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Home > Tuscaloosa Business News

Tuscaloosa Business News - 2015-03

We have news items here related to Tuscaloosa, Alabama.
Suspended Alabama player arrested - A suspended University of Alabama football player was charged with misdemeanor marijuana possession Tuesday morning.
Tyren Antwan Jones, 20, was driving a Dodge Challenger that police stopped for speeding at 11:30 a.m., said Tuscaloosa Police spokesman Sgt. Brent Blankley.
Officers noted the smell of marijuana, he said, and searched passenger Brandon Lee Hansberry, 25, and Jones. They located marijuana and digital scales that they say belonged to Hansberry, he said.
Jones was in possession of a small amount of marijuana that was in a baggie, he said. Jones was driving Hansberry's vehicle, Blankley said, and was stopped in the 1300 block of 10th Avenue East, a street off Veterans Memorial Parkway across from University Mall and near a CVS Pharmacy.
He was charged with second-degree possession of marijuana and released from the front desk at TPD on $1,000 bond.
Hansberry was charged with first-degree possession of marijuana, possession of drug paraphernalia. His bond was set at $20,000.
Two passengers were released without being charged.
Jones, a reserve running back, was indefinitely suspended from the team in February for an undisclosed violation of team rules.
Jones, a sophomore from Marietta Ga., was redshirted his freshman year. He played in 11 games with 224 rushing yards and two touchdowns during the 2014 season.
He is the third UA player to be arrested in four days. Senior safety Geno Smith was charged with a DUI early Saturday morning.
Defensive tackle Jonathan Taylor, 21, was dismissed from the team Sunday after a Saturday evening arrest on a third-degree domestic violence charge.
March 31st, 2015
Shelby warns of deficit dangers - U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby during a Tuesday morning visit in Tuscaloosa advocated reducing deficit spending, a robust military to confront future challenges and continued development of domestic oil production.
Shelby’s brief review of domestic and international issues was part of a Washington update for the Chamber of Commerce of West Alabama on Tuesday morning at the Embassy Suites downtown. Shelby also took questions from the audience.
Shelby, chairman of the Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee and also a member of the Committee on Appropriations, was first elected in 1986. Shelby began his comments Monday with a nod to his long tenure on Congress.
“I think I was 3 years old when I went to the Senate,” Shelby said, noting it was his 29th year.
The senior Republican senator was introduced by Norman Crow, the chairman of the chamber’s board of directors, who recapped Shelby’s conservative credentials.
Shelby framed his comments in terms of challenges and opportunities confronting the country.
“This is a great country. We still produce more goods and services, more food and fiber than any nation in the world,” Shelby said. “Collectively, we are the wealthiest, but I remind you we are also the biggest debtor.”
While Shelby advocated for reducing the deficit, he also noted the political fight that would come with any attempt to rein in spending.
“I wish the Congress had to go by the same rules as the city of Tuscaloosa, the city of Northport, the state of Alabama to live within their means,” Shelby said.
The senator was skeptical of chances for a favorable deal for the U.S. in its negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program. Shelby said he believes Iran is seeking nuclear weapons, a development he predicted would spur an arms race in the region.
“I guess there is always hope, but there is not a lot of promise for peace in the Middle East,” Shelby said.
Shelby noted ongoing efforts by President Barack Obama’s administration to hash out a deal with Iran, questioning whether the eagerness to achieve an agreement had weakened the U.S. position. Delegations from the two countries as well as Britain, France, Germany, China and Russia have been meeting in Switzerland to develop a framework for a possible agreement.
“If you are chasing a deal in business, you will find one, but it won’t be to your advantage,” Shelby said.
Shelby also warned of a resurgent Russia under President Vladimir Putin and the growing influence economically and militarily of China in the Pacific region as he called for continued investment in the U.S. military.
“You have got to fund it, you have got to stay on the cutting edge,” Shelby said.
Though China’s challenge to American interests is primarily economic at present, Shelby predicted a military conflict could eventually follow.
“Coming behind that will be a military challenges. Maybe not tomorrow,” Shelby said.
As Shelby noted gains in the House and Senate for Republicans during the last election cycle, he predicted 2016 would be a watershed year for the nation.
“This could be this is a tipping point for America. I believe if Republicans win the 16 race, that is way out there, we will be on the right track if we don’t; we will tip to the left,” Shelby said.
The party’s political future figured into the senator’s assessment of the country’s future production of domestic energy.
“If politics doesn’t get in the way, we could be the No. 1 oil producer in the world down the road,” Shelby said noting the shale oil boom in North Dakota.
More domestic oil production, including via fracking, would be a boon for the American economy, the senator said.
“It would help rejuvenate I think a lot of American manufacturing that has gone overseas,” Shelby said.
The senator also expressed support for the Keystone XL pipeline, a proposed conduit for crude oil from Canada to refineries on the U.S. Gulf Coast that was approved by the Republican-controlled Congress but vetoed by Obama.
“Canada is going to develop and sell that oil. Is it going to be to us or going to be to China,” Shelby said.
Shelby expressed optimism the project would eventually be approved, though it would be sometime after the 2016 election cycle.
Fielding a question from the audience about states’ right and the ability to define marriage, Shelby, who affirmed he subscribes to a definition of marriage as a heterosexual union, said the matter would ultimately be settled by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Reach Ed Enoch at ed.enoch@tuscaloosanews.com or 205-722-0209.
March 31st, 2015
Tuscaloosa mechanic helps piano signed by Beatles reach destination - On Thursday, a piano signed by both surviving members of the Beatles goes up for auction online, intended to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for veterans and their families.
But without a little help from some Tuscaloosa repair friends, the piano might not have survived the long and winding road between Ringo Starr's and Paul McCartney's separate tour stops.
The truck carrying the restored piano suffered a hard day's night journeying between Slidell, La., and Louisville, Ky., but mechanic Scott Abernathy of Bobby Park Truck & Equipment helped move the mission along.
“One never really knows how far a gesture of kindness will go,” Kim Bergeron, a public relations specialist who volunteers for East St. Tammany Habitat for Humanity in Slidell, La., said in an email to The Tuscaloosa News. “In this case, the kindness of this Tuscaloosa business remained with us all the way to Louisville and back to Louisiana, adding to this adventure of a lifetime. And for that, we are forever grateful.”
Slidell artist Lori Gomez restored the 1890s Kingsbury upright. She painted the Fab Four in black, white and gray, with a red and white vine blossoming around them.
“When I first started the piano, the thought crossed my mind — wouldn't it be great if we could get an actual Beatle to sign it?” Gomez wrote in her story “Tempting the Palette” in Slidell Magazine.
Some Internet detective work led the Habitat group to representatives of the two former Beatles and confirmation of McCartney and Starr's willingness to participate came in separate emails. Then the challenge became how to bring the piano to them. As fate would have it, both were touring in the Southeast in the fall of 2014.
“It's a general rule that neither give autographs, which is what makes this piano rare,” Bergeron said. “It's a possibility that this may be one of the last things they collectively autograph.”
The Habitat group secured Starr's signature in silver ink, “Peace and Love Ringo,” on Oct. 17 in Biloxi, Miss., where the drummer was touring with his All-Starr Band. On Oct. 27, about 9 a.m., East St. Tammany Habitat workers loaded the piano, made by the Chicago Cable Co., into a truck bound for Louisville, Ky., where McCartney was to perform the next day. Tuscaloosa was just a dot on the map until the truck stopped for gas about three hours into the journey.
Afterward, it spluttered for hours until reaching Alabama, where the Habitat grouped decided to stop in Eutaw, Greene County, for the night, where they were advised to drive to Bobby Park Truck & Equipment on Alabama Highway 69 South in Tuscaloosa. Even with a queue of trucks lined up waiting for service, the group drew Park's attention by telling him of a deadline, though not what the journey was for, and he moved them to the front of the line.
“I didn't know what was in the truck,” he said, and he didn't know where the truck was headed. He said he was just doing his job. Abernathy, a mechanic there for 25 years, replaced the fuel filter, probably damaged by contaminated fuel, and sent the truck on its way, unaware of the cargo and its rendezvous with McCartney.
Bergeron said the piano will go up for auction on www.charitybuzz.com/Beatles
Piano on Thursday.
Executive Director Debbie Crouch said money raised from the auction will go to the East St. Tammany Habitat for Humanity Veterans Build, which builds homes for veterans and their families.
Crouch said it would take about $800,000 to build 10 homes. Realistically, she said the organization expects to earn between $215,000 and $500,000 from the piano's auction.
“We'll be happy with whatever we get, because it's more than we had before,” Crouch said. “The bottom line is, everything we make off the auction will go toward building veterans' houses, and that's the important thing. There's no reason that a veteran who's protected our country should go without a decent place to live.”
Bergeron said it was destiny that they got both autographs, which should raise the value of the piano at auction.
“It's a real-life fairy tale,” she said.
March 31st, 2015
University of Alabama names new vice president for student affairs - The University of Alabama has named the University of Iowa dean of students as its new vice president for student affairs beginning in June.
The hire of David Grady, the associate vice president and dean of students at Iowa, was announced Monday. He will join UA’s administration June 15.
“His leadership will be invaluable in our continuing efforts to provide our students with the best collegiate experience possible,” UA President Judy Bonner said in prepared comments.
Grady will replace interim Vice President Steven Hood, who has served in the role since July 2014, when former vice president Mark Nelson left the office to become dean of the UA College of Communication and Information Sciences. Hood, who previously served as executive director of Housing and Residential Communities since 2011, will continue to work with the Division of Student Affairs, UA Media Relations Director Cathy Andreen said.
“I am looking forward to working with the dedicated staff in Student Affairs, along with our campus partners, to help each student discover their distinctive University of Alabama experience so they can leave here prepared to be successful in their careers and their communities,” Grady said in comments released by UA.
Grady, who also worked in administrative roles at the University of Texas at Austin, previously served as assistant director of student life at UA from 1985-1988. He has a doctorate in higher education administration from Texas, a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Mississippi State University and a master’s of education degree from Harvard.
Reach Ed Enoch at ed.enoch@tuscaloosanews.com or 205-722-0209.
March 31st, 2015
Woman found dead after home fire in Fayette County - Alabama fire marshals are investigating the cause of a house fire in Fayette County where an elderly woman was found dead.
The body of Peggy Warren, 73, was discovered in the kitchen of her home on Fayette County Road 67 in Bankston, said Bankston/Stough Volunteer Fire Department Chief Vick Selman.
He said it was unclear whether Warren, whom he described as a “pillar of the community,” had died before the blaze or as a result, although family members said it appeared accidental.
Bankston/Stough volunteer firefighters were summoned at 6:29 a.m., Selman said. By the time they arrived, the house was engulfed in flames.
Warren was the only person living in the home. Selman said it was common for her to wake and cook breakfast for her grandchildren who live nearby.
“She always got up and cooked the grandkids breakfast,” he said. “She’s always done anything and everything for anybody.”
Bankston/Stough volunteer firefighters were assisted by members of the Lawrence Mill Volunteer Fire Department, Selman said.
The State of Alabama Fire Marshal’s Office was called in because the fire involved a death. An autopsy will be performed.
Reach Jason Morton at 205-722-0200 or jason.morton@tuscaloosanews.com.
March 31st, 2015
Tuscaloosa County board OKs school calendar more than a year in advance - The Tuscaloosa County Board of Education on Monday approved the calendar for the 2016-17 school year.
Superintendent Elizabeth Swinford said the board chose to approve the calendar more than a year in advance so parents and employees can make their vacation plans early.
"I think this is a good thing for the parents to be able to know to plan vacation and time off," she said. "It's the right thing to do for our employees as well. Many of them are parents, and they ought to be able to plan their lives a little better as well."
This is the first time that the county school board has approved a school year calendar more than one year ahead. They approved the 2015-16 school year calendar Jan. 26. The 2016-17 calendar is nearly identical to the 2015-16 calendar.
"We followed the same things that we did for this coming school year's calendar," Swinford said. "A week (off) for Thanksgiving, two weeks at Christmas, the same number of professional development days, the same things the employees voted on for this coming school year. We took those same concepts and applied that for another year. We'll always be one year ahead of schedule.
"The only way we'll change this is if the law changes or something unforeseen happens."
The first day of school will be Aug. 11, and the last day will be May 25.
Student off days will be:
-- Sept. 5 for Labor Day.
-- Oct. 10 for an employee professional development day.
-- Nov. 11 for Veterans Day.
-- Nov. 21-25 for fall/Thanksgiving break.
-- Dec. 21 half-day on Wednesday to start Christmas/winter break, which will run through Jan. 4.
-- Jan. 16 for Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
-- Feb. 20 for Presidents Day.
-- March 13-17 for spring break.
-- April 14 for an employee professional development day.
-- May 24-25 half-days.
Reach Jamon Smith at 205-722-0204 or jamon.smith@tuscaloosanews.com.
March 31st, 2015
Tuscaloosa County toddler overcoming early brain injuries with help of family - Jerry Minor wasn't expected to live longer than six months.
In May 2014 when he was just a month old, Jerry suffered serious brain injuries from what police and doctors said were repeated blows to his head and body.
His father told police that he fell on the child, but doctors said the injuries were consistent with an intentional beating. Jay Minor, 38, is still being held in the Tuscaloosa County Jail on pending abuse charges.
Jerry suffered serious brain damage that will impair him for the rest of his life.
"We're lucky we've still got him after what happened to him," said his mother, Tina Minor.
A week shy of his first birthday, Jerry should be taking his first steps and learning to feed himself. If he does reach the milestones of a normally developing child, it will be with the help of his mother and grandmother.
"He can't crawl, he can't sit up, hold up his head or anything like that. He's blind and probably won't ever see," said his grandmother Princess Hall, who is Tina's mother. "He's not going to have the mind like other kids have got."
A home health care nurse visits the family's mobile home in Coaling twice a month to monitor Jerry's physical condition, and he has appointments with doctors at Children's of Alabama hospital in Birmingham twice a month. A physical therapist visits the home every two weeks and is working to strengthen his neck so they can move on to helping him walk. He may eventually wear a neck brace.
Jerry's eyes move toward whoever is talking and he seems to react to bright light, but doctors don't believe he'll ever be able to see, Hall said. Family members feed Jerry, who weighs about 19 pounds, every few hours through a tube that delivers food directly to his stomach.
He smiles and babbles at his mother, grandmother and his brother Mason, 2. Lately, he's been waking up screaming in the night, his mother said, making her worry that he's experiencing nightmares.
"He was having seizures but those stopped, but I worry that they'll come back if he's having these nightmares," Tina Minor said.
Jay Minor is charged with two counts of aggravated child abuse and one count of first-degree domestic violence. Tuscaloosa County Circuit Court Judge Brad Almond has ordered that he undergo a mental evaluation, standard procedure in violent criminal cases.
Reach Stephanie Taylor at 205-722-0210 or stephanie.taylor@tuscaloosa news.com.
March 31st, 2015
Alabama student says he was robbed of cellphone - The University of Alabama Police Department is investigating a robbery that occurred Sunday night in the parking lot by Paty hall.
At about 8:08 p.m. Sunday, a male student reported he had been robbed of his cellphone by two men as he walked to his vehicle near the residence hall, according to UAPD.
The victim was talking on his cellphone when he was approached by the two, one of whom asked to use the victim's phone, according to police. The victim lent his phone to one of the men. The man handed the phone to the second suspect, who fled on foot toward the Ferguson Center.
The victim chased after one of the men, but he was struck from behind by the other man, who then entered a red four-door vehicle that left the area on Second Street, according to the police report. The victim sustained only minor injuries.
March 30th, 2015
Lawyers for Mike Hubbard claim prosecutorial misconduct in ethics case - MONTGOMERY, Ala. | Lawyers for indicted Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard are asking a judge to dismiss the case on claims of prosecutorial misconduct.
Defense lawyers on Monday filed a motion to dismiss the indictment. In the court filing, defense lawyers accused Deputy Attorney General Matt Hart of making threats to ruin Hubbard's political career. Defense lawyers also accused Hart of leaking information to the media.
Hubbard lawyer Mark White called prosecutors' behavior "shocking" and inappropriate.
The attorney general's office declined to comment. Prosecutors have previously accused Hubbard's defense of manufacturing a "bogus" narrative of misconduct and leaks.
The Auburn Republican faces 23 felony ethics charges accusing him of using his political offices for personal financial gain. He is expected to go to trial in October.
March 30th, 2015
7-year-old hit by truck outside Tuscaloosa air show - A 7-year-old Tuscaloosa child escaped serious injuries after being struck Sunday by a pick-up truck outside the Tuscaloosa Regional Air Show.
Tuscaloosa police were called at about 4:20 p.m. after the little boy was hit by a 2005 Ford F-250 on Industrial Park Road.
Sgt. Brent Blankley, spokesman for the Tuscaloosa Police Department, said the 29-year-old driver of the truck was unable to avoid the collision after the boy broke away from his group.
“The accident will be the child's fault,” Blankley said. “The driver of the F-250 could not avoid hitting the child.”
Blankley said the boy was taken by ambulance to DCH Regional Medical Center where he was treated and released for minor injuries.
Also at the air show on Sunday, authorities say two airplanes in the Tuscaloosa Regional Air Show landed safely after accidentally touching in mid-air.
The Associated Press reported that the Federal Aviation Administration is investigating the Sunday collision involving an RV8 and an RV6.
Norris said in a statement that one of the stunt planes lost part of its propeller due to the mishap. No injuries were reported.
Tuscaloosa city spokeswoman Deidre Stalnaker said the accident happened around 1:20 p.m. Sunday.
The air show was briefly delayed after the collision.
March 30th, 2015
Three fires reported overnight - Tuscaloosa investigators are looking into the causes of three fires that occurred within 12 hours Sunday and early Monday morning.
Tuscaloosa Fire and Rescue Service spokesman Fire Marshal Gene Holcomb said no one was seriously injured in the blazes, but one man did injure his arm when he escaped through a window.
And preliminary investigations indicate that two of the fires were caused by unattended cooking, prompting fire officials to post warnings of such negligence on its social media accounts.
The first fire was at 5:21 p.m. Sunday, when firefighters were summoned to Fountain Square Apartments.
Firefighters found one apartment ablaze. The resident was not home at the time. A neighbor alerted authorities.
Holcomb offered no official preliminary cause for this fire, but did not indicate that it appeared to be suspicious.
“It’s under investigation,” he said.
Firefighters were again summoned to a fire at 12:21 a.m. Monday.
Holcomb said the occupant of a house in the 4100 block of Highpoint Drive appears to have left a pot unattended on the stove.
“We don’t think there’s any arson involved,” Holcomb.
The lone occupant of the home injured his arm when he broke out a window to escape the home, Holcomb said.
He also shattered another window in search of a relative, but Holcomb said no one else was inside.
The house remains standing, but Holcomb said it sustained a great deal of smoke and fire damage.
“It was probably going pretty good when (the firefighters) got there,” Holcomb said.
The third blaze was reported at 4:49 a.m. at Springhill Apartments.
Firefighters arrived to find a mother and her child standing in the parking lot. She told them an unattended pot sparked the fire, Holcomb said.
“All indications there confirm her story,” he said. “There was significant damage in that one unit.”
Firefighters ordered the evacuation of the apartment building’s remaining occupants, but the fire never escaped the original apartment, Holcomb said.
Reach Jason Morton at jason.morton@tuscaloosanews.com or 205-722-0200.
March 30th, 2015
Gospel, funk performers headline June 20 amphitheater show - The Tuscaloosa Amphitheater on Monday announced a Father's Day weekend concert featuring several gospel, blues and funk performers.
The Heritage Music Festival will begin at 3 p.m. June 20 at the amphitheater, 2710 Jack Warner Parkway NE. Tickets will go on sale Friday through www.ticketmaster.com, the amphitheater box office or by calling 800-745-3000.
Performers include Con Funk Shun, a 1970s California funk band known for the hit "Too Tight" and Brick, a Georgia-based funk band known for the hit "Dazz."
Other performers will be:
Willie Clayton, Chicago blues singer/songwriter from Indianola, Miss.
Vashawn Mitchell, a gospel singer from Illinois
Lee Williams, a gospel singer from Tupelo, Miss.
Virtue, a Dove Award-winning, all-female gospel trio
Dr. Andrew Cheairs and the Songbirds, a gospel group active sicne the 1970s from Byhalia, Miss.
The Supreme Harmonettes, an all-female gospel quintet from Olive Branch, Miss.
The festival will also feature a gospel tent featuring local and regional performers.
March 30th, 2015
Some farmers behind schedule, but optimistic about crops - DECATUR, Ala. | Sporadic rainfall in recent weeks has set back area farmers with planting and fertilizing their crops, but they are expected to catch up when dryer conditions prevail.
Farmers wanting to plant corn, fertilize grazing grass for cattle and fertilize wheat fields have been hampered by recent rains, said Ronald Britnell, the Morgan County Extension Coordinator for the Alabama Co-operative Extension System.
"All of agriculture is about two to three weeks behind as far as row crops," Britnell said.
But, Britnell added, he expects farmers to "be planting 90 to nothing" once they can get their heavy machinery in the fields.
Mark Byrd, of Danville, said the colder-than-normal weather in late February and early March followed by rain has slowed field work and preparation work on his corn and wheat fields.
Byrd, 51, farms 500 acres of corn and 300 acres of wheat in and around Danville, Decatur, Mud Tavern and Falkville.
Typically, he would already have started planting corn and would have applied the second of two fertilizer applications to the wheat. Byrd said he is about four weeks behind schedule for the second fertilizer application.
"We haven't been able to get in the field in time," Byrd said.
Byrd is optimistic he will have a good corn crop. He said the most that recent weather conditions would reduce his corn harvest is no more than 10 percent.
"We'll get it there," he said, thinking ahead to harvesting corn from August to October.
Tyler Sandlin is responsible for six counties as a regional extension agent for row crops with the Extension System. He said the cooler weather initially hampered the fertilization of wheat, but that wheat fields "are in good shape now."
He said farmers were able to put out a lot of fertilizer last week.
Sandlin said corn planted early when the soil was wet and colder than normal might not grow well and that corn planted later in better conditions would catch up with the early planted corn.
"All in all, things look pretty good," Sandlin said.
Britnell said most of the area corn crop was planted this time last year.
"It'll all work out," he said. "The farmers will be putting in some long days if the soil dries up. We'll catch up quick. We could, and probably will, have a great year."
Soybean planting could begin late this month and last until June, and farmers will plant cotton in April and May, Sandlin said.
"Certainly, good weather will get us off to a good start, but it won't guarantee a good season," Sandlin said.
As of Sunday, the 4.47 inches of rain this month so far is just .05 more than normal. For the year, the area has received 12.19 inches of rain, which is almost 2 inches less than the normal of 13.82 inches.
March 30th, 2015
Tuscaloosa gets grant for technology upgrade - City officials have contracted with an Illinois company to help develop a plan to upgrade the city’s technology and ensure its sustainability.
Magellan Associates LLC was selected from a pool of five consultant firms to help city officials develop the plan.
A $50,000 grant from the Local Technical Assistance Program, administered by the U.S. Economic Development Administration, will fund part of the contract.
The grant requires a $50,000 match from City Hall.
“The city recognizes technology plays a critical role in our future growth,” said Robin Edgeworth, director of the city’s Recovery Operations division, “and we want to ensure that, as we consider any expansion of technology infrastructure, we do so in a way that encourages economic and industrial development.”
City officials applied for the grant in July 2014 in order to fund the development of a plan that would best provide the Internet connection speed and bandwidth demands for areas along both the tornado recovery path and the city as a whole.
When complete, the plan is expected to show projected Internet bandwidth capacity demands for business which, in turn, is expected to aid economic revitalization throughout the city.
The plan also will consider the needs of The Edge — Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, a business incubator that was formed through a partnership of Tuscaloosa, the University of Alabama and the Chamber of Commerce of West Alabama.
A new $9.3 million facility for The EDGE is planned for property that once housed the U.S. Armed Forces Reserve Center on 10th Avenue across from the Tuscaloosa Housing Authority’s Rosedale Court.
Reach Jason Morton at jason.morton@tuscaloosanews.com or 205-722-0200.
March 30th, 2015
Tuscaloosa Regional Airshow blows in the most watchers yet -
More people came out to watch the Blue Angels this weekend as part of the Tuscaloosa Regional Airshow than any other Tuscaloosa air show to date, according to the city of Tuscaloosa.
It is estimated that a total of around 90,000 watched the air show on Saturday — including about 65,000 people on airport property and the rest in surrounding areas — and a total of about 73,000 who watched the show on Sunday.
“This is definitely our largest air show,” said Deidre Stalnaker, spokeswoman for the city of Tuscaloosa. The second-largest crowd attendance, she said, was likely the first Blue Angels show in Tuscaloosa in 2009. “We are very, very pleased with the turnout.”
While Saturday had more pre-sale tickets, there were more people who bought tickets at the gate on Sunday, Stalnaker said.
Many of those who attended on Sunday spent the afternoon with family, enjoying the day’s clear skies and warmer temperatures while watching the Blue Angels’ aerobatics.
“It’s a beautiful day — we drove up from Montgomery for this,” said John Daly, a Navy aviator who brought his wife and young son and daughter to the air show. “Anytime you get to see the Blue Angels, it’s a treat.”
Daly’s 6-year-old son Jack, dressed up in a pilot’s jumpsuit, said he wants to be a pilot when he grows up, and is an avid fan of the Blue Angels.
“My favorite part is where there looks like there is one Blue Angel, but there are really two,” Jack said while watching the show.
Judy Elmore attended the airshow Saturday and Sunday with her nephews — a tradition that they have enjoyed every time the Blue Angels have come to Tuscaloosa, Elmore said. The Blue Angels have performed in Tuscaloosa in 2009, 2011, 2012 and this year.
“We just love it,” Elmore said. “I would really feel like I missed out if I didn’t come.”
Her nephew Reggie Smith of Northport agreed.
“We are addicted to air shows,” Smith said. “It’s a pretty cool event, and the Blue Angels are obviously the
best part.”
It was the first time that Mark Vick of Tuscaloosa had been to the Tuscaloosa Regional Airshow. He said he found out about it online.
“Iv’e been to airshows in Tennessee before, but hadn’t been to one here,” Vick said. “I wanted to make sure I got to see the Blue Angels.”
Jack Robbins of Tuscaloosa, who is retired from the Air Force, watched the show with his brother, Paul Robbins.
“We thought the show this year was outstanding,” Jack Robbins said. “We espececially enjoyed getting to see see the F-22 Raptor, along with the old planes too. Everything has been really great.”
March 30th, 2015
Tornado season skips over March - Tornado season this spring has been relatively quiet, despite the tornadoes that hit Oklahoma and Arkansas on Wednesday night, killing one person in Sand Springs, Okla., and injuring several others.
There were no tornadoes anywhere in the U.S. during March until last week. The last time the U.S. had no twisters in March was nearly 50 years ago, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Okla. As of Friday 2015, there were only four tornado warnings in the U.S., something meteorologists are calling a “tornado drought.” It occurs when cool, stable air prevents violent storms from coming together.
“Every day that goes by is quite remarkable (because) we’re normally seeing very active day-to-day weather somewhere in the country,” said Greg Carbin, warning coordination meteorologist for the center. “Four watches is also unprecedented.”
But, whether that means the rest of tornado season this spring will be as calm is unknown, said Meteorologist James Spann of ABC 33/40 in Birmingham.
“Here is the bottom line, a quiet start to the tornado season doesn’t mean a quiet ending,” he said. “The core spring tornado season in Alabama is March, April and May, so we still have a long way to go.”
Alabama has had relatively calm tornado seasons since the tornadoes that hit the state on April 27, 2011, he said.
“And we all know storm frequency will increase again at some point,” Spann said.
But, there isn’t any meteorological reason for the remainder of the tornado season to be extremely active, he said.
“But if there is just one tornado in the state in April and May, and if it comes down your street, then it will be the worst tornado season ever for you,” Spann said.
It’s difficult to predict what the tornado season will be like, unlike with hurricane season, said Jody Aaron, a meteorologist with the Birmingham office of the National Weather Service.
“Honestly, there is nothing out there that will depict whether it will be an active or non-active season,” Aaron said.
But, it’s important that people always be aware of the weather and especially when severe storms are expected, he said.
“It’s important to continue to stay aware each day, to know the forecast and know when a cold front is going to be coming through,” Aaron said.
Spann agreed.
“I hope the quiet weather in recent years hasn’t lulled people to sleep,” he said. “Everyone must have two ways of getting tornado warnings.”
Spann recommends a NOAA Weather Radio and a smart phone weather app like WeatherRadio or MyWarn.
“And, everybody needs to know what they will do if they are in a tornado warning polygon,” Spann said. “And where they go, they need to have helmets for everyone and other things like whistles or air horns.”
Despite a drop in temperature over the weekend and some storms possible on Monday, there’s very little chance of severe weather for West Alabama this week, Aaron said.
Reach Lydia Seabol Avant at lydia.seabolavant@tuscaloosanews.com or 205-722-0222.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.
March 30th, 2015
Tuscaloosa City Council agenda for March 31 - 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:
Consenting to vacate a 12-foot wide public alley as listed in Lot 156 of the McCalla’s Street Center Survey of 1891. (Tabled March 24, March 10 and Feb. 3)
Authorizing utility account credits; total: $3,427.85.
Declaring property surplus and authorizing its disposal.
Awarding competitive bid(s) for the purchase, etc., of cargo box storage units for Chevrolet Tahoe police vehicles; total: $14,674.06.
Awarding competitive bid(s) for the purchase, etc., of Fire Department uniforms for a three-year period.
Authorizing an adjustment and refund of excess deposit to Tammy Lynn Regevig for installation of water mains and services for Regevig Mini Storage; total: $4,708.53.
Approving request and agreement for water service to Eighth Street Apartments fire line; total: $14,240.45.
Granting permit for Campus Properties to construct water lines for Eighth Street Apartments fire line.
Authorizing an adjustment and refund of excess deposit to B. L. Harbert International, LLC, for installation of water mains and services for University of Alabama Ferguson Student Center water main extension; total: $104.39.
Authorizing execution of Requisition Nos. 35-37 for payment from the Series 2014A Warrant Issue to Traffic Products and McGiffert & Associates; total: $19,322.56.
Authorizing execution of Requisition No. 541 for payment from the Series 2007A Warrant Issue to Cornerstone Civil Contractors; total: $55,126.50.
Setting May 5 as the date for public hearing on a proposal to vacate a portion of Greensboro Avenue and right-of-way near the City Boat Dock Parking Lot.
Approving request and agreement for water service to 1029 Convent St.; total: $30,837.72.
Granting permit for JHOB LLC to construct water lines for 1029 Convent St.
Approving the Downtown/Riverfront Overlay District permit for the YMCA at 13th Street and 23rd Avenue.
Adopting the 25th amendment to the Fiscal 2013 Water and Sewer Reserve for Future Improvement Fund.
Authorizing amendment No. 4 to the contract with McGiffert and Associates LLC for engineering and related services for the Train Trestles Sewer Improvements Project; total: $14,352.
Tentatively awarding a public works contract to Video Industrial Services Inc. for the 2015 Sanitary Sewer Assessment and Cleaning Project; total: $302,253.15.
Tentatively awarding a public works contract to Double Diamond Construction Co. Inc. for the Neighborhood Lakes Cleanout Project; total: $146,500.
Authorizing the 10th amendment to the water purchase agreement with Carroll’s Creek Water Authority.
Authorizing the payment of bills; total: $10,979.91.
March 30th, 2015
Rubber Duck Derby raises money for Children's Hands-On Museum - 28926
March 30th, 2015
LOOKING BACK: March 30 - The Westinghouse lamp division announced that a multi-
million-dollar expansion of its flashbulb manufacturing facilities was nearing completion in Reform.
A 28-day strike at Central Foundry was settled when members of Locals 63 and 67 of the International Molders and Allied Workers Union accepted contract proposals made by the company.
Wilson Baker, Selma public safety director, addressed the Tuscaloosa Exchange Club about events surrounding the recent civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery.
Coach Paul W. “Bear” Bryant put his 87 Crimson Tide football players through the first of their 20 spring workouts.
Sixteen-year-old David Clark of Tuscaloosa was installed as president of the Alabama National Honor Society.
Frank Caffee, who had done research on the history of Vance, said that Davy Crockett, the famed frontiersman, had spent the night in Vance at the site of the Vance Baptist Church.
County funding for Tuscaloosa Metro Transit System was running out, but Parking and Transit Authority Chairman John Gordon expressed optimism that the state would step in to replace a $27,500 funding cut to the authority by the Tuscaloosa County Commission.
On April 4, the 125th anniversary of the burning of the university by Union troops in 1865, ground would be broken for an archaeological excavation of the Madison Hall site at 10 a.m., a close approximation of the exact hour the campus was razed.
In the first scrimmage of the season, Crimson Tide coach Gene Stallings wanted his team to land a few blows but could not afford a knockout punch that would eliminate more players from an already depleted squad.
Coalbed Methane producers were issued an ultimatum by Tuscaloosa County: either agree in writing to maintain and keep open the roads where they were operating their heavy equipment and restore them after their drilling operations end, or the county would impose a weight limit on each road, thus shutting down much of the drilling in the county.
A Tuscaloosa County grand jury refused to indict a Walker County drifter charged with the 1989 slaying of Roman Catholic priest, the Rev. Francis Craven.
After more than six months of debate and rewriting proposals, a law that prohibited smoking in city-managed buildings and checkout lines in stores was approved by the Tuscaloosa City Council.
Fayette County officials vowed to move ahead with a proposed reservoir on North River. The county was working to develop a $15 million water system project and needed the reservoir as a reliable water source.
In protest against having their Good Friday holiday swapped for Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday, Northport Public Works employees voted not to report for work on April 13.
Deaths this week included former U.S. Sen. Howell Heflin, 83.
Winfield lost one its most popular restaurants when Boar’s Butt burned down.
The city planned to build a $25 million water treatment plant near the Lake Tuscaloosa dam. The new plant was designed to produce 12 million gallons of water daily and would be a quarter to a third of the size of the Ed Love plant.
UA interviewed Temple’s Dawn Staley in its search for a new head women’s basketball coach to replace Rick Moody, who retired at the end of the season after 16 years on the job.
The Tuscaloosa Veteran’s Affairs Medical Center opened a “Patriot’s Pavilion” women’s center to serve women’s medical needs.
E.O. Wilson, a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner widely considered one of the world’s most influential scientists, spoke at the University of Alabama. Wilson is a UA alumnus.
The historic Country Club of Tuscaloosa opened its golf course to public play on Mondays.
Deaths this week included Jimmy H. Welborn Sr., 60, longtime Piggly Wiggly grocer who helped bring supermarkets to underserved areas.
Coach Nick Saban’s Crimson Tide held its first scrimmage of the spring training season.
Deaths this week included Greene County Sheriff Ison Thomas, 54, from cancer.
State agents seized more than 1,000 gaming machines after conducting raids at four entertainment venues in Greene County. All the electronic bingo machines at Greenetrack had already been removed, but officers seized cash and machines from the other three locations.
After months of effort, Bama Belle owner Thad Garner said that he expected the riverboat to be operational and ready for inspection in May.
A federal judge tossed out a lawsuit by Northport’s former police chief, who claimed he experienced racial discrimination and harassment on the job.
The search was underway for a 40-year-old Centreville man, Bobby Seales, who had been missing for a week.
A 13-acre tract south of Flatwoods Church in Northport was selected for the site of a new consolidated 911 center.
Compiled by retired News librarian Betty Slowe.
March 29th, 2015
Former Gordo students' project has become state bill - The bill to ban distracted driving that was introduced in the Alabama Legislature this year began as a project by three Pickens County teens last year, but has evolved into a campaign to change the driving habits of motorists statewide.
The cause that began as a senior-year project for the three Gordo High School graduates competing at the state conference for Health Occupations Students of America was inspired by personal experience.
One of the three, Morgan Sanders, now in her first year at Shelton State Community College, was injured as a passenger in an accident caused by distracted driving during her junior year of high school.
“The last thing I remember was (the driver) was fiddling with her phone. We came to a stop sign, but she didn’t make a complete stop. I remember the 18-wheeler coming at us, and it t-boned us on my side,” Sanders said.
Sanders suffered a broken pelvis and fractured tail bone and had to undergo physical therapy after being discharged from the hospital.
“Taking that first step was really bad. I almost passed out I was in so much pain,” Sanders said.
Gordo classmate Maria Manning recalled the shock of almost losing her friend.
“It was just really gut-wrenching. It could have been prevented. If the driver had been paying attention, none of this would have happened,” Manning said.
Manning, Sanders and Cassidy Hardy decided to focus on distracted driving as a topic for a health education project as they considered options for the 2014 state HOSA competition.
“Honestly, when we started, when we decided on the topics, we just wanted to do really well at state competitions,” Sanders said. “But when we started working on it, we decided we wanted to make a difference.”
A bill inspired by the three students’ efforts is being sponsored by Rep. Alan Harper, R-Northport. It would ban motorists from driving while reading, writing, grooming, interacting with pets or unsecured cargo, using wireless telecommunications devices or any other activity that “prevents a driver from devoting the necessary attention to driving.”
“It’s basically anything that takes our attention off operating the vehicle,” said Manning, a freshman at the University of Alabama.
The bill is patterned off the state law passed in 2012 prohibiting texting while driving. Harper said he believes the new bill would provide a more enforceable law than the texting ban and make state roads safer.
Law enforcement in the state would be able to treat violations as the primary reason for issuing a citation, according to the bill.
Violators would be cited and fined $25 for the first offense, $50 for the second and $75 for the third and every subsequent violation. The citations would count as a two-point violation on a motorist’s driving record.
The definition of distracted driving in the bill could be tweaked further to accommodate the use of hands-free technologies currently in some vehicles, Harper said.
The bill has had its first reading in the House, and Harper said he hopes to have the bill taken up by the House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee when the Legislature reconvenes Tuesday.
The three women’s former teacher, Natalie Lavender, who helped them with the campaign, said she sees parallels between the campaign to stop distracted driving and the earlier fight to outlaw drunken driving. She is also impressed by her former students’ commitment to the issue.
“It’s pretty impressive to me at that time they were 17 to 18 years old. Now they are 19, but they won’t let it die,” said Lavender, a nurse and the health science instructor at the Pickens County Career Center and a resident of Aliceville.
The three began researching accident statistics in the state as they prepared the project to increase awareness about the link between accidents and distracted driving.
They started by focusing on texting but soon broadened their scope to distracted driving after learning through conversations with local and state law enforcement that the state’s ban on texting while driving was difficult to enforce and just one piece of a larger issue. The project became an effort to define distracted driving.
The three teens partnered with the Pickens County judicial system and state troopers for Fatal Decision, an event which recreated the circumstances of a fatal accident caused by distracted driving for junior and senior high school students in the county. They also traveled to Montgomery to meet with Secretary of Law Enforcement Spencer Collier and pitch the idea of a cautionary video message to be shown to teens applying for learners permits. They also are pursuing a decal that could be placed on the rear window of vehicles as a way to alert other motorists new drivers are on the road with them, Lavender said. The hope is the more experienced motorists will give the new drivers more space and be less impatient.
In the meeting with Collier, the idea of a new bill was broached. The three approached Harper about being the bill’s sponsor. Harper said he hopes the young women will be able to present their project to the state’s lawmakers as they consider the bill.
As Lavender assisted the teens in working on the project, she came to reflect upon distracted driving’s indelible mark in her life.
Lavender’s son, Bryant, died in a 1999 traffic accident. He was 19 at the time.
“We don’t know what happened other than the person he collided with said he was looking away when he was hit,” Lavender said.
Following the meeting with Collier, the conversation between the teens turned to naming the bill, one of the perks of being the advocates behind a piece of legislation.
The teens decided to name it Bryant’s Law after Lavender’s son in recognition of their teacher’s help and to honor her family, Manning said.
“We are just one family in many that are being affected by this,” Lavender said.
Reach Ed Enoch at ed.enoch@tuscaloosanews.com or 205-722-0209.
March 29th, 2015
Gov. Bentley: Budget problem is not going away - MONTGOMERY | Gov. Robert Bentley is trying to take his sales pitch directly to voters with a series of speeches promoting his proposed tax increase and the creation of a new nonprofit to promote his policy agenda for the remainder of his term.
However, legislators still don’t seem to be buying.
The governor spent much of the last week zig-zagging the state making speeches to civic groups to drum up support for the tax package.
“This is a real problem, and it’s not a problem that is going to go away unless we decide to solve this issue,” Bentley said in an interview Friday.
“We budget in a dysfunctional manner. It’s been a problem for 50 years, and it’s going to be a problem for the next 50 years unless we finally decide to do what people sent us to Montgomery to do, and that is solve problems,” Bentley said.
Bentley has proposed a $541 million tax increase. The bulk of the money — $405 million — would come from two sources: raising the tax on cigarettes by 82 cents per pack, as well as other tobacco products, and raising the sales taxes on automobile purchases from 2 percent to 4 percent. He is also proposing to end corporate tax loopholes, some tax credits for insurance companies and banks.
“I’m getting real negative responses on it,” House Ways and Means General Fund chairman Steve Clouse, R-Ozark, said Friday.
Clouse said the “most promising” of Bentley’s proposals is the tobacco tax, but he doubts that legislators will support the size of the increase Bentley wants.
Clouse said lawmakers would likely be more favorable to a proposal by Rep. Patricia Todd, D-Birmingham, that would raise the tax 32.5 cents per pack.
The budget committee canceled planned hearings on the revenue proposals that were scheduled for this week. Instead, Clouse said the committee will distribute a draft budget that will show the cuts to state agencies if lawmakers do not find additional revenue.
“I’m not hearing a groundswell of support,” said Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh, R-Anniston.
The Republican Senate leader said complicating the matter is the U.S. Supreme Court ruling last week sending the redistricting plan — under which lawmakers were elected — back to a lower court for review. While Marsh said he believes the plan will be upheld by the courts, lawmakers will be even more reluctant to support taxes if they think there’s a chance they could face new court-ordered elections.
The tax proposal is the Republican governor’s first major policy gamble where he did not have the buy-in of the Republican-dominated Alabama Legislature. Bentley appears to be trying to set a stage to push his views.
The governor’s former legal adviser last month formed a 501(c)(4) nonprofit organization called the Alabama Council for Excellent Government, according to incorporation records. Bentley said the purpose of the nonprofit is to push his policy agenda for the remainder of his term.
“The purpose of the nonprofit is for us to be able to get our message out somewhat unfiltered,” Bentley said. “We’ve got a lot of problems we need to solve in this state,” Bentley said.
IRS tax code says that type of nonprofit is supposed to be designed “to promote social welfare.” However, they are also legally allowed to spend significant sums of money on politics as long as influencing elections is not their primary purpose. Unlike political action committees, nonprofits are not required to report donors.
March 29th, 2015
Former Alabama One Credit Union board member aims to file complaint - An Alabama One Credit Union member who mounted an unsuccessful independent candidacy for a seat on the credit union's board of directors said he will file a formal complaint this week with the state agency that regulates credit unions.
"I think I got valid reasons to contest this election," said Jerry Logan, who lost his bid Saturday evening for a seat on the Tuscaloosa-based Alabama One's board of directors at the credit union's annual membership meeting.
Alabama One is one of the state's largest credit unions, with around 60,000 members and more than $600 million in assets.
Its board of directors had renominated three incumbent directors — Larry Sexton, Richard Powell and Danny Harrell — for another three-year term. All three were declared winners at the annual meeting Saturday night at the Bryant Conference Center.
It's unusual for board- nominated candidates to be challenged at annual meetings.
Logan, a former board member, however, turned in 592 nominating cards last month signed by Alabama One members supporting his candidacy. He needed 500 valid cards to be listed as a candidate.
The credit union mailed ballots to its members and asked them to return their marked ballots before the annual meeting.
Logan said he was informed Friday that a count of the mailed ballots showed him losing by a large margin. He said, however, that he believes irregularities occurred with the election. He said that as late as March 24, some credit union employees were telling members they had to vote three of the four candidates for their ballots to be counted — something Logan said was wrong and tainted the outcome.
Alabama One CEO John Dee Carruth said in an email sent Saturday evening that "Alabama One Credit Union is proud to be a membership organization, and we value the fair and open process for selecting the board of directors.
"We take elections very seriously, and the credit union engaged ES&S to conduct this election. ES&S is an independent and very reputable third-party firm that has conducted elections in all 67 counties in Alabama. ES&S developed and distributed the election instructions, received and collected all ballots, and was the sole party to determine the results. We are extremely confident in the process and the results. We are grateful to all members who participated in the election."
Logan mounted his campaign after some Alabama One members complained about the credit union's management and its refusal to take members' questions at last year's annual meeting.
Some also raised questions about the credit union's dealings with former Tuscaloosa County businessman, Danny Ray Butler, who was sent to federal prison last year after he pleaded guilty to defrauding financial institutions out of more than $3 million.
Butler filed personal bankruptcy late last year while in prison. His bankruptcy filing shows him owing Alabama One more than $13 million.
But even before Butler's indictment by federal prosecutors in October 2013, four civil lawsuits were filed by credit union members in Tuscaloosa County Circuit Court. They allege Butler and credit union officials had defrauded the members.
Two of those suits were settled out of court, one was dismissed, and one is still pending. A similar suit was filed earlier this month by another credit union member, and two more civil suits were filed late last week against the credit union and one of its officers.
March 29th, 2015
LEND A HAND: Rubber Duck Derby helps fund children's museum - Rubber ducks will make a big splash today as 3,000 of the plastic birds will take the plunge in a race for top dollars.
The Children’s Hands-On Museum’s ninth annual Rubber Duck Derby will be from 2-5 p.m., featuring rubber ducks racing in the lazy river at the University of Alabama’s Recreation Center.
The derby is one of CHOM’s major fundraisers. The 3,000 rubber ducks in the race have been sold for $5 each. After a series of heats, the top ducks will be placed in a final race where the winner will get $1,000, the second-place winner will receive $500 and the third-place winner will get $250.
Besides the awards for the winning ducks, the person who purchased a lucky numbered duck will win $100,000. A winning number will be chosen before the event and whoever bought the corresponding duck will receive the prize, although the winners do not have to be present to win.
While all of the ducks in the race have been “adopted,” there will still be plenty of activities for families at the derby today. Admission is $5 per person.
There will be carnival games, inflatables, music provided by a disc jockey, a Hula Hoop contest and a “Best Dressed Duckling” contest for youngsters who show up in duck costumes. Ten carnival game tickets were included with the purchase of a duck, but more tickets can be bought at the event, as well as a wristband allowing admission on the inflatables.
“It’s a fun family event to come to,” said Charlotte Gibson, executive director of CHOM. “It’s a good way to help yourself and CHOM.”
Gibson said they hope to raise more than the $24,000 they raised last year. The nonprofit serves 69,000 visitors each year and provides experiences for children to learn through play.
“The Duck Derby is important because it helps fund the programs and activities that help complete our mission,” Gibson said. “We do a tremendous amount of good.”
March 28th, 2015
School News: March 29 - Hillcrest High School annual plant sale will be from 7:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. April 10-11 and 2-5 p.m. April 12.
The plant sale supports the self-contained special needs classroom. The proceeds allow students to go on field trips, restaurant outings and other events in the community.
In addition to plants, painted ceramic pots, cheese trays, stepping stones and other products students made will be for sale.
Plants include tomatoes, peppers and herbs that are grown from seeds. Petunias and geraniums, asparagus ferns and other hanging ferns will be available. The greenhouse is called “Perennial Promises.” The Master Gardeners volunteer and assist students in work.
Layla Bullard, Seth Cartwright, Devon Deerman, Sara Ingle and Chase Luker will represent Davis-Emerson Middle School at the University of Alabama robotics contest on April 11. The students will also serve as mentors to other Davis-Emerson students as Legos are incorporated into the curriculum.
Holy Spirit Catholic School's annual showcase “Stars Fell on Alabama” was Feb. 21. It was directed by music teacher Annie McClendon, with Jackson Colburn and Reagan Washington as emcees.
The Holy Spirit Singers opened the show. Christina Matos played the piano.
There were several family acts, including Sailey Nicols, who sang while her cousins Mason and Carson Gibbs played the guitar and piano. Hannah Kinney sang while her dad, Lance Kinney, played guitar and her cousins, Anna Simon and Emma Schaetzle, sang.
Sisters Annabelle Upton and Ellie Reese Purdy did a baton routine, and triplets Henry, Anna and Kate Pitts sang and played the guitar, tambourine and drums, respectively.
Sisters Rebecca Melton and Olivia Melton also sang. Sadie McClendon played her ukulele while singing, and JJ Horn showed his karate moves while singing. Catherine Kung played the violin.
Kennedy Swift, Madalyn Mitchell, Eve Barnette, Katherine Smith and Avery Wyatt performed a scene from the musical “Annie.” The show's singers also included Avery Lake and Mary Grace Wyatt and Sophie Petrovic.
Henry Pitts played the guitar. Cailyn Garrett did a gymnastics routine, and Pearl Davis twirled a baton. Yasmeen Baumhower did an Indian dance, while Mary Grace Gerkin performed comedy.
Holy Spirit faculty member, parent and former student Dawn Horn juggled. Zan Jones and Maria Phelps, Sophie Livaudais and Isabella Sullivan did vocal performances.
n Several students from Holy Spirit Catholic School in Tuscaloosa placed at the local science fair and moved on to the regional competition held at the University of West Alabama. Regional winners will move on to the state competition held in Huntsville.
Local school fair winners were:
Behavioral science: first place, Lily Rogers, Elena Spence, Jackson York; second place, Emily Campbell, Vivian Elebash, Sophie Livaudais; third place, Mary Catherine Chambliss, Morgan Drake, Brendon Fuller.
Computer science: first place, Zach Davis, Lilly Laubenthal.
Math: first place, Josiah Gleason, Ben Midkiff, Brooke Bassett, Sophie Petrovic; second place, Jayda Grant, Phil McDuff; third place, Maryssa Craig, Drew Gooden.
Chemistry: first place, Mason Mulanix, Caitlin Shortall; second place, Carson Doss, Amelia Hitt, Michael Miller; third place, Eva Farrish, Julia Giggie, Rainer Jones.
Medicine and health: first place, Emma Schaetzle, Rebecca Simon, Alex Williams; second place, Brady Campbell, Grace Ann Lake, Trinity Odongo; third place, Alexie White.
Engineering: first place, Leah Clark, Mason Gibbs, Olivera Kapera, Nick Miller, Haley Thompson; second place, Taylor Channell, Jacob Petrocelli, Della Williams; third place, Marty Maggi, Anna Simon.
Environmental sciences: first place, Searcy Elebash, Eli Sheffer, Zachary Smith; second place, Andie Gamble; third place, Galen Lee.
Plant sciences: first place, Marina Naranjo, Elizabeth Shore, Izzy Sullivan; second place, Jackson Busenitz, Braylin Rhodes, Emily Robertson; third place, Paige Hoffman.
Physics: first place, Kurt Olcmen, Conner Schoolmann, Laura Spence; second place, Mac Chambliss, Preston Grant, Marley Mills; third place, Jeremy Boler, Christian Clark, Marshall Killian, Chace Lake.
Science fair grade-level winners: first place, Mason Gibbs, Zachary Smith, Elena Spence; second place, Brook Bassett, Leah Clark, Olivia Kapera, Haley Thompson, Jackson York; third place, Josiah Gleason, Lily Rogers, Emma Schaetzle.
Overall school winners: first place, Zachary Smith; second place, Elena Spence; third place, Mason Gibbs.
Alabama's top high school culinary arts students competed in Birmingham at Culinard, the culinary institute of Virginia College, to earn top state awards and a possible spot to the upcoming 2015 Family, Career and Community Leaders of America National Leadership Conference in Washington, D.C. Brookwood High School had its first-ever culinary team to compete in the championship this year. Team members were Lena Tatum, right, Leah Wheat and Victoria Nash. The team won a bronze medal in the competition. The event was held March 14.
Members of Tuscaloosa County High School's Sigma Alpha Theta went to Rise School to celebrate the birthday of Dr. Suess on Read Across America Day on March 2. The students read to the students and hosted a birthday party in honor of the famous author. TCHS Adopt-A-School partners, Shelton State and Wells Fargo provided the birthday cake and party supplies.
The Oak Hill Mustangs won the 2015 Special Olympic March Magic state basketball championship. The competition was held March 12-13 in Montgomery. The Mustangs prevailed over the Lee County Tigers, 18-15.From right, team members include captain Isaiah Hatter, equipment manager Martez Cooper, team manager Joshua Robinson, Robert Marshall, David Williams, Edward “E.J.” Odum, Jamarious “J.J.” Sledge and co-captain Alex Fergerson.
March Students of the Month include, from left to right, front row, Meredith Cook, Henry Cull, Hannah Paulette, Austin Shealey, and back row, Delorian Little, Will Baker, Emily Craver and Jared James.
March 28th, 2015
College News: March 29 - The following local residents recently were initiated into the honor society of Phi Kappa Phi, the nation’s oldest and most selective collegiate honor society:
University of Alabama
at Birmingham
Lake View: Casey Gamble
Tuscaloosa: Traci Bies and Heather Booth.
Vernon: Crystal McCoy.
of West Alabama
Coker: Erin Hollingsworth.
Dixon Mills: Ciara Mc
Gordo: Brooke Babb.
Linden: Caitlin Moore.
Livingston: April Atkinson, Edith Caver, Jennifer Crombie, Brianna Jackson, Wenhui Jin, Michael Medley, Zhou Ouyang, Meiyan Pang, Allison Reed, Clifton Sellers, Lauren Tate, Han Wang.
McCalla: Katelyn Hand.
Sulligent: Priscilla Black, Rachel Blaylock.
Sweet Water: Breanna Thompson.
Tuscaloosa: Reenay Rogers, Katie Woods.
Vernon: Keri Rogers.
They are among nearly 32,000 students, faculty, professional staff and alumni to be initiated into Phi Kappa Phi each year.
The University of Montevallo inducted 34 freshmen into Alpha Lambda Delta Honor Society March 19 in Anna Irvin Hall on the UM campus.
To be eligible for induction, the student must rank in the top 20 percent of his or her class and have a grade-point average of 3.5 or better during full-time study in the freshman year.
Seniors who have maintained the required GPA through graduation were also recognized with certificates, and seniors who had the highest GPAs in the group received additional awards.
Inductees included:
Brent: Reggie Holifield.
Lawley: Bridget Smith.
McCalla: Erica Hutchens.
Tuscaloosa: KanJalla Dancer.
West Blocton: Courtney Matson.
Troy University
Nick Motz of Tuscaloosa will take part in the production of “To Kill a Mockingbird” presented by the Troy University Department of Theatre and Dance on April 15-19 at the Troy campus. Motz will play the role of Heck Tate.
School System of Tennessee for 18 years. Her 40-year teaching career began in Grove Hill.
The University of West Alabama honored its top students for their academic achievement and leadership March 18 during the annual Honors Day ceremony. In addition to recognizing student honorees, the university inducted two alumni into the Society of the Golden Key, the highest honor bestowed upon a UWA graduate.
Andrea Scott Mayfield of Livingston and Delise Hall Sanders of Tennessee were honored for their achievements in higher education administration and in elementary education.
Mayfield graduated from the UWA (then Livingston University) in 1994, earning a bachelor of science in biology. She earned the master of arts in teaching for biological sciences two years later. After teaching biology at Alabama Southern Community College and at East Mississippi Community College for nearly a decade, Mayfield filled administrative roles at EMCC. She pursued a doctor of philosophy in community college leadership from Mississippi State University in May 2009.
She now serves as president of Shelton State Community College in Tuscaloosa.
Mayfield has received several awards and honors for her service. She is a two-time presidential scholarship recipient for the Education Policy Fellowship Program. She is also a scholarship recipient of the Mississippi Community College Leadership Academy and from UWA, Mayfield received an Alumni Achievement Award from the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics in October 2011.
Delise Hall Sanders is a three-time graduate of the University of West Alabama (then Livingston University). In 1974, she received a bachelor of science in elementary and early childhood education, followed by a 1976 master of education in elementary education and a 1981 education specialist degree in elementary education. She retired in 2014 after teaching in the Sumner County
March 28th, 2015
Seven shot and injured at Florida spring break house party - PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Seven people were injured, some critically, during an early-morning spray of gunfire Saturday at a spring break party on the Florida Panhandle, police said. An Alabama man was quickly apprehended and charged with attempted murder.
Multiple 911 calls flooded in just before 1 a.m., reporting the shootings at the house party in Panama City Beach, and deputies found a sprawling crime scene with victims inside the home, outside and across the street from it, and in the street’s median, the Bay County Sheriff’s Office said.
Officers set up a perimeter and found a suspect matching witnesses’ description. David Jamichael Daniels, 22, of Mobile, Alabama, was charged with seven counts of attempted murder and jailed awaiting a first court appearance. A .40-caliber handgun believed to have been used was found in the yard of a nearby home.
By sunset on Saturday new renters, a family with Indiana license plates, had moved into the three-story, vacation-rental home located several blocks off the beach. The family did not want to talk to the media but said they were aware that multiple people had been shot inside the home less than 24 hours earlier.
Dozens of cases of beer filled the front porch of a neighboring house where loud music thumped inside. The young spring breakers renting the house said they were aware of the shooting but felt safe because it was not a random attack and the assailant was in jail.
Sheriff Frank McKeithen said a busy party full of dancing young people dissolved into “a chaotic scene.” Daniels was free on bond on a drug possession charge in Alabama, the sheriff said, and was accompanied by two others, one who had been recovering from a gunshot wound suffered in Mobile last week.
The two companions to the accused shooter were questioned but not charged. A woman who declined to give her name answered the phone at the home of Daniels’ relatives and said the family would not comment on the shooting.
At least three were critically injured: Kearria Freed, 20, who was shot in the head; Devanta Moore, 21, who was shot in the chest; and Henton Franklin, 22, who was shot in the side. Three others were listed in stable condition: Jacole Young, 22, who police said was shot in the back three times; Kelli Curry, 21, who was shot in the leg; and Tykeria Ethridge, 22, who was shot in the neck and shoulder.
A seventh victim — Anesia Powell, 20 — was shot in the left arm, chest, and knee, and was undergoing surgery Saturday. No condition was given.
Three of the victims — Freed, Curry and Powell — are students from Alabama A&M University who were in Panama City Beach for spring break, university spokesman Jerome Saintjones said. He said investigators in Florida told the university police department the students were innocent bystanders.
University officials were sending staff to Panama City Beach to assist the victims.
McKeithen said hundreds of people have been arrested in recent weeks in and around Panama City during its raucous spring break celebrations. The masses of college students bring a parallel migration of unsavory visitors to the area and, combined with heavy consumption of alcohol, pose a huge challenge to officers, he said.
“We have a recipe for disaster,” he said.
Eddie Tarter shares his back fence with the rental home. Tarter, who played ball with his young son in his driveway Saturday, has lived in the neighborhood for 16 years. He said he has had problems before with loud parties at the house.
“Never anything like this though,” he said.
Despite the shooting, Tarter said he isn’t against spring break.
“This is usually a quiet neighborhood.”
Neighbor William Payne, who has lived in the neighborhood since 2002, said he had called the police many times because of loud parties at the house.
“I heard all the screaming and sirens last night and I didn’t think anything of it at first because it is spring break.”
Elsewhere along Panama City Beach, the party continued Saturday as hundreds of kids cruised up and down the main road, strolled the beach and gathered at hotel swimming pools.
March 28th, 2015
Coast Guard will offer boating safety course in Cottondale in April - The West Alabama Flotilla of the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary will offer the “About Boating Safely” course to area residents in April.
The course consists of two classes, which will be taught Thursday, April 9, and Tuesday, April 14, both from
6-9 p.m. at Hide-A-Way Harbor Boat Sales, 5335 Skyland Blvd. E., Cottondale.
Cost is $20 and includes textbook. Attendance at both classes is required to graduate.
The course fulfills the education requirement to obtain the Alabama boating license.
Advanced enrollment is recommended as there is a limit of 30 students.
To enroll now, contact Ward W. McFarland at 750-0066. Limited enrollment to fill remaining spots will be April 9 from 5:30-6 p.m. at Hide-A-Way Harbor Boat Sales.
March 28th, 2015
Tuscaloosa streets will be swept - Tuscaloosa street crews will sweep the following general areas this week: 15th Street to 29th Street; Fosters Ferry to Dinah Washington Avenue; Brown Circle; 16th Street to Ash Street; all streets and avenues east of Dinah Washington to Greensboro Avenue; Exchange Avenue; 28th Street to 32nd Street; 40th Avenue to 43rd Avenue; Ozment Road; The Glen; Cherrystone; Gresham Circle; Willow Lane; 20th to 24th Avenue East; 56th, 57th, and 58th streets east; Second Court East; 23rd and 24th courts east; 25th and 26th avenues east; 37th and 38th places east; 39th Street East; 44th and 48th street east; 21st Avenue East; Jug Factory Lane; 10th Avenue and 10th Court East; 51st to 54th street east; Royal Oaks Court; Claybrook; Claymont Circle; Freemont Drive; Eastwood Drive, (east side of Kicker Road to University Boulevard); Third Street Northeast; 20th, 22nd, 23rd avenues northeast: Fourth Place East: Fifth, Sixth, Seventh streets east; Veterans Parkway to Loop Road; Kicker Road to 29th Avenue East; Lavera Drive; Cribbs Mill Circle; Circlewood; Cross Creek Drive; 27th Street East; Pine Hills; Valley View Lane; Valley Crest Road; Covey Chase; Vicksburg Drive; Riverdale Lane; Ridgedale Drive; Second Avenue Northeast; Woodridge Drive; Woodridge Road; Harmony Lane; Ridgeland; Yorktown Drive; Arbor Ridge Road; Windy Ridge; and Pinbrook Lane.
Residents in these areas are asked not to park on the street.
March 28th, 2015
Renasant Bank ribbon-cutting for new building is Tuesday - Renasant Bank will have a ribbon-cutting ceremony Tuesday for its new two-story 10,000-square-foot building at 2518 University Blvd., in downtown Tuscaloosa.
U.S. Richard Shelby, R-Tuscaloosa, executives from Renasant Corp., which is based in Tupelo, Miss., and local dignitaries are expected to attend the 9:30 a.m. event.
BDG Architects designed the new building; Rives Construction Co. served as general contractor; and Harrison Construction of Tuscaloosa oversaw the demolition of an old building at the site and did site preparation.
The new building has a full-service banking office with consumer and commercial banking, treasury management, wealth management, mortgage, commercial loans and small business lending. It includes safe deposit boxes, drive-through tellers and a 24-hour drive-up ATM.
Renasant Corp. is the parent of Renasant Bank and Renasant Insurance. Renasant is a 111-year-old financial institution with about $5.8 billion in assets. It operates more than 120 banking, mortgage, financial services and insurance offices in Mississippi, Tennessee, Alabama and Georgia.
March 28th, 2015
Big Brothers Big Sisters of West Alabama hosting banquet - Big Brothers Big Sisters of West Alabama will host a Shining Stars banquet at 6 p.m. April 7 at the Cypress Inn Pavilion, 501 Rice Mine Road N., to educate the community about the organization’s efforts to change children’s lives through relationships with mentors.
Danielle McInerney, Big Brothers Big Sisters executive director, said this event will demonstrate the importance of mentoring by allowing “Littles,” the children who benefit from the program, to give testimonies about their experience with their “Big” or mentor.
“It’s a way to showcase the importance of our program and the impact it has on our children and therefore the community,” McInerney said.
Gene Stallings, a former University of Alabama head football coach, and Jay Deas, coach for World Boxing Council Heavyweight Champion Deontay Wilder, will speak about the importance of mentoring.
McInerney said children in the program benefit from having a mentor who will spend time with them, which makes the children want to do better in school and in the community. It leads to lower crime rates in the future, she said.
“It’s a ripple effect,” McInerney said. “It helps improve grades. It improves our schools. Their risky behavior drastically decreases.”
After one year in the mentoring program, 67 percent of children showed a decrease in risky behavior, she said.
McInerney said it costs the organization about $800 to maintain a child-to-mentor relationship for one year. She said it costs taxpayers around $1,400 to incarcerate a criminal for one year. Less money now will benefit the community in the future, she said.
Ticket are $100 for the banquet which includes dinner. All proceeds from the dinner will go to the the local Big Brothers Big Sisters to help match mentors to children.
To purchase tickets, call Big Brothers Big Sisters of West Alabama at 758-5734 or go online to www.bbbswestal.org.
March 28th, 2015
Legislation could make Alabama more competitive in recruiting industries - Five bills working their way through the Alabama Legislature could revamp the way the state recruits new industries and make Alabama more competitive in its hunt for those industries, according the state’s top industry recruiter.
Greg Canfield, Alabama’s secretary of commerce, said Thursday in Tuscaloosa that one of the bills — the Alabama Reinvestment and Abatements Act — has been passed by both the House and Senate and is awaiting Gov. Robert Bentley’s signature. Two other bills in the jobs incentive package have been passed by the House and are now awaiting action in the Senate. The two final bills have sponsors in the House but are awaiting action in that chamber. If approved by the House, the bills will then go to the Senate for consideration.
“What we are doing in the way of incentives (for attracting new and expanding industries) is taking a new approach that will make us more competitive with other states and foreign countries,” Canfield told members of the Tuscaloosa County Industrial Development Authority. “We are competing not only with 49 states but internationally, particularly with Mexico.”
The effort to bring new industries and jobs is a global battle, he said.
“Mexico is the beneficiary of a number of projects in the auto industry to the chagrin of the Southeast and the state of Alabama,” he said.
The legislation will also have incentives for industries doing research and development particularly if they partner with state universities, he said.
Here is a brief look at the five legislative proposals:
- Alabama Reinvestment and Abatements Act has passed both Houses, and Bentley is expected to sign it into law. It would give the state and local industrial development authorities, like TCIDA, the option of offering sales and property tax abatements for up to 20 years to new and expanding industries, to help them recover part of their investment. The abatements now are capped at 10 years. Existing industries that spend at least $2 to refurbish, upgrade or place a closed facility back into services also will be eligible for incentives.
- Alabama Jobs Act has passed the House and is awaiting consideration in the Senate. It would allow industries creating at least 50 new jobs to receive a partial tax credits for new jobs and new investment. Companies in chemical manufacturing, data centers, engineering, design and research projects could claim the partial tax credits for any number of new jobs and would not have to meet the 50 job requirement.
- Alabama Veterans and Rural Jobs Act has passed the House and is awaiting consideration in the Senate. It would grant additional incentives to industries creating at least 25 new jobs by locating in rural counties, which the state defines at less developed and with less than 50,000 population. Canfield said counties in central West Alabama that could benefit from the incentives are Greene, Hale, Perry, Lamar, Fayette and Sumter. Businesses in rural and non-rural counties could get tax credits for hiring military veterans for newly created jobs.
- Alabama Early Stage Investment Act awaits consideration in the House. It would grant state tax credits to qualified smaller, new business for their investment in the state.
- Alabama Innovation Act awaits consideration in the House. It would create a research and development tax credit. A 5 percent credit could be taken on research costs incurred in Alabama. A 25 percent credit could be granted if the research is conducted through a state university, Southern Research Institute in Birmingham or HudsonAlpha Institute of Biotechnology in Huntsville. “We want the private sector to partner with our universities,” Canfield said. “It will help attract engineering students to our universities including the University of Alabama.”
March 28th, 2015
Tuscaloosa Kiwanis Club Pancake Day fundraiser - 28912
March 28th, 2015
Berry man killed in wreck - One Berry man was killed and another injured in a single-vehicle crash early Saturday morning in Tuscaloosa County, according to the Alabama state troopers.
Justin Wayne Farr, 22, was killed when the 2013 Dodge Ram he was driving left the road and struck two trees.
Joshua Lee Pendley, 22, also of Berry, was injured in the wreck and taken to University of Alabama at Birmingham Hospital for treatment.
The wreck happened at 4:45 a.m. Saturday on Tuscaloosa County Road 38, which is 19.5 miles north of Northport.
Troopers are continuing to investigate the wreck.
Berry is a town in Fayette County, which borders Tuscaloosa County to the north.
March 28th, 2015
Air show educates, entertains - Roman Upshaw sat on the wing of his white, blue and gray sky-camouflaged Yak-52 Russian military trainer airplane Saturday, watching as vintage planes and smoke streaks filled the sky at the Tuscaloosa Regional Air Show.
Upshaw's plane sat at the end of a long line of Russian-designed aircraft in the static display lot, which held aircraft such as a 1936 Lockheed 12A Electra Jr, a 1941 Beech AT-11, a 1974 Scottish Aviation Bulldog and a Douglas AC-47 Gunship among others.
Upshaw said he flew from his personal landing strip in Mobile to display his plane "to educate people, to introduce people to aviation, (and) hopefully, get some kids interested in aviation and help them to have fun."
"That's the point — to share the history, get people interested in it the way we are, to see the kids smile and answer questions," Upshaw said.
Several aircraft were set up for tours Saturday as people walked the grounds of the Tuscaloosa Regional Airport to view the static displays and see more than 15 performing aircraft, including the U.S. Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron, the Blue Angels.
The two-day air show will continue today, with gates opening at 10 a.m. at the Tuscaloosa Regional Airport, 7601 Robert Cardinal Road.
Marine Corps 1st Lt. Ian Clutch, who flew into town from North Carolina on a MV-22 Osprey, said the static displays teach people about how the aircraft operate and what they're used for.
Clutch said the Osprey, which was deployed in Afghanistan on active duty last year, is used to move troops and supplies.
He said touring the aircraft teaches people what the Marines do, how they deploy and fight. He added that the aircraft can also inspire younger people to pursue a career in aviation.
"We're doing it for educational purposes really, to show the public where their tax dollars are going and the capabilities of this aircraft and everything we do with it," Clutch said. "It's definitely what got me to start flying because I loved air shows when I was growing up."
Clutch said he toured a B-17 Flying Fortress at an air show as a kid and fell in love.
Jesse Bingham, 14, from Duncanville toured the Osprey on Saturday. He said his favorite part of the air show was being able to tour some of the planes because he wants to fly planes in the military when he grows up.
"I actually like learning about them because I've always had an interest in planes," Jesse said.
The Osprey will be open for tour today on static display along with multiple other aircraft.
Seven-year-old twins Ansley and Gibson Baker from Priceville toured the Osprey as well.
"I like that they've got some you can get in and look inside of them," Gibson Baker said.
Their mother, Margaret Baker, said she grew up next to Patrick Air Force Base in Cocoa Beach, Fla., where many military planes similar to the ones on display flew over her house.
She said it made her happy to be able to bring her children to their first air show so they could be educated about military history and experience firsthand the patriotism of the military servicemen, women and veterans in attendance.
"It's important to us that they appreciate the soldiers who have fought for our country," Baker said.
March 28th, 2015
Online vote set for free marketing campaign - Online voters will decide which of three Tuscaloosa nonprofit agencies will win free marketing services from an advertising agency with offices in Tuscaloosa and Huntsville.
The three finalists for TotalCamp Creative are:
-- Caring Days, a day program for adults with Alzheimer’s and other memory disorder.
-- West Alabama AIDS Outreach, which provides a range of services for people living with HIV or AIDS.
-- Whatley Health Services, a community health center that provides care to the medically underserved.
TotalCamp Creative is a 24-hour branding retreat hosted by TotalCom Marketing to refresh the marketing efforts of one local nonprofit group.
During the weekend of April 24-26, all TotalCom employees — including account executives, media specialists and graphic designers from the Huntsville and Tuscaloosa offices — will gather to combine their talents.
Online voting will determine the agency selected from the three finalists. People can vote on the TotalCom Marketing website, totalcommarketing.com, beginning at 8 a.m. Monday and ending at 8 p.m. Friday. Voters will be limited to one vote per day. The organization with the most votes at the end of voting period will benefit from the weekend branding effort.
TotalCom is a full-service marketing, advertising and branding firm representing brands throughout the Southeast.
For more information, call Jimmy Warren at 345-7363 or email jwarren@totalcommarketing.com.
March 28th, 2015
Jobless rate in Tuscaloosa falls to 4.8 percent - Tuscaloosa County’s unemployment rate fell to 4.8 percent in February. The rate was 5.3 percent in January and 6.8 percent in February 2014.
Alabama’s official unemployment rate for February was 5.8 percent, compared with 6 percent in January and 7.2 percent in February 2014. Unlike the county rate, the official state rate is seasonally adjusted.
“February data released this (Friday) morning looks slightly better than the January data that came out last week,” said Ahmad Ijaz, director of economic forecasting at UA’s Center for Business and Economic Research.
“Total employment also increased, and the overall number of unemployed dropped from 128,433 to 123,293,” he said.
The University of Alabama economist noted that over 12 months, ending in February, the state added around 37,900 jobs. A survey of state employers, known as the establishment survey, showed transportation equipment manufacturers added 3,200 new workers. Most job gains were in the leisure and hospitality sector with 8,600 new jobs, followed by professional and business services with 7,500 new jobs and educational and health services with 5,900 new jobs.
Ijaz said the Tuscaloosa metro area also has seen improvement in both the number of jobs and the size of its labor force over last year.
“Over the 12-month period ending in February 2015, the metro area (Tuscaloosa, Greene and Hale counties) gained 5,100 jobs with 1,400 jobs in manufacturing.”
In the metro area, professional and business services added around 1,400 jobs, leisure and hospitality, around 900 jobs, and retailing around 600 jobs, he said.
“Alabama’s February unemployment rate is very good news for our state,” said Gov. Robert Bentley in a prepared statement.
“This month’s drop contributes to the 15-month trend we’ve seen with no increase in unemployment. Over 2 million Alabamians are working — the most since 2008. Our economy supported more jobs in February than it has during the same period since 2008. We also experienced a significant increase in construction jobs, which bodes well for the state’s economic health,” he said.
All 67 counties experienced unemployment rate decreases both month over month and during the 12-month period.
March 28th, 2015
Annual plant sale set April 4 at Kentuck Art Center in Northport - The Tuscaloosa chapter of the Alabama Wildflower Society will hold its annual plant sale from
8 a.m. until 2 p.m. April 4 at the courtyard at the Kentuck Art Center in Northport.
“The harsh winter weather has been hard for many local growers, but we still expect to have a large selection,” said Nancy Campbell, president of the local chapter.
“There will be lots of shrubs and trees for sale,” she said, “dogwoods, redbuds, butterfly bushes, native hydrangeas and several varieties of both native azaleas and blueberry bushes.”
Plants from several area growers will be available, in addition to plants grown by members of the Tuscaloosa chapter of the Alabama Wildflower Society.
Past plant sales have included various ferns, herbs, day lilies, bulbs and colorful ground covers.
Most of the proceeds from the sale will fund college scholarships for botany majors at Alabama colleges and universities. A portion of the proceeds will also benefit the University of Alabama Arboretum and the Cahaba Lily Society.
“As always, this sale will take place rain or shine,” Campbell said. “However, you should get there early for the best selections. here's usually a line waiting at 8 a.m. because we have some of the lowest prices to be found in this area.”
March 28th, 2015
Funeral set for Robert T. Wade, who opened first black-owned printing firm in Tuscaloosa - A funeral will be held at noon today for Robert Wade, the owner of Tuscaloosa's first black-owned printing company.
Wade died March 22 at the age of 94.
“He taught me what a real man should be — a protector, a provider and also an instructor,” said Valerie Barron, Wade's granddaughter. “He was just an awesome person all around.”
In 1943, Wade was drafted into the Navy, where he served for two years. He then went to college at Alabama A&M Institute — now Alabama A&M University — where he graduated.
Shortly afterward, he began working at the Alabama Citizen, a black-owned newspaper in Tuscaloosa. That's where he learned the printing business.
In 1953, he started his own printing company in the same building as the Alabama Citizen. He ran Wade Printing Co. until March 13 of this year, which is when he fell ill.
“He worked there until he died,” said Archie Wade, 75, the eldest of Robert Wade's seven children. “It was remarkable that he was able to keep going to the printing press and work.”
His friend Danny Steele, 65, said Robert Wade never upgraded his printing press to utilize more modern technology. For 61 years, he stuck with the good, old-fashioned press equipment he started off with.
“He never did color,” Steele said. “Just stayed with basic black-and-white printing. He did offset printing with no computerized printing equipment.”
Steele, who met Robert Wade when he was a bat boy for Wade's Little League and Pony League baseball teams, said his best memories of his mentor were when he would go into his printing shop to print obituaries for his business, Van Hoose and Steele Funeral Home and Cremation Services.
“My fondest memories with Mr. Wade were the advice he would give me about business, life in general and how to provide for your family,” he said. “So many days he would print obituaries for my funeral home and at the same time he would talk to me for three hours about life. He was always positive. He may have got angry, but I never saw him angry.
“He was a mentor for the entire west side of Tuscaloosa. Mr. Wade was a coach and role model for all of the kids.”
Archie Wade, who played professional baseball for the St. Louis Cardinals from 1964 to 1967 and was the first black faculty member at the University of Alabama in 1970, said he couldn't have asked for a better father.
“Mother passed in 2004, and since then, my relationship with my father has been the best I could have hoped for,” he said. “We always had a close relationship. He always helped me in terms of giving advice. He was just always there for me. That's my fondest memory is that he was always there for me. And I, in turn, tried to always be there for him.
“Whenever Daddy would call, I would make sure I'd stop doing whatever I was doing to take care of his needs. I did that because that's what he did for us growing up. Whatever we needed, he provided for us. Also, almost any topic that I or he would bring up, we could talk about it. I was amazed about the knowledge he had on various topics from sports to the economy to the government. I'll miss those conversations.”
Robert Wade's only other son, Harold Wade, 73, also played professional baseball. From 1963 to 1966, he played for the Minnesota Twins and the Boston Red Sox.
He said it was his dad's coaching style that helped grow his baseball skills.
“There are some things that I will never forget,” he said. “He coached us in softball, but also played alongside of us, my brother and I. He was not just a father to us but to a whole lot of folks who didn't have fathers. I'm proud of that, and I can attest to the fact that it was true.
“He had time for everybody. While he owned and operated his own printing business in at least three locations in Tuscaloosa, he still had time for everybody. Strangers that would walk in, they couldn't leave his shop before getting all the news. It was sort of like (the television show) 'Cheers.' He did so much to reconnect and socialize with people who had lived here before who had gone up North or to the West. They would always come back to his shop and they would catch up on things, and he would catch up on things with them. He was something.
“I only had that one father, but he was plenty enough for me. He was like a brother to me and Archie. He was both a good father and almost like an older peer.”
In addition to coaching youth baseball, Robert Wade was a deacon at Weeping Mary Baptist Church, taught tennis at the YMCA, played golf and loved to play games, like dominoes and pinochle.
Robert Wade's funeral will be held at noon today at Weeping Mary. His burial will follow at Cedar Oak Memorial Park in Tuscaloosa.
He is survived by six children, 27 grandchildren, 46 great-grandchildren and six great-great-grandchildren.
Reach Jamon Smith at jamon.smith@tuscaloosanews.com or 205-722-0204.
March 28th, 2015
University Medical Center to expand evening hours in April - The University Medical Center, which is operated by the University of Alabama College of Community Health Sciences, will expand its evening hours beginning April 6.
The center will be open from 5:30 to 8 p.m. Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays for scheduled appointments and urgent care for new and established patients.
The center has been open on Tuesday and Thursday evenings for established patients who need urgent or walk-in care. Last year, University Medical Center opened those hours to established and new patients to schedule appointments to see doctors for routine health care services.
To make an appointment, call 348-1770. The center is at 850 Fifth Ave. E.
March 28th, 2015
Eggs-citing times: Easter egg hunts slated this weekend in Tuscaloosa - Here's a roundup of Easter egg hunts scheduled Saturday and Sunday in Tuscaloosa:
-- EggFest: 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday, 11300 Terrapin Lane, Northport. Includes an egg hunt with 5,000 eggs, petting zoo, activity booths, an appearance by the Easter Bunny, bake sale and refreshments. Egg hunt for ages up to 4 will be at noon, ages 5-8 will be at 1 p.m. and ages 9-12 will be at 2 p.m. Admission is $5 per person. The event is sponsored by the Canine Compassion Fund.
-- Midtown Village’s Eggstravaganza: 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday on the Green at Midtown Village, 1800 McFarland Blvd. First 300 children will receive a free Easter basket. Children will be divided into three age groups for the Easter egg hunt: 3-4 years old, 5-7 years old and 7-10 years old. There will be free shaved ice, face painting, crafts, inflatable bounce houses and a slide.
-- Alabama Panhellenic Association egg hunt: 2 p.m. Sunday on the front lawn of the President’s Mansion on the University of Alabama campus for children 12 years old and younger. Refreshments from Bama Dining will be available. There will also be candy-filled eggs and a face-painting station. The Easter Bunny will be on hand for photographs with the kids. Parking will be available behind Sorority Row. No parking will be allowed in the lot behind the President’s Mansion. For more information about the event, visit online at www.ua panhellenic.com.
-- Tuscaloosa Belles Easter Egg Hunt: 3-5 p.m. Sunday, Battle-Friedman House, 1010 Greensboro Ave., Tuscaloosa. Includes egg hunt, visits with the Easter Bunny, games and prizes, a petting zoo from Tuscaloosa Barnyard and a raffle for adults. Admission is $5 per adult, first two children are free, $2 for each additional child.
March 28th, 2015
Planning officials hope they've dialed up best Tuscaloosa Regional Air Show yet - With ticket sales for the Tuscaloosa Regional Air Show already exceeding the city's expectations, officials are expecting this year's event to be the best-attended one yet.
As of Friday morning, more than $75,000 had been generated by the sale of tickets and ticket packages for the two-day event that starts today.
This is key, said Deidre Stalnaker, media relations coordinator for City Hall, because the city tries to ensure the air show is not a burden to taxpayers.
"We need this to pay for itself," Stalnaker said.
The first Tuscaloosa Air Show in 2009 was successful but also a learning experience, as city officials underestimated its popularity and, subsequently, were not fully prepared for the overflowing crowd. The town and visitors loved the show, but traffic was snarled for miles as vehicles remained bogged for hours in slow-moving lines.
This called for the plan to be re-analyzed and, by the 2010 air show, the traffic flow was much improved. However, crowds were off a bit that year, so city officials weren't quite sure whether the ease in movement was because of better planning or lighter demand, but they continued to make improvements.
In 2012, the people-moving process — city officials had studied how Disney World, where crowd pleasing is paramount, performs these operations — was refined even more, with attendees praising a shuttle service that had them to and from the event within half an hour.
These practices will again be put to the test today, as large crowds are expected to turn out based on pre-sold tickets and an excellent weather forecast.
According to the latest data Stalnaker had available, almost 5,000 tickets had already been sold for today's air show.
For Sunday, the ticket sales were at about 2,350.
Tickets remain available either through TicketMaster or they will be available at the gate. On the day of the show, the cost rises to $10 for those 13 and older. General admission for kids 12 and younger is free.
However, the air show's popularity guarantees traffic snarls, and city officials are urging attendees to use one of the three transit sites that have been established.
These free shuttles operate throughout the event, allowing attendees to come and go as they wish.
"The shuttles continuously run," Stalnaker said. "You should not have to wait very long, if at all."
The shuttle locations are:
-- The intermodal facility parking deck at Sixth Street and 23rd Avenue in downtown Tuscaloosa.
-- The Kmart parking lot at 635 Skyland Blvd.
-- Tuscaloosa County High School at 12500 Wildcat Drive in Northport.
Another reason to consider the shuttles is that certain roads near the Tuscaloosa Regional Airport will be closed either for the entire event or at different periods during the performances, Stalnaker said.
For example, Robert Cardinal Drive adjacent to the airport will be closed to all traffic except for chalet ticket holders. These $50 tickets come with a parking pass and access to this road.
Parking and transit issues aside, the weather is supposed to be perfect for both days of the show.
Today's weather will see highs in the low 50s, while Sunday's high will be in the upper 60s.
Gates will open at 10 a.m. both days at the Tuscaloosa Regional Airport, 7601 Robert Cardinal Airport Road.
For more information, go to www.tuscaloosaregionalair show.com or call 248-5311.
Reach Jason Morton at jason.morton@tuscaloosanews.com or 205-722-0200.
March 28th, 2015
Tuscaloosa County Preservation Society gets letter from time of city's birth - On Friday, a piece of Tuscaloosa's early history as an incorporated city returned home.
Descendants of John Coffee, a noted land surveyor and developer who served under Andrew Jackson in the War of 1812, on Friday donated one of his letters to the Tuscaloosa County Preservation Society.
The framed letter, dated March 12, 1820, is from Tuscaloosa resident John Doxy, seeking Coffee's help in designing the newly incorporated city of Tuscaloosa. Tuscaloosa was incorporated and made the county seat on Dec. 13, 1819, a day before Alabama was admitted to the Union. By 1826, Tuscaloosa was designated as the state capital.
The creased and yellowed letter bears the script that marks the beginning of Tuscaloosa's design.
Coffee's descendant, John Coffee O'Neal, donated the letter, while O'Neal's sister, Louise Tucker, and niece, Marie Tucker, were in Tuscaloosa on Friday to present the letter to the Preservation Society. O'Neal, who lives in New York state, was unable to attend the presentation.
"It's really an honor to be able to contribute to the Preservation Society and in essence be a part of history itself," said Marie Tucker, a senior at the University of Alabama. "We have discovered the history, we're a part of the history and we want others to know about it."
For years, the framed letter has been hanging in O'Neal's house in New York. Louise Tucker said her brother wanted to give the letter a meaningful home so more people can appreciate its history.
"He wanted it to be left where it could be used to its greatest value," Louise Tucker said. "It's exciting to be a part of it and to be able to share it."
History and heritage are proud factors in both Tuckers' lives. Louise Tucker can give a detailed account of the men who descended from Coffee and how they've made a contribution to the state of Alabama. Their family owns a house in Florence on land that was surveyed by their ancestor, which has been used by generations in their family. Marie Tucker said she's excited to offer a piece of Tuscaloosa's history since the city has come to mean so much to her.
"It connects me even more to Alabama, which is cool because I love the state and the beauty of it," Marie Tucker said. "It's incredible to have a connection to its history."
The framed letter will be a part of the Preservation Society's new history hall. Katherine Richter, executive director of the Tuscaloosa County Preservation Society, said the letter will be a valuable asset to the collection, adding another link to the past.
"It gives one more avenue of insight into our past," Richter said. "It's interesting to see. There's so much more personality expressed in these documents."
The exhibit will be in the Jemison-Van de Graaff Mansion on Greensboro Avenue. Richter said it will serve to promote historical places to visit in Tuscaloosa and display some of the society's collection. While Richter said the society is not equipped to store a lot of artifacts or restore damaged ones, the society aims to educate people about the historical heritage in Tuscaloosa.
"We're going to be an available place for people visiting the city to find out about the history here," Richter said. "We want to show where we come from and where we are today because of it."
March 28th, 2015
The hovering Tide: UA, Auburn meet Saturday in the 'Iron Bowl' of hovercraft - Even though the calendar says it's March, it's Iron Bowl time again in Tuscaloosa. This matchup is of the hovercraft variety, an aircraft that can travel across smooth surfaces of land or water while being propelled by air pushed beneath the vehicle.
The University of Alabama hovercraft team will compete against the Hovering Tigers of Auburn University in the third annual University Hoverbowl Challenge. The challenge will take place at Lake Lurleen State Park in Coker beginning at 9 a.m. Saturday and ending at 6 p.m. Admission to the state park is $4 per person.
This race is formatted in three one-hour endurance heats. The first heat will begin at 11:30 a.m., followed by the second heat at 1:15 p.m. and the third heat at 3 p.m.
The competition is based on the number of laps each hovercraft will take and is not technically contingent on speed.
“The goal is not necessarily to be the fastest out there, but to have the most reliable machine,” said Jacob Wilroy, senior aerospace engineering and mechanics major at UA.
Teams will be required to make at least two pit stops to refuel or change drivers. Hovercraft Club of America members outside of the two universities will be able to ride in the challenge as well, but those teams will be scored separately.
Wilroy said a future goal is to expand the challenge to other colleges or even high schools.
Hovercrafts are known for being loud machines, and at the end of the day, each vehicle's sound level will be evaluated. As a part of the scoring, the hovercrafts will earn additional points for each decibel below 93. Making a quieter machine is a design goal for hovercraft builders in part because noise complaints have postponed races in some parts of the world.
The UA hovercraft team said noise was not a top priority for their hovercraft this year, but they did make a few changes. Last year's hovercraft used a propeller. This year, the vehicle will use a fan. The duct is detachable so that next year's team can make improvements and add material that will absorb the sound.
“It's a two-semester project,” said Amber Deja, senior aerospace engineering and mechanics major. “We started with design and choosing all our materials in the fall. We started constructing it over Christmas break.”
They believe their vehicle will take between 30 and 40 laps per hourlong heat. The team plans to take three crafts with them to the lake. Two of the vehicles meet the challenge's requirements for competition and one will be used for fun to give the underclassmen experience.
UA's team has been around for the past three years and is composed of senior students as part of the engineering department's design teams.
“As the college of engineering has grown, there has been an increasing need for more senior design teams,” Wilroy said. “That's what we are, a senior design team in the aerospace engineering department, and it's part of the curriculum that we join a senior design team.”
Auburn's team has been around since 2003 and is made up of a number of different engineering and design students who come together and use a fiber engineering hall to construct their hovercrafts.
Ken Gano, the Southeast representative of the Hovercraft Club of America, has been in charge of the challenge since it started three years ago. He enjoys coming back each year and seeing what the teams have created.
“It's the satisfaction of having them build it and see it run,” Gano said. “I was very impressed this year.”
Part of the funding the UA team received was through grants. One of those grants was provided by the Alabama Space Grant Consortium and includes an outreach program as part of the grant. The UA hovercraft team will be able to take the hovercraft to high schools in the Black Belt region and show them the opportunities available at Alabama. The team has also helped the Tuscaloosa Magnet Schools with their Canstructure project, in which students build structures out of donated canned goods.
Wilroy is looking forward to the race today, saying that it will probably be his favorite part of the project because of his dirt bike racing background.
Deja has so far been most excited about putting her education into practice.
“I've never built anything on this large of a scale,” Deja said. “I think it's interesting and exciting to actually build something using what you've learned in class. Instead of just sitting in class all day, you actually get to build something, and drive it, and see it work right in front of your eyes.”
March 28th, 2015
Jewish Food Festival set for April 19 - The Sisterhood of Temple Emanu-El will host its second annual Jewish Food Festival on April 19.
The festival will feature boxed lunches for $10 to $12 or a sampler bar for $5.
These boxed lunches will be available:
-A brisket platter featuring Jewish-style roasted and sliced beef brisket, potato kugel (a traditional casserole) and vinegar-based coleslaw
-A deli sandwich box featuring corned beef on rye bread, slaw, chips and a pickle
- A Mediterranean sandwich box featuring fresh falafel with pita, hummus and tabboleh
The sampler bar will feature matzah ball soup, stuffed grape leaves, challah, bagels and lox, kugel (a noodle casserole), and blintzes (cheese filled crepes). It will also feature traditional Jewish sweets, such as macaroons, baklava, rugelach and hamantashen.
The food festival will be held from noon until 2 p.m. April 19 at the temple, 809 Fourth Ave., one block south of University Boulevard near the Paul W. Bryant Museum.
For more information, email Pam DeWitt at k.dewitt@comcast.net or call 349-4502.
March 27th, 2015
Federal charge for ex-cop in confrontation with Indian man - BIRMINGHAM, Ala. | A former Alabama police officer has been charged with violating the civil rights of an Indian man who was injured during a violent confrontation in February, authorities said Friday.
Former Madison police officer Eric Sloan Parker is charged with using unreasonable force that left Sureshbhai Patel hospitalized. He was slammed face-first to the ground in the confrontation, which was captured on video.
Parker will plead not guilty, defense attorney Robert Tuten said.
"We are shocked, disappointed and overwhelmed by all the ways Eric Parker is coming under attack," Tuten said in an email. "However, we are looking forward to seeing the indictment and having our day in court."
But U.S. Attorney Joyce Vance said people "must be able to trust the police."
"Law enforcement officers who violate their oath to protect and use excessive force must be brought to justice," she said in a statement.
Patel was visiting relatives when police were called to a suburban neighborhood where he was walking Feb. 6. The 57-year-old grandfather's injuries included partial paralysis.
Parker, 26, of Toney has since been fired and faces a state assault charge. Patel also has filed a civil lawsuit.
Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley previously apologized to the Indian government for the treatment of Patel, calling it a case of "excessive force."
The police chief in Madison, a suburb of Huntsville in the Tennessee Valley of north Alabama, also has apologized for what happened to Patel.
Audio and video recordings released by police show Patel was slammed to the ground by an officer responding to a call about someone walking in a subdivision in the town. Patel spent time in a hospital and a rehabilitation center.
Hank Sherrod, an attorney for Patel, said the man and his family were "very pleased by the prompt and decisive action" of federal prosecutors.
Patel has made "tremendous progress" and recently took a few steps using a walker but remains in a rehab center in Huntsville, Sherrod said.
March 27th, 2015
Alabama unemployment drops to 5.8 percent - MONTGOMERY, Ala. | Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley is getting closer to being able to collect a salary, but he is not there yet.
The state announced Friday that the unemployment rate dropped to 5.8 percent in February. Bentley has promised not to accept a paycheck until the state's unemployment rate drops to 5.2 percent.
Alabama Labor Commissioner Fitzgerald Washington says another positive sign is that the number of initial unemployment compensation claims in February were the lowest in 40 years.
Alabama's unemployment rate is still above the national average of 5.5 percent.
Shelby County has the lowest unemployment rate in Alabama at 4 percent. Wilcox County has the highest at 13.5 percent.
March 27th, 2015
Senator Shelby to visit Tuscaloosa - U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Tuscaloosa, will visit with local business leaders and give his perspective on current national issues during a Tuesday breakfast at the Embassy Suites, 2410 University Blvd., in downtown Tuscaloosa.
The event, hosted by the West Alabama Chamber of Commerce, will be at 7:30 a.m. Tuesday.The visit will mark Shelby's 66th stop on his tour of Alabama's 67 counties.
"Throughout my time in the U.S. Senate, I have made it a top priority to visit all of the 67 counties in Alabama every year," Shelby said in a news release. "The focus of my statewide travel will be to hear from my constituents about the impact of the Obama administration's policies on middle class families, job creation, and economic growth. I believe these visits are an excellent opportunity for us to discuss the important issues currently facing our state and nation."
March 27th, 2015
Avenue Pub to host fundraiser for meals program - The Avenue Pub, 405 23rd Ave., will host an April Fool's Day fundraiser, "Hunger Is No Joke," to benefit the Secret Meals for Hungry Children program.
For each entree purchased from 6-10 p.m. April 1, the Avenue Pub will donate money to provide one child with meals for the weekend. The event will also include drink specials, live music and prize giveaways.
The fundraiser is sponsored by the Alabama Credit Union and University of Alabama students Susan Daria's advertising and public relations class.
Every Friday, the Secret Meals program places vitamin-fortified, nutritional food packs inside the backpacks of more than 1,100 schoolchildren in West Alabama.
For more information about the program, stop by any Alabama Credit Union or go online to www.secretmeals.org.
March 27th, 2015
Blue Angels arrive in Tuscaloosa for air show - Flocked together Thursday like a group of birds, the U.S. Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron, the Blue Angels, pierced the gray clouds hanging over Tuscaloosa with the silver tip of their blue and yellow Boeing F/A-18 Hornet planes.
The squadron practiced fast and loud throughout the day Thursday, flying at speeds fast enough to make it seem like the ground was shaking.
The Blue Angels put on a preview of this weekend’s air show for anybody with a view of the sky in the cities of Tuscaloosa and Northport, from drivers looking out their windshields to loungers in backyard chairs.
Blue Angel No. 6 for the 2015 Blue Angels, Lt. Ryan Chamberlain, said the squadron will showcase its maneuvers, including the signature “Diamond” formation in which the planes fly only 18 inches apart at around 400 miles per hour, Saturday and Sunday in a 45-minute performance at the Tuscaloosa Regional Air Show.
He said the maintenance crew of the planes and enlisted service men and women will perform a 15-minute ground portion of the show before the pilots take to the skies.
As No. 6, Chamberlain said he gets to do the sneak pass behind the crowd and perform high-speed maneuvers with No. 5 that make the aircraft appear as if they’re about to collide.
“We’re going to go ... at air speeds approaching just under the speed of sound,” he said. “Our mission is about showcasing naval aviation to the people all around the country, and for us to go to a place that welcomes us like the city of Tuscaloosa, we’re so excited to be here this weekend,” Chamberlain said.
The Blue Angels also serve as a recruitment tool for the Navy, Chamberlain said.
He said it’s important for people to know that they don’t have to have a family history in the military to join, and air shows may inspire some young men and women to join.
“Anybody can join the military. Anybody can serve their country. There’s teachers, there’s firemen, police officers,” Chamberlain said. “Everybody has a way of serving their country and their community. I think that’s what’s important is that everybody really gives back to their community.”
He said being a Blue Angel is his way of serving his country, but he started out just like any other military service member — flying aircraft carriers in service.
Being a Blue Angel is about sharing the story of what fighter pilots and maintenance crews do during actual duty, Chamberlain said.
He said the standard F/A-18 Hornet is a fighter and attack jet that carries missiles, air-to-air weapons and air-to-ground weapons.
Now, the once-gray jets are painted blue and yellow for air show demonstrations instead of combat.
The Tuscaloosa Regional Air Show will be Saturday and Sunday with gates opening at 10 a.m. each day. For more information about parking, schedules, performers and to purchase tickets, go to www.tuscaloosaregionalairshow.com.
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March 27th, 2015
"The Happiest 5K in Tuscaloosa" to benefit St. Jude Children's Research Hospital - University of Alabama fraternities Phi Sigma Pi and Theta Tau on Saturday will host “ The Happiest 5K in Tuscaloosa,” a Disney-themed 5K to benefit children at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
Participants are encouraged to wear Disney paraphernalia during the 5K.
The 5K route will start at 9 a.m. Saturday at the Student Recreation Center by the Student Health Center on the UA campus.
The cost to register is $10.Participants can register online at https://disney-5k.eventbrite.com.
March 27th, 2015
Tickets go on sale Friday for Rod Stewart's July 16 concert at Tuscaloosa Amphitheater - Tickets go on sale at 10 a.m. Friday day for the July 16 Rod Stewart concert at the Tuscaloosa Amphitheater.
All seats are reserved. Tickets cost $59.50, $89.50 and $148 and will be available through www.ticketmaster.com, the amphitheater box office at 2710 Jack Warner Parkway NE, or by calling
The show begins at 7:30 p.m. July 16. Doors open at 6:30 p.m.
For more information about other upcoming concerts at the amphitheater, go to www.tuscaloosaamphitheater.com.
March 27th, 2015
Easter musical debuts Friday at Bama Theatre in Tuscaloosa - First Baptist Church of Tuscaloosa will present the dramatic Easter musical “The Choice” at the Bama Theatre at 7 p.m. Friday and 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
Tickets are $5 and can be purchased at the church office, 721 Greensboro Ave., from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday and at the theater box office starting one hour before the performance.
Children 12 and younger will be admitted free but still need a ticket for seating purposes.
The musical, performed by about 100 cast, crew and a live orchestra, portrays the life of Jesus as seen through the eyes of a young Roman soldier named Marcus.
The Bama Theatre is at 600 Greensboro Ave.
March 27th, 2015
VFW Post 6022 to celebrate "Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day" with open house Saturday - Monday is “Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day,” and the local VFW post hopes to welcome Vietnam veterans, 42 years after the Vietnam War officially ended.
VFW Post 6022, along with its women’s auxiliary, will host an open house Saturday for all Vietnam veterans to thank them for their service.
Walter Turner, the immediate past post commander, said that recognizing the day is important because even though Vietnam veterans provided great service and made great sacrifices during the war, many of them never received the recognition that they deserved.
“Vietnam veterans got spit on and called baby-killers when they came back,” Turner said. “Vietnam was a very unpopular war. But we should recognize the veterans and tell them it’s not a forgotten war.”
U.S. forces first began serving in an advisory role with the South Vietnamese military in 1961. The U.S. sent ground combat troops to fight with the South Vietnamese against the Communist North Vietnamese and Viet Cong guerillas in 1965. The war ended after the Treaty of Paris was signed on March 19, 1973, and all U.S. troops were withdrawn. In total, more than 58,000 members of the U.S. Armed Forces lost their lives in the war, and more than 300,000 were wounded.
Congress declared March 30 “Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day” in 2012 after Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., introduced a bill encouraging the recognition of a day to honor those who served in Vietnam. On March 16, Northport Mayor Bobby Herndon read a proclamation also recognizing the significance of the day.
“American military go where they are told to go and fight who they are told to fight,” Turner said. “(Vietnam veterans) should get the same recognition as those who came back from WWII or Korea or Iraq and Afghanistan.”
Vietnam veterans and their families, along with the general public, are invited to the VFW hall at 7001 University Blvd E., Cottondale, from noon to 4 p.m. It’s the third year the VFW has hosted the open house.
“The event is for everybody, to thank them, pat them on the back, buy them a beer, whatever the case may be,” Turner said.
Reach Lydia Seabol Avant at lydia.seabolavant@tuscaloosanews.com or 205-722-0222.
March 27th, 2015
Airgas to build $64 million plant in Tuscaloosa, hire 28 - A Pennsylvania-based company that produces gases for industries and medical and research facilities plans to build $64 million plant in Tuscaloosa.
Airgas Merchant Gases LLC announced its plans Thursday at the Tuscaloosa County Industrial Development Authority meeting.
The plant will be built on 10-acre site on Holt Road Northeast, across from Nucor Steel-Tuscaloosa. Nucor will be a major customer of the gases — oxygen, argon and nitrogen — that the plant will produce and then transport in liquidized form to customers. Airgas will have a 20-year lease for the acreage from Nucor.
Construction is slated to start in September, and Airgas plans to open the plant in April 2017.
The facility will have 28 workers — eight at the plant and 20 truck drivers.
In addition to Nucor, company officials said they hope to serve other customers from the facility, including Mercedes-Benz U.S. International in Vance and the University of Alabama.
The plant also could be a catalyst in attracting to the area other industries that use gases in their production processes, company officials said.
The TCIDA agreed to abate around $2,104,000 in property taxes over a 10-year period as an incentive for the new industry. The state allows the abatement of noneducational portion of property taxes for the investment made by new and expanding industries that create jobs.
The authority agreed to abate around $1,565,000 in sales and use taxes that will be incurred during construction and equipping the plant. The portion of sales and use taxes going to schools will not be abated.
Patrick Rupinski can reached at patrick.rupinski@tuscaloosanews.com or 205-722-0213.
March 27th, 2015
Jury recommends life in prison for grandmother convicted in running death - GADSDEN | A jury recommended life without parole Thursday for an Alabama woman convicted of running her granddaughter to death.
Jurors rejected prosecutors’ pleas for a death sentence for Joyce Hardin Garrard in the February 2012 death of 9-year-old Savannah Hardin. The decision came on a split vote: seven for life, five for death. It also came on Garrard’s 50th birthday.
Members of her family cried in the courtroom after the sentence recommendation was announced, but Garrard was stone-faced as deputies led her back to jail.
Under Alabama law, a vote of at least 10 of 12 jurors was required for the panel to recommend death. A simple majority could recommend life.
The verdict is only a suggestion under Alabama law. Circuit Judge Billy Ogletree will make the final sentencing decision at a hearing May 11 and could still impose death, but prosecutors said they wouldn’t ask him to override jurors.
The same jury convicted Garrard of capital murder last week.
Defense attorney Dani Bone said he plans to appeal the conviction.
“Joyce Garrard did not receive a fair trial,” he said.
Bone noted that the judge excluded medical evidence that the defense wanted to present. He also said the defense has evidence that at least four jurors were on Facebook during the trial, despite the judge’s admonitions to avoid social media.
District Attorney Jimmie Harp said he isn’t worried about the case being overturned on appeal and was “very pleased” both with Garrard’s conviction and the jury’s recommendation.
“We believe Savannah Hardin received justice today,” Harp said.
Deputy prosecutor Marcus Reid said Savannah’s death might have gone unsolved if neighbors hadn’t contacted investigators after she was hospitalized.
“They are heroes in this case,” Reid said.
Reid had asked jurors to recommend the death penalty, adding that he’s never prosecuted a case like this one.
“This case is the only case I know of where the perpetrator forced the victim to participate in her own death,” he told jurors. “Joyce Garrard forced Savannah Hardin to help kill herself.”
Prosecutors contended Garrard made the girl run as punishment for telling a lie about candy and that she refused to let Savannah stop running even after the girl was vomiting and begging for an end to the exercise. In court, they cited a school bus surveillance video that captured Garrard saying she would run the girl and teach her a lesson.
Garrard, who lives in Boaz, testified last week that she had no intention of harming the girl and denied that she had forced her to run. Garrard said during cross examination that Savannah wanted Garrard’s help getting faster for races at school, and they both ran “a bunch” before Savannah collapsed.
Bone, the defense attorney, stood beside the jury box holding a small, dark rock and reminded jurors that in old times, the jury would participate in the execution by throwing rocks at the condemned.
He said they had a right to say, “I ain’t throwing that stone.”
“If you can’t throw that stone, be the first one, then don’t,” he added.
Garrard’s family and friends had pleaded Wednesday for jurors to spare her life. They described her as a loving grandmother who endured an abusive childhood that included being beaten by her own grandmother.
Because Thursday was Garrard’s birthday, deputies allowed her to hug relatives across the short wall that separates the front of the courtroom from the spectators before court opened in the morning.
Garrard embraced her husband, Johnny Garrard, for several minutes, rubbing his back and the back of his head as she and her relatives wept.
Afterward, she sat down at the defense table and stared at her son Robert, Savannah’s father. He was in the courtroom for the first time. He sat directly behind the prosecution table and did not appear to return the eye contact.
March 27th, 2015
A TIME TO PLAY: New $80M playground opens at Alberta School of Performing Arts in Tuscaloosa - It's been nearly four years since the April 27, 2011, tornado ripped apart Alberta Elementary School.
For a long time, the area where the school once stood was bare. Grass grew, but no children were there.
In January, the school was finally rebuilt and reborn as the Alberta School of Performing Arts, a new type of school that would still serve the elementary schoolchildren of the Alberta area but with a new performing arts component available to all children in the city in kindergarten through eighth grade.
But there was still something missing. The school had no playground.
On Thursday, that changed. The sounds of children laughing, giggling, screaming and chattering filled the air outside the school as they swarmed over every part of a newly dedicated playground.
Jadah Rice, an 11-year-old fifth-grader at the school, slid down one of two sliding boards grinning widely. Several high-pitched giggles escaped from her mouth.
“It's like an early Christmas present,” Jadah said. “You wouldn't think that older kids like me would like (the playground), but it's fun. My favorite part is all of it.”
Jadah said she can't remember the last time she played on a playground in the Alberta area.
Several local politicians, preachers, community members, school officials and parents gathered at the school Thursday to celebrate the opening of the playground.
“We've all had a role to play in this recovery,” said Mayor Walt Maddox. “Clearly, the Sabans have played a key responsibility in galvanizing private sector support for projects such as playgrounds, Habitat for Humanity. Their gift back to Tuscaloosa has been greater than on the gridiron. It's many projects like this that are going to improve the quality of life of our citizens.”
The Nick's Kids Foundation — the official charity of University of Alabama football coach Nick Saban's family — the Junior League of Tuscaloosa, Hammill Recreation, UA Greekfest and Alabama Forever paid the cost of the $80,000 playground.
Terry Saban, Nick Saban's wife, said she hopes the playground will be a place where children can create new memories that will last a lifetime.
“We heard that the school system had enough funds to build the school, but they were asking the parents to create a parent organization to build a playground,” Terry Saban said. “Well, we knew that the parents in this community had enough problems with rebuilding their own homes rather than taking on this kind of project.
“It was certainly worth the effort.”
Brenda Parker, principal of the Alberta School of Performing Arts, said she's excited about the new playground.
“Every gift comes with a lesson. This gift is a lesson to the school system. These people have poured their hopes in (the students) and their beliefs in them that they're going to grow up and become the best of them because society is giving back. To hear the joy and the laughter ... This community has been very silent since the tornado.
“To have laughing and happy screams back again is going to be nice not only for us, but for people in the neighborhood who will hear children playing again.”
Reach Jamon Smith at jamon.smith@tuscaloosanews.com or 205-722-0204.
March 27th, 2015
Tuscaloosa veteran wins ride of a lifetime with aerobatic champion ahead of air show - With each click of the ratchet tightening him into his seat, Michael Newman of Tuscaloosa grew more excited. Within minutes of the propeller whirling to life like a ceiling fan, he was off the ground, flying over Tuscaloosa at between 2,000 and 5,000 feet at about 230 miles per hour.
Newman, a U.S. Navy veteran, rode in the front passenger seat of a Window World Extra 300 on Thursday as the winner of the Rob Holland Ultimate Airshows Hero Flight Program. The aerobatics champion and air show pilot created the program about five years ago to honor U.S. military veterans.
The Hero Flight Program, in cooperation with Window World, a window replacement company, offers one U.S. veteran per air show a ride in Holland’s plane to experience the thrill of air show quality maneuvers like loops, rolls and tumbles — a tail over nose flip.
Holland will perform Saturday and Sunday in the Tuscaloosa Regional Air Show at the Tuscaloosa Regional Airport.
Newman said he read an article about the contest on The Tuscaloosa News website and entered the contest on Monday. When he received a call from Holland on Tuesday telling him he was the lucky winner, he said he thought, “You’ve got to be kidding. This is a once in a lifetime (opportunity).”
“I’ve watched Rob at other air shows and he’s like the best in the world,” Newman said. “To be able to do a little bit of what he does in a show is something nobody gets to experience. Them doing this for veterans, that’s just incredible.”
Newman said he served from 1986 to 1991 on nuclear submarines, including a stint as a technical expert on the SEAL Delivery Vehicle team one.
Holland said he is inspired by his father’s military service to offer rides to veterans like Newman.
“I have a special place in my heart for anyone who serves or anyone who has served, so anything I can do to give back and say thank you, that means a lot to me,” Holland said. “This is one of the best parts of my job is to be able to take gentlemen like him flying.”
Holland said his favorite part is the smile on their faces when they exit the plane.
“I don’t think he smiled that much when we got married,” said Newman’s wife, Susan Newman.
March 27th, 2015
Tuscaloosa sees boom in craft beer craze with Druid City-bottled-and-brewed offering - Since 2009’s “gourmet beer” bill freeing higher-alcohol content sales in the state, the craft-beer craze has mushroomed like the foam on a bad pour in Tuscaloosa.
For 2013, 29 Alabama craft breweries and brewpubs reported a 47 percent increase over the previous year, producing 28,372 barrels of beer. In the past five years, Tuscaloosa became home to Druid City Brewing Co. and Black Warrior Brewing Co., and a third craft brewer, Band of Brothers, is at work, preparing for an opening sometime this year.
Area restaurants and bars serve Druid City Brewing Co. and Black Warrior products on tap. Specialty stores, such as Loosa Brews and Corks & Tops, have opened in recent years, relying heavily on the sale of local, state and regional brews.
In what may be the next step for Tuscaloosa craft beer, Druid City Brewing Co. put out for sale Wednesday a limited
run of what may be the first Tuscaloosa-brewed-and-bottled product, 144 22-ounce bomber bottles of its popular Downtown North Porter, hand-signed and numbered.
As of Thursday afternoon, most had flown off shelves at Spirits, Loosa Brews and Corks & Tops. Patrons were lining up to collect them even before sales officially began.
“We had some customers there waiting yesterday for them to be delivered,” said Chad Smith, co-owner of Loosa Brews. Smith created a two-bottle limit per person, to give more folks a chance, but still sold out his share the bottled North Porter by 7 p.m. Wednesday.
“It’s kind of a milestone in the craft beer community for Tuscaloosa,” said Smith, who built his Alcove International Tavern, opened coincidently with the loosening of the beer laws, around a healthy stock of craft beer.
Spirits had a few bottles left in its store Thursday, but even those were spoken for, with patrons asking them to be put aside.
“There’s a huge following for craft beer in Tuscaloosa, great growth in that market,” said Jennifer Bologna, co-owner of Spirits and Spirits Wine Cellar. “Bo (Hicks, of Druid City Brewing Co.) has been particularly influential on the local market. His beers are highly sought after. Since it’s the first time that’s been available in a package, there was a tremendous response.”
Hicks, co-owner of Druid City Brewing Co. with Elliot Roberts, said the limited edition was to test the waters, rather than create an artificial sense of scarcity. It was done in small numbers because the Druid City Brewing Co. doesn’t have a bottling line; this batch had to be hand-crafted. It takes about three minutes to fill the bottle. Then it’s capped, and then there’s a time elapse, for condensation to drop away. Finally, labels were added.
“It was our first go at it, but we’re looking at doing it with some other small runs,” Hicks said. Since the Druid City Brewing Co. first sold its wheat and pale brews at Egan’s in 2012, patrons have been asking to take some away as gifts, to share the flavors of Tuscaloosa with others. They picked the imperial porter (a dark beer, brewed in a style once made in England for export to the Russian court) in part because it should age well.
“I always tell people it’s like drinking a black-velvet painting of Elvis,” Hicks said. “It definitely has a lot of chocolate malt in it, sort of a malt bomb, got a good roasty flavor, but with vanilla added at the end.
“It’s been one of our more popular beers, which is kind of surprising because it’s such a big beer, such a robust flavor.”
Because the brew itself is labor-intensive, and the bottling process doubly so, the 22-ounce bottles, about the size of an average wine bottle, retailed for $13.99 each.
Future bottlings might feature another of its beers — the Druid City Wheat or Druid City Pale Ale, its initial flavors, or the more recent Lamplighter IPA, Riverside Saison or Tuskaloosa Stout — though it’s hard to argue against the North Porter’s popularity.
“It’s really rewarding to see people as excited as we are about getting a taste of our town,” Hicks said.
Whatever the next batch might be, it may come via different process, as Druid City Brewing Co. is looking to grow into either another facility, or one larger than its current locale at 607 14th St., in the Parkview Plaza Shopping Center, within the next year or so. Hicks doesn’t know yet if they’ll keep the smallish tap room where it is, and add a larger workhouse somewhere else, or find or build one spot large enough for all Druid City Brewing Co. workings.
In the near future, Druid City Brewing Co. might team with soon-to-be-opened Band of Brothers, which will have more working square footage, including a bottling line.
That wouldn’t surprise Smith, who said “the craft-beer community is more collaborative than competitive.” The feeling seems to be that, in this growing period at least, what’s good for one is good for all.
“We would like (the bottling) to happen as often as it can. This is awesome. This is going to help Tuscaloosa, I think,” said Julie Ali, owner of Corks & Tops.
Bologna concurred, saying the craft-beer explosion has broadened customer base.
“I think there would be a great market for his package of beer, even on a semi-regular basis, I think we’d have a similar response,” she said.
Smith held back a couple of the North Porter bottles for himself.
“I’m totally confused right now. I don’t think I should drink it,” he said, laughing. “I think a lot of folks will probably drink one, and put one up on the shelves.”
March 27th, 2015
Man charged with selling synthetic marijuana - Agents with the West Alabama Narcotics Task Force have accused a tobacco store owner of selling synthetic marijuana.
Investigators arrested Baye Jack Ba, 32, Thursday morning, said Sgt. Brent Blankley, a Tuscaloosa police spokesman.
The agents conducted searches of his home in the 3400 block of Fifth Avenue in Tuscaloosa and his store at Tobacco For Less & Convenience at 2801 Lurleen Wallace Blvd. in Northport at 7 a.m. They recovered marijuana, synthetic marijuana and drug paraphernalia, Blankley said.
Ba was charged with three counts of distribution of a controlled substance, possession of a controlled substance, second-degree possession of marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia. Bail was set at $117,000. Additional charges are pending, Blankley said.
The arrest followed a two-month investigation, he said.
March 26th, 2015
Five things to do - This weekend is jam-packed with things to in Tuscaloosa. Here’s five suggestions:
1. Angels in flight: The Blue Angels return this weekend for the Tuscaloosa Regional Air Show at the Tuscaloosa Regional Airport. Gates open Saturday and Sunday at 10 a.m., and performers begin around noon. The Blue Angels are scheduled to fly around 3 p.m. both days. There will be displays of military aircraft, a kids zone and souvenir vendors. General admission is $5 per person at www.ticketmaster.com and $10 at the gate. Children 12 and younger will be admitted free. For more information, go to www.tuscaloosaregionalairshow.com.
2. Batter up: The Kiwanis Club of Tuscaloosa’s 38th annual Pancake Day will be from 6 a.m. until noon Saturday in the cafeteria at Central High School, 905 15th St. Admission is $5, which includes pancakes, sausage, coffee, orange juice and milk. Proceeds benefit the Kiwanis Club’s community efforts.
3. Easter musical: First Baptist Church of Tuscaloosa will present the dramatic musical, “The Choice,” for Easter at the Bama Theatre at 7 p.m. Friday and 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Tickets are $5 and can be purchased at the church office, 721 Greensboro Ave., through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and at the theater box office, 600 Greensboro Ave., starting one hour before each performance. Children 12 and younger will be admitted free, but still need a ticket for seating purposes. The musical, performed by about 100 cast, crew and a live orchestra, portrays the life of Jesus as seen through the eyes of a young Roman soldier named Marcus.
4. Egg-citing news: The Alabama Panhellenic Association will host a free Easter egg hunt at 2 p.m. Sunday on the lawn of the President’s Mansion on the University of Alabama campus. The egg hunt is for children 12 and younger. There will be refreshments, candy-filled eggs and the Easter Bunny. Parking will be available behind Sorority Row. For more information, go to www.uapanhellenic.com.
5. Everybody duck: The ninth annual Rubber Duck Derby will be at 2 p.m. Sunday in the outdoor pool at the University of Alabama Recreation Center. Admission is $5. In addition to watching 3,000 rubber ducks race around the pool’s lazy river, there will be “Ducks in a Row” carnival games, a best-dressed duckling contest, refreshments, entertainment by Chuckie the DJ and inflatable bounce houses. Prizes will be awarded to adopted the top three winning ducks. Proceeds from the Rubber Duck Derby help fund the Children’s Hands-On Museum. For more information, go to www.chomonline.org/duck-derby.html.
March 26th, 2015
Runoff for UA SGA vice president spot scheduled, then canceled - The University of Alabama Elections Board has canceled the runoff election for the student government's vice president for student affairs position that was scheduled for Thursday, pending an appeal currently before the SGA Judicial Board, according to a UA spokeswoman.
The runoff between Branden Greenberg and Tate Thomas was scheduled for Thursday via online voting before being canceled by the elections board because of the pending challenge. If a runoff is necessary, it will be announced to the campus with 24 hours notice, according to UA Media Relations Director Cathy Andreen. Andreen declined to comment further on the challenge for the runoff.
The runoff was initially scheduled because none of the three candidates for the position in the March 10 general election received a majority of the vote, Andreen said. However, previously, the university released results declaring the race for Greenberg on March 10.
Greenberg received roughly 48 percent of the vote with 6,437 votes, Thomas received roughly 26 percent with 3,469 votes, and Ryan Campbellr eceived 25 percent with 3,423.
Candidates for executive offices must receive a majority, defined as 50 percent plus one vote, to secure the office, according to the SGA constitution. If no candidate receives a majority, the two candidates with the most votes will enter a runoff election. Runoffs should occur within three to six days of the general election, according to the SGA election manual. The SGA constitution states occur within a week preferable but no later than 20 class days after the election.
March 26th, 2015
Jesse Jackson Jr. leaves Alabama federal prison for halfway house - CHICAGO | Former U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. was released from an Alabama federal prison early Thursday, two years after pleading guilty to spending $750,000 in campaign money on personal items, his father said.
The Rev. Jesse Jackson described his son's release from the minimum security federal prison camp at Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, Alabama, as a "joyous reunion" and said the younger Jackson was doing "very well."
Jackson, a 50-year-old Illinois Democrat, began his sentence on Nov. 1, 2013. The U.S. Bureau of Prisons lists his release date as Sept. 20, 2015. Former U.S. Rep. Patrick Kennedy, who visited Jackson on Monday, said Jackson would serve out the remainder of his 2 1/2-year term in a Washington, D.C., halfway house. Jackson must also spend three years on supervised release and complete 500 hours of community service.
Jackson served in Congress from 1995 until he resigned in November 2012. In June of 2012 he took medical leave for treatment of bipolar disorder and other issues.
Jackson's wife, Sandra Jackson, a former Chicago alderman, was sentenced to a year in prison for filing false joint federal income tax returns that knowingly understated the income the couple received. She must serve her term after her husband completes his sentence. The couple has two children.
According to court documents, the Jacksons spent campaign money on televisions, restaurant dinners and other costly personal items, including $43,350 on a gold-plated men's Rolex watch and $9,587.64 on children's furniture.
During sentencing, the judge scolded Jackson for using campaign funds as a "piggy bank."
Jackson's resignation ended a once-promising political career that was tarnished by unproven allegations that he was involved in discussions to raise campaign funds for imprisoned former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich in exchange for an appointment to President Barack Obama's vacated U.S. Senate seat. Jackson has denied the allegations.
March 26th, 2015
Obama to visit Alabama to talk economy, consumer protection - BIRMINGHAM, Ala. | President Barack Obama plans to talk about the economy and consumer protection during his second visit to Alabama this month.
Obama is set to participate in a round table discussion and make remarks Thursday afternoon at Lawson State Community College in Birmingham.
Earlier in March, Obama traveled to Selma to mark the 50th anniversary of "Bloody Sunday." Obama led a symbolic march across the bridge where civil rights protesters were beaten by police in 1965.
March 26th, 2015
Trio of deputies face charges after campaign sign damaged - GRANT, Ala. | Three Marshall County sheriff's deputies are facing charges in connection with the vandalism of a campaign sign for Sheriff Scott Walls' political rival.
Al.com reports that a witness reported seeing people stop near her home in the northeast Alabama town of Grant. She told authorities the vehicle's headlights were off, and the suspects damaged a sign in the yard.
Authorities say a vehicle matching the description was stopped around that time by a Grant police officer, and authorities learned it was registered to a Marshall County deputy.
Arrest warrants state that three deputies -- Heath Thomas, Chris Bearden and Jeremiah McCormack -- are all charged with third-degree criminal mischief. Authorities say a woman, Tiffany Bearden, faces the same charge.
Walls said all three deputies have been placed on administrative leave.
March 26th, 2015
Artist renovates 1830s cabin into art studio - LACEY'S SPRING, Ala. | Nestled at the foot of Brindlee Mountain, surrounded by trees, is a recently restored 1830s log cabin.
Inside the cabin, bathed in natural light, Leslie Wood creates her fantasy-inspired, mixed media art.
"It has a feel about it I never would've imagined," Wood said. "It's a wonderful place to make art. I'm inspired more to be down there. I spend every free day I have out there."
Wood is an aerospace engineer and subcontractor for NASA. She also is an artist. Wood and her husband bought their home beside the cabin in 2002. Last July, they began restoring the cabin, which now is Wood's art studio. They finished the renovations last week.
"It was a little costly to take that job on, and we never could justify putting money into it for just a guest house," Wood said. "I had outgrown the space I was working out of in the house. I thought it would be nice, and I would be there all the time and could teach classes."
Wood said she and her husband purchased their home and the cabin from Lisa Johnston, who moved the log cabin from New Hope to Lacey's Spring in 1993. The structure was found on a farm and had been in a family for six generations. It was known as the "Weaning House."
When Johnston moved the cabin, it had to be taken apart and reassembled, including its 50-ton limestone rock fireplace and chimney. Wood said the cabin had been put back together along with a new roof, porch, windows and addition to the back, but was never fully renovated.
Before being renovated, the cabin was 540 square feet. It is now 1,354 square feet. The couple added a kitchen, small bathroom and art storage area. The project cost about $80,000. Wood said they hired Collinsville Log Mill to refinish the cabin.
"It wasn't chinked, the material between the logs," Wood said. "They added the addition and pulled the logs together. Over the years, (the logs) had sagged and gotten out of position. They were particular about keeping the integrity of the old cabin. (They) tried to put the new logs to match the logs that were there and designed the roof line so it would look like it was part of the old cabin."
Kim Mitchell, executive director of the Carnegie Visual Arts Center, said one reason she thinks Wood loves the cabin so much is because of the inspiration it provides.
"I think other people would enjoy it also and get a lot out of it," Mitchell said. "Sometimes you have to get quiet in order to be creative."
Mitchell said Wood is talented, and her artwork, which has been featured at the Carnegie, is unique. Of Wood's various series of fantasy creatures, Mitchell said, her favorite was the fairy series.
"She came to our summer camp with our kids last summer and taught the kids to draw monsters," Mitchell said. "I drew a monster, too, and I'm proud of it. She's a great teacher. She was able to explain to the kids how to go about creating their own monster and to personalize it."
Mitchell said she has followed Wood's adventure of restoring the cabin. Mitchell is an advocate for re-purposing buildings.
"To take a building and give it new life, that's much better than building a new structure," Mitchell said. "That's what we did with the Carnegie. It was a library, and now it's a visual arts space."
Wood taught a class in the studio in January.
"I was worried (the students) wouldn't want to drive all the way out to Lacey's Spring, but they loved it," Wood said. "It's cozy and has a neat feeling. Before it was more like storage, and now it's been brought back to life."
March 26th, 2015
Proposed hotel seeks incentives - The developers behind a proposed boutique hotel along the Black Warrior River are seeking $1.7 million in economic incentives from the Tuscaloosa City Council.
If approved, the incentives would help Atlanta-based Chance Partners secure funding for the Hotel Indigo, which is expected to cost between $17 million and $20 million to build.
The proposed hotel is expected to have 91 rooms in five floors, a rooftop lounge with an outdoor veranda, and a restaurant and market on the first floor for the general public and hotel guests.
The hotel would be built at the end of Greensboro Avenue on the northwest corner of the tract where Riverfront Village, a $42 million multi-use development with student apartments, was completed last year.
Under city policies, any incentives approved by the council cannot have any up-front payment or investment in infrastructure by the city.
The developer is seeking an incentive that would allow it to keep up to $1.7 million in new property and lodging taxes that the hotel would generate. The rebate would have to taken within 10 years.
Based on tax generation projections provided by the developer, the $1.7 million total could be reached eight or nine years hotel's operation.
“We are in support of this incentive proposal,” said Al Spencer, vice president of economic development for the Chamber of Commerce of West Alabama. “It will bring an element of cool to downtown Tuscaloosa.”
Judd Bobilin, founder of Atlanta-based Chance Partners, told the council this week that costs to build a Hotel Indigo are higher than other upper-midscale to midscale hotels, such as a Home2 Suites by Hilton or a Wingate by Wyndham.
But because hotels under this brand are built with individual characteristics and designed to comply with Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) standards for energy efficiency water conservation, costs can exceed that of other hotels by sometimes 50 percent, Bobilin said.
The development also will rely on local material suppliers as much as possible as well as local artists and designers for decorations, such as murals and public space displays, he said.
“It's about buying into the community,” Bobilin said. “We intend to put forth a good faith effort of 50 percent procurement of local contractors during the construction phase.”
Additionally, Bobilin said the project is expected to bring 190 full-time jobs during its 12-to-14-month construction phase and another 44 permanent full-time jobs once the hotel opens.
Consultants for the project estimate that during its first 10 years of operation, the hotel will produce more than $4.6 million in local taxes — $3.8 million in lodging taxes and another $791,500 from property taxes.
Another part of what Bobilin termed as buying into the community is Hotel Indigo's individual approach to each city in which it operates.
Each of its 57 current hotels — 37 of which are in the U.S. — has its own unique set of characteristics that are influenced by the area in which it is built.
For Tuscaloosa's hotel, Bobilin said consultants were hired to look into the history of the site and its surrounding five block radius. Its findings are expected to be represented by the inclusion of such elements as Pure Process Ice Cream, a Tuscaloosa-based ice cream manufacturer and shop that operated along the Black Warrior River from 1926 to the mid-1990s, and the entryway that is meant to evoke a riverboat paddle wheel.
“We tried to incorporate a lot of those elements into the overall design,” Bobilin said. “The focus on the neighborhood story isn't just about the design, it's also about the programming.”
If incentives are approved, it will not be the first time the City Council offered tax breaks for a hotel development.
In 2012, the council approved incentives for the $27 million Embassy Suites hotel that recently opened on the northwest corner of Greensboro Avenue and University Boulevard.
Those incentives were for $4 million in rebates in property and lodging taxes or 10 years' worth of the rebates, whichever comes first. The tax rebates were approved for Wilson Hotel Management Group, a division of Kemmons Wilson Inc. that oversees hotel development and operations.
And in 2013, the City Council approved a $16.57 million in incentives for Alumni Development & Construction LLC of Clanton, the developer of the Shoppes at Legacy Park, a $62 million, 250,000-square-foot shopping center under construction on a 16.25-acre tract in the former Cedar Crest neighborhood.
Reach Jason Morton at jason.morton@tuscaloosanews.com or 205-722-0200.
March 26th, 2015
Kidfest to be held Saturday at Belk in University Mall in Tuscaloosa - Belk will hold its biannual Kidfest from noon to 3 p.m. Saturday at its store at University Mall in Tuscaloosa.
The in-store event will include runway fashion shows featuring local children as models wearing the store’s latest fashions. It also will include activities and entertainment, refreshments, music, games and prizes.
Parents interested in having their children, ages 4 to 12, participate as models in the fashion show should contact the Belk store at University Mall to register. Participating kids will receive
15 percent off any purchase in the children’s department.
March 26th, 2015
Auditions to be held Thursday and Friday for "Tuscaloosa's Got Talent" show - Auditions will be held Thursday and Friday for the sixth annual Tuscaloosa's Got Talent show.
The talent show is open to any form of talent. The grand prize winner will receive $1,000.
The auditions will be held at Bollywood Groove, 5690 Watermelon Road, Suite 300, Northport. Instead of a registration fee, each participant selected will be required to sell two tickets to the show.
Talent show participants are asked to stay within time limits based on their act — 2 minutes for solo singers, 2.5 minutes for duets and duet dancers, and up to 5 minutes for dance groups, bands and other performers.
The talent show will start at 5:30 p.m. April 4 at the Bama Theatre, 600 Greensboro Ave. Tickets are $12 and can be purchased at the door the night of the event. For more information, contact Raji Singh at rsingh921@gmail.com or 454-8385, or Dibya at dibya1@aol.com or 792-5476.
The proceeds from the show will go to Project Blessings, a Tuscaloosa-based nonprofit organization that helps make repairs for low-income and underprivileged homeowners.
March 26th, 2015
Tickets available for Blue Angels reception on eve of Tuscaloosa air show - Tickets are still available to the pilots’ reception from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. Friday at the Tuscaloosa River Market for those who want to meet performers in this weekend’s Tuscaloosa Regional Air Show.
Tickets are $50 per person and can be purchased at the Tuscaloosa Amphitheater box office through noon Friday and online at www.tuscaloosaregionalairshow.com on the tickets link at the bottom of the home page through midnight today.
The Blue Angels, along with other performers, will introduce their teams and crew. Heavy hors d’oeuvres and beverages will be served, and an open bar will be available for guests 21 and older.
The reception is a prelude to the air show at the Tuscaloosa Regional Airport. Gates open Saturday and Sunday at 10 a.m., and performers begin around noon.
General admission is $5 per person at www.ticketmaster.com and $10 at the gate. Visit the Tuscaloosa Regional Air Show website for more information on special seating, a schedule and parking.
March 26th, 2015
Students at Tuscaloosa City Schools to celebrate Purple Day on Thursday - Barney the dinosaur and Grimace the whatever-he-is McDonald’s character would feel right at home Thursday in Tuscaloosa.
Tuscaloosa City Schools students have been asked to wear purple as part of Purple Day, an international grass-roots effort dedicated to increasing awareness about epilepsy worldwide.
“I had a sister who passed from epilepsy in 1996, and that’s what motivated me to do this,” said Kevil Tice, who organized Tuscaloosa’s first Purple Day. “She died at age 14 of a seizure that caused a brain aneurysm.
“We decided to do an educational session at the Benjamin Barnes YMCA (2939 18th St.) starting at 5:30 p.m. (Thursday).”
Tice said Donna Dobson, the executive director of the Epilepsy Foundation of Alabama, will be at the event.
In addition to having an educational session on epilepsy, Purple Day events will also include a raffle for a purple ottoman and an aerobics class to promote a healthy lifestyle. At the end of the event, the foundation will be presented with a check.
And of course, everyone who attends is asked to wear purple.
University Place Elementary School will also be participating in Purple Day.
“We’re just showing our support in wearing the purple,” said Amanda Jackson, a special education para-professional at University Place Elementary.
Reach Jamon Smith at jamon.smith@tuscaloosanews.com or 205-722-0204.
March 26th, 2015
Tuscaloosa County Commission OKs discretionary spending - The Tuscaloosa County Commission voted unanimously on discretionary spending projects Wednesday.
Around $5,000 from District 1 will go toward a pre-kindergarten playground at Walker Elementary, and $8,166.44 from District 2 will go toward Abernant Park for electrical hook-up and plumbing for a shelter.
The commission also approved in-kind assistance by county crews to Crestmont Elementary for the preparation of a hard-surface play area and a section of walking track for paving. A grant will fund the actual paving of the two areas.
March 26th, 2015
Tuscaloosa County Commission debate over Hargrove Road paving rages on - All of Hargrove Road is paved — save for a 7,000-foot gravel section between Coaling and Duncanville. But the Tuscaloosa County Commission plans to change that soon.
“There are several subdivisions out near there, and they’ve waited patiently,” said County Commissioner Bobby Miller, referring to the section of Hargrove Road near Hagler Coaling Road. “We are going to pave it, as soon as the weather breaks.”
But there is some debate over the project, because a water line from the Coaling Water Authority goes under that section of Hargrove Road and must be moved to the right-of-way before the road can be paved.
Normally, in road paving projects paid for through state or federal grants, the cost of relocating water lines is covered by the grant.
But the small paving project is a county-only project not paid for by any grants, said County Commission Chairman Hardy McCollum.
The commission is asking the Coaling Water Authority to pay the $145,000 cost to relocate about
4,400 feet of water line.
“That’s an awfully expensive relocation project,” McCollum said. “If it were a state-funded project, then we would cover it, and with these types of projects in the past, we’ve covered a portion of it.”
But because of the cost, McCollum suggested that if the Coaling Water Authority won’t pay to relocate the water line, perhaps the county should just keep the line in place, pave over it and hope there isn’t a water break in the future.
“We ought to have it in the right-of-way, but for the cost, what’s the difference?” Mc-Collum said. “We may just want to pave it over.”
But that may be impossible because the gradient of the road will have to be changed for the paving, said County Engineer Bobby Hagler.
“When we improve a road like this, we have to bring it up to existing code,” Hagler said. “If we don’t, we are opening up a can of worms.”
The exact cost of the paving project is not yet known, Hagler said. But it’s a relatively small section of road that needs to be paved, Commissioner Stan Acker said.
“This is definitely one that needs to be done. We just have to do it as economically as possible,” Acker said.
In other business, the County Commission agreed to clean out vegetative debris from some creeks that was part of the damage from the April 28, 2014, tornado.
The project — which comes at a cost of $156,654 — is largely being funded by a grant from the federal Soil and Water Conservation Service under the Emergency Watershed Protection Program.
The federal government will pay 75 percent of the cost, with the Tuscaloosa County paying the remaining 25
percent — or approximately $39,000.
The creeks that will be cleaned out include Lye Branch near Ridge Road, Lye Branch near Griffin Ridge Road and Little Sandy Creek near Old Marion Road.
Reach Lydia Seabol Avant at lydia.seabolavant@tuscaloosanews.com or 205-722-0222.
March 26th, 2015
Pancake Day slated Saturday at Tuscaloosa's Central High School - One 20-gallon mixing bowl will produce thousands of pancakes Saturday at the Kiwanis Club of Tuscaloosa’s 38th annual Pancake Day.
With help from University of Alabama students and other community organization members, Kiwanis Club members will brew coffee, mix batter and serve an expected 1,500 guests at an all-you-can-eat pancake breakfast in the Central High School cafeteria from 6 a.m. to noon Saturday.
The cost is $5, which includes pancakes, sausage, coffee, orange juice, milk and other beverages down to the tiny details like sugar-free and regular syrup and individual, single-serve butter tubs.
All money raised goes to help fund the organization’s community-service efforts, with a focus on the local Reading is Fundamental program, said Kiwanis Club Vice President John Burroughs.
“All of the funds raised here will be spent in Tuscaloosa County,” Burroughs said.
He said the organization buys educational books that have to do with counting or ABCs three times a year for about 300 Tuscaloosa county Head Start students. Members of the organization sit with the students and read the books aloud before giving each child one to take home, Burroughs said.
“Kiwanis is all about kids,” he said. “We’re trying to get them school-ready. For us, it’s a great deal of fun, and the children love attention.”
Pancake Day is the organization’s major fundraiser. Burroughs said they estimate each person attending will eat about four or five pancakes.
Estimating a crowd of about 1,200 to 1,500 people throughout the morning, “we will make over 5,000 pancakes on Saturday” as guests come through the line to keep them fresh, Burroughs said.
They have more if the crowd exceeds their estimation, he said, which could be a possibility because people will be coming to the Tuscaloosa Regional Air Show on Saturday and Sunday.
“We believe that our Pancake Day breakfast coincides with the Tuscaloosa (Regional) Air Show because our breakfast begins at 6 a.m., and the gates don’t open for the air show until 10 a.m.,” Burroughs said. “So come by and have breakfast with the Kiwanis Club, and then go out and enjoy the air show.”
March 26th, 2015
Report: France jet audio shows pilot locked out of cockpit - SEYNE-LES-ALPES, France | The first half of Germanwings Flight 9525 was chilling in its normalcy. It took off from Barcelona en route to Duesseldorf, climbing up over the Mediterranean and turning over France. The last communication was a routine request to continue on its route.
Minutes later, at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday, the Airbus A320 inexplicably began to descend. Within 10 minutes it had plunged from its cruising altitude of 38,000 feet to just over 6,000 feet and slammed into a remote mountainside.
To find out why, investigators have been analyzing the mangled black box that contains an audio recording from the cockpit. Remi Jouty, the head of France’s accident investigation bureau BEA, said Wednesday that it has yielded sounds and voices, but so far not the “slightest explanation” of why the plane crashed, killing all 150 on board.
A newspaper report, however, suggests the audio contains intriguing information at the least: One of the pilots is heard leaving the cockpit, then banging on the door with increasing urgency in an unsuccessful attempt to get back in.
“The guy outside is knocking lightly on the door and there is no answer,” The New York Times quotes an unidentified investigator as saying. “And then he hits the door stronger and no answer. There is never an answer.”
Eventually, the newspaper quotes the investigator as saying: “You can hear he is trying to smash the door down.”
The investigator, whom the newspaper said could not be identified because the investigation is continuing, said officials don’t know why the pilot left. He also does not speculate on why the other pilot didn’t open the door or make contact with ground control before the crash.
Since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, airlines in the U.S. don’t leave one pilot alone in the cockpit. The standard operating procedure is that if one of the pilots leaves — for example to use the bathroom — a flight attendant takes their spot in the cockpit. It was not immediately clear if European airlines have adopted the same practice.
The names of the pilots have not been released.
French officials gave no details from the recording on Wednesday, insisting the cause of the crash remained a mystery. They said the descent was gradual enough to suggest the plane was under the control of its navigators.
“At this point, there is no explanation,” Jouty said. “One doesn’t imagine that the pilot consciously sends his plane into a mountain.”
Jouty said “sounds and voices” were registered on the digital audio file recovered from the first black box. But he did not divulge the contents, insisting days or weeks will be needed to decipher them.
“There’s work of understanding voices, sounds, alarms, attribution of different voices,” the BEA chief said.
Confusion surrounded the fate of the second black box. French President Francois Hollande said the casing of the flight data recorder had been found in the scattered debris, but was missing the memory card that captures 25 hours’ worth of information on the position and condition of almost every major part in a plane. Jouty refused to confirm the discovery.
French officials said terrorism appeared unlikely and Germany’s top security official said there was no evidence of foul play.
As authorities struggled to unravel the puzzle, Hollande, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy converged on the remote accident site to pay their respects to the dead — mostly German and Spanish citizens among at least 17 nationalities.
“This is a true tragedy, and the visit here has shown us that,” Merkel said after she and Hollande overflew the desolate craggy mountainside.
Helicopters ferried in rescue workers and other personnel throughout the day. More than 600 rescue and security workers and aviation investigators were on site, French officials said.
Germanwings CEO Thomas Winkelmann said the airline was in the process of contacting victims’ families. He said the 144 passengers and six crew members included 72 Germans, 35 Spaniards, three Americans and two people each from Australia, Argentina, Iran, Venezuela, and one person each from Britain, the Netherlands, Colombia, Mexico, Japan, Denmark, Belgium and Israel.
The three Americans included a mother and daughter, the U.S. State Department said. Some of the victims may have had dual nationalities; Spain’s government said 51 citizens had died in the crash.
Two babies, two opera singers and 16 German high school students and their teachers returning from an exchange program in Spain were among those who lost their lives.
The principal of Joseph Koenig High School, Ulrich Wessel, called the loss a “tragedy that renders one speechless.”
In Spain, flags flew at half-staff on government buildings and a minute of silence was held in government offices across the country. Parliament canceled its Wednesday session.
Barcelona’s Liceu opera house held two minutes of silence at noon to honor the two German opera singers, Oleg Bryjak and Maria Radner, who were returning home after a weekend performance at the theater.
Germanwings canceled several flights Wednesday because some crews declared themselves unfit to fly after losing colleagues.
Ganley reported from Paris. Thomas Adamson, Lori Hinnant and Sylvie Corbet in Paris; Kristen Grieshaber in Haltern, Germany; David Rising and Geir Moulson in Berlin; Alan Clendenning and Jorge Sainz in Madrid; Michael Corder in The Hague, Netherlands, and AP Airlines writer Scott Mayerowitz in New York contributed to this report.
March 26th, 2015
Lawsuit: Boy, 11, died of allergic reaction to Publix cookie - NASHVILLE | The family of an 11-year-old boy is suing the Publix grocery chain, saying the child was allergic to nuts and died from a severe reaction after eating a cookie despite a worker's assurance it was safe.
The lawsuit says Derek Landon Wood of Alabama died in June 2014 shortly after eating a chocolate chip cookie purchased at a Publix store in Clarksville. The boy, who was visiting family in Tennessee, was allergic to tree nuts. The lawsuit, which was filed March 20 in federal court in Nashville, says the store bakery did not post warnings about ingredients or possible cross-contamination. It says the mother bought the cookie only after a worker assured her it was safe.
"Our thoughts are with the family over the loss of their child," Publix spokeswoman Maria Brous said in an email to The Associated Press. "It would be inappropriate for us to comment on the pending litigation." However, Brous said that the company does post allergen information in its bakeries.
Gary Cline and Sabrina "Beth" Cline, the boy's grandfather and mother, who both live in Sterrett, Alabama, filed the suit along with the boy's aunt, Stephanie Blankenship, who lives in Clarksville.
The boy, who went by the name Landon, almost immediately started experiencing symptoms when bit into the cookie at his aunt's house, according to the lawsuit. The mother first gave the boy Benadryl and then injected him in the thigh to ease his reaction before an ambulance arrived, but the boy's condition quickly went out of control, an attorney for the family said.
"It was horrible," said Eddie Schmidt III, a lawyer who represents the family. "The child went into anaphylactic shock at his aunt's house in front of his aunt and his mother and his cousins." He said the family did everything they could do to save the boy, who later died at a hospital.
Family members say in the lawsuit that they hope it brings attention to food allergies and children.
March 25th, 2015
High court sends Alabama redistricting case back for review - A divided Supreme Court on Wednesday said a lower court must take another look at whether Alabama's Republican-led Legislature relied too heavily on race when it redrew the state's voting districts in a way that black leaders say limited minority voting power.
The justices split 5-4 across ideological lines in ruling that a three-judge panel did not properly consider complaints that state officials illegally packed black voters into too few voting districts.
Writing for the court, Justice Stephen Breyer said the lower court should have reviewed claims of racial gerrymandering on a district-by-district level, not just statewide. He also said the court didn't apply the right test when it found that race wasn't the primary motivating factor.
Breyer said both the district court and the state legislature relied too much on a “mechanically numerical” view of whether the new plan reduced minority voting strength. Instead of asking how it could maintain the minority percentages in districts, the court should have asked what percentages the minority should have to elect their candidate of choice.
“Asking the wrong question may well have led to the wrong answer,” Breyer said.
Justice Anthony Kennedy, often a swing vote, joined the court's four liberals in the majority.
State officials say they had no choice but to concentrate black voters in some districts, making neighboring seats more white and apt to elect Republicans.
African-Americans challenging the state's Republican-drawn maps said black voters should have been somewhat dispersed to increase their influence in elections.
A panel of three federal judges had ruled 2-1 in 2013 that the new districts were not discriminatory and did not violate the Voting Rights Act or the Constitution.
Like other states, the Alabama Legislature had to redraw political boundaries to reflect population shifts in the 2010 Census. The process can often lead to gerrymandering — the manipulation of district boundaries to gain a partisan advantage.
In dissent, Justice Antonin Scalia said the court's majority “issues a sweeping holding that will have profound implications for the constitutional ideal of one person, one vote, for the future of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and for the primacy of the state in managing its own elections.”
March 25th, 2015
Mistrial motion denied in trial over girl's running death - GADSDEN| A sentencing hearing was set to continue Wednesday afternoon for an Alabama woman convicted in her granddaughter's running death, after the judge denied a defense motion for a mistrial over allegations of juror misconduct.
After meeting behind closed doors with prosecution and defense lawyers for about two hours Wednesday morning, Etowah County Circuit Judge Billy Ogletree said the hearing for Joyce Hardin Garrard would continue in the afternoon.
He filed a one-sentence order denying the defense motion for mistrial due to juror misconduct. He made no mention of the defense's request to dismiss the case altogether.
Spectators could see that one juror was no longer present. The panel now consists of 12 jurors and two alternates. The judge gave no explanation for the juror's departure.
Garrard was convicted last week of running her 9-year-old granddaughter Savannah Hardin to death as punishment for a lie about candy.
The jury is considering whether Garrard should get a death sentence or life in prison for capital murder.
The defense filed a written motion saying four jurors "have been active on Facebook throughout the trial proceedings." It also says a Daily Beast article that quoted the little girl's mother on March 19 — the day before deliberations began — "was so inflammatory" that another judge mentioned it to Ogletree the next day.
Ogletree repeatedly told jurors to stay off social media including Facebook and to avoid all news during the trial, but defense attorney Dani Bone said there was evidence jurors had violated the admonishment. Some jurors weren't truthful when they said in open court that they had followed the judge's instructions, Bone said.
"I believe the misconduct by the jurors is broad, rampant," Bone told the judge.
Jurors weren't forced to stay in motels during the trial, but Ogletree told them not to go to work on days when court wasn't in session and to avoid any discussion of the trial, even with spouses.
With attorneys conferring at the judge's desk, District Attorney Jimmie Harp told Ogletree that the one juror who was dismissed for unspecified reasons before deliberations began had been investigated without any misconduct being found. He urged the judge to let the sentencing phase continue.
The defense motion said the juror who left the trial earlier was dismissed to discussing the case at a restaurant during the trial. That juror misled the court by denying any wrongdoing and the four jurors who have been on Facebook have misled the judge in the same way, the defense argued.
Ogletree took attorneys and Garrard into his office as the defense urged him to conduct a review.
"I believe there is some sort of duty to investigate," Bone told the judge.
March 25th, 2015
Cocaine bust in Tuscaloosa - Agents with the West Alabama Narcotics Task Force seized 53 grams of cocaine from a Tuscaloosa home Tuesday evening.
Agents charged Laura Teresa Banker and Dennis Cooney, both 21, with trafficking cocaine and selling a controlled substance within three miles of a school, Tuscaloosa Police spokesman Sgt. Brent Blankley said.
The arrests concluded a week long investigation, he said.
Investigators executed a search warrant at the residence in the 400 block of 27th Street at 6 p.m. They recovered the 53 grams of cocaine, which Blankley said is worth $5,300.
Banker and Coons were also charged with possession of drug paraphernalia and resisting arrest. They remained in the Tuscaloosa County Jail Wednesday with bond set at $140,000 each.
March 25th, 2015
France opens black box, hoping to unlock jet crash mystery - SEYNE-LES-ALPES, France | French investigators cracked open the mangled black box of a German jet on Wednesday, hoping the cockpit recordings inside would help unlock the mystery of what caused the plane to drop unexpectedly and smash into a rugged Alpine mountain, killing all 150 people on board.
The orange cockpit voice recorder — dented, twisted and scarred by the impact — is considered the key to understanding why the Germanwings A320 lost radio contact with air traffic controllers over the southern French Alps during a routine flight Tuesday from Barcelona to Duesseldorf before crashing. French officials said terrorism appeared unlikely, and Germany's top security official said Wednesday there was no evidence of foul play.
Helicopters surveying the scattered debris lifted off at daybreak for a look at the craggy ravine. Emergency crews, meanwhile, traveled slowly over the steep, rocky terrain to the remote high-altitude crash site through snow and rain.
The crash left pieces of wreckage "so small and shiny they appear like patches of snow on the mountainside," said Pierre-Henry Brandet, the Interior Ministry spokesman, after flying over the debris field.
French President Francois Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel arrived by helicopter on a mountain meadow whipped by strong winds and Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy joined them in the French town of Seynes-les-Alpes. Most of the victims were German and Spanish.
Investigators were zooming in on two key minutes Tuesday — 10:30-10:31 a.m. — said Segolene Royal, a top government minister whose portfolio includes transport. From then on, air traffic controllers were unable to make contact with the plane.
French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve told RTL radio the "black box is damaged and must be reconstituted in the coming hours in order to be useable."
The voice recorder takes audio feeds from four microphones within the cockpit and records all the conversations between the pilots, air traffic controllers as well as any noises in the cockpit. Photos released by France's air accident investigation agency BEA appeared to show that the cylinder which holds the memory is apparently intact.
The flight data recorder, which Cazeneuve said has not been retrieved yet, captures 25 hours' worth of information on the position and condition of almost every major part in a plane.
German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere told reporters in Berlin on Wednesday that "there is no hard evidence that the crash was intentionally brought about by third parties." Royal and Cazeneuve also emphasized that terrorism was considered unlikely.
The plane, operated by Germanwings, a budget subsidiary of Lufthansa, was less than an hour from landing in Duesseldorf when it unexpectedly went into a rapid, eight-minute descent. The pilots sent out no distress call, France's aviation authority said.
Lufthansa CEO Carsten Spohr, himself a pilot, said he found the crash of a plane piloted by two experienced captains "inexplicable."
Investigators retrieving data from the recorder will focus first "on the human voices, the conversations" followed by the cockpit sounds, French Transport Secretary Alain Vidalies told Europe 1 radio.
Investigators will use the cockpit voice and flight data recorders to map out and focus their work, said Alan E. Diehl, a former air safety investigator with the National Transportation Safety Board and a former scientist for human performance at the Federal Aviation Administration.
"Both will point you in directions of what is critical," Diehl says. "Based on what you learn from the recorders, you might focus on key pieces of wreckage."
The four possible causes of any crash are human error, mechanical problems, weather, criminal activity or a combination of two or more. Diehl says investigators will essentially work backward.
"You're usually dealing with a jigsaw puzzle with many of the pieces missing," he says. "You start eliminating things that didn't happen."
Lufthansa said two charter flights to France will be made available for family members who want to get as close as they can to the crash site. Locals in Seyne-les-Alpes offered to host the bereaved families because of a shortage of rooms to rent.
Germanwings cancelled several flights Wednesday because some crews declared themselves unfit to fly after losing colleagues.
"The management completely understands this, because we are a small family. Everyone knows everybody inside Germanwings, so it is a big shock for employees," said CEO Thomas Winkelmann.
He said the company had already contacted most families of the victims and was trying to reach the rest. He said victims included 72 German citizens, 35 Spaniards, two people each from Australia, Argentina, Iran, Venezuela and the U.S. and one person each from Britain, the Netherlands, Colombia, Mexico, Japan, Denmark, Belgium and Israel.
Some could have dual nationalities, for Spain's government said 51 citizens had died in the crash.
The victims included two babies, two opera singers, an Australian mother and son vacationing together, and 16 German high school students and their two teachers returning from an exchange program in Spain.
"Nothing will be the way it was at our school anymore," said Ulrich Wessel, the principal of Joseph Koenig High School in the German town of Haltern.
"I was asked yesterday how many students there are at the high school in Haltern, and I said 1,283 without thinking — then had to say afterward, unfortunately, 16 fewer since yesterday. And I find that so terrible," he added.
Paul Andrew Bramley, a 28-year-old from Britain, had been studying hospitality and hotel management in Lucerne and was flying to meet his mother before starting an internship on April 1.
"He was the best son. He was my world," said his mother, Carol Bramley.
In Spain, flags flew at half-staff on government buildings and a minute of silence was held in government offices across the country. Parliament canceled its Wednesday session.
Barcelona's Liceu opera house held two minutes of silence at noon to honor two German opera singers — Oleg Bryjak and Maria Radner — who took the flight after performing at the theater last weekend.
In an eerie coincidence, an Air France flight from Paris to Saigon crashed close to the same spot in the French Alps in 1953, killing all 42 people on board.
March 25th, 2015
BBC decides not to renew 'Top Gear' host Clarkson's contract - LONDON | The BBC decided Wednesday not to renew the contract of “Top Gear” host Jeremy Clarkson after a fracas with his producer, ending his connection to the immensely popular program built around macho banter, off-color jokes and cars.
BBC Director-General Tony Hall concluded that Clarkson struck and launched a 30-minute verbal attack on a producer, Oisin Tymon, while they were filming on location, leaving him with a swelling and bloody lip. The producer went to a hospital for treatment.
Hall acknowledged that lifting the presenter of the program “will divide opinion.” But he said a line had been crossed in Clarkson’s often controversial behavior — even if he is a big star.
“There cannot be one rule for one and one rule for another dictated by either rank, or public relations and commercial considerations,” Hall said.
Fans have clamored for Clarkson’s return, signing a petition which was delivered to the BBC in a tank. Prime Minister David Cameron called Clarkson a friend and a “huge talent.” Will Wyatt, a former director of BBC television, said “Top Gear” without Clarkson would be “a bit like the Musketeers without D’Artagnan.”
Clarkson has often found himself in trouble for remarks lacking in political correctness and behavior deemed offensive. Argentina’s ambassador demanded an apology from the BBC after the “Top Gear” crew allegedly referenced the country’s 1982 war with Britain over the Falkland Islands. He’s also had to apologize to Mexico for characterizing Mexicans as lazy and oafish.
He was given a “final warning” last year following a racism row. At the time, Clarkson said he avoided using a racist word while reciting a well-known nursery rhyme while filming the car show, but begged forgiveness from audiences after admitting that “it sounds like I did.”
He has been repeatedly saved by the program’s huge popularity, a valuable wholly-owned property of the BBC. The current series was launched simultaneously in more than 50 countries and created versions in the United States, China, Australia, Russia and South Korea.
The show will go on — the BBC said it would renew “Top Gear” for 2016. But it did not say whether co-hosts James May and Richard Hammond would be asked to return.
The Guinness Book of World Records has described “Top Gear” as the world’s most widely watched factual program. It broadcasts to 214 territories worldwide and has an estimated global audience of 350 million.
Hall wished Clarkson well as he showed him the door.
“I have always personally been a great fan of his work and ‘Top Gear.’ Jeremy is a huge talent,” he said. “He may be leaving the BBC but I am sure he will continue to entertain, challenge and amuse audiences for many years to come.”
March 25th, 2015
Law officers use dogs, helicopter in hunt for suspect - ELKMONT, Ala. | Deputies in Limestone County say they plan to resume searching for a suspect in a manhunt that has included a helicopter and tracking dogs in dense woods.
WBRC-TV reports that the dogs lost the scent of the man they're searching for in northern Limestone County and they planned to resume the search Wednesday morning.
Officers tell the Huntsville station that the suspect got into a fight with a sheriff's deputy during a traffic stop Tuesday afternoon, and the suspect then ran into the woods.
The News Courier of Athens reports that the suspect was last seen in woods near the intersection of Sweet Spring and Brock roads in the Elkmont area. He's described as 5-foot-10 inches tall, 140 pounds with blonde hair and wearing blue jeans and no shirt.
March 25th, 2015
March from Selma to Montgomery ends on state capitol steps - MONTGOMERY, Ala. | The daughters of Martin Luther King Jr. and former Alabama Gov. George Wallace are joining to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the end of the Selma-to-Montgomery voting rights march.
Bernice King will read a speech by her father as a re-enactment of the more than 50-mile march ends Wednesday at the state Capitol.
Peggy Wallace Kennedy will also speak about the day thousands of marchers arrived at the Capitol in 1965. Her father was a segregationist who opposed civil rights in the 1960s but later apologized.
Commemorations began earlier this month in Selma with an appearance by President Barack Obama and tens of thousands of people walking across the city's Edmund Pettus Bridge.
The final, 3-mile stretch of the march to the Capitol will begin in west Montgomery.
March 25th, 2015
Cover design unveiled for new Harper Lee novel - NEW YORK | The cover for Harper Lee's new novel will surely remind you of the cover for her old one.
On Wednesday, HarperCollins unveiled the jacket art for Lee's "Go Set a Watchman," the unexpected follow-up to her classic "To Kill a Mockingbird." The new cover, like the one for "To Kill a Mockingbird," is a moody illustration featuring an oak tree in front. The art for "Go Set a Watchman" also shows train tracks and a train in the distance. In a statement released by HarperCollins, company President Michael Morrison noted that "Go Set a Watchman" begins with "Mockingbird" protagonist Scout Finch returning by train 20 years later, in the 1950s, to her native Alabama.
HarperCollins has announced a first printing of 2 million copies and a July 14 publication date.
March 25th, 2015
Wreck on Veterans Memorial Parkway injures 3 children - Three children and an adult were seriously injured in a wreck involving a dump truck Wednesday morning.
The children, all younger than seven, and an adult woman were all taken to DCH Regional Medical Center after the accident on Veterans Memorial Parkway, said Sgt. Brent Blankley, a Tuscaloosa police spokesman.
Their injuries were considered serious, he said.
The accident happened when the driver of a dump truck turned left on to Veterans Memorial Parkway from 13th Avenue, Blankley said.
The truck collided with the front of the woman's Ford Taurus.
“It's still undetermined whether the driver of the dump truck had a green arrow. We're still talking to witnesses to determine fault,” Blankley said.
The children were using car seats, he said.
“We're not sure if they were properly strapped in, based on their injuries,” he said.
March 25th, 2015
Lawyers allege juror misconduct in running-death case - GADSDEN, Ala. | Attorneys for an Alabama woman convicted in her granddaughter's running death are asking a judge to throw out the case over allegations of juror misconduct.
Lawyers for Joyce Hardin Garrard told a judge Wednesday that they have evidence of misconduct by at least four jurors.
Defense attorney Dani Bone didn't specify exactly what happened. But the allegations appear to involve claims that jurors violated the judge's repeated instructions to stay off social media and avoid news coverage during the trial.
One juror was removed for unspecified reasons before deliberations began. Jurors later convicted Garrard of capital murder. Remaining jurors are considering a sentence.
The defense wants the judge to dismiss all charges or declare a mistrial. The judge and lawyers are discussing the claims behind closed doors.
Garrard was convicted of running granddaughter Savannah Hardin to death as punishment for a lie about candy.
March 25th, 2015
Supreme Court sends Alabama redistricting case back for review - WASHINGTON | A divided Supreme Court says a lower court must take another look at whether Alabama's Republican-led legislature relied too heavily on race when it redrew the state's voting districts.
The justices split 5-4 across ideological lines Wednesday in ruling that a three-judge panel did not properly consider whether state officials illegally packed black voters into too few voting districts to limit minority political power.
Justice Stephen Breyer said the lower court should have reviewed claims of racial gerrymandering on a district-by-district level, not just statewide. He also said the court didn't apply the right test when it found that race wasn't the primary motivating factor.
State officials say they had no choice but to concentrate black voters in some districts, making neighboring seats more white and apt to elect Republicans.
March 25th, 2015
University of Alabama students tutor Hillcrest students in rocket contest - Instead of footballs, sixth-grade Hillcrest Middle School students on Tuesday launched water rockets up to 40 yards across the football field.
Counting down from 10, students watched as team Bazinga sent its rocket flying, a blur of black-and-red duct tape, into the air on wings made of cardboard.
Team member Caleb Robbins, 11, said the air-pressurized launch pad pumps air into the rocket, which is made of two 2-liter bottles. He said the air compresses inside the chamber of the rocket, propelling it forward with the water inside spewing from the nozzle.
The students are now studying space and space exploration in their science class.
As part of their STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math) project, the students worked with two University of Alabama groups — members of Students for the Exploration and Development of Space and a design team of aerospace engineering students called Project Firefly that focuses on rocketry — to create water rockets and learn about science during the rocket launching contest Tuesday.
Cassidy McCool, executive outreach coordinator for SEDS, said the student organization created the contest to teach middle-school students about rocketry and the importance of space exploration through hands-on engineering. She said there are plans to expand the contest countywide in the future.
“Experiences are more important than anything else for a student, especially if you're at such a young age, and you don't really have any idea of what opportunities you do have,” McCool said.
Sixth-grade teacher Brandi McGee said the project taught her students things they can use throughout their lives.
“They learn by doing,” she said. “They're learning that math and science applies to the real world.”
The students designed their water rockets with bottles, hot glue and foam or cardboard fins and decorated them with duct tape ranging from solid, bright-colored duct tape to zebra-print and mustache-print duct tape. The UA students measured the distance each rocket traveled with tiny orange flags and helped the Hillcrest students identify the design factors that helped efficiency or hindered performance.
Caleb said the hands-on experience helped him learn better.
“You get to have fun in class and actually do something,” Caleb said. “You can do something fun with school so it's not just boring.”
McCool said the contest helps students learn the value of having an idea and making it a reality.
“If you can imagine something, you can do or be that thing,” McCool said. “We literally want them to shoot for the stars.”
March 25th, 2015
Nominations sought for Tuscaloosa Civic Hall of Fame - Nominations are being accepted for Tuscaloosa County’s Civic Hall of Fame.
The deadline for submitting nominations is June 1.
The Civic Hall of Fame is designed to honor citizens who have made significant, long-term contributions to the overall development of Tuscaloosa County.
The Chamber of Commerce of West Alabama, which is coordinating the inductions, said it is seeking to honor civic giants who have had an impact on the quality, livability and economic progress of the county.
Nominations can be made by organizations, businesses or individuals.
Official nomination forms are available at the chamber office at 2201 Jack Warner Parkway in Tuscaloosa or online at www.tuscaloosa chamber.com.
A new completed nomination form is required in resubmitting the names of those who have been nominated in the past.
The Civic Hall of Fame was started in 2000 and has honored 93 people. The Civic Hall of Fame monument in Tuscaloosa’s Government Plaza was unveiled in October 2011.
The 2015 Civic Hall of Fame induction ceremony will be held at 3 p.m. Oct. 15 at the monument.
For more information about the Civic Hall of Fame, call Carolyn Tubbs at 391-0556.
March 25th, 2015
Walkathon to benefit West Alabama chapter of Sickle Cell Disease Association - The West Alabama chapter of the Sickle Cell Disease Association of America will host its 22nd annual walkathon Saturday at Central High School, 905 15th St.
The theme of this year’s walk is “Represent for Life, Education and Unite.”
“It’s that time of year that we get together to raise awareness in the community for those who care about sickle cell and how it affects families,” said Jennifer Sherman, executive director of the West Alabama Sickle Cell Disease Association of America.
“What we do is we want to help families increase their quality of life through advocacy, education, training and planning. We also provide free testing. We’ll have on-site testing there for the sickle cell trait.”
Sherman said sickle cell is a rare genetic disorder that affects 1 million people worldwide, including 100,000 people in the U.S. and about 350 in West Alabama.
There is currently no cure for sickle cell, which can cause a number of complications including decreased life expectancy, increased risk of stroke and organ failure. Sickle cell is an inherited disease, though people with the sickle cell trait might never get sickle cell disease.
Registration for the walkathon starts at 9 a.m. Cost is $15 for adults, $10 for college students, $5 for children or $20 per family. Warm-ups start at 10 a.m., and the walk begins at 10:30 a.m.
In addition to the walk, the event will feature a T-shirt competition, walks for children and seniors, track-and-field competitions such as shot put, a softball throw, 200- and 400-meter dashes, music, food, vendors and a bounce house and face-painting for children.
The host of the walk will be Tuscaloosa County Circuit Judge John England. Olympic gold medalist Harvey Glance and past University of Alabama track coach and Olympic gold medalist Kirani James will serve as ambassadors for the walkathon.
There will be prizes for first-, second- and third-place finishers in the walks and the track-and-field events, Sherman said. The prizes will include medals and gift certificates to local businesses.
The West Alabama chapter of the Sickle Cell Disease Association of America was incorporated Dec. 11, 1985. It was founded by members of the Delta Phi Lambda chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc.
Reach Jamon Smith at jamon.smith@tuscaloosanews.com or 205-722-0204.
March 25th, 2015
Weather will be sunny and mild for Tuscaloosa Regional Air Show this weekend - Sunny skies and mild temperatures are expected for this weekend’s Tuscaloosa Regional Air Show.
Saturday will have highs in the mid-50s, while Sunday’s high will be in the mid-60s.
Gates will open at 10 a.m. both days at the Tuscaloosa Regional Airport, 7601 Robert Cardinal Airport Road.
While parking will be limited at the airport, free shuttle buses will carry spectators from these locations:
-- The intermodal facility parking deck in downtown Tuscaloosa.
-- The Kmart parking lot, 635 Skyland Blvd.
-- Tuscaloosa County High School, 12500 Wildcat Drive in Northport.
Tickets to the air show are $5 in advance or $10 at the gate. Children ages 12 and younger will be admitted free.
For more information, go to www.tuscaloosaregionalairshow.com or call 248-5311.
March 25th, 2015
Tuscaloosa City BOE creating a new job: director of career technology - The Tuscaloosa City Board of Education on Tuesday gave an initial approval to creating a position of director of career technology. The board is expected to give its final approval at a future meeting.
Tuscaloosa City Schools Superintendent Paul McKendrick said the position is needed because the system’s career tech programs are increasing and someone must oversee them.
“That whole field is just expanding so quickly that we can’t keep up the way that we’re currently organized,” he said. “With that area, you’re looking at career development, workforce development, STEM programs, Project Lead the Way-type programs. We offer courses that are quite different than traditional trade school.
“We need a person that can handle all of that and connect it with the business community. As multi-
various as those duties are going to be, that’s all this person is going to do. Right now, we have a person who does that and also serves as principal of (the Tuscaloosa Career and Technology Academy).”
According to the job description, the director of career tech will provide leadership for career tech positions for middle schools and high schools. The director also will formulate and administer a comprehensive and modern career tech curriculum.
Some of the position’s job duties include:
-- Providing guidance and leadership to all career tech coordinators.
-- Preparing career tech budgets.
-- Developing and analyzing TCTA’s planning and strategic plan.
-- Directing and monitoring the system’s career tech programs.
The person who is hired for the position must have “significant” experience as a teacher and administrator working with career tech. The person must also have a master’s degree and a postgraduate professional license.
McKendrick said director positions generally pay between $80,000 and $90,000.
The position will be funded through the general fund.
Reach Jamon Smith at jamon.smith@tuscaloosanews.com or 205-722-0204
March 25th, 2015
New bill would allow Alabama adoption agencies to refuse to place children with same-sex couples - MONTGOMERY | Alabama would allow adoption agencies — including those with state contracts — to refuse to place children with same-sex couples on religious grounds, under a bill introduced in the Alabama Legislature.
Republican Sen. Gerald Allen of Tuscaloosa introduced the bill last week specifying that groups could refuse to participate in adoptions and foster care placements that violate their religious beliefs.
The bill would also prohibit the state from refusing to license, or contract with, the groups that refuse services to people on religious grounds.
Allen said he brought the bill to protect the faith-based groups, including children’s homes affiliated with the Baptist and Catholic churches, in anticipation that the U.S. Supreme Court could legalize same-sex marriage nationwide later this year.
“It’s not that they are discriminating against same-sex couples, they are observing their own rights and beliefs,” said Eric Johnston, an attorney who worked on the bill.
Opponents said the bill would provide legal cover for discrimination against a diverse array of families seeking to adopt.
“Decisions about prospective parents should be based on the best interest of the child, not on discriminatory factors unrelated to good parenting,” said Human Rights Campaign Alabama state director R. Ashley Jackson.
The bill does not specify same-sex marriage but only says that the groups can refuse services that violate their religious beliefs. Jackson said that would allow the groups to refuse people of certain faiths, or at least give preference to people of a certain faith.
Johnston said gay couples could still adopt in Alabama through secular or other adoption agencies.
Alabama is the latest state to take up “religious freedom” bills regarding gay marriage.
The Alabama House of Representatives has approved a bill that would grant civil immunity for judges and ministers who refuse to marry gay couples. Johnston said legislation will probably be introduced this session to provide civil protections to florists, bakers and others who refuse to provide services at same-sex weddings.
The U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on April 28 regarding whether gay and lesbian couples have a fundamental right to marry and whether states can ban such unions.
The Alabama Department of Human Resources did not have an immediate comment on the legislation.
Gay and lesbian couples began marrying in some Alabama counties on Feb. 9 after a federal judge ruled Alabama’s ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional. The Alabama Supreme Court in March ordered probate judges to stop issuing the licenses to same-sex couples.
March 25th, 2015
Detox unit opens Wednesday at Fayette Medical Center - A new unit opening Wednesday at Fayette Medical Center will be the first of its kind in West Alabama, with a focus on stabilizing patients with acute drug, alcohol and related substance abuse issues.
“This is a great opportunity for us to provide a new type of compassionate, evidence-based care to our community,” said Donald Jones, Fayette Medical Center's administrator. “It's my understanding that an acute-care stabilization service like this is not available in any of our surrounding counties.”
The New Vision in-patient unit will help people who are using certain drugs or experiencing withdrawal symptoms and who need to detoxify in a medically monitored environment before being discharged to a more long-term rehabilitation facility.
There is no unit like it in any surrounding counties, including Tuscaloosa, said Brad Fisher, DCH Health System spokesman.
The average stay for a patient will be around three days and will include an assessment of the patient's needs, including a medical history, a physical exam and laboratory workup.
Patients who are under the influence of chemical substances and are medically unstable will be closely observed as they are stabilized and withdraw from those drugs, according to St. Louis- based SpecialCare Hospital Management, which is operating the New Vision unit along with Fayette Medical Center. Care will be provided by both an attending physician and nursing personnel.
The new unit will accept most insurance, Medicaid and Medicare, according to DCH.
Reach Lydia Seabol Avant at lydia.seabolavant@tuscaloosanews.com or 205-722-0222.
March 25th, 2015
Mercedes employees top paid in industry; pay, benefits average $65 an hour - Employees at Mercedes-Benz U.S. International in Vance have the highest hourly pay and benefits among workers at U.S. auto factories, according to a new study by the Center for Automotive Research, an independent, nonprofit organization based in Ann Arbor, Mich.
The study said workers at the Tuscaloosa County auto plant on average earn $65 an hour in pay and benefits. Reuters and Automotive News first reported on the study’s findings on Tuesday.
In comparison, employees at the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tenn., and BMW plant in Spartanburg, S.C., earn the least at $38 and $39 an hour, respectively, the study said.
Pay and benefits at General Motors’ U.S. plants averaged $58 per hour. Ford Motor Co.’s U.S. plants averaged $57 per hour, and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles U.S. workers averaged $48 per hour. The report noted Fiat-Chrysler has a much higher percentage of lower-paid, entry-level workers, which brought its hourly average down.
The average hourly pay and benefits for workers at other automakers’ U.S. factories were Honda at $49 per hour, Toyota at $48, Nissan at $42 and Hyundai/Kia at $41. Honda and Hyundai have auto plants in Lincoln and Montgomery, respectively, while Toyota has an engine manufacturing plant in Huntsville. All the foreign automotive companies have plants in the Southeast.
The study noted that the per-hour labor cost averages include pay for temporary workers who are employed by outside agencies but work full-time alongside those employed directly by the automakers. MBUSI is among the automakers using temporary workers.
The study noted that the Japanese automakers — Honda, Toyota and Nissan — have the highest percentage of temporary workers and that the use of such workers brings the average hourly cost of labor down, according to the center’s analysis.
Reuters noted the study was released as the United Auto Workers begins contract negotiations with GM, Ford and Fiat Chrysler.
The UAW also has made an aggressive push to unionize the foreign automakers’ plants in the Southeast.
It formed a union local in Tuscaloosa last year for MBUSI workers but has not yet filed a petition for a union election with the National Labor Relations Board. UAW officials have said they would like Mercedes to recognize a union without an election once a majority of MBUSI workers join the union. The UAW leadership has said the union wants to develop a relationship similar to what Mercedes has with German unions in the automaker’s home country.
Patrick Rupinski can be reached at patrick.rupinski@tuscaloosanews.com or 205-722-0213.
March 25th, 2015
Plane crash kills 150 people in French Alps; black box found - SEYNE-LES-ALPES, France | A black box recovered from the scene and pulverized pieces of debris strewn across Alpine mountainsides held clues to what caused a German jetliner to take an unexplained eight-minute dive Tuesday midway through a flight from Spain to Germany, apparently killing all 150 people on board.
The victims included two babies, two opera singers and 16 German high school students and their teachers returning from an exchange trip to Spain. It was the deadliest crash in France in decades.
The Airbus A320 operated by Germanwings, a budget subsidiary of Lufthansa, was less than an hour from landing in Duesseldorf on a flight from Barcelona when it unexpectedly went into a rapid descent. The pilots sent out no distress call and had lost radio contact with their control center, France’s aviation authority said, deepening the mystery.
While investigators searched through debris from Flight 9525 on steep and desolate slopes, families across Europe reeled with shock and grief. Sobbing relatives at both airports were led away by airport workers and crisis counselors.
“The site is a picture of horror. The grief of the families and friends is immeasurable,” German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said after being flown over the crash scene. “We must now stand together. We are united in our great grief.”
It took investigators hours to reach the site, led by mountain guides to the craggy ravine in the southern French Alps, not far from the Italian border and the French Riviera.
Video shot from a helicopter and aired by BFM TV showed rescuers walking in the crevices of a rocky mountainside scattered with plane parts. Photos of the crash site showed white flecks of debris across a mountain and larger airplane body sections with windows. A helicopter crew that landed briefly in the area saw no signs of life, French officials said.
“Everything is pulverized. The largest pieces of debris are the size of a small car. No one can access the site from the ground,” Gilbert Sauvan, president of the general council, Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, told The Associated Press.
“This is pretty much the worst thing you can imagine,” said Bodo Klimpel, mayor of the German town of Haltern, rent with sorrow after losing 16 tenth graders and their two teachers.
The White House and the airline chief said there was no sign that terrorism was involved, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel urged reporters not to speculate on the cause.
“We still don’t know much beyond the bare information on the flight, and there should be no speculation on the cause of the crash,” she said in Berlin. “All that will be investigated thoroughly.”
Lufthansa Vice President Heike Birlenbach told reporters in Barcelona that for now “we say it is an accident.”
In Washington, the White House said American officials were in contact with their French, Spanish and German counterparts. “There is no indication of a nexus to terrorism at this time,” said U.S. National Security Council spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan.
Merkel, French President Francois Hollande and Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy were to visit the site Wednesday.
French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said a black box had been located at the crash site and “will be immediately investigated.” He did not say whether it was the flight data recorder or the cockpit voice recorder.
The two devices — actually orange boxes designed to survive extreme heat and pressure — should provide investigators with a second-by-second timeline of the plane’s flight.
The voice recorder takes audio feeds from four microphones within the cockpit and records all the conversations between the pilots, air traffic controllers as well as any noises heard in the cockpit. The flight data recorder captures 25 hours’ worth of information on the position and condition of almost every major part in a plane.
Germanwings is low-cost carrier owned by Lufthansa, Germany’s biggest airline, and serves mostly European destinations. Tuesday’s crash was its first involving passenger deaths since it began operating in 2002. The Germanwings logo, normally maroon and yellow, was blacked out on its Twitter feed.
Lufthansa CEO Carsten Spohr called it the “blackest day of our company’s 60-year history.” He insisted, however, that flying “remains after this terrible day the safest mode of transport.”
Germanwings said 144 passengers and six crew members were on board. Authorities said 67 Germans were believed among the victims, including the 16 high school students and two opera singers, as well as many Spaniards, two Australians and one person each from the Netherlands, Turkey and Denmark. In Japan, the government said two Japanese citizens were believed to be on the plane.
Contralto Maria Radner was returning to Germany with her husband and baby after performing in Wagner’s “Siegfried,” according to Barcelona’s Gran Teatre del Liceu. Bass baritone Oleg Bryjak had appeared in the same opera, according to the opera house in Duesseldorf.
The plane left Barcelona Airport at 10:01 a.m. and had reached its cruising height of 38,000 feet when it suddenly went into an eight-minute descent to just over 6,000 feet, Germanwings CEO Thomas Winkelmann told reporters in Cologne.
“We cannot say at the moment why our colleague went into the descent, and so quickly, and without previously consulting air traffic control,” said Germanwings’ director of flight operations, Stefan-Kenan Scheib.
At 10:30, the plane lost radio contact with the control center but “never declared a distress alert,” Eric Heraud of the French Civil Aviation Authority told the AP.
The plane crashed at an altitude of about 6,550 feet (2,000 meters) at Meolans-Revels, near the popular ski resort of Pra Loup. The site is 430 miles (700 kilometers) south-southeast of Paris.
“It was a deafening noise. I thought it was an avalanche, although it sounded slightly different. It was short noise and lasted just a few seconds,” Sandrine Boisse, the president of the Pra Loup tourism office, told the AP.
Authorities faced a long and difficult search-and-recovery operation because of the area’s remoteness. The weather, which had been clear earlier in the day, deteriorated Tuesday afternoon, with a chilly rain falling. Snow coated nearby mountaintops.
French Interior Ministry spokesman Pierre-Henry Brandet said the crash site covered several acres, with thousands of pieces of debris, “which leads us to think the impact must have been extremely violent at very high speed.”
Search operations were suspended overnight and were to resume at daybreak, though about 10 gendarmes remained in the desolate ravine to guard the crash site, authorities said.
Winkelmann said the pilot, whom he did not name, had more than 10 years’ experience working for Germanwings and its parent airline Lufthansa.
Florian Graenzdoerffer Lufthansa Spokesman for North Rhine Westphalia said the company had to cancel seven flights out of Dusseldorf because a number of crew members felt they were unfit to fly following news of the accident.
“I can’t tell you any details because this is a per.sonal decision and in our business we have an agreement if a crew feels unfit to fly ... then we respect this,” Graenzdoerffer said.
The aircraft was delivered to Lufthansa in 1991, had approximately 58,300 flight hours in some 46,700 flights, Airbus said. The plane underwent a routine check in Duesseldorf on Monday, and its last regular full check took place in the summer of 2013.
The A320 plane is a workhorse of modern aviation, with a good safety record.
The last time a passenger jet crashed in France was the 2000 Concorde accident, which left 113 dead.
Charlton reported from Paris. Associated Press writers Lori Hinnant, Thomas Adamson and Elaine Ganley in Paris; Claude Paris in Seyne-les-Alpes; David McHugh in Frankfurt; Geir Moulson and David Rising in Berlin; Frank Augstein in Duesseldorf; Al Clendenning in Madrid; Joe Wilson in Barcelona; Kirsten Grieshaber in Haltern, Germany, and AP Airlines writer Scott Mayerowitz in New York contributed to this report.
March 25th, 2015
Tuscaloosa City Council action for March 24 - The Tuscaloosa City Council took the following action at its Tuesday meeting:
Tabled for one week a decision to vacate a portion of a 12-foot-wide public alley as listed in Lot 156 of the McCalla’s Street Center Survey of 1891 (tabled March 10 and Feb. 3).
Authorized request for street lighting system modifications.
Authorized execution of Requisition No. 34 for payment from the Series 2014A Warrant Issue to Bama Concrete; total: $450.
Authorized utility account credits; total: $3,362.06.
Declared property surplus and authorized its disposal.
Awarded competitive bid to non-low bidder but to lowest responsible bidder meeting specifications for the purchase of body-worn video cameras; total: $74,632.95.
Set April 21 as the date for public hearing on the proposed ordinance to adopt the city’s Fats, Oil and Grease (FOG) Management Program manual.
Authorized payment to ServiceMaster in settlement of claim on behalf of 647 Brooksdale Drive; total: $125.
Authorized payment to ServiceMaster in settlement of claim on behalf of 3428 50th St.; total: $125.
Authorized payment to Alabama Municipal Insurance Corp.; total: $3,502.32.
Authorized payment to Michael Jordan Properties in settlement of claim; total: $1,422.45.
Approved request and agreement for water service to Munny Sokol Park North soccer fields; total: $25,804.99.
Granted permit for Tuscaloosa County Park and Recreation Authority to construct water lines for Munny Sokol Park North soccer fields.
Adopted Zoning Amendment No. 1319 to amend the text of the Zoning Ordinance Section 24-39 pertaining to location of accessory structures on residential lots. (introduced Feb. 17)
Revoked the business license of A-1 Therapy at 6570 Alabama Highway 69 S., Suite A.
Adopted city’s Five-Year Consolidated Plan for Community Planning & Development Programs for program years 2015-2019 and Action Plan for program year 2015 for the Community Development Block Grant Program, HOME Program, Emergency Solutions Grant Program and related programs.
Consented to the refinancing of property mortgaged through the HOME First-Time Homebuyer Program and subordination of the city’s loan on said property; total: $5,000.
Amended resolution that established rules of procedure for conducting City Council meetings.
Adopted 19th amendment to the Fiscal 2013 General Reserve for Future Improvement Fund.
Adopted the 24th amendment to the Fiscal 2013 Water and Sewer Reserve for Future Improvement Fund.
Authorized participation in a traffic enforcement grant ADECA 15-HS-M2-002 project; total: up to $2,000.
Authorized establishing a budget for the Tourism Capital Fund; total: $326,500.
Authorized the mayor to execute task order directives No. 2 and No. 3 with Burk-Kleinpeter Inc. for engineering and related services for the Disaster Recovery-Streets Reconstruction Project; total: $630,000.
Authorized a minor public works contract with Simplex Grinnell; total: $6,410.
Authorized finance director to draw drafts for the Beech Hills Sanitary Sewer Repair Project easement acquisitions; total: $3,363.
Authorized the finance director to draw drafts for the Lift Station 21 Upper Section Improvements Project easement acquisitions; total: $500.
Authorized a revocable license agreement with FP Tuscaloosa LLC for Tuscaloosa fire rescue training.
Authorized amendment to city’s agreement with Habitat for Humanity of Tuscaloosa Inc. for development of affordable housing; total: extension of contract completion date to May 31.
Authorized approval of a Small Business Revitalization Loan application to Adams Heating and Cooling Inc.; total: $50,000.
Authorized approval of a Small Business Revitalization Loan application to Two Monkey LLC/Monkey Joe’s; total: $20,000.
Authorized the approval of a Commercial Revolving Loan application to Two Monkey LLC/Monkey Joe’s; total: $200,000.
Selected Magellan and Associates to provide professional services related to technology infrastructure planning.
Authorized petty cash drawers for the 2015 Tuscaloosa Regional Air Show.
Adopted the 20th amendment to the fiscal 2013 Reserve for Future Improvement Fund.
Adopted a resolution amending the budget for the 2014-A warrant series.
Authorized finance director to draw a draft made payable to Alabama Power Co. for utility relocation for the City Walk improvement project; total: $155,278.18.
Authorized finance director to draw drafts for Lift Station 21 Lower Section improvements project easement acquisitions; total: $500.
Tentatively awarded public works contract to S.T. Bunn Construction Co. Inc. for Runway 11-29 resurfacing and marking improvements project; total: $1,199,667.22.
Amended the fiscal 2015 General Fund budget.
Adopted the sixth amendment to the Fiscal Year 2015 General Fund Budget.
Authorized the payment of bills; total: $59,096.52.
March 24th, 2015
City acts on Brentwood Lake cleanup project - It’s been a long time in the making, but Tuscaloosa city officials are now moving forward with a contract to clear tornado-related debris from a neighborhood lake.
On Tuesday, the City Council’s Public Projects Committee voted to award Northport-based Double Diamond Construction Co. Inc. a $146,500 contract to clear debris from Brentwood Lake.
Should the contract gain final approval by the full council next week, City Transportation Engineer Wendy McBride said work should begin in the next four to six weeks with completion expected by the end of summer.
When the city of Tuscaloosa announced a private lake cleanup program for neighborhood bodies of water that were affected by the April 27, 2011, tornado, the city opened an application period for groups to request assistance.
By the time the application window closed in August, just one — the Brentwood Lake neighborhood association — had done so.
The city had designated $200,000 in disaster relief money to perform the cleanup of Brentwood Lake.
The program for private lakes within the tornado’s path was spawned from the $209,827 cleanup of Forest Lake, which took a direct hit from the storm.
The program was announced in November 2013 as part of the city’s first round of spending storm-recovery money from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
HUD has made $43.9 million available to the city to aid with storm recovery, but City Hall must submit and gain approval from the federal agency before the money can be committed.
Robin Edgeworth, director of the city’s recovery operations, has said the city is seeking approval to spend the money in stages as a means to extend its life. Once a program is approved and funding is granted, the funds must be spent within two years.
Reach Jason Morton at jason.morton@tuscaloosanews.com or 205-722-0200.
March 24th, 2015
Significant drop seen in number of flu cases in Tuscaloosa - The number of positive flu tests has dropped off significantly at DCH Regional Medical Center.
During the week of March 15, the number of positive flu cases were at their lowest since the beginning of the flu season in November.
According to DCH, last week there were 286 people tested for flulike symptoms, but only 23 tested positive.
All positive tests were type B flu. For the first time since October, there were no cases of type A flu.
March 24th, 2015
Massage parlor's license revoked after workers accused of prostitution - The Tuscaloosa City Council on Tuesday revoked the license of a business where workers were accused last month of prostitution.
The action effectively shuts down A-1 Therapy and Spa, on Alabama Highway 69 South in Taylorville.
Business license holder Samuel Lee did not appear before the council before the vote, waiving his right to a hearing.
Lee voluntarily surrendered the business license on March 16, City Attorney Glenda Webb said.
“The therapy location provided more than just therapy,” Webb told the council during its pre-meeting earlier in the day. “It appeared to be a front for prostitution.”
However, authorities were told by the building’s owner last year that Lee did not own the business. Instead, it was owned by a woman who reportedly owns three or four additional, similar businesses, according to a report of the investigation that was provided to the City Council.
The Tuscaloosa Police Department’s Code Enforcement Division began an investigation of A-1 Therapy and Spa in October after officers had seen advertisements on the online classified website backpage.com.
The investigation resulted in the arrest of three Georgia women, two of whom were charged with prostitution.
-Eun Sook Kim, 45, of Duluth, Ga., was taken into custody 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.
According to documents provided to the City Council, the first undercover officer went to the establishment on Oct. 3.
The officer received a massage for $80 while the Alabama Board of Massage Therapy and the Tuscaloosa Fire and Rescue Service conducted an inspection that revealed that the business and therapist treating the officer were was not properly licensed by the state board.
On Oct. 21, another officer was sent to the business and received a $60 massage from Kim, who also was found lacking of the required license and subsequently was arrested.
A third officer went to the business on Dec. 17 and received a full body massage for $80. Upon asking the therapist for additional services, the therapist told him to return.
Two days later, the same officer returned and received a third full body massage for $80, but this time the therapist, identified by authorities as Yi, disrobed and committed a lewd act with her hands, according to the report given to the City Council.
This resulted in Yi’s charges of soliciting prostitution and not having a masseuse license.
The final investigation by officers came on Feb. 19 when an undercover officer returned to the business. This time, the officer was escorted to a private room and quoted a price of $60 for a full body massage.
“The female quoted a price for a sexual act of $40 using her hand,” the report said. “The undercover (officer) agreed to pay and she began the act but was stopped.”
This led to the charges filed against Kwak, but the report said another woman who was present and reportedly had a long history of prostitution-related arrests was not taken into custody.
Reach Jason Morton at jason.morton@tuscaloosanews.com or 205-722-0200.
March 24th, 2015
Tuscaloosa County Commission to meet Wednesday - The Tuscaloosa County Commission will meet at 9 a.m. Wednesday in the commission chambers in the basement of the Tuscaloosa County Courthouse, 715 Greensboro Ave.
The commission usually meets on the first and third Wednesday of every month, but last week’s meeting was rescheduled because of spring break.
March 24th, 2015
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