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Home > Tuscaloosa Business News

Tuscaloosa Business News - 2014-11

We have news items here related to Tuscaloosa, Alabama.
PHOTOS: Iron Bowl 2014 - 27302
November 30th, 2014
Brookwood man competes on CMT reality series "Redneck Island" - When he stepped from the boat, he was surrounded by woods and the scent of pine trees, their needles covering the ground. It looked like his own yard, until he came upon the large lake house where he would stay for weeks to come with no contact with the outside world, just the 23 other men and women who were dumped onto "Redneck Island" with him.
Rocky Davis, a Brookwood native, joined the cast of CMT's competition series "Redneck Island" in North Georgia in September to compete for $100,000.
The show casts a group of rednecks — 12 girls and 12 guys — bunking together in one house where friendships are formed until, two-by-two, contestants are eliminated over the 10-episode season. At night, the group drinks beer and gets loud, but during the day, they are faced with stunt-like challenges that determine who stays and who goes.
"You're completely beat down after every challenge, but the challenges are incredibly fun," Davis said.
The game pairs male and female teammates to compete against each other in the challenges. The team that ranks last in the day's challenge is automatically thrown in "The Pit." The team that ranks first chooses another team to join the lowest-ranking team. The two boy-girl teams compete against each other, guy vs. guy and girl vs. girl. The guy and girl who win in "The Pit" get to remain on the show, while the other two go home.
Viewers can watch the fourth season of the show beginning Thursday from 9-10:30 p.m. to see if Davis wins the prize money or goes home early.
Davis said he wanted to be on the show because he had watched the previous seasons and thought it would be fun. He said he went for the money, too, but the competition became more about the friendships he developed while filming.
"It's so crazy how close you become with all of (the cast) because a lot of these people I wouldn't hang out with on my regular day-to-day basis, but on the show they kind of become your family," Davis said.
As he partied with his 23 housemates every night, he said he realized most of them wouldn't be classified as redneck, at least not in the South. Davis said he doesn't consider himself to be a redneck.
"I feel myself more as a person from the country. I was born in a one red-light town, graduating class of 100 people, got one place to eat," he said. "I don't claim to be redneck at all."
Davis said country is where you're from, and redneck is a way of life. In his opinion, people in the North label all Southerners as rednecks and characterize them by Southern stereotypes, he said.
He said he doesn't think the show plays into those stereotypes.
"I feel like the show portrays us honestly as who we are. I don't think it portrays us as stupid," Davis said. "It doesn't really twist us as much as other (shows) would."
Davis said he didn't act any different while filming the show as he would in his every day life. He said he's just a country boy who lives with his mother and tells jokes for a living. He is a full-time comedian, and he hopes being on "Redneck Island" will propel his career, he said.
Davis said his home venue is the Comedy Club Stardome in Hoover, but he plans to start a comedy show at Glory Bound in downtown Tuscaloosa.
He said if he wins the money from the show, he plans to give his mother half for putting up with him for 21 years and use the other half to go skydiving and buy a monkey so people will recognize him walking the streets downtown and say, "There goes Rocky and his monkey."
November 30th, 2014
LOOKING BACK: December 1 - The Alabama Crimson Tide football team won the national championship. According to Tuscaloosans, a great team effort, the ability to come from behind and the best coaching job in the nation were responsible.
Coach Paul W. “Bear” Bryant was voted Southeastern Conference Coach of the Year and said he was not ready to retire.
Tuscaloosa Housing Authority officials were criticized by the City Commission for condemning several homestead sites in connection with proposed plans to enlarge the McKenzie Courts low-rent housing project. The commission had agreed to the expansion but had not been informed that land would have to be condemned to procure it.
James Grover Grammer, 71, died in a grist mill accident. Grammer had rebuilt the water mill dam on Binion Creek and restored the century-old mill.
Mr. and Mrs. Herbert Warner where honored by officers and board members of the YMCA for the part which the Warner family had in development of the YMCA. The Warners had contributed about $600,000 to the YMCA.
A Fayette company had the low bid on a trade school to be built for black students on the Kaul tract of land donated by the city of Tuscaloosa.
Ruth S. Suttles won $1,000 the previous April for her suggestion that the Veterans Administration could save 2 cents a pound on laundry costs for bedsheets if the government changed from muslin to more lightweight, longer-lasting percale. This week, Mrs. Suttles received a plaque from President Lyndon Johnson in Washington for the suggestion, which had saved the government about $65,000 the previous year.
A Tuscaloosa County Circuit Court jury convicted an escapee from the state prison system in the robbery-shooting of John Robert Kirk of Gordo in January 1968. The jury recommended that the man be sentenced to death in the electric chair.
The Crimson Tide received a big sendoff as they made the three-hour bus trip to Auburn for the Iron Bowl. Fans lined the streets and overpasses and cheered as the trip proceeded.
Alabama lost the Iron Bowl game against Auburn, 30-20, but Alabama officials got a call during last few minutes of the game inviting the team to the Sugar Bowl. Alabama’s defeat caused the team to drop from No. 2 to No. 7 in the rankings.
The County Commission awaited a committee report before it made a decision on how to improve conditions at the Tuscaloosa County Jail. An architect had recommended a new facility the week before, citing space constraints and difficulty in renovating the present jail to meet required fire and safety standards.
A preliminary hearing was under way for a Walker County man described as a transient who was accused of the slaying of Father Francis Craven, a Roman Catholic priest whose beaten and burned body was found in rural Tuscaloosa County.
At a motion hearing at the Fayette County Courthouse, authorities unveiled evidence against a teen charged with the murder of Fayette police officers James Crump and Arnold Strickland and dispatcher Leslie “Ace” Mealer.
David Bennett was named director of Bryce Hospital.
Developer Stan Pate sought and received an endorsement for his proposed Midtown development from the Tuscaloosa County Commission, but commissioners were vague about what they could offer the developer for a project entirely inside the Tuscaloosa city limits.
The Southern Christian Leadership Conference held a conference at Elizabeth Baptist Church in Tuscaloosa where new national president and CEO of the organization, Charles Steele, spoke to the crowd of more than 200.
Churches in east Tuscaloosa joined to create the East Tuscaloosa Soup Bowl.
Deaths this week included the Rev. Robert Emmet Gribbin Jr., who served as chaplain for the University of Alabama Canterbury Chapel.
About 10,000 workers at the Mercedes-Benz plant outside Stuttgart, Germany, asked management not to send production of its C-Class Mercedes cars to Tuscaloosa County. Mercedes received state and local incentives to move the production to Vance and the company agreed to do so.
A retired U.S. Army colonel lost his battle against City Hall when a jury decided he did not comply with a 2004 Tuscaloosa ordinance requiring some homeowners to register their septic tanks and have them serviced every three years.
A former York police chief was found guilty of manslaughter for the September 2008 killing of Joe Louis Bell during an altercation at a restaurant in York.
The Crimson Tide rolled over the Florida Gators 32-13 to clinch its 22nd Southeastern Conference title in the Georgia Dome, dethroning the defending national champions. The Tide would play for its 13th national title against the Texas Longhorns on Jan. 7 in Pasadena’s Rose Bowl Stadium.
Construction began on the new federal courthouse in the 4.75-acre lot on University Boulevard.
The final touches were being put on the new Tuscaloosa Police Department East Precinct in Alberta.
The top-ranked Crimson Tide went down to defeat, 34-28, when Auburn’s Chris Davis ran back a missed field goal attempt 100 yards on the final play of the Iron Bowl game in Jordan-Hare Stadium.
Stillman College formed a presidential search committee after the resignation of President Ernest McNealey, who had been on leave since early September.
Super 6, the Alabama championships for high school football, was expected to pump an estimated $3.6 million into the Tuscaloosa area economy from visitors attending the six championship games.
Pickens County finished 15-0 and won its first state title in the Class 1A Championship game when it defeated Maplesville, 38-18.
Compiled by retired News librarian Betty Slowe.
November 30th, 2014
Somerville Apartments for seniors will open early next year - A new apartment complex for seniors is nearing completion on McFarland Boulevard East.
Somerville Apartments, funded and constructed through a public-private partnership, will be open to low- to moderate-income residents 55 and older starting in mid-January.
The full complex of 50 1,200-square-foot, two-bedroom, two-bath apartment homes with porch balconies will be opened to tenants in February, said David Morrow, president of Morrow Realty Co.
The site will feature amenities such as a multipurpose clubhouse for activities, a library, an exercise room, a garden area, a computer center, a gazebo and a picnic area with grills.
A resident manager will live on site and provide the management and social programs.
“We’re excited about it,” Morrow said.
The $8 million complex at 5701 McFarland Blvd. E. is being constructed by Morrow Realty with funding from both the city of Tuscaloosa and the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs.
The city of Tuscaloosa gave $750,000 in Disaster Relief funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Community Development Block Grant that were awarded to the city in 2012 through the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs.
The funds had to be spent in the Tuscaloosa recovery area that makes up the path of the April 27, 2011, tornado, but Savannah Howell, community development program manager for the city’s Recovery Operations division, said an exception was made based on the target market for the apartments.
“Although it is out of the recovery zone,” Howell said, “they were funded on the caveat that they would give priority to those individuals that were located in the tornado area.”
Additionally, $607,000 in tax credits and $1.04 million of Home Investment Partnership Program money is being provided by the Alabama Housing Finance Authority.
“When construction is completed at Somerville, the doors to safe and decent rental housing will be open to more seniors in Tuscaloosa,” said Robert Strickland, executive director of the Alabama Housing Finance Authority. “Somerville will bring needed investment and housing opportunities to the area.”
However, the funds did not come with the stipulation that the apartments be limited to seniors. That was a decision made by the developer.
“We just thought it was a good area and a good market for it,” Morrow said. “And we based it on what we thought would make a good development for Tuscaloosa.”
With that, Morrow Realty approached the city of Tuscaloosa and the Alabama Housing Finance Authority for funding assistance, and ground was broken on the site in August.
Morrow said the company plans to have the on-site management office for Somerville Apartments open later next month, but for now a temporary office is available in downtown Tuscaloosa.
For more information on the apartments, call 205-758-4300 or visit www.somervilletuscaloosa.com.
Reach Jason Morton at jason.morton@tuscaloosanews.com or 205-722-0200.
November 30th, 2014
Sumter County firm donates lab equipment to University of Alabama - The operator of a landfill in Sumter County has donated lab equipment worth about $40,000 to the University of Alabama department of geological sciences.
Chemical Waste Management-Emelle donated an inductively coupled plasma optical emission spectrometer, which will provide analysis of trace elements in natural water samples, according to a release from UA. The spectrometer, to be housed in the Geochemistry Analytical Facility, will be available to members of the UA community and external users. The device will be the second spectrometer for the analytical lab.
The donation was made in honor of Rona J. Donahoe, a professor of environmental geochemistry in the department of geological sciences and director of UA’s Geochemistry Analytical Laboratory, and Samuel Addy, director and research economist of UA’s Center for Business and Economic Research and associate dean for research and outreach in the Culverhouse College of Commerce.
November 30th, 2014
Kim Bissell named director of undergrad research at University of Alabama - The University of Alabama has named College of Communication and Information Sciences’ professor Kim Bissell director of UA’s undergraduate research.
Bissell is the associate dean for research in the college and director of the Institute for Communication & Information Research.
Bissell will begin her role as director today. Her new responsibilities include supervising the Emerging Scholars Program, in addition to new research initiatives with undergraduate students, according to a release from UA.
The Emerging Scholars program, established in 2009 to attract freshmen to research, has been directed by Ann Webb, who is retiring, according to the release.
November 30th, 2014
University of Alabama lecturer Andrew Grace to discuss documentary films - A University of Alabama lecturer will use his upcoming film about the aftermath of the 2011 tornado to discuss interactive documentaries at the 2015 South by Southwest Film Conference and Festival.
Andrew Grace will co-lead a session on interactive documentary filmmaking at the annual event.
Grace, a lecturer in the telecommunication and film department, will discuss projects by his production company, Moon Winx Films, in the Digital Domain session titled “Tool-Kit for Crafting an Interactive Documentary,” scheduled for March 17-21.
November 30th, 2014
Northport City Council agenda for December 1 - The Northport City Council will consider the following items during its regular meeting at 6 tonight at the Northport City Hall:
Ordinance amending Sections 70-317 pertaining to identification of taxicabs.
First reading, ordinance for annexation of approximately 0.5 acres located at 9405 Cleveland Road.
First reading, ordinance rezoning Northwood Gardens Phase III from AG to RS-9SD.
First reading, amendment to the zoning ordinance pertaining to material for commercial zones.
First reading, amendment to the zoning ordinance pertaining to material for industrial zones.
Resolution awarding bid file 14-41, miscellaneous automotive parts.
Resolution authorizing 2015 cooperative maintenance agreement with ALDOT.
Resolution entering into an agreement for technical service support with Physio Control.
Resolution declaring certain items as surplus and authorizing their disposal.
Resolution awarding bid file 14-44, water/wastewater chemicals.
Resolution awarding bid file 14-43, water/wastewater supplies.
Resolution awarding bid file 14-40, light duty automotive parts.
Resolution accepting bids for the 560 zone to 445 zone system improvements.
Resolution establishing consulting and services of Walker Associates.
Travel/training, one employee, Wastewater Collection Class, Dec. 9-10, Tuscaloosa.
PO requisition, PLC control panel replacement, Southern Flow Inc., $25,000.
November 30th, 2014
Birmingham man charged in stabbing death of girlfriend - BIRMINGHAM | Police have charged a Birmingham man with murder after he led officers to the body of his girlfriend, who had been stabbed several times.
Al.com reports 29-year-old Brandon Cole was booked at the Jefferson County jail on $75,000 bond after he took police Saturday to a home where they found his girlfriend's body.
Police say Krystal Rodriquez, whose body they found lying face down on the kitchen floor, had been stabbed in the chest several times.
Cole greeted officers responding to a domestic disturbance call at about 4:12 a.m. Saturday and told them he and Rodriquez had an argument. Cole then led police to the home where her body was discovered.
It was not known Sunday if Cole had an attorney.
November 30th, 2014
Alabama children show improvement, but rank 44th in country - MONTGOMERY | Alabama's children are showing improvements in early education, fewer are being born to unwed teens, and less are dying from preventable causes. But more are living in poverty, and Alabama still has a long way to go to catch up with most other states, a new report finds.
VOICES for Alabama's Children, a Montgomery-based advocacy group, has issued a new Kids Count Data Book, which shows trends about the children who will either grow up to be tax-paying workers or welfare recipients. While the book shows lots of improvements, the Annie E. Casey Foundation, which helped compile the research for the book, ranks Alabama 44th among the states in child well-being.
Melanie Bridgeforth, VOICES executive director, said the future of the state depends on how Alabama invests in its children, and she hopes the data book prompts discussions among state leaders that will lead to a better future for all children. "The moderate steps Alabama has taken to improve child well-being over the last two decades is simply not enough," she said.
VOICES worked with the Casey foundation, the state departments of Human Resources and Public Health, and others to gather the information that describes trends in Alabama. Among its findings were:
CHILDREN IN POPULATION: Children are becoming a smaller part of Alabama's population as the state's population ages. The state has grown by nearly 400,000 residents since 2000, but the number of children has remained about the same. The percentage of children in the state's population has dropped from 28.2 percent to 25.7 percent.
FEWER WHITES: White children are becoming a smaller part of Alabama's total population of children. White children made up 63.2 percent of the children in 2000 and comprised 58.8 percent in 2013. The study classified Hispanic children separately from whites, and the number of Hispanic children in the state has tripled since 2000.
POVERTY: The percent of Alabama children living in poverty increased from 21.5 percent in 2000 to an average of 26.0 percent between 2008 and 2012. That includes 43.5 percent of African-American children and 44.5 percent of Hispanic children.
SINGLE-PARENT FAMILIES: More Alabama children are growing up in single-parent homes. The rate grew from 29.6 percent in 2000 to an average of 34.0 percent between 2008 and 2012. The highest rate was among African-American children at 63.2 percent.
TEEN BIRTHS: Births to unmarried teens declined between 2002 and 2012, with a 40 percent drop occurring among those 15 to 17 years old. The health department's chief medical officer, Dr. Tom Miller, said that is one of the most important trends cited in the new report.
SCHOOL READINESS: in 2012, 100 percent of Alabama's third graders who had attended the state's pre-kindergarten program for 4-year-olds tested proficient in reading. The program is available to only about 12 percent of 4-year-olds, but the state has set a goal of expanding it each year. As the program has grown, the percentage of first graders retained for another year has dropped from 4.9 percent in 2008 to 4.0 percent in 2013.
GRADUATION: Alabama's ninth grade retention rate has declined from 12.3 percent in the 2008-2009 school year to 3.8 percent in the 2012-2013 school year. VOICES research director Rhonda Mann said that is significant because most dropouts happen around the ninth grade. Alabama's high school graduation rate rose form 71.8 percent for the class of 2008 to 80.0 percent for the class of 2013.
SAFETY: The VOICES organization helped get the Legislature to pass Alabama's graduate driver's license for teens in 2002 and the child passenger safety law in 2006. Alabama's preventable deaths among teens dropped by nearly one-third from 2002 to 2012, and the child death rate fell by about two-tenths during the same period.
COUNTY RANKINGS: The book ranked counties from best to worst for child well-being. Urban and suburban counties that traditionally have low unemployment rates finished at the top, with Shelby first, followed by Lee and Madison. Rural counties that traditionally have high unemployment rates finished at the bottom, with Wilcox 67th, Dallas 66th and Perry 65th.
NEXT STEP: Mann said the state needs to focus on improving early education for children and expanding pre-kindergarten because the data shows that positively affects the future of children and helps poor children close the learning gap with other children.
November 30th, 2014
Interstate 20/59 lane to close Tuesday - The Alabama Department of Transportation will close the inside lane of Interstate 20/59 northbound at exit 79 for repairs. Construction will begin at 6 a.m. Tuesday and should be completed by 4 p.m. Crews will repair deteriorating asphalt and patch potholes.
Motorists will encounter single-lane traffic. State officials said motorists should allow extra time for their travel and expect some congestion along the route.
November 29th, 2014
Latest planned McFarland Boulevard roadwork gets closer to reality - With the City Council's recent purchase of land to facilitate McFarland Boulevard road work, improvements to the major thoroughfare between 13th and 15th streets are drawing closer to construction.
On Nov. 18, the council authorized the mayor to execute a sales contract and closing documents with Eastwood Mac LLC for the $231,817.06 purchase of 6,834 square feet of property needed for what is being called the McFarland Boulevard access road.
City engineers said the road will allow for left turns off McFarland Boulevard into the Lofts at City Center and other businesses within the block on the eastern side of the road. Without it, motorists would be forced to make U-turns at the 15th Street intersection or turn onto Veterans Memorial Parkway and then into the block from the south.
The city will also need Boulevard Salon's 14-space parking lot for the project.
Salon owner Tommy Clay Metrock was one of the city's first small business owners to return after the April 27, 2011, tornado destroyed her building on McFarland Boulevard in front of what once was the Wood Square Shopping Center.
Ten months after the storm, the salon was back in business and now operates in front of the massive Lofts at City Center mixed-use development.
“We need to buy the Boulevard Salon parking lot for service road (right of way),” City Engineer David Griffin said, “but first, the parking lot behind the salon needs to be constructed to replace the parking they will lose out front with the service road.
“The salon will buy the parking lot behind them from (Capital Growth) Buchalter with the same number of spaces they will lose out front. Then construction can begin on the service road.”
Metrock said she's not willing to part with her current parking lot.
“When I drive into my parking lot to work and see all the construction going on, I can't help but be reminded of all the difficulties and challenges we faced during our rebuilding process,” Metrock said. “It was one of the biggest challenges we ever thought we would face, but we did it.
“We built back against all odds, and we are living proof that the American dream is still achievable and no one can take this away.”
Metrock said she fears the city will use its powers of eminent domain to force the sale, but Mayor Walter Maddox said the access road will die before he endorses that approach.
“I have been clear from the beginning that this was a public-private partnership in working with all the property owners,” he said. “Our staff has spent countless hours with all parties, and hopefully we can move this much-needed project to conclusion. If there is no agreement, then we will simply move forward to other projects, and I assume ALDOT will not permit the dedicated left turn lane.
“I appreciate everyone trying to compromise.”
The estimated $5.9 million in improvements to McFarland Boulevard was finalized in January 2012 after the city and the Alabama Department of Transportation reached a cost-sharing agreement on the work.
The project calls for adding several right- and left-turn lanes and upgrading street alignment at the 15th Street intersection. The current plan calls for its completion by early summer 2016.
According to the deal, city taxpayers will fund 20 percent with ALDOT covering the remaining 80 percent.
L. Dee Rowe, chief engineer of ALDOT's Fifth Division, said motorists can expect delays when the actual construction begins in March. During construction, a minimum of two lanes of traffic in each direction will be maintained at all times — a reduction of the current three lanes in each direction — and the speed limit will be reduced from 50 mph to 40 mph.
“We expect to see a decrease in crashes ... and traffic being able to move through the intersections in a shorter period of time,” Rowe said.
Since the roadwork was approved, the $55 million Shoppes at Legacy Park shopping center has begun construction on the western side of McFarland Boulevard, directly across from the Lofts at City Center development.
The development, which broke ground on Nov. 18, is bringing a host of new retail stores to the Tuscaloosa market. Among them are The Fresh Market, Dick's Sporting Goods, Bed Bath & Beyond, Cost Plus World Market, Pet-Smart and footwear retailer DSW.
Alumni Development & Construction LLC of Clanton, the company developing the shopping center, has worked with the city and ALDOT officials to address the 10 to 15 percent increase in traffic expected to result from the development.
“The McFarland Boulevard widening project will provide additional traffic capacity,” Griffin said. “Upon completion of all of the post-tornado commercial construction in this area and the additional traffic that it generates, the best we can hope for from these improvements is to return us to at or near the same level of service we had out there before the tornado.”
Reach Jason Morton at jason.morton@tuscaloosanews.com or 205-722-0200.
November 29th, 2014
COLLEGE NEWS: Nov. 30 - The Alpha Tau Chapter of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Inc. celebrated its annual Achievement Week Program on Nov. 16 in the Wynn Center on the Stillman College campus.
The program marked the achievements of more than 105 young men from pre-kindergarten to 12th grade from Bibb, Greene, Pickens, Sumter and Tuscaloosa counties. A $500 scholarship was awarded to a senior from each county.
The scholarship recipients were: Terry Bell Jr. of Bibb County, Quelonn Lucious of Greene County, Michael Wilkins of Pickens County, Richard Jones Jr. of Sumter County and Moses Mason III of Tuscaloosa County.
There were more than 400 people in the audience which consisted of parents, teachers, counselors, school administrators and local school board officials.
The program also highlighted the achievements of the local graduate chapter — Alpha Tau and the
undergraduate chapters they oversee: Rho Gamma at Stillman College; Beta Eta at the University of Alabama and Alpha Delta Iota at the University of West Alabama. The following graduate awards were given: Omega Man of the Year — Roland Lewis; Superior Service Award — Freddie L. Washington; Founders’ Award — C. A. Fredd Jr.; Col. Charles Young Award — Myron Coats; Special Achievement Award — W. Scott Smith; Citizen of the Year — state Sen. Bobby Singleton; and State of Alabama Adviser of the Year — Albert Ike Jr.
Two of the undergraduate chapters received awards from the state level. Rho Gamma Chapter at Stillman College received the state Highest Chapter GPA Award with higher than a 3.0 GPA. Beta Eta Chapter at the University of Alabama received the following awards: State Omega Man of the Year —
Deandre Dixon; state Superior Service Award — Brandon Dunning; State Founders’ Award —
Jeromey Beaman; State Highest GPA Award — Jeromey Beaman with a 3.99 GPA; State Col. Charles Young Award — Jonathan Burpo; and State Chapter Advisers of the Year — Albert Ike Jr. and Christopher Spencer.
Beta Eta also presented its adopted school, Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary, with a donation. This donation matched a previous donation given by the Rho Gamma Chapter.
The following is a list of all student recipients from pre-kindergaten to 12th grade from their respective schools:
Aliceville High School: Anthony Brown, Tydarious Jones and Michael Wilkins.
Arcadia Elementary School: Kendarius Buckhana.
Bibb County High School: Terry Bell Jr.
Brookwood High School: DeMonte’ Griffin.
Carver Middle: Kelvin Brown, Johnathon Crawford, Jammie Davis, Joshua Newell, Alex
Williams and Keith Williams II.
Central High School: KyAndre’ Burns, Ryan Foster, Justin Morrow and Erskine Simmons.
Centreville Middle School: Stevie Crews, Dexter Marsh and DeShun Murrell.
Duncanville Middle School: Daniel Johnson.
Eastwood Middle School: Malachi Dubose, Phearthur Edwards Jr., Braxton Hanks and Markeith Stockdale.
Eutaw Primary: Jarvis Carr, Jordan Henley, Ja’Ron Lavender, Marcus Steele II, Jordan Thomas and Marcus Thomas.
Gordo High School: Ben Davis and Darian Wilson.
Greene County High School: Denzel Davis, Makente Elliot, Quelonn Lucious and Tony White Jr.
Hillcrest High School: Jahi Brown, Corey Fryer, Kyler Garth and Lorenzo Winston.
Hillcrest Middle School: Jordan Suttles, Christopher Thomas II and Justin Travis.
MLK Elementary: Zelvin Clark, Jaden Davis, Xzavier Davis, Draven German, Tamacus Ikner Jr.,
Elijah Johnson, Ahveon McCoy, Ahman Mills, Daryl Qunizy, K’yron Rancher, KeMarcus Silvers and Kilton Small.
Maxwell Elementary School: La’Vorris Jones, Terrence Murphy, Jelani Reynolds, Xavier Riley, Delvin Scott and Adrien Thompson.
Northington Elementary: Derreon Freeman, LaDainian Parker and Demarion Pippen.
Northside High School: Antwone Cottrell and Alonzo Travis Jr.
Paul W. Bryant High School: Ja’Marques Darien, Barclavian Flowers, Moses Mason III and Llyas Ross Jr.
Southview Elementary: Jordan Bryant, Jadyn Jones, Mikeil Simmons and Justin
Southview Middle School: Destin Culpepper, Rashard Ellis and Macaleb Madden.
Sumter Central High School: Benton Jefferson, Richard Jones Jr., Justin Oliver, Jordan Toole, Alex Watkins and Jadarius Wilson.
Tuscaloosa Career and Technology Academy: Alexander Johnson, Roderick Mayfield, Kameron Peoples, Jason Snyder and Karl Turner.
Tuscaloosa County High School: Garrett Lawson.
University Place Elementary: Tyler Shearer, DeCorrion Thomas, Tariq Valentine and Joshua Young.
Verner Elementary: Damien Green, Jayden Joseph and Marty Mims.
West Blocton High School: Jaylon Gaines.
Westlawn Middle School: Drew Allbrooks, Emanuel Lucious and Devin Rollins.
Woodland Forrest Elementary: Jalen Bell, Tavis Crummie, Kadarius Long and Sharod White.
November 29th, 2014
Groups partner to offer families free help to fight foreclosure - Eleven organizations that offer legal and financial services are teaming up to offer free help to families facing foreclosure.
The Foreclosure Prevention Partnership can be contacted through United Way’s 211 call center by dialing 211 or 888-421-1266. The center will direct callers to the appropriate organization for their needs. The free services include legal advice, financial coaching, credit counseling and help negotiating with a mortgage lender.
The director of 211, Tamika Alexander, said the partnership formed a couple of months ago to bring together legal resources for families in need.
“They give us a call, we connect them with resources,” she said. “If you’ve never faced foreclosure, you don’t know who to call. We’re just trying to help families facing foreclosure stay in their homes.”
Most families facing foreclosure wait too late to take action, Alexander said, damaging their chances of keeping their homes.
“I think for most people it’s hard to reach out and ask for help,” she said.
The partnership is trying to reach out during the holiday season, when so many families have a hard time making ends meet.
“There are resources to help them stay in their homes,” she said. “We want families to reach out to us.”
Alexander urged families a month or more behind in payments to reach out.
She said a family less than three months behind in payments will probably be directed to a financial counselor, while someone more than three months behind will likely be directed to legal services.
United Way’s 211 is part of a nationwide initiative to connect resources with people in need. The 211 call center seeks to connect callers with appropriate social services organizations in the community for their needs.
November 29th, 2014
SCHOOL NEWS: Nov. 30 - Fifth graders at the Alberta School of Performing Arts received a very special treat. As part of the school’s goal to spark interest in various career disciplines in elementary students, Rosianna Gray from the University of Alabama was invited to come to talk to students about her chosen profession. Gray received a Ph.D. in Biology from UA.
Gray performed some amazing experiments with the students while also promoting the importance of learning to love and respect math and science, regardless of the career path the students would like to follow. She also expressed the importance of having a good attitude in order to have positive outcomes in life.
After spending time with Gray, many students expressed a desire to learn more about math and science and also asked if they could come to visit Gray at her laboratory located on the University of Alabama campus. Both Gray and the students enjoyed their time together. She has plans to come out for another visit once the students transition to their new school.
The students at had more opportunities to interact with other members of the community who, like Gray, plan to come by and share information about their chosen career fields. On Oct. 31, students were visited by licensed cosmetologists, a dance studio owner, miners, a carpenter from Tuscaloosa’s Home Depot, a chef, a geologist, a Fire Chief and others. This was a very exciting opportunity for the students to begin thinking of possible career avenues and what it will take for them to achieve their goals.
On Oct. 24, Maxwell Elementary School recognized students for perfect attendance, leadership, Accelerated Reading and for making the all-A or A/B honor roll. Mrs. Tate, the Attendance Fairy and school counselor, was on-hand to assist Principal Connie Cooley in giving out various awards.
On Oct. 13, Rocky Quarry Middle School eighth-grade teachers Stephanie Jordan and Laren Hammonds presented a session at the Social Studies Council of Alabama’s annual conference held at Samford University in Birmingham. Their session, “Cross-Curricular Collaboration in the Middle Grades,” addressed a number of topics teachers face when blending their curricula, including facilitating collaborative lesson planning, developing and assessing cross-curricular projects, establish a flexible learning environment within existing classroom spaces and class schedules, and communicating with community members.
Rock Quarry Middle School faculty members Laren Hammonds, Andrew Maxey and Julie Ramsay organized and hosted the first annual Edcamp Tuscaloosa on Oct. 18. Edcamp is a participant-driven day of learning during which attendees offer informal, discussion-based sessions on topics relevant to teaching and learning. The day’s sessions featured students, parents, pre-service teachers, classroom teachers, administrators and university faculty sharing their knowledge, passions and expertise. Next year’s Edcamp Tuscaloosa is set for Oct. 31.
Rock Quarry students have been extending their learning in enrichment classes on Wednesday afternoons. Students are taking Add-on Learning classes in creative writing, art and “Minecraft.” Classes are taught by UA professors, local artists and RQMS students. Next semester, additional classes may include drama, entrepreneurship, Japanese culture and French.
The sixth-grade team at Rock Quarry Middle School presented at the Association for Middle Level Education national conference on Nov. 6 in Nashville, Tenn. Their presentation was titled “Hands-On, Minds-On: Engaging Students in Cross-Curricular Experiential Learning” and highlighted five different collaborative projects they created for their students. The projects include Immigration Day, Mathopoly, Innovation Day, The Egg-Drop and The Amazing Race to seventh grade. Their team consists of the following teachers: Lindsay Kilgore, Angela Williams, Karis Allen, Chandra Brewer, Shelly Huver, Stacy McDaniel and Julie Ramsay.
Stephanie Jordan, eighth-grade social studies teacher at Rock Quarry Middle School, presented at the National Council for Social Studies conference in Boston, Mass., on Nov. 21-23. She spoke on the cross-
curricular collaboration taking place between her and English teacher Laren Hammonds.
First-grade students from Holy Spirit Catholic School took a trip to Veterans Memorial Park in Tuscaloosa on Nov. 11 and had their picture taken with Gov. Robert Bentley following the Veterans Day ceremony.
The fourth-grade students took a trip to the Moundville Native American Festival at Moundville Archaeological Park, where they had the chance to play games, make crafts and learn about Native American customs and the history of Native Americans in our area.
Kindergartener Samuel Lopez-Moreno from Mrs. James’ kindergarten class was selected as one of the lucky runner-up winners of Scholastic Reading Club’s “It’s Okay to Make Mistakes” Sweepstakes. Samuel was chosen from more than 8,000 entries around the country and received a copy of the book “It’s Okay to Make Mistakes” signed by the author Todd Parr. Not only did Samuel win a prize for himself, he also won a copy of the book for every student in his class.
Olivia Wyatt, a sophomore at Holy Spirit Catholic School in Tuscaloosa, participated in the Alabama Youth in Government “Youth Judicial” Conference Nov. 1-3. Youth in Government is a national program of the YMCA. She served as Deputy Sheriff during the mock trial competitions in Montgomery. Prior to the competition, she was elected as a Deputy Sheriff and attended a leadership training weekend at Camp Chandler in Wetumpka and was also required to study case law and trial policy and procedure. Olivia was the only student from the Tuscaloosa area to participate. She will also be running for office in December for the upcoming Youth Legislature Conference that will be held in February in Montgomery.
On Nov. 7, Central High School students were given instruction and a helping hand in learning about eating healthy and preparing their food from a garden with the assistance of Tuscaloosa Garden Club members and Judith Rives, Master Gardener, who talked also about raising and cooking with herbs.
Prepared were Kale chips, baked eggplant, fresh salad and stir-fried veggies such as mustard, kale, peppers and carrots. Fresh apple cider was served.
Many of the students have been involved in growing a garden at the school. Extra vegetables will be donated to the community. Along with growing food, they are being taught the value of eating healthy.
Most students said they were amazed that they were actually enjoying eating these veggies. Many asked about how to prepare the food. The Tuscaloosa Garden Club will be providing assistance with planning the next step in tending the garden.
November 29th, 2014
Historic bridge that leads into Alberta will be demolished - Built in the 1940s after World War II, the historic viaduct bridge on University Boulevard that leads into Alberta has been a part of the original “Gateway to the University of Alabama.” On Monday, demolition will begin on the bridge.
Tuscaloosa City Councilman Kip Tyner said Friday that once construction begins Monday, the project will take roughly eight months to complete, with August 2015 being the potential finish.
While construction of a new bridge is under way, Tuscaloosa residents can use 15th Street and Veterans Memorial Parkway by way of Kicker Road to reach Alberta, as well as Jack Warner Parkway to take 28th Avenue.
November 29th, 2014
Police hopeful of break in cold case of amateur boxer gunned down in 2008 - Six years have passed since a well-known, promising amateur boxer was gunned down at a busy gas station on 15th Street.
Questions about who killed Arhmad Vaughan and why have haunted family members since the April 13, 2008, shooting.
“Every day is a challenge,” said his mother, Carol Vaughan. “Knowing the way he died, and nobody knowing what happened to him is hard.”
Vaughan was shot dead at what was a BP Station in west Tuscaloosa, where 15th Street becomes Stillman Boulevard.
Investigators say they may be closer to finding out who fired the bullet that killed the 27-year-old father of three. Several CrimeStoppers tips were recently provided to the Tuscaloosa County Metro Homicide Unit after surveillance video of the shooting was shown during a WVUA series featuring cold cases, said unit commander Sgt. Dale Phillips.
“We implore anyone who knows anything about this case to please come forward so we can provide some answers for his family,” he said.
Investigators believe that Vaughan was targeted. He was pumping gas just after 9 p.m. on a Sunday night when the gunman, wearing dark clothing, seemed to purposefully approach Vaughan before firing a gun and heading back toward 15th Street.
Vaughan took a few steps before he collapsed and died.
Moyacca Jones says that Vaughan left behind a large family that has never forgotten him. She's one of Vaughan's many cousins and other family members who live in the area.
“At first I felt a lot of anger. I couldn't get over feeling like something was missing out of my life. I just didn't feel complete,” she said. “We're all close and get together all the time. This has affected all of us.”
Vaughan was the father of two daughters, now 16 and 13, and a son, now 11. His mother said they ask about him often and enjoy watching a video of him boxing. The oldest has been training and learning to box, she said.
Vaughan won the Alabama Golden Gloves championship in 2006 and was selected in 2008 for the Alabama team that competed in the Golden Gloves Southern Regional competition in Knoxville, Tenn.
After Vaughan died, his friends and sparring partners spoke to The Tuscaloosa News at Skyy Gym in Northport. They all said that Vaughan, nicknamed “Kool,” was a positive influence who motivated the beginners and pushed everyone to do his best. Carol Vaughan said she's described that man to her grandchildren, so they'll know what kind of person he was.
Jones said an arrest would bring her some comfort, but she said she'll always mourn the loss of her cousin, who was more like a brother.
“It's not between our family and whoever did it, it's between them and God,” she said. “I know that an arrest won't bring him back. I'll still be missing him, and missing a piece of my life. Our whole family will.”
Reach Stephanie Taylor at stephanie.taylor@tuscaloosanews.com or 205-722-0210.
November 29th, 2014
Court to hear arguments on Accountability Act - MONTGOMERY | It's been called a lifeline for children in underperforming classrooms. Critics call it welfare for private education.
The Alabama Supreme Court will hear arguments Wednesday in a challenge to the Alabama Accountability Act. The law provides state income tax credits to help low-income parents cover the cost of private school tuition with priority given to families zoned for schools designated as failing. The court could be the final stop in a long battle over whether the Republican-backed 2013 school legislation is legal and if it was properly approved during a tumultuous 2013 night in the Alabama Legislature.
"The biggest question is the way this bill declares that you can give public money to private schools," said state Sen. Quinton Ross, D-Montgomery, one of the plaintiffs that challenged the law.
Unlike a voucher, in which parents get a check from the state, the program gives income tax credits — a dollar-for-dollar reduction on your tax bill — that people and corporations can claim when filing their state income taxes. Parents with children in a school designated as failing can get a tax credit to help move their child to a private school. Individuals and corporations can get tax credits, collectively capped at $25 million, for donations to scholarships to help low-income families pay for private school.
The law requires that children zoned for failing schools get priority for scholarships. After Sept. 15, low-income families can receive scholarships regardless of where they live.
The Alabama Opportunity Scholarship Fund, the largest scholarship granting organization and a group started by former Gov. Bob Riley, has awarded 2,830 scholarships this school year. About half went to low-income students zoned for schools designated as failing, and the others to low-income students zoned for other public schools, according to the group.
Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh, the architect of the law, said the law gives "school choice for parents and children who have never had the choice before." Marsh said while failing schools were the original emphasis, he's proud that other families have benefited.
"You take higher income levels, they have a choice to pay for private school or parochial school or go the direction they want. This is the first time low-income families, who have not been able to afford private school, have a choice," Marsh said.
Critics of the law question how many families enrolled in failing schools have benefited from the tax credits.
Lesley Searcy, executive director of the scholarship group, she did not know how many scholarship recipients attended a failing school because the law only requires them to look at where a student was zoned.
Searcy said the law requires the group to ensure that no more than 25 percent of all awards go to students who were continuously enrolled in a private school the previous year.
Kim Mashburn of Boaz said a scholarship helped her find a better situation for her 8-year-old son, Garrett Johnson. His school was not labeled as failing, but she said her son was struggling and unhappy.
"We decided to take a chance, but didn't know if he would get the scholarship or not. We started in August. Within the second week, it was like a different kid. It was amazing the change," Mashburn said.
His private school tuition costs more than $320 each month on a payment plan. The 42-year-old sewing plant worker said it would be difficult to afford without the scholarship.
Gregory Graves, deputy secretary of the Alabama Education Association, said the law does not live up to its stated purpose: Helping kids in failing schools.
"If you are trying to help students trapped in failing school, we would think the job of the Legislature is to assist those schools with providing better academic platforms for those students. You are not helping an entity by taking money from that entity when the entity is already underfunded," Graves said.
Montgomery County Circuit Judge Gene Reese ruled the law unconstitutional in May. Reese said the law violates the constitutional prohibition on using public funds for private education.
Reese said lawmakers also violated the Constitution by changing the legislation from its original subject of allowing schools to seek waivers from education policies. Republicans added the tax credit language in conference committee and approved the bill the same night over the angry shouts of Democrats.
Marsh said he believes the law will be upheld.
"The subject was education. The subject wasn't changed. Was it a major change in the bill? I'll agree it was," Marsh said.
November 29th, 2014
Black Friday draws shoppers before Friday with special deals - In thick coats, beanies and gloves, people stood in lines along the sidewalks of University Mall Thursday night waiting for Black Friday sales to begin.
By Friday morning the lines had dispersed, but the parking lot remained full. Inside, daughters, mothers, grandmothers and very few men carried a multitude of bags up and down the mall corridors in step with the Christmas music playing over the loud speaker.
Mariah Ferguson and her daughter were among the many shoppers Friday morning. Ferguson said she fights the crowds to get good deals, but she won’t do it on Thanksgiving night.
“I refuse to come on Thanksgiving Day,” Ferguson said. “I think you should be with family or friends.”
She said Black Friday is part of her Thanksgiving holiday tradition. On Thursday, she said her family gathers for Thanksgiving. On Friday, it’s time to shop. She said she has participated in Black Friday sales every year since she was a teenager with her own mom, and now she does it with her daughter.
“It has always been a mom and daughter kind of tradition,” she said. “The girls do this, and the guys go hunting. Then we go home and decorate (for Christmas).”
Eddie Thompson, owner of the High Tide Sports shopping kiosk, said opening on Thanksgiving is good business because it’s better sales, but it doesn’t mean he likes it.
“I don’t like being open on Thanksgiving,” he said. “But, it starts off the Christmas season, and it gets people in here.”
November 29th, 2014
Tuscaloosa, Auburn mayors place 'wager' on Iron Bowl - The annual Iron Bowl wager between the mayors of Tuscaloosa and Auburn resumes this year for the benefit of local charities.
Deidre Stalnaker, media relations coordinator for the city of Tuscaloosa, said Tuscaloosa Mayor Walter Maddox and Auburn Mayor Bill Ham Jr. have agreed to make charitable contributions based on the outcome of the matchup at 6:45 p.m. Saturday at Bryant-Denny Stadium.
If the No. 1-ranked Crimson Tide wins, Ham will make a $100 donation to the Tuscaloosa Pre-K Initiative.
Should the victory go to Auburn, currently ranked No. 15 in the latest College Football Playoff rankings, Maddox will make a $100 donation to the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Lee County, as he did a year ago following the Tigers’ last-minute victory on The Plains.
“The Iron Bowl is an exciting, passionate rivalry,” Maddox said. “Mayor Ham and I are proud to leverage this rivalry to help charities that are close to our hearts.”
November 29th, 2014
Main Tuscaloosa Public Library branch will hold open house - The Tuscaloosa Public Library will host its fourth annual open house from 2-5:30 p.m. Dec. 7.
The open house will include children’s crafts, movies, treats, book signings by local authors, and a holiday postcard photo booth. All activities will be free.
The library is at 1801 Jack Warner Parkway. Call 205-345-5820 for more information.
November 29th, 2014
Three local attorneys chosen for Leadership Forum - Three Tuscaloosa attorneys have been chosen to participate in the Alabama State Bar's Leadership Forum.
Kristofor David Sodergren of Rosen Harwood, Scott Bradley Holmes of the City Attorney's Office and Glory Rachel McLaughlin of the University of Alabama School of Law are among 30 attorneys statewide selected for the forum, which focuses on leadership, ethics and career development.
“As a graduate of the program, I know firsthand the positive impact it can have on your legal career, and how it further prepares the participants to serve their clients, their communities and the profession,” said Alabama State Bar President Rich Raleigh, who works for the Wilmer and Lee law firm in Huntsville. “The Leadership Forum offers a dynamic and educational environment that creates conversation, inspires new ideas and fosters strong working relationships among attorneys.”
The Leadership Forum was created in 2005 and has produced 287 graduates.
The participants are chosen through a competitive process. About 40 percent of the total applicants are picked. Forum participants are selected based on their demonstration of leadership qualities and service to their communities. There are no age requirements, but participants must have practiced law for at least five years and no more than 15 years.
The forum class also includes:
William Reeves Andrews of Marsh, Rickard and Bryan in Birmingham.
Benjamin Huff Barron of Lee, Livingston, Lee and Nichols in Dothan.
Rebecca Ashley Beers of Rumberger, Kirk and Caldwell in Birmingham.
Christopher Patrick Bodden of Regions Financial Corp. in Birmingham.
Haley Andrews Cox of Lightfoot, Franklin and White in Birmingham.
Howard Hube Dodd Jr. of the Dodd Firm in Birmingham.
Christopher Ramsey Duck of the Duck Law Firm in Homewood.
Roy Clay Dumas of Hill, Hill, Carter, Franco, Cole and Black in Montgomery.
Prim Formby Escalona of Maynard Cooper and Gale in Birmingham.
Brandon Keith Essig of the U.S. Attorney's Office middle district in Montgomery.
Andrew Brent Freeman of Adams and Reese in Mobile.
Timothy Justin Flinn Gallagher of Sasser, Sefton and Brown in Montgomery.
Shera Craig Grant of the Office of the Public Defender in Jefferson County.
George Allen Howell of Samford University's Cumberland School of Law.
John W. Johnson II of Christian and Small in Birmingham.
Henry Sprott Long III of Butler Snow in Birmingham.
Thomas Matthew Loper of the Gardner Firm in Mobile.
Harold Dean Mooty III of Bradley Arant Boult Cummings in Huntsville.
Kathleen Megan Shuey O'Connell of HealthSouth Corp. in Birmingham.
Adam Patterson Plant of Battle and Winn in Birmingham.
John Thomas Richie of Bradley Arant Boult Cummings in Birmingham.
Rachel Laurie Riddle of the Alabama Legislative Fiscal Office in Montgomery.
Kelly Burleson Rushin of Liles and Rushin in Birmingham.
Ernest Glenn Smith Jr. of Carr Allison in Daphne.
Brian Michael Vines of Hare, Wynn, Newell and Newton in Birmingham.
Mickey Jansen Voss of Scott, Sullivan, Streetman and Fox in Birmingham.
William Christopher Waller Jr. of Ball, Ball, Matthews and Novak in Montgomery.
November 29th, 2014
Plan for additional restrooms at Riverwalk goes forward - Plans for an additional restroom facility on the Riverwalk moved forward after a City Council committee approved funding for its design.
City officials have yet to identify the full $130,000 estimated for its construction, but the council’s Finance Committee approved $25,000 needed to design the restroom’s installation inside the gazebo to the east of RiverWalk Place.
“I know with summer coming, we’ll have hundreds -— if not thousands — of people coming down to our Riverwalk,” said Mayor Walt Maddox, who was vocally supportive of the restroom financing, “and I’d like to get ahead of that as much as possible.”
Maddox said an additional restroom facility on the Riverwalk is among the main requests he regularly gets from residents. The only public restrooms along the recreational trail now are near the small city-owned facility near the Tuscaloosa Amphitheater where GUMZ clothing print shop now operates.
Because of this, Maddox is pushing for the installation of the restrooms in the large gazebo that is managed by the Tuscaloosa County Park and Recreation Authority.
Funding for the design, if approved by the full City Council, will come from the approximately $38,000 in uncommitted funds from the $1.3 million the city received this summer after refinancing a prior series of municipal bonds.
During the Nov. 18 council meeting, PARA Executive Director Gary Minor said restrooms were part of the original plan for the gazebo but were left off to cut costs, and City Facilities Maintenance Director Clif Penick said the water and sewer line infrastructure already is in place.
Installing the restrooms would take up about half of the gazebo’s current available space, if replaced in accordance with original plan.
“We’re just putting it back to its original design,” Penick said.
Reach Jason Morton at jason.morton@tuscaloosanews.com or 205-722-0200.
November 29th, 2014
Brookwood teacher up for national LifeChanger of the Year award - Brookwood Middle School eighth-grade world history and geography teacher Chasidy White has been nominated for the 2014-15 national LifeChanger of the Year award.
According to a news release, LifeChanger of the Year is a national program that annually recognizes and rewards K-12 school district educators and employees who are making a significant difference in the lives of students by exemplifying excellence, positive influence and leadership.
Each school year, the LifeChanger of the Year program receives hundreds of nominations. Ten winners are selected by the selection committee to receive cash awards that are split between the individual winner and their school. The national grand prize award is $10,000.
White was nominated for the award by her colleague Becky Brown. She was selected as a finalist because she’s taught peace education in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, and also developed and taught a curriculum at the Bumi Sehat Youth Center in Indonesia teaching English and computer classes.
She has also written several grants to fund travel, technology and literacy programs for Brookwood students, has been named a member of the United States’ National Assessment of Educational Progress and as a guest of the Chinese government has helped create a digital curriculum connecting a school in Chong-qing to her students at Brookwood.
“Since graduating from Brookwood High School as a student, and now working at Brookwood as a teacher, Ms. White has always found ways to help a student or colleague in need,” Brown said. “She brings vitality to our school and is always looking for things she can do to improve student learning.”
Superintendent Elizabeth Swinford said White is just an amazing teacher who keeps climbing to new heights.
“She brings out the best in students,” Swinford said. “She just develops that sense of curiosity for knowledge and wisdom in her students. That’s why she is such an important part of our school system.
“She was our secondary teacher of the year last year. We’re very proud of her accomplishments, and she’s going to go far. The best is yet to come.”
White could not be reached for comment.
The top three winners of the LifeChanger of the Year award will be honored at a national awards ceremony after they’re announced in spring 2015.
Reach Jamon Smith at jamon.smith@tuscaloosanews.com or 205-722-0204.
November 29th, 2014
Ebola scare boosts business for Alabama company - BIRMINGHAM | The Ebola scare has subsided in the United States, at least temporarily, but an Alabama manufacturer is still trying to catch up with a glut of orders for gear to protect against the disease.
Located in north Alabama, the family-owned Kappler Inc. of Guntersville typically gets only a few orders annually for the type of suit needed by health workers who are in contact with Ebola patients.
That changed once the disease showed up in Texas, Kappler vice president of marketing Dennis Sanders said. Quickly, orders were flooding in for thousands of the company's Provent 10,000 coverall.
"It happened, literally, overnight," he said. "We took orders in a couple of days that exceeded the orders we've had on that particular product in two or three years."
While the company has about 75,000 of the suits on back order, Sanders said, it has yet to need to add to its workforce of 150 employees or extend working hours.
"We'll probably be filling orders through April 2015," he said.
Other U.S. manufacturers also have reported seeing spikes in orders for protective gear, including surgical face mask manufacturer Kimberly-Clark. In China, Weifang Lakeland Safety Products has said it is doubling capacity to meet the demand for coveralls.
Kappler is the only company making protective suit entirely in the United States, Sanders said. Its product works because of a special method for sealing seams and APTRA, a plastic film that protects against blood and body fluids that could carry the Ebola virus, he said.
Kappler sells its suits to distributors that, in turn, sell to hospitals and health agencies. The Provent 10,000 suit costs about $25 retail.
While the company is now working through old orders, Sanders said he expects another round of new orders if Ebola again becomes a lead topic for news in the United States.
"Anytime there is an event in the world we get the inquiries about things like, 'How long would it take for a 1 million orders?" he said. "This time those calls turned in to orders."
The World Health Organization says more than 5,400 people have died in the current outbreak, mostly in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone in western Africa.
Ten people have been treated for Ebola in the United States, and one has died.
November 28th, 2014
Sharing with strangers: Group joins for traditional Thanksgiving meal at Chuck's Fish - It is tradition for my family to gather at my grandmother’s house on Thanksgiving Day to partake in a meal of dressing, ham, turkey and every traditional Thanksgiving side dish that belongs in the South.
This year, I was not sitting with my loved ones around her ceramic-tiled kitchen table or watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade squashed between my aunt and a cousin on the living room couch or pulling the trigger on my uncle’s 12-gauge shotgun aimed at a pinned-up target before heading back inside to polish off the leftovers for supper.
This Thanksgiving, I found myself surrounded by strangers from all walks of life — from men with holes in their gloves and blue jeans to women with strands of pearls draped around their necks.
Together we ate slices of ham and turkey and servings of dressing with cranberry sauce, corn, green beans, mashed potatoes and the best pumpkin pie I have ever put in my mouth.
Shoulder-to-shoulder, we clambered around the big wooden tables at Chuck’s Fish restaurant in downtown Tuscaloosa on Thursday for a Thanksgiving meal that served as a Project Blessings fundraiser.
“The idea is a community Thanksgiving feast, open to all,” said Kellee Reinhart, a volunteer with Project Blessings. “You will see disabled people, there might be people here who live in their car, there will be people of substantial means who will write a large donation check and then there might be people who are elderly. It brings everybody together, all kinds of people, and everybody gets treated the same.”
The food — 300 pounds of turkey — was donated by the restaurant. It came by the hands of more than 200 Project Blessings volunteers, including University of Alabama director of athletics Bill Battle and his wife, Mary, and restaurant staff who volunteered their Thanksgiving to serve a group ranging from people in large families to singles who had no family to share the day with.
A large bucket at the door held $1, $5, $10 and $20 bills mixed among checks made payable to Project Blessings, a Tuscaloosa based, nonprofit organization that began in 2009 to help low-income homeowners make essential repairs to their homes.
For the past five years, Chuck’s Fish has partnered with Project Blessings to provide Thanksgiving meals for donations to help the organization in its efforts.
Reinhart said the fundraiser drew about 600 people last year, and she expected as many as 1,000 people this year. With a line backed up out the door, she was probably right.
Those who wanted to grab something and go could snag a turkey sandwich from the American Lunch food truck parked along the sidewalk in front of the restaurant.
I chose to eat at a table next to two University of Alabama graduate students who couldn’t make it home this year and one of their fathers, Steve Henderson, who came from San Diego. He said the tradition at his house is to play a morning football game with teams made up of several families who join his for Thanksgiving. Then they eat and watch football on TV for the rest of the day, he said.
Like me, he wasn’t able to participate in his traditions, but he said the restaurant and Project Blessings made Thanksgiving better than what he had expected.
“When you’re in a place where there’s no family, your friends kind of become family,” he said.
For one day, they became my family.
November 28th, 2014
Tuscaloosa VA to offer class on coping with holiday blues - The Tuscaloosa Veterans Affairs Medical Center will offer a class next week for veterans and their families on how to cope with the holiday blues.
The hourlong class begins at 6 p.m. Dec. 4 in the activity room of building 137 on the VA Medical Center campus, 3701 Loop Road.
The class will be led by Shirley Craven, one of the center’s chaplains.
For more information, call 205-554-2000, extension 4286 or 2426.
November 27th, 2014
Central High's basketball court could be named for coaches - Since Central High School’s football field, locker rooms and press box were named after the school’s legendary coach Lue C. Mims Jr. in 2012, different groups have approached the Tuscaloosa City Board of Education asking that other winning coaches have school facilities named for them.
To properly handle the requests, the board in March 2013 created a detailed set of procedures on naming facilities after people.
The latest request the school board received — it’s more of an old request that’s resurfaced and been added to — is to name Central High School’s basketball court the “Sanders-Holland Court.”
According to a June 30, 2011, recommendation letter from Central High Principal Clarence Sutton Jr., Roosevelt Sanders is a hall of fame coach with three state championships in boys basketball.
He coached at Central from 1980 to 1994, according to the Alabama High School Football Historical Society.
His record includes 17 area and regional championships, two undefeated seasons in 1980 and 1991, 47 consecutive wins overall and 72 straight wins playing at home.
Sutton said Sanders was the first coach of the Alabama team to participate in the Alabama/Mississippi All-Star game, and his team was ranked No. 1 in the state for 18 consecutive weeks.
The second name in the proposed title represents coach Jim Holland. Sutton said Holland led Central’s girls basketball team to three state championships, numerous regional championships and a record-setting number of wins. Holland coached Central’s first All-American athlete, and he’s a hall of fame nominee.
“The school thought that both individuals contributed a lot to the excellence and history of Central High School and thought that they both should be honored for their contributions,” Sutton said.
Marvin Lucas, a school board member and chairman of the building and grounds committee, said the request has been before the board since 2005, when Central’s former Druid City High School head basketball coach and Central basketball coach Robey Butler brought it to the board.
Before 2013, the board didn’t have a policy on naming facilities after people and didn’t know how to handle the request. But since then, the request has been held up because the proposed name of the facility changed, Lucas said.
Originally, the request before the board was to name Central’s basketball court only after Sanders. Holland’s name was added later.
“When (the request) came back and it had Sanders-Holland, we didn’t expect anything about Sanders-Holland,” Lucas said. “We just knew about Sanders. So since it hadn’t followed all the proper channels, it had to be sent back. If we made one group go through a process with the Coach Lue Mims Football Complex, we have to make other groups do the same thing.”
Board member James Minyard said he supports the name change and is ready for the issue to be resolved. The people involved just need to go through all of the proper procedures, he said.
“Sanders was responsible for all those championships,” Minyard said. “He should have a room, a dorm or something with his name on it. People just wait too long, and the people in place who would have had no issue with it are gone. Sanders did a lot for Central basketball, and Holland did a lot with the girls team.
“The biggest drawback to this was changing the proposal. It had to go back to be reconsidered. A lot of time and effort had gone into (naming the court after) Sanders. When Holland’s name was attached to it, it had to go through the process again of the buildings and grounds committee and the superintendent.”
Lucas said the issue should come back before the board sometime during basketball season.
“So it’s not on our next meeting agenda, but it should be as soon as Dr. Sutton and (the rest) reconvene and finish the process,” he said. “It’s well overdue for coming back up and happening.”
Lucas said part of the process of getting a school facility named after someone is that it has to be discussed and approved by a committee made up of the school’s principal, teachers, parents of children at that school and students.
Once that’s done, it comes back before the board if it’s recommended by the superintendent, among other steps.
Sutton said the school committee will finish discussing the issue soon.
“Because of holidays, a committee meeting hasn’t been scheduled but we’ll try to get it at the beginning of the year,” Sutton said.
Butler couldn’t be reached for comment.
November 27th, 2014
Gee's Bend quilts headed to New York City - The Metropolitan Museum of Art has received a major gift of works by contemporary African-American artists from the South.
The museum said the donation includes 20 works by quilters in Gee’s Bend, a remote community in Alabama.
It also contains 10 pieces by Thornton Dial, as well as paintings, drawings and mixed media works by Lonnie Holley, Nellie Mae Rowe and others.
The gift of 57 works comes from the Atlanta-based Souls Grown Deep Foundation, founded by art historian William Arnett.
Arnett said in a statement that the collection documents a little-known artistic tradition that began in the Deep South, likely during the earliest days of slavery. An exhibition of the works is planned for 2016.
November 27th, 2014
Tuscaloosa mayor eyes General Fund reserves - For the second consecutive fiscal year, the city's General Fund surpluses will not be enough to fund a large slate of capital improvement projects.
That is the message Mayor Walter Maddox has delivered to the City Council based on unaudited figures for the 2014 fiscal year.
The fiscal year ended Sept. 30.
The mayor attributes the shortfall to unexpected expenses associated with the April tornado and a severe winter requiring numerous overtime hours to overcome, along with sales tax shortfalls.
Both the city and county sales tax revenue came in below projections, which were based on the prior year's actual collections. Maddox said the city sales taxes were $50,259 less than the fiscal 2013 figures and that the city's portion of the countywide sales taxes were about $850,000 less than the prior year.
“The trend since the Great Recession across the nation is people are spending less, they're putting more on credit, and they're buying more on the Internet,” Maddox said. “We've adjusted our (current) budgets and made the necessary reductions on the expenditure side that will keep us moving forward.”
This all adds up to a surplus from fiscal year 2014 of about $232,000 for the General Fund's Reserve Fund for Future Improvement. That, the mayor said, is not enough to perform the normal slate of work that Maddox normally plans.
Since 2006, Maddox had announced a round of projects from the prior fiscal year's reserve fund every year, except for fiscal year 2011 because of the deadly tornadoes in April of that year.
There was enough in fiscal year 2012 to fund some improvement work. In July 2013, the City Council approved a slate of nine projects totalling $2.6 million in capital improvement projects. The largest item on the list was the $1.73 million realignment of Hargrove Road East and Skyland Boulevard.
But that was the last time the General Fund's reserves were enough to justify a round of improvement work.
There was, however, enough surplus from the fiscal 2014 Water and Sewer Fund to go toward a future slate of water and sewer infrastructure projects. Maddox told the City Council that about $4 million is available to fund this work.
And some capital work outside of water and sewer will take place with funding from leftover bond proceeds and revenue from the Alabama Trust Fund and the city's portion of the gasoline taxes.
But as for the current fiscal year, the mayor believes the budget adjustments and expense reductions will allow for enough of a surplus to announce some General Fund capital projects in 2015.
“I do feel very confident, based on the revenue numbers we're seeing this year, that this time next time we'll have larger surpluses to invest into infrastructure,” Maddox said.
November 27th, 2014
University of Alabama to mark anniversary of famous meteorite - There's only one documented case of a meteorite hitting a person in the United States, and it happened in the east Alabama town of Sylacauga.
The University of Alabama is marking the 60th anniversary of that odd occurrence at the Alabama Museum of Natural History in Tuscaloosa.
A special exhibit about the space rock that hit Ann Hodges on Nov. 30, 1954, is on exhibit throughout the holiday weekend in the campus museum.
Hodges was napping on her couch when a meteorite the size of a softball crashed through the roof and struck her in the left hip, causing a large bruise. The event was covered in newspapers around the world.
Hodges donated the meteorite to the museum two years later, and it's still on display. Museum outreach coordinator Allie Sorlie says the rock is a unique part of Alabama history.
Extraterrestrial objects that hit people are quite rare. In 1992, a Ugandan boy was hit by a small fragment in Mbale, but its path was slowed when it struck a tree. The child was not injured.
November 27th, 2014
Legion Field featured as setting of upcoming movie - BIRMINGHAM | Legion Field is decades past its prime as a sports venue, but it's the natural setting for a movie that's being filmed about faith and reconciliation with football as a backdrop.
Cast members, crew and extras filled the old stadium on Graymont Avenue this week to shoot scenes for "Woodlawn," which will star Oscar winner Jon Voight as former Alabama coach Paul "Bear" Bryant and former Crimson Tide defensive back Caleb Castille as former 'Bama running great Tony Nathan.
Castille, the 23-year-old son of former Alabama star Jeremiah Castille, will portray Nathan as he played for Woodlawn in an epic game held at Legion Field 40 years ago. Nathan was one of the city's first black sports stars in the years after Birmingham schools integrated.
The independent film, which is being produced by the Birmingham-based filmmaking duo of brothers Jon and Andrew Erwin, will portray Nathan's relationship with his white coach, the late Tandy Gerelds, amid the aftermath of racial integration.
It will also show the way religious faith helped unite the squad and recount Nathan's recruitment by Bryant to play at Alabama.
"In my view the story is about hope," Jon Erwin said in an interview Monday night at the stadium as extras dressed in '70s garb and blow-up dummies filled some of the aluminum bleachers. "To be able to shoot the game where it actually happened is great."
The movie will recreate the 1974 game between Banks and Woodlawn high schools that drew 42,000 people to Legion Field, which at the time was a home away from home for both Alabama and Auburn University. The crowd was the largest ever to see a high school game in Alabama.
Voight will be in town next week for additional scenes that will be shot at Legion Field. The stadium today looks much as it did back then, other than press box additions and minus an upper deck that was removed because of structural problems.
Nathan, Woodlawn's star running back, was recruited to play at Alabama by Bryant after high school. Among his teammates with the Tide was quarterback Jeff Rutledge, who led the Banks team in the 1974 game at Legion Field. Banks won, 18-7.
Both Nathan and Rutledge were part of the 1978 national championship team at Alabama, and both went on to play in the NFL.
Caleb Castille, who left the Alabama team last year to concentrate on acting after collecting two national championship rings, got the role as Nathan after initially being hired as his action double. Castille met Nathan a few years ago and feels fortunate to portray him in his first feature role.
"When I read the (script), I felt so connected to the character," said Castille.
"Woodlawn" is the third-feature-length movie by the Erwin brothers, who previously shot their debut "October Baby" and "Mom's Night Out" around Birmingham. The movie is the brothers' second film with producer Kevin Downs.
The brothers' movies focus on stories of faith and redemption. "Woodlawn" is scheduled for release next fall.
November 27th, 2014
Alabama grant to help Lowndes County lure industry - MONTGOMERY | A state grant will help an automotive supplier create 200 new jobs with an expansion in Lowndes County.
Gov. Robert Bentley is awarding a $600,000 grant to the city of Fort Deposit so the town can purchase a 180,000-square-foot building.
The building will become a second location for Chowel Weldparts Inc. The company makes impact beams for vehicles produced at the Hyundai plant near Montgomery.
Chowel Weldparts will continue operations at a plant that employs 115 people in Luverne.
The building that's being used in Fort Deposit is the former location of a sign company in the city's industrial park. Another Hyundai supplier already employs 300 people in the city.
November 27th, 2014
Lawmaker seeks to expand University of Alabama board of trustees - BIRMINGHAM | A state legislator wants to expand the University of Alabama's board of trustees to allow more input from the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
The proposal by state Rep. Jack Williams comes as UAB supporters are worried that the current board will kill the football program at UAB.
Williams wants to expand the board from 17 members to 27, including mayors of Tuscaloosa, Birmingham and Huntsville, home of the University of Alabama in Huntsville.
Williams' proposal would also include representatives of the county commissions in Tuscaloosa, Jefferson and Madison counties.
A change would require a constitutional amendment approved by voters.
Williams discussed the plan during a news conference Tuesday. UAB is currently conducting a study on the benefits of programs including the football team.
November 27th, 2014
Alabama, Auburn work together on research, social issues - The relationship between the University of Alabama and Auburn University might get the most attention as a fanatic rivalry in a state obsessed with college football, but the two state institutions work together year round on everything from research to community service projects.
Once you get past the jokes about tooth counts and intellectual impairment that swirl around the gridiron matchup, there is a surprising level of collegiality.
"Our colleagues are working with their peers at Auburn on any number of issues," said Steven Hood, interim vice president for Student Affairs at UA.
Hood's office sent out messages earlier this week on its social media accounts and through campus email meant to encourage students to embrace the positive side of the rivalry.
"We have really wanted to focus this entire year on civility and making good choices — to be neighborly," Hood said.
At the two institutions, the faculties and staffs are engaged in countless conversations and collaborations, Hood said.
Faculty at Alabama and Auburn work together on research in aerospace engineering, geology, and civil, construction and environmental engineering among other fields, according to Christ Bryant, assistant director of Media Relations. They also collaborate on projects through the Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium, SECU, the academic initiative of the Southeastern Conference; and the Alabama Cyber Research Consortium, the partnership of the state's seven PhD-granting universities and other affiliates.
Among the most visible collaborations is the annual food drive between the cross-state rivals ahead of the Iron Bowl. The campuses gather nonperishable food and money in the competition that benefits regional food banks. This year, the two collected nearly 500,000 pounds for the food insecure in their communities.
One of the longest running collaborations between the rivals is Better Relations Day, an annual meeting of student government leaders meant to foster friendly cooperation that was started in 1948 with the resumption of the Iron Bowl matchup. During the event, student representatives meet to discuss issues facing the campuses and student bodies as well as ways to cooperate, Hood said.
Each year since 2011, students have also come together to help build homes for Alabamians as part of House United, a collaboration between UA, Auburn and the Alabama Association of Habitat for Humanity, said Courtney Thomas, director of UA's Center for Sustainable Service and Volunteerism.
Last year, the students were in Auburn to build a home. This December during the holiday break, they will be back in Tuscaloosa.
House United was pursued as another way for the two institutions to collaborate and do something to benefit the state, Thomas said.
The original plan in 2011 was to work in Baldwin County, but, after the April 27 tornado, the universities decided to move the house builds to Tuscaloosa in the Holt community, Thomas said.
"It really sparked from that," Thomas said.
The week often starts with the predictable Auburn-Alabama jokes as the group of about 30 students meets. But during the week, the relationship evolves as the students bond during the physical labor of building homes, Thomas said.
"It was absolutely amazing to watch them," Thomas said.
Students come back year to year, she added.
"They are truly committed to service," she said.
The Center for Sustainable Service and Volunteerism and its counterpart at AU are talking about other ways to collaborate, Thomas said.
"They have been great collaborators who have really helped us," she said. "There will be a lot of great things coming from us collaborating."
Reach Ed Enoch at ed.enoch@tuscaloosanews.com or 205-722-0209.
November 26th, 2014
Alabama legislative chambers get $1.2M improvements - MONTGOMERY | Alabama's two legislative chambers have gotten improvements worth $1.2 million despite a looming state budget crisis.
The Alabama Senate chamber has gotten a nearly top-to-bottom makeover that includes include new carpet, woodworking, a new microphone system and solid hickory desks made by inmates in the state prison system. Senate Secretary Pat Harris said the price tag for the renovation should be just under $200,000.
"It was time to update the chamber. I think it's a very modest amount of money to be spent to allow the body to work in a professional atmosphere," said Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh.
The removal of senators' desks and the other renovations uncovered some unpleasant debris deposited over the years.
"I found dead mice. I found Coke cans. I found one flip-flop," Harris said.
The Alabama House of Representatives installed a $1 million system that records, displays and stores all legislative votes. House Clerk Jeff Woodard said it replaces a system that repeatedly malfunctioned last year.
The renovations come as the state has a looming budget crisis next year.
Alabama voters in 2012 chose to take money out of a state trust fund to help balance the General Fund budget for three years. Those funds run out of the end of this year. Lawmakers will have at least $200 million less to put together next year's budget. Gov. Robert Bentley has said the figure that legislators must come up with could go higher because of needs in corrections and Medicaid and other issues.
While lawmakers knew the trust fund money was expiring, Marsh says the extent of next year's budget problems weren't known when the project was approved. Legislators have been hesitant to estimate the size of the budget need.
Marsh said he had asked Harris earlier in the year about the possibility of renovating the Senate chamber if it could be done on a budget. Harris said inmate labor was used to build desks and recover chairs instead of purchasing new ones.
"I can assure you we got a heck of a price," Harris said.
He said the wooden desks replace ones made from Formica and plywood that were beginning to peel. Harris said it was the first renovation since legislators began meeting there in the 1980s in what was originally supposed to be a temporary facility.
November 26th, 2014
Tuscaloosa City Schools launches HERE program to help boost attendance - Since the Tuscaloosa City Schools launched an attendance campaign called HERE at the beginning of the school year, absences appear to be on the decline.
Last year, the school system had 84,738 absences at the end of the academic year. So far this year — as of day 73 of the 180-day school year — there have been about 21,000.
"If we stay on the same projection, we'll decrease the number of absences that we had last year," said Charles Anthony, coordinator of attendance for the city schools.
HERE, which is an acronym for Have Everyone Ready to Educate, was started with a goal of making students, parents and everyone in the community aware of the importance of school attendance, said Lesley Bruinton, spokeswoman for the school system.
"This is an accountability measure that's part of Plan 2020," Bruinton said. "We thought this would be a good way to look at our attendance and increase it. We're highlighting the importance of attendance. Although we are focused on attendance, if children are sick, they don't need to be in school."
Superintendent Paul McKendrick said in July that attendance has become part of what the Alabama Department of Education evaluates school systems on. To be in compliance with state standards, school systems have to maintain a minimum attendance rate of 95 percent per school.
But the importance of school attendance goes beyond that, he said.
Missing classes increases the chances of students dropping out of school, which in turn increases their chances of gaining employment.
"We realize that this is not something we can do by ourselves," McKendrick said. "We need parents, we need community, we need parents to see the importance of it. ...It's also part of the larger effort on our part to get parents to understand that school is quite different than when they were in school."
Anthony said that a lot of the absences that occur in the system happen in pre-kindergarten and kindergarten. Those are key areas he wants to focus on because when students start missing classes in lower grades, it becomes a habit that carries over into the upper grades.
"If we can get them coming to school early on, that sets good habits for later," he said.
While getting students to see the importance of coming to school daily is a big part of solving the problem, another challenging hurdle is getting parents on board, especially with elementary students.
"We just want the parents to know that it's really important to have their kids in school," Anthony said. "We need to work with our parents whose children have attendance problems to convince them that school is the best place for their child.
"With the HERE campaign, we're saying we cannot educate your child if they're not here on a daily basis."
Officials may be on track right now to have 10 percent fewer absences by the end of the year, but they won't feel confident about where they stand until the cold and flu season comes and goes.
"Believe me, we have to make it through the cold and flu season, which we won't be through with until early March," Anthony said. "We're really watching our numbers."
To help motivate students to come to school on a daily basis, some schools are using incentives such as giving out prizes to students with the best attendance records.
"Southview Elementary School partnered with the PTA, and the PTA gave the school $1,500 to support the attendance initiative," Bruinton said. "The principal bought four bikes to drum up excitement about it. They gave out two bikes (Nov. 21). One for perfect attendance in September and one for perfect attendance in October.
"They took all the kids with perfect attendance, put their names in a bucket and drew their names out of the bucket for prizes. Some of the other prizes were board games, Play-Doh and sports balls."
She said the students were excited about getting rewards for attending school and have been encouraging each other to have good attendance.
Reach Jamon Smith at jamon.smith@tuscaloosanews.com or 205-722-0204.
November 26th, 2014
4 from West Alabama plead guilty to unemployment fraud - Four West Alabamians recently pleaded guilty to falsely claiming state unemployment compensation.
According to court records:
* Steven M. Phillips of Marion was given a 90-day suspended jail sentence and two years of unsupervised probation and was ordered to pay court costs and repay $4,505 in benefits received illegally.
* Cecil Griffin of Tuscaloosa was given a 90- day suspended jail sentence and two years of probation and was ordered to pay court costs and repay $1,429 in benefits received illegally.
* Dexter Jones of Moundville was given a 30-day suspended jail sentence and two years of probation and was ordered to pay court costs and repay $2,051 in benefits received illegally.
* Larry Smith of Tuscaloosa was given a 90-day suspended sentence and two years of probation and was ordered to pay court costs and repay $1,124 in benefits received illegally.
November 26th, 2014
2nd suspect arrested in assault case - A 26-year-old man has been charged in connection with a Tuesday assault near 20th Avenue and Dinah Washington Avenue in Tuscaloosa.
Cornelius Kendal Williams was arrested at about 4:15 p.m. Wednesday by Tuscaloosa homicide investigators.
Williams was charged with first-degree robbery, first-degree burglary, first-degree rape and first-
degree sexual abuse.
Williams was placed in the Tuscaloosa County Jail with bail set at $255,000.
He is the second suspect to be charged in the Tuesday assault. Kendrick Terrell Gilbert, 36, was also charged with first-degree robbery, first-degree burglary, first-degree rape and first-degree sexual abuse. His bail was also set at $255,00.
Police said that a young couple told investigators that they were awakened by at least three intruders at their home at about 1:30 a.m. Tuesday.
One of the intruders assaulted the 24-year-old man before he was joined by two or three other men. All were armed with handguns, police said.
Police said that the woman, 22, was physically and sexually assaulted before the men robbed them of cash and possessions. The victims saw the vehicle that the men left in.
The male victim was driving to a relative’s home to call police when he saw one of the alleged intruders driving nearby, police said. He followed him down 15th Street, striking his car a few times, before crashing in the parking lot of the CVS store at the McFarland Boulevard intersection.
The victim pursued the driver as he ran into the store and began to beat him.
November 26th, 2014
Budget could force Coast Guard changes at Lake Eufaula - EUFAULA | Lake Eufaula may be losing its U.S. Coast Guard station along the Alabama-Georgia border.
Chief Petty Officer Patrick Haughey tells the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer a shutdown could result from congressional budget talks.
The Coast Guard already has reduced the number of channel-marking buoys and riverbank markers that help boaters stay in the channel between Eufaula and Columbus.
Eufaula is a favorite destination for bass anglers, and Chattahoochee Riverwarden Roger Martin says removing channel markers will make navigating the river more difficult.
But the Coast Guard isn't authorized to maintain channels solely for recreational boating, only for military and commercial vessels.
Martin says he hopes a political compromise could save the Coast Guard station in the same way the navigational locks at Lake Eufaula were saved.
November 26th, 2014
Tuscaloosa area restaurants serving meals on Thanksgiving Day - The traditional Thanksgiving dinner might conjure up the image of that classic Norman Rockwell painting of a family gathered around a table ready to eat the golden brown roasted turkey.
But not everyone wants to be stuck in the kitchen on Thanksgiving Day.
For those who prefer to dine out, a number of local restaurants will be open — some with a special holiday bill of fare; others with their regular menu. Some also will have different hours of operation for the holiday.
Here's a look at some Tuscaloosa restaurants that will be open Thanksgiving Day. There likely are others that we didn't hear about.
But if you head out and discover your favorite place to dine is closed, don't fret. There are the old reliables — the 24-hour restaurants that don't take a holiday. The Waffle House restaurants in the Tuscaloosa area are open. So is the International House of Pancakes on Skyland Boulevard.
Another restaurant that expects brisk business Thursday is Cracker Barrel Old Country Store on Skyland Boulevard. The Tennessee-based company has 634 company-owned restaurants in 42 states, and all are open.
“Thanksgiving is the busiest day of the year for our restaurants, and we expect we'll serve about 1.4 million meals (total from all its restaurants) over the nine-day Thanksgiving holiday season,” said a statement from Bill Kintzler, Cracker Barrel's executive chef.
IHOP's Thanksgiving menu will feature a special traditional Thanksgiving dinner with turkey and dressing and sides with pie for dessert.
Another holiday tradition will be at Chuck's Fish on Greensboro Avenue. For the fifth year, the downtown restaurant is serving a free plate of turkey, ham, dressing, cranberry sauce, green beans and pie from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
The restaurant's owners say that everyone enjoys a traditional holiday meal, especially those who are less fortunate or are alone.
“Everyone is welcome,” an advertisement for the restaurant said. “While there is absolutely no charge, donations will be accepted from those capable of making them.”
Those donations will go to Project Blessings, a local non-profit organization that helps repair damaged homes for the less fortunate.
More than 100 volunteers will help prepare the meals. Last year, more than 400 people enjoyed the meal, and organizers said they are planning to serve about 600 people today.
In 2012, about $4,000 was raised for Project Blessings from the donations made at the Thanksgiving Feast, and last year around $8,000 was raised for the charity.
Also open for business today are two buffet-style restaurants — Ryan's on Courtney Drive and Buffet City on Skyland Boulevard. Ryan's plans to open for service between 10 and 11 a.m., and Buffet City will open at
11 a.m. Both restaurants will close at 7 p.m.
For those planning to have dinner later in the day, Applebee's at University Mall plans to open at 4 p.m. and stay open until midnight.
With many stores opening tonight to kick off their Black Friday sales, a number of other restaurants might be open in the evening to serve hungry shoppers.
November 26th, 2014
Alabama boy dies after bite by poisonous spider - ALBERTVILLE | A 5-year-old Alabama boy is dead after being bitten by a poisonous spider.
Funeral services were planned Wednesday for Branson Riley Carlisle of Albertville. The boy died Sunday.
Family pastor Jeff Stanford tells WHNT-TV (http://bit.ly/1Fs8MIQ ) the boy was bitten by a brown recluse spider on Sunday morning.
Stanford says the boy was immediately taken to a hospital but his condition continued to worsen. He died hours later.
A funeral home worker confirmed the cause of death to The Associated Press.
The boy is survived by his mother and father, grandparents, aunts and uncles.
November 26th, 2014
South Alabama mayor arrested in prostitution sting - DOTHAN | The mayor of a southeast Alabama town is among 11 people arrested in a prostitution sting.
Dothan police say Webb Mayor Cecil Rex Ard is charged with a single misdemeanor count of soliciting prostitution following a one-day operation that involved social media.
The 69-year-old Ard was on the Webb City Council before being elected mayor. The town of 1,400 is located in Houston County.
Ard was booked into the Dothan city jail and released on $500 bond following his arrest Tuesday.
Ard didn't immediately return a message left at Webb's town hall on Wednesday.
November 26th, 2014
Court extends deadline in Alabama girl's running death - MONTGOMERY | A state appeals court is giving prosecutors more time to respond to legal challenges in the case of a woman charged in her granddaughter's running death in Etowah County.
The Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals says prosecutors have until next week to answer arguments filed by lawyers for Joyce Hardin Garrard.
The state asked for more time to file documents that were supposed to be due last week.
Garrard is charged with capital murder in the death of her 9-year-old granddaughter, Savannah Hardin. Prosecutors claim the woman made the girl run until she collapsed as punishment for a lie.
The 49-year-old Garrard says she's innocent.
Garrard argues that her rights have been violated by a nearly three-year wait for trial. She's also citing potential problems with the girl's autopsy.
November 26th, 2014
Troopers identify 2 women who died in wreck on Lake Tuscaloosa bridge - State troopers have identified two women who died Tuesday afternoon in a two-vehicle crash on Alabama Highway 69 N.
A news release from Trooper Kevin Cook says that Melony Moore Petersen, 36, of Northport and Vicki J. Lewis Travis, 52, of Cordova were killed in the crash.
Petersen’s 1999 Toyota Avalon collided head-on with a 2004 Ford Crown Victoria driven by Travis. The crash occurred at 1:50 p.m. Tuesday on Alabama Highway 69 at the 157-mile marker, six miles north of Northport.
Both drivers were pronounced dead at the scene.
Troopers are continuing to investigate the accident.
November 26th, 2014
Tuscaloosa, Auburn mayors place "wager" on Iron Bowl - The annual Iron Bowl wager between the mayors of Tuscaloosa and Auburn resumes this year for the benefit of local charities.
Deidre Stalnaker, media relations coordinator for the city of Tuscaloosa, said Tuscaloosa Mayor Walter Maddox and Auburn Mayor Bill Ham Jr. have agreed to make charitable contributions based on the outcome of Saturday's match-up.
If the No. 1-ranked Crimson Tide wins, Ham will make a $100 donation to the Tuscaloosa Pre-K Initiative.
Should the victory go to Auburn, currently ranked No. 15 in the latest College Football Playoff rankings, Maddox will make a $100 donation to the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Lee County.
Last year, Maddox was forced to make a $100 donation to the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Lee County following the Tigers' last-minute victory on The Plains.
"The Iron Bowl is an exciting, passionate rivalry," Maddox said. "Mayor Ham and I are proud to leverage this rivalry to help charities that are close to our hearts."
This will be the 79th meeting between the Tide and the Tigers.
Kickoff in Tuscaloosa is set for at 6:45 p.m.
November 26th, 2014
Traffic snarls reported on I-20/59 southbound in Tuscaloosa County - Traffic is backed up Wednesday morning on Interstate 20/59 southbound because of the construction zone on exit 79, according to the Tuscaloosa County Sheriff’s Office.
Officials say traffic is backed up from exit 79 to exit 86 at the Brookwood rest stop.
The Tuscaloosa County Emergency Management Agency recommends motorists use exit 100 to Alabama Highway 216 or exit 89 to U.S. High way11
November 26th, 2014
Protesters demonstrate in several Alabama cities - BIRMINGHAM | Protesters rallied peacefully in several Alabama cities in the wake of the grand jury decision not to indict a police officer in the fatal shooting of Michael Brown.
In Birmingham, more than 60 people on Tuesday gathered at a downtown park to speak out against the Missouri grand jury's decision not to indict the white officer, Darren Wilson, who fatally shot the black, unarmed 18-year-old in Ferguson, Missouri, on Aug. 9.
Al.com reports that participants in the Birmingham rally sang several protest songs, including "We Shall Overcome."
In Mobile, a Tuesday evening rally began with prayer. People then marched to the federal courthouse.
In Huntsville, WHNT-TV reports that dozens of protesters marched on sidewalks downtown Tuesday evening. Police monitored the protest from the street, but no arrests were reported.
November 26th, 2014
University of Alabama defeats Auburn in Beat Hunger food drive - The University of Alabama met its goal of collecting more than 300,000 pounds of nonperishable food and beat Auburn University in the annual contest between the rivals to collect donations for their respective regional food banks ahead of the Iron Bowl.
“I am really excited and proud of what we accomplished this year,” said senior Abbie Bunn, the executive team leader for the drive at UA.
Alabama collected 300,049 pounds during the five-week competition. Auburn collected 198,041 pounds.
The results were announced Tuesday during an official weigh-in ceremony for the competing Beat Auburn, Beat Hunger and Beat Bama food drives.
The annual drive collects nonperishable food and monetary donations for the Food Bank of East Alabama in Auburn and the West Alabama Food Bank in Northport. The total announced at the West Alabama Food Bank includes the equivalent weight of food that will be purchased with monetary donations, according to Courtney Thomas, director of UA’s Center for Sustainable Service and Volunteerism, which coordinates the drive at Alabama.
About 80 students working in roughly eight teams coordinated and organized events on campus, according to Thomas and Bunn. Planning began as early as January, Bunn said. Alabama beat Auburn last year by collecting 299,398 pounds of food to Auburn’s 167,702 pounds.
While the chance to compete against Auburn is always appealing, Bunn believes Alabama students were just as motivated by the knowledge that their efforts would help West Alabamians faced with food insecurity.
“I really believe the fact that one in four children are faced with food insecurity and one in five people is something that really hits home,” Thomas said.
Thomas believes it is the ability to sympathize and understand hunger that inspired so many to help.
“This is extremely important to us,” Thomas said.
The West Alabama Food Bank partners with 80 agencies in nine counties in West Alabama, serving about 125,000 people in a year, executive director Henry Lipsey said.
Reach Ed Enoch at ed.enoch@tuscaloosanews.com or 205-722-0209.
November 25th, 2014
Expansion planned for Veterans Memorial Park - Tuscaloosa city officials have agreed to help local military veterans expand the Veterans Memorial Park on McFarland Boulevard.
John Duckworth, a member of the Veterans Memorial Park Association and a former captain in the Air Force, asked the Tuscaloosa City Council’s Public Projects Committee for help in expanding the 1-acre park, which has now reached capacity.
“We are hog-tied,” Duckworth said. “We don’t have any room to do anything else.”
The association has plans to add an Iwo Jima memorial, an Air Force military jet and a Humvee military vehicle to represent the veterans who have fought in more recent battles, wars and conflicts.
To add these installations, Duckworth said the association needs the nearly 3⁄4-acre space to the immediate north of the Veterans Memorial Park where about 50 parking spaces are now.
“They are likely available,” Duckworth said of the military items, “we just don’t have any where to put them, and we have no way to expand the park.”
Hampering these expansion plans is the ownership of the lot.
The park, dedicated in 1978 as a memorial to veterans of all U.S. wars, is on the former site of Northington General Army Hospital, which was one of the world’s largest military hospitals at the end of World War II. After the hospital closed, it was stipulated that the site be used as a shrine, a memorial to veterans or a denominational church, according to the Tuscaloosa County Park and Recreation Authority.
The first feature at the memorial was a flagpole made from the main mast of the World War II heavy cruiser USS Tuscaloosa, a ship that served in major campaigns including the D-Day Normandy invasion.
Restored military hardware and vehicles have since been added to the park thanks to private-sector donations.
There is now a 25-caliber gun from the USS Tuscaloosa, an attack bomber like those used in Vietnam, a Cold War-era M60 tank and a Willys MB Jeep, an all-terrain vehicle used in World War II, the Korean War and Vietnam.
It also features the Honor Roll of Veterans, which contains the names of more than 2,900 veterans engraved on black granite stones imported from Zimbabwe, and — as of 2013 — the park features the only monument that honors Purple Heart recipients in the state.
While the park itself was leased exclusively to the Tuscaloosa County Veterans Association Inc. in the 1970s, all the land surrounding it was leased by the Alabama Department of Mental Health to Aranov Realty of Montgomery.
Duckworth said he and members of the association approached the realty company last year but were unable to reach an accord.
“A year’s gone by,” Duckworth. “We’d like to take another run at it.”
A main sticking point was the number of parking spaces that Aranov must provide for its main tenant stores.
Councilman Kip Tyner, chairman of the Public Projects Committee, pledged to meet with the mall’s tenant association to see if these minimums could be reduced.
Meanwhile, the association said it is crucial for the park to be expanded and remain fresh to younger generations.
“I believe it’s an educational thing,” said Jerry Belk, an Army veteran who helped with the original formation of the park in the 1970s. “In my opinion, every youngster should see this.
“We need to let them know the price that’s been paid for freedom.”
Reach Jason Morton at jason.morton@tuscaloosanews.com or 205-722-0200.
November 25th, 2014
Tuscaloosa reduces home day care allowance - Over the protests of the Home Daycare Association of Tuscaloosa, the City Council on Tuesday adopted changes that will limit the number of children these individual businesses can serve.
The council’s 5-1 vote reduced the number of children allowed in home day care services from six to five, making it the only city in Alabama to do so, said Sabrina Roberts, who addressed the council on behalf of the association.
Councilwoman Sonya McKinstry cast the lone vote against the change.
The vote aligned the city’s zoning codes with its fire and building codes, which already caps the number of children allowed in the city’s 27 home day care services at five.
Tuscaloosa Fire and Rescue Services Chief Alan Martin said the change was to increase safety for the children in these services based on international building and fire code recommendations.
“It’s a number that was arrived at by the consensus of a large group of people who adopts the codes,” said Martin when asked how the limit of five was determined, though he later acknowledged that he did not know why that number was chosen.
Councilman Eddie Pugh, who served as a Tuscaloosa firefighter for 35 years, said he supported the change for safety precautions.
“We’re not imposing this change from six to five to hurt anyone,” Pugh said. “To me, there’s no second-guessing — safety always has to come first.”
The change won’t be imposed immediately. Those home day care centers with six children will be allowed to keep them, but the city requests they do not replace the sixth child once he or she leaves the home day care provider.
Roberts said the Alabama Department of Human Resources, which monitors and regulates home day care services, allows six and that the state’s fire and building code regulations were amended to permit six children.
The city’s reduction, she said, will be hard on those who earn a living offering these services.
“Financially,” she said, “they’ll probably have to go up on their rates to accommodate for the loss of one (child).”
Reach Jason Morton at jason.morton@tuscaloosanews.com or 205-722-0200.
November 25th, 2014
TUSCALOOSA CITY COUNCIL ACTION: Nov. 25 - The Tuscaloosa City Council took the following action at its Tuesday meeting:
Authorized utility account credits; total: $3,896.10.
Awarded competitive bid(s) for the purchase, etc. of sludge de-watering polymer from Polydyne Inc.; total: $1,800/ton for three years.
Approved request and agreement for water service to University of Alabama Central Campus water main extension; total: $79,512.95.
Granted permit for the University of Alabama to construct water lines for UA Central Campus water main extension.
Approved request and agreement for water service to Tuscaloosa Teachers Credit Union main branch; total: $19,597.25.
Granted permit for Momentum to construct water lines for Tuscaloosa Teachers Credit Union main branch.
Declared property surplus and authorized its disposal.
Authorized change order No. 1 to GFC Construction Inc. for City Walk at University Place and Forest Lake; total: $19,320.
Authorized payment to Josh Booth in settlement of claims; total: $311.60.
Authorized execution of Requisition No. 537 for payment from the Series 2007A Warrant Issue to Insituform; total: $28,420.
Authorized payment to Alabama Municipal Insurance Corp.; total: $3,286.
Set Jan. 6 as the date for public hearing on a proposal to vacate the half circle off 13th Street East abutting lots 1-4 in the resurvey of Twin Circle subdivision.
Adopted Zoning Amendment No. 1305 to amend the text of the Zoning Ordinance pertaining to Chapter 24, Article I, Section 24-5, Definitions. (Introduced Oct. 28) Adopted Zoning Amendment No. 1309 to amend the text of the Zoning Ordinance under Article XVII, Downtown/Riverfront (D/R) Overlay District pertaining to permitted, conditional and prohibited uses, Section 24-229(b). (Introduced Oct. 28).
Approved the ABC application of Casual Class Catering Inc. for a special events retail license — more than 30 days for Level 1 events.
Authorized the mayor to execute a warrant purchase agreement with Thornton Farish Inc. in regard to General Obligation Warrants Series 2014-C; total: $24,895,000.
Authorized the mayor to execute Municipalities Continuing Disclosure Cooperation Initiative documentation.
Authorized the Office of the Mayor Disaster Recovery Division to amend and advertise amendment to the 2013 CDBG-DR Action Plan of the city of Tuscaloosa.
Rejected bids received for the Citywide Home Repair Program for 3014 Eighth St.
Rejected bids received for the Citywide Home Repair Program for 2736 23rd St.
Rejected bids received for the Citywide Home Repair Program for 200 51st St.
Authorized the finance director to draw drafts for the Cedar Crest Drainage Project easement acquisition; total: $9,801.
Authorized the finance director to draw drafts for the Juanita Drive Improvements Project easement acquisition; total: $9,050.
Selected Burk-Kleinpeter Inc. as engineer for Disaster Recovery-Streets Reconstruction Project.
Authorized acceptance of federal funds and authorizing the mayor to execute a State Subgrantee Disaster Assistance Agreement; CFDA No. 97.029; FMA-PL-04-AL-2014-002; total: $24,999.99.
Tentatively awarded to Booth Contractors LLC a contract for Citywide Home Repair Projects at 3116 38th Ave. for Georgia Benion Harris; total: $8,460.
Authorized the mayor to execute amendment No. 1 to the contract for engineering and related services with Cabaniss Engineering Inc. for the Greensboro Avenue (from 10th Avenue to Cribbs Mills Creek) Storm Drainage Improvements Project; total increase: $21,338.
Authorized the mayor to execute amendment No. 1 to the contract with McGiffert and Associates for the Rice Mine Road 2014 Improvements Project; total increase: $7,130.
Authorized the mayor to execute an agreement for professional consulting and related services as a lobbyist with the Bloom Group Inc.; total: $4,000/month.
Awarded a bid for renovation of the Large Meter Shop and Covered Parking Project to Hall-Taylor Construction Co.; total: $545,228.
Authorized the finance director to draw drafts for the Lift Station 21 Upper Section Improvements Project easement acquisitions; total: $250.
Amended a resolution authorizing the mayor to apply for financial assistance for crime prevention investigation and detection (Tuscaloosa Metro Drug Enforcement Grant) and accept grant if awarded; total: $164,000.
Authorized the Finance Director to draw drafts for the Lift Station 21 Lower Section Improvements Project easement acquisitions; total: $1,000.
Authorized miscellaneous boring contract with Woods Utility Contractors LLC; total: $20 per linear foot (not to exceed $50,000).
Authorized contract renewal with John B. Galloway for bridge inspection services; total: not to exceed $49,500.
Authorized change order No. 4 for Environmental Services Building; total: $388.66 (deductive).
Reappointed Rob Steward, Paul Rollins Jr. and Lester Edwards as members to the Zoning Board of Adjustment.
Authorized the payment of bills; total: $7,925.55.
November 25th, 2014
CFM Group of Tuscaloosa merges with Dothan firm - CFM Group LLC, a civil and environmental engineering and land surveying firm at 2135 University Blvd., has merged with Polyengineering Inc. of Dothan.
The Tuscaloosa office will continue to operate under the CFM Group name, according to a statement announcing the merger.
Tim Floyd, managing principal of CFM Group, has become a principal in Poly-
engineering and remains as manager of the CFM Group office.
“We are very excited about this merger because of how complementary both of our firms are to one another,” Floyd said. “This provides us with additional resources that will enable us to continue our growth in south Alabama while continuing to service our clients closer to home.”
Bruce Bradley, Poly-
engineering’s president said: “It is our goal that this acquisition be as seamless as possible for all involved, especially our clients. It isn’t our goal to replace CFM in Tuscaloosa. Our goal is to join together with the good people at CFM to deepen our relationship with the Tuscaloosa area.”
The two engineering firms share the same values, he said.
“We believe the combination of our companies’ strengths will help deliver the same high-quality services our clients are used to receiving to a broader area,” Bradley said. “We look forward to bringing together the two companies to expand CFM’s presence in the Tuscaloosa area.”
Polyengineering was founded in 1959 and has been an employee-owned firm since 1986. In addition to its headquarters in Dothan, it also has offices in Shalimar, Fla., and in Blakely, Ga.
The Dothan firm began as a civil engineering/surveying practice and expanded to include architectural design, mechanical design, electrical design, and environmental engineering, consulting and testing. It also provides large-scale reprographics services, IT systems consulting, GIS-based mapping, hydraulic modeling and 3D line-of-sight modeling and visualization services. Its clients include local municipalities, state agencies, federal agencies, industrial clients and private clients.
CFM Group has performed numerous flood studies which revised base flood elevations in the Tuscaloosa area. One of its most notable projects revised the flood elevations along a 20-mile stretch of the Black Warrior River.
It also designed and managed the construction of a crab and shrimp waste processing plant in Bayou La-
That facility was a “green” building project and was awarded a LEED Gold Certification by the U.S. Green Building Council. CFM also serves several West Alabama municipalities as their town engineer.
November 25th, 2014
Tuscaloosa area Thanksgiving holiday openings and closings - 27249
November 25th, 2014
Woman tied up during Bessemer home invasion - BESSEMER | Police in Bessemer say a 72-year-old woman was tied up and robbed but wasn't seriously injured during a weekend home invasion.
Al.com reports that authorities are trying to figure out whether the robbery is related to a similar incident in Shelby County.
Bessemer police Sgt. Charlie Burton says a man kicked in the woman's front door just before midnight Saturday. He tied her hands and feet and demanded money and pills. The woman was able to free herself and go to a neighbor's house for help after the man left.
The Shelby County attack happened just before 8 p.m. Sunday. A couple told police a person wearing a mask and gloves entered their home and restrained them before taking several items.
November 25th, 2014
Northport man accused of injuring 17 in bar shooting appears in court - Nathan Van Wilkins was in court Tuesday as attorneys discussed what evidence will be allowed during his trial, set to begin in less than two weeks.
Wilkins, 46, is accused of opening fire at the Copper Top bar in Temerson Square in July 2012, injuring 17 people. He faces a total of 68 criminal charges, including an allegation that he tried to kill a man in Northport that night and that he set fire at his former workplace.
Jury selection is expected to begin Dec. 8. Wilkins could face life in prison if convicted.
He has apparently rejected plea deals offered by prosecutors, because the trial is set to begin Dec. 8. Attorneys have not divulged details of those offers.
His defense attorneys argued in court Tuesday that evidence illegally seized during a search of his home should not be admissible during trial.
Authorities with several different law enforcement agencies conducted a “welfare check” of Wilkins' home in Northport the morning after the shootings. He had been identified as a suspect and was still the target of an intensive, areawide manhhunt at the time. He later turned himself in at a FedEx store in Jasper.
While conducting the welfare check, an agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives found a canister containing ammunition of the same caliber bullets used at the Northport shooting and at Copper Top. He stated the canister was in “plain view” at the time. Wilkins' attorneys said in court Tuesday, and prosecutors agreed, that the canister was actually in a bathroom closet.
The lead investigator in the case obtained a warrant to search the house based on the ATF agent's claim that he found the bullets in “plain view.”
“The law enforcement agent knew that it wasn't in plain view, but he didn't pass that information on,” said Wilkins' attorney, Tuscaloosa County Public Defender Joe Van Heest. A judge may not have found probable cause to issue a search warrant without that information, he said.
But prosecutors said that the investigators would have obtained a search warrant, with or without the findings from the illegal search. Investigators had already spoken with Wilkins' former boss, who had identified him from surveillance video released to the media that morning and to Wilkins' sister, who said her brother had confessed to shooting people in Tuscaloosa and setting trucks on fire, Tuscaloosa County Senior Deputy District Attorney Jonathan Cross said. Wilkins spoke to his daughter the day he was arrested, Cross said, denying his involvement at first, but later admitting that he had shot people at the bar.
“They would have used other information and the confessions and obtained a search warrant anyway,” Cross said. “Those shell casings would have been discovered.”
Tuscaloosa County Circuit Court Judge Brad Almond said he will consider whether the evidence is admissible and rule Friday or Monday.
According to documents filed the week of the shootings, Wilkins' alleged crime spree began when he allegedly set fire to the truck of a co-worker at a Northport trailer park the night of July 17, 2012. He is then suspected of going to a home in the Indian Lake subdivision in Northport, where he knocked on the door and allegedly said “delivery.”
Investigators said that the resident answered the door, saw the gun and turned to run. Wilkins shot him in the back, they said, and he continued to fire at the house before driving to the Copper Top in downtown Tuscaloosa.
Police said that he stood on the patio of the bar for a few minutes before firing at least 11 shots that injured 17 people inside the bar. Many were injured by ricocheting bullets.
Investigators released video from the Copper Top the following morning and soon began receiving tips that identified Wilkins as the shooter. They found the doors to his house on Buckhead Drive in Northport open and no one home. Inside, they found open containers of Wolf ammunition, the same brand used in the shootings.
The investigators learned the next day that someone had set fire to Wilkins former workplace in Brookwood. They believe that Wilkins left Copper Top and drove to Capstone Oil Field Services on Alabama Highway 216 and set fire to three trucks and a gas well rig about a quarter mile away.
“I would like to tell all involved I am sorry,” Wilkins wrote in a letter to Judge Almond in January 2013. “I wish this incident would bring attention to prescription sleeping pills, especially Ambien, before it ruins someone else's life! I want to say I'm sorry to everyone involved again.”
Reach Stephanie Taylor at stephanie.taylor@tuscaloosanews.com or 205-722-0210.
November 25th, 2014
Highway 69 North closed over Lake Tuscaloosa due to crash - A Tuesday afternoon crash on Highway 69 North at the bridge over Lake Tuscaloosa has shut down the road in both directions.
Drivers are urged to avoid the area.
Check back to TuscaloosaNews.com for further detail as they become available.
November 25th, 2014
Dive team recovers engagement ring in Gadsden - GADSDEN | Corey Winters said relief doesn't begin to describe what he felt Monday when divers found the engagement ring he dropped Friday night when he proposed to his girlfriend.
Winters proposed to Stephanie Cole on the walking bridge at Noccalula Falls Park and was slipping the ring on her finger when he dropped it, and it fell in the water.
Cole said she had no idea Winters planned to propose until moments before.
"It was cold and dark and we were both nervous," Cole said. "I never even saw it. I felt so bad for him."
What she could not see was a 1-carat diamond with sapphires on each side. Winters had paid off the ring last month.
He ran down the bridge and waded into the shin-deep water to search for the ring. He looked for it about two hours Friday night, but gave up.
While driving home, he said, he asked Cole for a chance to propose again.
"I told him, ring or not, we're engaged," she said.
Winters returned Saturday morning to Noccalula Falls with some friends and family, and equipped with a metal detector. They searched in the water, but were asked to stop by park security because of safety concerns. It's only about 30 to 40 yards from the bridge to the waterfall.
Someone from the park notified the Etowah County Sheriff's Office to ask about the possibility of using its team of certified divers.
Scott Hassell, commander of the dive team, said they felt it would be safer for the divers to look and used the opportunity as a training exercise.
Using ropes and harnesses, divers began a methodical search in the water, which was up a few inches since Friday night because of rain on Sunday.
Winters watched the divers during the search.
"The nausea still hasn't passed," he said during the search.
He recalled the night he and Cole had their first date, last year at Halloween. He said they had been to the park a few times on outings, and he thought it would be a romantic place to propose.
"I wanted to do it before the holidays so she could show it off," he said.
Winters is from Gadsden and works at International Jets. He is an Afghanistan veteran, a member of the 3rd Marine Division.
Cole is from Clay and works at AT&T in Leeds.
Hassell said something like the ring would be heavy enough to sink and flow downstream.
Divers had searched for more than an hour when Kevin Hassell, brother to Scott, saw a clutter of nuts and bolts and other items piled near a pillar of the bridge.
He said he thought their weight might be similar to the weight of the ring, so he kept looking there. That's when he found it.
Cheers went up from the bridge when Hassell came up out of the water with it in his hands.
Winters could hardly believe his eyes.
"I can't believe this. I am so thankful and appreciative," Winters said.
Sheriff Todd Entrekin said not only was the search a great opportunity for the divers to train using the same techniques employed when searching for evidence, but a great opportunity for the sheriff's office to be involved in something positive.
"This is great example of many of the different ways we can serve our community," Entrekin said.
November 25th, 2014
Sexual assault victim pursues suspect leading to crash in Tuscaloosa - Investigators say that a sexual assault victim pursued a suspect after the attack, which led to a car crash and physical assault at the McFarland Boulevard and 15th Street intersection.
Authorities were called to the crash scene at 2:30 a.m., said Tuscaloosa County Metro Homicide Unit commander Sgt. Dale Phillips.
"The crash was the result of a robbery and sexual assault that occurred at 20th Street and Dinah Washington (Avenue)," he said, which ended when one of the victims pursued a suspect in a vehicle.
The incident involved a male victim and a female victim, Phillips said, and three male suspects.
More information will be released later today.
November 25th, 2014
Alabama preacher who killed wife, shot daughter sues over treatment - BIRMINGHAM | An Alabama pastor who killed his wife and shot his daughter is suing the hospital where he was treated for mental problems weeks before.
The malpractice lawsuit filed by former United Methodist minister Terry Greer names Brookwood Medical Center in Birmingham and doctors.
The suit claims workers failed to properly monitor and assess Greer when he sought treatment in December 2012 a few weeks before the shooting.
Neither the hospital nor the doctors have had a response.
A judge earlier this year found Greer not guilty by reason of insanity in the killing of wife Lisa Greer and the wounding of their daughter.
Testimony showed the minister suffered from dementia and severe depression that a doctor said likely triggered the shooting.
Greer stabbed himself repeatedly after opening fire.
November 25th, 2014
University of Alabama at Birmingham student named as Rhodes scholar - BIRMINGHAM | A UAB student is among 32 people selected as Rhodes scholars from the United States for next year.
Ameen Barghi will receive a free graduate education at Oxford University in England starting in fall 2015.
Winners come from a pool that began with 877 applicants who were nominated by their colleges nationwide.
The 22-year-old Barghi is a graduate of Oak Mountain High School in suburban Birmingham. He was selected for an early medical school admissions program at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
Barghi is the third UAB student named as a Rhodes scholar in the last 14 years.
November 25th, 2014
Judge: Alabama man accused of threats to Obama incompetent - MONTGOMERY | A federal judge says an Alabama man is mentally incompetent to stand trial on charges of threatening President Barack Obama's life.
U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson ruled Monday that Deryke Matthew Pfeifer of Ozark can't be put on trial on a felony charge of threatening the president.
But Thompson says federal authorities can hold Pfeifer for as long as four months to determine whether he can regain his sanity.
The decision follows a hearing last month in which evidence showed Pfeifer is delusional. He told a psychologist that God is upset with Obama, particularly over condoning same-sex relationships.
Pfeifer was arrested in July on charges of threatening Obama in phone calls to the Federal Protective Service and in online videos. In one video, he held a handgun.
November 25th, 2014
Night school approved for Holt High School - The Tuscaloosa County Board of Education on Monday unanimously approved the creation of a pilot program night school at Holt High School called “Pathways Academy.”
“Anything that’s going to give our kids an extra opportunity at education is going to be to our advantage,” said board member Schmitt Moore. “We believe the night school does just that. Not only that, but the smaller environment will have less distractions.
“I’m extremely excited, and the whole board is. We think it’s a great alternative way of reaching our kids. And I’m just glad to know that it’s starting at Holt.”
Night school started Wednesday with a handful of Holt students who said they would drop out of school if they didn’t have this option, which is the primary purpose of Pathways Academy.
It will expand next school year and could grow to include students from other schools, Superintendent Elizabeth Swinford said last Tuesday.
Complete guidelines on how night school will be conducted haven’t been created yet — the rules will be developed while the pilot program is under way — but according to the few guidelines in place, students who want to be accepted into night school will have to be interviewed and their circumstances reviewed. If accepted, students will attend school from 5 to 7 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Only core classes will be taught, but elective classes will be made available if students need them.
Teachers at night school will be paid additional stipends with Holt High’s Title I funds — money given to schools with high poverty ratings.
“It’s an awesome thing that we’re doing,” said Mark Nelson, school board president. “I appreciate our teachers who are willing to step out and participate in that. Who knows where that might take us.”
Night school students with discipline issues will immediately be dismissed from the program. A student who doesn’t make progress will go before a committee for possible dismissal. School resource officers will be on hand for safety.
Swinford said if students don’t have access to technology and need a computer to do their work, the school system will lend them either a desktop or laptop computer. But they’ll be responsible for their own Internet access.
Transportation will not be provided.
“A lot of these kids do not want a GED,” Swinford said last Tuesday. “They want a high school diploma. What we’re trying to do is make it possible.”
Reach Jamon Smith at jamon.smith@tuscaloosanews.com or 205-722-0204.
November 25th, 2014
Physical medicine, rehab specialist joins DCH Center for Occupational Health - A specialist in physical medicine and rehabilitation has joined the DCH Center for Occupational Health, according to a news release from the DCH Health System.
Dr. Gentry C. Dodd will treat patients who have trauma or repetitive motion injuries. He will also perform injection therapy, a new service for the DCH Center for Occupational Health. The release describes Dodd as an expert in the musculoskeletal system.
He is a native of Indianapolis and has a medical degree from the Indiana University School of Medicine in Indianapolis, where he completed his residency in physical medicine and rehabilitation. He has a bachelor of arts in chemistry from Wabash College in Crawfordsville, Ind.
During his medical training, Dodd worked as a personal trainer and as an urgent care and primary care physician. He also performed Social Security disability examinations.
November 24th, 2014
Grand jury won't indict Ferguson cop in shooting - FERGUSON, Mo. | A grand jury has decided not to indict Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson in the death of Michael Brown, the unarmed, black 18-year-old whose fatal shooting sparked weeks of sometimes-violent protests.
St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Bob McCulloch announced the decision Monday evening. A grand jury of nine whites and three blacks had been meeting weekly since Aug. 20 to consider evidence.
At least nine votes would have been required to indict Wilson. The panel met in secret, a standard practice for such proceedings.
The Justice Department is conducting a separate investigation into possible civil rights violations that could result in federal charges. The department also has launched a broad probe into the Ferguson Police Department, looking for patterns of discrimination.
The Aug. 9 shooting inflamed tensions in the predominantly black St. Louis suburb that is patrolled by an overwhelmingly white police force. As Brown's body lay for hours in the center of a residential street, an angry crowd of onlookers gathered. Rioting and looting occurred the following night, and police responded with armored vehicles and tear gas.
Protests continued for weeks — often peacefully, but sometimes turning violent, with demonstrators throwing rocks and Molotov cocktails and police firing smoke canisters, tear gas and rubber bullets. Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon to briefly summon the National Guard.
Hours before the announcement, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon urged people to remain peaceful as he appeared at a news conference with the state's public safety director and the leaders of St. Louis city and county.
"Our shared hope and expectation is that regardless of the decision, people on all sides show tolerance, mutual respect and restraint," Nixon said.
Some black leaders and Brown's parents questioned McCulloch's ability to be impartial. The prosecutor's father, mother, brother, uncle and cousin all worked for the St. Louis Police Department, and his father was killed while responding to a call involving a black suspect in 1964. McCulloch was 12 at the time, and the killing became a hallmark of his initial campaign for elected prosecutor.
Nixon declined to seek the removal of McCulloch in the Brown case, but he also called for McCulloch to vigorously prosecute Wilson, who had been on the Ferguson force for less than three years. Prior to that job, Wilson was an officer for nearly two years in Jennings, another St. Louis suburb.
McCulloch, a Democrat, has been in office since 1991 and was re-elected to another term earlier this month.
Among the cases that McCulloch's opponents cited as examples of pro-police bias was the 2000 shooting death of two men in a fast-food parking lot by two undercover drug officers in the town of Berkeley, which like Ferguson is a predominantly black suburb in what locals call North County.
A federal investigation determined that Earl Murray and Ronald Beasley were unarmed and that their car had not moved forward when the officers fired 21 shots. But that inquiry also determined that the shootings were justified since the officers feared for their lives.
McCulloch opted to not prosecute the two officers and characterized the victims as "bums" who "spread destruction in the community" by selling drugs.
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November 24th, 2014
Bibb County grand jury indictments announced - A Bibb County grand jury indicted Charles Carroll, 26, of West Blocton, for murder. He is accused of killing Fonzo Caddell by shooting him in the chest with a shotgun on Feb. 1.
Also indicted was Joshua Cameron, 22, of Hartselle. Cameron is accused of attempted murder, first-degree kidnapping and six other charges. According to the indictment, Cameron fired at and pistol-whipped a victim who he forced to ride in a car from Tuscaloosa to a convenience store in the Centreville area.
Cameron is accused of breaking into the New Life Assembly of God church in Woodstock later that night. His charges include first-degree burglary, second-degree theft, first-degree theft, resisting arrest, third-degree burglary and being a felon in possession of a firearm. At the time of the offense, Cameron was on parole for a first-degree robbery conviction in Morgan County.
November 24th, 2014
Birmingham eliminated as host city contender for 2016 DNC - WASHINGTON | Democrats narrowed the list of contenders for their 2016 national convention to three cities on Monday, announcing the party's next presidential candidate will be formally nominated in New York City, Philadelphia or Columbus, Ohio.
The Democratic National Committee said convention bids made by Birmingham, Alabama and Phoenix had been eliminated.
DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a Florida congresswoman, announced the finalists in an email to Democrats and said the event would be held either the weeks of July 18, July 25 or August 22. She said the DNC expects to announce the host city in early 2015.
The three remaining cities could offer an appealing backdrop for Hillary Rodham Clinton, the leading Democratic presidential contender should she seek the White House again.
Clinton represented New York in the Senate and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, was first nominated at New York City's Madison Square Garden in 1992. The couple lives in nearby Westchester County and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has promoted the Brooklyn convention site as a popular option for the party's liberal base.
The Clintons have deep ties to Philadelphia's organizers, including Mayor Michael Nutter and former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell. The city was the site of the 2000 Republican convention and its East Coast location and patriotic heritage as the home of Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell could be a plus.
Columbus, meanwhile, would put Democrats in the center of the nation's top presidential battleground state and offer an in-state rebuttal to Republicans, who are holding their convention in Cleveland.
The winning bid is expected to be based on a number of factors, including the city's ability to raise an estimated $65 million or more along with the potential venues, hotels and transportation options for delegates, party activists and the media.
Birmingham, Alabama, and Phoenix, Arizona, had both offered out-of-the-box options. Alabama is a solidly Republican state and has not supported a Democratic presidential candidate since 1976, limiting its appeal. Democrats would like to turn Arizona into a presidential battleground state — the party has not carried it since 1996 — but some party activists have been critical of the state's approach to immigration enforcement.
Republicans are planning to hold their Cleveland convention beginning either June 27 or July 18. The DNC is keeping the July 18 week as an option but would hold it a different week if Republicans select a mid-July convention.
November 24th, 2014
Tuscaloosa woman shoots man who stalked her, set her house on fire - A Tuscaloosa woman told police that she shot a man who has been stalking her and tried to set her house on fire earlier this year.
Investigators do not expect to charge the woman, 41, with a crime, Tuscaloosa County Metro Homicide Unit commander Sgt. Dale Phillips said.
She told police that Horace Johnson, 55, went to her house on 21st Street and threatened her with a gun at 10 p.m. Saturday. Witnesses confirmed her statement that Johnson had been calling and threatening to kill her before he showed up at the house, Phillips said.
“When Mr. Johnson arrived at the victim’s residence and began to make threats again, she took her shotgun and fired two rounds at him,” he said. “One pellet from one of the shots grazed the suspect on the neck.”
Johnson was treated at DCH Regional Medical Center and taken to the Tuscaloosa County Jail once he was released.
A grand jury indicted Johnson on stalking and attempted arson charges in April. According to court documents, the victim rented a room from Johnson, but moved out earlier this year. He followed her, showed up at her work place and once rammed his vehicle into hers on to her front porch, investigators claimed in a charging court document. He also attempted to set fire to her residence in April, according to the court file.
Johnson was charged Saturday with third-degree domestic violence-harassment. He was being held at the Tuscaloosa County Jail Monday with his bond revoked on the charges from April.
Reach Stephanie Taylor at stephanie.taylor@tuscaloosanews.com or 205-722-0210.
November 24th, 2014
Alabama deputy, 3 teens killed in crash - WETUMPKA | A car full of teenagers collided head-on with a police car, killing three teens and an Elmore County sheriff's deputy, authorities said Monday.
The crash happened around 7:45 p.m. Sunday on a rural two-lane road, Elmore County Sheriff Bill Franklin said.
Austin Ray Augustine, 16, of Wetumpka, was driving the 2003 Infiniti G35. He was killed along with two 16-year-old passengers: Dylan Adler Bieber and Hoyt Elliot Hardin, both of Wetumpka.
The sole survivor was Nicholas Benjamin, 16, of Eclectic, another passenger in the Infiniti. Benjamin was flown to a hospital with injuries that troopers described as life-threatening.
The Infiniti collided with a Dodge Charger patrol car driven by Deputy James Bart Hart, 50. Benjamin and Hart were wearing seatbelts but the others were not, troopers said.
Hart was on duty and had just left the scene of an accident involving a deer, the sheriff said.
Elmore County Superintendent Jeff Langham said the Wetumpka High School gym would be used as a gathering place for students and families to spend time together Monday night.
"There are no words to describe this devastating loss here in our community," Langham said.
Ministers, school counselors, teachers and other school and community personnel will be available.
"Our prayers and support are with the families and friends of all the victims of this unimaginable tragedy," Langham said.
November 24th, 2014
University of Alabama graduation rate leads SEC - The University of Alabama Athletics Department led the SEC in graduation success rate from 2004-07, according to figures released by the NCAA.
"We are extremely proud to lead the Southeastern Conference in this vital area," UA Director of Athletics Bill Battle said in a news release. "This is just another example of the balance between academic and athletic excellence that we strive for every day."
The rate measures graduation rates at Division I schools and includes student-athletes who transfer. The rate allows schools to subtract student-athletes who leave before graduation, as long as they would have been academically eligible to compete had they remained.
The rate was developed after school university presidents said they wanted graduation numbers that reflected the mobility among college students.
Overall, UA's graduation success rate was measured at 91. The average rate for all NCAA Division I student-athletes was 82.
"I'm very proud of our student-athletes, faculty, coaches, staff and everyone who strives to keep us moving forward in this area," Battle said.
Seven of Alabama's 16 intercollegiate athletics programs in existence from 2004-07 — men's golf, men's swimming and diving, women's golf, softball, soccer, women's tennis and volleyball — achieved perfect scores of 100.
The Alabama women's rowing program was not included in the survey as it did not become a scholarship sport at UA until 2006.
The Alabama football and men's basketball teams both ranked second in the SEC with scores of 80 and 87, respectively. Men's track and field was also second in the SEC with a score of 95.
November 24th, 2014
Birmingham's HealthSouth to spend $750M on home health business - BIRMINGHAM | HealthSouth will spend about $750 million on the privately held owner of Encompass Home Health and Hospice in a deal that helps the rehabilitation hospital operator expand into home health care.
The Birmingham, Alabama, company said Monday that Encompass, which is owned by EHHI Holdings Inc., will complement its inpatient rehabilitation business. Directors of both companies have approved the deal, which is expected to close before the end of the year.
HealthSouth CEO Jay Grinney said in a statement that Encompass has integrated 45 separate acquisitions since 2005. He said they believe they can accelerate that consolidation pace while also expanding HealthSouth's inpatient rehabilitation portfolio.
Aside from inpatient rehabilitation hospitals, HealthSouth also runs outpatient clinics and home health agencies. It operates in 28 states and Puerto Rico.
Encompass has 140 locations in 13 states.
HealthSouth shares finished at $38.25 on Friday. Its shares have climbed more than 15 percent so far this year, while the Standard & Poor's 500 index has advanced nearly 12 percent.
November 24th, 2014
Authorities search for Alabama inmate they say escaped - DECATUR | Authorities are searching for an Alabama inmate they say escaped from a work release center.
The Alabama Department of Corrections said in a statement early Monday that Tyler Russell Baird escaped from the Decatur Work Release Center in Decatur around 10:30 p.m. Sunday.
State officials say Baird had been serving time for discharging a gun at an occupied building or vehicle.
Authorities are asking anyone with information about Baird's whereabouts to call their local law enforcement agency, the work release center or the Alabama Department of Corrections.
November 24th, 2014
Indictments handed down in crash that killed 5-year-old in Bibb County - A Bibb County grand jury believes that Kathy Diane Jones was under the influence of methamphetamine and that she allowed a child to steer her car, causing a crash that killed a five-year-old passenger in January.
Jones, 32, is charged with the murder of Izzy Parks, who died in the crash near Centreville on Jan. 10.
The girls' parents have been charged with criminally negligent homicide for allowing the girl to ride in the car, 4th Judicial Circuit District Attorney Michael Jackson said. David and Danielle Parks also face four counts of aggravated child abuse for allowing their children to ride in the vehicle. Their three children who survived were seriously injured.
All three adults were seriously injured. No one was wearing a seat belt, Alabama State Troopers said at the time.
The indictments were among those issued by a grand jury on Nov. 19.
November 24th, 2014
Tuscaloosa County man accused of shooting at girlfriend after trying to run her off the road - Investigators believe a woman who said she as shot during a domestic dispute early Sunday morning, despite her boyfriend’s claim that his gun accidentally fired.
The woman, 25, told authorities that she and Charles Prewitt III argued throughout the day Saturday and into the early morning hours of Sunday, Tuscaloosa County Metro Homicide Unit commander Sgt. Dale Phillips said.
She said he followed her as she tried to drive home on Tuscaloosa County Road 156 in Ralph, Phillips said, and that he tried to run her off the road.
“The suspect pulled up beside her and asked her to talk, but the victim refused,” he said. “The suspect the pulled out and gun and told the victim he was going to kill her.”
Prewitt fired the gun at the woman while they were each sitting in their own vehicles, Phillips said she told police. Prewitt said that he was standing outside of her car when his pistol fell from his holster and accidentally fired, Phillips said.
“Witness accounts of the incident tend to verify the victim’s account,” Phillips said.
Prewitt was charged with attempted murder and shooting into an occupied vehicle. He has been released from the Tuscaloosa County Jail on $70,000 bond.
November 24th, 2014
LOOKING BACK: November 24 - Sam M. Walker of Ralph was selected as Farmer of the Year by the Tuscaloosa Kiwanis Club.
Denny Chimes, a University of Alabama landmark, was hit by pranksters who threw pink, brown and white paint on the base of the chimes.
Arvin Co. officials announced expansion of the firm's manufacturing and warehouse areas in Fayette.
The Alabama Crimson Tide struggled but prevailed in a 21-14 win over Auburn at Legion Field in Birmingham. A formal invitation to the Orange Bowl on Jan. 1 was presented and accepted by Dr. Frank Rose, president of UA.
Thomas P. Shumaker was appointed general manager of the southern division of Reichhold Chemicals Inc. to succeed the late Patrick Ryan.
George Washington Utley, known as Uncle Wash, was honored at the Tuscaloosa County Bar Association. Utley, 87, was the bailiff of the circuit grand jury and general receptionist for visitors at the county courthouse.
Alabama Coach Paul W. “Bear” Bryant and his team waited anxiously for the national football poll results, which could give them the national championship.
No official bowl invitation had been extended, but with a 10-0 record, a No. 4 ranking and a share of the Southeastern Conference championship, the University of Alabama seemed destined to play in a bowl game. During the week, UA moved up to the No. 2 ranking. In Auburn, festivities preceded football as Auburn geared
up to meet Alabama in Jordan-Hare Stadium.
Ralph Burroughs, longtime Tuscaloosa County public defender, would reverse his role in court and become an assistant district attorney on Jan. 1.
A capital murder trial was being held in Tuscaloosa for one of three defendants charged with the robbery and slaying of John Robert Kirk of Gordo. Kirk, a Shelby County Pipeline Co. worker was believed to be headed home to Gordo at the time of his death. His body was recovered near the West Blocton entrance ramp to Interstate 20/59.
About 40 members of the 200th Engineer Battalion, an Army National Guard unit in Linden, were awaiting mobilization orders, expecting to be sent to Iraq.
Charles Steele, 58, the new president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, was charged with rebuilding the organization Martin Luther King Jr. founded. The organization had become wrought with infighting and financial trouble.
The Alabama basketball team came up short in Anchorage, Alaska, losing 79-76, while the UA women won the Seattle Times Classic with a 76-56 win over Washington.
The town of Cuba had not been patrolled regularly since the Cuba police chief had been placed on paid administrative leave in June of the previous year. The town council of Cuba considered eliminating the one-man police department.
Some residents contested the need for a proposed northern bypass. The 2.5-mile, five-lane highway from Watermelon Road to Alabama Highway 69 was expected to cost $5 million to $7 million dollars.
Mark Landers of Windham Springs was named Farmer of the Year by the Kiwanis Club of Tuscaloosa.
Officials probed the mine death of James Chaney, 53, of Berry, who died of heat exhaustion after he and another miner conducted a routine inspection in an area of Jim Walter Resources Mine No. 7 that was not actively mined. The second miner was hospitalized and was reported in good condition. Eight miners were overcome during the rescue attempt; one remained at DCH Regional Hospital and the others were treated and released.
The Tuscaloosa City Council formally asked the Tuscaloosa County legislative delegation to introduce a bill that would ensure that Bryce Hospital stayed in Tuscaloosa.
Tuscaloosa County Sheriff's Deputies found 255 pounds of marijuana during a traffic stop on Interstate 20/59 led by Arek, the newest addition to the drug-sniffing dog team.
UA running back Mark Ingram would appear on the cover of Sports Illustrated magazine with the title “Pride of the Tide.”
Alabama running back Roy Upchurch scored the game-winning touchdown against Auburn. Alabama won at Jordan-Hare Stadium, 26-21.
The Holidays on the River ice-skating rink and ice slide opened at the Mildred Westervelt Warner Transportation Museum for the second season.
The Crimson Tide cruised past Tennessee-Chattanooga 49-0 at Bryant-Denny Stadium and quickly set its sights on its upcoming matchup with Auburn, a game that would decide the Southeastern Conference West championship.
Charles and Alice Parker, owners of a small Northport farm, were named 2013 Farmer of the Year.
Construction of the new rowing facility for the women's rowing team began at Manderson Landing.
Despite repeated protests by neighborhood advocacy and historic preservation groups, the Tuscaloosa City Council was poised to move forward with selling the downtown facility of Focus on Senior Citizens to the only company bidding for it.
Though the game was a sellout, tickets for the upcoming Iron Bowl game were available on an online marketplace for $300 to $1,100 per ticket.
Tuscaloosa City Attorney Tim Nunnally would retire at year's end after 25 years in the city's legal department.
Compiled by retired News librarian Betty Slowe.
November 24th, 2014
Fayette's Christmas in the Park will start ninth year on Thursday - Fayette's Christmas in the Park will kick off on Thanksgiving Day, ushering visitors through a mile-long drive-by tour of festive holiday decorations and Christmas displays.
The decorations, which range from fishing penguins to a lit-up cross surrounded by angels, will be displayed at the 300-acre Guthrie Smith Park. The display will be open from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. every day and will continue until New Year's Eve.
Visitors pay $1 per car to drive the 10 to 15 minutes through a route that takes them past 66 different Christmas scenes, 52 of which are lighted and animated and range from 5 to 16 feet in height.
On Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, visitors can also choose to take a train ride through the park for $1. Hot chocolate will be available to buy when visitors enter. Church and nursing home groups get in for free.
This year the display has added 16 new scenes, which include a Noah's ark, a Ferris wheel, an ice cream cone and seven smaller animated displays, such as fishing penguins and jumping fish, in and around a small pond. Other displays include a life-size Nativity scene with lights, a Santa Claus building and a large gingerbread house.
This will be Christmas in the Park's ninth year. Organizer Doris Brasher and her husband, John, initially had set up Christmas displays outside their house. Eventually, the displays became too large and they set up in Guthrie Smith Park with the city's help.
The Brashers and the volunteers work five months of the year on the display, Doris Brasher said. They begin in September and usually spend the entire day, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., with a team of volunteers working to set up the display.
“We call it a labor of love,” she said.
One of the reasons the community rallies behind the display is the tourism it draws to the area, she said.
“We have people come from everywhere,” she said. “They eat something, or they go shopping, and the whole city of Fayette benefits from this.”
Last year's display made around $15,000 from the $1 entrance fees and donations and saw visitors from 29 different states as well as nine different countries.
Christmas in the Park is a nonprofit run exclusively by volunteers. All proceeds will be used to maintain the display and pay for additions to the display in the future.
November 24th, 2014
Robbery reported on Ninth Street on Saturday - The Tuscaloosa Police Department is investigating a Saturday night robbery on Ninth Street.
The robbery victim told police that he was walking home in the 1400 block of Ninth Street at
10 p.m. Saturday.
The victim said that a robber approached him and demanded money. The victim gave the robber his wallet and the robber fled.
Anyone who has information about the robbery is asked to call TPD at 205-349-2121, the University of Alabama Police Department at 205-348-5454 or CrimeStoppers at -205-752-7867.
November 24th, 2014
Duncanville 17-year-old dies in Sunday car wreck - A 17-year-old Duncanville girl was killed in a one-vehicle crash early Sunday morning, according to a news release from the Alabama state troopers.
Madison Nicole Crawford was killed when her 1997 Toyota Avalon left the roadway, hit a concrete barrier and overturned. The crash occurred on Lock 9 Road, about 3 miles south of Fosters in Tuscaloosa County.
Troopers are continuing to investigate the crash.
November 24th, 2014
Liberty Baptist Church marks 130 years - 27224
November 24th, 2014
Gov. Robert Bentley says more revenue needed to fix state's budget - MONTGOMERY | Gov. Robert Bentley said he wants to be upfront with voters. The state is facing a budget crisis and fixing it the right way will require changes that some people probably won’t like.
“It’s going to require more revenue. Is everyone going to be happy? No, they’re not,” Bentley said.
The governor said taxes are a last resort but that he believed the state would re-examine current tax deductions. That includes a tax break that only Alabama and a few other states give. Residents can now deduct their federal income taxes and FICA (Social Security and Medicare) taxes that they pay when calculating their state income tax.
“We’re one of the only states in the country that allow FICA to be deducted off of your state income tax. We’re one of the only states in the country that allows the full deduction of your federal income tax off of your state income tax,” Bentley said.
However, he noted that was just one of many ideas being considered.
Bentley said he wants people to be aware of a dire budget situation and the choices facing lawmakers next year as they begin the budget-writing process.
“Do we do things right or do we piecemeal it and do it the way we’ve been doing it forever and push back and not pay? Or do we bite this all off and say we are going to solve this thing for a number of years in the future,” Bentley said.
Money taken from a state trust fund to prop up the $1.8 billion General Fund budget, that fuels non-education agencies, over the last three years will run out at the end of the fiscal year.
Bentley said the true picture of the need in the General Fund is around $700 million, if you consider what the state has taken from various places to shore up the General Fund, $125 million owed to the federal government for Medicaid overpayments and an additional $140 million in increased funding for the two largest state agencies, state prisons and Medicaid.
“If you did things right, it would be $700 million,” Bentley said.
Bentley is also including $160 million that then-Gov. Bob Riley borrowed in 2010 from a state rainy day fund to prevent General Fund agency cuts.
The money has to be repaid by 2020.
“Now, I could leave it for the next governor. I think that would be irresponsible,” Bentley said.
Bentley and legislators say they have been meeting on possible solutions ahead of the 2015 legislative session that begins in March.
“I’ve made a promise that taxes would be my last resort on issues,” Bentley said.
Legalized gambling — through a state lottery or a compact with the Poarch Band of Creek Indians — is one of the ideas being considered, and one that could be unpopular with some GOP constituencies who have traditionally opposed gambling.
The Alabama governor said legalized gambling “is not my favorite way either because it’s an inexact thing.”
“The way we’ve been looking at it, we’re really not going to get that much money out of a compact. We’re really not going to get that much money out of a lottery for a small state like Alabama. I say not a lot. The two of them together might add up to $200 million,” Bentley said.
The chairmen of the legislative budget committees were hesitant to estimate the needs of the General Fund before hearing requests from state agencies.
“I would describe it as a year where the can can’t be kicked down the road any farther. We’ve done that for a lot of years,” Rep. Steve Clouse, R-Ozark, said.
Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, said much will depend on the needs of state agencies and the political will of legislators. Will lawmakers want to address the yearly minimum need or the bigger picture of perpetual General Fund shortfalls?
“Our first obligation is looking at state government and changes we can make,” Orr said.
Alabama politicians, like their counterparts across the country, had hoped Congress would approve internet sales tax legislation.
Bentley estimated the state would get more than $150 million annually if sales taxes were collected on purchases made through the internet.
“This is a tax that is already owed. You are supposed to be paying it anyway if you order online,” Bentley said.
November 23rd, 2014
Demopolis teen injured in bull-riding accident making rapid progress - His eyes were focused on the hair at the back of the bull’s neck. In his peripheral vision, the fence, the ground and the people’s faces were a blur until the bull’s head reared back and hit him in the head. Then, everything went black.
Fifteen-year-old Jacob Browder from Demopolis doesn’t remember the night of Sept. 6 when he was knocked from a practice bull at the Steven Campbell Bull Riding Clinic in Fitzpatrick, and his father, Nicky Browder, said he probably never will.
Browder was admitted to Baptist Medical Center South in Montgomery with five bleeds on his brain, a broken jawbone and a diffuse axonal injury resulting from the brain moving back and forth in the skull. The same night, he was airlifted to Children’s of Alabama hospital in Birmingham where he spent 48 days, 14 of which he was comatose, and was released on Oct. 24.
Home from the hospital for about a month now, Browder has a long road of recovery ahead of him, but his parents and doctors say it’s a miracle he even survived.
“We were told he probably wouldn’t get much better and to be prepared if he didn’t wake up (from the coma),” his mother, Susan, said.
Although Browder still has blurry vision, short-term memory loss, problems with speech and trouble moving the right side of his body, he has recovered more in a short period of time than what the doctors said he would, his mother said.
“Doctors and therapists say they don’t see injuries like that and him walking and talking like he is,” his father said.
“I had to relearn everything, use of my right hand and my right leg,” to eat, walk, talk and write, Browder said.
With his injuries, Browder, a sophomore at Demopolis High School, knows he can never ride a bull or play football again. His father said that doesn’t stop him from joking about getting back on a bull.
“He’s wanted to do it since he was little,” his mother said. “He would get on the side of the couch and pretend it was a bull.”
Browder’s great-grandfather was a bull rider. The stories of his great-grandfather, along with the movie “8 Seconds” — based on the true story of bull rider Lane Frost — inspired a passion in Browder for the sport, he said.
Frost’s death at the end of the movie didn’t deter Browder from his dream.
“If you’re willing to do it, you’ve got to pay the price,” he said.
One of his dreams came true when he met Lane Frost’s best friend and fellow bull rider Tuff Hedemen, who has provided the Browder family with tickets to the Championship Bull Riding World Finals in Cheyenne, Wyo., next year.
Browder had planned to go pro on the bull-riding circuit, he said. He had been bull riding for almost two years when the accident forced him to quit. He said he had ridden at least 40 bulls in that time.
“It’s like a roller coaster,” Browder said. “The first time I ever got on a bull and rode, I was hooked.”
Browder said he still loves rodeo and plans to buy a roping horse and continue participating once he recovers.
Browder’s parents said they have faith that their son will fully recover, especially with the progress he has made only two and a half months since the accident that nearly took his life.
“(The doctors) told us we would never have the same Jacob back, but he’s exactly what we had before,” his father said. “It’s just a God thing.”
Browder will continue with therapy and return to school next year. To pay for therapy after insurance runs out, a fundraising campaign has been set up for Browder at gofundme.com/eripaw.
November 23rd, 2014
Tuscaloosa City Council agenda for November 25 - The Tuscaloosa City Council will meet at 6 p.m. Tuesday in the council chambers on the second floor of City Hall, 2201 University Blvd. The following items will be on the agenda:
Authorizing utility account credits; total: $3,896.10.
Awarding competitive bid(s) for the purchase, etc. of sludge de-watering polymer from Polydyne Inc.; total: $1,800/ton for three years.
Approving request and agreement for water service to UA Central Campus water main extension; total: $79,512.95.
Granting permit for the University of Alabama to construct water lines for UA Central Campus water main extension.
Approving request and agreement for water service to Tuscaloosa Teachers Credit Union main branch; total: $19,597.25.
Granting permit for Momentum to construct water lines for Tuscaloosa Teachers Credit Union main branch.
Declaring property surplus and authorizing its disposal.
Authorizing change order No. 1 to GFC Construction Inc. for City Walk at University Place and Forest Lake; total: $19,320.
Authorizing payment to Josh Booth in settlement of claims; total: $311.60.
Authorizing execution of Requisition No. 537 for payment from the Series 2007A Warrant Issue to Insituform; total: $28,420.
Authorizing payment to Alabama Municipal Insurance Corp.; total: $3,286.
Setting Jan. 6 as the date for public hearing on a proposal to vacate the half circle off 13th Street East abutting lots 1-4 in the resurvey of Twin Circle subdivision.
Adopting Zoning Amendment No. 1305 to amend the text of the Zoning Ordinance pertaining to Chapter 24, Article I, Section 24-5, Definitions. (Introduced Oct. 28)
Adopting Zoning Amendment No. 1309 to amend the text of the Zoning Ordinance under Article XVII, Downtown/Riverfront (D/R) Overlay District pertaining to permitted, conditional and prohibited uses, Section 24-229(b). (Introduced Oct. 28)
Approving the ABC application of Casual Class Catering Inc. for a special events retail license — more than 30 days for Level 1 events.
Authorizing the mayor to execute a warrant purchase agreement with Thornton Farish Inc. in regard to General Obligation Warrants Series 2014-C; total: $24,895,000.
Authorizing the mayor to execute Municipalities Continuing Disclosure Cooperation Initiative documentation.
Authorizing the Office of the Mayor Disaster Recovery Division to amend and advertise amendment to the 2013 CDBG-DR Action Plan of the city of Tuscaloosa.
Rejecting bids received for the Citywide Home Repair Program for 3014 Eighth St.
Rejecting bids received for the Citywide Home Repair Program for 2736 23rd St.
Rejecting bids received for the Citywide Home Repair Program for 200 51st St.
Authorizing the finance director to draw drafts for the Cedar Crest Drainage Project easement acquisition; total: $9,801.
Authorizing the finance director to draw drafts for the Juanita Drive Improvements Project easement acquisition; total: $9,050.
Selecting Burk-Kleinpeter Inc. as engineer for Disaster Recovery-Streets Reconstruction Project.
Authorizing acceptance of federal funds and authorizing the mayor to execute a State Subgrantee Disaster Assistance Agreement; CFDA No. 97.029; FMA-PL-04-AL-2014-002; total: $24,999.99.
Tentatively awarding to Booth Contractors LLC a contract for Citywide Home Repair Projects at 3116 38th Ave. for Georgia Benion Harris; total: $8,460.
Authorizing the mayor to execute amendment No. 1 to the contract for engineering and related services with Cabaniss Engineering Inc. for the Greensboro Avenue (from 10th Avenue to Cribbs Mills Creek) Storm Drainage Improvements Project; total increase: $21,338.
Authorizing the mayor to execute amendment No. 1 to the contract with McGiffert and Associates for the Rice Mine Road 2014 Improvements Project; total increase: $7,130.
Authorizing the mayor to execute an agreement for professional consulting and related services as a lobbyist with the Bloom Group Inc.; total: $4,000/month.
Awarding a bid for renovation of the Large Meter Shop and Covered Parking Project to Hall-Taylor Construction Co.; total: $545,228.
Authorizing the finance director to draw drafts for the Lift Station 21 Upper Section Improvements Project easement acquisitions; total: $250.
Reappointing Rob Steward, Paul Rollins Jr. and Lester Edwards as members to the Zoning Board of Adjustment.
Authorizing the payment of bills; total: $7,925.55.
November 23rd, 2014
Tuscaloosa seeks to sell downtown property that housed fire, police services - City officials are again seeking bids on a key piece of downtown real estate that they hope to sell to a tax-generating business.
The City Council has decided to move forward with the process of finding a buyer for the former Fire Station No. 1 and Police Department site on Lurleen B. Wallace Boulevard South between Sixth and Seventh streets.
"Commercial retail is our focus," Mayor Walt Maddox said. "We don't have many corners like that left that can generate those kinds of sales taxes."
Brendan Moore, director of the city's Department of Economic Development, said about seven different companies have expressed interest in the .98-acre tract, pieces of which have been under the city's ownership since the 1920s.
The land recently was appraised for $1.17 million, about $106,000 more than last year. On Monday the city will send out request-for- proposal (RFP) packages to try to find a buyer.
The bids will be due in 90 days.
"It's a vacant piece of property in a very high-traffic corridor," Moore said. "We're asking that whatever development goes here would be a sales tax generator."
Moore said the more than $100 million in investments recently announced, under way or completed in downtown Tuscaloosa — the Embassy Suites and Hilton Home2 Suites hotels; a new Renasant Bank headquarters and the Rock Point Estates LLC mixed-use project, among them — have driven renewed interest in downtown properties.
A natural fit for this area likely would be a restaurant, Moore said, referring to the other eateries that line this area of town. But almost any use, from retail to mixed-use, would work, as well.
"I'm very optimistic about it," Moore said.
According to the city's latest RFP package, the potential buyer must at least meet the appraised value of the land, a requirement the city has imposed in at least four different RFP attempts in the past.
Last year, efforts to attract a buyer began after a sales agreement was terminated with Atlanta-based Connolly Net Lease LLC, which was under contract to purchase the city's tract along with two adjoining parcels from other property owners for a retail development.
A Connolly Net Lease spokesman said at the time that the anchor tenant was set to be a Walgreens, the deal fell through.
Connolly Net Lease, which was planning to invest about $5 million in the project (including $1.07 million for the city's land), was at least the second company since 2009 to attempt to develop the downtown tract.
The first attempt failed when a sales agreement with Roley Tide LLC — which was planning to pay $700,000 for the property — fell apart. Company representatives told the council they planned to renovate the existing building that has since been demolished and open a Jimmy John's Gourmet Sandwiches shop in the location.
The fire station on Lurleen Wallace Boulevard was vacated by the Tuscaloosa Fire and Rescue Service in spring 2009 after the completion of the new Fire Station No. 1 on 15th Street.
The City Council voted last week to send out the RFP packages.
Reach Jason Morton at jason.morton@tuscaloosanews.com or 205-722-0200.
November 23rd, 2014
Bridge to be named for trooper from Tuscaloosa killed while on duty - An Alabama State Trooper from Tuscaloosa killed in the line of duty 30 years ago will be honored Monday.
The bridge in Athens where Trooper Simmie Lee Jeffries crashed during a vehicle pursuit on Dec. 21, 1984, will be named for him at a ceremony, family members said.
Jeffries, 22, was killed when his trooper vehicle ran under a tractor-trailer rig as he pursued a suspect.
"Every Dec. 21 has been a very hard day for our family for the last 30 years," said his niece Sonya McKinstry. "We're just elated that some light is shining on the tragedy that occurred."
Jeffries was the youngest of Edna Jeffries' 10 children. Five are still living. Jeffries, 86, said that a large group of family members will be at the dedication in Athens on Monday, which was scheduled for Thanksgiving week so family members from out of state can attend.
"We are honored that they're doing this," she said.
Edna Jeffries said her son's ultimate goal was to become an FBI agent.
Renaming the bridge was an initiative by state Sen. Bill Holtzclaw, R-Madison.
Simmie Lee Jeffries was a 1980 Tuscaloosa High School graduate. He worked in Montgomery as a trooper cadet until he turned 21. State law required troopers to be 21 before carrying a gun.
He was then assigned to a five-county trooper post that was headquartered in Decatur. He was pursing a suspect on the evening he was killed at an intersection near Interstate 65 in Athens.
"You can only imagine how excited we are," said McKinstry, who is a member of the Tuscaloosa City Council. "It's good to know that this memory still lives on and that this tragedy is not forgotten."
Reach Stephanie Taylor at stephanie.taylor@tuscaloosa news.com or 205-722-0210.
November 23rd, 2014
SCHOOL NEWS: Nov. 23 - Students of the week for Nov. 10-14 were Kristin Waldrop, sixth grade; Kelvin Dancer, seventh grade; and Amaya Gibson, eighth grade.
Students of the week for Nov. 17-21 are John Burroughs, sixth grade; Taiya Collins, seventh grade; Gilberto Sorcia, eighth grade.
Davis-Emerson students of the month for October include Hannia Amaro-Zambrano, sixth grade; Kylee Herron, seventh grade; and Kody McAteer, eighth grade.
The principal's list for the first nine weeks includes Diego Avina, Maliya Adams, Amiyah Bester, Demontae Braggs, Charlotte Byrd, Joslynn Calhoun, Jakobi Cameron, Nikendrea Cammon, Jayden Campos, Makayla Conwell, Eduardo Dominguen, Timothy Ellis, Kendavius Fluker, Debra Giles, Eric Grant, Shanaveah Harris, Kellina Hollingsworth, Taeshaun Horton, Taylor Ivory, Artia Jones, Jaylen Jones, Kayden Lavender, Miracle Little, Maryah Lucas, Julian Madison, Jeremiah Manns, Jade Mason, Caleb Moore, Grayson Moore, Jameson Moore, Arianna Pates, Kailin Peterson, Jamiya Phillips, Nevaeh Pickens, Jennifer Rice, Erwin Ross, Cameryn Ryans, Valeria Sandavol, Ayden Shuttlesworth, Aysha Thomas, Demetrius Thomas, Kamora Thomas, Reginae Thomas, Zharia Thomas, LaKevin Travis, Dhruu Vashi, Ritayze Vaughn, Demondrea Watkins, Shaleedra Watkins, Jalex Wells-Barnes, Daylon Whitelaw, Damarion Wilder, Hanna Wilks, Alyssah Williams, Reginald Williams, Tyler Wory and Jordan Young.
The all-A honor roll for the first nine weeks includes Reagan Allen, Jaylin Brantley, Sawyer Cartwright, Audrey Channell, Anna Cobb, Breanna Collins, Rylan Corley, Amanda Daugherty, Kinsley Denton, Jay Dockery, Joshua Harris, Lelia Kaiser, Acelin Lopez, Humberto Lopez-Garcia, Michael Lowe, Madyson Payne, Cayson Pearson, Z'Vonte Perkins, Jason Price, Abigail Prickett, Ava Richardson, Tyler Spencer, Bradleigh Taylor, Caelyn Taylor, Ethan Waldrop, Joey Wambles and Ryken Wetzel.
The October students of the month at Northridge High School were Sara Guo, Tate Landry, Runa King, Max Hoffman, Rachel Emig, Josh Lofti, John Andrew Chwe and Jasmine Thompson.
The all-A honor roll for the first nine weeks includes Abigail Nicole Abston, Emma Hall Abston, Joseph Patrick Acosta, Ta'Vian Dre'Sean Adams, Addie Grace Akins, Nour Emad Akl, Abigail Marie Allen, Lee Rebecca Almond, Aliyah Wakenya Anderson, Corilee Jett Anderson, Ryan Elliott Anthony, William Woodruff Arnold, Raegan Elizabeth Atkins, Maryam Azam, Rasmia Azam, London Donae Bailey, Rafay Naeem Bajwa, Raza Aizad Bajwa, John Marshall Baker, William Drew Baker, Rachel KaNyth Banks, Emmie Elizabeth Barnett, Lucy Maiben Barnett, Annabelle Foster Beavers, Mary Evelyn Beavers, Savannah Raquel Bernal, Jasmeen Markaia Beville, Tiara Beville, Areiona Celeste Blackburn, Nicholas Jermaine Blair, Briana LeShae Blakely, Mary Grace Boatright, Davis Corcoran Bowers, Jackson Robert Bowers, Emma Mattison Bradford, Robert Patton Bradford, Morgan Elizabeth Braggs, TyVontre Antwyn Bright, Alaja Monae Brown, Tayla Monae Brown, Dustin Blake Brubeck, Robert Batson Brumfield, Jerrelle Tray Bryant, Pamela Isabelle Buettner, Mary Elizabeth Burns, Maggie Elizabeth Butler, Davis Linzy Byars, Riley Edward Byars, Anna Elizabeth Cain, Julia Marie Cain, Karson Rylee Cameron, Lucas Reed Camp, Maya Simone Campbell, Christopher Arden Canterbury, Shelby Maria Castellanos, Reshu Chandra, Wilbur Randolph Charles, Lauren Nicole Cheatum, Thomas Randall Cheshire, Helen Hanlee Chwe, John Andrew Hanju Chwe, Dalton Joshua Clary, Myra Amore Clemmons, Lucas Hardy Coker, Audrey Anna Coleman, Gennie Renca Coleman, Derrick Key'shawn Collins, Charlotte Meredith Cook, Joy Renee Cooper, Emily Kaye Craver, Nathan Rogers Cross, Cameron Charles Crouse, Maggie Elizabeth Crow, Henry Franklin Cull, Casey Renee Cunningham, Jakiria Nekole Cunningham, Anna Dahlback, Samuel James Daly, Jasmine L. Daniels, Elizabeth Margaret Danner, Venkata Sriram Varma Dantuluri, Benjamin Mosby Davis, Kennedy Gayle Davis, Kyra Cantrice Davis, Patrick Lee Davis II, Emily Ann Dennison, Kristianah Brachelle Dent, Calvin Cordes Devine, Morgan Leigh DeWitt, Vy Vy Dong, Karlton O'Neal Doss, Erica Grace Dotson, Carly Elizabeth Drake, Katlyn Therese Drake, Rachel Julia Dubay, Sara Abigail Dykes, Derreka Jana Edwards, Emory Grace Edwards, Abbie Kathryn Eidson, Anna Marie Eidson, Jacob Michael Ellis, Sarah Frances Ellis, Caroline Paige Elrod, Mason Kellett Elsberry, Rachel Elise Emig, Malyk Juwan Ervin, Grace Grissinger Evans, Kiandre Derrell Evans, Stevan Craig Fairburn, Kelsey Morgan Fendley, Ragan Elizabeth Ferguson, Gabriella Wesley Fernandez, Desiree Tania Ferrell, Virginia Marie Ferro, Caroline Lauren First, Emma Katherine Fisher, Jacob Zachirhy-Omar Fitch, Destiny Latrice Foster, Larry Jerome Foster Jr., Robert KeAnte Foster, Isaac Martinez Galindo, Meagan Elizabeth Gamble, Jesus Oziel Garcia, Paeton Allie Gaspard, Julian Ulysses Gaytan, David Franklin Geer, James Erik Gentry, Sani Nizar Ghulamani, Otheese Lamar Gibson, Wilson Bailey Glaze, Aaron Brown Goldstein, Madison Rose Goldstein, Khalil Rai'Quan Gray, Erin MarQuis Green, Parker Daniel Green, Wheeler Samuel Greene, Rebecca Leigh Griesbach, Sarah Guo, Anisha Chandri Gupta, Dylan Thomas Hackett, Joanna A. Hamilton, Colin Robert Hammond, Rebecca Jean Han, Matthew Patterson Hankins, Alexander James Hans, Ross Cameron Hardin, Jonathan Cole Hardwick, ShaMia' Mechele Hardy, Rachel Brianna Harper, Di'Andra Mone' Harris, Jacquese Monai Harris, Jasmine Anita Harris, Jewels Alexandria Harris, Kaylin Ambernique Harris, Carter Lee Harrison, Abigail Maurine Hatfield, Elaine Kathryn Hatfield, Catherine Grace Hauser, Benjamin Hayes, Stephen Cooper Herrington, Daniel Lee Herrod, Avery Lane Hester, Nathan Mackenzie Hester, John Austin Higginbotham, Andrew Hunter Hindman, JaKina Denise Hines, Andrew Ellis Hinson, Rudolph Hodges, Destiny Nicole Hodges, Maximilian Dennis Hoffman, Madison Michelle Horton, Elizabeth Ashley Hubbard, Lauren Elise Hudson, Adrian Danielle Huitt, Brianna Nichole Hyche, Auriana Bibijahn Irannejad, Julie Nicole Jackson, Lillian Kristina-Marie Jackson, Tionna Moay Jackson, Jared Lee James, DeMarcus Rayshawn Jernigan, Caroline Frances Jessup, Katherine Proctor Jessup, Aaron Peter Johnson, Antonio Desmond Johnson, Carol Elizabeth Johnson, Jade Jenaye Johnson, Mackenzie Brook Johnson, Shelton Warner Johnson, Dequan Jamal Jones, JaQuan Trashon Jones, Jemison Christopher Jones, Kiaira Alexis Jones, Thornton Watson Jones, Jaeden Olivia Joyner, Erykuh Wynette Kelly, Nimra Jabeen Khan, Rabisa Jabeen Khan, Adejia Rhenea Kimbrough, Da'monte Kendrell King, Runa Patterson King, Caroline Avery Kirkland, Kamela Shardae Kirkland, Julia Rae Kreiser, Caroline Yates Krieger, John Palmer Krieger, Landen Claire Lake, Tate Jude Landry, Sara Josephine Lang, Nathaniel William Larmore, Benjamin Jerome Lattner, Khalia Jabrell Lee, Michael James Lee, Tykendria Katrice Lee, Frances Louise Lehman, Amanda Tamarra Lewis, Daryn Renee Lewis, Graham Nicholls Limbaugh, Delorian J'Sette Little, Abigail Reed Livingston, Mac-Kenzie Grace Lloyd, Alexander Carl London, LeAmbreya Monique Long, Thomas McPherson Long III, Shanna Courtney Loper, Joshua Milod Lotfi, Cameron David Lyons, Ryan Kelly MacVicar, Savannah Opal Maples, Stevan Tucker Marcus, Alex Christopher Martin, Angel Andrea Martin, Jacob Donald Martin, Gabrielle Elaina Massey, Samuel Prater Maughan, Anna Grace Maxson, Joshua Clark Maxson, Jaylin Chalon Mayfield, LaDandria FayLeonna Mayhew, John Mark McCleland, Jasmine Mary McCollum, Katherine Elizabeth McCray, Georgiann Eliane McCullough, James Earl Clifford McGee, Emily Anne McGuire, Lane Garrett McKinley, Kendall Keahey McKone, Ronald Lamont McLaurin, Jonathan Bert McLelland, Allie Caroline McMillan, Daysha Nykeda Reale McMullen, Tyler James McMullen, Patrick Micheal McNeil, Isabella Mercedes McVeagh, Madison Brook Miller, Melody Christina Mills, Terry Virginia Millsaps, Mason Andrew Mitchell, Whitley Shante Mitchell, Courtney Caroline Mobbs, Fa'Marlon Lavelle Mobley Jr., Jerome Monroe, Morgan Montgomery, Mya Marie Montrella, Natalie Grace Moore, Lucy Gwendolyn Morgan, Megan Elizabeth Moseley, Julia Stacy Mullins, Mary Margaret Murdock, Sonia Niranjan Muzumdar, Savannah Ivie Nairemore, Savren Mahon Nelson, Ryan Robert Nichols, James Viking Niiler, Myles Davis Nims, Teven Andrew Nipper, Marie Elise Norris, Anna Beth Northington, Kayla Mackenzie Ochiltree, Kimora Moshae Ogden, Josue Olvera-Ibarra, Mollie Jourdan O'Neal, Charles Jemarcus Owens, JerHoward Shermaine Paige, Shelley Elizabeth Parks, Kayla Lashell Pate, Olivia Harmon Patridge, Damion Nevada Patton, Gurusai Sujitha Peramsetty, Michelle Peters, Monique Peters, Thomas David Petitt, Tyesha Monique Pinnock, Katherine Grace Poore, Emmanuel Norman Porter, Maggie Claire Porter, Maria Christian Potts, Jackson Ryan Powell, Isaiah Lynn Prather, Abiyu Prawira, Jody Lee Prescott, DaMaya RaShae Prewitt, DeAnthony Davon Prewitt, Kearsten Rene Prince, Henry Whitfield Pritchett, LaTaysia ReShaye Quinnie, Shineequa LaShawn Quinnie, Heather Marie Rabbit, Katherine Elizabeth Ray, Mary Claire Ray, Oliver Brice Reinwald, Nicholas Kaelin Riggs, Morgan Camille Roberts, Ladarius Keonte Robinson, Tiffany Monae Robinson, Lucy Elizabeth Rogers, Alexis Bre'Auna Ross, Christopher Jackson Ryan, George Anthony Ryan, William Reid Ryan, Tyler Lee Salekin, Tieson Kiarra Samuel, Brenton Scott Sanders, Trinity Chelija Sanders, Christian Leonard Sashington, Charles Owen Schreiber, Elizabeth Jamerlyn Seal, Antoya Shanee Searcy, Jackson Lee Seawell, Simon Alexander Seitel, T'mya Marie Shaffer, Margaret Elizabeth Shattuck, Kerry DeAndre' Shepherd, Naomi Sidje, Sharmeria Jamese Simmons, Authentic Tidreus Sims, Toni Alexandria Sledge, Cade Christian Smelley, Anne Mason Smith, D'Tashia Moshea Smith, Keishun Patrell Smith, Nicholas Blake Smith, Lacordia Asianique Snider, Jason Laron Snyder, Catherine Ruiz Spence, Kalayshia Maleea Spencer, Ryan Frank Stegall, Sarah Catherine Stephens, Helen Tate Steward, Matthew Cole Stewart, William Grier Stewart, Denei Alek Strgar, Stephen Parker Stroud, Annika Corinne Struthwolf, Kyle Bradley Stuart, Tatayanna Tyleshia Summerville, Joshua Paul Swann, Natasha Ann Szulczewski, Candice Renae' Taylor, Jaylan Kierra Taylor, Kylia Amelia Thomas, Riley Suzanne Thomas, Jasmine SheNell Thompson, Elizabeth Robbins Thornell, Lee Turner Thornton, Kaitlin Von Tindol, Caleb Luc Toshcoff, Anna Claire Toxey, Ashlyn Dee Toxey, Mychi Dang Tran, Triky Dang Tran, Anna Katherine Tucker, Jenna Grace Tucker, William Brian Tucker, De'Avia Alexis Turner, Deja DeAnna Turner, Hannah Louise Urban, LaRissa Paulette VanHorn, Julia Marie Versace, Kathryn Lyn Versace, Nicoletta Rose Versace, Jordan Elizabeth Walker, Melissa Anna Walker, Orlando Kenneth Walker, Thomas Randolph Walker Jr., William Waldrum Walker, Rachel Elizabeth Wallace, Raven Anne Warren, Louise Marie Whiting, Lee Shepherd Wicks, Jasmine Danielle Wilder, Laura Lee Wilhite, Alta Judith Willaert, Elizabeth Claire Willard, Lauren Kelly Williams, Kailin Grace Wilson, Mary Margaret Wilson, Montarious A.T. Wilson, Peter Lee Wilson, Chioma Regina Wokukwu, Abigail Larson Wolbach, India Bene't Woods, Sydney Monet Woods, Lillian Ruth Woolf, Jarrod Robert Worley, Benjamin Luther Wright, Sabrina Breck Wright, Lydia Chun Yang, Brett Matthew Yarborough, Landon Riley Yerby, Jet Zheng, Vincent Zheng and Sarah Catherine Zito.
The all-A honor roll for the first nine weeks includes Sarah Iyanna Alston-Hasselvander, Johnnah Monai Bailey, Adrianna Iolana Baker, Iyana Christine Dixon, Tyler Conely Franklin, Janeika Dasia Gipson, Ryder Greyson Hyche, Donavin Ahmad Johnson, Christopher Garez McShan, QuinDarius Millhouse, Asia Nicole Pleasants, Jesus Gomez Rosales, Antran Keyshawn Taylor and Serenity Marie Warnack.
The County Beef Cook Off sponsored by the Cattle Women's Association was held on Nov. 4 at Brookwood High School. Students from Sipsey Valley and Brookwood high schools participated.
1st place: Tiffany Brown of Brookwood High School.
2nd place: Lena Tatum of Brookwood High School.
3rd place: Victoria Nash of Brookwood High School.
4th place: Logan Lane of Sipsey Valley High School.
All contestants won cash prizes from the Cattle Women's Association.
Tiffany Brown will represent Tuscaloosa County at the State Beef Cook off held in January in Montgomery.
The seventh and eighth grade RQMS strings have been selected to perform for the Alabama Music Educators Association conference in Montgomery on Jan. 22.
The Tuscaloosa County Distinguished Young Woman scholarship program for senior girls was held recently. Janna Meeks, from Hillcrest High School, was named Tuscaloosa County Distinguished Young Woman for 2015 and will represent Tuscaloosa at the Alabama Distinguished Young Woman program in January 2015. Anna Marie Callahan from Hillcrest High School was named first alternate, and Mary Madison Taylor from American Christian Academy was named second alternate.
During the Oct. 31-Nov. 2 weekend, the following students competed in the Annual Trumbauer Theatre Festival: Keri Cook, Desiree Applewhite, Camryn Walker, Courtney Holyle and Kimberlyn Beale. Desiree Applewhite received the judges' choice of Best Supporting Actress in the Studio Theatre Event.
Hillcrest High School's Patriots of the Month for October include Jonathan Tyler Williamson, Alayha Grant, Joy Hill, Abby Leger and Marcus Peebles, ninth grade; Austin Smithson, Jahi Brown, Kryana Brown, Nate Sanford and Sam Andrus, 10th grade; Reagan McColl, Blake Robbins, Trent Ray, Andrea Martinez and Ruth Ann Barger, 11th grade; KaTerria Prewitt, DaViaire White, Matthew Davis, Jessica Davis and Bethany Lovell, 12th grade.
Madison Clary has been selected to be an ASF Foundation Student Ambassador. She is the daughter of Mike and Tammy Clary of Tuscaloosa.
Effort awards for the first quarter of school at Holy Spirit Elementary were awarded to Hunter Lopacki, Michael Lopacki, Breauna Marshall, James Neary, Noah Schaetzle, Dylan Taylor, Olivia Watkins and Anna Kate Wilson.
The Holy Spirit Catholic Elementary School honor roll for the first quarter includes Allie Albea, Eva Altman, Kailey Bartlett, Eve Barnette, Kiera Bates, Yasmeen Baumhower, Jaylee Brannen, Katelyn Brannen, Desmond Bullard, William Collins, Cooper Davis, Pearl Davis, Peyton Davis, Sidd Davis, Jacob Dupre, Trey Fannin, Isaac Gamble, Cole Glover, Makai Grant, Alex Halbesleben, Annie Holt, Gus Holt, Kate Holthaus, Caitlin Johnson, Grace Kang, Kimori Kimble, Carly King, Wilson King, Hannah Kinney, Catherine Kung, Claire Laubenthal, Anna Marie Leach, Mary Katherine Lee, Meredith Link, Nick Livingston, Drew Lopacki, Daniel Lopez-Moreno, Mario Lopez-Moreno, Sarah Martin, Christina Matos, Elena Matos, Julianna Matos, Grady McClendon, Jordan McNair, Rebecca Melton, Marie Mewes, Ava Mills, Mindy Mitchell, Hallie Oswalt, Kalen Oswalt, Alex Pace, Alex Pereyda, Chloe Pernia, Alex Pilkinton, Hayden Pilkinton, Libby Kate Plowman, Ellie Reese Purdy, Elaine Roberts, Paul Rodriguez, Jonas Senkbeil, Davis Sharp, Sydney Sharp, Lola Shields, William Shields, Audrey Shore, Elizabeth Smith, Katherine Smith, Marissa Swindle, Robbie Tillman, Cecilia Walker, Christien Washington, Allison Williams, Garrett Wilson, Matthew Wilson and Forrest York.
The Holy Spirit Middle School all-A honor roll for the first quarter includes Brooke Bassett and Elijah Sheffer.
The Holy Spirit Catholic High School all-A honor roll for the first quarter includes Alexandra Bushery, Mary Catherine Chambliss, Jackson Colburn, Caitlin Diano, Ana Garcia, Alexandra Giggie, Julia Giggie, Kelsey Johnson, Rainer Jones, Olivia Kapera, Grace Anne Lake, Galen Lee, Danika Louw, Ezra Patrick, Nikita Peramsetty, Anna Pitts, Henry Pitts, Lillian Rodgers, Caitlin Shortall, Caroline Sisson, Haley Thompson, Reagan Washington, Alexie White, Leah White and Tatianna Zambrano.
The all-A honor roll for the first nine weeks includes Allison Michaela Averette, Jada Sheree Buckner, Alyssa Leeann Cameron, D'Anai Carlisle, Rylee Hermoine Channell, Thomas Chase Cook, Caitlyn Rochelle Cordova, Richard C. Crawford, Courtney Elizabeth Dockery, Darilexiya Kisyana Fields, Sarah Gayle Franklin, Hannah Rebecca Harbin, Savannah Re Hodge, Jon Austin Horton, Shelby Renea Johnson, Jayci Michelle Jones, Logan Lamar Laird, Aeriel Latrista Lee, Jaxon Nelson Marshall, Savana Grace Marshall, Edward Lane Martin, Jessica Fay McCain, Shaleah Damaria McCain, Asia Danielle McMillian, Eboni Brooke Nichols, Charles Ridgeway Payne, Charlsey Elizabeth Payne, Halle Scot Payne, Sarah Kirk Pearson, Marion Kaddell Perry, Franchesca S. Perkins, James Landon Pickle, Nicholas Cade Pritchett, Matthew Keith Reid, Richard Douglas Roberts, William Marcus Roberts, Rachel Lin Rose, Sarah Anne Rose, Matthew Breon Rox, Michael Shawn Spence Jr., Harley Jo Stokes, Logan Tyler Stokes, Amanda Meggan Stuber, Ashley Kate Stuber, Camden Blake Tucker, Willie Vawters, Mallory Jean Waktins, Carson Alexander Woods, Kelli Renee Wyatt and Sarah Joyce Wyatt.
The following TCHS students were selected as the November students of the month: Heavyn Hammonds, Hannah Lancaster, MiKayla Ramsey, Elizabeth Ward, Jacob Kuczenski, Billy Hutchins, Brent Fuller and Titus Gardner.
The honor roll for the first nine weeks includes Ethan Anderson, Victoria Anderson, Wesley Avritt, Elissa Blackmon, Zoey Blackmon, Audrey Boozer, Gavin Boswell, Jasalyn Boswell, Elizabeth Boyd, Tanner Burrows, Dylan Camp, Daxon Chandler, Callie Corley, Coleman Cottingham, Hal Cottingham, Jakob Cox, Sydney Cox, Sara Crawford, Alleigh Deal, Natalie Dockler, Jessica Eads, Jennifer Eaton, Ryder Edmondson, Tanner Estes, Caedan Faulkner, Isaac Faulkner, Daniel Fondren, Olivia Fondren, Myleigha Gamble, Addison Golden, Cayley Golden, Hunter Hall, Anna-Scott Harbin, Mary-Taylor Harbin, Jackson Harris, Tully Harrison, Seth Hester, Brink Hutto, Jude Hutto, Katelyn Johnson, Alec Joiner, Madison Jones, Tristin Kegg, Briana Lancaster, Emma Lanier, Benjamin Lawrence, Bryan Lee, Brooke Loper, Savannah Lowery, Jacob Marks, Macie Martin, Arden May, Elijah May, Coley McGarity, Dillon McLain, Taylor Meggs, Clay Merriam, Eliana Miller, Esther Miller, Miranda Mills, Joshua Moyer, Breonna Munford, Anna Brooke Murray, Keeleigh New, James Palmer, Micah Palmer, Preston Parker, Varshit Ptel, Tyler Peffer, Caroline Perkins, Jade Pollard, Fisher Price, Allie-Grace Ramsey, Shelby Ramsey, Noah Reach, Lydia Roberts, Clark Rundles, Hannah Sampson, Micaiah Sampson, Jake Shelby, Jalaina Simmons, Lucas Simmons, Shelby Smallwood, Sidney Smallwood, Candice Smelley, Mayghan Smith, Rhys Smith, Shannon Smith, Audrey Stephens, Laura Stephens, Jordan Sterling, Jacob Sumner, Mickey Suttle, Fallin Thomas, Brayden Thrasher, Hunter Thrasher, Caleb Treacy, Blake Tubbs, Maitlyn Tubbs, Emily Turner, Ana Valdez, Wesley Vaughan, Jordan Walters, Peyton West, Caleb Wiggins, Joshua Wiggins, Samantha Wright, Andrea Yielding and Samantha Young.
November 22nd, 2014
Berry woman, 23, dies in wreck early Saturday morning - A young Berry woman died early Saturday in a single-car wreck on Tuscaloosa County Road 63, according to the Alabama Department of Public Safety.
The victim was identified as Kayla Nicole Finch, 23. A DPS press release said she was not wearing a seat belt.
She died when the 2007 Nissan Altima she was driving left the road and crashed into several trees 2 miles south of Berry at about 1:35 a.m., the release stated.
She was transported to DCH Regional Medical Center in Tuscaloosa where she was pronounced dead, the release stated.
November 22nd, 2014
LEND A HAND: Local agencies have need for a few holiday helping hands - The United Way of West Alabama has several agencies that need a little holiday help.
Hospice of West Alabama: Operation Christmas Food Box needs donations by Dec. 12. Items needed include ham, pies, butter, apples, oranges, chocolates, cookie mix, green beans, bean soup mix, scalloped potatoes, macaroni and cheese, French’s fried onions, cream of mushroom soup, corn, eggs, rolls and soft drinks. People can drop off items at Hospice of West Alabama, 3851 Loop Road, or the United Way’s office at 2720 Sixth St. For more information, contact Kimberly Gibson, volunteer coordinator, at kgibson@hospiceofwestalabama.org or 205-523-0101.
Publix/Coca-Cola/United Way Toy Drive: Drop boxes for toys have been set up at all Tuscaloosa and Northport Publix locations. Volunteers are needed to organize and wrap the toys. To schedule a time to volunteer, contact rust@uwwa.org.
Salvation Army’s Fill a Grocery Bag to Stock the Pantry: Donations are needed by Dec. 19. Drop off non-perishable food items during business hours at the United Way office, 2720 Sixth St. Organizers have set a goal to fill 3,000 bags of food to keep the Salvation Army’s pantry stocked during the holidays.
Santa’s Sleigh: Gifts are needed for survivors of domestic abuse. Drop donations off by Dec. 12 at the Northport Police Department, 3721 26th Ave., or Turning Point, 2110 McFarland Blvd. Call Carrie Baker at 205-469-1385 for a list of items needed.
Tinsel Trail by Tuscaloosa’s One Place: Volunteers are needed nightly to make sure the weather does not blow away ornaments and decorations, and to keep the area free of trash. To volunteer, email eautrey@tuscaloosaoneplace.org.
YMCA Barnes Angel Tree Ministry: A 7-foot Christmas tree and gifts for children age 4 to 14 are needed. For more information, email lsmith@ymcatusc.org.
Salvation Army Angel Tree: Volunteers are needed to stay with the Angel Tree at University Mall, Call Vera Ballard at 205-553-1600 to schedule a time.
November 22nd, 2014
Tuscaloosa Symphony Orchestra concert planned Monday - Last month, The Tuscaloosa Symphony Orchestra grew to its largest-ever assemblage, with more than 100 players and vocalists in the Moody Concert Hall for Gustav Holst’s massive, sweeping “The Planets.”
Monday the TSO turns that configuration around, performing chamber works in the First Presbyterian Church downtown, smaller than the Moody but known for its rich acoustics.
“We hold our auditions for the orchestra in that church,” said Adam Flatt, the TSO’s music director. “Candidates relax and play well there because they sound good.”
The chamber concert is planned to be an annual event, he said.
“We’re calling it ‘first annual’ as a statement of optimism and intent,” he said.
“We want to diversify our offerings into different corners and niches of the repetoire. A chamber-sized group allows us to explore a whole different set of musical offerings. I have a personal affinity for this repertoire, Bach, Haydn, the neo-classical repertoire.”
Tickets are selling fast for the concert, titled “Autumn,” said TSO general manager Jessica Davis Tagg, with 65 percent of tickets sold before the season opener. Monday’s concert is planned to hold about 550.
“We could sell more; they say the capacity is 700,” Tagg said, “but I feel like that could get uncomfortable.”
The concert will include Georg Friederic Handel’s “Concerto Grosso op. 3 no. 5;” Antonio Vivaldi’s “Autumn” from “The Four Seasons,” with Jenny Grégoire featured on violin; Leopold Mozart’s “Concerto for Alto Trombone,” with Jonathan Whitaker on alto trombone; and Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s “Serenade for Strings.”
November 22nd, 2014
Demopolis plans annual Christmas on the River festival - Sparkling lights dance across the waters as 10 boats, wrapped in Christmas lights, float past thousands of onlookers. Mallie Quarles will stand alongside her 3-year-old daughter this December and remember when she was that age watching from the banks of the Tombigbee River as Santa Clauses, elves, reindeer and polar bears glided across the water.
“It’s magical, as a child, to watch those floats,” she said. “It’s just like the (characters) are walking on water.”
The Nautical Christmas Parade, followed by a fireworks display, is one of the biggest draws to the four-day Christmas on the River festival in Demopolis, which will take place Wednesday, Dec. 3, through Saturday, Dec. 6.
Christmas on the River will kick off with the announcement of the Special Child, a child in Demopolis with special needs, who will flip the switch that lights the Love Light Tree at Bryan W. Whitfield Memorial Hospital on Wednesday, Dec. 3, at 5 p.m.
Beginning at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 4, townspeople will gather for the lighting of Public Square and the crowning of St. Nick, a member of the community who has focused his or her energy and attention on helping children. A reading of “The Christmas Story” will follow.
On Friday, Dec. 5, three antebellum homes will open their doors with period decorations and light refreshments. Admission is $5 to each house. From 5-8 p.m., Gaineswood will host a Candlelight Evening with entertainment, and from 5:30-8 p.m. Bluff and Lyon halls will host Christmas in the Canebrake.
The Alabama State Championship BBQ Cook-off will take place from 5 p.m. Friday to 1 a.m. Saturday at the Demopolis City Landing. Admission is $5.
Saturday, Dec. 6, will include the Fair in the Square with craft, retail and food vendors from 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. in the Public Square. The Jingle Bell Run/Walk will begin at 8 a.m. in the square, and the Christmas Day Parade will begin at 11:30 a.m. downtown.
Night events include the nautical parade and fireworks display from 6:30-8:30 p.m. The Christmas on the River Gala will take place during the nautical parade at the Demopolis Civic Center, and the Christmas on the River Dance will be from 9 p.m. to midnight. Admission to the gala is $30 for a single and $50 for a couple.
Quarles said the event, which began in 1972, draws about 30,000 people each year to Demopolis, including the townspeople.
“I think it brings our community closer together,” she said. “It’s magical and a good family time.”
November 22nd, 2014
Thanksgiving meal is about showing love to the community - Nineteenth Street looked like a miniature festival as more than 1,000 people crowded around tables and under tents Saturday for the second annual Taking Thanksgiving to the Streets meal behind the Benjamin Barnes YMCA.
To-go boxes filled with turkey, dressing, rolls, corn, green beans and other Thanksgiving-style foods sat stacked over a foot high on foldout tables.
The meal was provided by Just Jesus Outreach Ministries in partnership with the Salvation Army, Piccadilly, McAlister's Deli, Cracker Barrel, Flowers Bakery and numerous churches, clubs and organizations.
Meals were also delivered by several church groups to those who were homebound at McKenzie and Hay courts.
Olivia Davis, pastor and founder of the ministry, said they had prepared about 50 turkeys, 300 pounds of chicken, lots of side dishes and more than 100 cakes and sweet potato pies.
“It's a community effort, coming back to the streets to sit down and have a Thanksgiving meal together like grandma and grandpa used to do,” Davis said. “He would always slice that first piece of turkey and pass it out.”
Tuscaloosa Police Chief Steve Anderson served the first piece of turkey Saturday.
“It lets the people out here know that somebody cares about them,” Anderson said.
Davis said the meal is about showing love to people in the community in an effort to stop violence in Tuscaloosa.
“This is the greatest commission God gave us is to show love one for another,” she said. “We're taking our streets back. Once we show love, the violence will cease.”
November 22nd, 2014
Nominations sought for Pillars of West Alabama - The Community Foundation of West Alabama board of directors is accepting nominations for the 2015 class of the Pillars of West Alabama.
The Pillars program, which began in 2004, seeks to honor those whose impact and influence have made a significant difference in the quality of life in West Alabama.
To nominate someone for the award, go to the foundation's website at www.thecfwa.org and download the application. Deadline for nominations is Jan. 9.
The selections for the 2015 recipients will be made by the board members.
For more information about the Community Foundation of West Alabama, call Glenn Taylor at 205-366-0698.
November 22nd, 2014
Alabama ranks low in contested legislative races - MONTGOMERY | Alabama was among the states with the least contested legislative races in the general election.
A study by National Institute for Money in State Politics found that 43 percent of Alabama's legislative seats were contested Nov. 4. That was the eighth lowest among the 46 states with legislative races on the general election ballot. Georgia was the lowest with 20 percent of its legislative seats contested.
The study says the national average was contests in 64 percent of the legislative races. Michigan led the states with 100 percent of its legislative races contested, but Michigan has term limits for legislators. Alabama does not.
Many of Alabama's 140 legislative districts are designed to be heavily Republican or heavily Democratic, and they had election contests in the primary election June 3.
November 22nd, 2014
Group asks DOJ to investigate Alabama prisons - MONTGOMERY | Alabama's severely overcrowded prison system is going to have to change, say state officials. The unknown is whether the state will make the changes voluntarily or the federal government will force the state like it did in the 1970s.
Gov. Robert Bentley said the state is moving to overhaul its prisons in the face of accusations about abuse, corruption and substandard health care.
"We are going to look at leadership within the prisons. We are going to see what needs to be done and we are going to make some changes," Bentley said.
However, reform advocates said it's too little, too late in a state where federal courts had to step in 30 years ago to fix prison overcrowding.
"These prisons are the worst in the nation," said Bryan Stevenson, executive director of the Alabama-based Equal Justice Initiative. "They are the most overcrowded prisons in the country. There are severe problems that are not being addressed."
Alabama politicians say they are working to correct issues with state prisons, acknowledging the risk of federal intervention if the state does not take action.
The Alabama prison system was placed in federal receivership in the 1970's following lawsuits overcrowding and lack of adequate medical care. A federal judge in 1981 ordered Alabama to free several hundred inmates to relieve severe overcrowding.
The Equal Justice Initiative has asked the Department of Justice to again investigate what it called the "illegal and unconstitutional condition of confinement" in Alabama prisons.
The advocacy group issued a report last week that said a six-month investigation revealed corruption, abuses and contraband-dealing by prison staff and dangerous conditions that were worse than the group originally feared.
The prison system has an underground economy based on trading contraband, such as drugs and cell phone s, that is "policed by physical violence," according the report.
The group also alleged that young male inmates have been subject to sexual abuse by prison staff. Young inmates at Donaldson and Bibb correctional facilities were stripped naked and forced to perform sex acts and threatened with disciplinary charges if they refused or reported the incident, the group alleged.
The Department of Corrections issued a statement saying that it was reviewing the EJI report but noted some of the concerns date back to 2010 and most have been previously reported.
"We recognize there are issues facing the prison system, and we have been working diligently to create a better, healthier and safer environment for inmates and staff in our prisons," the department statement read.
Alabama has the fourth-highest incarceration rate in the country prisons, according to the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics. Alabama prisons hold nearly twice the number of inmates the facilities were originally designed to house.
The request for a federal investigation is the latest development for a prison system that has been in the spotlight for the last year.
The Department of Justice in January sent Bentley a letter saying that conditions at Julia Tutwiler Prison for Women, the state's only prison for women, were unconstitutional because the state had failed to protect inmates from sexual abuse and harassment.
In June, 43 inmates filed a lawsuit saying the state was failing to provide medical and mental health care, leading to deaths, inadequate treatment for cancer and suicide attempts.
"It is astonishingly bad. We've spoken with so many people who have had terrible conditions go unrecognized and untreated," said Maria Morris, a Southern Poverty Law Center attorney who is representing inmates in the case. A trial in the case is at least a year away, Morris said.
The prison system has defended the level of medical care and said it has responded to other concerns, such as installing cameras and inmates privacy features at Tutwiler
Bentley earlier this year announced the launch of a study that will recommend ways to improve the prison system and relieve overcrowding without risking public safety. Recommendations are expected for the 2015 legislative session.
Sen. Cam Ward, the chairman of a state prison task force, said the prison system needs better internal auditing procedure regarding inmate complaints and better inmate-to-staff ratios.
"This is a bad situation we're in. That's why I say all the time, take this seriously or else someone else is going to take it seriously for us," Ward said
November 22nd, 2014
CBS report on Tracey Grissom case airs Saturday night - Tracey Grissom never denied shooting her ex-husband, Hunter Grissom — she fired six shots, four of which hit him — at the Binion Creek Boat landing May 15, 2012. She called 911 and confessed to the shooting, saying she acted out of fear for her life.
In August, she was convicted of murder, and in September, Tuscaloosa County Circuit Court Judge John England sentenced her to 25 years in prison.
Intrigued by Grissom's allegations of abuse and the potential legal repercussions, lawyer and reporter Erin Moriarty came to Tuscaloosa in August to interview Grissom, her attorney Warren Freeman, her friend Loran Richards, Hunter Grissom's mother and aunt, and two of Hunter Grissom's employees who saw the shooting.
The resulting report airs at 9 p.m. today on CBS' “48 Hours,” a segment titled “The Girl Next Door.” Moriarty also interviewed Tuscaloosa News reporter Stephanie Taylor, who followed the case from shooting through the trial and sentencing. The show also uses photographs from The Tuscaloosa News' extensive coverage.
Grissom, speaking in interviews filmed between the verdict and sentencing, claims again, as she had from the beginning, that she was acting in self-defense, although her ex-husband was unarmed at the time.
“... because if I had not done that, I'd be dead. And I believe that a hundred percent,” Grissom says in one of the recorded interviews.
Hunter Grissom's mother says, in an interview, “My son died running — running — for his life.”
Grissom's story hinged on an alleged incident of abuse, 18 months before the shooting.
“I'm also a lawyer and have a great interest in any of these cases that will raise larger legal issues,” Moriarty said. The “48 Hours” and CBS news staffs keep track of potentially precedent-setting trials, she said.
“It was portrayed to me as a case of a woman who said she'd been abused, raped, and 18 months later shoots him,” she said. It was believed Grissom might claim not guilty by reason of temporary insanity, or build a defense around post-traumatic stress disorder. “I didn't know all the details, but (in August) I go there with that in mind.”
After two days and several interviews with the convicted murderer, though, Moriarty began to question where stories didn't line up with facts, including medical records following the alleged abuse, and police reports that didn't coincide with Grissom's recounting.
“Rather than focusing solely on this issue of a woman's self-defense ... it became a question of whether the woman was even telling the whole truth,” Moriarty said. “As a woman, this was a very disturbing story for me, because the last thing you want to do is question a woman who says she is a domestic-abuse victim ... but you have to. You follow the story where it goes”
With the input of Taylor, and interviews with the victim's family members, who had maintained silence throughout much of the proceedings, the “48 Hours” team assembled what Moriarty called “a very balanced hour, and really tells the story as much from her side as from Hunter Grissom's side.”
Adding to the complexity is that Grissom is considered a beautiful young woman, someone who doesn't fit the image of a killer, Moriarty said.
“A lot of times we bring our own biases when we listen to somebody or watch somebody,” she said. “I think we have this image of what we think is a killer, or mentally ill, and she doesn't fit any of those stereotypes.”
Still, it's important to show Grissom, she said, to “remind us that just because someone speaks strongly, looks good, you still have to question everything that is said.”
Among issues raised are those of the medical records, showing injuries less severe than those Grissom described, and discrepancies between what Grissom said about the day of the shooting, and what physical evidence implies.
“I think we will do an effective job of showing the evidence that contradicts the things she says,” Moriarty said.
Included in the show will be graphic imagery introduced in evidence at the trial, including police officers' camera footage, showing the victim's body, and video from an interrogation room where Grissom breaks down, saying, “I just shot him. I shot him. I shot him.”
The sentencing was no surprise, Moriarty said, from a legal standpoint, though Judge England had made it clear, at the trial, that he thought this was a manslaughter case.
“Tracey Grissom herself decided she wanted to go all or nothing. She was sure she'd be convicted of manslaughter, but she told me she was sure they wouldn't find her guilty of murder,” Moriarty said. “I know she truly believes, and believes she had the jury believing, that she did not murder her husband.”
Grissom recently was back in England's court, asking for a new trial, but was denied in late October. Should any changes occur in Grissom's status, Moriarty said she'll return.
November 22nd, 2014
Bonfire brings University of Alabama students together, builds morale among ROTC cadets - Flames engulfed the wooden pallets heaped on the University of Alabama Quad and cast an orange glow over the faces of hundreds of Alabama fans lined along the white, chalk perimeter circling the bonfire Friday night in preparation for the Alabama vs. Western Carolina homecoming game.
For fans, the bonfire is part of a long-standing tradition of homecoming game activities. For the Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps at UA, it’s about boosting morale within its detachment.
It is the duty of the Air Force ROTC to plan, build and guard the bonfire pit until it becomes ashes in the sand.
“We guard it from the second we build it to the second it burns,” said AFROTC Cadet Wing Commander Thomas Hemmings. “The last thing we want is a premature ignition or someone trying to knock (the pallets) over.”
About 250 to 400 pallets, donated by local businesses and procured by the university, arrived on a flatbed truck Wednesday, he said. Hemmings said cadets stacked the pallets approximately 15 feet high atop about one foot of sand that protects the grass beneath it and prevents the fire from spreading.
“We do ensure that there is a hollow in the center, and that allows the fire to collapse in upon itself and air to get into the center so the whole thing can burn,” Hemmings said. “Towards the top there is a lattice design, and that helps get air in there too, because the air is what really fuels the fire.”
From Wednesday at noon until the pallets were doused in a slow-burning fuel and ignited with a torch by the Tuscaloosa Fire and Rescue, anywhere from 5 to 35 cadets at a time volunteered to take shifts guarding what took them about four hours to build, Hemmings said.
To pass the time, the cadets haul a TV and Xbox from the cadet’s lounge to their tent on the Quad and plug it into the generators set up for tailgating, Hemmings said. He said they may also start pickup games like ultimate frisbee.
This event allows the AFROTC upperclassmen to impart advice and share stories about basic training to the underclassmen they oversee and train, said AFROTC Cadet Stephanie Ray.
“It’s more about just doing things together rather than the class separation or the rank separation that we normally experience,” Ray said.
Hemmings said guarding the bonfire together allows the underclassmen to realize that, although the upperclassmen may be tough on them in training, they are human too. He said the event helps the cadets relax and build camaraderie, which helps a cadet wing function.
“Training works on mutual respect and, through camaraderie, you can earn that mutual respect,” he said. “Out here, we’re not as strict, and it shows them that we’ve been through what they’ve been through. We can share experiences and build that mutual respect, which is a foundation for training.”
The cadets savored the last moments of camaraderie as fans cheered at the pep rally on the steps of Amelia Gayle Gorgas Library, listening to Alabama head football coach Nick Saban and the announcement of homecoming queen Allison Montgomery.
The cadets’ job was done, but Hemmings said it wasn’t really a job. It was a way to boost morale among fellow cadets while providing a safe homecoming festivity for fans.
“When you’re out there in the middle of the night, 2 a.m., there’s no one out there. You’re guarding it from the night pretty much,” Hemmings said. “Very rarely, I think, are we really guarding it from people. I think the presence is enough to keep people away, and it turns into an esprit de corps (a sense of unity for their cadet wing).”
November 22nd, 2014
Tuscaloosa pastor re-elected to statewide post - The Rev. Vernon Swift of Elizabeth Baptist Church has been re-elected as the president of the Alabama State Missionary Baptist Convention.
Swift has also been appointed vice president of the Southwest Region of the National Baptist Convention USA Inc.
November 22nd, 2014
Postal service announces holiday delivery schedule - The U.S. Postal Service announced Friday that it will deliver packages seven days a week starting Sunday and continuing through Christmas Day in many locations, including select ZIP codes in Tuscaloosa and Northport.
Largely due to e-commerce growth, the Postal Service is expecting double-digit growth in its package business this holiday season, with an expected volume of 450 million to 470 million packages, according to a Postal Service news release. The increase equates to roughly 12 to 14 percent growth over the same period last year.
For delivery by Christmas, the Postal Service recommends keeping the following deadlines in mind:
-- Dec. 2: First-class mail international/Priority Mail international
-- Dec. 10: Priority Mail Express international
-- Dec. 15: standard post
-- Dec. 17: Global Express guaranteed
-- Dec. 20: First-class mail/Priority Mail (domestic)
-- Dec. 23: Priority Mail Express (domestic)
The mail-by date does not take into account time needed for customs clearance for international deliveries. Allocate extra days for delivery outside major international cities.
November 22nd, 2014
Tuscaloosa County jobless rate falls to 5.1 percent - Tuscaloosa County’s unemployment rate fell 0.2 percent to 5.1 percent in October, according to figures released Friday.
At the same time, Alabama’s October unemployment fell 0.3 percent to 6.3 percent. The comparable October unemployment rate for the nation as a whole was
5.8 percent, down 0.1 percent.
The official state and national rates are seasonally adjusted, while county and multicounty metro area rates are not adjusted.
Six of the state’s 67 counties had lower unemployment rates than Tuscaloosa County, while a seventh, Madison County, tied Tuscaloosa County’s rate.
“The employment numbers that were released this morning looked encouraging and show that the economy has definitely picked up some speed when it comes to payrolls,” said economist Ahmad Ijaz, the director of economic forecasting at the University of Alabama’s Center for Business and Economic Research.
He noted the state added 33,100 jobs over the past 12 months. That “is one of the best numbers we have seen since December 2007, with the industrial sector adding 7,500 new workers, Ijaz said.
“The sectors of the economy that are doing really well are transportation equipment-related manufacturing, administrative support-type jobs, residential care-type facilities and food services.”
The economy for the Tuscaloosa metro area, which includes Tuscaloosa, Greene and Hale counties, also seems to be doing much better than most other metro areas in the state, he said. The Tuscaloosa metro area added 3,700 jobs over past 12 months.
The drops in the unemployment rates occurred despite an increase in the civilian labor force, which generally tends to raise the unemployment rate, Ijaz said.
“Both the construction and manufacturing sectors are growing at a slightly faster pace now than they were late last year or early this year,” he said. “One of the drags on the economy continues to be the federal government sector and sluggish wage growth which also continues to dampen consumer demand which in turn impacts area retailers, as indicated by the lack of job growth in the retailing sector of the economy.”
In a prepared statement, Gov. Robert Bentley called the latest numbers “good news for Alabama.”
“We are seeing healthy growth in the number of jobs our economy is supporting, and that is a testament to our efforts to recruit quality companies that bring good jobs to Alabama,” he said. “We have not seen this many jobs in more than five years, before the recession hit Alabama, and I am confident this trend will continue.”
Counties with the lowest unemployment rates are Shelby at 4.1 percent, Lee at 4.6 percent, and Cullman, Cherokee and Blount at 4.7 percent. Counties with the highest unemployment rates are Wilcox at 12.9 percent, Bullock and Lowndes at 12.1 percent and Dallas at 11.2 percent.
November 22nd, 2014
Tuscaloosa City BOE hires new athletics coordinator - The Tuscaloosa City Board of Education has hired Charles Anthony Harris as its new district coordinator of athletics.
The district coordinator of athletics is a new central office position that was created earlier this school year. It is the top athletics position in the system and oversees athletics programs.
“I'm very excited about the opportunity, extremely excited about the opportunity,” Harris said. “To work in athletics at that magnitude with the city. At the same time, I'm grateful that the board and central office have entrusted me with such a position.”
The board has considered creating a district coordinator of athletics position since September 2013.
Superintendent Paul McKendrick said last year that the position was desperately needed for safety reasons. McKendrick also said the city system was getting hit with Alabama High School Athletic Association fines for violations that administrators didn't know they were committing.
“(The position) is one that the system wants because we want to move our athletic program forward,” Mc-Kendrick said in July. “And this will help us.”
The job responsibilities include:
-- Ensuring that local and state policies and procedures are followed, including safety regulations.
-- Helping to hire coaches and evaluating their job performance.
-- Handling public relations for athletics.
-- Developing a district athletic handbook and more.
Harris said he doesn't have any immediate plans to make any changes once he starts Jan. 5. He wants to talk with city school administrators to see what their expectations are.
“I'm pretty sure that the district has some things in mind for the direction they want to go in,” he said. “I don't think there's anything that's broken that needs to be fixed, but there may be some specific things that we may need to pay closer detail to.”
Harris now serves as the graduation coach and athletic director at Holt High School. Before coming to Holt High, he worked as the graduation coach and assistant football coach at Northridge High, physical education teacher and the head football coach at University Place Middle. He's also served as the graduation coach at Paul W. Bryant High, the lead teacher at STARS Academy, the athletic director at Central High and dean of students at Central High.
He's worked in education since 1994. He has a bachelor's in communication with a minor in coaching sports administration from the University of Southern Mississippi.
The salary for the position uses a teacher salary scale, ranging between about $36,000 and $62,000, a school official said.
Reach Jamon Smith at jamon.smith@tuscaloosanews.com or 205-722-0204.
November 22nd, 2014
Tuscaloosa News carrier credited with saving crash victim - Jackie Biggs said her son Austin may not have survived an early morning accident in Marengo County if a newspaper carrier hadn’t seen the lights from his crumpled truck shining from the rural roadside.
Austin Jones, 19, flipped his truck and struck a tree about a mile and a half from the family’s home off County Road 44 early Sunday.
Several ribs were either broken or cracked. One lung was punctured, and the other was bruised. His nose and several facial bones were broken, and he suffered cuts on just about every part of his body, his mother said.
“He doesn’t remember much. We’re pretty sure it knocked him out,” Biggs said. “He laid on that ground for hours. He told us that it seemed like eternity.”
Jones works long hours on a farm and had worked that Saturday. He watched the last part of the University of Alabama football game against Mississippi State before heading home because he had to work the next morning and was tired, she said. He may have fallen asleep at the wheel.
Around 5 a.m. Tuscaloosa News carrier David Wallace drove by and saw the blinkers from the Chevrolet Z71 shining from the wooded roadside.
He found Jones in a pile of briars, cold and covered in blood, Biggs said. Jones, who is 6 feet, 2 inches tall and weighs around 285 pounds, crawled to Wallace’s car.
“He told him that he just wanted to go home,” Biggs said.
Biggs said it was around 5:30 a.m. when Wallace knocked on the door of the house where Biggs, her mother, her 3-year-old daughter and Jones live.
“He said, ‘I have your son. He’s been in a bad accident and I have him out here,’ ” she said. “I heard Austin from the car saying, ‘Mama, please come here, I need you. Please hurry.’ ”
Jones was rushed to Bryan W. Whitfield Memorial Hospital in Demopolis, where he was given a blood transfusion and stabilized before he was airlifted to DCH Regional Medical Center in Tuscaloosa.
Jones’ blood pressure was so low that it didn’t register when he arrived at the hospital in Demopolis. She believes that her son may have died if Wallace hadn’t found him when he did.
“He is our angel sent from heaven,” Biggs said. “If it weren’t for him, my baby wouldn’t be here.”
Biggs said that her son wants to meet Wallace soon and thank him for saving his life.
He was discharged from DCH Friday, but his mother said he has a long road to a full recovery. He still has a knee injury that will be treated once his lung injuries improve and the other injuries heal.
“He has done nothing but make progress. He’s in good spirits and has been setting goals every day and meeting them,” she said. “He’s a very strong young man. We’re saying that he’s our Thanksgiving blessing.”
Reach Stephanie Taylor at stephanie.taylor@tuscaloosanews.com or 205-722-0210.
November 22nd, 2014
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