County commissioners approved providing $150, 000 for a new loan program for local small businesses.

The loans, which would have to be repaid, have a $10,000 maximum and would be eligible to for-profit businesses and nonprofits, with no more than 49 employees that have a physical location and could demonstrate a loss greater than 25 percent.

•"We're so excited that things are opening back up," said Carol Doherty, a Pisgah Forest resident, Saturday, May 16, before her bike ride with friend Bonnie Cauthon at the Pisgah Center for Wildlife Education parking lot.

Judging by the amount of people on Transylvania County's public lands the last few days, Doherty wasn't the only one glad to see DuPont State Recreational Forest, Gorges State Park and Pisgah National Forest begin a phased reopening.

•Transylvania Public Health was notified of an additional case of COVID-19 – in a preschool-aged child.

This was the eighth lab-confirmed case among Transylvania County residents as of May 18.

•Brevard City Manager Jim Fatland recommended no property tax increase for the 2020/2021 fiscal year, which would begin July 1.

Fatland said the $20.4 million budget proposal changed after Gov. Roy Cooper issued the executive stay-at-home-order.

•The Transylvania County Republican Party chose Rosman resident Jake Dalton as its nominee to see out the term of recently deceased Commissioner Will Cathey.

Dalton, who worked in insurance and co-owned Next Level Fitness, LLC, graduated from Rosman High School in 1988 and attended Brevard College on a basketball scholarship from 1988 to 1990.

•With local businesses slowly reopening their doors and Memorial Day weekend on the horizon, it was a challenging process as owners struggled with piecing together how to get back to business while balancing necessary health precautions to minimize the potential spread of the coronavirus.

And while most owners said they had a plan in place moving forward, there was no one-size-fits-all model for how shops re-open or exactly what retail stores would look like in the weeks to come.

Retail stores were allowed to re-open under Phase 1 of Gov. Roy Cooper's executive order on May 8, provided they practiced social distancing measures and limited operations to 50 percent of fire capacity.

•At a time when restaurants, salons, pools and other venues began the process of reopening, gyms and fitness facilities remained closed via Gov. Roy Cooper's executive order.

However, some local gym owners defied that mandate and law enforcement has indicated they had no plans to crack down on those businesses that were bucking the governor's order.

Jake Dalton owned Next Level Fitness, located on the Old Rosman Highway. Dalton announced the decision to reopen his facility on Facebook May 20 and the doors were open May 23.

Dalton said he felt protected in his decision to open the gym, so long as there wasn't any illegal activity going on.

"I feel like I'm protected by the Constitution to open my business and run it as I please, so long as I'm not defying any (criminal) laws," he said.

•As of Sunday, May 24, 12 Transylvania County res-idents had tested positive for COVID-19. Though low compared to surrounding counties, there was a slight uptick in the number of positive cases during the previous week in the county.

•With the impact of COVID-19 in mind, County Manager Jaime Laughter's $59.7 million general fund budget for the 2020/2021 fiscal year featured no property tax increase and a 9 percent spending decrease from the current year budget.

"COVID-19 has resulted in a sudden and dramatic change to our economy and our daily lives that did not afford time to carefully react," Laughter said in her written budget message. "Instead, we have been navigating a time period where policy is created in real-time, answers to the behavior of the virus are fluid and we must be prepared to adapt in short order.

•Friday night football would never be the same for the Rosman Tiger community after the passing of a beloved figure.

William "Bill" Ragland, who for 43 years served as the "Voice of the Tigers," passed away May 26 at the age of 88. Born in Centreville, Ala., on Oct. 15, 1931, he moved to Transylvania County with his family in the early 1970s.

And while he quickly found a sense of community, his true home became the press box at Silverstein Memorial Stadium, which was renamed in his honor in 2018.

•In late May Transylvania Public Health was notified of the first death of a Transylvania County resident due to COVID-19.

The person tested positive for COVID-19 and was hospitalized in Buncombe County.

Transylvania was the 78th county in North Carolina to report a death from COVID-19. Statewide, there had been 898 deaths reported as of June 1.

JUNE

•As of June 1, Transylvania County had 14 residents confirmed to have contracted COVID-19, including one death. In each case, Transylvania Public Health initiated "contact tracing," which helps to understand how the person may have been infected and, hopefully, curtail the virus' spread, according to Elaine Russell, the county's Public Health's director.

•When the COVID-19 outbreak began in March, many initially responded to the closing of schools, the cancellation of sports and the shutting down of restaurants.

However, the live music industry also came to a grinding halt. And whether it was musicians canceling shows and tours or venues that regularly see hundreds of fans turn out for gigs darkening their stage lights, those within the scene said it was a difficult time for an industry so dependent on live performances.

Andrew Thelston is a musician based out of Black Mountain but graduated from Brevard High School in 2005 and is a regular act on the local music scene.

During the average spring or summer season, Thelston said he would play at least three shows a week – sometimes as many as five – getting an average of $100 per gig, not including tips.

That last show he played was on March 13 at Gather GVL in Greenville, S.C.

•With varying federal, state and local guidelines in place as different parts of the country began to "reopen" businesses after COVID-19 related shutdowns, understanding who exactly was responsible for ensuring employee and customer safety was not entirely clear.

Transylvania Public Health public information officer Tara Rybka explained how the county addresses COVID-19-related work-place complaints. She said the health department was not responsible for enforcing any new state-level orders mandated to ensure COVID-19 safety.

"In general, when we receive a complaint about something we direct it to the best person within the agency to deal with that," Rybka said. "But Public Health has no authority to enforce any of the executive orders or any of the regulations therein. Law enforcement is responsible for enforcing it."

•On June 1, Transylvania County Schools Superintendent Jeff McDaris told the Transylvania County Board of Education that graduation ceremonies were being planned for July 30 through Aug. 1.

The school system planned to hold graduation ceremonies for Davidson River School on campus the morning of Thursday, July 30; for Brevard High School at the school's football stadium the evening of Friday, July 31; and for Rosman High School at the school's football stadium on Saturday, Aug. 1.

"This week would have been graduation on a regular schedule," said McDaris. "However, the pandemic changed that. We cannot have mass gatherings."

•At a time when civil unrest and demonstrations had boiled over in major cities across the nation and around the globe, Transylvania County was a beacon of hope on Tuesday, June 2, as nearly 100 community members gathered, marched, and assembled peacefully to protest the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis law enforcement.

From the words they chanted as they marched the streets to the signs they held along the way, the sense of outrage and anger was palpable, but the principles of peace and solidarity overcame all.

•In March when Gov. Roy Cooper declared a state of emergency and limited mass gatherings to 10 people or less, churches throughout the state closed their physical doors. But several area churches followed the old adage of "when one door closes another opens" and found various ways not only to remain in contact with their congregations but also to expand their services.

"I have filmed sermons for Sunday mornings and SWORD Bible Study Method for Wednesdays and put them on my YouTube page, Cliff McKnight, and they have been posted on the church's Facebook page," said Cliff McKnight, pastor of Oak Grove Baptist Church, which is located on Kim Miller Road in Lake Toxaway.

Church leaders have used a variety of technologies to deliver their message.

Rev. Sally Beth Shore of Unitarian Universalists of Transylvania County said they have conducted vespers (during Lent) and Sunday services via Facebook Livestream.

•As of June 3, 555 diagnostic tests for COVID-19 had been reported to Transylvania Public Health, including 492 negative, 15 positive and 48 pending results.

As of June 3, the state was reporting 30,777 lab-confirmed COVID-19 cases and 939 total deaths in North Carolina.

•Transylvania County unemployment claims went from 593 in March to 1,474 in April in 2020 – a jobless rate of 10 percent, according to the latest unemployment data from the N.C. Department of Commerce.

The rate increase in employment from March to April 2020 represented a jump of 5.8 percentage points.

Comparatively, the April 2019 unemployment data showed 502 people were unemployed in Transylvania County, or 3.5 percent of the labor force.

•As hair salons reopened during Phase Two of Gov. Roy Cooper's executive order allowing for easing of restrictions, local salon owners were adjusting to more meticulous ways of operating their businesses based on those limitations.

The regulations included a limited occupancy of salons of no more than 50 percent of the stated fire capacity, or 12 people per 1,000 square feet if there were not a fire code number readily available, with people required to stay 6 feet away from each other and for stylists to wear a mask.

Stylists reported having to go at a much slower pace, seeing fewer clients but with longer hours due to sanitation work in between clients.

•Change and unification were what Tommy Kilgore hoped to see rise from the death of George Floyd.

"A change is evident; change is coming," said Kilgore, president of the Transylvania County Chapter of the NAACP. "And I think it will be a positive change. It will be one that I believe will unify Americans of all race, color and creed. I believe that it will unify this country."

Floyd, born in Fayetteville, N.C., was allegedly killed by Minneapolis, Minn., police officer Derek Chauvin, who was kneeling on Floyd's neck and back for 8 minutes and 46 seconds when Floyd died of cardiopulmonary arrest on May 25.

Since the incident, protests emerged nationwide, with re-ignition of the Black Lives Matter movement, as well as infiltrations of instigating saboteurs. On June 8, Gov. Roy Cooper signed Executive Order 145, which was initiated to create a task force that "develops and implements strategies and polices to eliminate systematic racism in the state's criminal justice system."

•Summer festival goers were met with more disappointment at the news that the Heart of Brevard's Fourth of July Festival and the Mountain Song Festival (scheduled for Sept. 11-13) were canceled this year, along with the rest of Mountain Song Production's summer events.

•The local Hispanic community functions within an "economy of caring" as the coronavirus restrictions depleted the resources of many.

"I've talked with the key members of the community and they say that they are helping each other," said Rodrigo Vargas, executive director of El Centro, a nonprofit organization that assists in integrating Hispanic people into the community.

Many families have seen much worse, he said, and due to the job market availability for much of the Hispanic community that includes outside work, some were still employed.

Much of the community had the advantage of having few financial strings attached, such as bank loans and credit card payments, because of the simple fact that some couldn't get the credit card or bank loan that can lead to further stress, he said, a luxury much of the Hispanic community can't afford.

However, those working in the restaurant industry, he said, were struggling because they went from working six days a week to three, though they are slowly beginning to work more days as restaurant restrictions loosen.

"Another struggle is in education because parents probably can't work with the kids with their limitations in language," he said.

At El Centro, Vargas said they had online tutors for kids at home.

•New health guidelines released June 8 represented a first step to help North Carolina K-12 public schools find a safe way to open to in-person instruction for the 2020-21 academic year, health and education leaders announced.

The StrongSchoolsNC Public Health Toolkit (K-12) laid out a comprehensive set of baseline health practices that public schools should follow to minimize risk of exposure to COVID-19 for students, staff and families, according to a press release.

•As of June 14, Transylvania County was at 17 confirmed COVID-19 cases, while the state was reporting 1,092 COVID-19-related deaths, including one Transylvanian.

As of June 14, the state was also reporting 627,130 completed tests in the state and 44,1199 laboratory-confirmed COV-ID-19 cases.

•In a nod to the ongoing health crisis, educators across Transylvania County Schools gathered in a public meeting livestreamed to the district's Facebook page for the surprise announcement of Laura Smith, of Rosman Middle School (RMS), as Teacher of the Year and Carri Harris, of Brevard High School (BHS), as Teacher Assistant of the Year for 2020-21.

Both educators were named school-level winners by their peers this spring. District administrators followed up the announcement by bringing yard signs and other gifts to these top educators who will represent Transylvania County Schools for the coming year.

Smith taught business, marketing and personal finance at RMS and had taught in Transylvania County since 2006 at both RMS and Davidson River School. She was recently named VFW Teacher of the Year for the county and Western North Carolina, and was the district CTE (Career and Technical Education) Teacher of the Year in 2012.

Teacher assistant Harris worked in the Exceptional Children program at BHS and also briefly stepped into teaching this spring to support a teacher on maternity leave.

•HCA (Hospital Corporations of America), which owns Transylvania Regional Hospital, agreed to deed land owned by HCA to the City of Brevard for the use of a 2.7-acre dog park at the end of Medical Park Drive.

•On June 22, the Transylvania County Board of Commissioners approved a $61,041,976 general fund budget for the new fiscal year.

The tax rate would remain at $.636 cents per $100 of valuation, and the fire tax rate in each district was increased a half cent to 6 cents, with another $1.2 million for the rest of the fire department funding coming from the previous 10.5-tax increase approved to pay the $68 million school bond.

Commissioners approved using the bond funds due to delays in the school projects starting from the original schedule.

If commissioners hadn't chosen this route, it would have meant a 2-cent property tax increase to fully fund the fire departments.

•A settlement was reached between the South Carolina Environmental Law Project (SCELP) and the developer (Broadway Group, LLC) of the Dollar General on U.S. 276.

According to a press release from the nonprofit law group, "SCELP, our clients, and the Dollar General's developer have taken full advantage of the ESA (Endangered Species Act) notice period in order to settle the claims via the developer's agreement to voluntarily plant native vegetation in the remaining floodplain, install additional storm water improvements and make significant changes to the store design. We are pleased with this effective and efficient outcome reached through co-operative efforts."

Michael Corley, the SCELP upstate director, said the settlement was "significant and positive," and that Broadway Group, LLC, and its agents "have been extremely reasonable and level-headed in arriving at a mutually agreeable settlement."

•In an effort to boost county response rate numbers for the 2020 Census in Transylvania County, local advocate Carol Gardner campaigned in her community, Balsam Grove, to complete the decennial survey.

There were several new challenges with households in rural areas completing the census because field operations, or door-to-door surveys, were suspended due to COVID-19, and many people in these rural areas used a centralized post office box for their mail, though the U.S. Census doesn't send its questionnaires to P.O. boxes because they aren't classified as a household.

Though one could now fill out the questionnaire online, many also didn't have Wi-Fi in rural areas, such as Balsam Grove, so Gardner began brainstorming ways to get households to complete the form.

•Transylvania Public Health was notified of two additional cases of COVID-19 late June 26.

A total of 21 cases and one death had now been reported among county residents.

As of June 28, the state reported 1,322 COVID-19-related deaths, including the one Transylvanian. The state also reported 62,142 COVID-19 cases.

•In late June, Gov. Roy Cooper and N.C. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen to announced that North Carolina would remain in "Safer at Home Phase 2" for three more weeks.

Cooper also announced that face coverings must be worn when people were in public places as officials seeked to stabilize concerning trends of increasing viral spread.

This is a conceptual drawing of the front of Rosman High School. The current auditorium area is to the left and the new gym to the far right. Vehicular traffic would flow between the two buildings under a connector. Buses would enter on the right from the front of the school while cars would exit to the left of the buses.

"North Carolina is relying on the data and the science to lift restrictions responsibly, and right now our increasing numbers show we need to hit the pause button while we work to stabilize our trends," said Cooper. "We need to all work together so we can protect our families and neighbors, restore our economy, and get people back to work and our children back to school."

Cohen said the best way to "helping our neighbors" is to wear a mask, covering the nose and mouth.

•Eagerly awaited by city residents for nearly a decade, Brevard's first public skatepark was finally ready for skaters to drop-in.

Brevard City Council June 29 accepted the Tannery Skatepark into the city's fold of park and recreational amenities.

The skatepark's two above-ground Skatelite ramps, located on the city-owned Tannery Park property at the intersection of McMinn and Silversteen roads, are open and free to the public from dawn to dusk.

 
 

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