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Home > Tuscaloosa Business News

Tuscaloosa Business News - 2015-02

We have news items here related to Tuscaloosa, Alabama.
Judge extends Southern Co.'s order against Kemper manager - JACKSON, Miss. | An employee being sued by Southern Co. will get another four weeks to work out his defense and look for a lawyer, but won't be able to sue the company in the meantime.
An Alabama state court judge on Friday extended a temporary restraining order that also bans Brett Wingo from talking about his work for Southern Company Services, where he was a key manager on the troubled construction of a power plant in Mississippi's Kemper County.
His employer sued him Feb. 19, alleging he improperly reneged on a settlement to end employment. Jefferson County Circuit Judge Elisabeth French's order bans Wingo from discussing the terms or even existence of the proposed settlement.
Wingo said Thursday that while his lawyer negotiated certain terms, he rejected them and fired his lawyer.
February 28th, 2015
No verdict yet for mom charged in son's salt-poisoning death - WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. | Jurors considering murder and manslaughter charges against a blogger accused of poisoning her 5-year-old son with salt have completed their first full day of deliberations without a verdict.
They will reconvene Monday.
Prosecutors say 27-year-old Lacey Spears force-fed sodium to her son, Garnett-Paul, though a feeding tube in his stomach. Jurors took a second look Friday at a video showing the Scottsville, Kentucky, woman taking Garnett into a hospital bathroom with a connector tube. The boy appeared to suffer afterward.
The jury also asked for the definition of "depraved indifference," a key element of the murder charge.
Prosecutors say Spears craved sympathy from others. She blogged for years about Garnett's constant health woes.
The defense portrayed Spears as a doting mother and said no one saw her do anything wrong.
February 28th, 2015
Alabama native winner of writing award - Duck blinds, fishing boats and car washes were the classrooms where Warren St. John learned how to tell stories growing up. He said the relaxed social settings where Alabamians take their time and engage with each other influenced his writing.
“Having grown up here, I had a really good sense of what made a good story. I think that’s something that our culture shares,” St. John said. “That’s something I don’t think I would’ve gotten had I grown up anywhere else. I think the rhythms and the cadences of my writing, and the way I tell stories, really come out of my upbringing here.”
Now, when St. John visits his hometown of Birmingham or its neighboring city of Tuscaloosa, he is often recognized from his picture on the back of his book “Rammer Jammer Yellow Hammer: A Road Trip Into the Heart of Fan Mania.”
That book and his national best-seller, “Outcasts United: An American Town, a Refugee Team, and One Woman’s Quest to Make a Difference,” won him the 2015 Clarence Cason Award in Nonfiction Writing on Friday.
The University of Alabama gives the award to someone with a strong connection to Alabama whose writings have made a critical contribution to the journalism and literature of the South, like those of Cason.
Cason Selection Committee Chairman Don Noble said St. John’s combination of reporting and storytelling in his two long-form, nonfiction narratives mirror that of Cason’s “90 Degrees in the Shade.”
Noble said the way St. John immersed himself in the worlds of Alabama football and a refugee community in Georgia to tell the story of two subcultures is similar to Cason’s story of Southern culture in the 1930s.
“That pattern that you see in ‘90 Degrees in the Shade’ is the same pattern as ‘Rammer Jammer’ or ‘Outcasts United,’ ” Noble said.
In “Outcasts United,” St. John tells the story of how a soccer team of refugee boys who were uprooted from their homeland and resettled in the small town of Clarkston, Ga., the town itself and the woman who coaches the team come together to form a community to find peace in a disorderly world.
“Rammer Jammer Yellow Hammer” is about the culture of Alabama football and why people spend so much time and money to watch a game, and why that game has such an emotional impact on fans. St. John said he found that people like belonging to a community and the feeling of togetherness.
He said learning about different communities, no matter what kind of people they’re composed of, is endlessly fascinating to him.
That is what drives him to write his books, he said.
“I’m interested in people and why they do the things they do and the lengths to which they go to create a sense of safety and place in the world,” St. John said.
He said he is now working on another nonfiction book and his first novel, a thriller set in Alabama.
The former New York Times reporter studied English at Columbia University and now works as editor-in-chief of patch.com, a news website driven by community journalism.
February 28th, 2015
UAB gets grant to study palliative care for heart patients - A $3.5 million grant will help researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham study whether palliative care improves quality of life for older adults with heart failure.
Marie Bakitas, UAB School of Nursing professor and associate director of the UAB Center for Palliative and Supportive Care, received the grant from the National Institute of Nursing Research.
The five-year grant will be used to compare the symptoms, mood and quality of life in 380 older adults who have stage III/IV heart failure and their family caregivers. Half of the participants in the study will receive traditional heart-failure care, while the other half will get palliative care.
Palliative care is a specialized care for people with serious illness. Different from trying to cure the illness, the focus is on relief from symptoms, pain and stress from the illness, and improving the patient’s quality of life.
Palliative care can cut back on hospital re-admissions and health care costs, Bakitas said. But only 16 percent of Alabama hospitals have palliative care programs, compared with 53 percent of hospitals nationally.
“There is an urgent need to increase palliative care access to older adults with advanced illness, especially in the South, which has the lowest availability to these services,” Bakitas said in a statement. “It is critical to understand how to best make this care accessible to the population.”
Even with traditional treatment, half of all heart-failure patients will die within five years, according to UAB. The incidence of heart failure in rural Alabama counties is much higher than in urban areas, which makes interventions like palliative care even more important, Bakitas said.
“Increasing age and rural environment are risk factors associated with the greatest heart-failure complications and death,” Bakitas said.
The research study will test palliative care through a telehealth model where patients and their caregivers can communicate with medical staff without leaving home. The only requirement is that they participate in an in-person palliative care consultation, followed by a series of phone sessions for 48 weeks.
The study will look at the effect of palliative care on both the patient and also their caregiver.
“This is important because caregivers can spent an average of eight hours each day assisting the patient with their care,” Bakitas said. “This takes a toll on their physical and psychological well-being. Caregivers will often ignore their own needs, and ultimately, without assistance that this coaching is designed to provide, caregiving studies have documented that (the caregiver) can have higher rates of illness and death.”
Reach Lydia Seabol Avant at lydia.seabolavant@tuscaloosanews.com or 205-722-0222.
February 28th, 2015
Some veterans can now go outside Veterans Affairs health system - A new federal program allows certain veterans to seek health care from private providers outside the VA system — but it’s caused some confusion, according to the Tuscaloosa Veterans Affairs Medical Center.
The Veterans Choice program was passed by Congress in August as part of the Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act of 2014 following complaints at VAs across the country of extremely long wait times for appointments.
As part of the program, which started in November, veterans who live more than 40 miles from the closest VA health care facility, veterans who must travel by plane or boat to the nearest VA or any veteran who is told they must wait longer than 30 days for a follow-up appointment are eligible to seek outside care. But the veteran’s eligibility must be confirmed and an appointment must be set up by an outside company hired to manage the Veterans Choice program, said Carlton Aaron, a “choice champion” who works at the Tuscaloosa VA.
Veterans who were eligible for the program started receiving cards in the mail in November and December. Then, all registered veterans started receiving information about the program in January, regardless of their eligibility, Aaron said.
“Veterans are getting these cards, but it’s not like an insurance card where they can show up at the doctor,” Aaron said. “In order for them to get authorization and an appointment, they need to call 1-866-606-8198.”
Some veterans have been confused, Aaron said, thinking the card is their new insurance card. Other veterans think that because they live farther than 40 miles from the Tuscaloosa VA, they are eligible, but they must live farther than 40 miles from any VA medical facility, Aaron said.
The Tuscaloosa VA’s mobile unit that serves veterans through telemedicine does not count, added Kelly Kiser, assistant chief of the health administration service.
When an eligible veteran receives authorization to seek health care from an outside, participating provider, that authorization is good for 60 days. After 60 days, the veteran can continue seeking care from that provider, but another 60 days’ authorization is required, Kiser said.
It’s unknown exactly how many veterans in West Alabama are eligible for the program.
But there have been 58 total requests to participate in the choice program at the Tuscaloosa VA so far, Kiser said.
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs set a national requirement for all VA medical centers that veterans not wait longer than 30 days for an appointment. But unlike other VA medical centers, the Tuscaloosa VA was already largely meeting that requirement when the controversy broke out last year regarding wait times, said Damon Stevenson, spokesperson for the Tuscaloosa VA.
According to data from va.gov, the average wait times for pending appointments as of Feb. 1 at the Tuscaloosa VA are well below the 30-day threshold. The average wait for primary care was 18.15 days, the wait for specialty care appointments was 0.34 days and the wait for mental health appointments was 1.89 days. The data includes both completed and pending appointments, Stevenson said.
To answer questions about the Veterans Choice program, the Tuscaloosa VA has specialized staff on hand knowledgeable about the program. Veterans can call the call center at 205-554-2010 to talk to someone locally about the program.
The Tuscaloosa VA is also offering informational sessions across West Alabama to answer questions about the program.
The next session will be held in Marion on March 26 from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. in the council chambers at the Marion City Hall.
Other informational sessions will be held this spring in Pickens and Fayette counties.
February 28th, 2015
Alabama-based band to perform on "Saturday Night Live" - Alabama Shakes will make the band’s second appearance on “Saturday Night Live” tonight, according to a news release from NBC.
“Fifty Shades of Grey” star Dakota Johnson will be the host of the show, which will air locally at 10:30 p.m. on NBC affiliate WVTM.
The Alabama-born roots-
rockers are now on tour promoting their new album, “Sound and Color.”
Alabama Shakes has been a frequent visitor to Tuscaloosa, twice headlining Tuscaloosa Get Up, a charity fundraising concert, and appearing at local bars like Egan’s and Green Bar.
Alabama Shakes previously performed on “Saturday Night Live” in February 2013.
February 28th, 2015
Emails: Indicted Alabama House speaker had financial trouble, sought work - MONTGOMERY, Ala. | Indicted House Speaker Mike Hubbard was having deepening financial troubles — to the point that he was considering leaving politics — and sought assistance from powerful friends and lobbyists who at times cautioned him about his requests, according to emails included in a prosecution court filing Friday.
The filing in Lee County Circuit Court provided the first glimpse of the prosecution's evidence against the powerful politician who is scheduled to go to trial in October on felony ethics charges. Prosecutors said Hubbard used his past position as chairman of the Alabama Republican Party and current one as speaker to “to make money and obtain financial favors from lobbyists and others with interests before the Legislature.”
Hubbard has maintained his innocence and his lawyer said the filings were designed to mislead the public.
“By design, Alabama has a citizen legislature, not a full-time legislature. It's no secret that Mike Hubbard is a longtime businessman. It's not improper for him to conduct personal business,” defense lawyer Mark White said.
The pages of emails, stretching from 2011 to 2013, depict Hubbard as stressed after losing his job and desperate to obtain new employment or investments and clients for his companies. In an email to former Gov. Bob Riley, Hubbard wrote that he felt like he was having a midlife crisis and failing his family by sacrificing the opportunity to make money in favor of his political post.
“The question now is DO YOU 'WANT' to be Gov. — or — make a lot of money: good thing is you could do either but I am not sure it's possible to do both,” Riley responded.
Hubbard also asked Riley if he could work for the former governor's lobbying firm. “We could do media buying, polling, focus groups, design work, printing, anything you need,” Hubbard wrote.
Hubbard also went to Will Brooke, an executive at Harbert Management Corporation, for assistance, telling him in an email that he was close to “hitting the panic button” when his employment ended at the end of this month. In others emails, he asked Brooke if he knew of any clients for his company and lamented that despite putting together a pro-business legislature, “businesses seem to want to avoid any personal association with me like the plague.”
Brooke responded, “No Mike. That's not it. I think that folks are afraid to mess up, on either their or your side of the equation.” Brooke suggested Hubbard find 10 people to invest $150,000 each so Hubbard could pay off debt and improve cash flow at one of his companies, according to Hubbard's emails. Prosecutors said Hubbard then solicited and received investments from Brooke and the owners and executives at three other companies.
Prosecutors have accused Hubbard of using his position as ALGOP chairman to “essentially embezzle over one million dollars in ALGOP money to Hubbard's printing and media businesses.” The party contracted with a Florida company named Majority Strategies for campaign work, which then sent printing business to Hubbard's company, Craftmaster.
“Per Mike, we're printing at Craftmaster and just passing the actual charges on to you all (GOP),” Randy Kammerdiener, an executive at Majority Strategies, wrote to an employee of the Republican Party in one of the emails prosecutors included in their court filing.
Prosecutors said Hubbard's legal adviser in 2013 emailed budget language to the legislative fiscal office that would have directed state Medicaid drug business to a Bessemer pharmacy company that had hired Hubbard's media company in Auburn. They said the head of the pharmacy company sent Hubbard a letter on April 19, 2013, thanking him for putting the language in the budget.
Hubbard has disputed that he was responsible for adding the language, which the Alabama Senate later stripped from the measure.
Prosecutors said that Hubbard, with Riley's help, obtained a $12,000-a-month economic-development consulting contract with Southeast Alabama Gas District. Prosecutors said Hubbard “wore the mantle of his office” in meetings with Gov. Robert Bentley and other state officials and reported back to the gas company that he was being a “cheerleader” for projects that could benefit them and was working to bring them to fruition.
February 28th, 2015
Yes, they can: Tuscaloosa students' creations benefit West Alabama food bank - The sound of ripping boxes and the plunk of unopened cans of food filled the Tuscaloosa Career and Technology Academy's Event Hall early Friday morning as fourth-, fifth- and sixth-graders began their work.
Students from 10 Tuscaloosa city public schools created structures out of cans for the second annual Canstruction Jr., with all the food donated to the West Alabama Food Bank.
Each school was represented by a team with a maximum of 10 students. Each team had two hours to take cans out of boxes and create its design.
"It's really exciting to see it come to life," said Amy Tilford, an elementary school math specialist for Tuscaloosa City Schools, who helped organize the event. "It's project-based learning, and that's part of our vision for Tuscaloosa schools, to be involved in hands-on projects that solve real-world problems."
This year, cans formed creations such as a table, the American flag, a lighthouse and even a Converse shoe.
To build efficiently, most teams practiced building their design at least once before the competition.
Abel Phillips was the teacher/leader for the Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School team. His team won last year for a castle made out of Campbell's soup cans. This year, the team created a crown titled "Heavy is the head that wears the crown."
"I like how it gets students involved in helping give back," Phillips said. "Like our title says, we have a responsibility to the community."
Phillips' team of 10 students had 15 boxes of cans and Ramen noodle packages to work with. He estimated that they had about 1,300 cans. Other teams worked with less, from 200 to 900 cans.
Last year, Canstruction Jr. donated more than 5,000 cans to West Alabama Food Bank. Each team was responsible for collecting cans. Some schools had community partners like Sam's Club or Publix, while others relied on fundraising to buy cans.
Verner Elementary School's team worked with an estimated 840 cans to re-create Denny Chimes. Instead of collecting cans directly, the team orchestrated a coin drive to raise $500. Kathy Perkins is the teacher/leader for the team of nine fifth-graders. She said she liked that the event gave the students a chance to work on engineering, practice their spatial intelligence and stretch their creativity.
"This is not part of a traditional school subject," Perkins said. "It gives a different group of students a chance to shine."
Understanding teamwork was one of the goals of the event, something Sophie Thaete learned from her team. The fifth-grader from Verner Elementary said she loved building with her team and learned the importance of working together.
"You need to have good teamwork in order to work together," Sophie said. "You need to be able to respect other people's opinions and listen to other people's ideas."
This is the second year Tuscaloosa has hosted Canstruction Jr. The competition is part of Canstruction, an international nonprofit that hosts exhibitions and competitions of structures built out of cans, which are donated to local hunger relief programs after the event.
February 28th, 2015
Illnesses lead to dismissal of classes in the Demopolis City School District - Demopolis City Schools dismissed classes at 11 a.m. Friday because of "health-related issues," according to the school system's website.
A post on the system's Facebook page says a stomach virus outbreak has led to numerous student and teacher absences, as well as students checking out because of illness.
The post also says that all the systems' campuses will be disinfected before classes resume Monday.
February 27th, 2015
Gov.Bentley seeks $541 million in taxes for state General Fund - MONTGOMERY, Ala. | Gov. Robert Bentley said Friday that Alabama is in a budget crisis and that he will ask lawmakers to approve $541 million in taxes in the legislative session that begins Tuesday.
"I am a conservative," the Republican governor told reporters. "I believe there is nothing more conservative than getting our fiscal house in order."
Bentley unveiled proposals that include increasing cigarette taxes by 82 cents per pack, ending some corporate tax deductions, and raising the sales taxes on automobile purchases from 2 percent to 4 percent.
The governor said most Alabamians will not pay see an increase under his proposal.
Bentley, who at times has been criticized for being politically timid in his first term, is starting his second with the bold initiative, bucking the GOP's traditional party line against tax increases. However, his proposal could put him at odds with members of his own party in the GOP-dominated Alabama Legislature.
The Alabama Republican Party last week approved a resolution opposing taxes as a solution to the state's budget woes.
A key reason for the grim budget outlook is that a voter-approved fiscal bailout for the General Fund expires at the end of this fiscal year. Voters in 2012 approved taking $145 million a year for three years from a state oil and gas lease trust fund to avoid deep cuts in state services.
Bentley said the true need in the General Fund is actually around $700 million considering money that must be repaid to the General Fund rainy day fund, money owed to the federal government for Medicaid overpayments and money taken from education funds to pay for other government operations.
"We cannot ignore it any longer," Bentley said.
Bentley also proposes shifting earmarks from $187 million in funds so they can used for other needs.
Bentley's proposal would be Alabama's first major tax increase in more than a decade. His predecessor, Gov. Bob Riley, proposed a $1.2 billion tax increase in 2003, a measure that voters defeated by a 2-to-1 margin. Bentley's proposals will not go to a public vote because he said there is not time before the next fiscal year begins in October.
"The House will review Gov. Bentley's plan and give it the consideration that it deserves," Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard said. "Before any proposal can be passed, it must first earn the support and endorsement of the members of the Legislature."
February 27th, 2015
Jury trial between Nick Saban's daughter and former sorority sister set for August - The jury trial between the daughter of Alabama coach Nick Saban and her former sorority sister has been set for August.
Kristen Saban's former roommate Sarah Grimes claimed that the coach's daughter beat her up after a night of drinking in August 2010.
Tuscaloosa County Circuit Court Judge James Roberts dismissed the suit in February 2014, citing the state's “Stand Your Ground Law,” ruling that Saban was just defending herself.
The Alabama Supreme Court issued a 17-page opinion by Justice Tommy Bryan in December, ruling that there was enough of a dispute about what happened for the case to move forward in circuit court. Roberts issued an order earlier this month setting the trial for the jury week that begins Aug. 3.
According to sworn testimony and other evidence submitted in the case, Kristen Saban and a group of friends were at Saban's apartment after several hours of drinking on Aug. 29, 2010. Kristen Saban said she went into her room upset after Sarah Grimes told her to quit being “pathetic” about her relationship with a boyfriend.
Grimes began beating on Saban's door after she posted “No one likes Sarah, yay” on Facebook, Saban's attorneys said. The confrontation turned physical after Saban opened the door.
Saban, now 24, was 19 at the time. Grimes, now 25, was 20.
Saban's attorneys contend that Grimes was the aggressor and that their client was just protecting herself.
Grimes' suit, filed in 2012, sought at least $10,000 for injuries she said she suffered from repeated blows from Saban, that she claimed resulted in a deviated septum, concussion, elbow injury and facial abrasions. The suit states that she required nasal surgery.
The injuries were treated immediately at DCH Regional Medical Center. She was interviewed by police while at the hospital that night, but chose not to press criminal charges, according to the suit.
Neither Nick Saban nor his wife, Terry Saban, are parties in the lawsuit.
Reach Stephanie Taylor at stephanie.taylor@tuscaloosanews.com or 205-722-0210.
February 27th, 2015
Deontay Wilder hoping to deliver self into boxing history - NORTHPORT, Ala. | Deontay Wilder is driving around in a Hummer and sports cars, leaving his beer delivery truck days far behind. He watched the Super Bowl from the stands instead of his couch and made his rounds at the NBA All-Star game, too.
His decade-long journey from community college dropout to keg hauler to boxing celebrity was cemented with his unanimous decision over Bermane Stiverne on Jan. 17. He became the first American to capture a piece of the heavyweight title since Shannon Briggs in 2006. It moved him to 33-0 after winning the previous 32 fights via knockouts within the first four rounds.
And he says he's far from done.
The Tuscaloosa, Alabama, native's next goal is to try to knock off Wladimir Klitschko as the world's top heavyweight and ultimately restore boxing's once-pre-eminent division to its American heyday, most recently with Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield on top.
"I'm not going nowhere no time soon," he said in a recent interview. "I'm not losing no time soon, or ever till I retire. That (Klitschko) fight's going to definitely happen, and I'm looking forward to it. That's something I'm super excited about and very confident in it when it happens."
Wilder is letting his broken hand heal, a casualty of the Stiverne bout, so his next opponent and timing of the fight are uncertain. He thinks he broke it in the fourth or fifth round but was still able to go the distance in the 12-round bout.
The journey to the top came in leaps for the 6-foot-7 Wilder.
He dropped out of Shelton State Community College with the birth of his daughter Naieya, who has spina bifida. He wandered into the gym near his house and went on to win the National Golden Gloves and a bronze medal in the 2008 Olympics less than three years after taking up the sport.
But to pay the bills and support his family, he delivered beer before finally quitting a few years ago. A half-dozen of his former co-workers and bosses were at the Stiverne fight in Las Vegas, including Spencer Burchfield, president and co-owner of Greene Beverage Co.
Burchfield recalled Wilder's physical prowess — he'd carry a keg in each arm — and compliments from customers for his manners and demeanor long before a sledgehammer right hand became Wilder's calling card.
"You could just tell his whole work ethic and just his ability to get along with everybody," Burchfield said. "Everybody liked him."
Wilder still trains at the no-frills Skyy Boxing in suburban Tuscaloosa where he got his start.
The gym is decorated with wall-to-wall magazine covers featuring boxers but not much else. From the outside it looks more like self-storage units than a training ground for a 29-year-old who aspires to boxing superstardom. The inside is a ring, a couple of weight machines and some heavy bags tucked into the back corner.
A woman and a teenager worked out in the back on a recent afternoon and a middle-aged woman popped in for Wilder's autograph and a chat. It's that kind of place.
Wilder, who successfully helped lobby for a state boxing commission in Alabama, plans to stick around. Other Alabama natives like Joe Louis (Lafayette) and Holyfield (Atmore) left the state.
Wilder wants to build a similar legacy from an Alabama base and isn't shy about stating his goal of unifying the titles — or anything else, for that matter.
"I want to put my name in history. I love history," Wilder said. "I always picture my grandkids looking at their grandfather and saying, 'My grandfather was the last or the first to do something.' There's nothing like setting goals and watching yourself get there, accomplishing that goal and putting your name to a part of history."
The Stiverne win was a statement for Wilder. He had not needed to go deep into a fight before. Clearly he pays attention to the doubters since afterward, he was in the ring shouting: "Who can't box? Who can't box?"
"They assumed he couldn't take a punch, they assumed he couldn't box, they assumed he couldn't go the distance," said Jay Deas, Wilder's manager and trainer. "They assumed he couldn't overcome adversity. That was all completely ridiculous."
Wilder has the supersized, swaggering personality to be a boxing attraction. He also has a knack for one-liners including the pre-Stiverne fight proclamation: "I'm about to send this Haitian on permanent vacation." Describing himself as "naturally silly," Wilder said he's serious when he trash-talks other fighters.
"Some guys may play around and say a couple of things but if I say it I mean it," he said. "I may laugh, it may be funny, but if I say I'm going to get you I'm going to get you."
Meanwhile, Wilder feels confident he has passed Alabama football coach Nick Saban as the most famous man in Tuscaloosa.
"Definitely. There's nothing like a heavyweight champion of the world, because there's nothing like a world champion," he said. "I think I'm definitely the biggest. Sorry, Nick."
February 27th, 2015
Alabama tourism campaign to focus on state's barbecue culture - BIRMINGHAM, Ala. | State officials say this year's Alabama tourism campaign will be focused on barbecue.
The Alabama Tourism Department plans to begin its 2015 campaign with a conference in Birmingham on Friday. Officials say the campaign will include a website and mobile application that will tell users if they're near one of the state's top barbecue restaurants.
Officials say the campaign will also feature a documentary film on Alabama's barbecue culture and the announcement of the inaugural class of the Alabama Barbecue Hall of Fame.
February 27th, 2015
Snow delays jury selection again in running-death trial - GADSDEN, Ala. | Jury selection is being delayed a third day by snow in the capital murder trial of a woman accused of making her granddaughter run until she died.
Some roads were still icy in northeast Alabama around Etowah County early Friday, and officials say Joyce Hardin Garrard's trial won't get started until Monday as a precaution.
Authorities say Garrard forced 9-year-old Savannah Hardin to run for hours as punishment for a lie three years ago. The girl eventually collapsed and died days later in a hospital.
The defense says Garrard is innocent.
Attorneys were first supposed to begin questioning jurors in court Wednesday, but the judge postponed the session because of winter weather.
The same thing happened Thursday when snow blanketed the county.
February 27th, 2015
Rock Quarry Elementary to honor student who has rare disease - To raise awareness about more than 7,000 rare diseases worldwide, Feb. 28 has been designated as Rare Disease Day 2015.
On Friday, Rock Quarry Elementary will honor one of its students, second-grader AnnaBelle Jacobson, who was recently diagnosed with an auto-inflammatory disease that affects one in a million people.
The school is asking teachers, students and employees to participate in “The Wear That You Care” campaign by paying $1 to “dress down” and wear a favorite pair of jeans or other casual item.
All money collected will be donated to the Auto-inflammatory Alliance in honor of AnnaBelle to aid research, legislation and better access to care for those who suffer from auto-inflammatory and other rare diseases.
For more information on Rare Disease Day, visit online at www.raredisease day.org.
February 27th, 2015
Tuscaloosa forum to address health care for seniors - The public is invited to attend a free forum with a panel discussion about health care for senior citizens from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. March 10 at the Bryant Conference Center, 240 Paul W. Bryant Drive.
The Tuscaloosa University of Alabama Retirees Association, the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute and the Tuscaloosa Alabama Education Retirees Association will host the forum to educate retirees on the Affordable Care Act, the Reconciliation Act and the effects of changing health care providers and insurance companies.
Experts from the health care field including representatives from DCH Regional Medical Center, Medicare, Social Security and West Alabama Agency on Aging will serve on the panel.
Questions for the panelists can be submitted to Mildred Switzer at 4switzer@att.net by Saturday, or attendees can ask questions at the event.
Registration for the event ends Tuesday. To register, contact Carol Wright at cwwright4@comcast.net
February 27th, 2015
Fifth Street Vintage Market begins its third year Sunday in Northport - The Fifth Street Vintage Market will begin its third year on Sunday.
The market features dozens of merchants who specialize in vintage clothing, jewelry and accessories, housewares, artwork, collectibles, furnishings, handmade items and vinyl records.
Concessions will be available.
The market will open from 11 a.m. until 4 p.m. Sunday at 4150 Fifth St. in Northport.
The market will also be open on March 29, May 3 and June 7.
For more information, visit the website at www.5thstreetvintage market.com or call 345-4763.
February 27th, 2015
20th annual Kitchens of Consequence tour to be held Saturday - The 20th annual Kitchens of Consequence tour featuring local homes will be held Saturday in Tuscaloosa.
Proceeds from ticket sales for the event will benefit WUAL/Alabama Public Radio. The tour will be from 1 to 4 p.m. and feature tastings in the kitchens of six private homes in Tuscaloosa in Cherokee Hills, Harbor Ridge, Indian Hills, Northshore Drive, Woodridge Drive and downtown on Third Street.
The local caterers participating are Mary’s Cakes and Pastries in Northport, Snap Decisions Catering of Northport, Sweet Home Food Bar in Tuscaloosa, That Cheesecake by Tammy Smith and the University Club.
Tickets are $25 and may be purchased at the homes on Saturday. They may also be purchased before Saturday at Manna Grocery and Deli on McFarland Boulevard or both locations of Spirits Wine Cellar at Essex Square in Northport and the Shoppes of Lake Tuscaloosa.
February 27th, 2015
University of Alabama survey: Education is top issue in Alabama - Education, including workforce training, is the top issue facing the state, according to a newly released survey of state business executives conducted by University of Alabama researchers.
UA's Center for Business and Economic Research said Thursday that those responding also identified competence in government, economic and business development, job growth, health care costs and infrastructure improvements as issues.
The Alabama Business Confidence Index panelists voiced their opinions about the top issues facing the state and the top issues facing their companies in a survey conducted by the Center for Business and Economic Research in November 2014, CBER said in a statement.
The Alabama business leaders surveyed perceived company finances and development as the top issue facing their companies. Government taxation, regulation and uncertainty was ranked second, followed by the lack of a qualified workforce, economic recovery and health care costs.
Each quarter, business executives across Alabama take the Alabama Business Confidence Index survey. Some 84 percent of the respondents said they use the results as a general indicator of local or regional economic outlook, CBER said in a statement.
Nearly 56 percent of business executives said they also compare their projections to others' viewpoints, and 43 percent said they use the ABCI results for background information for estimating future trends. Additionally, 30 percent of business executives use the ABCI results in short-term planning.
February 27th, 2015
University of Alabama symposium to feature Japanese delegation - A Japanese delegation will visit the University of Alabama on Tuesday for a free public symposium on Japanese society, business, technology and culture as part of a tour across the Southeast organized by the Prime Minister's Office of Japan.
The symposium, “Walk in U.S., Talk on Japan,” will be held from 12:30 to 4 p.m. at the Center for Materials for Information Technology, Room 1000, of the Bevill Building on the UA campus.
The delegation includes:
-- Yasuo Saito, former Japanese Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Russia and France.
-- Hiroshi Tsukamoto, former deputy director general for Japan's Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry.
-- Tetsuo Mamada, former president of Mitsui Bussan Steel Trade Co. Ltd.
-- University student Mio Iwai.
-- And Chitose Nagao, consulting supervisor and copywriter for the public relations firm Dentsu.
The southeast tour is part of an effort to deepen Americans' understanding of Japan and to strengthen the relationship between the two countries.
Participants will discuss the Japanese economy, the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, prospects for the Tokyo Olympics, Japan's energy strategy since the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake, Japanese trading companies and investment, university life in Japan and rediscovering the value of Japan through women, technology and culture.
The event is sponsored by the Critical Languages
Center/Japanese program in the department of modern languages and classics.
Anyone interested in attending is asked to RSVP online at http://bama.ua.edu/∼karizumi/WUTJ2015/.
February 27th, 2015
Retired Crestmont Principal Katrina May dies of cancer - Recently retired Crestmont Elementary School Principal Katrina May, hailed as an icon of the county school system, died Thursday morning. She was 58.
“After a little over a year of a hard-fought battle with cancer, she passed this morning at 5:30 a.m. ... ” Tuscaloosa County Schools Superintendent Elizabeth Swinford said Thursday. “It’s very difficult for us to imagine today that she’s gone. She is really an icon of this school system.”
May, who had retired on Jan. 1, served as principal of Crestmont for a decade.
Under her leadership, the school became one of 1,629 Leader In Me schools across the globe. The Leader in Me program is based on the book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen Covey.
In May 2014, Crestmont received the highest honor in the Leader in Me program — being named a Lighthouse School, an achievement that only 91 schools in the world have earned.
Achieving Lighthouse status was a process that took Crestmont nearly four years to achieve. It involved the school’s students and faculty fully integrating the seven habits into nearly everything they do daily.
Frances Ann Baggett, a fourth-grade teacher at Crestmont, said the Leader in Me program at Crestmont was May’s “baby.” She said May will be missed.
“Ms. May was my mentor while I was getting my degree in educational leadership,” Baggett said. “I knew her for eight years. It’s definitely devastating because she meant a lot to us. ... She wanted to bring out the best in teachers and students. She would look for a very specific talent and highlight that.”
May worked for the Tuscaloosa County School System for 26 years.
She taught at Walker Elementary, was an assistant principal at Brookwood and Hillcrest elementary schools, and served as principal of Hillcrest Middle and Crestmont Elementary.
She had an educational specialist degree from the University of Alabama.
Reach Jamon Smith at jamon.smith@tuscaloosanews.com or 205-722-0204.
February 27th, 2015
Former Florida State Coach Bobby Bowden to speak at Christian men's crusade in Elrod - Former Florida State University football coach Bobby Bowden will be the keynote speaker at a Christian men’s crusade in Elrod Friday and Saturday.
The free crusade, “Living a Legacy,” is hosted by the Sons of Thunder, a men’s Christian group based in Northport.
Tim Clements, director of the Sons of Thunder, said the goal of the crusade is to teach men how to be better leaders in their homes and to live a life that’s worthy of a legacy.
“What we do is try to teach men and show them what it’s like to be the spiritual leader of their homes and to walk in what God has created them for,” he said. “It’s not about going to church, sitting on a pew and singing songs. There’s way more to it than that.
“We try to not get a bunch of preachers to speak. I love preachers, but men who don’t understand what they’re saying and who don’t go to church don’t want to hear from a preacher. What we try to do is get guys from age 8 to 80, who may be roofers, mechanics, been to jail or may be the mayor. It doesn’t matter what they do or where they came from. It’s about a brotherhood of men who are there for each other, who offer each other accountability and try and grow in Christ. We want men to understand what God has for them.”
The event will have two sessions. The first will be at 6 p.m. Friday and is open exclusively to men and boys ages 13 and older. The second session starts at 10:30 a.m. Saturday and is open to everyone.
The crusade will be held at Zidon Avisha, 11764 Malone Creek Road in Elrod. Bowden will speak at both sessions.
Clements said the crusade will feature worship, fellowship, singing, fishing and free food.
There will be heaters and fire pits outside so people don’t have to worry about being cold, he said.
Between 600 and 1,200 men from across the country are expected to attend the event. To participate, register at www.thesonsofthunder.net.
“We try to teach men to leave a legacy,” he said. “God made men to really get excited about winning and losing, so things like ultimate fighting, football, fishing, hunting, professional wrestling — all things where there is a victor — we pursue. But we pursue those things for the wrong reasons.
“There’s so many things wrong with the world right now because men have not stepped up to be the godly men God created us to be. We’re supposed to be the watchers on the wall, but no one’s on the wall. ... Coach Bowden has a legacy of winning, and we believe men want to hear what he has to say.”
Reach Jamon Smith at jamon.smith@tuscaloosanews.com or 205-722-0204.
February 27th, 2015
Tuscaloosa City Council eyes stricter air-gun regulation - The president of the local chapter of the NAACP is asking the Tuscaloosa City Council to consider regulating air guns as a way of preventing possible mistaken-identity shootings of children.
“My primary concern is the fact that people have already died because the (air-powered) weapons look so much like real weapons,” Jerry Carter told the council’s Public Safety Committee this week.
Carter said he decided to approach the City Council after recently seeing a group of young boys holding what appeared to be a firearm. He realized it wasn’t a real gun after they used it to shoot at a streetlight.
This, he said, prompted him to consider what might happen if they were approached by a Tuscaloosa police officer.
“It puts young children at risk,” Carter said, “but it also creates a problem with law enforcement.
“I just don’t want to see someone’s child get hurt or killed.”
The committee has agreed to explore the idea of regulating air guns, which the Code of Tuscaloosa already prohibits from being fired within the city limits.
However, city officials aren’t sure what authority they have to prevent people from carrying air guns in public.
Tuscaloosa Police Chief Steve Anderson said he told the committee it currently is legal for residents to openly carry long guns, such as a rifle, on public property.
“Absent of them committing any crime,” Anderson said, “there’s nothing that prevents them from carrying a gun.”
Council members Matt Calderone and Eddie Pugh, chairman of the Public Safety Committee, said they were willing to consider regulations that will protect the public.
But they said they were hesitant to push for something that will prove useless.
“I don’t want to pass something Chief Anderson and the police department can’t enforce,” Pugh said.
City Attorney Glenda Webb said that, under the law, an air-powered weapon is not always viewed the same as a firearm, which requires the use of gun powder to discharge.
Some states consider air-powered guns and firearms the same, but not all do, and others — like Alabama — have no laws governing air-powered guns.
Webb said she would explore any regulations currently being used across the country to restrict air guns and report back next month.
But some believe her efforts will be wasted.
Eddie Fulmer, president of Bama Carry, a statewide gun rights advocacy group, said the problem is not with carrying air-powered guns.
The effort, Fulmer said, should be focused on educating youth on respecting those who wear a badge.
“It has to do with the culture people bring their children up in. You can’t blame this on the police,” Fulmer said. “When an officer tells you to put the gun down — no matter what kind it is — you need to put it down.”
Fulmer said that in Alabama, residents can carry a loaded rifle down the street without running afoul of the law.
An air-powered gun should be viewed no differently, he said.
“Just about every police shooting that happens, it’s a failure of the person to obey the commands the officer is giving them,” Fulmer said. “This is just another attempt to allow government to take control over us.”
February 26th, 2015
Winter storm dumps a foot of snow in north Alabama - Tuscaloosa County had about an inch of snow Wednesday night as a record winter storm dumped up to a foot of snow in north Alabama.
Just north of Tuscaloosa County, Fayette County had 9 inches of snow, while Sulligent in Lamar County had 11 inches, according to the National Weather Service.
Around West Alabama, the weather service reported more than 12 inches of snow in the Marion County city of Guin, 1 to 3 inches in Pickens County and little to none in Greene and Hale counties.
Snowfall totals of 6 inches and more were common across a wide area north of Interstate 20. The story was different just south of I-20, with Shelby County receiving 1 inch of snow or less.
Rising temperatures Thursday morning quickly melted away the snow in Tuscaloosa County. Forecasters said Tuscaloosa should continue to warm up after the winter storm, with high temperatures in the 40s and 50s over the weekend, rain chances on Sunday and highs in the 60s by Monday.
In north Alabama on Thursday, roads were still coated with an icy slush that complicated travel.
The Alabama Department of Transportation plowed snow off major roads, and the sun peeked through at times to help.
That wasn’t much help to dozens of drivers who spent hours in vehicles stuck overnight on Interstate 65 north of Birmingham because of wrecks.
Transportation officials deemed roads in Tuscaloosa, Pickens, Hale and Greene counties safe for travel Thursday.
All federal and state roads in Lamar, Fayette and Marion counties were considered passable Thursday morning with the possibility of refreezing as temperatures dropped that night, but smaller roads were still closed, which prevented power companies from repairing power outages.
Power outages were the main problem linked to the winter storm in West Alabama.
“At peak (Wednesday) night, we had about 15,000 (without power) in West Alabama around 9 p.m.,” said Alabama Power communications specialist Anna Catherine Roberson.
She said she expected power to be restored to all customers by Thursday night or this morning, depending on roads being safe enough for dispatch crews to travel on.
A low pressure system along the Gulf Coast and near-freezing temperatures combined to create the record-breaking snowfall, officials with the weather service said.
Forecasters said the snowfall total in Huntsville pushed the city’s total for February to 8.8 inches, breaking the old monthly record of 8 inches established in 1895 and matched in 1958. The 8.2 inches of snow shattered the old record for Feb. 25 of 1.4 inches, set in 1965.
The Associated Press contributed to this report
February 26th, 2015
Prosecutor: Alabama mom craved attention, poisoned child with salt - WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. | A woman accused of force feeding her 5-year-old son salt through a stomach tube reveled in the attention that a sickly child brought her, a prosecutor said Thursday at her trial.
And Lacey Spears eventually killed the boy, Garnett-Paul Spears, because she feared he would start telling people she was making him ill, Assistant District Attorney Patricia Murphy suggested in closing arguments.
"The motive is bizarre, the notion is scary, but it exists ... She apparently craved the attention of her family, her friends, her co-workers and most particularly the medical profession," she said.
Spears "created this false persona, this caring mother," Murphy said.
But what she did to her son was "nothing short of torture," the prosecutor said before the New York jury began deliberating charges of depraved murder and manslaughter.
Earlier, defense lawyer Stephen Riebling described Spears, of Scottsville, Kentucky, as a caring mother who was devastated by her son's death. He suggested the hospital was to blame — an assertion Murphy called "just ridiculous" — and tried to cast doubt on the medical examiner's finding that high salt was the cause of death.
The prosecution says Spears induced brain swelling by feeding Garnett heavy concentrations of sodium through a stomach tube. Jurors saw a video that showed Spears taking her son into a hospital bathroom with a connector tube and the boy suffering afterward.
A feeding bag found in Spears' apartment had the equivalent of 69 McDonald's salt packets in it, a forensic toxicologist testified.
The defendant, who was depicted during the trial as unemotional, wept at times as her lawyer spoke.
"She loves her son very much. She cared deeply if he lived or died," said Riebling, who added that Spears collapsed when she learned of her child's death, and did Internet searches about how to commit suicide with insulin.
When edited-out scenes of the hospital video are restored, it "paints a completely different picture" than the prosecution's, he said.
Missing scenes show Spears putting two pairs of socks on Garnett. "If she's planning on killing him, why does she care whether his feet are cold?"
"Mother of the year," the prosecutor later said sarcastically.
Hospital charts and video show a nurse failed to replace "the necessary maintenance fluids" that were being given to Garnett to keep him hydrated during bouts of diarrhea, Riebling said, adding that a doctor testified that water loss and no replacement fluids can lead to high salt levels.
Afterward, Garnett was given a rapid infusion of fluids. The makeup of the fluids is not known, but it was reasonable to conclude that it had too much sodium, he said.
The fluid was changed when "they realized he was getting a fluid high in sodium chloride," Riebling said. "At the very least it's reasonable doubt."
A call to a Nyack Hospital spokeswoman requesting comment was not immediately returned.
Doctors testified that a child fed in an ordinary fashion would spit out that much salt. But Garnett had a feeding tube because his mother told doctors he could not keep food down otherwise.
Prosecutors said Spears, who documented her son's hospital and doctor visits on social media, claimed the boy had illnesses he did not have.
A friend told the jurors that after Garnett died, Spears asked her "to go to her house and get a feeding bag in the middle of the room and throw it away and not tell anybody." Riebling said the chain of custody couldn't be trusted and the bag could have been tampered with.
Spears and her son lived in Chestnut Ridge, a suburb north of New York City, at the time of Garnett's death. Lacey Spears, an Alabama native, moved to Kentucky afterward and was living there when she was arrested.
February 26th, 2015
Lowndes County superintendent exonerated of child endangerment charges - MONTGOMERY | A judge says the Lowndes County school superintendent followed proper procedure in investigating a 2012 sexual misconduct accusation against a school janitor.
Hayneville Magistrate Judge Sandra H. Lewis on Tuesday found Superintendent Daniel Boyd not guilty of reckless endangerment charges that had been brought against him by the Hayneville police chief.
Chief Kelvin Mitchell arrested Boyd on charges of endangering 243 female students at a middle school and elementary school. The police chief argued the superintendent should have told him about the accusation against a janitor made by a middle school student.
Lewis says Boyd acted properly by notifying the Alabama Department of Human Resources and placing the janitor on leave.
The janitor, Lee Saffold, in 2014 pleaded guilty to trying to entice a child for immoral purposes.
February 26th, 2015
Cullman County wants to fix roads using 2011 tornado grant - CULLMAN, Ala. | Cullman County wants to use money left over from the 2011 tornado disaster to repair roads.
The Cullman Times (http://bit.ly/1Du3hLc ) reports that county commissioners are asking the state for permission to use leftover federal disaster recovery funds for road work.
Commission Chairman Kenneth Walker says $1.29 million in grant money was awarded the county, and about $198,000 still hasn't been used.
Walker says the remaining funds must be spent on roads that were in the path of tornadoes nearly four years ago and have residents with low to moderate incomes.
Dozens of tornadoes swept across the state on April 27, 2011 and hit areas including Cullman County north of Birmingham. More than 250 people died statewide.
February 26th, 2015
Alabama Power: About 12,000 customers without power - BIRMINGHAM, Ala. | Alabama Power officials say about 12,000 customers statewide were without power before dawn Thursday after nearly a foot of snow fell in some parts of the state.
Company officials said that as of 6 a.m. Thursday, about 8,000 of them were in the Tuscaloosa area and about 3,500 were in the Birmingham area.
The company said there were another 500 customers without power east of Birmingham.
A wide area of north Alabama was essentially shut down because of dangerous travel conditions created by the snow.
The snow left slushy ice atop multiple roads north of Birmingham to the Tennessee line.
Scores of schools were closed or opening late Thursday.
The weather service says some areas in the state's northeastern and northwestern corners could break snowfall records dating to the 1890s.
February 26th, 2015
Tuscaloosa sees spot of snow after day of rain along weather dividing line - Wednesday's threat — or promise, depending on one's perspective — of snowfall across Tuscaloosa County was mainly a miss for much of the day, but by 7 p.m. it was snowing in earnest in Tuscaloosa. Areas to the north got more snow earlier.
Accumulations were expected to build overnight.
John De Block, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Birmingham, said Lamar, Fayette and Marion counties were approaching 10 inches of accumulation in some areas by 6 p.m.
The Fayette Police Department reported about 4 inches there and the snowfall was continuing at 7 p.m. Unofficial reports in Lamar County put the total at 7 inches there.
Tuscaloosa County appeared to be in the storm's line of demarcation, as the rain/snow line fell across the Samantha area. Residents north of the line were expected to experience much more snowfall than those living in the southern part of the county, De Block said.
By Thursday morning, the southern parts of Tuscaloosa County were expected to awaken to a light dusting, whereas the northern portions of the county could see up to 5 inches.
"The bulk of it is going to be north of Northport," De Block said.
Coming into Wednesday, most of Tuscaloosa County was predicted to receive some amount of snowfall. The forecasts led to widespread closures of schools, universities and businesses as local governments took precautions.
The plans carried over into Thursday, as University of Alabama officials announced that students and employees would be told via a 5 a.m. message whether classes, events and operations would take place. This alert would be posted on the university's website, social media accounts and distributed through email and UA Alerts
The Tuscaloosa County Courthouse and the Tuscaloosa County Park and Recreation Authority closed early on Wednesday, and a PARA spokesperson said the authority's offices, activity centers, parks and facilities, as well as Ol' Colony Golf Course, would delay opening until 10 a.m. Thursday.
As of press time, the cities of Tuscaloosa and Northport had announced no plans to close or suspend any services Thursday, and the city school system made no announcement. The county school system is delayed two hours.
As for Wednesday, the sun set with nothing more than a cold soaking for most of the county, which De Block couched as an inherent risk in predicting the whims of Mother Nature.
"It is technically a miss," De Block said, "but we were confident that it was going to be a very dramatic gradient of snow versus rain, and the location of that gradient was just a little further north."
The winter storm warning for Tuscaloosa County was set to expire at about midnight. That's when De Block said that the precipitation, in whatever form it took, was expected to end.
National Weather Service meteorologist Jason Davis said that before today's sunrise, the low for the region could reach 29 degrees, which could make areas that do not dry out turn hazardous for morning commutes.
"As far as the roads," Davis said, "it's possible that areas that are wet could possibly refreeze."
Tuscaloosa city officials said the conditions would be monitored and, if needed, sand trucks were staged and storm support units were ready to respond.
Reach Jason Morton at jason.morton@tuscaloosanews.com or 205-722-0200.
February 25th, 2015
Bad weather hurting blood drives - About 300 blood drives have been canceled in 22 states this month because of winter weather, affecting blood supplies in Alabama and throughout the nation.
The American Red Cross and LifeSouth Community Blood Centers are bracing for local shortages caused by the winter weather in Alabama this week.
“It usually takes about a week or two to impact what is on our shelf after a winter storm or any kind of event that causes a disruption,” said Brian Garrett, spokesman for LifeSouth in Birmingham. “Right now, we send out five buses every day for donations, but (we’re) not sure what we will be able to do this week with the weather.”
The American Red Cross estimates 9,700 uncollected blood and platelet donations nationally this year because of winter weather storms.
“We’ve had issues all year so far with winter storms,” said Alicia Anger, spokeswoman for the American Red Cross in Birmingham. “This week we’ve had to cancel a few, and we will need donations to help us make up what is going uncollected.”
All blood types are needed, but especially O negative, A negative and B negative. Donors must be at least 17, or 16 with parental permission, weigh a minimum of 110 pounds and be in good health. Photo identification is also required.
A LifeSouth blood drive is planned for 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. today — weather permitting — in the atrium of building 137 at the Tuscaloosa Veterans Affairs Medical Center, 3701 Loop Road.
Another LifeSouth drive will be held from noon to 5 p.m. Saturday at the Jasper Mall, 300 U.S. Highway 78 in Jasper.
The American Red Cross will hold a blood drive from 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. today — weather permitting — at the Northport Medical Center, 2700 Hospital Drive.
For other blood drive locations across the state, check www.redcrossblood.org or www.lifesouth.org.
Reach Lydia Seabol Avant at lydia.seabolavant@tuscaloosanews.com or 205-722-0222.
February 25th, 2015
Tuscaloosa leaders expected to join in support of March tax referendum - Community leaders are coming together this morning — weather permitting — to show their support for the March 3 countywide special election to renew property taxes for public education.
"This is an opportunity for them to talk about how what happens in our local schools affects different segments of the community from their perspective," said Lesley Bruinton, spokeswoman for Tuscaloosa City Schools.
Voters are being asked to renew a tax established in 1986 to help fund the Tuscaloosa city and county school systems. The tax is set to expire in 2016 unless it's renewed.
All county residents will vote on a 1.5-mill and 4-mill tax to go toward funding the school systems. Tuscaloosa city residents will also vote on a separate extension of a 15.5-mill tax for city schools, and county residents outside the city of Tuscaloosa will vote on a separate 4-mill tax for the county schools.
"It's the most critical election in the last 30 years for Tuscaloosa County," said Mayor Walt Maddox, who is one of several local leaders scheduled to attend today's press conference at the Tuscaloosa Career and Technology Academy.
"We have an opportunity to continue the progress that's been made in recent years with both of our school systems and create a framework of success moving forward," he said. "If we fail to renew this existing tax, it will have a catastrophic impact for Tuscaloosa and Tuscaloosa County."
Other local leaders scheduled to attend are Tuscaloosa City Council President Harrison Taylor, Tuscaloosa City Board of Education Chairman Lee Garrison, Tuscaloosa County Board of Education President Mark Nelson, Stillman College President Peter Millet, Chamber of Commerce of West Alabama President Jim Page, and representatives of the University of Alabama, Shelton State Community College, the Tuscaloosa County Commission and the city of Northport.
"I want to be there to offer my support to both school systems as we move forward to get this referendum passed," Nelson said. "It's an extension of a tax that's already there and it's important to keep our funding level for both school systems."
For more information about the referendum, the Tuscaloosa County Democratic Party and the Blue River Democrats will be co-hosting a forum at Chuck's Fish on Greensboro Avenue Monday. The forum is open to the public.
The forum's panel will include county school board member the Rev. Schmitt Moore, city school board members Harry Lee and Marvin Lucas and Alabama Education Association Uniserve Director William Tunnell. The forum will begin at 5 p.m.
Reach Jamon Smith at jamon.smith@tuscaloosanews.com or 205-722-0204.
February 25th, 2015
U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby to visit Marengo County on Saturday - U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Tuscaloosa, will visit Marengo County on Saturday as part of his “Jobs and Industry Tour.”
Shelby will be at the Marengo County Economic Development Authority, 2400 East Coats Ave., in Linden at 4 p.m.
The visit will mark Shelby’s 42nd stop on his tour of each of Alabama’s 67 counties.
February 25th, 2015
Local firm iLawGlobal expanding its U.S. law courses - Attorneys in India are learning about U.S. law through a company in Tuscaloosa — iLawGlobal. Soon, lawyers in China and Africa may be doing the same through online law courses offered by iLawGlobal.
The new company is an offshoot of Tuscaloosa-based iLaw-Ventures LLC, which was started here last year by former UA law school dean Ken Randall.
“Our venture (iLawVentures LLC) is making great strides in the U.S. marketplace during this past year,” Randall said.
The company develops specialized online law courses that now are being used in 20 percent of the American Bar Association-approved, bricks-and-mortar law schools, he said.
“We are now expanding our marketplace to other countries,” said Randall, who has a background in international trade.
“U.S. law firms cannot set up offices in India,” like they can in countries like the United Kingdom, he said. That makes it more important for Indian lawyers dealing with trade issues and deals involving the United States to have a sound understanding of the American legal system, he said.
India is increasing its trade ties with the United States, and trade between the two countries could grow to $100 billion annually in the future, Randall said.
The globalization of the world economy will continue to open business opportunities, he said, and lawyers handling those deals will need to understand the laws of countries involved in the deals.
The goal of iLawGlobal is to teach lawyers in other countries about American law, Randall said.
Efforts are under way to bring iLawGlobal’s online training to attorneys in China, a leading trading partner with the United States, and Randall said attorneys in Kenya also are likely to join the program soon. Like the U.S. law schools served by iLaw-Ventures LLC, ilawGlobal offers its courses by partnering with organizations in the host countries.
Randall said iLawGlobal has other African countries on its radar screen for potential partnerships or joint ventures.
Randall retired from the University of Alabama in June after serving 20 years as dean of its law school. While dean, he helped develop an online program that allowed attorneys to earn master’s degrees in taxation and business transactions from UA.
That attracted the attention of iLawVentures Management Solutions of Naples, Fla., and led to the formation of the Tuscaloosa affiliate.
A privately owned company, iLawVentures LLC is backed by venture capitalists, Randall said. It now has 10 employees.
February 25th, 2015
SUGAR RUN: Krispy Kreme Challenge will be held Saturday in downtown Tuscaloosa - The day when people can stuff their faces with sugary dough without feeling guilty for consuming so many calories has come again.
About 700 people are expected to attend the third annual Krispy Kreme Challenge — a 2-mile run through downtown Tuscaloosa — at Government Plaza on Saturday beginning at 10 a.m. A post-race party, which will include a band and a buffet, will follow at Innisfree Irish Pub, 1925 University Blvd.
Runners can pre-register at TuscaloosaKKC.com or at the event. The cost is $40 for an individual or $30 per person in a team of four to 10 people.
A total of $1,600 in cash prizes will be given away to first-, second- and third-place winners in the female, male and overall categories. Trophies will be given to the first-, second- and third-place winners in the category for runners age 12 and under. The team that takes first place will receive a trophy and a doughnut party to be aired on 95.3 the Bear and B101.7 radio stations.
Runners don’t have to eat doughnuts to participate in the event. But to qualify for cash prizes and trophies, individuals must run the 2 miles and eat a dozen doughnuts. To qualify for a trophy and the doughnut party, teams are required to run and eat two dozen doughnuts as a whole.
The run will start on Sixth Street and loop through downtown back to Seventh Street, where contestants will eat their doughnuts. The course then loops back to Sixth Street again for the finish.
The run is one of the biggest fundraisers for Big Brothers Big Sisters of West Alabama, said Danielle McInerney, the group’s executive director.
She said the organization’s goal for the fundraiser is $50,000 to help pay for background checks and a match support specialist to get children matched with mentors.
“Money is tight. It becomes increasingly difficult to turn a child down because of funding. It’s just heartbreaking,” she said. “It costs us an average of $600 a year to match a child with a mentor.”
McInerney said the organization wants to expand into Tuscaloosa County schools and surrounding counties, but the group needs more funding.
She said with an increasing number of referrals and not enough funding, children have to be turned away. The children need mentors in their lives to inspire them, listen to them and spend time with them, McInerney said.
She said every child needs a mentor because they help guide the children and improve their lives.
“Grades go up. They feel accepted by their peers and aren’t so self-conscious,” she said. “Whatever your circumstances are, to have someone who chooses to spend time with you ... it means a lot.”
February 25th, 2015
3 charged in undercover prostitution sting in Taylorville - Three Georgia women have been charged with prostitution after an undercover operation of the massage parlor where they worked.
The Tuscaloosa Police Department’s Code Enforcement Division began an investigation of A1 Therapy and Spa in Taylorville in October, said department spokesman Sgt. Brent Blankley. The officers had seen advertisements on the online classified website backpage.com.
Officers arrested Eun Sook Kim, 45, of Duluth, Ga., on Oct. 21. She was charged with one count of not having a license to practice massage therapy and released on a $1,000 bond.
Hee Kyeoong Yi, 51, was charged on Dec. 19 with one count of soliciting prostitution and one count of not having a masseuse license. She was later released on $2,000 bond.
Chong Chu Kwak, 58, of Tucker Ga., was arrested on the same charges on Feb. 19. She has been released on $2,000 bond.
February 25th, 2015
Meteorologists predict rain, sleet could turn to snow Wednesday afternoon in Tuscaloosa - Wednesday morning was no more than a wet one for the Tuscaloosa area, but forecasters continued to call for snow sometime in the afternoon.
Jason Davis, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Birmingham, said some areas of Tuscaloosa County had reported a mixture of sleet and rain. As of 11 a.m., no snowfall had been seen.
That, however, could change.
“We still expect it to change over to snow at some time this afternoon,” Davis said.
The latest weather predictions call for the southern part of Tuscaloosa County to receive up to a half-inch of snow with up to two inches falling in the northern area of the county.
“And that could tail off with even less than a half-inch the further you go south,” Davis said.
Although Tuscaloosa County still remains in the area of the state that falls under a winter storm warning, temperatures are expected to remain in the mid- to upper-30s for the remainder of Wednesday.
Davis said the precipitation, in whatever form it takes, is expected to end about 9 p.m. and the temperatures will continue to fall.
Before sunrise, the low for Thursday is predicted to reach 29 degrees, which could make areas that do not dry out turn hazardous for morning commutes.
“As far as the roads,” Davis said, “it’s possible that areas that are wet could possibly refreeze.”
With that, Alabama state troopers offer the following advice for those who have to get out on the roads:
State Troopers offer the following tips to help ensure safe winter travel:
- Avoid travel, if possible, when icy or other extremely hazardous driving conditions develop.
- Keep vehicles in good operating condition. Check antifreeze levels. Use windshield washer solution suitable for freezing weather conditions and keep gas tanks at least half full.
- Be mindful that weather and roadway conditions can quickly change. Adapt speeds to existing roadway conditions, and be alert to changing weather and the possibility of icy, slippery roads.
- During inclement weather, turn on headlights and windshield wipers and keep a safe distance between vehicles.
- Pay particular attention to bridges and overpasses, which have a tendency to develop extremely hazardous “black ice,” which are frozen patches that blend in with the roadway.
- Keep blankets, a first aid kit, a charged cell phone and other emergency supplies in a vehicle.
Reach Jason Morton at jason.morton@tuscaloosanews.com or 205-722-0200.
February 25th, 2015
Authorities identify driver in fatal dump truck accident in Tuscaloosa - Authorities have identified the dump truck driver killed in a wreck on McFarland Boulevard Tuesday as Arnold Boyd of Cottondale.
Boyd, 54, died when his dump truck overturned in the northbound lanes of the Woolsey Finnell bridge crossing the Black Warrior River.
The northbound lanes were closed for several hours Tuesday afternoon while crews cleared the scene. Boyd was hauling a load of boulders that were strewn across the roadway.
Traffic through the rest of Tuscaloosa was backed up as afternoon rush hour traffic was diverted to other roadways.
February 25th, 2015
Religious groups support Roy Moore's gay marriage stand - MONTGOMERY | Two groups that rallied around Chief Justice Roy Moore during his 2003 Ten Commandments fight are speaking out in support of his stand on gay marriage.
The Rev. Patrick Mahoney of the Christian Defense Coalition and the Rev. Rob Schenck, president of the National Clergy Council, will hold the Wednesday press conference in front of the Alabama Supreme Court building in Montgomery.
A federal judge last month ruled Alabama's gay marriage ban unconstitutional. Moore has directed probate judges to deny marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Moore says only one probate judge is facing a direct court order to issue the licenses.
Mahoney and Schenck organized rallies in support of Moore before he was ousted from office for refusing to move a Ten Commandments monument from the judicial building.
February 25th, 2015
Tuscaloosa man arrested in Winston County after 10-year manhunt - TUSCUMBIA | A north Alabama man wanted on charges of receiving stolen property is in custody after a 10-year manhunt.
Colbert County Sheriff Frank Williamson says 49-year-old Jeffrey Lee Scott of Tuscaloosa was arrested Monday at a mobile home in rural Winston County.
Scott was wanted on 10 counts of receiving stolen property. The TimesDaily (http://bit.ly/1ajtB0S ) reports police have been looking for the man since November 2004.
Colbert County authorities say Scott was arrested a decade ago at his home in Tuscumbia but escaped from a patrol car.
Authorities arrested the man again in southern Winston County near the Walker County line. He's jailed without bond in Colbert County.
Court records don't list a defense attorney who could comment on Scott's behalf.
February 25th, 2015
Alabama One Credit Union to have contested board election - Tuscaloosa-based Alabama One Credit Union, one of the state’s largest credit unions, will have a contested election for its board of directors next month.
The credit union has accepted the petition filed by credit union member Jerry Logan. Logan’s name will be on a ballot that will be mailed to Alabama One members. Also on the ballot will be the names of three incumbent board members — Larry Sexton, Richard Powell and Danny Harrell — who were renominated earlier by the credit union’s full board. Three board seats will be up for election.
Logan is a longtime member of the credit union and served as a director when the credit union operated as the BFGoodrich Employees Credit Union. He also was once on the credit union’s supervisory committee.
Logan unsuccessfully ran for the board by petition in 2004 and attempted to run in 2006 but his petition was rejected for insufficient signatures. To get on the ballot this year, he needed at least 500 valid signatures from credit union members. Logan said he turned in signature cards from 592 members on Feb. 13.
On Tuesday, Logan said he was informed by the credit union that he had sufficient signatures and that his name would be on the ballot.
The credit union’s CEO John Dee Carruth said in an email that Alabama One “did receive a petition from Jerry Logan and will be sending mail ballots to its membership. We are diligently working on implementing the procedures that will be used for the election.”
Credit unions, which offer services similar to banks, are owned by and operated on behalf of their members. Each credit union member has one vote during an election.
Alabama One will hold its annual meeting on March 28 at the Bryant Conference Center.
In January when he announced his candidacy for the board, Logan criticized Alabama One’s management for refusing to take questions from members at last year’s annual meeting.
At the time, several credit union members, including Logan, said they wanted to ask questions about the credit union’s relationship with former Tuscaloosa businessman Danny Ray Butler.
Butler was sent to federal prison last year after pleading guilty to three counts of bank fraud and three counts of wire fraud.
In 2013, several credit union members filed four civil suits against the credit union claiming they suffered monetary damages in deals involving the credit union and Butler. One of the suits was dismissed and two others were settled out of court with agreements that the settlements were not to be made public. The fourth case is still pending.
February 25th, 2015
Brookwood Middle School teacher to receive $1,000 grant from Alabama Power Foundation - Morgan Vickers, a teacher at Brookwood Middle School, was one of 13 first-year teachers in Alabama who will receive a $1,000 grant from the Alabama Power Foundation.
The grant money will be used to buy classroom materials and supplies.
Vickers is a graduate of the University of Alabama.
Grant candidates were nominated by the state’s public teacher colleges, and the winners were selected by a committee that included education school deans. Each winner graduated from a teacher program at a public four-year college or university in Alabama.
February 24th, 2015
TUSCALOOSA CITY COUNCIL ACTION: February 24 - The Tuscaloosa City Council took the following action at its meeting Tuesday:
Authorized utility account credits; total: $1,578.91.
Authorized request for street- lighting system modifications.
Set March 24 as the date for public hearing to consider the revocation of the business
license and the privilege to renew the business license of A-1 Therapy at 6570 Highway 69 S., Suite A.
Authorized execution of Requisitions 27-29 for payment from the Series 2014A Warrant Issue to RH Smith & Associates PC, A to Z Muni-Dot Co. and Brion Hardin Construction Co. Inc.; total: $14,591.55.
Approved ABC application of Total Kitchen Solutions LLC for on- and off-premises retail beer and on- and off-premises retail table wine licenses at The Simple Peasant, 5400 McFarland Blvd. E., Suite C.
Approved ABC application of Nick’s Original Filet House LLC for restaurant retail liquor and on-premises retail beer license at Nick’s Original Filet House, 4018 Culver Road.
Authorized the filing of a lien at 3423 Willow Lane pursuant to Section 13-69(b), Code of Tuscaloosa, and Section 11-47-140, Code of Alabama, 1975; total: $204.50.
Authorized the filing of a lien at 67 Springbrook pursuant to Section 13-69(b), Code of Tuscaloosa, and Section 11-47-140, Code of Alabama, 1975; total: $204.50.
Authorized the filing of a lien at 2815 Seventh Ave. pursuant to Section 13-69(b), Code of Tuscaloosa, and Section 11-47-140, Code of Alabama, 1975; total: $204.50.
Authorized execution of a utility easement to Alabama Power Co. for electrical service to new Fire Station Four and the East Precinct.
Authorized the finance director to draw drafts for the Lift Station Upper Section Improvements Project easement acquisitions; total: $12,800.
Authorized the mayor to execute an E2 Reporting System Permittee Participation Package with the Alabama Department of Environmental Management and authorized certain individuals to file the electronic reports on behalf of the city for the Ed Love Water Treatment Plant NPDES Permit.
Authorized the mayor to execute commitment letter to the Tuscaloosa Housing Authority in regard to support for the Jackson Apartments Development Phase I Project.
Tentatively awarded the contract for Citywide Home Repair Group Project 2014 as follows: PCA Restoration Contractors; total: $80,000.
Authorized the finance director to draw drafts for the Juanita Drive Improvements Project Easement Acquisitions: total, $10,000.
Awarded bid for 37th Street East-Hargrove Road Improvements Project to Dominion Construction Co. Inc.; base bid $834,551.
Authorized change order No. 2 for City Walk at University Place and Forest Lake; total: $71,324.29 and 14-day contract extension.
Authorized amendment No. 3 to the contract for engineering and related services with McGiffert and Associates LLC for City Walk at Forest Lake-University Place Elementary School to 15th Street project; total: $2,670.
Authorized the payment of bills; total: $1,073.73.
February 24th, 2015
Hidden sewer line under City Walk requires more funds - Almost $74,000 in additional funding was approved Tuesday by the Tuscaloosa City Council for a leg of the City Walk recreational trail.
With an approved construction budget of $2.8 million, about $1.8 million already is committed to the project that extends the City Walk trail through the Forest Lake neighborhood.
Of these additional funds, $2,670 was approved for the inspection services and $71,324.29 for the construction needed to relocate a sewer line that city officials said was not known to exist.
Transportation Engineer Wendy McBride said city records did not show the sewer line on Lake Avenue that has four to six houses connected to it.
“It was an unknown 6-inch main,” McBride said. “None of us knew it was there.”
The approved funding will realign the lateral along Lake Avenue and out of the way of the City Walk’s path, which will link the first constructed portion of the trail at Central Church of Christ on Hargrove Road to a location near Hoo’s Q barbecue restaurant on 15th Street.
This marks the second change order for the City Walk project in this area. McBride said the first one, at a cost of about $20,000, funded the use of a different material in the underground electrical conduit, or duct bank.
Work on the project began last fall. McBride said it is expected to be complete by the end of April.
Funding for the City Walk through Forest Lake is coming from a number of sources, including proceeds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Community Development Block Grant Disaster Relief program.
Specifically, this part of City Walk will extend west along Hargrove Road from its inter-section with Hackberry Lane to Second Avenue, where it will then turn north to the school and then east to connect with First Avenue. It will then follow First Avenue north to Fernwood Street, where it will turn east and then north again on Lake Avenue until it reaches the edge of the neighborhood at 15th Street.
The City Walk is the planned recreational trail that will traverse the 5.9-mile span of the April 27, 2011, tornado. The idea for it grew from several communitywide storm recovery planning meetings. It was formally adopted as part of the Tuscaloosa Forward Generational Master Plan.
The walk will be for pedestrians and bicyclists. It’s designed to be 10 feet wide and, in most areas, have up to 10 feet of green space between the curb and the City Walk, with a 2-foot buffer between the walk and private property on the other side.
The path also will feature lighting and fiber optic upgrades along its entire length.
To complete this latest phase, the City Council authorized the use of eminent domain in order to obtain tracts from two property owners. City officials said the dispute was over the prices offered by City Hall for the use of the land.
In July 2014, the City Council approved the $54,327 purchase of two lots at prices set through the eminent domain process, which essentially cleared the way for work to start on the Forest Lake portion of City Walk.
These were the only two of about 20 tracts needed for this portion of the City Walk that required the city’s use of the condemnation process. The rest of the tracts either were sold at agreed-upon prices or donated to City Hall.
Reach Jason Morton at jason.morton@tuscaloosanews.com or 205-722-0200.
February 24th, 2015
New police precinct opens in downtown Tuscaloosa - City officials celebrated the opening of a new police precinct in the fast-growing downtown area Tuesday.
The precinct is the third division of the Tuscaloosa Police Department and is part of Police Chief Steve
Anderson's long-term goal to decentralize the department.
“This police precinct is a vital part of downtown growth and revitalization,” Anderson said at a
ribbon-cutting ceremony held Tuesday morning. “We wanted to provide more police services in the area so people who come down here for entertainment can feel safe when they're here. We want the private businesses and residents who invest in the area to know that the city has, too.”
The precinct is housed in a former courtroom at the Alvin P. DuPont Municipal Court building at 2212 Sixth St. It is staffed by 25 officers working three shifts and is open to the public around the clock.
City officials and downtown historic district residents attended the event Tuesday.
“Many of you invested into our downtown when it wasn't popular to do so, when there wasn't $100 million worth of public and private investment on its way,” Mayor Walt Maddox said. “You did it in hopes that the city would follow, and we saw that. This investment today reflects your courage in making that happen for our community.”
Maddox said that the city has spent about $2.5 million to redevelop former bank buildings into precincts in Alberta and west Tuscaloosa.
“I think we'd all agree it's been worth the investment,” he said. “We've seen statistical declines in crime, and we've also seen a partnership between the community and the police department.”
Having officers start their shifts in the precincts means that they will be able to respond more quickly to calls. A neighborhood precinct is also more convenient for members of the public who want to speak with an officer or make a report.
City councilman Matt Calderone represents the area and said he promoted a police substation during his 2013 campaign. He noted that the downtown area that he represents is unique in that it includes a dense, diverse population with different needs than other areas of the city.
“There are unique challenges in this area, and having this precinct here will not just help us respond to crime but also to work to prevent it,” he said.
Reach Stephanie Taylor at stephanie.taylor@tuscaloosanews.com or 205-722-0210.
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February 24th, 2015
Alabama Governor Robert Bentley declares state of emergency - Gov. Robert Bentley on Tuesday declared a state of emergency for all Alabama counties in preparation for winter weather that is expected to move through Alabama.
“With winter weather expected to impact Alabama, we are taking precautions to protect Alabamians,” Bentley said. “By issuing a state of emergency, I have directed all state agencies to take necessary actions to be prepared to respond to the anticipated winter conditions including sleet, ice and snow. We will actively monitor the storm as it begins to hit the state and are prepared to respond to any requests for assistance.”
According to the National Weather Service offices in Alabama, various portions of the state are expected to experience ice, sleet, snow and freezing rain beginning Wednesday morning and lasting through Thursday. The Alabama Emergency Management Agency is activating the State Emergency Operations Center in order to monitor the storm and assist county Emergency Management Agencies as needed. State law enforcement agencies have coordinated state resources in order to respond to stranded drivers.
Bentley has authorized 250 Alabama National Guardsmen to prepare to respond to any emergency requests for assistance.
The state of emergency will be effective at 6 a.m. Wednesday.
February 24th, 2015
List of closings, delays in the Tuscaloosa area - Here is a list of closings and delays reported to The Tuscaloosa News:
Theatre Tuscaloosa has canceled its 2 p.m. Wednesday (2/25) matinee performance of “Wit.” Ticket holders are invited to exchange seats for one of the remaining performances: 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday, or 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Advance exchange is encouraged. To request an exchange, send email to tickets@theatretusc.com, or call 205-391-2277. Patrons call also follow Theatre Tuscaloosa Facebook and Twitter feeds, or visit www.theatretusc.com for more.
Tuscaloosa County Schools will be closed Wednesday.
Tuscaloosa City Schools will be closed Wednesday.
The Tuscaloosa Public Library will be closed Wednesday.
American Christian Academy will be closed Wednesday.
Outpatient Clinics at Tuscaloosa VAMC and Selma Clinic have been delayed until 1 p.m. Wednesday. All Staff are expected to report for normal tour of duty.
The University of Alabama, Shelton State Community College announce plans to close Wednesday because of weather forecast. The University of West Alabama and Stillman College have yet to announce decisions.
UA will cancel normal operations beginning at 8 a.m., though classes and events could resume, with two hours' notice, if conditions improve during the day.
UA and Shelton will post updates via their websites and social media accounts.
Check back to TuscaloosaNews.com as this list updates.
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February 24th, 2015
Overturned dump truck causing traffic delays in Tuscaloosa - A dump truck driver was killed Tuesday when his vehicle overturned on the Woolsey Finnell Bridge.
The truck was hauling boulders that spilled across the bridge, which crosses the Black Warrior River at McFarland Boulevard and halted traffic for several hours.
The driver's name was not immediately released, pending notification of his family members.
Tuscaloosa Police spokesman Sgt. Brent Blankley said at 5:30 p.m. that the northbound lanes of the bridge would be closed for two to four more hours. The one-vehicle accident happened at 3:30 p.m.
Traffic in the southbound lanes was not affected, Blankley said.
February 24th, 2015
Auburn: Players didn't act "with disrespectful intent" - AUBURN | Auburn University says two players accused of harassing a military veteran and her service dog didn't act "with disrespectful intent."
The university posted a statement on its Facebook page Monday night citing the accounts from defensive linemen Andrew Williams and Dontavius Russell.
The post says Williams tried to get the dog's attention and didn't realize it was a service dog or that the woman was a disabled veteran.
Auburn says Russell wasn't involved and was just walking to class.
On the post, Williams apologized to 25-year-old student Ashley Ozyurt "for raising my voice." He says he "was startled and totally misunderstood the situation." Ozyurt suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and says the incident left her in tears.
Auburn's Office of Affirmative Action/Equal Employment Opportunity is reviewing the incident.
February 24th, 2015
Alabama police find 4-year-old alone in room with drugs, loaded gun - GADSDEN | Police responded Sunday to a report of a possible burglary, but instead found a 4-year-old girl playing alone in a room with an assortment of drugs and a loaded gun.
Officers went to a Sixth Street apartment about 12:55 p.m. after receiving a report that two men were seen climbing through an open window at the residence, carrying a black backpack. When officers arrived, they saw two surveillance cameras outside the residence and an open window on the bottom floor. They could hear movement inside the residence.
A man opened the door, and the reporting officer could smell burnt marijuana coming from inside. The man told him it was incense, not marijuana. Officers explained why they were at the residence and asked who was in the residence. The man told them he didn’t know who all was there.
Another man was sitting on the couch. An officer stayed with the two men while others went upstairs to search for the possible intruders and found a 4-year-old girl in one bedroom, standing next to a bed. On the bed, there was a loaded 20-gauge shotgun, marijuana seeds and loose medication in a green cup.
In another bedroom, police found two women and a man, and there was another man in an upstairs bathroom.
The girl’s father — the man who opened the door — told police he had two other handguns in the residence, one a .380-caliber. He said he couldn't remember where the .380 was. As officers searched any small locations where the gun might have been stored, they found multiple items of drug paraphernalia and other drugs.
The .380 was found under the pillow on the man’s bed — the bed where he told police his daughter usually slept, rather than in her own bed. The gun and several types of drugs were found in the father’s bedroom.
During the search, officers found two backpacks, easily within the girl’s reach in the room where she’d been found, containing what appeared to be methamphetamine, heroin, marijuana, scales and pipes for smoking drugs. They also found some electronic devices they suspect were stolen.
The child had been alone with the items, and she had not eaten anything. The adults told police they were just getting up for the day.
According to police reports, six people were detained at the scene. The Drug Task Force, property crimes detectives, the Department of Human Resources and juvenile department detectives were called.
Drug Task Force Commander Rob Savage said the suspect identified as the girl’s father, Nicholas Wade Ingram, 30, and Josh Paul Pettis, 28, have been charged with unlawful possession of a controlled substance. More charges may be forthcoming after analysis of the drugs found at the scene.
February 24th, 2015
Ribbon cutting ceremony for new Tuscaloosa downtown police precinct - 28477
February 24th, 2015
University of Alabama student arrested for striking fellow student with piece of wood - A University of Alabama student arrested Monday is accused of striking another student in the head with a piece of wood.
The victim, 19, suffered from temporary hearing loss, a ruptured eardrum and facial fractures, according to court documents filed in the case.
William Harper, 18, was charged with second-degree assault, a felony. According to the court documents, Harper and the victim were among two groups of men involved in an argument behind the Alpha Kappa Lamda fraternity house between 2:20 and 2:30 a.m. on Jan. 30.
“As the victim and another subject began walking away from the gate, William Headly Harper, who had earlier retrieved a wooden 2 x 4 board from the side of the residence, approached the victim and struck him in the head with the board before running off,” an investigator wrote in the charging document.
Harper, from Doylestown, Penn., was arrested Monday and later released on $5,000 bond.
February 24th, 2015
National beer festival coming to Tuscaloosa - A festival that will showcase premium craft beers is coming to Tuscaloosa on May 16.
A.J. Bodden, executive producer of America on Tap, announced Tuesday that Tuscaloosa will be part of the America on Tap national tour, according to a news release.
In addition to showcasing specialty and craft breweries from around the globe, the festival will also feature live music, vendors and local food.
The festival will be held from 2:30-6 p.m. May 16 at Government Plaza on Sixth Street downtown.
Tickets start at $35 and will be capped at 2,000 attendees.
“We are so excited about the event in Tuscaloosa as the area has a thriving craft beer culture with breweries, brew pubs and specialty stores opening throughout the area,” Bodden said in the news release. “Our aim is that the Tuscaloosa event combine the best of the local and national craft and premium beer scene to deliver an unforgettable and authentic beer experience to our patrons.”
For more information or to register for the Tuscaloosa event, go to www.AmericaOnTap.com.
February 24th, 2015
Alabama woman charged with chemical endangerment of unborn child after DUI arrest - GADSDEN | A Gadsden woman has been arrested for chemical endangerment of her unborn child, according to Etowah County Sheriff Todd Entrekin.
“Jessica Marie Brown, 27, of Gadsden, is charged with one count of chemical endangerment of exposing a child to an environment in which controlled substances are ingested, produced or distributed, which is a felony,” investigator Bobby Bryant said.
Brown was arrested Feb. 19 by Gadsden police for driving under the influence. Brown, who is six months pregnant, also tested positive for amphetamines and has admitted to using the drug.
Bond is set at $10,000. As a condition of her bond, Brown will be released to the Aletheia House. Upon release from the Aletheia House, she will be supervised by Etowah County Community Corrections.
The case also is being worked by the Etowah County Department of Human Resources.
Aletheia House offers a program called Mother’s Hope. It is a substance treatment program that specializes in the treatment of pregnant women, newly postpartum mothers and women with dependent children aimed at helping these women recover from their use of drugs or alcohol.
February 24th, 2015
Tuscaloosa County under winter storm watch for Wednesday - Predictions of icy conditions Tuesday morning in Tuscaloosa County failed to materialize, but weather forecasters were keeping their eye on another wave of wintry precipitation in central and north Alabama on Wednesday.
Tuscaloosa is one the counties under a winter storm watch for Wednesday, according to the National Weather Service.
A watch means there is a potential for significant snow, sleet or ice accumulations.
The weather service’s forecast says Tuscaloosa County could have 1 to 2 inches of snow Wednesday, while accumulations in north Alabama could be between 2 and 5 inches.
Other counties under the watch include Blount, Calhoun, Cherokee, Cleburne, Etowah, Fayette, Jefferson, Lamar, Marion, Pickens, St. Clair, Walker and Winston.
February 24th, 2015
1 person killed in attempted burglary in Millbrook - MILLBROOK | Authorities say one person has been killed in an attempted burglary in Millbrook.
Millbrook Police Chief P.K. Johnson said officers were called to a subdivision in the town shortly before noon on Monday, where they apprehended one suspect in a car outside a residence.
Johnson tells The Montgomery Advertiser (http://on.mgmadv.com/1wjzmpe) that officers surrounded the house, and shots were fired inside the residence. He said one suspect with a handgun confronted an officer, and gunfire was exchanged.
It wasn't clear how the person died; Johnson said only that state investigators are probing an officer-involved shooting.
The chief said a total of four suspects were apprehended.
Cpl. Jesse Thornton of the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency said the homeowners were not at the residence during the incident.
February 24th, 2015
Protective Life insurance firm to give $2 million to University of Alabama - The University of Alabama's Culverhouse College of Commerce received a $2 million corporate gift Monday that will be used to endow a professorship in actuarial sciences and risk management and support the college's Insurance Hall of Fame.
The gift will be given over three years by Protective Life, a Birmingham-based insurance company, and its parent company, Dai-ichi Life of Japan. Dai-ichi completed its acquisition of Protective Life earlier this month.
The gift includes $1.5 million for an endowed professorship at Culverhouse that will be called the “Dai-ichi Life Teaching Chair in Actuarial Sciences and Risk Management.” It will honor Tsuneta Yano, the founder of Dai-ichi Life.
Yano is known in Japan as the “father of mutual life insurance” and is recognized as an insurance industry pioneer. His portrait hangs in the Insurance Hall of Fame, housed at UA's Alston Hall.
A total of $500,000 from the gift will be used to support the Insurance Hall of Fame, which chronicles the history of insurance and honors leaders in the industry.
“We are deeply honored to receive this generous gift from Dai-ichi Life and Protective Life,” said a statement from Culverhouse Dean J. Michael Hardin. “These funds will help strengthen our curriculum in our insurance discipline and will help us to better prepare our students for future success. It's also important to have this funding to maintain our one-of-a-kind Insurance Hall of Fame.”
The hall of fame has thousands of visitors each year and is used as a resource by both the business school and the university in recruiting students and faculty, according to UA.
During the announcement of the gift at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens, Dai-ichi President Koichiro Watanabe said: “We worked diligently and in tandem with Protective leadership to identify recipients that align with our company's mission of, 'By your side, for life.' Each recipient in some way reinforces our company values, our culture and our commitment to improving the lives of the people and communities we serve.”
A $2 million gift over the next two years also was made to the University of Alabama at Birmingham for the Alabama Drug Discovery Alliance, a collaboration between UAB and Southern Research Institute. The alliance aligns scientists with necessary chemists, pharmacologists, clinicians and intellectual property professionals to develop new disease treatments.
A $100,000 gift also is being made over the next two years to the Birmingham Botanical Gardens for planning and construction of a barrier-free boardwalk in its Japanese Gardens.
February 23rd, 2015
The tradition continues: Hegenbarth's widow takes the reins at "Nick's in the Sticks" - Those who don’t look too closely will never notice a difference.
That’s because the new owner of Nick’s Original Filet House on Culver Road is, for all practical purposes, the same as the one who operated the Tuscaloosa landmark for three decades.
Carla Hegenbarth, widow of the late Lloyd Cotis Hegenbarth, has taken over the business after her husband’s death in September.
Today, Carla Hegenbarth will put one of the final touches on making that transition complete when she appears before the Tuscaloosa City Council to place the restaurant’s Alabama Alcohol Beverage Control licenses in her name.
But aside from the names on official and legal documents, everything about the place locals call “Nick’s in the Sticks” will be the same, she said.
“It’s not going to change,” Carla Hegenbarth said. “It is what it is and what it always has been.”
Carla Hegenbarth becomes the fourth proprietor — with an asterisk — of the restaurant that became a Tuscaloosa institution despite the coziness of its building and out-of-the way location. As Lloyd Hegenbarth’s wife for almost 16 years, she’s long had a hand in the business.
Ken Walker, manager of Nick’s for the past six years, said an overhaul of the business — building a larger building, modernizing the interior — would likely kill it “in about two years.”
“It’s Nick’s,” Walker said. “It’s tradition. It’s history.”
Carla Hegenbarth’s brother-in-law, Mike, agreed.
“If you change this place,” he said, “why would (people) come?”
Rustic and simple in its appearance, the restaurant originally opened just across the Greene County line. It moved to its Culver Road location in the mid-1950s. When founder Nick Delgado decided to get out of the restaurant business, Richard Norton bought it. He sold the place to Lloyd Hegenbarth in the mid-1980s, and Lloyd Hegenbarth changed very little about the eatery when he took over.
The restaurant was voted as “best hole in the wall” and as having the “best steak” by readers of Tuscaloosa magazine in 2011, and former UA students and Tuscaloosa residents still write in online restaurant reviews that it feels just like the place they remember from their times there in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s.
“Since dining at Nick’s began when I was a child, it amazes me that the ambience is no different than it was back then,” user Phyllis J. of Tuscaloosa wrote on the restaurant review site Yelp.com in October. “It is still the best steak for the best value in Tuscaloosa. A steak, salad, potato, bread and drink is under $20.”
That same month, Sharon N. from Marianna, Fla., appreciated the business’ namesake offering.
“Really awesome filet!” she wrote on Yelp. “No steak sauce required, as it should be.”
And Theodore L. from Shreveport, La., wrote on Yelp that he and a friend took a road trip to Tuscaloosa, during which he heard tales of Nick’s offerings “for hours.”
“I enjoyed a succulent ribeye with onion rings,” he wrote in November. “The onion rings were good, the steak was excellent, and the ambience just whispers that you found a hidden gem.
“This establishment definitely flies under the radar as my friend was introduced to it a couple of years ago by a local. Next time I’m in town I don’t have to worry about what I’m going to eat for dinner.”
And now, with Carla Hegenbarth in charge, it’s doubtful he’ll notice anything different.
Reach Jason Morton at jason.morton@tuscaloosanews.com or 205-722-0200.
February 23rd, 2015
Tests show Type B flu cases are rising locally - The number of positive Type B flu cases has continued to rise at DCH Regional Medical Center.
According to flu test data for the week of Feb. 15, out of 526 patients tested for the flu, there were 99 total positive tests. Of those positive tests, the majority — 87 — were Type B flu. Twelve were Type A.
Earlier in the flu season, Type A was the most prevalent type of flu.
February 23rd, 2015
Benefit for Soroptimist International to be held Saturday - Brunch for Boobs turns 40 on Saturday, and the Bryant Conference Center will be decorated with plenty of ruby red, the traditional 40-year anniversary color.
“It’s just a fun, lighthearted event for great causes,” said Kacie Obrad-ovich, chairwoman for the Soroptimist International of Tuscaloosa’s annual fundraiser for projects that help women in the community.
“We joke that it’s for people who have boobs, had boobs or hope to one day grow boobs,” Obradovich said. “It’s just about women in general.”
Doors will open at 8:30 a.m. for attendees to buy raffle tickets, view purses packed with goods and fill their plates. The Sounds of Joy choir from Arc of Tuscaloosa will entertain guests.
The show starts at 9:30 a.m. with a raffle for the purses.
The packed purses come in all shapes and sizes. A giant elephant purse is donated each year. Many purses are overflowing with prizes like books by Alabama authors or Ulta certificates and beauty products.
“The purses are so packed you don’t just hand them a purse, it takes two or three people to take all the stuff that goes with that one packed purse,” said Pam Franklin, president of Soroptimist.
The purse raffle will be followed by a display of spring fashions.
The fashion show this year will feature ensembles from White House Black Market, Chico’s and Belk. This year’s emcee is Beth Albright, a Tuscaloosa native, author and former soap opera actress who now lives in California.
Organizers expect more than 500 people to attend, and they hope to raise at least $30,000.
Soroptimist, meaning “best for women,” works on multiple projects throughout the community that benefit women and girls.
Club members said they have helped the community in a number of ways this year by:
-- Holding a human trafficking awareness event.
-- Volunteering weekly at the Working on Womanhood program for female juvenile offenders.
-- Stocking the pantry for a women’s veterans group.
-- Holding a Christmas party for a program that helps teen moms.
-- Refurbishing the day room at the Phoenix House, a drug and alcohol treatment facility.
Brunch for Boobs got its name because some of the money raised goes to purchase special bras for women who have undergone mastectomies.
Soroptimist members will be wearing hats at the brunch so that they are easy to spot. Women who want to join Soroptimist can let members know during the brunch. The club’s 26 members range in age from the mid-20s to 95.
“My mom was one of the charter members that started Soroptimist, and she passed away a few years ago,” Obradovich said. “I joined after that and filled her shoes.”
Pie Lab of Greensboro will cater the event with brunch-style food. Catering by Megan will donate red velvet cupcakes to the VIP tables to continue the ruby theme.
Seats are $35 per person or $350 for a 10-seat table. VIP tables also are available. Tickets can be purchased at brunchforboobs.com or at the event.
Soroptimist can be found on its website, Facebook, Instagram and through email at brunchforboobs@gmail.com.
February 23rd, 2015
New Fire Station No. 2 is Northport's largest - The new $3.8 million fire station No. 2 on Alabama Highway 69 near Union Chapel Road opening today is the largest in Northport at about 18,000 square feet. It features three fire truck bays instead of the former single-bay station and offers room for a ladder truck to be added later, said City Administrator Scott Collins. The new station is also home to the administrative offices for the Northport Fire Department, which moved from Fire Station No. 1, adjacent to the Northport City Hall.
February 23rd, 2015
Kinsey police officer killed in motorcycle wreck - KINSEY, Ala. | Authorities say a police officer in Houston County has died after a motorcycle crash.
Houston County Coroner Robert Byrd tells the Dothan Eagle (http://bit.ly/17s5RpH ) 28-year-old Kinsey police officer William Brunson of Ashford died after crashing his motorcycle Monday morning in Ashford.
Ashford Police Chief Jim Stanley says Brunson's motorcycle veered from the road on a curve and ran into a ditch.
February 23rd, 2015
Alabama GOP gears up for charter school push - MONTGOMERY, Ala. | Republicans are gearing up for a major push for charter schools.
A bill on charter schools will be a top priority for Republicans in the legislative session that begins next week.
Charter schools are publicly funded schools that operate outside the rules and regulations of regular public schools.
The proposal would allow up to 10 new charter schools in the state each year. However, it would allow school systems to also convert an unlimited number of existing schools to charter status.
Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh says charters would provide more options to parents, and allow school systems to innovate.
The bill is expected to draw opposition from Democrats and the Alabama Education Association, who argue that new charter schools would draw money away from existing schools.
February 23rd, 2015
Wintry weather forces Tuscaloosa area schools to delay opening - With a wintry mix of weather in Monday afternoon's forecast, public school officials canceled all after-school activities.
Officials with the Tuscaloosa city and county schools said Monday that all programs scheduled for after the end of official classroom functions would not be held because of the weather threat.
As for school openings on Tuesday, the city school system will open on a two-hour delay.
County schools are continuing to monitor the weather forecasts, and both school systems will give updates through local media, social media networks and their individual parental notification systems.
For college students, the University of Alabama announced plans to close Monday night and hold off on opening Tuesday.
The University will close at 6 p.m. on Monday and delay operations Tuesday until 10 a.m. as a precaution because of the wintery forecast.
Officials said employees are instructed to report to work at 10 a.m. but should check with supervisors to see if they are needed earlier.
Classes will resume at 11 a.m.
Shelton State Community College, Stillman College and the University of West Alabama are monitoring weather conditions but have yet to announce any closings or delays as of Monday afternoon.
Meteorologists predict that any accumulation of ice over night in should not reach more than 1/10th of an inch, but even that should be handled with care.
“Any icy conditions could be hazardous,” said Kristina Sumrall, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Birmingham, Monday afternoon. “There are reports coming in right now across West Alabama of sleet, so we are expecting that through midnight in the Tuscaloosa area.”
Deidre Stalnaker, media relations coordinator for the city of Tuscaloosa, said city officials are “closely monitoring weather conditions” and that city “resources are on stand-by and ready to react should that be needed.”
Overnight, the temperatures could drop into the lower 30s, so any moisture that gets dumped across the region before then likely will remain.
And come Tuesday morning, the Tuscaloosa area could see snowfall.
“There's going to be a very slight chance of snow and sleet before 9 a.m.,” Sumrall said.
No accumulation is expected on Tuesday as highs should climb to about 46 degrees.
But Tuesday night, the lows are expected to drop again into the lower 30s and, on Wednesday, there is a slight chance of rain or snow before noon.
“It should be an ongoing event through the day on Wednesday,” Sumrall said, “or at least through the early afternoon.”
She said snow accumulation could reach 1 to 2 inches on Wednesday followed by about 30 percent chance of rain and snow before midnight.
On Thursday, the forecast calls for highs to reach 47 degrees. So, anything that possibly accumulated on Wednesday and Wednesday night should be gone by then.
Staff writer Ed Enoch contributed to this report.
February 23rd, 2015
Sophomore from Enterprise earns Miss University of Alabama title - Payton Edberg, a sophomore from Enterprise, earned the title of Miss University of Alabama during a competition held Saturday night at the Bama Theatre in downtown Tuscaloosa.
Edberg will receive a full-tuition scholarship and book scholarships for her year of service and will represent UA at the 2015 Miss Alabama Pageant in Birmingham in June.
Maggie Gelhson of DeWitt, Iowa, was first runner-up, Allison Farris of Jasper was second runner-up, Shelby Lynne Shaw of Collierville, Tenn., was third runner-up and Chandler Shields of Huntsville was fourth runner-up in the Miss University of Alabama competition.
February 23rd, 2015
Anniston man sentenced in killing of Tuscaloosa man - An Anniston man was sentenced to three years in prison for killing a man during a robbery nearly two years ago.
Ra’Quez Meshun Thomas, 21, pleaded guilty earlier this month to killing Demetrius Strother on Aug. 18, 2013.
Strother was charged with murder, but pleaded guilty to the less serious offense of manslaughter. He was sentenced to 20 years, with all but three years suspended.
Strother, 28, was shot in the driveway of his apartment on Kicker Road.
Investigators traced a cell phone found at the apartment to a friend of Thomas, who said he had taken it to Stother’s apartment to buy marijuana. Thomas lived in Anniston and was staying in Tuscaloosa with friends.
According to court documents, Thomas told his friends that Strother reached for his gun after the two were involved in a physical fight. He showed up at the friend’s home “in a panic” and said that he “let some shots go” during the fight.
Strother was shot in the chest, outside the unnamed apartments that sit atop a hill along the section of Kicker Road between Veterans Memorial Parkway and Hargrove Road.
Strother, from Atlanta, had served in the U.S. Navy and moved to Tuscaloosa to attend college.
Investigators believe that Thomas went to Strother’s home under the pretense of buying marijuana, but really intended to rob him. He has already served a year and five months in the Tuscaloosa County Jail, meaning he will serve an additional year and seven months in state prison.
Thomas is being held at Kilby Correctional Facility in Montgomery.
Reach Stephanie Taylor at stephanie.taylor@tuscaloosanews.com or 205-722-0210.
February 23rd, 2015
Autauga County sheriff hospitalized in crash - PRATTVILLE | Authorities in central Alabama say a local sheriff has suffered minor injuries in a car crash.
Prattville Police Chief Mark Thompson tells the Montgomery Advertiser (http://on.mgmadv.com/1MNknJh ) that Autauga County Sheriff Joe Sedinger was hospitalized after a crash on U.S. Highway 82 Monday morning.
Thompson says two cars collided and ran into the department-issued vehicle that Sedinger was riding in. Details on injuries to the drivers of the other two cars weren't immediately available. Sedinger was taken to Prattville Baptist Hospital.
February 23rd, 2015
Police: Alabama man killed in argument over dog - ATHENS | Limestone County officials say an argument over a dog led to a deadly shooting.
Limestone sheriff's Capt. Stanley McNatt says 47-year-old Dawn Doreen Child of Elkmont is charged in the killing of 53-year-old Gary Leon Cox.
The Decatur Daily (http://bit.ly/17rsvyl ) reports that Child got mad at Cox because he took the harness off a dog after she told him not to do so.
McNatt says Child has a dog-grooming and pet-sitting business, and officers found the man dead in her living room Saturday night. He had been shot three times.
Court records aren't yet available to show whether Child has a lawyer. She's being held in the Limestone County Jail without bond.
February 23rd, 2015
Alabama man kills self while driving - GADSDEN | Authorities in Gadsden believe that a man distraught over his recent divorce shot himself while driving Saturday morning.
A woman told police that the man, 28, reported that he had a gun and said he was going to kill himself, according to a report from The Gadsden Times.
Officers believe that the man shot himself before the car crashed into a tree of Alabama Highway 77, right off Interstate 59.
Responding officers found the man slumped inside the truck and found a loaded 9mm Taurus pistol in the floorboard, according to the newspaper. Medics were able to enter the locked vehicle and found that the man had died from the self-inflicted wound.
February 23rd, 2015
Wintry mix causes more travel problems in north Alabama - HUNTSVILLE, Ala. | Freezing precipitation is causing more travel problems and delays in north Alabama.
Icy spots forced officials to close a number of roads in the Tennessee Valley early Monday. That includes Memorial Parkway in Huntsville.
Huntsville police removed barricades from the Parkway as temperatures warmed and conditions improved.
But more than two dozen school systems across the region delayed opening because of the threat of slippery roads, and at least two systems closed for the day.
The National Weather Service issued a winter weather advisory for northern Alabama.
Forecasters say a mix of snow and freezing rain is possible as far possible in central Alabama as far south as Clanton early Tuesday, and even more could occur Wednesday.
February 23rd, 2015
Showcase providing outlet for songwriters in northwest Alabama - SHEFFIELD, Ala. | Max Russell has been playing original music in the Shoals for over 30 years, so he knows the difficulties artists face while seeking an appropriate venue to perform their songs.
For the past 4 ½ years, the Florence resident has been hosting a songwriters' showcase that gives both up-and-coming and established artists a chance to perform original music.
March 1 will mark the first anniversary of the Shoals Songwriters Showcase at Jameson Inn's Singing River Bar and Grille, a venue Russell has called the best so far.
Russell recalled the days when well-known Shoals musicians Jerry McGee and Mickey Buckins hosted the popular Muscle Shoals Songwriters' Showcase at Fizz Lounge at the old Holiday Inn in Sheffield.
"They did that for 15 years," Russell said.
About 10 years after it ended, people started suggesting Russell take up where McGee and Buckins left off.
"I saw a need for it, being a songwriter myself," Russell said. "It gives me an outlet for my songs and to promote my music. Mickey and Jerry helped me over the years. I felt like someone needed to carry the torch."
His showcase began at the old Smokehouse Pool Room in Florence, then moved to the now defunct J.D.'s Lounge in Sheffield. From there, the showcase moved to two other Sheffield venues, Frank's Italian Restaurant and the Sandbar.
"Then I ended up over at the Singing River Bar and Grill," Russell said. "It's really starting to take shape there. People realize what I'm trying to do."
Russell said he mainly attracts "underdogs who don't have a chance to put their music out there other than in a showcase," but he also showcased established artists like Earl "Peanutt" Montgomery, who wrote numerous hits for the late country music legend George Jones and other country artists.
Max Russell has also featured Russell Gulley, a member of the popular regional rock act Jackson Highway.
"Not only do local guys get a shot at being on his stage, but he also uses what I think are the cream of the crop of Alabama and regional artists," Gulley said. "There are guys from Mississippi I've worked with and folks from middle Tennessee."
Russell said he also has featured artists from Kentucky and Georgia, from as far south as Gulf Shores and all over north Alabama.
"I occasionally get some of the local studio pros to come out, but rarely," he said. "It's a good, fun outlet for people."
Gulley said he thinks Russell's showcases are filling a gap.
Each week Russell has two featured writers. He and the two artists will set up in the round and swap songs for a couple hours.
He leaves the last hour open in case there are writers who come up and want to play a couple songs.
Cheryl Bradford, sales and marketing manager for Jameson Inn, said she's been pleased with the performances and the audience Russell's showcase is attracting, especially on a Sunday night.
"He's been bringing in some nice size crowds," Bradford said. "We've had lots of positive feedback from the community. You never know who he's going to bring in."
Bradford said guests are pleasantly surprised to discover the hotel has live entertainment on a Sunday night.
"I've been averaging 25 people and have had as many as 100 in there," Russell said.
Russell has a few rules that artists have to agree to before they can participate.
First, they must perform original songs or songs they co-wrote with another songwriter. Backing tracks aren't allowed, nor are drums, only because of the volume factor. Light percussion with a tambourine, shakers or a cajon is OK.
Russell also asks the audience keep personal conversations to a minimum.
"I have people who come from far off to enjoy the songs and it's not fair to them or the performers to have to try to play or hear over talking," Russell said.
He wants people to have fun and to support the musicians.
"Max does a really good job keeping it interesting and unique," Bradford said.
February 23rd, 2015
Weather forecast in Tuscaloosa includes chance of snow - The weather forecast for Tuscaloosa this week includes the possibility of freezing rain and snow through Wednesday, according to the National Weather Service.
There’s a slight chance of rain and snow after 3 p.m. Monday, but little or no snow accumulation is expected.
Freezing rain could move into the Tuscaloosa area early Tuesday morning, with lows reaching around 30. The high temperature Tuesday will be in the mid-40s.
Wednesday’s forecast calls for a 60 percent chance of precipitation. Snow accumulation of less than 1 inch is possible before noon, according to the National Weather Service.
High temperatures Wednesday will be in the upper 30s, with lows Wednesday night in the low 30s.
February 23rd, 2015
Authorities searching for suspect in Tuscaloosa County shooting - Investigators are searching for a man they say fired several shots at another man in Vance on Saturday.
James Thomas Johnson, 37, was last seen running into a wooded area near his residence in Vance, Tuscaloosa County Metro Homicide Unit commander Capt. Gary Hood said.
A 33-year-old victim told officers that the two were involved in an argument in the 16000 block of China Lane, he said. Johnson retreated into his house and returned with a rifle, which he used to strike the victim in the head before he began shooting, Hood said.
The victim was in his truck at the time and was able to get away. At least five bullets struck the truck and one struck him in the foot.
Johnson ran into a wooded area near his home, Hood said. The victim drove to a relative's residence where he was able to call 911. He was treated for the gunshot wound to his foot.
Investigators have obtained warrants to charge Johnson with attempted murder and shooting into an occupied vehicle. He remained at large Monday morning.
February 23rd, 2015
Tuscaloosa poet Hank Lazer honored with Harper Lee Award - MONROEVILLE | Tuscaloosa poet Hank Lazer is the winner of this year’s Harper Lee Award for distinguished Alabama writers.
The Alabama Writer’s Forum announced Lazer will receive the award in April at the annual Alabama Writers Symposium in Monroeville.
The gathering is held at Alabama Southern Community College in the hometown of “To Kill a Mockingbird” author Harper Lee, the namesake of the award.
While Lee has a new book coming out in July, it’s unlikely she will attend the event. The 87-year-old writer lives in an assisted living center in Monroeville and is in declining health.
Lazer has published 18 poetry books. The California native moved to Alabama in 1977 and held a number of positions at the University of Alabama before retiring last year. He still teaches at the university.
February 23rd, 2015
State wants no questions on autopsy doctor in running death - GADSDEN, Ala. | Prosecutors are trying to derail a possible defense for an Alabama woman charged with making her granddaughter run until she died.
Prosecutors are asking a judge to prevent the defense from raising questions about the doctor who performed the autopsy on 9-year-old Savannah Hardin in 2012.
The state also is trying to bar lawyers for Joyce Hardin Garrard from presenting any unsupported speculation about what killed the girl.
Garrard is charged with capital murder in the girl's death. Final jury selection could begin by mid-week.
Etowah County prosecutors say the 59-year-old Garrard made the girl run as punishment for a lie until the child collapsed.
The defense blames medical problems for the death.
Prosecutors made their requests in a confidential motion filed publicly by the defense late Sunday.
February 23rd, 2015
Tuscaloosa woman accused in stabbing with box cutter - A Tuscaloosa woman is accused of stabbing another woman with a box cutter during a fight at Downing Place Apartments.
The victim, 18, told police that three people attacked her at the complex on Sunday. She told officers that Sharina Yavett Anthony, 23, cut her several times with a box cutter.
Anthony was charged with attempted murder and remained in the Tuscaloosa County Jail Monday with bond set at $30,000.
February 23rd, 2015
Capstone United Methodist holds services at restaurant - Since the Capstone United Methodist Church formed in 2012, its members have worshipped in multiple places, from the Belk Center to the Tuscaloosa River Market. This month, the church moved its services to an unusual venue — Glory Bound Gyro Co. — but the space inside the restaurant has been a blessing so far, church leaders say.
“For me, I believe so much in our mission in being a church for the unchurched,” said Adam Downs, who has attended Capstone since 2013. “I never found a church that resonated until I came here. It’s exactly what I thought a church should be. It’s not about social stance or who knows who, or even the walls we worship in. I never knew exactly what I was looking for until I found it.”
The worship services are held on Glory Bound’s third floor, which is normally used for the restaurant’s private parties. The stage, often used for bands, is central to the worship.Lines of chairs donated to the church serve as makeshift pews, and on a table at the back of the space rests a large cross and prayer candles.
The church decided to move to the space because it needed a room for a growing children’s ministry, said Wade Langer, Capstone UMC’s pastor. A bar in the restaurant’s basement was renovated by the church to serve as a nursery and a room for the kids, Langer said. Volunteers added new flooring and painted the walls to make the space child-friendly.
“This is where we felt God was sending us,” Langer said. “The final destination, we don’t know, but for now, we are here.”
At Capstone, time has been spent on sharing personal stories about Jesus. Instead of having a church membership, the regular attendees are considered “partners” who agree to support the church and its mission, Downs said.
During one Sunday worship, attendees were asked to paint their fingerprint over a map of the continents of the world as a piece of artwork, and during another worship service the pastor interviewed an attendee about their personal walk with Christ. On Sunday, attendees were encouraged to tweet their stories about Jesus during the service on Twitter.
“This space leads itself to a lot of creativity,” Langer said.
Rhonda Tingle, who helps with the church’s children’s ministry, said she likes Capstone because it’s different.
“I like the youthfulness of the church, and I like the idea of the mobile-ness of the church,” Tingle said.
Although the worship space at Glory Bound is smaller than the farmers market, it has its benefits, she said.
“We really like it here, it’s a unique place,” Tingle said.
Attendee John Fleischeauer said he was drawn to the church when it first started.
“I think the big part is the focus on how you don’t have to check your brain at the door, we are willing to ask the hard questions and dig into things that aren’t always black and white,” Fleischeauer said.
Moving to Glory Bound has been positive for the church, he said, pointing to the volunteers who have committed their time early Sunday every week setting up the worship space.
“It’s brought the church together in ways you don’t expect,” Fleischauer said,
The Capstone United Methodist Church meets every Sunday at Glory Bound, 2325 University Blvd., at 9:30 a.m.

Reach Lydia Seabol Avant at lydia.seabolavant@tuscaloosanews.com or 205-722-0222.
February 23rd, 2015
"Birdman" beats out "Selma" at Academy Awards for best picture - LOS ANGELES | The long take of “Birdman” has stretched all the way to the Academy Awards, where the jazzy, surreal comedy about an actor fleeing his superhero past, took Hollywood's top honor in a ceremony punctuated by passionate pleas for equality.
On a stormy night in Hollywood, the 87th annual Academy Awards — which came in humbled by backlash to its all-white acting nominees — bristled with politics and heartfelt speeches about women's rights, immigration, suicide prevention and race.
In a battle of B-movies for best picture, the Oscars awarded “Birdman” best picture, opting for a movie that epitomizes much of Hollywood — showy, ego-mad, desperate for artistic credibility — over one (“Boyhood” ) that prized naturalism and patience. “Birdman (or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)” also won best director for Mexican filmmaker Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, best original screenplay and best cinematography.
“Maybe next year the government will inflict immigration restrictions,” said Innaritu, recalling last year's best director winner, Alfonso Cuaron. “Two Mexicans in a row. That's suspicious, I guess.”
Inarritu, a larger-than-life figure of frizzy hair, regularly wrapped in a scarf, concluded the night's many moving speeches that called for societal change. Innaritu said he prays his native country finds “a government we deserve” and that immigrants to the U.S. “can be treated with the same dignity and the respect of the ones who came before and (built) this incredible immigrant nation.”
The ceremony, hosted by Tony Award veteran Neil Patrick Harris, was heavy on song-and-dance to near-Grammy levels, perhaps headlined by Lady Gaga lavishly performing “The Hills are Alive” from “The Sound of Music” with Julie Andrew looking on.
The awards that overwhelmingly went to less-seen independent films, were spread around. All eight of the best-picture nominees won awards, including Eddie Redmayne for best actor for his technically nuanced performance as Stephen Hawking in “The Theory of Everything.”
“Please know this that I am fully aware that I am a lucky, lucky man,” said Redmayne. “This belongs to all of the people around the world battling ALS.”
All of Sunday's acting winners were first-timers, including best actress winner Julianne Moore, who won for her performance as an academic with early onset Alzheimer's in “Still Alice.”
“I read an article that said that winning an Oscar could lead to living five years longer,” said Moore. “If that's true, I'd really like to thank the academy because my husband is young than me.”
Wes Anderson's “The Grand Budapest Hotel” was honored for its hand-made craft; “Whiplash” for its pulsating pacing and J.K. Simmons' drill-sergeant jazz instructor; “Boyhood” for Patricia Arquette's moving mother; “American Sniper” for its war film sound editing; “The Imitation Game” for adapted screenplay; and “Selma” for Common and John Legend's best song.
Harris gave the Academy Awards a cheery tone that sought to celebrate Hollywood, while also slyly parodying it. “Tonight we honor Hollywood's best and whitest — I mean brightest,” he began the night, alluding to the much-discussed lack of diversity in this year's all-white acting nominees.
It was the first salvo in a night that often reverberated with heartfelt calls for change.
“To every woman who gave birth, to every taxpayer and citizen of this nation,” said Arquette. “We have fought for everybody else's equal rights. It's our time to have wage equality once for all. And equal rights for women in the United States of America.”
Cheers erupted throughout the Dolby, perhaps the loudest coming from a fellow supporting-actress nominee who Arquette bested: Meryl Streep. “Made my night,” Streep told Arquette backstage.
Tears streamed down the face of David Oyelowo, who played the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in “Selma” and was famously left out of the best actor nominees, during the rousing performance of the song “Glory” from the film. Immediately afterward, Common and Legend accepted the best song Oscar with a speech that drew a standing ovation.
“We wrote this song for a film that was based on events that took place 50 years ago,” said Legend. “We say that 'Selma' is now, because the struggle for justice is right now. We know that the voting rights act that they fought for 50 years ago is being compromised right now in this country today. We know that right now the struggle for freedom and justices where we live in the most incarcerated country in the world.”
Graham Moore also moved the star-studded audience in his acceptance speech for best adapted screenplay for his “The Imitation Game” script. Moore said when he was 16 years old he tried to kill himself.
“Stay weird, stay different,” he said.
Wes Anderson's “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” a European caper released in March, when many awards contenders were still shooting, tied for the most Oscars with “Birdman.” The academy awarded Anderson's latest confection with awards for production design, score, costume design and makeup and styling.
“Wes, you genius,” said score winner Alexandre Desplat. “This is good.”
The night's first Oscar went to Simmons, a career character actor widely acclaimed for one of his biggest parts: a drill sergeant of a jazz instructor in the indie “Whiplash.” Simmons fittingly accepted his supporting acting Oscar with some straightforward advice, urging: “Call your mom. Call your dad.”
Most of Sunday's early awards went as expected, though Disney's “Big Hero 6” pulled off something of an upset in the best animated feature category, besting DreamWorks' favored “How to Train Your Dragon 2.”
The Mexican cinematographer Emmanuel “Chivo” Lubezki became the first to win best cinematography twice in a row. After last year winning for the lengthy shots of the space adventure “Gravity,” he won for the stretched out takes of “Birdman.”
“It sounds like a nightmare,” Lubezki said backstage, recalling on his first impression of Inarritu's plans to shoot it as if in one shot. “There was no book on it. It was like an experiment.”
The black-and-white Polish film “Ida” took best foreign language film, marking the first such win for Poland despite a rich cinema history. Director Pawel Pawlikowski charmed the audience with a bemused acceptance speech that ran drastically over his allotted time.
Pawlikowski remarked on having made a quiet film of contemplation about withdrawing from the world, “and here we are at the epicenter of noise and attention. It's fantastic. Life is full of surprises.”
Several of this year's biggest box-office hit nominees — Clint Eastwood's Iraq war drama “American Sniper” and Christopher Nolan's sci-fi epic “Interstellar” — had to settle for single wins in technical categories. “Interstellar” won for visual effects, while “American Sniper” — far and away the most widely seen of the best-picture nominee — took the best sound editing award.
The Edward Snowden documentary “Citizenfour,” in which Laura Poitras captured Snowden in the midst of leaking National Security Agency documents, won best documentary.
“The disclosures that Edward Snowden reveals don't only expose a threat to our privacy but to our democracy itself,” said Poitras, accepting the Oscar. “When the most important decisions being made affecting all of us are made in secret, we lose our ability to check the powers that control.”
Harris' opening quickly segued into a song-and-dance routine that celebrated a love for movies, complete with a villain to his sunny outlook in Jack Black. The comedian jumped on stage to counter that Hollywood movies weren't so fabulous: “Opening with lots of zeroes, all we get is superheroes.”
“After 'Fifty Shades of Grey,'” Black added, referring to the weekend's top box office draw, “they'll all have leather whips.”
Harris struck a chipper tone, while slyly mocking the Oscars or parodying Michael Keaton's half-naked scene in “Birdman.”
The $160,000 gift bags for attendees, Harris said, came with “an armored car ride to safety when the revolution comes.” The performance by Andy Samberg's Lonely Island of the Oscar-nominated song “Everything Is Awesome” from “The Lego Movie,” let some live out their Oscar dreams, handing out golden Lego statuettes to Oprah Winfrey and Steve Carell.
Hard showers fell on the red carpet as guests arrived at the ceremony, as workers dispensed pink towels for soggy celebrities. One former Oscar nominee, Viola Davis, said on her way into the ceremony that Hollywood's diversity problems run deeper than the Oscars.
“You have to greenlight more stories that include people of color,” said Davis, asked about how to improve diversity in Hollywood. “You can't get nominated for anything you're not in.”
February 23rd, 2015
TUSCALOOSA CITY COUNCIL AGENDA for February 24 - 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: $1,578.91.
Authorizing request for street lighting system modifications.
Setting March 24 as the date for public hearing to consider the revocation of the business license and the privilege to renew the business license of A-1 Therapy at 6570 Highway 69 S., Suite A.
Authorizing execution of Requisitions 27-29 for payment from the Series 2014A Warrant Issue to RH Smith & Associates PC, A to Z Muni-Dot Co. and Brion Hardin Construction Co. Inc.; total: $14,591.55.
Approving ABC application of Total Kitchen Solutions LLC for on- and off-premises retail beer and on- and off-premises retail table wine licenses at The Simple Peasant, 5400 McFarland Blvd. E., Suite C.
Approving ABC application of Nicks Original Filet House LLC for restaurant retail liquor and on-premises retail beer license at Nicks Original Filet House, 4018 Culver Road.
Authorizing the filing of a lien at 3423 Willow Lane pursuant to Section 13-69(b), Code of Tuscaloosa, and Section 11-47-140, Code of Alabama, 1975; total: $204.50.
Authorizing the filing of a lien at 67 Springbrook pursuant to Section 13-69(b), Code of Tuscaloosa, and Section 11-47-140, Code of Alabama, 1975; total: $204.50.
Authorizing the filing of a lien at 2815 Seventh Ave. pursuant to Section 13-69(b), Code of Tuscaloosa, and Section 11-47-140, Code of Alabama, 1975; total: $204.50.
Authorizing execution of a utility easement to Alabama Power Co. for electrical service to new Fire Station Four and the East Precinct.
Authorizing the finance director to draw drafts for the Lift Station Upper Section Improvements Project easement acquisitions; total: $12,800.
Authorizing the mayor to execute an E2 Reporting System Permittee Participation Package with the Alabama Department of Environmental Management and authorizing certain individuals to file the electronic reports on behalf of the city for the Ed Love Water Treatment Plant NPDES Permit.
Authorizing the mayor to execute commitment letter to the Tuscaloosa Housing Authority in regards to support for the Jackson Apartments Development Phase I Project.
Tentatively awarding the contract for Citywide Home Repair Group Project 2014 as follows: PCA Restoration Contractors; total: $80,000.
Authorizing the finance director to draw drafts for the Juanita Drive Improvements Project Easement Acquisitions: total, $10,000.
Awarding bid for 37th Street East-Hargrove Road Improvements Project to Dominion Construction Co. Inc.; base bid $834,551.
Authorizing the payment of bills; total: $1,073.73.
February 22nd, 2015
LOOKING BACK: February 23 - 50 years ago this week
Robert Shelton, imperial wizard of the United Klans of America, Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, told the Senate Finance Committee that the proposed free textbook program would jeopardize the future of Alabama by “opening the gateway to the federal government.” Shelton purported that white taxpayers would carry the burden of financing the plan that would benefit black residents disproportionately.
John H. Stamps, Air Force recruiting sergeant, was named Outstanding Jaycee of 1964 at the Junior Chamber of Commerce annual Bosses Night banquet.
The Rotary Club’s Rotary Rose was awarded to George Johnston, former Tuscaloosa County tax assessor, for faithful and outstanding service to the community.
The First Baptist Church of Livingston was destroyed by fire.
A proposed bill in the House of Representatives could provide funds for the North River water reservoir. If the bill was passed in its form at the time, it would provide 50 percent of the funds Tuscaloosa needed for construction of the project.
Deaths this week included John Manley Alexander, 84, of Samantha. Alexander was a former school teacher and one of the founders of the old Gorgas School.
The Tuscaloosa City Commission gave instructions for getting a new runway at Van de Graaff Airport. The panel directed City Engineer Bob Hawkins to give a description of the land needed for the proposed north-south runway to City Attorney Wagner Finnell and instructed the attorney to file condemnation proceedings in court. The owners had refused to sell the land voluntarily the year before.
25 years ago this week
New University of Alabama football Coach Gene Stallings told the Alabama Legislature that there were two things he considered more important than football — getting an education and being a positive influence on young people.
Councilman Charles Steele reassured residents of Barr’s Quarters, a low-rent district of Tuscaloosa where the city was focusing on housing code enforcement, that all residents would be offered alternative housing.
Two Jefferson County men, charged with capital murder in the robbery-slaying of John Robert Kirk of Gordo, apologized to the family of the victim as they entered guilty pleas to the less-serious offense of felony murder.
The Tuscaloosa City Council approved half of the emergency funding needed to keep the Children’s Hands-On Museum open and advised its leaders to seek funding from the Northport City Council and the Tuscaloosa County Commission as well.
A federal judge ordered a new jail for Tuscaloosa County. The plan called for continued operation of the old jail while a new facility was being constructed.
A civil lawsuit seeking both compensatory and punitive damages over the failure to maintain a stop sign in Holt was filed in circuit court against Tuscaloosa County.
The Alabama Sports Hall of Fame added six inductees. Three played and/or coached for the Crimson Tide: basketball coach Wimp Sanderson, former player and football coach Ray Perkins and former player Lindy Hood.
Charles Land, publisher of The Tuscaloosa News, was elected second vice president of the Alabama Press Association. This meant that Land would become president of the organization in 1992, when Tuscaloosa would be the site of the winter meeting.
An arsonist set a fire in a conference room at the University of Alabama’s College of Communications. The blaze set off sprinklers which helped extinguish the blaze, but the water seeped to lower levels, soaking computers and typewriters in the administrative area and pouring onto radio and broadcast equipment.
10 years ago this week
The lawsuit filed against a manufacturer of violent video games and stores that sold them in reaction to a Fayette teen accused of killing three officers in June 2003 brought Ed Bradley from the CBS television show “60 Minutes” to Fayette.
A Northport city employee’s advisory board was formed for employees to have more input into the city’s
decision-making process. It would consist of nine elected representatives, none of whom would be supervisors or managers.
Sumter County farmer Hillard Hudson celebrated his 106th birthday. Born in 1899, Hudson offered this advice on longevity: People ride too much; they need to walk.
Attorneys for The Tuscaloosa News contended that Sheriff Ted Sexton was in contempt of court for not disclosing incident reports since a judge’s ruling the previous month.
City Council members voted to demolish developer Stan Pate’s 15th Street Plaza. Pate had 10 days to appeal the demolition in circuit court.
Mrs. America Julie Love Templeton of Tuscaloosa became third runner-up for Mrs. World.
Some Vance residents were angered over the town council’s agreement to rezone land from agricultural use to R2, a residential zoning that would allow small homes in the $110,000 to $150,000 range to be built.
Mayor Al DuPont celebrated his 80th birthday and announced that he would not seek re-election.
The Northport City Council approved a resolution to contribute $30,000 toward the dredging of Northwood Lake.
Five years ago this week
A nurse accused of switching her former patients’ medication with Tylenol voluntarily surrendered her nurse’s license. The West Alabama Narcotics Task Force said the woman was switching her patients’ hydrocodone pills for extra-strength Tylenol.
The mayor of Forkland was arrested on a 47-count indictment alleging theft and forgery.
Bus drivers at the University of Alabama considered a strike after rejecting the latest salary offer from the firm hired to manage the campus bus system.
The Pickens County High School basketball team claimed an AHSAA Class 2A championship by defeating Houston County, 88-86.
Northport police had plans to establish a police athletic league for youths between the ages of 6 and 18.
One year ago this week
A year after Kate Ragsdale, 73, was slain in her home in The Highlands, her murder was still unsolved.
The move into the new Bryce Hospital facility was under way and expected to be completed by June; the hospital’s historic grounds were purchased in 2010 by the University of Alabama.
Two changes suggested by the mayor’s Student Rental Housing Task Force were approved by the City Council. The R-4S zoning was eliminated, meaning that no longer would four and five unrelated people be allowed to live together in R-4 zones. The council also voted to rezone about 228 acres of existing R-4S property to the more restrictive R-4, which allowed up to three unrelated people to share a dwelling.
Just one week after Don Staley, the Tuscaloosa Tourism and Sports Commission executive director, resigned to take a job elsewhere, president and CEO Susan C. West left her job. Gina Simpson would replace West.
Construction bids were in for a new tennis complex proposed for Alberta; if approved by the Tuscaloosa County Park and Recreation Authority’s board of directors, the $2.28 million project would be ready to begin.
Compiled by retired News librarian Betty Slowe.
February 22nd, 2015
Sprayberry Education Center's art show and silent auction to be held Thursday - The Sprayberry Education Center's Parent Teacher Organization is hosting its 11th annual “Art Show and Silent Auction” on Thursday.
The event will be held at the Northport Civic Center from 6 to 7:30 p.m. It's free to attend, and free food and drinks will be served.
The show will feature about 100 pieces of art from Sprayberry students and teachers and artwork donated by the community that will be auctioned off at 7:15 p.m.
“We will have art from all of our student population, which is preschool, multiple needs, autism and alternative school kids,” said Carla Allen, president of Sprayberry's PTO. “Those are the four programs that are served at Sprayberry now. These are mostly elementary kids.
“There are some really good pieces that have been donated this year.”
All bids will start at $20, Allen said. The proceeds will go to the PTO to help provide classroom supplies, fund the school, build sensory rooms and two playgrounds at the school when it's relocated to the Lloyd Wood Education Center.
At 7 p.m., awards will be given for the best art in each category. An award for the overall best art in the show will also be given. This will come from the children's art category.
“The best part of the art show to me is the children's artwork,” Allen said. “Some of it's done individually and some by classes. That's the best art.”
The Sprayberry Center is a school for children with special needs in the Tuscaloosa County School System.
Reach Jamon Smith at jamon.smith@tuscaloosanews.com or 205-722-0204.
February 22nd, 2015
Work progresses on Shoppes at Legacy Park - Drive down McFarland Boulevard and you will see construction crews busy at work building Tuscaloosa’s newest shopping center — the $55 million Shoppes at Legacy Park.
The shopping center off McFarland and 13th Street will be home to retailers and restaurants new to West Alabama when it opens later this year.
Construction workers are busy finishing the two-story buildings that will house some of the bigger retailers, anchor stores that have long been on local shoppers’ wish lists.
They include Dick’s Sporting Goods, which will have the largest store, Fresh Market, Bed Bath & Beyond, PetSmart, DSW and Cost Plus World Market.
Keith Owens, managing partner of Alumni Development, said during Legacy Park’s groundbreaking in November that the center will have five or six restaurants and a number of smaller retailers that also will be new to Tuscaloosa.
He said a number of the retailers want to open before students return to Tuscaloosa for the start of the new school year. Those retailers could open as their stores are finished.
A grand opening for Legacy Park is tentatively set for late October, he said this past November. That would get the retailers in place in time for the busy holiday shopping season. He said he hoped to have all the smaller retailers and restaurants in place by the grand opening.
Legacy Park is being built in the area of the old Cedar Crest neighborhood. Much of Cedar Crest was destroyed by the April 27, 2011, tornado.
Before the tornado, Cedar Crest had many older, single-family residences. Many were rented by University of Alabama students.
As Tuscaloosa started its post-tornado rebuilding, it no longer made sense to rebuild single-family homes in the area, said Bill Edwards, president of H.A. Edwards and a member of the family that owns the site of the new shopping center.
The Edwards family continues to own the land and will act as the landlord for the property.
February 22nd, 2015
LEND A HAND: University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa communities unite to discover science - The West Alabama community is invited to explore man's use of collective learning and the journey of discovery from early tools to agriculture during “Science Sunday: The Wise Man” at the Alabama Museum of Natural History on the University of Alabama campus Sunday.
The free event, which will be held from 1 to 4:30 p.m., will feature exhibitors from Moundville Archaeological Park, the Office of Archaeological Research and other campus departments and student groups.
Participants will also be able to view artifacts from prehistory, and children can enjoy games and activities that focus on early civilizations and technology.
“This year's Science Sunday series is based on a cosmologic history of the universe and our planet,” said Allie Sorlie, the museum's education outreach coordinator. “Last Science Sunday, 'A Diverse Earth,' explored life on Earth starting with early single-celled organisms and moving toward more complex creatures.
“This topic led into a discussion about some of the most complex life forms on Earth, man and our journey of learning. This event is a great opportunity to explore man's use of technology, adaptive strategies to search for food and shelter and the ultimate discovery of agriculture and sustainable, stationary living.”
The event is free to the public.
UA's Alabama Museum of Natural History is in Smith Hall near the Quad at the corner of Sixth Avenue and Capstone Drive on the UA campus.
“Science Sunday is a community event held at the museum that combines experts from the university and community members to create a hands-on and interactive learning event that delves into a variety of science topics,” Sorlie said, “The museum started offering this program two years ago as a way to bring the university community and the Tuscaloosa community together to discover natural history and science.”
February 21st, 2015
University of Alabama tapped as science innovation site - The University of Alabama's recent selection by the National Science Foundation as an Innovation Corps site will help UA broaden its efforts to help commercialize new technologies developed by students and employees.
“It really doesn't change drastically what we are doing,” said Dan Daly, director of the Alabama Innovation and Mentoring of Entrepreneurs Center.
AIME helps faculty, staff and students commercialize inventions and innovations. The UA board of trustees approved renaming the center earlier this month from the Alabama Institute for Manufacturing Excellence.
While designation as an NSF I-Corps site won't fundamentally change AIME's operation, it will help the center assist more teams as they work to develop products and launch startup companies. The designation and grant will allow AIME to help more companies develop working prototypes, Daly said.
“Once it gets to a certain level of customer feedback, we will build them a working prototype,” Daly said. “That really helps the company get started.”
I-Corps, a public-private partnership, is meant to foster entrepreneurship that will lead to the commercialization of technology that has been supported previously by NSF-funded research. The sites are NSF-funded entities established at universities that are helping local teams bring their technology concepts to the marketplace.
The I-Corps site is a three-year award that began in January and expires at the end of December 2017. The award includes roughly $100,000 annually over its lifetime. After 2017, UA would have to reapply to be an I-Corps site, Daly said.
The AIME Center is the only NSF I-Corps site in the state and is one of only three in the Southeast, according to the announcement from UA. The university will work with the NSF's regional I-Corps Node at Georgia Tech. The node staff introduced AIME to the curriculum developed by the NSF and trained them how to teach it, Daly said.
AIME is still waiting for the funds but has begun to develop the teams that will be assisted with the extra funds, Daly said.
“This support will accelerate the commercialization of marketable ideas by the University of Alabama,” said Carl A. Pinkert, UA vice president for research and economic development, in a released statement. “As a result, scientific discoveries that can benefit society can reach the marketplace more quickly.”
Reach Ed Enoch at ed.enoch@tuscaloosanews.com or 205-722-0209.
February 21st, 2015
Alabama Education Association begins process to dismiss Henry Mabry - MONTGOMERY | The Alabama Education Association board on Saturday took steps to dismiss executive secretary Henry Mabry after an audit raised concerns about the financial management of the powerful teachers' lobby.
“This was a difficult decision by the board but one that was necessary to close a difficult chapter in AEA's recent past and turn to meet the challenges and opportunities ahead,” AEA President Anita Gibson said.
The board voted to begin the process of firing Mabry, who will have a pre-termination hearing.
The audit revealed problems about a lack of financial controls, appropriate checks and balances, and management decisions, Gibson said.
The leadership shakeup comes to the organization reeling from last year's death of longtime leader Paul Hubbert and a string of policy and ballot box defeats at the hands of the Republican-controlled Alabama Legislature.
“The AEA board has moved to vacate my position as executive secretary. I have enjoyed serving our state's educators and education retirees, and advocating for the values they so cherish,” Mabry said Saturday.
Mabry, who served as finance director for former Gov. Don Siegelman, was tapped in 2011 to replace Hubbert, who was retiring for health reasons. Hubbert had led the organization since 1969, building it into a political powerhouse with few equals at the Alabama Statehouse.
Mabry had a series of early victories out of the gate at AEA, including beating back GOP-backed charter school legislation. However, in 2014, AEA spent millions to bankroll a slate of Republican candidates with limited results, and the organization failed to topple its two chief targets — the Republican leaders of the House and Senate.
The board requested the audit after Hubbert raised the alarm about AEA's finances in a September letter to board members. Hubbert said the organization was not living within its means, and he particularly criticized the organization's dwindling reserve funds and investment in high-risk stocks. AEA's 2012 tax forms show that the organization had $18.5 million in income, but nearly $22 million in expenses.
Mabry's sometimes brusque lobbying style was also a contrast to Hubbert, who in his later years maintained a courtly demeanor at the Statehouse while wielding his considerable clout.
The AEA board did not name an interim replacement. Gibson said the board also requested help from the National Education Association, its parent group.
AEA represents approximately 95,000 Alabama public school teachers, employees and retirees.
The leadership change comes ahead of the March 3 leadership change in which AEA will again be fighting another GOP-backed charter school bill.
House Minority Leader Craig Ford, D-Gadsden, said, “The leadership at AEA may change, but our commitment to public education has not.”
Sen. Greg Albritton, R-Excel, said the GOP should resist any urge to celebrate Mabry's downfall. But he said AEA's board should take a lesson.
“Politics is about personalities, not just policy,” said Albritton, who lost his House seat in 2006 to an AEA-backed candidate before making a political comeback in 2014.
February 21st, 2015
BRAIN POWER: University of Alabama hosts regional Science Olympiad - Using cardboard and other materials as the body and CDs as the wheels, Ishaan Patel and Eric Shin, seventh-grade students at Saint John School in Montgomery, propelled their motorless vehicle across the floor of the South Engineering Research Center at the University of Alabama using jumbo paper clips, string and rubber bands.
The objective was to build a vehicle powered by something other than a motor and send it off with the push of a button.
The wheeled vehicle competition was one of multiple competitions that took place at UA Saturday as about 480 middle and high school students participated in one of Alabama's regional Science Olympiad events.
Science Olympiad is an international, nonprofit organization that promotes teamwork in the disciplines of chemistry, technology, engineering and life, earth, space and physical sciences. Winners from the region will advance to state and national competitions.
Viola Acoff, director of the event and associate dean for undergraduate and graduate programs at the College of Engineering at UA, said UA's College of Arts and Sciences and College of Engineering has hosted the event for more than 20 years in an effort to engage students in science, technology, engineering and math.
“It's very important to engage students very early for the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields,” Acoff said.
She said studies show that students lose interest in those subjects before the eighth grade.
The competition makes those subjects fun and gives students the opportunity to have hands-on experience of what it would be like to work in those fields, Acoff said.
Events like Crime Busters showed the students how science is used to investigate crime scenes and find criminals.
“The events are geared toward some of the things they would actually do if they were in the field,” Acoff said.
She said the event allows students to explore careers they didn't know existed within the realm of the sciences.
Ishaan Patel said the event has inspired his future career choices.
“I learned there are way more jobs than just the basic ones,” he said.
February 21st, 2015
COLLEGE NEWS: Feb. 22 - Rochester Institute of Technology
William Estes, of Birmingham, a student in the computing security program at Rochester Institute of Technology in Rochester, N.Y., made the dean’s list for the fall 2014-2015 semester.
The team representing Stillman College has qualified to compete at the Honda Campus All-Star Challenge (HCASC) National Championship Tournament to be held March 21-25 in Torrance, Calif. Tamba Mondeh, Tiarra Blackmon, Brian Johnson, and Christopher Weekes will represent Stillman. Associate professor of history Thomas Jennings will coach the team.
Dan Johnson of Tuscaloosa has been named to the dean’s list for the 2014 fall semester at Mississippi College in Clinton, Miss.
February 21st, 2015
SCHOOL NEWS: Feb. 22 - Tuscaloosa Christian School Open house will be 2-3:30 p.m. on March 1.
The school recently held its 2014-15 ACEA Academic and Art Competition.
Top Award winners, pictured from left:
Kirsten Perry, ninth grade, Junior High Mixed media, Superior Rating, first place.
Sara Crawford,ninth grade, Junior High Watercolor, Superior Rating, first place.
Noah Stanley, eighth grade, Junior High Mixed Media, Superior Rating, first place.
Sophie Harris, ninth grade; Junior High Monochromatic, Superior Rating, first place; Junior High Textiles, Excellent Rating second place.
Alyson Smith, 12th grade, Senior High Watercolor, Superior rating, first place.
Macey Chandler, 12th grade, Senior High Mixed Media, Excellent Rating, first place; Senior High Color Photography, Superior Rating.
Other Award winners, not pictured:
Carroll Meany, Senior High Monochromatic, Superior Rating.
Sarah Renfroe, Senior High Polychromatic, Superior Rating, second place.
Emily Pigott, Senior High Polychromatic, Superior Rating.
Samantha Wright, Senior High Acrylic Painting, Superior Rating, second place.
Matthew Foley, Senior High Monochromatic, Superior Rating.
Neal Maraxhall, Junior High Monchromatic, Superior Rating.
Jessica Dill, Junior High Acrylic Painting, Excellent Rating.
Mallory Gibson, Junior High Acrylic painting, Superior Rating, second place.
Eva Miller, Junior High Polchromatric, Superior Rating
Cayley Golden, Junior High Polychromatic, Superior Rating.
Academic and Bible Competition award winners:
Senior High Bible Quiz team, second place: Jessica Eads, Loren Caudle, Matthew Foley, Jordan Hare,
David Pearce, Clay Ramsey and Shelby Ramsey.
Topical Preaching: Matthew Foley, 11th grade, third place.
Senior High Spelling: Hunter Thrasher, 10th grade, first place.
Junior High Spelling: Laura Stephens, ninth grade, second place.
Elementary Sword Drill: Caeden Faulkner, sixth grade, second place.
Elemenetary Sword Drill: Mickey Suttle, sixth grade, second place.
The all-A Honor Roll for the second nine weeks included Ryan Elliott Anthony, Rasmia Azam, William Drew Baker, Mary Grace Boatright, Emma Mattison Bradford, Robert Patton Bradford Jr., Anna Elizabeth Cain, Julia Marie Cain, Karson Rylee Cameron, Christopher Arden Canterbury, Shelby Maria Castellanos, Reshu Chandra, Helen Hanlee Chwe, John Andrew Hanju Chwe, Dalton Joshua Clary, Charlotte Meredith Cook, Cameron Charles Crouse, Rachel Julia Dubay, Sarah Frances Ellis, Rachel Elise Emig, Stevan Craig Fairburn, Jesus Oziel Garcia, Rebecca Leigh Griesbach, Sarah Guo, Anisha Chandri Gupta, Rebecca Jean Han, Elaine Kathryn Hatfield, Maximilian Dennis Hoffman, Lauren Elise Hudson, Brianna Nichole Hyche, Aaron Peter Johnson, Carol Elizabeth Johnson, Mackenzie Brook Johnson, Jaeden Olivia Joyner, Runa Patterson King, Julia Rae Kreiser, Sara Josephine Lang, Benjamin Jerome Lattner, Thomas McPherson Long III, Ryan Kelly MacVicar, Savannah Opal Maples, Alex Christopher Martin, Anna Grace Maxson, James Earl Clifford McGee, Jonathan Bert McLelland, Terry Virginia Millsaps, Courtney Caroline Mobbs, Mary Margaret Murdock, Anna Beth Northington, Josue Olvera-Ibarra, Gurusai Sujitha Peramsettty, Katherine Grace Poore, Abiyu Prawira, Heather Marie Rabbit, Nicolas Kaelin Riggs, Morgan Camille Roberts, Joseph Vance Rose III, Charles Owen Schreiber, Margaret Elizabeth Shattuck, Naomi Sidje, Cade Christian Smelley, Anne Mason Smith, Keishun Patrell Smith, William Grier Stewart, Joshua Paul Swann, Natasha Ann Szulczewski, Kaitlin Von Tindol, Ashlyn Dee Toxey, Hannah Louise Urban, Kathryn Lyn Versace, Nicoletta Rose Versace, Jordan Elizabeth Walker, Melissa Anna Walker, Lillian Ruth Woolf, Lydia Chun Yang, Jet Zheng.
Students of the month during this school year include:
August: Kelsey Peterson, Clay Smelley, Jordyn Harton, Mitchell Lynn, Nadine Atchison and Nick Wood
September: Cora Cate Long, Caleb Wilburn, Chloe Jordan, Davarius Anderson, Patricia Scholz and Matthew Ables
October; Haley Woodell, Brody Cadle, Mackenzie Crocker, Harrison Linn, Maxine Ball and Deonte Wilkerson
November: Chandler Hartley, Landon Clark, Alexis Christian, Daven Threadgill, Matthew Ables and Jada Betts
December: Jeremy Smelley, Sarah Beth Falls, Julianna Moore, Dalton Walker, Timothy Moore and Carly Gilbert
January: Hayden Oliver, Zoey Yarbrough, Reagan Doran, Katherine Weber, Demetria White and Brandon Sexton.
The all-A honor roll for the second nine weeks included Morgan Allen, Trey Allen, Ryan Andress, Riley Arnold, Trenton Atwood, Noah Aultman, Alexis Bailey, Georgia Ballard, Lauryn Battle, Elizabeth Beard, Haleigh Beck, Carissa Bell, Nina Bigham, Anabelle Black, Caleb Boothe, Chloe Bowen, Lane Brewer, Conrad Brookins, Addison Burgett, Mary Beth Butler, Destiny Callahan, Alija Chick, Jakob Colburn, Gency Coleman, Coleman Cooper, Cooper Crowley, Will Dabbs, Alaina Davis, Christian Davis, Camille Dusang, Samantha Ernest, Krislin Estes, Jordan Evans, Dylan Fikes, Kinsey Fikes, Bryton Fowler, William Galloway, Donna Garrett, Mattie Gentle, Jasmine Haines, Bryant Hall, Karson Hamner, Chase Harland, Landon Harless, Cathryn Harp, Hogan Harris, Olivia Caroline Harris, Aanya Hawkins, Jacob Haynes, Preston Henderson, Madison Hewitt, Reece Hindman, Claire Hocutt, Haley Hollis, Caleb Hudgins, Ethan Huizinga, McLandon Hunt, Ella Hydrick, Sebastian Jimenez, Jackson Joiner, Andrew Jones, Wilson Kimbrell, Malli Grace Lackey, Mary Lawson, Riley Leavell, Ashton Lucky, Madison Marlowe, Christian Martin, Hannah Martz, Mary Nell McCook, Avery McGillivray, Jace McNutt, Lilly Catherine Miles, Gracie Morgan, Reagan Morrison, Craig Newbill, Pierce Noland, Avery Odom, Alex Ott, Brayden Parham, Marley Parker, Somer Pate, Mary Rose Patton, McKay Pettus, Kylee Phillips, Victoria Posada, Rylee Potter, Carly Pugh, Karsyn Pulmano, Shreya Ramamurthy, Noah Ray, Cameron Claire Rhodes, Sawyer Richardson, Brayden Robbins, Paislee Roberts, Seth Rogers, Timothy Sazonov, Madison Shaw, Bailey Sherrill, Lydia Sloan, Brookynn Smith, Kylee Smith, Selma Brooke Sprayberry, Conner Stevens, Abigail Strickland, Alyson Swindle, Matthew Taylor, Connor Townsend, Camden Tullis, Blake Tunnell, Jackson Turner, Emma Watson, Hannah Weeks, David Wester, Carson White, Cody Winters, Jacob Zark.
The Scholar Bowl team recently won the regional ASCA competition and earned a place in the state meet which will be on Feb. 28. Members include Holy Spirit Middle School Scholar Bowl members include Sophie Livaudais, Ben Midkiff, Layne Goodbread, Josiah Gleason, Alex Williams (captain) and Alex Krallman.
Fourth-grader Catherine Kung finished in third place while representing Holy Spirit Catholic School at the Tuscaloosa County Spelling Bee on Feb. 5.
The following Rock Quarry Middle School students are Reflections winners: Caroline Taylor MacVicar, Visual Arts; Kate Alexandra MacVicar, Visual Arts; Jennifer Stroud, Visual Arts; Emma Thomas, Photography; Jennifer Stroud, Literature.
Geography Bee top 10 finalists include Caroline Ferry, Max Powell, Annabelle Webber, Josh Ellis, Max Rogers, Sara Margaret Willoughby, Liam Obias, Covey Byars. Runnerup is Thomas Latham. Champion is Walker Ferry.
Students of the week for Feb. 16-20 are Angelina Johnson, sixth grade; Christian Orozco, seventh grade; Shandreka Carpenter, eighth grade.
Students of the week for Feb. 23-27 are Dayton O’Neal, sixth grade; Jada White, seventh grade; and Skie Pennington, eighth grade.
February Students of the month included Jackson Green, Zandy Bruce, Irma Miguel, Olivia Daidone, Brandon Leonard, Reed Pierce, Nathan Loness and Peyton Black.
February 21st, 2015
Birmingham man charged in shooting death of 14-year-old - BIRMINGHAM | Police have arrested a 23-year-old man and accused him of fatally shooting a teenager.
WBMA-TV (http://bit.ly/18dS6fk ) reports Jibrail Hutchinson has been charged with the murder of 14-year-old Miracle Stinson.
Stinson was killed Feb. 17 after getting into a fight with a group of girls at a library. Witnesses told police that one of those girls phoned a friend after the fight. Shortly after, Stinson was shot and killed.
Hutchinson was being held Saturday in the Jefferson County Jail on a $60,000 bond. It was not immediately clear whether he had a defense attorney.
February 21st, 2015
Alabama chief justice has no regrets over gay marriage stance - MONTGOMERY | As the days and hours ticked by until gay and lesbian couples began lining up for marriage licenses at Alabama courthouses, state Chief Justice Roy Moore said he kept waiting for someone to try to stop it.
"I was waiting on others to take a stand. They did not. They would not," Moore, 68, said in an interview with The Associated Press.
So the chief justice, never shy about taking on a fight, even a losing one, acted. He fired off a missive to state probate judges to refuse the marriage licenses to gay couples, saying they weren't bound to adhere to the ruling of the federal judge who declared Alabama's gay marriage ban unconstitutional.
Alabama's chief justice, previously best known for being removed from office for refusing to move a 5,300-pound Ten Commandments monument from the state Supreme Court building, has been thrust back into the national spotlight over his fight to block gay marriage from coming to Alabama.
Moore acknowledges that Alabama courts will have to go along with whatever the U.S. Supreme Court rules on same-sex marriage later this year. But until then, he said, the fight is not over.
"The ruling of the Supreme Court would bind the state courts. That's the law. That doesn't make the Supreme Court right in making such a decision," Moore said.
Moore said decision legalizing gay marriage would be among the court's greatest mistakes — a decision he would classify alongside rulings that allowed racial segregation, slavery and abortion. Moore said he would refuse to go along with it in his judicial opinions and would dissent or recuse himself in any cases involving same-sex marriage.
While some judges were following Moore's advice, 48 of Alabama's 67 counties on Wednesday were issuing, or willing to issue marriage licenses, to same-sex couples, according to the Human Rights Campaign, a national gay rights group that has kept a running tally.
"Freedom to marry has won," Richard Cohen, president of the Southern Poverty Law Center, which has filed an ethics complaint against Moore. "Roy Moore's actions have made us look like the most homophobic state in the nation."
U.S. District Judge Callie Granade on Jan. 23 ruled Alabama's gay marriage ban unconstitutional and enjoined the state attorney general from enforcing it. The U.S. Supreme Court refused to stay the decision and Alabama became the 37th state — and the first in the center of the conservative Deep South — where gays and lesbians wed.
Alabama probate judges were not defendants in the case, Moore argues, and thus are not subject to a direct court order. He also said they are part of a parallel state court system that doesn't have to submit to Granade's views.
"You've seen that in this case where you have one federal judge who is reaching out and trying to bind the whole state. It is improper," Moore said.
Henry C. Strickland, dean of the Cumberland School of Law at Samford University, said Moore has a technically correct argument that probate judges aren't "absolutely obligated" to issue the licenses to gay couples.
However, he said, couples who are denied marriage licenses could file their own lawsuits or perhaps join the existing case. Moore said another judge might rule differently. However, Strickland said they will likely hold that the state has already fought and lost before Granade.
Moore argues that no federal court, even the U.S. Supreme Court, has the right to define marriage.
"You're taking any definition of a family away. When two bisexuals or two transgendered marry, how large is that family? Can they marry two persons, one of the same sex and one of the opposite sex? Then, you've got a family of four or how many?"
Fighting, in one way or the other, has been a trademark of Moore's, a West Point graduate, former kickboxer and military police officer in Vietnam. In the 1990s, he was sued for hanging a homemade wooden Ten Commandments plaque in his courtroom while a county judge.
After being elected chief justice in 2000, Moore put 5,200-pound Ten Commandments monument in the state judicial building. He was removed from office in 2003 after refusing to obey a federal judge's order to remove it.
His critics have accused him of grandstanding for politics. Moore said there are no political calculations in his fights, noting how his Ten Commandments stance put him off the bench for nine years.
Moore's actions have drawn inevitable comparisons to former Gov. George Wallace's 1963 largely symbolic "stand in the schoolhouse door" aimed at preventing desegregation at the University of Alabama, nine years after education segregation was ruled illegal.
Moore said there is another difference.
"George Wallace moved," he said, noting how the former governor eventually stepped aside.
"I can't move from my position because I'm bound to uphold the Constitution," Moore said.
February 21st, 2015
Alabama Republicans choose woman, black man as top leaders - MONTGOMERY | Alabama Republicans have elected Terry Lathan of Mobile as state chairwoman and installed Troy Towns of Montgomery as the party's top vice chairman.
The results put a white woman and a black man in the party's top two leadership posts at a time that the national GOP is looking to chip away at Democratic Party advantages among female and non-white voters.
Alabama Republicans made clear in separate actions that their leadership choices won't affect the party platform.
The executive committee approved resolutions, without any objections, opposing tax hikes as a solution to the state's budget woes and urging all Alabama elected officials to join Chief Justice Roy Moore in his opposition to a recent federal court ruling legalizing same-sex marriage in Alabama. A resolution was added calling for Alabama to abandon Common Core education standards.
A former school teacher, Lathan explained the approach: "Alabama's the reddest state in this nation, and we're proud of it."
The tax resolution puts the party at odds with Republican Gov. Robert Bentley, who has called for $700 million in new tax-and-fee revenue for the coming budget year.
The marriage resolution urges "all local and state elected officials to stand with Judge Moore in a united front to protect the sanctity of traditional marriage and use all means at their disposal to fight this unjust ruling."
The party's support for Moore did not extend to his wife, Kayla, who lost her bid for party secretary.
Lathan, who has spent 35 years in various leadership posts for the Mobile County GOP committee and the state party, defeated former state Rep. Mary Sue McClurkin of Pelham.
Towns is a businessman who has worked most recently as the party's minority outreach director. He defeated incumbent vice chairman George Williams, who also is black.
Lathan and Towns come to the job with Alabama Republicans at a historical high point. The GOP holds every statewide office, supermajorities in the Legislature and controls the state appeals courts.
Lathan did not explicitly mention same-sex marriage contentiousness or Bentley's tax plan in her remarks Saturday.
She nonetheless has long-standing anti-tax credentials and identifies as a social conservative. Lathan and her husband, fellow GOP leader Jerry Lathan, were top opponents in 2003 of then-Gov. Bob Riley's proposed "Amendment One," a wide-ranging tax overhaul. Voters trounced the $1.2 billion package at the ballot box.
McClurkin, who emphasized her social conservative stances in the Legislature, was widely viewed as a candidate of the GOP's business establishment that remains close to Riley, who has opened a Montgomery lobbying firm.
Lathan focused her pitch on engaging party activists to use the GOP's expanded power to win conservative policy victories and continue chipping away at Democratic control of some local offices: sheriff's posts, county commission seats and probate judgeships.
She called for party unity, a potentially dicey effort given the party's wide reach. "You want to find an enemy, they are outside the door: It's called liberalism," she said.
Towns, meanwhile, said his candidacy was not about his skin color, but he acknowledged the challenge of being a black conservative in a state where whites and blacks are divided so starkly along partisan lines.
"Being a black conservative for so long, I know what it's like to be an underdog," he said. "It strained relationships, even in my immediate family."
The state committee tabled a resolution that would have called for Alabama to allow voters to register by party. Under current law, Alabama voters don't register by party and are free to choose a party primary each election cycle.
Some conservative Republicans want restrictions to keep more liberal voters from helping choose GOP nominees — a circumstance that some Republicans blame for Bentley winning the 2010 Republican primary after getting help from the Alabama Education Association, which historically has aligned with Democrats.
Opponents of the resolution said it would hurt Republican efforts to grow.
February 21st, 2015
University of Alabama grad's son labeled "child genius" - John Sumter likes to play the piano, swim, take karate and play video games like most kids his age. He appears to be an average kid until you see his test scores.
John has tested into the 99.9 percentile with the highest math, language and reading test scores nationally, and he is the youngest member of Mensa, a high IQ society, in his region of Myrtle Beach, S.C. He has also been recognized by Johns Hopkins University for being a part of its gifted and talented program.
John was recently recognized as one of the smartest kids in America by the Lifetime original show “Child Genius,” which takes 20 of the smartest kids in the U.S. and tests them in multiple subjects for a chance to win a $100,000 college fund.
The show’s finale will air at 9 p.m. Tuesday.
John was challenged in math and geography during the first show. He left after the first show, but the episode he appeared in can be seen on mylifetime.com.
When John was 2 years old, his mother began an early reading program with him. He watched over her shoulder as she wrote out words on flash cards, and he read them aloud.
His mother said she thought he was reading the large words like “rhinoceros” and “hippopotamus” from memory, but when she shuffled them, he could still read them.
“I thought it was just normal,” said Traci Sumter, a University of Alabama graduate from Hartselle.
But when John took the Measures of Academic Progress test in the second grade, his scores were off the charts, Sumter said. He was reading at an 11th-grade level.
John, who turns 10 today, said he doesn’t think of himself as smart.
“I can’t define myself as smart because there’s always someone smarter than you,” he said. “The only person I can describe as a genius is God.”
Although better at math than most adults, John said it is his weakest subject and that the show helped him to get better at it.
He said he strives to be smarter and get better at math so he can one day become a lawyer, cure cancer and invent a time machine to help people.
He said he wants to attend Yale University because it has a swim team, but for now, he attends a local public school.
“(Being smart) really hasn’t affected his life. He loves school. He loves being with his friends,” his mother said in a phone interview Thursday. “John is like any other typical 9-year-old.”
February 21st, 2015
Lawsuit filed in death at mental health unit - A wrongful death suit filed against Indian Rivers Mental Health Center claims that a woman died from overheating while under the organization's care.
The suit filed Thursday on behalf of Betty Lee Gavin's estate claims she had been court-ordered to live in an apartment with 24-hour staff observation and monitoring. Gavin, 63, was not allowed to leave her living quarters without permission of the staff, according to the suit filed by Tuscaloosa attorney Bobby Cockrell.
Gavin reported to staff on July 24 that the air conditioning unit was broken, according the complaint. No action was taken to repair the unit, according to the suit.
The National Weather Service in Birmingham issued a heat advisory for all of Tuscaloosa County on the morning on July 27. The high temperature that day reached 97 degrees, with a heat index of 105 degrees.
Cockrell wrote in the lawsuit that Indian Rivers staff did not attempt to contact Gavin until that night when she failed to report to the office for her nightly medication.
Gavin died from hyperthermia, according to her attorney.
An autopsy conducted by Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences investigators determined that Gavin died from “probable hyperthermia due to prolonged environmental heat exposure.”
Gavin had been ordered to Indian Rivers custody on June 28, 2013. She lived in an apartment at 4830 University Blvd. E.
Cockrell filed the suit on behalf of Kitty Whitehurst, an attorney representing Gavin's estate, against Mental Health/Mental Retardation Board of Bibb, Pickens and Tuscaloosa Counties Inc., a nonprofit corporation doing business as Indian Rivers.
The agency issued a statement Friday afternoon:
“Indian Rivers Mental Health has not received a copy of a lawsuit concerning Betty Gavin, and it would be inappropriate to comment further at this time.”
Reach Stephanie Taylor at stephanie.taylor@tuscaloosanews.com or 205-722-0210.
February 20th, 2015
Alabama Civil Air Patrol postpones preparedness event - The Alabama Wing Emergency Services School scheduled Saturday in Titus has been postponed.
Maj. Mike Carr, public affairs spokesman for the Alabama Civil Air Patrol and the Tuscaloosa Squadron, said bad weather over the past few days prompted officials to reschedule the event.
The school has been tentatively rescheduled for March 21.
February 20th, 2015
Stillman College to present Black History Month concert Monday - Stillman College will host a black composers choral and vocal concert Monday as part of its Black History Month celebrations.
The free concert will be presented by the Department of Fine Arts. It begins at 6:30 p.m. in Birthright Alumni Hall.
The event, featuring choral spirituals and songs by African-American composers, will include Stillman's college choir under the direction of Jocqueline Richardson and the vocal students of associate professor of voice Luvada Harrison.
Local choirs from Northridge High School, Central High School and Paul Bryant High School also will perform.
February 20th, 2015
Warmer temperatures on tap Saturday as north Alabama thaws out - Outside of a few light snow flurries very early Friday morning, Tuscaloosa escaped the effects of a band of freezing rain and sleet that moved through the northern part of Alabama.
Tuscaloosa got above 40 degrees Friday and expects a brief warming Saturday. The National Weather Service predicted highs reaching into the mid-60s and a 40 percent chance of rain during the day and an 80 percent chance of rain tonight.
A dusting of snow and treacherous ice blanketed Alabama's Tennessee Valley region Friday, causing wrecks, road closings and worries about whether the power would stay on as conditions worsened.
Emergency workers shut down elevated portions of Interstate 565 around Huntsville as a mixture of snow and ice turned asphalt white, and numerous wrecks were reported in Morgan and Colbert counties. The National Weather Service said roads were impassable in at least seven counties, and drivers posted photos of stranded, overturned vehicles on social media.
“There is a lot of sleet falling right now, and it isn't melting fast enough, so the traffic is just packing it,” said Mike Melton, emergency management director in Colbert County. “That's what is getting so slick.”
While temperatures were predicted to remain freezing for hours as a weather system moved through, highs are supposed to climb into the 50s in the area Saturday, melting any lingering ice or snow.
Hundreds of schools in dozens of communities took the day off or sent students home early. NASA shut down the Marshall Space Flight Center at lunchtime as the winter storm began coating north Alabama with frozen precipitation.
Huntsville and the rest of the state's northeastern corner were under a winter-storm warning through early Saturday, and forecasters said much of northern Alabama could get snow and sleet.
Up to an inch of snow and sleet is possible in northeastern Alabama, plus about one-quarter of an inch of ice. Officials feared weight from that much ice could topple trees and pull down power lines.
Forecasters say the western side of north Alabama could get as much as an inch of snow and sleet but less ice.
February 20th, 2015
Tuscaloosa area students construct dog beds for animal shelter - Over 30 students in grades nine through twelve worked Friday to construct dog beds in Jeremy Bigham's Building Construction class at the Tuscaloosa Career & Technology Academy.
Members of the Rock Quarry Elementary Student Council have partnered with Metro Animal Shelter for service projects this year and are raising money to purchase the parts needed to build the beds.
The beds are constructed of PVC pipe and a fabric stretched across the pipe. Some of the materials have been donated which has also helped lower the cost of supplies.
The students will build over 70 beds for the dogs to use during their time at Metro Animal Shelter.
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February 20th, 2015
State officials probing fatal Homewood police shooting - BIRMINGHAM | State officials are probing a fatal shooting by Homewood police who were serving a drug warrant in Birmingham.
Department spokesman Andrew Didcoct tells Al.com officers serving a warrant at an apartment Friday morning fatally shot a man who fired at police as they entered the unit.
The man was taken to University of Alabama Birmingham Hospital and was later pronounced dead. Authorities say a second man in the apartment is in police custody.
The man's identity hasn't been released and the Alabama Bureau of Investigation is probing the shooting.
February 20th, 2015
Ex-Ala. lawyer sentenced for stealing millions from clients - DOTHAN | A former attorney has been sentenced for stealing more than $10.5 million from his former clients.
Frederick McNab on Friday was given a 20-year split sentence with five to serve in prison.
McNab pleaded guilty to felony theft and securities fraud charges in 2014. A 25-count indictment charged 53-year-old McNab with stealing more than $10.5 million from multiple clients between 2002 and 2013. McNab admitted to using the money for personal expenses and law license was revoked.
The Dothan Eagle reports a former client said McNab should be sentenced to 666 years in prison because the number is the sign of the devil.
February 20th, 2015
Grandfather could testify in Alabama girl's running death - GADSDEN | The husband of an Alabama woman charged in her granddaughter's running death could be a witness in her upcoming capital murder trial.
Court documents show prosecutors have subpoenaed Johnny Garrard in the trial of his wife, 59-year-old Joyce Hardin Garrard of Boaz.
The woman is accused of making granddaughter Savannah Hardin run until she collapsed and died in 2012. Initial jury qualification is done, and final selection begins next week.
Documents filed Friday don't indicate why prosecutors might seek testimony from Garrard's husband.
But arguments at a past hearing suggested he was at the scene at least briefly on the day authorities say Savannah collapsed after running around the yard for hours.
The defense says Garrard is innocent. It blames the child's death on other medical problems and treatment decisions.
February 20th, 2015
Tuscaloosa County man accused of shooting 4-year-old with pellet gun - A Fosters man is accused of shooting a four-year-old girl with an airsoft gun earlier this month.
Jacob Dewitt Schuber, 29, was charged with torture and willful abuse of a child on Wednesday.
Schuber told authorities that he was aiming the gun, which fires plastic pellets, at something else, said Sgt. Dale Phillips, commander of the Tuscaloosa County Sheriff’s Office’s Criminal Investigations Division.
The pellets struck the girl on the small of her back, he said. She was not seriously injured and has recovered, he said.
Two adult witnesses told investigators that Schuber struck the girl intentionally, he said.
“He said that he was shooting at something else, but after further investigation, it was determined that he would be charged,” Phillips said.
Schuber remained in the Tuscaloosa County Jail Friday with bond set at $12,000.
February 20th, 2015
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